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Marvel’s Thunderbolts Explained: The Supervillain Team That’s Going to Reshape the MCU

The MCU is in a weird place lately. The Avengers once we knew them are basically gone following a events of Avengers: Endgame, and Marvel continues to be building towards the debut of iconic teams just like the Fantastic Four and X-Men. This world needs protecting, and that responsibility could fall on the shoulders of the Thunderbolts. But why will be the worst villains on earth suddenly fighting to save lots of it?

With the recent news that Paper Towns’ Jake Schreier has been tapped to direct a top-secret Thunderbolts movie, along with Kevin Feige confirming that Thunderbolts will mark the finish of the MCU’s Phase 5, it is a good time and energy to brush through to this history of the team in Marvel’s comics and just why they may be a significant game-changer in the MCU. They are this issue we cover here:

The Thunderbolts: The Tumultuous History of Marvel’s Twisted Super-Team

THAT ARE the Thunderbolts?

There were many incarnations of the Thunderbolts in the last 25 years. There’s only 1 common thread linking every version of the team – they’re villains masquerading as heroes to help expand their very own agenda. But although various leaders of the Thunderbolts frequently have their very own agendas, the team includes a surprising habit to become a force once and for all. In the act of pretending to be heroes, the Thunderbolts often end up genuinely becoming heroes along the way.

Still, even at their most heroic, the Thunderbolts tend to be more extreme and brutal within their methods than most superhero teams. The Thunderbolts’ mission is most beneficial summed up by their slogan of preference – “Justice, like lightning.”

In the act of pretending to be heroes, the Thunderbolts often end up genuinely becoming heroes along the way.

The Thunderbolts: THE FOUNDATION of the initial Team

The Thunderbolts were originally developed by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley. Following an early on teaser appearance in the pages of Incredible Hulk, the team made their proper debut in the initial problem of The Thunderbolts in 1997.

Led by way of a mysterious, patriotic hero named Citizen V, the Thunderbolts make their debut in the aftermath of a devastating conflict with Onslaught. In this era, the Avengers and Fantastic Four have vanished (the premise behind Marvel’s short-lived Heroes Reborn initiative), leaving an electrical vacuum the Thunderbolts are just too wanting to fill.

However, despite presenting themselves as worthy successors to the Avengers, the Thunderbolts are hiding a dark secret that’s revealed by the end of The Thunderbolts #1. They’re all villains in disguise. Citizen V is in fact Captain America’s nemesis Baron Zemo. A lot of Zemo’s teammates are former Masters of Evil members using new costumed identities. Even 25 years later, that twist ending is widely thought to be probably the most memorable moments in Marvel Comics’ history.

But though Zemo forms the team to be able to win the public’s trust and gather secrets concerning the superhero community he can sell to the criminal underworld, the Thunderbolts end up warming to the thought of being superheroes. That shift continues even while the Thunderbolts are discredited following return of the Avengers and Fantastic Four. By enough time the team finally dissolves, even Zemo himself begins to flirt with the thought of redemption.

THE COUNTLESS Incarnations of the Thunderbolts

Though Zemo’s version of the Thunderbolts disbands following a events of Marvel’s 2006 Civil War crossover, that crossover also paves just how for a fresh incarnation of the team. Following the victorious Tony Stark becomes director of SHIELD, Norman Osborn is tasked with leading a fresh version of the Thunderbolts made up of incarcerated supervillains like Venom, Bullseye, Penance and Thunderbolts veterans Songbird and Moonstone.

That team is comparable to DC’s Suicide Squad for the reason that it is a government-sanctioned black ops unit charged with searching for heroes who violate the Superhuman Registration Act. Also just like the Suicide Squad, the Thunderbolts are kept under strict surveillance and fitted with remote-controlled devices to avoid them from defying orders.

Osborn's Thunderbolts eventually graduate to join the Dark Avengers.

Osborn’s Thunderbolts eventually graduate to become listed on the Dark Avengers.

Against all odds, Osborn’s team succeeds and also become international heroes because of their role in repelling a Skrull invasion (find out more about the MCU’s version of this story here). Osborn usurps Stark’s position at SHIELD and transforms it into HAMMER. A lot of his Thunderbolts graduate to the “Dark Avengers,” a team where these villains usurp the names and costumes of heroes like Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Wolverine. Even Osborn steals Stark’s tech and rebrands himself “Iron Patriot,” although Green Goblin side of his personality doesn’t stay buried for long.

Osborn forms another new version of the Thunderbolts during this time period, one which can perform the missions too dirty for his public-facing team of Avengers. However, both teams implode after Osborn’s true nature is finally exposed in 2010’s Siege.

Since that time, the Thunderbolts have undergone several evolutions and transformations. Luke Cage briefly lead the team as a far more law-abiding option to the Osborn era. General Thunderbolt Ross, in his guise as Red Hulk, assembled a squad of skilled assassins that included Punisher, Venom, and Elektra. THE WINTERTIME Soldier formed their own Thunderbolts that included many veterans of the initial team. & most recently, Wilson Fisk spearheaded multiple versions of the Thunderbolts during his tenure as mayor of NEW YORK.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Every Upcoming Movie and TELEVISION SHOW

The Thunderbolts Marvel Movie

Carrying out a couple of appearances in animated projects like Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Ultron Revolution, the Thunderbolts are making their live-action debut within an upcoming MCU movie. In accordance with reports, Paper Towns’ Jake Schreier has signed to direct the film, with Eric Pearson (Black Widow) penning the screenplay.

Beyond that, hardly any is known concerning this secretive project, aside from its July 2024 release date. We don’t even understand which specific version of the comic book team has been adapted for the MCU. Much like so many past MCU projects, it’s likely the Thunderbolts movie is drawing inspiration from a number of different incarnations.

It can seem safe to assume Daniel Brhl’s Baron Zemo will undoubtedly be involved. Zemo was already portrayed in a far more sympathetic light in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2021is the Falcon and the wintertime Soldier, and the Thunderbolts movie could see him continue steadily to seek redemption for his past by spearheading a team of would-be heroes.

It is also more than likely that Julia Louis Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is really a major character in the movie. We’ve seen Contessa come in several Phase 4 adventures already, recruiting characters like Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova and Wyatt Russell’s John Walker to her mysterious cause. Contessa could be in charge of forming the Thunderbolts in reaction to the dissolution of the Avengers, hence why she wants a Black Widow and a Captain America of her very own. But given the character’s often treacherous nature in the comics, it’s hard to state which side Contessa is actually on.

Daniel Bruhl's Zemo and Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Contessa are two characters likely to appear in the Thunderbolts movie.

Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa are two characters more likely to come in the Thunderbolts movie.

2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings might have been establishing the Thunderbolts movie, too. Tim Roth’s Abomination is briefly seen getting involved in a superhuman fight club before being escorted home by Benedict Wong’s Wong. This former Hulk villain is seemingly being rehabilitated, that could pave just how for his involvement with the Thunderbolts. Perhaps we’ll find out more once the character returns in the upcoming She-Hulk series.

Finally, there is a possibility the team is somehow linked to William Hurt’s General Thunderbolt Ross, hearkening back again to Marvel’s 2012 Thunderbolts series. Sadly, Hurt’s recent passing means Ross himself will most likely not be appearing in the movie, but who knows — maybe we’ll learn the team is known as in his honor.

In a nutshell, the MCU Thunderbolts are shaping around be considered a fusion of several versions of the comic book team. Much like the initial incarnation, Baron Zemo is probable a significant player in this story. Much like the post-Civil War version, the team is most likely a government-sanctioned option to the Avengers, instead of simply being truly a band of disguised villains. The true question is how heroes like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Thor will respond to seeing this new team arrive on the scene.

Thunderbolts Release Date

It had been announced at NORTH PARK Comic-Con 2022 that Marvel’s Thunderbolts will conclude Phase 5 of the MCU when it’s released on July 26, 2024.

Thunderbolts Cast

We have no idea who will maintain Thunderbolts yet, but we are able to take some guesses. As noted above, these characters all look like good candidates to become listed on the MCU version of the team: Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Baron Zemo (Daniel Brhl), John Walker (Wyatt Russell), and Abomination (Tim Roth).

What MCU characters do you wish to see join the Thunderbolts? Vote inside our poll and sound off in the comments! And become sure to look at all of the new Marvel movies in 2022 and beyond.

Note: This short article was originally published on June 16, 2022 and updated on July 26, 2022 with the most recent news about Thunderbolts.

Jesse is really a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

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