How Many Thunderbolts Are Already in the MCU?
Are you familiar with the Thunderbolts? They’re Marvel’s equivalent to D.C.’s Suicide Squad, a group popular enough to have a film franchise.
For years now, fans have expected Marvel to introduce the Thunderbolts in the MCU.
Well, I’ve got a surprise for you. It’s already happened!
Let’s talk about all the Thunderbolts from the comics who are already in the MCU! After all, they may get their own superhero team soon!
Who Are the Thunderbolts?
I’ll approach this answer from two perspectives.
In the comics, the Thunderbolts act as a military outfit composed of members who are basically indentured servants.
The government has filed criminal charges against the members and incarcerated them.
The prisoners live in maximum security supervillain facilities, ones constructed to prevent powered bad guys from escaping.
However, these individuals get to leave prison in exchange for working for the government on special projects.
Obviously, these assignments require secrecy and disposable workers. So, the Thunderbolts agree to join the team and risk their lives.
In exchange, they receive a bit of freedom. Yes, I know this sounds just like the Suicide Squad.
One difference here involves the team composition. Some members of the Thunderbolts actually reform.
Songbird has frequently led the team in the 21st century, often by example more than official title.
The former Screaming Mimi has developed a conscience and wants to help others, which puts her in conflict with many other team members.
Who else is in the Thunderbolts? Well…
Let’s start with an attention-grabber. Disney’s made no secret of the fact that it’s planning a Hawkeye television series.
During that story arc, Kate Bishop will earn the moniker of Hawkeye, leaving Clint Barton without a gig.
Really, Barton already ceded the title of Hawkeye once. He went full Ronin during the five-year-jump in Avengers: Endgame.
Let’s presume that Barton wants to maintain relevance after Bishop takes over.
The character has comic book precedence as the leader of the Thunderbolts.
During Barton’s tenure, he worked as a good guy leader whom all the villains despised, especially since they took orders from him.
That dynamic would work well if the MCU introduced its version of the Thunderbolts for a TV series or movie.
During the earliest days of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby took a Shakespearean approach to many characters.
For instance, General Thaddeus E. Ross absolutely despised Bruce Banner and his alter ego, The Hulk.
So, who did Banner naturally fall in love with? Yes, the answer is Betty Ross, Thunderbolt’s daughter.
Over the years, Ross has proven an eternal enemy of his daughter’s frequent boyfriend. He recently developed superpowers as the Red Hulk.
Ross has appeared in Ang Lee’s Hulk and in the MCU.
William Hurt has portrayed the character in The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
Marvel has confirmed that Hurt appears in the upcoming release, Black Widow, as well.
Since 2012, Thunderbolt has led the comic book Thunderbolts team, which seems a bit too on the nose.
At this point, the only question is whether Ross will evolve into Red Hulk in the MCU or not. Otherwise, he’s firmly established.
One of the twists regarding the Thunderbolts involves perception. Citizens view them as a team of superheroes.
In reality, most Thunderbolts more accurately qualify as supervillains.
To wit, Baron Zemo moved the pieces around the board and triggered the MCU’s Civil War. In truth, he’s the only MCU villain who has ever won.
Zemo’s goals never included global domination or personal power. He simply desired punishment for his enemies, which he got.
The supremely talented Daniel Brühl portrays the character, and photos show him appearing in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Thunderbolts fans should pay attention to this aspect, as Phase Four of the MCU will explore these villains’ connections.
The Falcon and his frenemy, the Winter Soldier, have both fought Helmut “Baron” Zemo before. So, it’s curious that they may work together during the TV series.
The Winter Soldier
I just mentioned him as part of Zemo’s storyline. However, in the comics, Bucky Barnes got turned over to the authorities and forced into the group.
Other superheroes liberate Barnes, allowing him to escape this fate. Still, he has appeared in the Thunderbolts and makes sense in the MCU version.
I mean, Barnes killed Tony Stark’s mother. He is suspected of killing Black Panther’s father. He’s caused a lot of bad stuff in the MCU.
While The Falcon and the Black Panther may redeem him, Barnes is currently closer to an antihero than a true hero.
That makes him perfect for the Thunderbolts.
Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t one of the finest MCU titles. However, the villain’s special effects dazzle.
Ava Starr, the Ghost, phases in and out of our plane of existence, much to her frustration and that of the heroes fighting her.
The proverbial Ghost proves difficult to strike due to her unwelcome phasing ability.
By the end of the film, Starr and her mentor, Bill Foster, have chosen to hide away from the government and various entities who desire her technology.
The Wasp’s mother, Janet, aids Ghost and helps her survive her physical curse.
The film hints that Ghost isn’t a bad person, just desperate to escape her plight.
Should the MCU introduce the Thunderbolts, Janet could fill a similar role to Songbird in the comics. She’s conflicted about all evil acts she’s forced to commit.
Meanwhile, her ability to phase makes her the perfect choice for Thunderbolts missions that require break-ins through otherwise impenetrable walls.
No, not that one. Coronavirus has caused an extended delay in the release of Black Widow.
With movie theaters facing an uncertain fate, nobody’s quite sure whether Black Widow will ever receive a theatrical release.
Disney currently has the film slated for May 7th, 2021. However, AMC Theatres has indicated it may not have enough liquidity to last that long.
I mention all this because, as you know, Natasha Romanoff died during the climactic events of Avengers: Endgame.
Scarlett Johansson still stars in Black Widow because it’s a prequel.
However, the secondary purpose of this film involves the introduction of a new character, her replacement.
Yelena Belova has factored heavily into Marvel Comics over the years as both an antagonist and, later, an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The director of the film has acknowledged that Belova will evolve into Black Widow once her surrogate sister dies.
Before then, she may become a Thunderbolt, a role she has arguably played in the comics. It was actually Romanoff in disguise, but that’s semantics.
Belova tracks well as a future member of the Thunderbolts in the MCU.
Any villain who survives their encounter with the Avengers could potentially join the Thunderbolts.
Marvel’s not above tweaking its lineups for optimal storytelling.
However, I’m sticking with characters who have reasonable ties to the Thunderbolts for now.
One of the most surprising names on the list is Justin Hammer, the comic relief from Iron Man 2.
The dime store Tony Stark couldn’t do anything well, but everyone loves Sam Rockwell. I’m confident Marvel would love to bring him back to the MCU.
Marvel has hidden the other potential shocker in plain sight. One Avenger remains under house arrest to this day.
I’m speaking of Scott Lang, the Ant-Man. Remember all those jokes about him outwitting the federal official in charge of his parole status?
Lang could feasibly need to join the Thunderbolts to work off some of his crime time.
Finally, one other famous comic book movie character has previously joined the Thunderbolts.
Imagine a team of antiheroes that has Deadpool in it. Wouldn’t that be a brilliant way to bring Wade Wilson (and Ryan Reynolds) into the MCU?