Every superhero universe needs an unruly team of supervillains pretending to do good things because someone makes them or pays for them to be done, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has enough supervillains alive to make their own: thunderbolts hits theaters in July 2024.
The big Marvel news from Disney’s D23 Expo 2022 was the reveal of which villains would make up thunderbolts film lineup. So let’s explore who the Thunderbolts are and what fans can expect from Marvel’s take on a Suicide Squad.
Who are the Thunderbolts in Marvel Comics?
There have been many, many different incarnations of the Thunderbolts in Marvel Comics canon – but the team started out as bait and switch. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley designed them for her The incredible Hulk 1997 (a full decade after the modern incarnation of Suicide Squad, so don’t twist it) as a new superhero team trying to fill the hole left by the Avengers’ absence.
Where were the Avengers back then? Well, an evil medium born from Professor X’s repressed thoughts – you know what? Don’t worry.
The twist was that the Thunderbolts were actually the masters of evil in disguise, trying to carve their way to power and fame by pretending to be superheroes, under the covert leadership of a second-generation Nazi: Baron Helmut Zemo. Eventually, the group’s “heroes” kicked Zemo out and tried to go straight for a while before their story fizzled out – but the idea of a superhero team of supervillains is just too good a toy to put in the proverbial toybox to let.
Sometimes the Thunderbolts work to redeem themselves, and other times they just work for corrupt government leaders. Some members were even heroes – usually those with an evil past – like Hawkeye, Black Widow, Elektra, and Ant-Man. There is no traditional Thunderbolts lineup and no tradition of characters dying more often than other series, like Suicide Squad. Many, many, many Marvel characters have worked for the Thunderbolts, from Abomination to Zaran.
Who are the Thunderbolts in the MCU?
Marvel Studios revealed the full character lineup in its panel at D23 2022. Led by the mysterious and ruthless Valentina Fontaine, the team will consist of Ghost, Red Guardian, Yelena Belova, the Winter Soldier, US Agent and Taskmaster.
Ghost, also known as Ava Star, played the villain in 2018 Ant Man and the Wasp. Hannah John-Kamen played a woman who is accidentally given the power to move through solid matter in a childhood scientific accident. She worked as an undercover SHIELD agent hoping to get help finding a cure for her body’s slow dematerialization. Upon discovering Hydra’s infiltration of SHIELD, she defected and desperately turned to crime, her goals clashing with Scott Lang’s. By the end of the film, she was alive, free, and temporarily stabilized.
Alexei Shostakov, played by David Harbor in Black widow, is one of Russia’s attempts to replicate the treatment of US super-soldiers that produced Captain America. He’s something of a flawed father figure for Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova after a time they spent in deep cover as an American family. At the end of Black widowhe was on the run from authorities, along with the rest of the Black Widows of the Red Room in Russia who had been freed from mind control.
In the comics, Taskmaster is a mercenary who can memorize and replicate the physical abilities of anyone he watches, a trick he often used to rival the Avengers in their own fighting styles. In the MCU, Taskmaster is all of that, but also a brainwashed little girl who was raised to be an unstoppable assassin with the help of a computer chip in her brain. Introduced in Black widowBy the end of the film, Antonia Dreykov’s brainwashing was broken and she escaped along with Red Guardian and the other Black Widows.
As mentioned before, Yelena considers Black Widow and Red Guardian to be her family. A younger recruit to Russia’s Black Widow program, she defected and escaped mind control Black widow and then sought out the man she believed had killed her sister hawk eye. The series ended with her discovering the truth – that Clint Barton was innocent – and after many very flirtatious conversations with Kate Bishop, slipped back into the shadows.
The Winter Soldier
The most venerable Marvel Cinematic Universe of the group is Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier. debut in Captain America: The Winter SoldierBucky has also appeared in seven MCU films The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Disney Plus series.
When we last saw him he was still feeling pretty down because Steve Rogers was gone, but he had befriended Sam Wilson and forgiven himself for many of the murders he committed during the brainwashing session. Oh, and he was still really mad at our next member…
John Walker was selected by the US government to succeed Steve Rogers as Captain America until he beat a man to death with his shield. So he built his own new shield and set about killing the boys’ allies until he decided at the last minute to save some hostages instead. At the end of the show, we saw him being recruited by Valentina de Fontaine into a mysterious superpowered squad.
What is Thunderbolts about?
Given the absence of the Avengers in the current MCU and the thunderboltsIn its significant position as the final film in Marvel’s Phase 5, it seems likely that the team’s original incarnation – in which they posed as superheroes worthy of filling in the Avengers’ footsteps – will frame the film. Valentina de Fontaine was already in regular contact with US agent and Yelena Belova (in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black widow), and it seems likely that she will lead the Thunderbolts’ initiatives.
More information about thunderboltswe’ll just have to wait until we’re closer to July 26, 2024 – because that’s when it hits theaters.
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