The Thunderbolts aren’t just coming to the MCU, they’re getting their own Phase 5 movie. But the group will be very different from its comic book counterpart when it gets there. As will its members. In Marvel Comics the organization was made of secret-villains-masquerading-as-superheroes. They eventually ended up embracing their heroic sides, but few of the team’s members have appeared on a Disney screen yet. So who exactly will make up the MCU’s version of the Thunderbolts? We put together the list of characters we expect to serve as a more flawed, unauthorized version of the Avengers.
Who Will Lead and Captain the MCU Thunderbolts?
The most important member of Marvel Comics’ Thunderbolts, the group’s founder and leader Baron Zemo, is actually a big part of the MCU. We doubt he’ll take on his Citizen V Thunderbolts persona from the comics, but that’s also because we expect his purpose to be different on screen, too. Comics Zemo started the group to ultimately take over a world that no longer had the Avengers and Fantastic Four. In the MCU, conversely, Zemo wants all super powered individuals eliminated.
With so many “enhanced individuals” around now, that goal seems impossible. So the next best thing to getting rid of superheroes might be controlling them. That makes perfect sense as the impetus for Zemo to organize his own squad who will do his bidding in the MCU, even if he secretly hates them all.
Who Will Be The Main Members of the MCU Thunderbolts in Phase 5?
Decorated veteran John Walker briefly held the mantle of Captain America, but losing the title didn’t mean losing his super soldier serum abilities. He also still wants to do the right thing, but his rage makes him cross the line into villain territory, because his powers bring out the worst in him. Which is why Walker, now known as US Agent, is perfect for the MCU’s off-brand Avengers.
Natasha’s sister Yelena is no longer a member of the Black Widows. Instead, like John Walker, she now works for Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. She’s also a deadly assassin who can handle any situation and would make for a formidable member of any team. Since she’s a hired gun, and we expect the Thunderbolts to pay way better than the Avengers or US government, Yelena would be a cornerstone of the new group.
Yelena and the Black Widows weren’t the only victims of Ray Winstone’s Dreykov. He turned his own daughter Antonia into the highly-adaptable, chip-controlled warrior known as Taskmaster. Natasha Romanoff, who thought she killed Antonia as a child, saved Taskmaster’s life. But everything she ever knew—her father, the Widows, the Red Room—is gone. Taskmaster has no family or purpose left. And after a lifetime of her father’s control, she likely doesn’t even know how to live her own life. Or at least she won’t until the Thunderbolts come looking for a uniquely skilled fighter.
The Incredible Hulk‘s other monster, Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky, is back in the MCU. His Abomination appeared in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings where we saw he cage fights with Wong. He’s also going to return (as both human and giant rage beast) in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, where we know he’ll still be imprisoned for at least some of the show. How can a decorated soldier, scorned by the government that made him a deadly creature, win back some of his old glory? By smashing alongside his fellow Thunderbolts.
We don’t know if Scott Lang’s “new friend” no longer suffers from her quantum illness, but if Ghost still has her powers she’s one of the most dangerous soldiers in the world. S.H.I.E.L.D. knew that, which is why they exploited her incredible abilities. Ava said the organization weaponized her, and she clearly does not view her time working for it favorably. That could make the Thunderbolts, operating outside the law, attractive to her. Especially if it can offer her relief from the pain she feels everyday.
Echo left behind Kingpin and her life of crime at the end of Hawkeye, but the past has a way of catching up with everyone. We’ll find out what that means for her when Echo arrives on Disney+. But no matter what happens, we think her future could lead her to the Thunderbolts. She knows how to operate in the shadows, and the group would let her straddle the line she seems ready to walk between right and wrong.
Associates of the MCU Team
Every fighting force needs support, and the MCU has plenty of great candidates who can work with the Thunderbolts. That obviously starts with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who is basically already the group’s chief recruiter and assignment liaison. But disgraced Iron Man 2 baddie Justin Hammer the arms dealer could find work outfitting the unit with weapons. And if they need funding the Power Broker, Sharon Carter, has plenty of cash to go along with plenty of contempt for the US government. (She might even be the one who brings the group together rather than Zemo.)
As for brain power, it’s time for the MCU to pick another old loose end and bring back Tim Bake Nelson’s Dr. Samuel Sterns from The Incredible Hulk. His final moment in the film teased his transformation into the genius villain Leader. He was already working on his own against the military to help Bruce Banner. The Thunderbolts will be the perfect group for him to show off his intelligence.
Wild Cards: Will These MCU Heroes Join the Thunderbolts?
There was good reason to think the only “Thunderbolt” already in the MCU—General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross—was set to become his comic counterpart Red Hulk. But following William Hurt’s death that seems impossible. Or at least it would had Doctor Strange not just ripped open the multiverse. Could another Ross from another world take his place? Sam Elliott did play Ross in the non-Disney Hulk? Or could Red Hulk simply appear as a CGI character without having to recast his human form?
There are actually two comic book Thunderbolt members in the MCU, too. A sympathetic Hawkeye eventually took over as the group’s leader when he saw the organization had changed their evil ways. We don’t even expect Hawkeye, who has never been shy of opposing his government, to be a member of the MCU’s Avengers in a few years. But it wouldn’t surprise us to see him join a rudderless Thunderbolts. (Especially if Yelena is a member. The two, bound by their love for Natasha, came to an understanding with one another.)
One comic book Thunderbolt that would surprise us if he joined the MCU’s version is Buckeye Barnes. US Agent seems like the biggest lock in the world to join the group, and after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier we just don’t see Bucky working with John Walker ever again. But strange times make for strange bedfellows, so you can never say never.
The biggest wild card of all is a character who hasn’t joined the MCU yet. (And isn’t even scheduled to.) We can’t rule out Marvel Comics’ Songbird will ultimately be as important to the group on screen as she is on the page, because there are already unconfirmed (though tantalizing) rumors Stranger Things‘ Sadie Sink will play the character in the MCU.
And if that happens, no matter who else is on the the MCU’s version of the team, Thunderbolts fans will have plenty to sing about.