Who Are the THUNDERBOLTS? The MCU’s Phase 5 Team, Explained - Nerdist
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Who Are the THUNDERBOLTS? The MCU’s Phase 5 Team, Explained

Since Avengers: Endgame crashed onto our screens and finished the Infinity Saga, fans have been wondering who the MCU’s next superteam will be. Though we have floated many ideas from the Young Avengers, to the West Coast iteration of the team, all the way through the Dark Avengers, it now looks like we have an answer. At their SDCC Hall H presentation, Marvel Studios revealed that Phase 5 of the MCU will end with Thunderbolts. But who is the team? Why are they so controversial? And what do they mean for the MCU? 

Who Are the Thunderbolts in Marvel Comics? 
Who Are The THUNDERBOLTS? The MCU’s Phase 5 Team, Explained_1
Marvel Comics/Mark Bagley/Vince Russell

First introduced in 1996’s Incredible Hulk Vol 1 #449, the Thunderbolts announce themselves by trapping the hulking hero. They claim that they want to save innocent people from his violent rampages, but who are the new heroes on the team? That would be Meteorite, Songbird, Mach-VI, Atlas, Techno, and their leader Citizen V. Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley created the incredibly ’90s looking team but their motivations were still a mystery until Thunderbolts #1. 

Are the Thunderbolts Villains? 
Who Are The THUNDERBOLTS? The MCU’s Phase 5 Team, Explained_2
Marvel Comics/Kurt Busiek/Mark Bagley/Vince Russell/Joe Rosas/Comicraft

The Thunderbolts revealed their true nature in their debut self-titled issue. The issue still stands as one of the smartest and most shocking comic book twists of all time. But before that, readers got to experience their heroics in the face of a New York without heroes. The Thunderbolts battle the nefarious Wrecking Crew and even fix the Statue of Liberty, establishing themselves as a powerful new superhero team, something that the city desperately needs. They even find support from heroes like Black Widow, the New Warriors, and Spider-Man. But the final pages reveal the Thunderbolts aren’t a new hero team at all. Instead they were a group of villains brought together by none other than Baron Zemo to exploit the absence of the Avengers and Fantastic Four after the heroes sacrificed themselves during the Onslaught event. 

The real team actually consisted of previous Masters of Evil members using new alter-egos. Meteorite was actually Moonstone; Songbird was really Screaming Mimi; Mach-VI was Beetle; Atlas was Goliath; Techno was Fixer; and their leader Citizen V was, of course, Baron Zemo. Their plan was to snake their way into the public’s hearts and then use their new found power and platform for evil! But since then the Thunderbolts have taken on many forms. The team often consists of villains, heroes, and anti-heroes, but their first iteration is their most famous. 

Who Will Be in the MCU’s Thunderbolts?
Ayo of the Dora Milaje stands behind Baron Zemo on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Marvel Studios

This is the big question! The one character we can definitely assume they’ll bring over is fan favorite Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. It’s pretty likely that he’ll be pulling the strings behind whatever version makes it to the MCU. The comic book team has had so many members over the years that many MCU heroes could end up on it: Black Widow (Yelena seems very likely), Ant-Man (we’re guessing this will not happen on screen), and Hawkeye (well, Clint is a killer). The most likely existing MCU hero to join, though, would be the Winter Soldier. His inclusion on the comic book team was very popular, so don’t be surprised if Bucky makes it on the roster. There’s also the chance that Netflix Marvel TV characters like Luke Cage or Punisher could pop up as they’ve both been on the team in the comic books too. 

Most likely, however, is that we’ll see already established villainous MCU characters like U.S. Agent, Abomination, and Baron Zemo, teamed up with new additions like Songbird/Screaming Mimi. That way Thunderbolts will be able to introduce Marvel characters we’ve yet to see. It’s even possible that we’ve already seen the team being assembled by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in her brief MCU appearances.

How Will Thunderbolts Impact the MCU? 
Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan in episode three of Ms. Marvel.
Marvel Studios

In the comics, the Thunderbolts represented a shift in the way that the public perceived heroes. With the MCU headed towards introducing mutants, likely in Phase 6 or directly after, the franchise needs to establish a world where the public no longer trusts powered people. Since its inception, the MCU has held up heroes as just that: heroes. But if the X-Men are to join the fray then that landscape needs to change. The seeds have already been sown thanks to Ms. Marvel’s drones and the arrival of the Department of Damage Control. But a superhero team that ends up being supervillainous would be a great way to cement that. Also, Phase 5 will begin with Secret Invasion, which will introduce the notion of Skrulls posing as heroes. So basically get ready to see an MCU where heroes are feared rather than trusted. 

Featured Image: Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics

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