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 the Thunderbolts look like and 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? 

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?

Marvel Studios

This is the big question! And happily, we have the answer. The MCU Thunderbolts team will feature Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, Ghost, Red Guardian, Yelena Belova, Bucky Barnes (a.k.a Winter Soldier), US Agent, and Taskmaster. We know now that Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine is actually the Deputy Director of the CIA in the United States. With that knowledge, we can assume she will take the helm of assembling the team.

The one character we definitely assumed Marvel would bring over to the MCU Thunderbolts is fan favorite Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. But we haven’t yet seen confirmation he will appear in the Thunderbolts movie or have an association with the MCU team. The comic book team also has had so many members over the years that many MCU heroes could still end up on it. For instance, Hawkeye (well, Clint is a killer) could join. 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. 

How Will Thunderbolts Impact the MCU? 

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.

When asked to describe the MCU Thunderbolts team, Red Guardian David Harbour offered, “MCU has always been sort of elevated in a certain way. Captain America, even Iron Man, although he has egos, are always in it for the right reasons or ultimately does the right thing. And I like these guys who are a bunch of losers or a bunch of guys who can’t quite get it right.”

So basically, get ready to see an MCU where heroes are feared rather than trusted and don’t always do things perfectly or for all the right reasons.

Originally published on July 28, 2022.

Featured Image: Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics