The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already set up several characters who could be part of a future Thunderbolts team. One of the thrills of the MCU has been seeing Marvel’s biggest superheroes team up to save the world on several occasions. However, Phase 4 of the MCU could be building up to the first supervillain team up. There are plenty of rumors that the Thunderbolts will form, with characters from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk movie to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier already introduced.
The Thunderbolts were created in Marvel Comics as part of Baron Zemo’s latest master plan for global domination. When several major members of the Avengers in the Onslaught event, Zemo united members of the Masters of Evil to do the unexpected, protect the world. The famous criminals took on new costumes and personas to gain the trust of the public and governments. However, some members began to like their new heroic activities more and led to a divide among the team. Even after the truth of the Thunderbolts was revealed, they were reimagined several times. By now, most of Marvel’s biggest villains – and even several heroes – have been affiliated with the team at one point or another.
Although Marvel hasn’t aggressively pushed the MCU Thunderbolts setup and clues, they have done a lot of leg work to make it possible sooner than later. There are several members of the original Thunderbolts team who have yet to make their MCU debuts, but that might not stop Marvel Studios from introducing the team. Multiple characters who have been associated with the Thunderbolts have already been introduced. Whether they’re all part of the initial team or cycle through as the roster changes, these villains or antiheroes might very well be part of the MCU’s Thunderbolts.
Thunderbolt Ross/Red Hulk
Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt) has nearly been part of the MCU since its inception. He first appeared as an army General in The Incredible Hulk but wasn’t seen again for eight years. After his return in Captain America: Civil War, the new Secretary of State played a vital role in the formation of the MCU’s Sokovia Accords and gained oversight of the Avengers. Ross was expected to be seen multiple times in Phase 4, most significantly in the Disney+ series She-Hulk, since this could see him finally become Red Hulk.
However, this has been complicated by William Hurt’s passing in March of 2022. It’s possible the actor could still appear in She-Hulk if he already filmed his scenes, but the future of the character certainly seems to be in jeopardy, since recasting such a recognizable role might not work out. Because Ross (as Red Hulk) founded a version of the Thunderbolts in the Marvel comics that featured Punisher, Deadpool, Elektra, Agent Venom, and more, it was expected he’d be the one to put the team together in the MCU. A Thunderbolts movie with no Thaddeus Ross could still work, however, as the MCU has been gradually introducing an effective replacement character, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Although she’s not as established as Thunderbolt Ross, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been creeping her way into the MCU throughout Phase 4. Most notably, she appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to recruit John Walker and presumably put him on the path to becoming U.S. Agent, and also confronted Yelena Belova at Natasha’s grave at the end of Black Widow. Clearly, she’s collecting troubled heroes/anti-heroes for some reason, but it’s unknown at this time whether the first full iteration of Val’s team is the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers. It could also end up being both, as the latter team was an evolution of the former after the Skrull invasion in the Marvel comics.
If Marvel does form the Thunderbolts, Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) will inevitably play a key role in it. Zemo founded the Thunderbolts in the comics and is routinely involved with different configurations of the team. One such version saw him lead the Thunderbolts as a group tasked with hunting down rogue heroes and villains during Civil War. Zemo has been part of the MCU since Captain America: Civil War and showed his brilliance by manipulating the Avengers, specifically Captain America and Iron Man, to cause them to break up. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier saw him temporarily team up with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Zemo’s MCU return is likely to pick up where this series left off; since it ended with John Walker having taken the super-soldier serum, this will make him a target for Zemo moving forward.
Black Widow (Yelena Belova)
Marvel’s first movie of Phase 4 introduced the sister of Black Widow, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), kicking off what seems to be a substantial MCU future. Although she is not a villain, Yelena’s past as a Russian spy and graduate of the Red Room could keep her from initially being viewed as a hero by the general public. Likewise, Yelena’s appearance in Hawkeye set up the possibility of her continuing in an antihero-type role, which would likely lead her down the Thunderbolts path. In the comics, Yelena has been part of the Thunderbolts, although that was at a time when Natasha had taken her identity and used it to infiltrate the team run by Norman Osborn. But Yelena’s MCU future after Hawkeye could also see her take on the Black Widow mantle and become more of a true hero instead.
The MCU introduced another possible Thunderbolts member in Ant-Man and the Wasp with Ava Starr, a.k.a. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). She was set up as the villain but ultimately proved to be more of a misunderstood antihero. Ghost has been part of multiple Thunderbolts teams in the comics, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Marvel Studios chooses to stick to the source material. John-Kamen has already expressed interest in being part of a possible lineup. Ant-Man and the Wasp already established the fact that Ghost worked for SHIELD on covert missions, so she could be recruited again to be part of the Thunderbolts if it has any ties to the government.
Taskmaster was introduced to the MCU thanks to Black Widow, and Antonia Dreykov, the woman under the mask, could be part of the Thunderbolts too. A skilled mercenary, Taskmaster has definitive ties to the Red Room in the MCU and there is comic precedence for the character joining the supervillain team. Although he didn’t stick around for long, Tony Masters (the comic book secret identity of Taskmaster) did help train new recruits to the Thunderbolts Initiative run by Norman Osborn. With the ability to perfectly replicate any fighting style or move, Taskmaster’s unique powers are an ideal skill set for any missions the Thunderbolts go on.
The Thunderbolts could also be a chance to once again bring back one of Marvel’s (nearly) forgotten villains, Emil Blonsky a.k.a. Abomination (Tim Roth). His first MCU appearance came in The Incredible Hulk, although one of Marvel’s One-Shots later confirmed that he was locked away in a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base. After the time jump from Avengers: Endgame, it had been over 15 years since Abomination was seen in-universe, until his cameo appearance in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Now, Blonsky is set to appear again in the Disney+ series She-Hulk. These contemporary MCU appearances make Abomination’s odds of sticking around in the MCU seem fairly robust. And, since the World Security Council originally wanted Abomination on the Avengers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him recruited to the Thunderbolts by whoever is in charge. This would be a departure from the comics as Abomination has never been an actual member of the Thunderbolts, but that shouldn’t stop Marvel Studios.
John Walker initially arrived in the MCU as the government’s Captain America replacement in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Walker proved himself to be less than heroic, however, and was more of an antagonist to Sam and Bucky than anything else. By the series end, Walker is other-than-honorably discharged from the military, self-injected with super-soldier serum, decidedly unstable, and approached by Val about donning a new mantle: U.S. Agent. These shady goings-on seem to make him an excellent candidate for the Thunderbolts team, although, in the comics, U.S. Agent was never actually part of the Thunderbolts and actually fought against them on a few occasions.
Everything We Know About Marvel’s Thunderbolts
Ultimately, this cast of the MCU Thunderbolts movie is only hypothetical. The roster for which comic book antiheroes will be suiting up for the film hasn’t yet been announced, nor has the list of actors playing them. What has been confirmed, however, is that the MCU Thunderbolts movie is officially happening, and Jake Schreier will be its director. Eric Pearson, who wrote Black Widow, is working on the script. The MCU’s Thunderbolts movie release date is also unknown at this point but is unlikely to be any sooner than 2024. When they do arrive, however, the MCU’s Thunderbolts are sure to make a splash.
Next: Is Thunderbolts Replacing Avengers 5 As The MCU’s Next Crossover Movie?
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