Group of fictional characters in Marvel comics
The Thunderbolts are a fictional superhero team appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The team consists mostly of reformed supervillains.
The Thunderbolts first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997) and were created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley.
The Thunderbolts were first presented as a group of superheroes like the Avengers, both to readers and to the Marvel Universe, who became heroes to help protect the world when the Avengers were declared dead after the events of the 1996 "Onslaught" crossover. However the final page of the first issue of their comic book revealed that the Thunderbolts were the Masters of Evil in disguise, a surprise twist carefully guarded by Marvel.
Themes of redemption and the nature of heroism are often featured in Thunderbolts comics. In subsequent storylines, the group rejects their leader Baron Helmut Zemo and attempts to become heroes in their own right, eventually under the leadership of the Avenger Hawkeye. The book has also garnered critical praise for its use of secondary characters from other Marvel Comics and its use of continuity-themed storytelling.
The Thunderbolts was an original concept created for Marvel Comics by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley. Most of the characters used in the final concept were reimagined versions of existing Marvel characters, with additional original characters for the series developed by Busiek and designed by Bagley. The pair also created the new heroic identities for the Masters of Evil. Busiek recalled:
The actual origin of Thunderbolts came when I used to live in New Jersey and drive to New England to visit my parents. To keep myself awake, I'd give myself books to write, and work out about two to three years of continuity. One trip, I assigned myself Avengers, and came up with the plan that the Masters of Evil would ultimately conquer them by posing as new heroes and slowly replacing them. At the time, I thought it was a neat idea, and filed it away.
While Busiek's original reluctance was because he deemed readers would not have liked replacing the established characters and then having the new ones being villains - "Doing that with one character, like what Marv Wolfman did with Terra, made a great sting, but doing it on a team-wide scale wouldn't work." - seeing a world devoid of many heroes following "Onslaught" made him revive the concept. The Thunderbolts first appeared as a team in The Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997), written by Peter David and illustrated by Mike Deodato. Originally intended to be a similar team known as the "Echelon," the synchronization of the plans led to the Thunderbolts being used instead as a "teaser" for their own series. No mention was made of the connection between the Thunderbolts and the Masters of Evil in this appearance, save perhaps for the Hulk almost recognizing Meteorite's voice (having fought Moonstone before). The team also appeared in a one-shot called Tales of the Marvel Universe. The twist would not be revealed until the first issue of their own series.
Soon after the publication of The Incredible Hulk #449, the team's own series premiered. The first issue, cover dated April 1997, was played largely as a straight superhero story, until the revelation of the Thunderbolts' true nature on the last page of the comic. This is considered one of the most well-conceived plot twists in the history of American comic books, with Wizard magazine readers voting it "Comics' Greatest Moment of 1997" and later, in 1999, placing it at #11 on a list of "The 25 Greatest Comic Moments Ever". Marvel managed to keep the secret of the Thunderbolts' true villainous identities tightly under wraps before the book launched. When word got out, the first issue sold out so quickly that Marvel not only offered a second printing, but also did a "mini-trade paperback" collecting the first two issues. Fabian Nicieza replaced Busiek in issue #34. Patrick Zircher, after a couple of fill-ins, replaced Bagley in issue #51.
Despite critical acclaim, the book was reformatted with Thunderbolts #76 (March 2003), removing the entire cast and creative team and replacing it with a brand new set of characters, along with a new writer, John Arcudi. The move was done in part due to Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada's desire to emulate the success he had with X-Force, which was reformatted with a new cast of characters and status quo that was successful in sales and popularity. However, the new direction for the series—an underground fighting circuit that employed predominantly newly created super-villain characters—was a commercial failure and canceled after six issues.
In 2004, Marvel Comics launched a limited series titled Avengers/Thunderbolts, which continued one year after the events of issue #75. The limited series ran for the same number of issues as the reformatted Thunderbolts arc.
Soon after the completion of Avengers/Thunderbolts, Marvel Comics launched a second series featuring the characters with New Thunderbolts #1 (January 2005). The storyline continued the events from Avengers/Thunderbolts as well as the fall-out of "Avengers Disassembled" and returned to the original series concept, though with a roster that lacked many fan favorites (such as Baron Zemo, Moonstone, and Techno). With the combination of the eighty-one issues of the first series and the first eighteen issues of New Thunderbolts, the series reverted to its original numbering with Thunderbolts #100.
Thunderbolts #110 saw another change to the direction of the series, with writer Warren Ellis introducing a new team of Thunderbolts, villains working for the government, tasked with capturing unregistered superheroes. Ellis has stated that he chose to approach the series "gently, but directly from a political agenda" and the relaunch was closely tied to Marvel's commercially successful Civil War event, with the team serving as a dark reflection of the event's controversial ending. The Thunderbolts also feature in the Spider-Man storyline "New Ways to Die", which is the first proper showdown between him and the team.
Ellis stepped aside in issue #121 and was replaced by Christos Gage, who wrote three one-shots and a four-issue tie-in with Secret Invasion. At the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, Andy Diggle was announced as the new ongoing writer, starting in issue #126 (November 2008) with a two issue story "Burning Down the House" which cleared the way for the introduction of a new team line-up. This team debuted in Thunderbolts #128-129, a story that dealt with "Dark Reign", the Secret Invasion aftermath, which was followed by "Magnum Opus", a 4-issue crossover with Deadpool (vol. 2). Miguel Sepulvida took over art duties with Thunderbolts #133 and Jeff Parker became the new writer with issue #138. Parker then piloted the title through the end of "Dark Reign", featuring a crossover with the Agents of Atlas team he was also writing, and into "Siege", following which the team was revamped again. Parker announced that "the status quo of the team undergoes a major overhaul for the new era to come. It's going to synthesize a lot of what readers like about recent history and re-instill some elements from the early days of the book."
The Heroic Age team debuted in Thunderbolts #144 with a new main artist, Kev Walker. The title crossed over with Avengers Academy in issue #147, which was bookended by Avengers Academy #3 and #4. The series then went on to cross over with the Daredevil storyline "Shadowland" in issues #148-149, with artist Declan Shalvey stepping in for the two issues. The series then crossed over with the "Fear Itself" storyline in issues #158-163.
The Thunderbolts comic book was renamed Dark Avengers beginning with issue #175, but the creative team remained unchanged. Dark Avengers ended with issue #190.
As part of Marvel NOW!, a new Thunderbolts series was launched featuring a new team composed of Red Hulk, Deadpool, Elektra, Venom, and Punisher. This series ended in October 2014 with issue #32.
Fictional team biography
The Thunderbolts' true identities as the Masters of Evil are revealed. Art by Mark Bagley.
Baron Helmut Zemo's Thunderbolts
Baron Helmut Zemo summoned several of his former allies from the prior incarnations of the Masters of Evil during a rescue attempt of Goliath (the former bodyguard to Baron Heinrich Zemo). The summoned members included Beetle, Fixer, Moonstone and Screaming Mimi. Zemo took the accidental gathering as an omen, and decided to reform the Masters of Evil and attack the Avengers. Before they could strike, the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four were apparently killed by the villain Onslaught.
The death of the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four created an opportunity for Zemo and the Masters of Evil. Zemo realized that the world needed superpowered champions, and that his team could fill that need. By posing as superheroes, the Masters of Evil could gain the public trust and build a position of power that rivaled the status of the Avengers. Once they had gained the public's faith, Zemo believed they could gain access to all the secrets of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. once they were in ultimate power. Zemo then planned to sell the secrets they found to the criminal underworld.
The villains adopted new heroic costumes and codenames. Baron Zemo became the patriotic American Citizen V, patterned after a WWII hero his father killed. Former Human Torch and Spider-Man foe Beetle became MACH-1, using a new high-tech suit designed by Fixer. Fixer became the gadget-wielding Techno. Long time Avengers enemy Goliath became the powerhouse Atlas. Screaming Mimi became Songbird, her damaged abilities aided by technology Zemo had adapted from ex-Master Klaw. Moonstone was secretly freed from the Vault and added to the team by Zemo, who extracted a promise of loyalty from her. She was to be Zemo's personal enforcer against any betrayal committed by the others. She took the alias Meteorite. Calling themselves the Thunderbolts, the six new 'heroes' were ready for action.
The team found tremendous success as superheroic champions. The public began to think of the Thunderbolts as heroes. After several adventures, some of the villains began to think of themselves the same way. Dallas Riordan, an aide to the Mayor of New York, befriended the new heroes.
Jolt, an Asian American teenage girl whose entire family was killed by Onslaught and was experimented on by Arnim Zola, soon joined the team after she came to the Baxter Building seeking the help of the FF. Jolt, however, was not a supervillain, with the young girl honestly believing that her new friends were heroes (Zemo used the opportunity to create the team's new history). Soon after the addition of Jolt, Techno's neck was broken in battle with the Elements of Doom. Techno then seemingly transferred his mind into an android body built from his tech-pack.
Just as Zemo's plans were about to come to fruition, everything unravelled. To the astonishment of the entire world, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers returned. Faced with the return of the lost heroes, Zemo revealed the true nature of the Thunderbolts to the world. Ostensibly, he did this to ensure the loyalty of the team by ruining their chances of becoming heroes.
The Thunderbolts (minus the android Techno) turned on Zemo for his betrayal. In the ensuing battle, Zemo and Techno used a mind control device to turn the Avengers and Fantastic Four against the remaining Thunderbolts, who, with the help of the size-changing Atlas- as well as Iron Man, who had designed his armour to make himself more resistant to mind control- ultimately rallied and freed the other heroes. Together, they defeated Zemo and Techno. Unbeknownst to his teammates, Atlas helped the wounded Zemo escape, while Techno fled under his own power.
Amidst this chaos, Meteorite decided to return to her old identity. She altered her costume and changed her codename back to Moonstone. After a brief stop-over in an alternate dimension, the team learned that Moonstone had no intention of reforming and becoming a superhero. She told them she only turned against Zemo out of self-preservation.
Upon their return to Earth, the team set up shop in Colorado and pondered their next move.
Marvel's Most Wanted
Now fugitives, new members soon joined the Thunderbolts. These members included the former Avenger Hawkeye, and later a young African American hero named Charcoal who had previously fought the team, having been created by a "Create a character" contest in Wizard Magazine. Hawkeye convinced his new teammates they would be pardoned if MACH-1, who had murdered someone as the Beetle (as the only member of the team who had ever actually killed anyone), turned himself in to authorities. The team considered joining the mysterious Crimson Cowl's new Masters of Evil instead. Ultimately, the Thunderbolts followed Hawkeye's advice. MACH-1 turned himself in and pleaded guilty to murder. Even with MACH-1's surrender, the U.S. Government refused to pardon the group.[volume & issue needed]
The Thunderbolts then defeated the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil and took over their headquarters. After unmasking the Crimson Cowl, the team discovered that she was their old friend Dallas Riordan. In truth, Riordan was not the Crimson Cowl. The real Crimson Cowl was Justine Hammer. Riordan had been framed by Hammer to take the fall for the Cowl's crimes. While Riordan was not the Crimson Cowl, she did have her own secret identity. Riordan was actually the new Citizen V, leader of the secret V-Battalion. Riordan decided to keep her secret to avoid exposure of the group. She was sent to jail for the Crimson Cowl's crimes, but was later rescued by the V-Battalion.[volume & issue needed]
While exploring their new headquarters, the Thunderbolts discovered Ogre. Ogre was a former member of the villainous Factor Three, the original owners of the base. Factor Three made Ogre the new base caretaker after they disbanded. This also left him with custody of Humus Sapien, a dangerous mutant teenager that Factor Three had kidnapped and placed in suspended animation.[volume & issue needed]
Ogre was accepted as a member of the Thunderbolts. Soon after, Techno attacked him, placed him in stasis, and assumed his identity. At the same time, MACH-1 was freed from prison in exchange for stealing some top secret weapons technology from evil industrialist Justin Hammer. MACH-1 returned to the Thunderbolts after gaining his freedom thanks to Hawkeye making a deal with the Commission that had released him that he would continue officially serving his sentence while returning to the team. Upon his return, Techno upgraded MACH-1's armor, and used another device to change his features so that others wouldn't realize he was the same person as the original identity. MACH-1 was now MACH-2.[volume & issue needed]
During this time, the Thunderbolts joined forces with the Avengers against the latest plan of Count Nefaria, as he intended to detonate an ionic bomb, which will transform millions of people into an ionic state which he can then control, perceiving it as the best way to guarantee that he receives the respect that he feels he deserves. The two teams are drawn into this plan when Nefaria uses his new control of ionic energy to take control of the heroes Wonder Man and Atlas, intending to use them to kill the Avengers. Despite his power, he is stopped by the combined efforts of the Avengers, the Thunderbolts, and Madame Masque, Masque using a weapon she had developed to disrupt Nefaria's own ionic energy so that the heroes can defeat him.
Meanwhile, Moonstone found herself going through changes. She fell in love with Hawkeye. Soon after, she learned that the spirit of the Kree Moonstone that powered her tried to make her a more honest person. This conflicted with her naturally amoral personality, and slowly made her insane.[volume & issue needed]
The Thunderbolts faced many more challenges. Henry Gyrich sought to destroy the team and Hawkeye. Gyrich changed a brainwashed Jack Monroe into the new Scourge. The Scourge then attempted to assassinate the Thunderbolts one by one. First he killed Jolt. He then traveled to South America and apparently killed Baron Zemo. After this, Scourge broke into the Thunderbolts headquarters and destroyed the robotic Techno. He then killed Atlas by allowing the giant to implode into a storm of ionic energy.[volume & issue needed]
All four characters apparently killed by Scourge had survived in some form: the robotic Techno had recovered Jolt's body and used her electrical powers to resurrect her from the dead, even while he "died", imbuing her with the knowledge that Hawkeye had failed to get the team pardoned in the process. The Thunderbolts were upset with Hawkeye, but, on unmasking Monroe, decided that confronting Gyrich was more important.
While all this happened, Val Cooper had gathered her own army of heroes she named the Redeemers. This team included a new Citizen V, Atlas' brother Smuggler, and Fixer, who had only copied his mind into his tech-pack as a contingency. The original Norbert P. Ebersol survived his injuries and recovered in secret while the robotic Techno continued on as a Thunderbolt in his place.[volume & issue needed]Leila Davis, the wife of the Ringer, used an updated version of the Beetle armour.
The Redeemers helped the Thunderbolts battle Gyrich, who had acquired experimental nanite technology. Gyrich wanted to use the nanites to kill off all heroes and villains on Earth. Gyrich's scheme was foiled. It was soon revealed that he had been infected with nanites, and had been secretly manipulated by Baron Strucker of the terrorist group HYDRA. Hawkeye tried to use this information as blackmail to get the Thunderbolts pardoned. Gyrich countered that he would tell the public himself about HYDRA's scheme. Ultimately, Gyrich agreed to stay quiet and give the Thunderbolts their pardon. In return, Hawkeye turned himself in for aiding the fugitive heroes. Hawkeye went to prison and the team disbanded.
Eventually, all the others murdered by Jack Monroe returned from the dead. Baron Zemo's mind had been transferred into the comatose body of the man whose role as Citizen V he had usurped in the first place.[volume & issue needed]
Later, after a teleportation accident, Zemo's mind was transferred into Techno's mechanical "Tech-Pack", which had also cybernetically replaced the broken segment of Techno's real body's spine. Atlas was later raised from the dead after a merger with Riordan, who had been crippled in battle with the Crimson Cowl.[volume & issue needed]
Jolt and Charcoal, the only Thunderbolts without criminal records, were assimilated into the Redeemers under the leadership of Captain America and the Zemo-possessed Citizen V. The Redeemers were promptly slaughtered by the Thunderbolts' deadliest foe, the powerful supervillain Graviton with Citizen V, Fixer (who ran away), and Jolt (who re-formed her electric form) as the only survivors of the massacre, although Smuggler and Screamer have since resurfaced.[volume & issue needed]
Rebirth and endings
The Thunderbolts reformed to defeat Graviton. During the fight, several of the team members present (Fixer, Jolt, Moonstone, Jenkins as MACH-3 and the merged Atlas/Dallas Riordan, along with Zemo's mind — accidentally transferred into Fixer's tech-pack by the teleportation) were transported to Counter-Earth, the same parallel Earth the Avengers and Fantastic Four were sent to after their final battle with Onslaught.[volume & issue needed] The Thunderbolts met Counter-Earth versions of Heinrich Zemo, Helmut Zemo and the first Moonstone, the last of which was known as Phantom Eagle.[volume & issue needed]
Under duress — Zemo being able to disable his ability to walk at will — Fixer transferred Zemo's mind from "Tech-Pack" into the body of Zemo's counterpart. Zemo then killed the Counter-Earth version of his father.[volume & issue needed] Soon after, the Thunderbolts stopped the Nazi Germany of Counter-Earth from taking control of all of Counter-Earth's computers.[volume & issue needed] Zemo convinced the team to remain and help rebuild Counter-Earth. The team reluctantly agreed and based themselves in the mobile Counter-Earth Attilan. Then, Moonstone stole the mentally unstable Phantom Eagle's moonstone for herself, boosting her powers to godlike levels.[volume & issue needed]
Back on Earth-616, many things happened. Hawkeye escaped from prison alongside several supervillains just as S.H.I.E.L.D. contacted him with an offer to be freed from prison. Industrialist Justin Hammer died. His daughter Justine (the Crimson Cowl) discovered her father had exposed every supervillain he ever employed to a poison that enslaved their minds. This included members of the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil. However, the villain Plantman had helped create the poison and was the only one who could activate it.[volume & issue needed]
With the telepathic terrorist Mentallo serving as a middleman, Hawkeye tried to help Plantman in order to give him to Crimson Cowl. During the escape, Hawkeye watched helplessly as Plantman murdered a prison guard. Before Crimson Cowl could kill Hawkeye or take Plantman, they were rescued by Songbird.[volume & issue needed]
Hawkeye and Songbird then formed a second group of Thunderbolts. He explained to the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil that if the Crimson Cowl was not stopped, they would all become her slaves. Plantman, using the codename Blackheath, was their first new member. Most of the members of Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil also joined, including: Cardinal (now Harrier); Gypsy Moth (now Skein); Man-Killer (now Amazon); and Cyclone, who did not change his codename.[volume & issue needed]
These new Thunderbolts were eventually captured by the Crimson Cowl (who was helped by Cyclone). Crimson Cowl vivisected Plantman. Soon after, Plantman mutated into a plant creature that neutralized the mind-control poison. The group was then sent to the V-Battalion's base. The Counter-Earth group returned to Earth at the V-Battalion base through a rift in space. The new and old teammates were reunited. Jolt stayed on Counter-Earth and joined the Young Allies. Closing the rift between Earth and Counter-Earth destroyed the V-Battalion's base.[volume & issue needed]
In the aftermath, Atlas and Dallas were split into separate bodies, with Dallas retaining the remainder of Atlas' ionic power, allowing her to walk again with enhanced agility and strength. Zemo convinced Hawkeye that he wanted to reform and help the world instead of ruling it. Hawkeye, Amazon and Skein left the team. MACH-3 and Harrier returned to prison. Zemo then revealed to the team that he had lied to Hawkeye and that he still wanted to conquer the world, only to save it from itself. The Thunderbolts comic then shifted focus for six issues.
Avengers/Thunderbolts: The Best Intentions
In 2004, the six issue Avengers/Thunderbolts limited series was launched, picking up a year after the events of Thunderbolts #75. Zemo led the Thunderbolts (now including Dallas Riordan, under the codename Vantage) in an attempt to drain the powers of all superhumans on Earth, using Moonstone. They fought the Avengers, including former Thunderbolt Hawkeye. The Avenger Iron Man infiltrated the Thunderbolts disguised as Cobalt Man. Eventually, all the power absorbed by Moonstone caused her to snap. Jolt returned from Counter-Earth to help stop Moonstone. Finally, Iron Man convinced Hawkeye to lobotomize Moonstone to save the planet.[volume & issue needed]
Zemo vowed revenge against the Thunderbolts and the Avengers for putting Moonstone into a coma. Jolt returned to Counter-Earth. A depowered Blackheath returned to prison. The Fixer fled. Vantage retired to a government job. Songbird was offered reserve membership in the Avengers but turned it down. MACH-3 was paroled from prison and decided to form a new team of Thunderbolts.
The New Thunderbolts
Marvel subsequently launched New Thunderbolts #1. MACH-3 (now called MACH-IV), Atlas and Songbird were now a part of the new Thunderbolts. The team's new recruits included Photon, Speed Demon, Joystick, Blizzard II and the Radioactive Man. The new team has battled Atlantean superhuman terrorist group the Fathom Five and Baron Strucker's HYDRA organization, which funded the team's return.
In "Purple Reign", Swordsman, along with his master, the Purple Man, plotted to enslave New York City by drugging the water supply with the Purple Man's pheromones, which allowed him to control his victims. While the Thunderbolts eventually defeated the Purple Man, before they could interrogate him he was teleported away by his boss, Baron Zemo, who tortured him by inducing rigor mortis in his body and sent him back to prison where his powers would be nullified.
Later, Hank Pym and Warbird offered to pardon the members of the Thunderbolts (who still had outstanding legal problems), if the Thunderbolts would attack and humiliate the New Avengers in public. However, it was later revealed that Pym and Warbird had been blackmailed into doing so.[volume & issue needed]
Only Spider-Woman survived unscathed from the Thunderbolts' sneak attack, beating Joystick senseless. The rest of the team was beaten back before the Thunderbolts left. Songbird told Captain America that the Thunderbolts could beat the New Avengers senseless anytime they wished. In the end, it was revealed that Baron Zemo spearheaded the attack. He did this to humiliate Captain America but also to see how far the Thunderbolts would go for the chance at being pardoned.[volume & issue needed]
Meanwhile, new threats were rising as Fixer resurfaced and recruited both MACH-IV and Blizzard to work with him on a top secret project, which was also run by Zemo. Meanwhile, Speed Demon was confronted by the new female Doctor Spectrum, who was out to reform the Squadron Sinister and take over the world. In the end, Speed Demon quit the Thunderbolts to join Dr. Spectrum while Nighthawk, the former Defender and member of the original Squadron Sinister, was offered membership on the Thunderbolts by Songbird.[volume & issue needed]
Right of Power
Soon after Nighthawk joined the team, the Thunderbolts discovered that Photon's awareness of all space and time brought with it a vision of the destruction of the universe at his hands. As they tried to come to terms with this, they were attacked a Moonstone puppeteered by Zemo to kill Genis-Vell. When the initial strike failed, the remainder of Zemo's team revealed themselves to the Thunderbolts. Zemo explained that he had used the Moonstones to accelerate Genis' return from death, and in the process made the mistake of siphoning energy from the beginning and end of time itself, caused by inexperience with his Moonstones, creating a link between Genis and the universe that threatened to end existence. Unable to find a way to save both Genis and the universe, he concluded that the only solution was Genis's death.
Unwilling to accept this Songbird led the team in combat against Zemo's group. To prevent the other Thunderbolts from intervening, Zemo revealed that Atlas' brother Smuggler had survived Graviton's massacre of the Redeemers, trapped in the Darkforce dimension. Using the prospect of his release to make Atlas stop the other Thunderbolts interfering, Zemo bested Genis in battle and, apologizing for both his mistake and the necessary solution, sliced Genis' body into pieces and scattered them through both time and the Darkforce dimension to prevent Genis returning from the dead a third time. He then fully released Smuggler. In the aftermath, Zemo—his face apparently fully healed from Moonstone's attack—and Songbird became allies and lovers.
Civil War: Hero Hunters
The new Thunderbolts engaged and defeated Quicksand in a battle in Denver during the early days of the superhero Civil War. After this, they were summoned to Washington where they met with Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, and Yellowjacket. The three heroes, all supporting the Superhuman Registration Act, informed Zemo that they wanted the Thunderbolts to hunt down supervillains and recruit them to the Pro-Registration cause, which would be their chance at redemption. Unknown to Iron Man, the Thunderbolts had been doing this in secret for three weeks.
Zemo's "Thunderbolt Army" grew rapidly, the team vastly expanding. It now included dozens of other supervillains, including most notably Doctor Octopus, the Wrecker, and Ox. The new team dispersed to battle super-villains, capture them and offer them a choice: join the Thunderbolts or go to prison. Of course, they all chose to join the Thunderbolts. Baron Zemo convinced Captain America not to stop him from battling the Grandmaster, while Nighthawk was revealed as being a spy for the Squadron Sinister inside Captain America's Secret Avengers. Zemo then informed Songbird that in the coming battle, he knew that she would betray him, which she had been planning to do all along, in revenge for his killing of Photon, and he would sacrifice himself to save the world.[volume & issue needed]
Zemo then saved the Wellspring of Power from the Grandmaster, who planned to use it for his own ends. Believing that all of his visions were subject to the flow of time, and that nothing was set in stone, Zemo defeated the Grandmaster, and boasted to his teammates that the power was now all his and theirs. He insisted that he would use it to help the world, despite the consequences for doing so. Songbird, who had temporarily lost her powers during the final battle, was told by Zemo, "now is when your betrayal would have come." The vision of her betrayal turned out to be somewhat correct after all, though. Although she could not use her super-sound, Songbird used a simple opera note to crack the moonstones, sending Zemo into a whirlwind of cosmic time/space. In his final words before he was completely sucked into the vacuum, he screamed out that he would never have hurt a world he worked so hard to save.[volume & issue needed]
Some of the Army of Thunderbolts, consisting of Venom, Lady Deathstrike, Taskmaster, Bullseye, Jester, Jack O'Lantern join Songbird assembled as the Pro-Registration side's task force to hunt down Anti-Registration heroes at the end of Civil War #4, but never officially saw any real combat. The Jester and Jack O'Lantern were later killed by the Punisher. The two were sent to hunt down and capture Spider-Man when he attempted to leave Iron Man's Pro-Registration army.[volume & issue needed]
Bullseye, Taskmaster, and Lady Deathstrike were part of the final battle of Civil War fighting alongside the Pro-Registration side, with Taskmaster wounding Mr. Fantastic when he sought to kill Invisible Woman (a member of the Anti-Registration forces). At the end of the fight, Taskmaster, Bullseye, and Deathstrike were sent to the Negative Zone prison; but Bullseye escaped[volume & issue needed] before he could be sent, and Taskmaster was freed by Deadpool en route to the portal. Deathstrike was either released or somehow escaped on her own. She would go on to battle the X-Men during the events of "Messiah CompleX", a story arc in the X-Men related books.[volume & issue needed]
After the events surrounding the Wellspring, the current team disbanded. MACH-IV and the Fixer were offered jobs from the Commission on Superhuman Activities. Blizzard was released from jail and left the team. Atlas was de-ionized after his encounter with the Wellspring but left catatonic and trapped in his enlarged state while Smuggler, his suit destroyed, took care of him. Joystick was imprisoned for her traitorous actions during the Wellspring debacle and Speed Demon ran away to avoid arrest. Only Songbird, Moonstone, Swordsman and the Radioactive Man, remained on the team.
Zemo: Born Better
In the events of Thunderbolts: Zemo - Born Better mini-series, Baron Zemo found himself lost in time and in Europe, forced to witness the lives and deaths of the previous generations of "Baron Zemos", while being violently thrust forward in time at random points of his adventures. The journey forward in time was a prolonged "moment of clarity" experience for Zemo, who saw his family's true history and not the rose-colored version his father and grandfather had taught him. When he ultimately returned to the present day, Zemo discovered that a distant cousin had been responsible for his return to the present, though at a horrific cost of causing Zemo to jump forward from era to era every time his cousin murdered a family member who shared the same blood as Helmut. When Helmut discovered that his cousin rescued Zemo just so he could kill his infamous relative, Helmut refused to resist, a move that caused his cousin to attempt to take his own life before Zemo convinced him to put down his gun and stop the cycle of violence.
Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts
Thunderbolts #110 featured a new creative team (writer Warren Ellis and artist Mike Deodato) and a new roster and direction for the team. The team was formed under the control of Norman Osborn, and the majority of the roster was made up of villains wishing to redeem themselves.
The new Thunderbolts roster was as follows:
After the Marvel Comics Civil War event, the new Thunderbolts were tasked with tracking down and arresting individuals avoiding the Superhuman Registration Act. Despite the new line-up, many of the themes of the original series continued; in particular, Songbird's decision to cripple Bullseye in retaliation for the villain crippling the super-hero Jack Flag, Norman Osborn's own struggle for redemption as he claimed, and the growing friendship between Songbird and Radioactive Man. Moonstone was made team leader, a move that proved to be disastrous and ultimately led to Songbird resuming control over the team and expanding the group's missions to involve regular super-hero missions besides hunting down unregistered super-heroes.
Due to lengthy delays towards the end of Ellis's run, several one-shot specials and a Penancelimited series were launched to fill in the gap. The Penance limited series saw the hero formerly known as Speedball carrying out a complex scheme hatched to gain revenge against Nitro, the man who murdered his teammates the New Warriors, which put him at odds with his new teammates on the Thunderbolts. Several specials advanced other plotlines, such as the mysterious death of Songbird's mother and Swordsman betraying the Thunderbolts by allying himself with Arnim Zola to resurrect his sister, after realizing that Osborn would not use his cloning technology to resurrect Andrea.[volume & issue needed]
Following the events of "Caged Angels", the various Thunderbolt specials (written by Christos Gage), and the Penance limited series, and guest appearances in Moon Knight[volume & issue needed] and The Amazing Spider-Man,[volume & issue needed] the group is thrust into the events of "Secret Invasion", when Thunderbolt Mountain is attacked by the SkrullKhn'nr, also known as Skrull sleeper agent Captain Marvel, just as Arnim Zola drops off the newly resurrected (via cloning technology) Andrea Strucker.[volume & issue needed]
Barely surviving the fight due to Khn'ner's inability to deal with the implanted memories inside of him belonging to Mar-Vell, the group went onto the offensive against the Skrull armada as they invaded Washington DC.[volume & issue needed] During the fight, Andrea is teamed with her brother Swordsman, Moonstone and Bullseye under the fear that she is a Skrull spy sent to infiltrate the group. However, when Moonstone betrays Swordsman in order to join forces with the Skrulls in order to bait Andrea into revealing herself to be a Skrull, she is shocked to realize that she is a clone, culminating in Bullseye murdering her in order to save Moonstone.[volume & issue needed] With Norman's help, Moonstone blames the Skrulls for Andrea's murder. After the Thunderbolts defeat the Skrull armada attacking Washington, D.C., as well as two Super-Skrulls, Norman begins to play up his and his team's role to the media, making them appear to be the force that is saving the Earth from Tony Stark's bungling. The Thunderbolts then journey to New York where they reluctantly aid Earth's heroes in their battle against the Skrulls.
After Songbird gets mad at Osborn for leaving her to deal with a dangerous Skrull who nearly killed her, Norman Osborn and Moonstone come to the agreement to get rid of Songbird and the other Thunderbolts whose morals do not match their own. Their plan comes into effect while Norman is in Washington during the Dark Reign storyline, preparing to assume control over S.H.I.E.L.D. The group deports Radioactive Man back to China after Norman has his work visa revoked, and Moonstone has Penance sent to a corrupt maximum security mental institution where he would be held prisoner for the rest of his natural life. Moonstone then aids Bullseye and Venom in attempting to kill Songbird, with Bullseye and Moonstone inadvertently and indirectly revealing to Songbird that Norman has given them permission to kill her. Though she neutralizes Moonstone and Bullseye, Venom attacks Songbird on the Zeus minijet; she barely survives the crash. Bullseye recovers and sneaks up on her after the wreck, but the Swordsman saves her and tells her to run away, while blowing up the downed craft to forge her death in the explosion.
Swordsman confronts Norman with the revelation that he is not being offered a position on the "Dark Avengers" team and that Norman had never planned on fulfilling his vow to resurrect the Thunderbolt's deceased sister or to give him a full presidential pardon after his contract with the Thunderbolts ended. Norman ends the confrontation by stabbing and defenestrating him.
With Bullseye, Moonstone, and Venom being transferred to Norman's new team the Dark Avengers, Osborn decided to create a new Thunderbolts roster, one that would provide themselves as assassins for H.A.M.M.E.R.
The new roster consisted of:
One of their first missions is an attempt to kill Deadpool after he tries to blackmail Osborn for Norman's theft of Skrull data. After Deadpool and Taskmaster thwart the hit, the Thunderbolts then travel to Madripoor to recruit Mister X as a team member. Osborn then adds a new incarnation of Scourge, who Norman seems to know. Songbird eventually returns, and he has his team try to kill her. Yelena abandons the team after Scourge takes over, and reveals to Songbird that she is, in fact, the original Natasha Romanoff working for Nick Fury. The two escape, only to end up leading Osborn to Nick Fury. Osborn orders the Thunderbolts to kill Black Widow and Songbird, and shoots Fury himself; however, "Fury" is revealed to be a Life Model Decoy. After Black Widow and Songbird escape, Scourge is revealed to be the former Super-Soldier Nuke.
Norman Osborn later places Grizzly on the Thunderbolts team at the time they fight the Agents of Atlas. The fight between the Thunderbolts and the Agents of Atlas rages on as the deadly chemicals causes both teams to retreat. During the battle Scourge is brainwashed into shooting when he sees Norman Osborn. As the Thunderbolts return to the Cube on Zeus, their pilots informs that there is an important message from Osborn, Displayed holographically, Osborn informs the Thunderbolts that there is an important assignment he needs them to do in Broxton, Oklahoma, but does not disclose the details. Upon seeing Osborns' face, "Scourge's" programming kicks him and attempts to shoot. The bullet goes right through the hologram and hits Headsman right in the head, horrifying his teammates.
During the Siege storyline, Norman Osborn sends his Thunderbolts to infiltrate Asgard and steal a weapon from the Asgardian armory that will turn the tide in his favor.
The weapon that the Thunderbolts stole from the Asgardian armory was actually Odin's spear. They were stopped by the Mighty Avengers but not before Scourge used the spear to sever U.S. Agent's left limbs. Most of the team is apprehended by authorities while Paladin and Ant-Man escape.
Luke Cage's Thunderbolts
A brand new team of Thunderbolts appears in the aftermath of "Siege" as seen during the Heroic Age storyline.
Captain Steve Rogers brings Luke Cage to the Raft to assemble a new team of Thunderbolts that will not be related to the ones that Norman Osborn previously assembled and rather be criminals who work towards redemption again. They recruit Ghost (who betrayed Osborn), Moonstone (despite objections by long-standing member Songbird), Juggernaut (who is vouched for by Professor X), Crossbones (who is supposed to gravitate the rest of the Thunderbolts to Cage), and Man-Thing (who serves as the Thunderbolts' mode of transportation). No longer wearing a costume and now stuck in a wheelchair, U.S. Agent is appointed the new warden of the Raft.
During their first training session, Luke Cage is attacked by Baron Helmut Zemo, who declares that he will take leadership of the Thunderbolts. He tells the Thunderbolts that they can serve him if they can escape from the Raft. Though Crossbones is more than willing to oblige, the rest are suspicious. As it turns out, it was a setup to test the team and the Raft's security measures. They are then deployed to deal with a group of Asgardian trolls.
After killing two of the trolls and capturing the third (who turned out to be a girl named Gunna who was raised by trolls), the group is reprimanded by Cage for the death of the two trolls. The Thunderbolts are sent out to search for a group of missing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who turn out to be mutated by the Terrigen Mist.
After slaying the mutated S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and sealing off the cave, the Thunderbolts return to the Raft for a check-up. The check-up reveals that Crossbones has not been mutated by the Terrigen Mist and that MACH-V will be out for weeks. The facility is soon visited by the staff and students of Avengers Academy. After getting Thunderbolts introduced to the students, the prison's power grid suddenly shut down due to an EMP, allowing the Raft's inmates to escape. Together with Warden Walker (U.S. Agent) and the staff of Avengers Academy, the Thunderbolts manage to detain all escaped prisoners. Some of Hank Pym's students attempted to get to Norman Osborn, so Luke Cage reprimands them.
During the Shadowland storyline, the Thunderbolts are assigned with rescuing a young boy who is held prisoner by the Hand, and bringing down their stronghold. While fighting the ninjas, Fixer is stabbed, while Songbird is taken down, giving Moonstone the opportunity to do things her way.
Following the dischargement of Crossbones, the Thunderbolts end up getting Hyperion as a new member when it comes to fighting giant monsters. He betrays the Thunderbolts while they are split up, destroying Man-Thing's lower body and legs with his atomic vision and leaving Moonstone and Songbird to drown while he takes the com device which controls the nanites in each Thunderbolts member. Hyperion activates it on Juggernaut to test it after the latter had saved the two drowning members, and Juggernaut responds by fighting back. Moonstone and Ghost join in to help Juggernaut upon which they take down Hyperion. They let Man-Thing touch him after a fallen Hyperion shows fear in front of them. The Thunderbolts next recruit Satana as his replacement when Luke Cage and Doctor Strange discover that the Raft is susceptible to magic.
With recent events involving the Thunderbolts, the team's advisory committee approve the creation of a Beta team, the Underbolts. As the Thunderbolts head toward a new mission in Eastern Europe, Songbird, Mach V, and Fixer select candidates of Raft inmates, with the chosen candidates being Troll, Shocker, Centurius, Boomerang and Mister Hyde.
After the mission in Europe as seen during the Fear Itself storyline, Juggernaut gets infected with nanites by Cage, who erroneously thought that he will attack the others. Juggernaut is left at the Raft while the alpha and beta team went on to a mission in Iraq, as zombies emerge from the area. In that moment, a Worthy hammer falls inside the prison and is taken immediately by Juggernaut (who feels also the calling of Cytorak). The hammer ends up transforming Kuurth: Breaker of Stone who ends up destroying the Raft, which led to most of its inmates escaping. The alpha and beta teams are called back to the raft to capture and control inmates, and work to clear the rubble. During the process, Centurius manages to find the controls for the beta team's nanites and disable them. The beta team decides to wait for a better time to escape, as they reason that more heroes may be on the way to help the raft. Meanwhile, Moonstone restores order to the partially collapsed women's' wing of the prison, as Ghost helps the warden avert a crisis in a section of the prison where a malfunctioning failsafe is suffocating inmates. Crossbones, an ex-member of the Thunderbolts, with the help of another inmate, escapes the raft in the chaos. After order is restored, the alpha team, including Songbird and Mach V, is sent to subdue Juggernaut/Kuurth, with the beta team and Fixer held in reserve. To the team's surprise, Man-Thing becomes uncontrollable, and teleports away before they fight Juggernaut. Satana explains that he has reached the "next stage" of his evolution, but before she can finish explaining, Juggernaut arrives. The team tries to free Juggernaut from the hammer's influence, but fail and he escapes.
Thunderbolts Throughout Time
Upon being sent back in time to the World War II era, the Thunderbolts members end up passing themselves off as the American Thunderbolts when they end up helping the World War II era's versions of Captain America and Namor. As Centurius adapts the name of Doc Century for this time period, the American Thunderbolts continue their fight with the Nazis and the Human Torch androids that were created by Baron Heinrich Zemo.
From then on the book focuses on the team in the present (Luke Cage, MACH-V, Songbird, Ghost) versus the Underbolts team in the past (Centurius, Satana, Troll, Boomerang, Moonstone, Fixer). Eventually, jumping around in time, the team encounter themselves as the original Thunderbolts (1997) and ends with the renaming of the title into Dark Avengers although the storyline carries through.
Red Hulk's Thunderbolts
A new team composed of Red Hulk, Deadpool, Elektra, Agent Venom, and Punisher debuted as a part of Marvel NOW! major relaunch. Written by Daniel Way with drawings by Steve Dillon. This incarnation is not a government-sponsored team.