Thunderbolts (comics)

Thunderbolts (comics)
Promotional cover art for Thunderbolts #128, depicting the Dark Reign-era formation.
Art by Francesco Mattina.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance The Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997)
Created by Kurt Busiek (writer)
Mark Bagley (artist)
In-story information
Base(s) The Raft
The Cube
Thunderbolts Mountain
Folding Castle
Mt. Charteris
Four Freedoms Plaza

Current roster:

See:List of Thunderbolts members

The Thunderbolts are a Marvel Comics superhero team, which consists mostly of former supervillains. The group first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997), and was created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley.


Publication history

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 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.

The Thunderbolts first appeared as a team in The Incredible Hulk #449 (February 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 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".[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Fabian Nicieza replaced Busiek in issue #34. Patrick Zircher, after a couple of fill-ins, replaced Bagley in issue #51.

The team also appeared in a one-shot called Tales of the Marvel Universe.

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.[1] 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[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 back 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,[2][3] 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"[4] 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.[5] The Thunderbolts also feature in the Spider-Man storyline "New Ways to Die", which is the first proper showdown between him and the team.[6][7][8]

Ellis stepped aside in issue #121 and was replaced by Christos Gage, who wrote three one-shots[9] and a four-issue tie-in with Secret Invasion.[10][11] At the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, Andy Diggle was announced as the new ongoing writer,[12] starting in issue #126 (November 2008) with a two issue story "Burning Down the House" which clears the way for the introduction of a new team line-up.[13][14] This team debuts in Thunderbolts #128-129, a story that deals with "Dark Reign", the Secret Invasion aftermath,[14][15] which is followed by "Magnum Opus", a 4-issue crossover with Deadpool (vol. 2).[16][17][18] Miguel Sepulvida took over art duties with Thunderbolts #133[19] and Jeff Parker became the new writer with issue #138.[20] Parker then piloted the title through the end of "Dark Reign", with a crossover with the Agents of Atlas team he was also writing,[21] and into "Siege", following which the team will be revamped again:

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.[22]

The Heroic Age team debuted in Thunderbolts #144 with a new main artist, Kev Walker.[23][24][25] The title crosses over with Avengers Academy in issue #147, which is bookended in the storyline by Avengers Academy #3 and #4.[26] The series then goes on to crosses over with the Daredevil storyline "Shadowland" in issues #148-149, with artist Declan Shalvey stepping in for the two issues.[27][28][29] The series then crossed over with the "Fear Itself" storyline in issues #158-163.[30][31]

Fictional team biography

The Thunderbolts' true identities as the Masters of Evil is revealed. Art by Mark Bagley.

Secret origins

Baron Zemo summoned several of his former allies from the fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil during a rescue attempt of Goliath (Zemo's father's former bodyguard). 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 (and many other Marvel Universe superheroes) were apparently killed by the villain Onslaught.[volume & issue needed]

The death of the superheroes 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 the paramilitary organization 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.[volume & issue needed]

Justice, Like Lightning

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 Spider-Man foe Beetle became MACH-1. Fixer became the gadget-wielding Techno. Goliath became the powerhouse Atlas. Screaming Mimi became Songbird. 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.[volume & issue needed]

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.[volume & issue needed]

Jolt, an Asian American teenage girl whose entire family was killed by Onslaught, soon joined the team. Jolt, however, was not a supervillain. The young girl honestly believed that her new friends were heroes. 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.[volume & issue needed]

Return of the Heroes

Just as Zemo's plans were about to come to fruition, everything unraveled. 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.[volume & issue needed]

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, 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.[volume & issue needed]

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.[volume & issue needed]

Upon their return to Earth, the team set up shop in Colorado and pondered their next move.[volume & issue needed]

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. Hawkeye convinced his new teammates they would be pardoned if MACH-1, who had murdered someone as the Beetle, 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 pled 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. She would later be 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 3, the original owners of the base. Factor 3 made Ogre the new base caretaker after they disbanded. This also left him with custody of Humus Sapien, a dangerous mutant teenager that Factor 3 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. Upon his return, Techno upgraded MACH-1's armour. MACH-1 was now MACH-2.[volume & issue needed]

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 of the Underworld. 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]

The Redeemers

In actuality, all four would survive 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.[32]

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.[33]

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. Much later, Atlas would be 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 Thunderbolt's deadliest foe, the powerful supervillain Graviton with Citizen V, Fixer (who ran away) and Jolt (who would reform her electric form) as the only survivors of the massacre although Smuggler and Screamer have also 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.[volume & issue needed]

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 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.[volume & issue needed]

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.[volume & issue needed]

Purple Man was teleported away from the Thunderbolts right after his defeat and was brought before Baron Zemo, his boss. Zemo then tortured the Purple Man by inducing rigor mortis in his body and threatened to send him back to prison where his powers would be nullified.[volume & issue needed]

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

Baron Zemo's group would then openly reveal itself to the Thunderbolts, sending a Moonstone puppeteered by Zemo to kill Genis-Vell.[volume & issue needed]

When the initial strike failed, Zemo would reveal 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. Zemo explored all future timelines with the Moonstones, but failed to find a way to save both Genis and the universe.[volume & issue needed]

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.[volume & issue needed]

An epilogue later revealed that Zemo—his face apparently fully healed from Moonstone's attack—and Songbird were now allies and lovers.[volume & issue needed]

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.[volume & issue needed]

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 (Mac Gargan), 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.[34] 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 would be 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.[35]

Zemo: Born Better

In the events of Thunderbolts: Zemo - Born Better mini-series, Baron Zemo would soon find 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 Zemo. 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.

Post-Civil War

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.[36][37][38][39][40][41]

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[9] and a Penance limited series[42] 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[43] 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]

Secret Invasion

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 Skrull Khn'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 paired 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.[44]

Dark Reign

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.[45] Their plan comes into effect while Norman is in Washington, 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.[46] 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.[47]

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.[48]

With Bullseye, Moonstone, and Venom being transferred to Norman's new team the Dark Avengers,[46] 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.[49] After Deadpool and Taskmaster thwart the hit, the Thunderbolts then travel to Madripoor to recruit Mister X as a team member.[50] Osborn then adds a new incarnation of Scourge, who Norman seems to know.[51] 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;[52] however, "Fury" is revealed to be a Life Model Decoy.[53] After Black Widow and Songbird escape, Scourge is revealed to be the former Super-Soldier Nuke.[54]

Norman Osborn later places Grizzly on the Thunderbolts team at the time they fight the Agents of Atlas.[55] 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.[56]


Norman Osborn sends his Thunderbolts to infiltrate Asgard and steal a weapon from the Asgardian armory that will turn the tide in his favor.[56]

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 Antman escape.[57]

Heroic Age

A brand new team of Thunderbolts appears in the aftermath of "Siege".[23][24]

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.[58] 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.[59]

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.[60]

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.[61]

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.[62]

Following the dischargement of Crossbones, the Thunderbolts end up getting Hyperion as a new member when it comes to fighting giant monsters.[63] 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.[64] The Thunderbolts will next recruit Satana as his replacement.

With recent events involving the Thunderbolts, the team's advisory committee approve the creation of a Beta team, the Underbolts.[65] As the Thunderbolts head toward a new mission in Easten Europe, Songbird, Mach V, and Fixer select candidates of Raft inmates, with the chosen candidates being Troll, Shocker, Centurius, Boomerang and Mister Hyde.[66]

Fear Itself

After the mission in Europe, Juggernaut gets nanited by Cage, who erroneusly 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.


Other versions


From Thunderbolts #76-81, the Thunderbolts were no longer featured. The focus of the comic shifted to Daniel Axum, a former supervillain known as the Battler. Axum joined an underground fighting circuit that employed other supervillains, including the Armadillo. Axum, along with fellow combatant Man-Killer, turned on his criminal manager Rey Trueno, and refused to return to the supervillain lifestyle. Despite continuing the title and numbering, this incarnation had no connection to the better-known team listed above, and the title was cancelled six issues into this direction.

Marvel Zombies

In Marvel Zombies: Dead Days, zombified Thunderbolts appear, rampaging across New York. The undead Thunderbolts are killed by the combined forces of Nova, Thor, and the Fantastic Four.


While the majority of the Thunderbolts have yet to appear in the MC2 Universe, Jolt appeared as an Avenger before the current team assembled in A-Next #1.

Millennial Visions

In the story "Thunderbolts: Give a Guy a Break", in the Marvel Universe: Millennial Visions one-shot (set in Earth-22000), the Thunderbolts revolt against Zemo and Hawkeye leads them on to be true heroes, bringing in and converting other villains.[67]

Wolverine: Days of Future Past

In the limited series, Wolverine: Days of Future Past, the Thunderbolts are the private security force of the ruling Sentinels, under the command of Baron Zemo. However, Zemo is also secretly working with Shinobi Shaw and Psylocke as part of a new Hellfire Club to bring about the Sentinels' downfall.

Slogan: Justice, Like Lightning...

Justice, like lightning, ever should appear to few men's ruin, but to all men's fear.

The series' slogan, "Justice, Like Lightning..." was attributed to a poem by Thomas Randolph in Thunderbolts #1. However, upon further investigation, Kurt Busiek could not find any evidence that this phrase had actually appeared in Thomas Randolph's writings. Busiek himself had originally taken the slogan from the Roy Thomas-penned issues of Captain Marvel, where the quote was similarly attributed to Randolph.[68]

The quote is frequently attributed to Joseph Swetnam, but this was not Swetnam himself, but rather a character based on him in the 1620 play Swetnam the Woman-Hater Arraigned by Women, which was written by an unknown author. Busiek reports that one Thunderbolts fan located a version of the couplet attributed to Irish archbishop Milo Sweetman, who died in 1380.[68]

Collected editions

The Thunderbolts' stories have been collected in a number of trade paperbacks:

  • Thunderbolts Classic:
    • Volume 1 (collects Thunderbolts #1-5 and -1, Thunderbolts 1997 Annual, The Incredible Hulk #449, Tales of the Marvel Universe special and Spider-Man Team-up Featuring... #7, 296 pages, April 2011, ISBN 0-7851-5309-8)
    • Volume 2 (collects Thunderbolts #6-14, and Heroes for Hire #7, 256 pages, March 2012, ISBN 0-7851-5965-7)
  • Thunderbolts:
    • Justice Like Lightning (by Kurt Busiek, collects Thunderbolts #1-4, Thunderbolts 1997 Annual, The Incredible Hulk #449, Tales of the Marvel Universe special and Spider-Man Team-up Featuring... #7, 224 pages, December 2001, ISBN 0-7851-0817-3)
    • How to Lose (by John Arcudi, collects Thunderbolts #76-81, 120 pages, November 2003, ISBN 0-7851-1248-0)
  • The Avengers/Thunderbolts: Best Intentions:
    • Volume 1 (collects The Avengers #31-34 and Thunderbolts #42-44, 184 pages, March 2004, ISBN 0-7851-1445-9)
    • Volume 2 (collects Avengers/Thunderbolts #1-6, 144 pages, November 2004, ISBN 0-7851-1422-X)
  • New Thunderbolts:
    • One Step Forward (by Fabian Nicieza, collects New Thunderbolts #1-6, 144 pages, June 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1565-X)
    • Modern Marvel (by Fabian Nicieza, collects New Thunderbolts #7-12, 144 pages, November 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1794-6)
    • Right of Power (by Fabian Nicieza, collects New Thunderbolts #13-18 and Thunderbolts #100, 184 pages, June 2006, ISBN 0-7851-1832-2)

Spin-off collections include:

In other media

Most of the post-Civil War Thunderbolts appear in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. Green Goblin, Penance, Songbird, and Venom III are playable characters and receive a Thunderbolts team bonus if they are on the same team. Jack O'Lantern makes a cameo running with the other villains while Bullseye, Moonstone, and Lady Deathstrike are seen as boss characters at several different points during the game, first seen while playing as an Anti-Registration Team, and later being controlled by the Fold.


  1. ^ "Arcudi and Lis Talk Thunderbolts". Newsarama. December 11, 2002. 
  2. ^ "Updated - Confirmed: Ellis & Deodata On Thunderbolts". Newsarama. June 10, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Ellis Gets Thunderstruck: Brevoort Talks "Thunderbolts"". Comic Book Resources. October 6, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Warren's Spandex Compound: Thunderbolts - Research Question For Warren". [dead link]
  5. ^ "Nuts and T-Bolts: Lazer talks "Thunderbolts"". Comic Book Resources. June 22, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Dan Slott Talks Spidey in "New Ways to Die"". Newsarama. August 14, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Spider-gasm: Slott talks "New Ways To Die"". Comic Book Resources. August 27, 2008. 
  8. ^ "When Opposites Attack: Slott talks "New Ways To Die"". Comic Book Resources. September 10, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Christos Gage on Thunderbolts: International Incident". Newsarama. February 4, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Christos Gage: Taking the Thunderbolts Through the Invasion". Newsarama. March 25, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Monsters and Marvels: Gage Talks "Thunderbolts"". Comic Book Resources. April 25, 2008. 
  12. ^ "SDCC '08 - Writer Andy Diggle Takes on the T-Bolts". Newsarama. July 26, 2008. 
  13. ^ "CCI: Diggle and Rosemann Talk "Thunderbolts"". Comic Book Resources. July 27, 2008. 
  14. ^ a b "Andy Diggle: The Future of the Thunderbolts". Newsarama. December 17, 2008. 
  15. ^ "The Osborn Supremacy: Thunderbolts". Comic Book Resources. January 9, 2009. 
  16. ^ Deadpool (vol. 2) #8-9 and Thunderbolts #130-131 (May – June 2009)
  17. ^ "Way Talks Deadpool & Thunderbolts, Bob". Comic Book Resources. December 16, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Thunderbolts vs. Deadpool: Fight". Newsarama. December 16, 2008. 
  19. ^ "First Look: Miguel Sepulvida on Thunderbolts". Newsarama. May 4, 2009. 
  20. ^ Richards, Dave (August 9, 2009). "CCC09: Parker Hears the Sound of Thunder(bolts)". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  21. ^ Richards, Dave (December 14, 2009). "Parker Deploys the Agents of Atlas". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  22. ^ Richards, Dave (January 20, 2010). "Parker's Thunderbolts Gear Up For "Siege"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b Arrant, Chris (February 9, 2010). "Luke Cage Powers Into Thunderbolts as Heroic Age Leader". Newsarama. Retrieved February 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b Richards, Dave (February 9, 2010). "Jeff Parker Cages the "Thunderbolts"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  25. ^ Phegley, Kiel (April 13, 2010). "First Look: Luke Cage's Thunderbolts". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 
  26. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (June 8, 2010). "Avengers Academy Kids Get Scared Straight By Thunderbolts". Newsarama. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  27. ^ Richards, Dave (May 12, 2010). "Parker Uncages the Thunderbolts in "Shadowland"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  28. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (May 12, 2010). "Luke Cage & the Thunderbolts Cast Their Shadow on Shadowland". Newsarama. Retrieved May 14, 2010. 
  29. ^ Carlton, Brian (June 8, 2010). "HeroesCon: Marvel Enters the Shadowland". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  30. ^ Richards, Dave (April 13, 2011). "Parker Forces the "Thunderbolts" to Face "Fear Itself"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  31. ^ Ching, Albert (April 20, 2011). "Jeff Parker Preps New THUNDERBOLTS Squad and PLANET RED HULK". Newsarama. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  32. ^ Thunderbolts #49 (April 2001)
  33. ^ Thunderbolts #50 (May 2001)
  34. ^ Civil War #5 (November 2006)
  35. ^ Thunderbolts #109 (February 2007)
  36. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Green Goblin". Newsarama. December 21, 2006. 
  37. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Moonstone". Newsarama. December 29, 2006. 
  38. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Bullseye". Newsarama. November 28, 2006. 
  39. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Penance". Newsarama. January 6, 2007. 
  40. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Songbird". Newsarama. December 6, 2006. 
  41. ^ "Better Know a Thunderbolt: Venom". Newsarama. December 1, 2006. 
  42. ^ "Reflections #221: Paul Jenkins, Part 2". Comic Book Resources. September 9, 2007. 
  43. ^ Thunderbolts: Breaking Point (January 2008)
  44. ^ Thunderbolts #122-125 (September – December 2008)
  45. ^ Thunderbolts #125 (December 2008)
  46. ^ a b Thunderbolts #126 (January 2009)
  47. ^ Thunderbolts #127 (February 2009)
  48. ^ Dark Reign (one-shot)[volume & issue needed]
  49. ^ Thunderbolts #130 (May 2009)
  50. ^ Thunderbolts #132 (July 2009)
  51. ^ Thunderbolts #133 (August 2009)
  52. ^ Thunderbolts #135 (November 2009)
  53. ^ Secret Warriors #8 (November 2009)
  54. ^ Thunderbolts #136 (November 2009)
  55. ^ Thunderbolts #139 (February 2010)
  56. ^ a b Thunderbolts #140 (March 2010)
  57. ^ Thunderbolts #141 (April 2010)
  58. ^ Thunderbolts #144 (July 2010)
  59. ^ Thunderbolts #145 (August 2010)
  60. ^ Thunderbolts #146 (September 2010)
  61. ^ Thunderbolts #147 (October 2010)
  62. ^ Thunderbolts #148 (November 2010)
  63. ^ Thunderbolts #152
  64. ^ Thunderbolts #153
  65. ^ Thunderbolts #155
  66. ^ Thunderbolts #156
  67. ^ Thunderbolts (Millennial Visions) at the Handbook to the Appendix of the Marvel Universe
  68. ^ a b "Kurt Busiek's summary of the poem's history". Newsarama. June 28, 2007. 

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