So many announcements have come out of this past weekend’s D23 Expo. Labeled as “The Ultimate Disney Event,” it was the first of its kind held in three years with panels from Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and of course, Marvel Studios.
While no new MCU projects were revealed at the event, plenty of updates on soon-to-be-released shows and movies were announced. Perhaps the biggest of all was the roster of Thunderbolts, a film set for release in Summer 2024, which will be based on a Marvel Comics team consisting of villains who set out to reform themselves. (Yes, it’s essentially Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad comics.)
Seven previously introduced MCU characters will form the lineup of the Thunderbolts, consisting of the following:
- Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus)
- Ghost (played by Hannah John-Kamen)
- Red Guardian (played by David Harbour)
- Yelena Belova (played by Florence Pugh)
- Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan)
- U.S. Agent (played by Wyatt Russell)
- Taskmaster (played by Olga Kurylenko)
Fans have been vocal about their displeasure with this lineup, with many having hoped to see more variety in the powersets of its members. This is a valid point, as there are four super-soldiers in the group and only one member, Ghost, with anything close to resembling supernatural abilities. It might have been nice to get a character like Abomination in there for variety’s sake. But these fans are forgetting that what makes Marvel movies work so well are the character dynamics, and with so much established history and commonalities between the members, Thunderbolts has strong potential to be one of the Multiverse Saga’s best movies.
There’s an upside to the aforementioned concern of four super-soldiers on one team and that’s the tension and conflict it will inevitably bring. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier already showed the animosity between Bucky Barnes and John Walker, which will surely come to a head in this movie. Adding two more into the fold will surely bring a lot more drama and perhaps a thirst for each of them to prove they are the best of their kind. (Also, it seems likely at least one character will die, and given how many of these beings are on the team, it wouldn’t be surprising if it ended up being one of them.)
There’s also the fact that when viewers last saw Valentina, she was telling Yelena to kill Hawkeye. That plan didn’t end up panning out during Yelena’s appearance in the Hawkeye series, so the former may not be too pleased with the latter going into Thunderbolts. It’s especially interesting that Valentina is the one who seems to be putting the team together in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, but Yelena is the one who is going to lead them in the film.
Yelena also has a long history with Red Guardian, which was the highlight of last year’s Black Widow, that will likely be further explored in this new film. After all, he was her “father”, but she’s now the one with the power as leader of this new team. She also has a lot in common with Bucky, with both having been forced to train as assassins against their will.
Ghost, while probably a much-needed addition to the group in terms of her abilities (she can render herself intangible, as seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp), is the wildcard of the group when it comes to what her story will be. She’s the only one in the lineup who hasn’t interacted with any of the other characters and feels out of place in what seems to be more of a group focused on hand-to-hand-combat. Being a bit of an experiment gone wrong may lead to a bond with some of the super-soldiers, however.
Thunderbolts is clearly Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad movies, but has the potential to very much be its own thing. The Avengers were all about technology and magic, the Guardians of the Galaxy are intergalactic beings, but the Thunderbolts seems to be much more grounded as a team — and its members have much darker pasts than most of those from the other groups. Between this movie and next year’s The Marvels — starring a cosmic-focused squad — the Multiverse Saga is finally bringing fans some much-awaited team-up movies and providing the pay-off for some of the build-up that’s taken place over Phase 4.