If Thunderbolts Really Is A Dark Avengers Movie, Then I’m Curious About The Changes Marvel Will Have To Make


Leave it to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to create mystery and speculation with an asterisk. There are four upcoming Marvel movies slated for 2025. The second of them – following Captain America: Brave New Worldwill be Thunderbolts*, which on the surface appears to be the MCU’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad. Villains (and anti-heroes) who have been introduced in past MCU projects are teaming up for a mission, and are being assigned by the government to complete it. And as for that asterisk in the title, it’s intentional.

During the Disney presentation at CinemaCon 20204 in Las Vegas, Kevin Feige took the stage and talks about Thunderbolts*, as well as the asterisk. And in typical Feige fashion, he kept some cards hidden up his sleeve when he told the audience:

Yes, you’ll notice the asterisk on Thunderbolts. That is the official title of Thunderbolts, and we won’t talk more about that until after the movie comes out.

Classic. Why would we need to “talk” about the title of the movie after a movie comes out? Well, it’s likely because the term Thunderbolts will come to mean something else. For this, we have to turn to the comics. Back in 1997, with the Avengers thought dead, a group of antiheroes band together to protect the world. This lines up with the formation of this movie’s team, which includes Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell) and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko). As it turned out, the villains in the Thunderbolts comics were hiding a dark secret, and I’ll leave that to be discovered later, if in fact it’s part of this movie.

The asterisk, however, has many Marvel fans speculating that the team won’t be called Thunderbolts at all. And in fact, some believe that this team will come to be known as the Dark Avengers.

This sort of makes sense. But knowing what I know about the Dark Avengers, I wanted to discuss some of the changes that likely will have to take place in the movie – and on the roster – to have this switch make sense in the MCU. Starting with…

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine

Who’s the Norman Osborn?

Once again, to the comics! In Dark Avengers, a team of “heroes” is assembled when the government believes that a new Avengers team is needed. The leader of this new squad? Norman Osborn, who assumes the role of Iron Patriot. Osborn, at this stage, has renounced his past as The Green Goblin, and risen to a position of stature in the world’s leadership. But, as we learn, Norman’s still plagued by his demons, and they overtake him at the worst possible times.

Now, as vast and elaborate as the MCU is at the moment, there isn’t a Norman Osborn on Earth 616. We had Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn reappear in Spider-Man: No Way Home. But Peter (Tom Holland) sent him back to his universe at the end of that movie, meaning the MCU would have to introduce a Norman Osborn to lead the Thunderbolts… or replace his part with a different, existing character.

That appears to be Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), director of the C.I.A. who has appeared in a handful of MCU movies to date, specifically alongside two Thunderbolts team members in Yelena and John Walker. We know Valentina sent Yelena after Clint Barton, which played out in the Hawkeye Disney+ series. In the absence of Osborn, de Fontaine appears to be the person tapped to lead this team.

U.S. Agent being introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
U.S. Agent being introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Thunderbolts roster needs more obvious Avengers links

When Norman Osborn creates the Dark Avengers, the members of the team have direct Avengers counterparts. The lethal Bullseye assumes the role of Hawkeye. Mac Gargan has the Venom symbiote, and plays Spider-Man. Moonstone plays Ms. Marvel, and so on. SOME of that is present in the current Thunderbolts* line up. As mentioned, Yelena fills the role of the team’s Black Widow, while U.S. Agent (or even David Harbour’s Red Guardian) can be the “Captain America.” In the comics, Norman Orborn became the team’s version of Iron Man, but I don’t see Valentina getting into a suit of armor.

There aren’t natural pairings for everyone, though. Who is Bucky? Who is the Avengers counterpart for Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost? Taskmaster can be whomever. But the team, as currently constructed, feels more like a Thunderbolts and not a Dark Avengers. Even with the asterisk. So I predict some major changes. Or maybe – in line with the Suicide Squad – a few shocking character deaths.

We’ll find out more as we get through 2024, which only has one Marvel Studios movie coming to theaters in the July release of Deadpool and Wolverine. But with Thunderbolts* in production in Atlanta at the moment, more details are expected to surface, and we’ll see if Marvel makes more changes to this project to line it up more closely to the Dark Avengers we know from the comic books.