Exploring The Concept Of Redemption With The Thunderbolts

The Marvel Universe is filled with superhero teams working together to make the world a better place. As popular as The Avengers are, I find myself drawn to teams that have more complex origins. The Thunderbolts started off as a group of villains who chose to become heroes. Created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, the Thunderbolts evolved into a revolving roster of characters employed by the government to carry out missions for a chance at redemption. The Comic Vault is looking into the history of the Thunderbolts to discover what makes them one of the most intriguing comic book teams.


Early years

The original concept for the Thunderbolts was a group of villains posing as superheroes. Debuting after the Onslaught arc, the team were created as a ruse. The Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four were apparently killed by the villainous Onslaught. Seeing an opportunity, Baron Zemo disguised his Masters of Evil as benevolent protectors. The original group consisted of Goliath, Beetle, Fixer, Moonstone and Songbird. Zemo’s plan was to gain all the secrets of SHIELD and the Avengers so he could ultimately assume control of the world.

The Thunderbolts had a lot of success as superheroes, becoming adored by the public. This led to the members seeing themselves as heroes, which caused them to turn against Zemo. However, the team’s villainous status was brought to light and the Thunderbolts were disgraced.
As fugitives, a few members found themselves reverting back to their criminal ways. Hawkeye soon joined the Thunderbolts, seeing much of his former life in them. He convinced the team to stay on the righteous path, going on to lead them for a time. Through Hawkeye’s intervention, the Thunderbolts were pardoned.

Government agents

During the Civil War arc, the Thunderbolts became tied to the government, hunting down unregistered heroes. Norman Osborn assumed control of the team and his version featured Moonstone, Bullseye, Penance, Radioactive Man, Songbird, Swordsman and Venom. In my opinion, this was one of the most interesting versions of the team because there was a divide between former villains wanting to be good and others who used the excuse of being protected by the government to do what they wanted.

This could be seen in the internal power struggle between Songbird and Moonstone. Melissa Gold had remained on a heroic path, while Karla Sofen acted as a hero when it suited her needs. Osborn placed Moonstone as the field leader, yet Songbird didn’t trust either of them. The conflict led to some fun interactions.

Since then, the Thunderbolts have remained linked to the government. The roster has been filled with a mixture of villains and anti-heroes that have performed heroic acts. Two different versions have been led by Luke Cage and Red Hulk. The most recent incarnation of the Thunderbolts is made up of the Winter Soldier, Fixer, Moonstone, Mach-X, Kobik and Atlas.

A shot at redemption

What makes the Thunderbolts so interesting is what they represent. A lot of the members have been able to grow and leave their villainous pasts behind. Songbird is the best example, as she went on to become a full-fledged Avenger. A major theme of the stories revolves around whether a villain can truly embrace a better path.

The Thunderbolts have allowed several secondary characters to thrive and gain a following. Character development is crucial for new stories to be told. With the mixed roster, the Thunderbolts often work outside the law. This has given them their own way of fighting crime, leading to some memorable stories.

The Thunderbolts have definitely earned a reputation as an important team. What do you think of them?

Author: thecomicvault

A place for superheroes, positive mental health and pop culture references. Unlock your inner geek and step inside.

4 thoughts on “Exploring The Concept Of Redemption With The Thunderbolts”

  1. I always loved the Thunderbolts, probably more than the Suicide Squad. my favourite team is by far the Red Hulk led squad with Deadpool, Punisher, Agent Venom, Elektra and Ghost Rider though. I really hope they continue with the team and bring in some killer rosters!

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