Thunderbolts to Return with Bucky at the Helm

After days of teasers, Marvel reveals that Winter Soldier will be leading Marvel's resident antihero team with Jim Zub and Jon Malin.

With all the relaunches to come out of the All-New, All-Different Marvel, there’s been one empty hole left in my heart that no amount of Deadpool or Luke Cage or symbiote comics would be able to fill. Of all the mainstay Marvel titles, one has been missing from the list. There’s been no Thunderbolts.

Then again…back when Marvel released a teaser group shot of heroes for the All-New, All-Different line, there was a notable appearance by Citizen V, the masked swordsman. There just HAD to be a return in the making, though all it left us with for months was empty speculation.

A few days ago, Marvel heavily suggested that the Thunderbolts would indeed be coming back. While they hadn’t 100% admitted it officially, this teaser said enough.

Along with it, Marvel’s given the tagline, “Injustice, Like Lightning!” Much like how, “Justice, Like Lightning!” was the original Thunderbolts motto. Plus it’s made to look almost exactly like the cover to Thunderbolts #1 from 1997.

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In the days that followed, Marvel would reveal more and more of the shadowed figures. Fittingly, outside of that mysterious child in the front, they were all founding members of the team. That is, until today’s reveal.

That’s right! Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier himself, will be leading the rebuilt Thunderbolts! It’ll be written by Jim Zub, drawn by Jon Malin, and will be born out of the Avengers: Standoff crossover. Surely, this will be just in time for Bucky’s big movie Captain America: Civil War.

There’s also a second, less homagey cover here.

So let’s look at our team members.

Winter Soldier: Bucky has never been in the Thunderbolts series, but he certainly has ties. The original team was created by Baron Zemo, son of the man who “killed” Bucky back in World War II. For a while, the team was being targeted by the masked killer Scourge and while it was hinted to be Bucky under the mask (years before the Winter Soldier storyline happened), it turned out to be Nomad.

When Bucky got over his history as the mind-controlled Winter Soldier and became the new Captain America, Zemo caught wind of this and became incensed that Bucky could be redeemed so easily. He made it his mission to publicly ruin Bucky and succeeded, causing the country to turn on the then-new Cap.

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Being in charge of Zemo’s brainchild is the ultimate middle finger.

MACH: Abner Jenkins is the first member of the original team to realize that he could be more than just a villain. Once the Beetle, he got over his hatred for Spider-Man and gradually inspired the others to follow suit in becoming better people. He’s been the leader of the team and helped out in a mentor role when the government used the Thunderbolts name for a Suicide Squad knockoff program. Lately, he’s shown up in Superior Foes of Spider-Man as kind of a joke C-list hero.

Atlas: Erik Josten was a career criminal, but even as a man who owed his life to Zermo, he saw lines that even he wouldn’t cross and turned his life around as the Thunderbolts giant Atlas. Due to his follower nature, he’s never broken out as more than a supporting character and it’s led to some hardships after leaving the team. His time as a Defender was short-lived, the government Thunderbolts didn’t want him, and his constant rejection from the Avengers led to him joining Wonder Man’s Revengers. That didn’t work out for him either.

Moonstone: Karla Sofen, powered by an alien stone, is one of the most self-serving human beings in the Marvel universe and tends to use her people skills (and body) to get what she wants. She mainly betrayed Zemo in the first place because world domination is too much of a hassle instead of just enjoying the fruits of being fake heroes. Her interest in Hawkeye helped her become a better person, but when that went south, so did her conscience. She later found herself in Norman Osborn’s good graces, giving her a spot in the Dark Avengers as the new Ms. Marvel. When THAT went south, she became a prisoner and was sent into the new convict-based Thunderbolts program.

Moonstone was last seen with her new Dark Avengers teammates as their series was cancelled. The team of villains (and a mind-controlled US Agent) didn’t really have a mission statement, so I imagine they went their separate ways almost immediately.

Fixer: Ah, now this one’s interesting. Fixer/Techno’s backstory is a bit too convoluted for me to go into in a paragraph, but the short of it is that he’s the team’s tech and was last seen shoved into a time-loop. In order to keep the universe from falling apart from a faulty timeline, Paul Norbert Ebersol has undergone an eternal pattern of going back in time, being de-aged, and having his mind-wiped so that he’ll do it all over again. How he’s back in the present will be an interesting plot in itself.

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That just leaves the weird flying kid. Who is that? I guess we’ll find out in a couple months. Coincidentally, the original team did have a teenage girl named Jolt join them. While she wasn’t immediately aware that they were secretly villains, she did help inspire them to all become better people. Perhaps we’ll see a similar role.

As for the other original members, Songbird is in the AIM-based Avengers team and Zemo is off being a villain in the name of the greater good. I wouldn’t expect either to stay away from this reunion for long.

For more on how Thunderbolts is one of the best titles Marvel’s ever released, here’s a list I wrote on the 30 greatest moments in the book’s history.

Gavin Jasper still thinks “Fightbolts” is one of the funniest misfire decisions in comic editorial history. Follow him on Twitter!