The Marvel Cinematic Universe took a break from expanding its world of superheroes and villains in 2020. The ongoing pandemic delayed the release dates of Black Widow, Eternals, and the upcoming Disney+ series, shaking up the MCU’s meticulously planned schedule for Phase Four. While there are currently no foreseeable plans for Avengers 5, the opportunity to reunite Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is simply too good to pass up, particularly after the tremendous box-office success of Infinity War and Endgame. This time, they could be joined by an underrated superhero team with a unique connection to the X-Men.
First introduced in 1997’s The Incredible Hulk #449, the Thunderbolts are a team of reformed supervillains who were once the Avengers’ replacement following their presumed deaths at the hands of the X-Men villain Onslaught. What the world didn’t know at the time was that the Thunderbolts secretly functioned as the Masters of Evil, a team of supervillains who worked under the leadership of Baron Helmut Zemo.
The antagonist, who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War, formed the Thunderbolts to battle the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. However, those plans changed and the Thunderbolts began working under the guise of superheroes to convince the public of their good intentions. Over time, the Thunderbolts (still the Masters of Evil) gathered enough information to pass on to other criminal organizations.
However, their time as villains didn’t last very long and after Zemo outed them to the world, they left him behind and attempted to legitimize their image as superheroes in the aftermath. Helped along by Hawkeye, who invested in their reformation and went on to become their leader, the Thunderbolts aided the Avengers in several battles. There have been various iterations of the team over the decades, which has included members such as Black Widow, Elektra, Ant-Man, and Deadpool.
Two of the most notable members of the group have been Mister X and Lady Deathstrike — both of whom have fought Wolverine and the X-Men at various points throughout their comics run. Not to mention that the Thunderbolts arrived just as the Onslaught storyline, which primarily centered on the X-Men, came to an end.
We know that Baron Zemo will return in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and it’s possible that the Thunderbolts will make their debut as the Masters of Evil on the show before transitioning to the films. The characters don’t have to be a big part of the Disney+ series, but there might be inklings of their involvement with Zemo and his plans to use the team against the Avengers. Hawkeye, who will be getting his own Disney+ series, could swoop in and convince the Thunderbolts that they’re meant for greener pastures thereafter. However, if Mister X and Lady Deathstrike join Zemo’s team, then their arrival could act as the catalyst for Wolverine and the X-Men’s official induction into the MCU.
Disney owns 20th Century Fox now, but Marvel may not want to pull the trigger on the X-Men so soon; Mister X and Lady Deathstrike could act as a bride. Considering that Onslaught, a villain with the combined powers of Professor Xavier and Magneto, could show up as the next major Avengers 5 villain, it stands to reason that the X-Men and the Thunderbolts will both be involved in the battle. Whatever happens, the Thunderbolts’ history as villains and heroes could make them the MCU’s most exciting addition yet.