Yelena Belova, Alexei Shostakov, and Natasha Romanoff walk away from a helicopter together in 2021's...

Anti-Heroes for Hire

Thunderbolts cast will reunite one of Marvel Phase 4’s best duos

The MCU's new superhero team has been revealed.

Marvel Studios’ presentation at this year’s D23 Expo was far more understated than fans likely expected. Aside from a handful of trailers for titles like Werewolf by Night and Secret Invasion, Marvel’s announcements mostly confirmed details that fans had already heard about, including the studio’s decision to put WandaVision director Matt Shakman at the helm of 2024’s Fantastic Four.

That said, this year’s Expo saw Marvel finally announce the cast of Thunderbolts, the anti-hero-centric film set to end Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans had been speculating about its cast since it was announced earlier this year, and Marvel finally made the roster official.

In doing so, Marvel also confirmed one unexpected but welcome Black Widow reunion that fans can look forward to seeing when Thunderbolts hits theaters in 2024.

An official piece of concept art for Marvel’s Thunderbolts.Marvel Studios

A Family Reunion — During its D23 panel, Marvel Studios announced that the cast for Thunderbolts will include Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), John Walker (Wyatt Russell), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Red Guardian (David Harbour).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus will also reprise her role as Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, who will likely serve as the team’s Nick Fury-esque overseer.

Fans were quick to point out some of the notable characters absent from the Thunderbolts cast, specifically Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo. However, it’s worth noting that not only does Thunderbolts feature several characters from Black Widow, but it’s also set to bring two of Widow’s stars, David Harbour and Florence Pugh, together on-screen for the first time since that 2021 film.

David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov and Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova in 2021’s Black Widow.Marvel Studios

A Breakout Pair — As is often the case with MCU projects, the best part of Black Widow was its cast. The 2021 film’s plot and twists were mostly forgettable, and its messy, CGI-heavy climax abandoned the bare-bones, hand-to-hand filmmaking style that made its initial action sequences compelling.

Despite its flaws, Black Widow still introduced one of the MCU’s best new heroes in Pugh’s Yelena Belova. Aside from bringing her own considerable star power to the role, Pugh had remarkable chemistry with the rest of her Black Widow cast members, including Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Weisz, and especially David Harbour.

While Pugh and Harbour only got a handful of scenes together, the two brought surprising levels of humor and pathos to their first MCU outing. The fact that Thunderbolts will reunite Pugh and Harbour means fans can look forward to seeing Yelena and Alexei’s odd father-daughter relationship be explored further.

Thunderbolts is coming in 2024.Marvel Studios

The Inverse Analysis — With Black Panther: Wakanda Forever set to bring an end to Phase 4 of the MCU this fall, fans are beginning to take stock of everything that Marvel’s latest era has accomplished. The general consensus among fans seems to be that Phase 4 has been the MCU’s messiest yet, one that’s only advanced the overarching plot of the franchise in uneven fits and starts.

However, Phase 4 has done an exceptional job of introducing viewers to several likable new heroes, nearly all of whom are set to have major MCU roles in the coming years. That includes both Yelena Belova and Alexei Shostakov, two characters who share a bond that Marvel would be wise to emphasize in Thunderbolts.

Thunderbolts is set to hit theaters on July 26, 2024.