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MCU Thunderbolts Theory: Zemo is the Main Villain

Baron Zemo MCU Thunderbolts

The MCU has been in a strange place lately. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, the Avengers as we knew them are essentially gone, and Marvel is still working towards the introduction of famous teams like the Fantastic Four and X-Men. This world requires protection, and the Thunderbolts may be the only ones capable of doing so. But why are the world’s worst villains suddenly striving to defend it?

MCU Thunderbolts team
MCU Thunderbolts team

Marvel boss Kevin Feige confirmed the MCU version of the team’s line-up at D23 2022, as well: Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, David Harbour’s Red Guardian, Hannah John-Ghost, Kamen’s Wyatt Russell’s US Agent, Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster, Florence Pugh’s Black Widow, Yelena Belova, and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky/Winter Soldier.

The Thunderbolts team isn’t what we expected

In the comics, this team consisted of villains in disguise, led by Baron Zemo, who attempted to outshine the heroes. However, the majority of them broke away from Zemo because they preferred to be heroes rather than villains.

The Thunderbolts film, on the other hand, only features one actual villain on the team, with the others being either anti-heroes or anti-villains. With no protagonist announced, it’s easy to imagine how a figure like Zemo could take over and turn The Thunderbolts into a more comic-accurate encounter. It may be more intriguing than that, though, if Zemo were to tell a Civil War-style tale in which the team members split off to form their new teams.

Baron Zemo, the mastermind behind Captain America: Civil War
Baron Zemo, the mastermind behind Captain America: Civil War

Also Read: “They’re not as lofty as the Avengers”: Kevin Feige Reveals Whether Thunderbolts is MCU’s Answer to DC’s Suicide Squad

Contessa, played by Julia Louis Dreyfus, has already appeared in multiple Phase 4 projects, recruiting characters such as Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova and Wyatt Russell’s John Walker to her mystery cause. Contessa may have formed the Thunderbolts in retaliation to the fall of the Avengers, which explains why she wants her own Black Widow and Captain America. However, considering the character’s often deceitful behavior in the comics, it’s difficult to tell which side Contessa supports.

In short, the MCU Thunderbolts appear to be a mash-up of several iterations of the comic book team. Baron Zemo, like in the original incarnation, is likely to play an important role in this plot. As with the post-Civil War version, the team is most likely a government-sanctioned alternative to the Avengers rather than a gang of disguised villains. The real question is how heroes like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Thor will respond to the arrival of this new squad.

A Civil War is necessary to spice things up

The major antagonist of the film will be Zemo. If that’s the case, he may use his words to persuade select members to work for him under the ruse that what he’s doing isn’t evil if it’s keeping the globe safe from greater threats.

Also Read: Thunderbolts: Baron Zemo Rumored To Have Been Intentionally Removed By Marvel Studios From Official Poster To Build Fan Hype

The lineup shown at the D23 Expo could divide as one side fights against the other in a struggle of conscience about what is good and what is heroic. While a civil war could be a more dramatic way to a team split, there is no doubt that such a split would come as a shock and most certainly at the worst possible time. For instance, suppose the team was on an operation and their strongest players choose to switch sides when they were most required.

Thunderbolts from the Marvel Comics.
Thunderbolts from the Marvel Comics.

 If this is the case, tempers are likely to boil, resulting in a brawl that entirely detracts from the mission, leaving characters like Yelena and Bucky to pick up the pieces of what’s left. Needless to say, whatever happens to The Thunderbolts will almost certainly be far more dysfunctional and brutal than anything that happened to The Avengers.

The Thunderbolts movie is scheduled to premiere in theatres on July 26, 2024.