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Comic Book: Thunderbolts
aka: Thunder Bolts
Marvel's Most Wanted

"Justice, like Lightning, should ever appear
To few men's ruin, but to all men's fear..."
"Joseph Swetnam", Swetnam The Woman-Hater Arraigned By Women; source of the original tagline for The Thunderbolts.

A Marvel Universe comic book series that appeared in 1997 as a response to the disappearance of the big name heroes like the Fantastic Four and The Avengers as a result of the Onslaught Crisis Crossover and the aborted Heroes Reborn reboot. We are presented with a new group of colorful heroes who swoop in to protect the people from danger.

There's their leader, the swashbuckling patriotic hero Citizen V; the massive size-changing Atlas, the high flying MACH-1, the mysterious Meteorite, the beautiful Songbird, and the machine savvy Techno. They are soon warmly welcomed by New York City as their new heroes, but it is only then we discover that these "Heroes" are in fact former members of the Avengers' archfoes, the Masters of Evil: Baron Zemo, Power Man/Goliath, The Beetle, Moonstone, Screaming Mimi and The Fixer. Their plan is to use the hero ruse to win the trust of the people, so that Zemo will be granted the Avengers' old security clearances, letting him use them to perfect a master plan for domination.

It isn't long before Zemo's plan falls apart, along with the team, as a few of them discover that Good Feels Good and some others find other reasons to rebel; the remaining members are soon led by former Avenger (and fellow former villain) Hawkeye to seek redemption for their past misdeeds. The team broke up after a crossover with the Avengers, but it was created again with a new line up afterwards.

The series has experienced a fair share of cancellations and Retools since, but gained particular attention as a result of Civil War with the team now made up of newer and deadlier villains such as Venom (III, originally the Scorpion) and Bullseye, working for the government under the leadership of Norman Osborn, ruthlessly hunting superheroes who try to elude the Super Registration Act.

After Secret Invasion, Osborn is promoted to the head of all government superheroes, "officially" disbanding the Thunderbolts but retaining some members as his personal off-the-books black ops team. However, he is also having villains (including some ex-Thunderbolts) pose as heroes again, only this time as the well-known Avengers themselves in the series Dark Avengers. Where the Thunderbolts have a bit of a rotating cast, Dark Avengers features Iron Patriot (Osborn, wearing Iron Man armor with a Captain America color scheme), "Spider-Man" (Venom III), "Wolverine" (Daken, the son of the real Wolverine), "Hawkeye" (Bullseye), "Captain Marvel" (Noh-Varr, aka "Marvel Boy"), "Ms. Marvel" (Moonstone), Ares, and The Sentry (neither one an impostor). In parallel, he also assembles a new formation of the Thunderbolts... as another off-the-books black ops team, comprised of Paladin, Ant-Man (Eric O'Grady), Headsman, Ghost, Scourge (better known as Nuke, a Daredevil foe) and Black Widow (Yelena Belova), who is later replaced by Mr. X once it's revealed that she's not Belova but Natasha Romanoff in disguise.

At the start of the Heroic Age, following Osborn's downfall, the Thunderbolts are now the Raft (Super Villain Prison) inmate rehabilitation project. Led by Luke Cage, they are a team put together to try to set a number of villains on the path to redemption while giving a place to those who already have switched sides. The initial lineup includes a number of ex-Thunderbolts who are now heroes (Songbird, Mach V, Fixer), some of Osborn's former crew hoping to use it as a way to earn good publicity (Moonstone), the criminally insane (Crossbones), those who are caught in the Heel-Face Revolving Door (Ghost and Juggernaut), and their transportation (Man-Thing). Just before the Fear Itself event, a second "Beta" team of Raft inmates, the Underbolts, get introduced.

The series becomes the new Dark Avengers series when, with the Thunderbolts lost in time, members of Norman Osborn's second Dark Avengers team are recruited to be the new Thunderbolts, all analogues to established Avengers: Ragnarok (Thor), Trickshot (Hawkeye), Ai Apaec (Spider-Man), Toxie Doxie/Dark Scarlet Witch (Scarlet Witch) and Skaar (Hulk).

It has been announced that as part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, a new Thunderbolts series will be released December 2012 initially written by Daniel Way with Steve Dillon on art, with Charles Soule taking over as writer with issue 12. The series will be about a new team brought together by former long time Hulk nemesis and recent Avenger, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross aka the Red Hulk, with the initial line up consisting of Agent Venom (Flash Thompson), The Punisher, Elektra and Deadpool.

Not to be confused with the Wonderbolts, who manage to be even more colorful while facing far less drama.


Examples from all versions:

  • Retool: Sometimes it is just small tweaks, other times it is full blown revamps, but Thunderbolts' basic premise or direction is usually always changing at some point to find new ways to get its casts together.
  • Villain Protagonist
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The basic charm of the series (there's basically an example at every issue). The cast always includes a hero who has been a villain all his life up until 5 minutes ago, or a former villain who is playing hero for the wrong reasons (like the thrill of the action, or because everybody else in the gang is doing it, or because the government forced them to). Old habits die hard, so don't expect them to follow the "how would Captain America do it?" book (or expect them to fail while trying). Even when Zemo saved the universe from destruction (you can't ask for something more black & white than that), he resorted to blackmail in the middle of the fight.
    • The ultimate example in the series—and one pointed out by Luke Cage himself—is that Crossbones was added to the first "Cagebolts" team. Crossbones was the man who assassinated Captain America.

Examples from the original series:

  • A God Am I: Zemo and Moonstone at separate points in the series.
    • Technically Ares. Because, well, Ares.
  • Action Girl: Quite a few, but the one who has stayed constant throughout most of the series is Songbird.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Songbird, and when he was a villain named The Beetle, Mach-1.
  • Anti-Hero: Most members are type II or III, while Moonstone is a type V.
  • Anti-Villain: Meanwhile, even Baron Zemo himself discovered some heroic tendencies from his time on the team.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Jolt is an Ascended Fangirl. She knows more about some of their enemies than the rest do, despite some of them having been in the superhuman game since the Silver Age.
  • The Atoner: Several. Until the reboot, this is a running theme of the Thunderbolts. In each incarnation there's at least one person who finds redemption from the things he or she has done. Even the Daniel Axum arc had him leaving the fight circuit and make peace with the guy he beat up for the local championship.
  • Back from the Dead: Fixer, Jolt (twice), Zemo, Atlas (twice), Smuggler.
  • Badass Normal: Citizen V
  • Barrier Warrior: Songbird
  • Batman Gambit: Tell Joystick that she can't do something. She will do it. She frequently lampshades just how easy it is to pull this on her.
  • Becoming the Mask: Kind of the point of the original series. Played straighter with Mach-1, Songbird and Atlas.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Graviton — a supervillain who is to gravity what Magneto is to magnetism, held back mostly by his personal inadequacies. Became a recurring opponent to the team, mostly because of Moonstone repeatedly manipulating him — only for the attempts to backfire.
  • Black Like Me: Abe (MACH-1) Jenkins was technologically disguised as a black man to cover up the fact he'd been released from prison around the time he upgraded to MACH-2.
  • Blood Knight: Joystick. She would fight anybody and do anything if it meant a thrill or winning a bet.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid
  • The Chessmaster: Baron Zemo
  • C-List Fodder: The Thunderbolts themselves were mostly C-List Villains, as were most of their opponents.
  • Contest Winner Cameo/Ascended Extra: Charcoal began as the winner of a Wizard magazine "Create A Villain" contest who made a Heel-Face Turn and joined the team. Most of his traits beyond his powers and monstrous superpowered form were created by the series' writers.
    • And while they were preparing that contest, Marvel staff discovered the existence of Humus Sapien, a fan-created character who won a "Create An X-Man" contest in 1973, but who was never actually used. Deciding it wouldn't be right to use a new fan-character while ignoring the old one, they finally brought him into Thunderbolts as a villain for one storyarc, twenty-eight years after he was created. And they even let his original creator help plot his storyarc and ink a page with him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Meteorite lays one on Zemo when the Thunderbolts break away from him, revealing in brutal detail what would really happen when someone with super-strength fights a non-powered opponent. (Hint: it involves a lot of broken bones.)
  • Dark Messiah: Zemo
  • Deader than Dead: Zemo atomized Photon and scattered him across space and time, claiming that he was like this. Fabian Nicieza confirmed that Zemo is merely Genre Blind, because Photon will return as soon as Marvel feels like using him again.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fixer, the self proclaimed patent holder on snark.
  • Dirty Coward: Blizzard, who spent so much time whining about his suit's freon supply that he was ineffective. He eventually Took a Level in Badass, though.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Charcoal
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Unfortunately, due to the vague terms of the contest and the winner feeling undercompensated (for various reasons), Charcoal was killed off to prevent a lawsuit over his ownership. Fabian Nicieza has stated that he had a possible way to bring the character back without bringing Charcoal back (as the character's "civilian" name and most details of his personal life were not created by the contest winner), but enough time has passed since Charcoal's death and Nicieza's tenure on the book (and his working for Marvel in general) that the possibility is pretty much moot.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The vast base within Mount Charteris.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Zemo goes back to his old threads.
  • Evil Plan: The first reason for suspicion whenever Baron Zemo comes up with a new plan to "save the world" is that every one looks exactly like a villainous plot to take over the world. At least Zemo has stylistic consistency.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin
    Jolt: He GROWS!
  • Executive Meddling: Humorously, this was both the reason that Genis-Vell (Captain Marvel/Photon) was added to the team and the reason he was killed off.
    • The original twist ending is an example of Executive Meddling done right. To keep the twist ending of the first issue a secret, Kurt Busiek had to convince the execs not to tease at the ending in Previews. He even enlisted Peter David to get his editors to change the solicit for the Hulk's issue where they first appear.
    • Charcoal was eventually killed off due to rights issues.
  • Face-Heel Turn
  • Fan Nickname: Fightbolts — The first massive Retool of the title, revolving around C-List supervillains in an underground fighting circuit.
  • Fight Clubbing: At the end of the original run, there was a brief period when the book stopped being about supervillains turned superhero, and instead became an underground fight club for supervillains.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Spidey and MACH-1
  • First Episode Spoiler: One of the most famous in comics. It was a huge surprise that the Thunderbolts were revealed as the Masters of Evil at the end of Thunderbolts #1. Good luck trying to avoid this spoiler now.
  • Flying Brick: Charcoal, Moonstone, Abe in most of his armors, Atlas after merging with Dallas Riordan.
  • Fun with Acronyms: MACH-$NUMBER
    • In the Diggle run it's established that Abe and the Fixer are themselves not entirely sure what it actually stands for, but then settle on "Mechanized Aerial Combat Harness".
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Techno/Fixer
  • Gambit Pileup: The grand climax of this incarnation consisted of Zemo, Grandmaster, and Songbird trying to enact their own plans while Joystick and Speed Demon followed their own agendas within those plans.
    • The end of the "redemption" arc at around the four-year mark involved no fewer than three secret conspiracies, a ton of mysterious masked people hunting down the team for assorted reasons, fully half of various Thunderbolts' major secrets from the rest of the team being outed, and at least one person being mind-controlled to do what he was going to do anyway. It would have given Chris Claremont a headache.
  • Genki Girl: Jolt. It's kind of her power, actually.
  • Good Feels Good: One of the major themes in the original run: The team realizes they like being praised instead of booed, or some of them do at least.
  • The Government: The Commission on Superhuman Affairs or CSA for short.
  • Green Lantern Ring: Songbird's carapace. Even literally works like a Green Lantern's ring on a less cosmic level, but with additional uses related to her pre-existing sonic powers.
  • Handsome Lech: Photon
    • Also Hawkeye.
  • Hannibal Lecture: One of Moonstone's specialties.
  • The Heart: Songbird. She's the moral center of the team who doesn't backslide into criminality or rage like her teammates.
    • Initially, Jolt was The Heart. Songbird needed a lot of Character Development until she could fill out this role (especially during her tenure in the team under Norman Osborn's rule).
      • Jolt was so much The Heart of the original team, that before Hawkeye showed up, the revolting Bolts voted out Moonstone and came close to nominating Jolt as team leader since everyone else were still not confident enough to trust in themselves. Also when she got assasinated (she got better) the team was badly messed up, even Moonstone cracked up and admitted she liked Hallie.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Not all of them, but a good chunk of them, anyway.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Atlas' love interest and later girlfriend Dallas Riordan is a redhead.
  • Hoverboard: The V-Wing
  • Intangible Woman: Moonstone.
  • Karma Houdini: Moonstone, full stop. Hawkeye convinces Abe to serve prison term for murder while Moonstone kept her murder of a Kosmosian king under wraps. She never gets outed for that, nor does she get much comeuppance for her twisted mindgames she plays with her teammates.
  • Kid Hero: Jolt, Charcoal.
  • Knight Templar: Zemo in Thunderbolts/Avengers and New Thunderbolts. He is constantly making huge grabs for power that are all for a supposed greater good, but his plans always involve forcing his will upon the world as a dictator.
    • Not always; his plan in T-bolts/Avengers did involve him stealing huge amounts of power from the citizens of the world, whom he deemed too stupid to wield it...but then, to prove his good intentions and that he didn't plan at all to use the power for his own gain, he offered to turn it all over to Captain America. His old arch-enemy. Pity that Cap hadn't quite overcome his mistrust yet...
  • Legacy Character: Zemo is the thirteenth Baron Zemo; his moniker of Citizen V is also based on an obscure patriotic hero from World War II.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Jolt, the only member of the original Thunderbolts who wasn't in on the masquerade when she joined.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Meteorite, who never stopped thinking about how to turn situations to her advantage. Unfortunately for her, the others were never quite as clueless as she thought when it came to such scheming.
  • The Mole: All the team was initially created for this purpose, villains posing as heroes to receive SHIELD's secret codes (of course, it did not work as intended)
    • Cobalt Man, secretly Tony Stark, Iron Man.
    • Ogre, AKA Techno.
    • The Swordsman also counts, having secretly been mind controlled into joining by the Purple Man.
  • Morality Pet: Jolt
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Photon. Having just ended a period as a Reality Warper with a god complex, he was given a Repower that simultaneously drew power from the beginning and end of time; if left unchecked, his powers would have destroyed the universe. He begged Zemo to let him live long enough that he could use his Cosmic Awareness to find a timeline in which the universe survived, but Zemo deemed him too much of a threat to take that risk.
    • On a lesser scale, Radioactive Man. One of his reasons for turning to heroism was finding out how many people had been killed or given cancer by his radioactive powers.
  • Pet the Dog: How do you reconcile Zemo's newly acquired good intentions with his past Moral Event Horizon moments? Have him use time-travel to give Captain America all of the personal possessions that he ordered destroyed back in Avengers Under Siege.
    • Also, when Zemo jumps in front of a huge incineration blast to save his arch nemesis, Captain America, from the now insane Moonstone, returning his new younger body back to its horribly disfigured state, for the sole reason that he believes that he saving the world means saving each individual person in it. Aww.
  • Powered Armor: MACH-1 and Abe's later armors; the updated "Beetle" suit.
  • Put on a Bus: Jolt. "I have to go back to Counter-Earth. They need me."
  • Second Super-Identity: The original premise was that the Masters of Evil took on new (faux) super-hero identities and presented themselves as a replacement for the Avengers.
  • Shock and Awe: Jolt
  • Sizeshifter: Atlas
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Janice Olivia Yanizeski, a.k.a. Joystick.
  • Technopath: Techno. More efficient when his consciousness is put in a robot body.
  • The Reveal: The end of the first issue, in which Citizen V takes off his mask and reveals his team's real identity.
  • The Starscream: Moonstone
    • When Zemo took over the team in full Knight Templar mode, Songbird began plotting behind his back to foil his plan and assume leadership.
  • The Stoic: Radioactive Man.
  • Think Nothing of It: Spidey and MACH-1
  • Token Evil Teammate: Moonstone. While the rest of the teammates who betray Zemo do so as part of their Heel Face Turns, Dr. Sofen does so for her own agenda. Though she occasionally flirts with becoming a better person, she never really stops being a manipulative schemer. And the story repeated itself later with Osborn: one of the reasons why he never got off the slippery slope is because Karla swapped his medication behind his back.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Just about the entire team.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: The first Annual, in which Citizen V tells Jolt about how he brought the team together, without mentioning the parts about them all being supervillains.
  • Warrior Therapist: Moonstone
  • West Coast Team: Under Hawkeye's leadership.
  • Wham Episode: The Reveal that the team was secretly The Masters of Evil is widely considered one of the greatest twists in comic book history.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Given that the team is made of reforming villains this is common. After the fight club arc, Speed Demon gives a big one to Songbird after she fires him for stealing money from Nighthawk's company. He calls her out on her hypocrisy - he admits he's been stealing to fund the team when their money from Hydra ran out, but where did she get off being so high and mighty when she was the one who ordered the team to pummel the New Avengers in order to get government funding.

Examples from the Warren Ellis retool:

  • All-Star Cast: The primary hook for this incarnation of Thunderbolts was it was filled with several big named Antagonists for other established characters.
  • Art Shift: The previous incarnation had very classic superhero-style art from Tom Grummett; he was replaced by the hyper-realistic Mike Deodato. When combined with the role shift of the team from The Atoner to Boxed Crook, it is hard to think of them as the same series. Also, the coloring became very dark.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: American Eagle and Sepulchre.
  • Badass: While most of the team fit this trope, a special mention goes to Jason Strongbow, AKA American Eagle. He impales Moonstone's arm with his Grapple Gun, fights Venom to a standstill, escapes without a scratch from the entire team, then proceeds to deliver a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Bullseye without breaking a sweat.
    Jason: You might do okay with those New York city boys. But you and me are in Phoenix, Arizona. So you take a swing at a real American and see what happens.
    Bullseye: You done?
    Jason: Not 'till I'm paddling in your blood, little boy. C'mon, first shot's free.
    Bullseye: First shot's all I need.
    Bullseye goes in for said first shot; Jason ducks, then beats on him until he's vomiting Blood from the Mouth.
    Bullseye (weakly): What happened to the first shot?
    Jason: I lied.
  • Bald of Awesome: The head shaving of Swordsman marked his new Badassary. It didn't really work, though.
  • Batman Gambit: The telepaths letting themselves get captured to get inside Thunderbolt Mountain.
  • Black Comedy: Venom attacking innocent civilians and declaring "I got Superhero work to do!" Might've been a Most Definitely Not a Villain moment since he's trying to convince Sepulchre not to get in his way.
    • A lot of Norman's insane ranting is ridiculously over the top, but it is still funny, in a Crosses the Line Twice kind of way.
  • Boxed Crook: The more blatantly psychopathic members, like Bullseye, were kept under control this way.
  • Brain Bleach / Nightmare Fuel: In-universe, for the security guards who see Norman Osborn in his Goblin costume. Lampshaded: "I'm going to be in therapy for the rest of my life."
  • C-List Fodder: The Thunderbolts fight minor characters such as Jack Flag and Steel Spider instead of other (major) unregistered heroes like Spider-Man or Daredevil; justified as that was mainly because they were based in Colorado, while Spidey and Daredevil are over in New York. They do go after Spidey when they head to New York though.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Artist Mike Deodato Jr. has a habit of basing his figures off real people. Norman Osborn is based off of Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle/No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: American Eagle delivers one to Bullseye.
    • Green Goblin versus Swordsman, which eventually ends with Swordsman being crucified.
  • Darker and Edgier
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: Penance wears an outfit that constantly pierces his flesh, both to fuel his powers and to remind him of all the people he harmed in his past life.
  • Fan Nickname: "Suicidebolts" - for their thematic similarity to DC's Suicide Squad.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Norman in the grips of Sanity Slippage throws a pumpkin bomb to a guard, who catches it. The guard and his friends think it's a Halloween thing. Once it explodes, Norman mutters something about getting smarter guards, and killing the stupid ones.
  • Hot Librarian: Victoria Hand, the Deputy Director of H.A.M.M.E.R and Osborn's right-hand.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Doc Samson imagines beating up Osborn and Moonstone after learning who they are and what they've done.
    • Later, Moonstone even gives him an excuse to beat her by attacking him.
  • Large Ham: Norman Osborn, when he goes full-Goblin.
  • Merchandise-Driven: An in-universe example. Songbird's action figures are popular with pre-teen girls, which is why Osborn keeps her on the team. Moonstone is more popular with males, 18-45, and is made into a sexy collectible statue.
  • No Sell: Moonstone gives Samson a Groin Attack. His response? Ignore it. "It's all Gamma enhanced."
  • Only Sane Man: Songbird and Radioactive Man.
  • Psychic Powers: The telepaths.
  • Psycho for Hire: The whole team.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Jack Flag heard a woman being attacked by a bunch of thugs, and still went out to save her, knowing what would happen with his being an unregistered hero.
  • Shout-Out: The newscast about the Thunderbolts taking off is amazingly similar to a completely franchise...
  • Stan Lee: As the host of Who Wants to be a Thunderbolt?
  • Super Registration Act: The team's main reason for existence is to enforce this.
    • And during the Civil War they were all pro mostly because since they're all former villains (i.e. have criminal records) the goverment already knew who they were.
  • Take That: Doctor Samson calls American Football players girls for wearing padding, unlike rugby players.
  • Tempting Fate: Subverted, again in the American Eagle vs. Bullseye scenario; see the quote above.
  • The Chew Toy: Swordman was utterly humiliated by people like Jack Flag and Steel Spider, then his boss, the Green Goblin broke him physically and mentally, then Bullseye kills his cloned sister, then Osborn impaled him with his own sword and threw his body down a mountain...
  • The Atoner: Penance; everyone else either didn't care or had already earned their redemption.
  • The Starscream: Both Moonstone and Songbird qualify. Moonstone secretly switched Norman Osborn's meds (and he's dangerously psychotic while on them), while Songbird tricks Bullseye into an escape attempt that leaves him paralyzed and later blackmails her way into Moonstone's leadership position.
  • To Catch Heroes Hire Villains
  • Took a Level in Badass: Swordsman
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Norman Osborn
  • Villainous Breakdown: "Steel Spider, man."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Everyone tries to have Songbird killed after the Secret Invasion is over and Osborn rises through the ranks of authority just because she became the Token Good Teammate. She held off for a while, but in the end, Swordsman saved her bacon.

Examples from Andy Diggle's retool :

The Black Ops Hit Squad Thunderbolts! And Ant-Man.
  • Aloof Big Brother: The Headsman's older brother, Cody.
  • An Axe to Grind: Headsman
  • Ascended Extra: The Headsman's sole previous appearance was in a few issues of Untold Tales of Spider-Man before being bumped up to solidly big league as a main T-Bolt.
  • Badass Biker: Headsman used to ride with a biker gang, and learned how to fight in biker bars. Believe it or not, he was the runt of the crew — his brother was the real badass.
  • Badass Normal: Subverted by Mr. X who seems at first to be just an extremely capable, but unpowered close-combat fighter, but is actually a mutant whose uses his mind-reading powers for Combat Clairvoyance. He also uses this ability to get a telepathic high off his opponents as he kills them.
  • Berserk Button: Mr. X guesses, correctly, that insulting Headsman's family is all he needs to do to provoke him to violence.
  • Blood Knight: Mr. X and Scourge, who are clearly Osborn's favorite members of the group for this reason. Scourge's worst nightmare is a world without war.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: After battling the Agents of Atlas and all the T-Bolts members save Ghost suffering Hallucinations, while the Agents escape, Jimmy Woo and Bob Grayson attempt to brainwash Scourge into being a Manchurian Agent to kill Norman Osborn. It doesn't end well.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Ant-Man, Ghost, and Venom-Spiderman.
  • Costume Copycat: The very first mission for this incarnation of the Thunderbolts is for the Headsman to pose as the Green Goblin and attack Osborn. The plan was for the Headsman to be killed, but Ghost interfered.
  • Deep South: Where the Headsman was raised, though he hasn't been back in a long while.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When we first see Mr. X, he's attending a ballet. He eventually expresses desire to kill the leading man for dancing like a complete amateur. While he doesn't get the chance to make good on this, he almost certainly would have done it given the opportunity.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Mr. X forms an empathic bond with his victims and relishes in their deaths - which is why he prefers his kills to be up close and personal.
  • Dumb Muscle: Headsman, and you could probably argue Scourge.
  • Eagleland: The ultimate showdown between USAgent and Scourge is essentially Type 1 vs. Type 2.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The cover of the first issue.
  • Fun with Acronyms: H.A.M.M.E.R.
    • Norbert Ebersol (Fixer): First rule of government defense spending: You gotta have a cool-sounding acronym.
      • Made even more amusing during Osborn's first conversation with Victoria Hand, where he tells her the individual letters all mean something, and then when she asks what, he tells her one of her first jobs is to come up with a meaning for it.
  • Gatling Good: When sent up against Songbird, Paladin brings noticeably heavier weaponry than we've ever seen him with before, a colossal minigun.
    • Also, the above example with Ares, he is the God of War.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: Ghost. Called a wild card by 'Nick Fury', he seems to switch sides every issue, with the aforementioned helping of Songbird swiftly followed by him taking some time off to help Madame Masque try to murder the comatose Tony Stark, and still after failing this, he relays a warning to the Mighty Avengers (or what's left of them) about the Thunderbolt's mission to take the spear of Odin.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Headsman, Paladin and Ghost fight Scourge and Mr.X to give Songbird and the Black Widow time to escape; then Ghost covers their betrayal by altering their short-term memory
    • By the end of the run, Paladin and Ant-Man (who had tried to avoid choosing sides up to that point) both appear to be permanently good; Headsman is dead and the Ghost is "a highly conflicted individual".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Grizzly is described as having "rumored cannibalistic tendencies", though we aren't shown any actual evidence of this here.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Mr. X
  • Informed Ability: Their usefulness. The black-ops Bolts have a very low success rate. It's a wonder why Norman bothers with them at all.
  • Intangible Man: Ghost
  • Knight Templar: Seems Osborn really does think he's a good guy and wants to help the world, no matter what it takes...
  • Lean and Mean: The Ghost
  • Legacy Character: Cody seems to like the idea of redeeming his brother's name and making the Headsman a hero...
  • Luckily My Powers Will Protect Me: Mr. X explains how his telepathic Combat Clairvoyance works to everyone. This is typically followed by his opponent figuring out some way to bypass it and kicking his ass.
  • Meaningful Name: Headsman's real name is Cleavon Twain, as in "cleave in twain".
  • Nightmare Fetishist: When Songbird and Black Widow are captured, Osborn demands that their beheadings be recorded and given to him so that he can "review" them in his office later.
  • Off with His Head!: The Headsman really, really likes chopping heads off.
  • Only One Name: Paladin and Mr. X.
  • Only Sane Man: Ant-Man and Paladin. That's right, the Irredeemable Ant-Man is often the voice of reason here.
  • Pet the Dog: Eric O'Grady, who, just to remind you, is The Irredeemable Ant-Man, fulfilled the Headsman's desire to go back to Louisiana and show his brother what he became, extolling Cleavon's virtues all the while.
  • Put on a Bus: The second Black Widow, who actually got on the bus before the series even started and was just about to get off when the series ended.
  • Retirony: Headsman - While he isn't literally a day from retirement, in the issues leading up to his death we start to sympathize with his character a lot more as more details on his background are revealed.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Mr. X
    • Lampshaded by Paladin
    Paladin: And you sound pretty cocky for a guy who wears shades ... indoors ... at night!
  • The Faceless: Ghost was not seen outside his suit in this run; he unmasks a few times during Jeff Parker's run.
  • The Mole: Black Widow believes she secretly works for Nick Fury; actually she is being fooled by Osborn into thinking she is working for Nick Fury.
  • The Worf Effect: Mr. X seems to exist mainly so other people can come up with clever ways to defeat his ability to automatically dodge attacks. So far successful tactics include grenades, attacks too large or fast to avoid, attacking without thinking about it, and in one case throwing a bunch of arrows. He'd probably do better if he didn't explain his powers to everyone. The Headsman is a more frequent target of this - the largest and most physically imposing member of the team, he tended to be neutralized early whenever a situation went sour, and he's the only one dead by the end.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Apparently, the vast majority of the population of the Earth-616 USA, given how cheerful they are that nigh-absolute power over their lives has been placed in the hands of a psychopathic madman.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Mister X.
  • Walking the Earth: Paladin does this after retrieving the Spear of Odin at the end of Siege, to keep it as far away from people like Osborn as possible. Apparently he eventually found a secure place to store it, though, since he's back in action as one of the Heroes for Hire.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The seeds of the story with the Headsman's brother, due to changing creative teams.

Examples from the Jeff Parker retool the Cagebolts:

  • Absolute Cleavage: Satana combines this with Cleavage Window for a truly impressive display of flesh.
  • The Alcatraz: The Raft.
  • Anything That Moves: Satana, in issue 156, jumps Man-Thing, Juggernaut, Ghost and Moonstone. Luke Cage cockblocks her with a magic gizmo from Doctor Strange.
    • As of the Golden Age Thunderbolts arc, Namor.
  • Artificial Limbs: The current Warden of the Raft, John Walker. After getting his left arm and leg cut off by the psychopatic cyborg Nuke he deliberately chose to get a low-tech cable activated hook-hand and move around in a wheelchair. A more high-tech prosthetic would make him feel less human, like the man who crippled him.
  • Ascended Meme: #162 gives us the long-awaited Giant-Size Man-Thing, stated word-for-word by Songbird.
  • An Axe to Grind: Troll wields an ancient Asgardian war axe that requires superhuman strength to even lift off the ground.
  • Badass Adorable: Troll
  • Badass Normal: Crossbones and Boomerang are the only non-super powered team members of the current run.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Luke Cage.
    • Centurius seems to have taken the unofficial leader role for the time lost fugitive Thunderbolts team.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The time lost Thunderbolts team (more directly Mr. Hyde, Satana and Boomerang) were responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders, primarily because the victims were possessed by ancient ghosts of witches trying to take over London.
  • Blood Knight: Gunna and Mr. Hyde on the "Beta Team"
  • Breaking the Fellowship: Issue 183 the time lost Thunderbolts team having returned in time to help One Last Job Luke Cage save the world from disaster via the failed Dark Avengers and F.A.C.T sponsored plan at controlling the nation of Sharzhad. The remaining Thunderbolts plus Juggernaut convince Man-Thing to help them escape via opening their own portals to their own separate destinations after dropping Luke Cage, Songbird, Mach V and Troll off at New York. All having been glad for their time as a Thunderbolt.
  • Child Of Rape: Gunna's mother was an Asgardian abducted by trolls.
  • Cloning Body Parts: In the Dark Avengers tie-in after the end, this is how Walker gets a new arm and leg and goes back to being the US Agent.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Ghost, to an insane degree. He once told Moonstone that he believed a crossword puzzle in a newspaper was a form of communication for a secret group. This all comes from his origin which reveals that he was manipulated and nearly killed by the company he worked for. He only discovered their plot by connecting seemingly meaningless facts together.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Boomerang and Mr Hyde are both happy to mouth off and complain about their current predicament.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Though it's nothing too bad, Centurius, the only black member of the time-traveling Underbolts, gets some of this. For example, Captain America expresses his happiness that the armed forces are giving more chances for "negroes" to fight.
  • Demonic Possession: Ghost completes the platter of powers typical of his namesake by having an "imposition module", which he uses to possess other people's Powered Armor. He first tries it on an unconscious Mach-V. Satana later gives it a mystical upgrade to get inside Juggernaut and free him from the influence of Kuurth in Fear Itself. It doesn't work.
  • Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Troll speaks more fluently when speaking Troll.
  • Expy: The time-traveling 'Bolts eventually landed up in a future clearly based on Judge Dredd.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The reason why Crossbones is even on the team is to invoke this and make others more willing to work with Cage, than trying something fishy, which would probably equal siding with him.
  • Five-Man Band
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Ghost went from regular computer engineer to international cyber-terrorist and hacker.
  • Fun with Acronyms: F.A.C.T. stands for Federal Advisory Committee to Thunderbolts.
  • Future Me Scares Me: The Fixer from the past team after he finds out what has become of the social life of his future self.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A mild example, but Boomer clearly flips off Fixer in one scene.
  • The Government: F.A.C.T.
  • Hand Wave: How do you keep the Juggernaut under control? You de-power him. Why is he de-powered? Probably something to do with Cyttorak.
  • Handicapped Badass: John Walker, the former U.S. Agent. He beats up several rioting inmates and scares two more into bringing him his wheelchair when he's done.
  • Horny Devils: Satana, as well as the illusion she conjures up to keep Mr. Hyde under control.
  • Hot Witch: Satana.
  • I Hate Past Me: The present day Fixer to an extreme degree when the time lost team arrives in the past just after the first version of the team was formed.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Boomerang sells himself as a candidate for the program by pointing out he is as good a shot as Bullseye, with the added benefit of being sane.
  • Most Common Super Power: Satana and Moonstone.
  • Nerdgasm: Ghost has some propensity to this, as seen in the mission with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents mutated with Terrigen Mists.
    Ghost: (upon finding a S.H.I.E.L.D. data unit) Twelve terabytes of hard data. Yeeessss...
    Moonstone: Anyone else feel we shouldn't be watching him?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Luke's leaving an Avengers missions, despite their having more than enough members, is what usually hurts the team most. Really comes back to bite him in the ass after the escape in Fear Itself.
    • Luke's taking Juggernaut off the team, and making him fear rotting in his prison cell again, made him the perfect target for a hammer of the Worthy, which in turn destroyed half the Raft, letting nurmerous villains escape.
    • Fixer's forcing Zabo (Hyde's alternate) into drinking too much of his transformation solution Mode Locks him into his Hyde form.
  • Nonhuman Humanoid Hybrid: Troll is half-Asgardian, half-Troll.
  • Ojou: Moonstone acts as a Type 2.
  • Power is Sexy: Satana certainly thinks so.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Take a guess.
  • Precocious Crush: Arguably the only thing you can call Man-Thing's seeming infatuation with Moonstone.
  • Prison Riot
  • Running Gag: Female inmates hooting and cat-calling whenever a male super-hero visits the Women's section of the Raft.
  • Say My Name: POWER MAN! LUKE! CAGE!
  • Sergeant Rock: They seem to be going for this with Luke Cage.
  • Ship Tease: Jeff Parker seems to like Boomerang/Moonstone, a border-line crackship in some regards.
  • Stealth Pun: The language Man-Thing speaks is X'Zelzi'Ohr. Just like Stan Lee, no doubt.
  • Stock Shout-Outs: The opening sequence of #176 homages the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Temporal Paradox: When Original!Thunderbolts meet the Current!Thunderbolts, Fixer ends up killing his past self. The space-time continuum has an outright fit about it and nearly falls apart over the issue until they solve the problem by having the surviving Fixer take the place of past Fixer to create a Stable Time Loop.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Technically not, but the idea of having Crossbones in the team was to invoke this (see Even Evil Has Standards). Guess who is the first to defect. Hyde also has shades of this, being somewhat more monstrous and brutal than his teammates.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: Satanna is very pleased to meet Moonstone, Moonstone not so much because Satanna flies behind Karla to grab her breasts in order to feel the pulsing of the moonstone inside her. For the first time Karla is in a loss for words.
  • Translator Microbes: After being reborn, Man-Thing speaks the language of X'Zelzi'Ohr, which is effectively this but also makes it that everyone hears in language styles they are familiar with. For example: Centurius hears Man-Thing speak with an incredibly precise, eloquent vocabulary, while Boomer hears him talk in gangster idioms.
  • Tweener: Fixer, unlike Mach-V and Songbird, who are 100% good now. He even helped Zemo in his plot against Bucky Barnes as Captain America. Then again Fixer has always remained loyal to Zemo.
    • This comes to a head at the end of the Thunderbolts Fear Itself tie-in, where, after Mach-V walks in on a video-communication between Fixer and Zemo, 'Bert absconds with Moonstone, Satanna, Centurius, Boomerang, Mr. Hyde, Troll and even the Thunderbolts Tower.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: After the Dark Avengers retool, the time travel arc is still being told while the new cast is introduced in the present.
  • Wild Child: Gunna the Half-Troll.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Merlin during the time travel arc; he predicted enough of the future to know that the knights of Camelot's quest for the Holy Grail as a cure-all for their kingdom would leave Camelot weakened and prey for Mordred, and collected a legion of various monsters and creatures to use as a last defense. But the Thunderbolts' arrival, capture and later escape led to all of them being freed and slaughtered by the knights and with them his hope to save Camelot.

Examples from the Daniel Way/Charles Soule (Marvel NOW) retool:

  • All-Star Cast: The entire team is made up of famous violent characters that were once villains now have all turned Anti-Hero.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to Parker's previous run, this current relaunch/retool.
  • Brick Joke: In Issue three, Deadpool notes to Ross that Castle will personally put a bullet into the currently amnesic Leader's forehead if he found out Ross was using Leader to gain some insight. Come the end of the issue, it does happen, resulting in Deadpool telling Ross "I told 'ya!".
  • Care Bear Stare: In the 2013 annual issue, Dr. Strange manages to immobilize most of the team with this. The only exception to this is The Punisher, who manages to resist it out of sheer joylessness.
  • Color Motif: Black and red. Lampshaded in Issue 21.
  • Deal with the Devil: Ross makes one with Mercy that he later regrets so much that he contemplates and decides to make another with Mephisto in a later arc to get out of the former one.
  • Dwindling Party: During the Honduras arc everyone save Ross is killed off one by one, mainly due to the Red Leader, only to be brought back at the end by Reset Button.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Ross calmly eating his meal while Deadpool slaughters killer French Mimes.
  • Honey Trap: A male example: The Punisher has Flash seduce Lady Sif so that he can steal her sword while they're busy.
    • Elektra also does this when it was the Punisher's turn to set the mission. Venom, Punisher and Elektra needed to find the location of a mob hideout, so the three of them drove around all the skavvier neighborhoods with Elektra posing as a prostitute and luring thugs into the van...where Venom and Punisher were waiting to "interrogate" them.
  • In Name Only: Every single previous series, save the brief Fightbolts retool, had villains as the protagonists, and some sort of relationship with the original Thunderbolts team. This run is about a group of antiheroes, which named after their leader, Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. Aside from two later revealed members The Red Leader and Mercy.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: How General Ross meets and recruits Frank Castle in the first issue of new series.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: In #12, Elektra's brother Orestez Natchios does this at Hollywood. He pulls a grenade from his pocket and pulls the pin with his teeth before throwing it into the crowd, forcing The Punisher to save the bystanders rather than chase Orestez.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The Leader, the only member who has avoided anything approaching a hero career.
  • Token Good Teammate: While no one else on the team, Who are all II-Vs on the scale of anti-heroes, is really evil, Venom (Flash Thompson) is the only member of the team who is a through and through Nice Guy, Super-Powered Evil Side not withstanding.

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