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 OnslaughtCrisis 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 heroCitizen 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 written by Daniel Way with Steve Dillon on art. The series will be about a new team brought together by former long time Hulk nemesis and now 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:
Re Tool: 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.
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 Americahe got better.
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.
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.
He later became a Cloud Cuckoolander villain for Iron Man and Took a Level in Badass to take down a number of Avengers, able to take blasts hotter than the sun. Arguably he suffered Badass Decay when he appeared in Thunderbolts for the first time - in his first appearance he was able to beat all of the Avengers and then avert their Hope Spot by defeating Thor when he showed up to save the day.
Badass Decay? He takes out the entire team, with outside reinforcements, twice. They never won a clean fight against Graviton.
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.
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 Face Turn and joined the team. Most of his traits beyond his powers and monstrous superpowered form were created by the series' writers.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
However, this was also implied to be part of his plan since while the final battle of Civil War was happening(Which happened thanks to Zemo giving him the N-Zone prison key), Zemo was trying to defeat the Grandmaster to gain cosmic power and take over the world. So he basically played noth sides of the war so they'd be too distracted to stop him. It's possible his reasons weren't completely selfless, which is why Songbird turned against him.
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.
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.
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.
Bad Ass: 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 beat the crap out of frickin' Bullseye without breaking a sweat!
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.
Boxed Crook: The more blatantly psychopathic members, like Bullseye, were kept under control this way.
Brother-Sister Incest: Swordman is only a team-member because Osborn promises to clone his beloved dead sister.
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.
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.
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.
And during the Civil War they were all pro mostly because since they're all former villains (ie have criminal records) the goverment already knew who they were.
Tempting Fate: Subverted, again in the Strongbow 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 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.
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.
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.
Barack Obama: appears in the first issue, with Osborn constantly badmouthing him behind his back.
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.
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.
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 (as in "in his entire character history") 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.
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.
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.
To be fair, he is also the greatest American war hero (of the Skrull Invasion) who killed Skrull Queen Veranke , saved Washington DC. and single-handedly stopped an attack against the Thunderbolts base. Also, Osborn is charismatic and he did point out how some Avengers were criminals before becoming heroes. Though none of them needed medication to keep from throwing women off of bridges...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hand Wave: How do you keep the Juggernaut under control? You de-power him. Why is he de-powered? Probably something to do with Captain Universe...
It makes sense in context. Juggernaut is powered by a mystical deity called Cyttorak, and recently abandoned him to take up the power of Captain Universe. He then lost the power of Captain Universe and took up being Cyttorak's champion again, it's just that he's mad that Juggernaut would abandon him in the first place, so he gave Juggernaut less power.
During the World War Hulk storyline Cyttorak himself claimed that Juggernaut powers are related to his adherence to his status as his avatar: thus, whenever Juggernaut engages in acts of wanton destruction without a real meaning, embracing his status as a force of nature, Cyttorak is pleased and pours more power. When Juggernaut tries to act more "cerebral", as in doing full time heroics, Cyttorak is displeased and witholds his blessings. Thus Juggernaut is currently a. guilty of abandoning his Patron God for a stronger one (Captain Universe) and b. misusing a power meant for a Chaotic Neutral alignment (if not a Chaotic Evil) to become a Lawful Neutral, if not a Lawful Good hero. He's just lucky Cyttorak has not depowered him fully...
Even luckier that his patron doesn't hold a grudge about the time Juggernaut went into his dimension and kicked Cyttorak's ass (with some help from Doctor Strange). Then again, Cyttorak might have just been impressed by Cain Marko having the cajones to do that.
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.
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 Avenger's 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.
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 team mates.
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 the freakin' Thunderbolts Tower.
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.
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!".
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.