Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Thunderbolts

Go To
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 debuted in 1997 (written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley; the former left at issue 33, the latter lasted 16 more) 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:

    Later Incarnations 
As a result of Civil War, the team became 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.

During the Dark Reign 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 also has villains (including some ex-Thunderbolts) pose as heroes again, only this time as the Avengers themselves in the series Dark Avengers. In parallel, he also assembles a new version 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 was introduced.

The series became 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 (the clone of Thor that Iron Man created in Civil War), Trickshot (Hawkeye), Ai Apaec (Spider-Man), Toxie Doxie/Dark Scarlet Witch (Scarlet Witch) and Skaar (Hulk). The series lasted fifteen issues after the rebrand, ending at issue 190.

A new Thunderbolts series was released December 2012 as part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, initially written by Daniel Way with Steve Dillon on art, and Charles Soule took over as writer with issue 12. The series was 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.

A new team of Thunderbolts returned for the All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative in 2016, this time led by the Winter Soldier. This team was virtually the same as the original line-up with two exceptions: the aforementioned Winter Soldier replacing Citizen V and Kobik, the Cosmic Cube-turned little girl first introduced during Avengers Standoff.

During King in Black, it was revealed that Mayor Wilson Fisk had purchased the name of "Thunderbolts" and used it to create a new team to act during the Knull invasion. Another team was created in Devil's Reign to enforce Fisk's anti-vigilante law.

Once Fisk was ousted from power, Luke Cage replaced him as Mayor but found that Fisk had made it very hard for any superheroes other than Thunderbolts to operate, so he calls on his friend and fellow former Thunderbolt leader Hawkeye to take charge of a new team. Unlike most Thunderbolts teams of villains and anti-heroes, this is a purely heroic team. This version of the team only had a six-issue miniseries, and can be found at Thunderbolts (2022).

The following year, the Winter Soldier formed his own new team of Thunderbolts (based on the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie) as a black-ops squad. This version of the team can be found at Thunderbolts (2023).

A Thunderbolts movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was announced at San Diego ComicCon 2022 for a 2024 release after being foreshadowed in previous entries, especially Black Widow (2021) and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This incarnation of the team is comprised of Yelena Belova, Red Guardian, and Taskmaster from the former; Bucky Barnes and U.S. Agent from the latter; and Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Examples from all versions:

  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Ever since Warren Ellis got his mitts on them, Thunderbolts is essentially Marvel's take on the Suicide Squad.
  • 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: Each incarnation of the team includes at least some villains who are playing as heroes either to atone or for their own personal reasons. Whether they reform for real later on depends on the character and the run.
  • 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.

    open/close all folders 

    Baron Zemo's/Hawkeye's Thunderbolts (Original) 

Examples from the original series:

  • A God Am I: Zemo and Moonstone at separate points in the series.
  • Action Girl: Quite a few, but the one who has stayed constant throughout most of the series is Songbird.
  • All There in the Manual: The trio of Beetles the team fights during Civil War only got named in a handbook released some years later.
  • Already Done for You: During Civil War, the CSA hires the Thunderbolts to capture super-villains for them. Then it turns out Zemo's already been doing so for the last three weeks.
  • Amplifier Artifact: 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.
  • Angst Nuke: After her partner Agnar the Screamer was killed by a stray bullet, Melissa "Screaming Mimi" Gold spends a solid forty-three minutes screaming her head off, laying waste to her surroundings until she finally passes out. She also burns out her screaming powers in the process, but Fixer quickly gives her an upgrade so she can become Songbird.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Songbird, and when he was a villain named The Beetle, Mach-1.
  • Anti-Hero: Most members fall into Mr. Vice Guy, Knight in Sour Armor or Pragmatic Hero, while Moonstone is a sadistic narcissist that qualifies as a Nominal Hero on her best behavior.
  • Anti-Villain: Meanwhile, even Baron Zemo himself discovered some heroic tendencies from his time on the team.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Atrocious Alias: Songbird questions the name "Blizzard", and Don says he won't hear anything from someone who called herself "Screaming Mimi", prompting the response "Okay, I'll give you that one".
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Starting off, Songbird was the youngest one on the team, until the teenaged Jolt joined up. Once Jolt was gone, Mel went back to this status. Oftentimes her older teammates might make pop culture jokes she just doesn't get.
  • Back from the Dead: Fixer, Jolt (twice), Zemo, Atlas (twice), Smuggler.
  • Badass Normal: Citizen V fights with nothing but a sword, yet can still hold his own against super-powered opponents.
  • 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.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Before the team's identity was revealed, Mach-1 accessed the top secret Avengers files Techno was trying to crack. Techno wouldn't let Moonstone look at them because it's Moonstone, but as Abe notes Norbert didn't think Abe had it in him to be up to anything. And technically, he wasn't.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: When the team defies Zemo's orders and goes after the Elements of Doom, he follows and watches as the fight goes in the Elements' favor. He figures there is a strategy that could save them, but decides to just sit back and watch, and if any of the team die... well, they're replaceable.
  • Betrayal Insurance: Figuring some of the Thunderbolts (especially Moonstone) might turn on him or get cold feet, Zemo had Fixer whip up an Agony Beam keyed to each of their powers or tech. Then it turns out Moonstone whipped up a countermeasure for that.
  • 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.
  • Brain Uploading: Early on, during a fight with the Elements of Doom (no relation to Doctor Doom), Fixer gets his neck fatally snapped, but he manages to upload his mind into their tech and just makes himself a new robot body.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: The final issues of the run. Zemo is Put on a Bus to Hell, Atlas put out of commission, Joystick arrested, Blizzard and MACH-1 quit... the only members left for the retool are Songbird, Moonstone, Radioactive Man and Swordsman.
  • Brick Joke: In the first annual, Zemo claims Meteorite was a New Age psychologist who got her powers through "harmonic convergence" (mainly to piss her off, since he knew she was eavesdropping). After the team beats the Elements of Doom, Karla can be seen chatting with Iron Fist, who's asking about this.
  • But Now I Must Go: The final issue of Thunderbolts before it retooled into New Thunderbolts has Hawkeye say his work is done, and leave the team.
  • Character Development:
    • Before this series, Screaming Mimi was something of a blank slate. As it goes on, she starts becoming more confident in herself.
    • Zemo, who previously could be charitably described in most stories as "bargain basement Red Skull", with most of his plots revolving around getting revenge on Captain America and refusing to believe he didn't kill Zemo's dad. Here, Zemo finally acknowledges the truth, but starts off still wanting to take over the world. As Busiek and Nicieza's run goes on, he grows out of cartoonish supervillainy into more greyer motivations.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The bio-modem of the Enclave from the Spider-Man Team-Up #7, which forms a big part of Zemo's Evil Plan in issues 10-12.
  • The Chessmaster: Baron Zemo. This series, even more so than the Avengers' "Under Siege" storyline, established Zemo as one of the premiere supervillains of the Marvel universe.
  • C-List Fodder: The Thunderbolts themselves were mostly C-List Villains, as were most of their opponents.
  • Could Say It, But...: In issue #103, Zemo lays out how he could rant about the bad trust between the Thunderbolts and the Avengers, and he could bring up how Iron Man infiltrated them and that went wrong and resulted in Zemo's face being mangled... but he's not gonna.
  • Covers Always Lie: Issue #9 shows the Black Widow standing over the defeated bodies of Songbird and MACH-1. Inside the issue they don’t even fight.
  • 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. He did, but it took nearly sixteen years.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fixer, the self proclaimed patent holder on snark.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Baron Zemo, a human, kills the Grandmaster, an impossibly ancient being armed with the Power Primordial, with... a gun. Admittedly, due to a unique and highly specific set of circumstances that could only have happened at the time. And, this being comics, it didn't take for long.
  • 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 once he reveals the Thunderbolts' identities to the world.
  • 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
    Moonstone: What does "Growing Man" do?
    Jolt: He GROWS!
  • "Eureka!" Moment: The team's genesis. Zemo had been gathering together a new Masters of Evil to try and get revenge on the Avengers and Captain America yet again, only by the time he'd done so the Avengers had sacrificed themselves to stop Onslaught. As Zemo was sulking, he heard Beetle chatting with Erik Josten, who jokingly suggested that with so many heroes missing they could easily pretend to be heroes and make some cash. And so Zemo got a plan...
  • 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 Twist: 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • It's really subtle, but there are slight hints at the Thunderbolts' true identity in the earlier pages of the first issue, such as Meteorite getting mad at Techno for using a high-tech device. Not to mention the tagline, which comes from a quote that, as shown above, doesn't exactly say "The Cape is here to save the day."
    • The team's actual first appearance was in an issue of Peter David's The Incredible Hulk run, which featured a brief scene where the Hulk confusedly claimed to recognize Meteorite's voice. He'd have good reason to, since she previously battled the Hulk in her Moonstone identity.
  • Formula with a Twist: The series is based on the premise: what if the Super Team was actually comprised of villains pretending to be heroes?
  • For Science!: Why did Arnim Zola abduct dozens of homeless children and experiment on them, turning them into grotesque abominations? Because he's a sick bastard.
  • French Jerk: The Cyclone, Pierre Fresson, was a Token French member of the team. He was vain, egotistical, self-serving, and lecherous to the last.
  • 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".
  • Futureshadowing: The whole point of the -1 issue. Jolt's has her parents settling into their new apartment, her father noting how safe the neighbourhood is, while young Hallie is entranced by the lightning on the horizon.
  • 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.
  • Genuine Human Hide: Twins Adrea and Andreas von Strucker (a.k.a. Fenris) had energy projecting powers that only worked when they were in physical contact. Baron Zemo murdered Andrea to stop her revealing the secret of the Thunderbolts. Zemo then had the Purple Man brainwash Andreas into taking the "Swordsman" alias. Purple Man has him flay the skin from Andrea's corpse to incorporate the resulting leather into his sword's hilt, allowing him to channel their shared powers through his sword.
  • 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 rest walk the line in their own unique ways.
  • Got Volunteered: In issue #107, the team's stuck with a massive amount of radiation outside a makeshift igloo Blizzard's whipped up. If anyone steps outside, it'd be certain death. So they shove Joystick, who betrayed the team to the Grandmaster, out there
  • The Government: The Commission on Superhuman Affairs or CSA for short.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Songbird manages to shatter both of Zemo's moonstones not with her powers, but rather just singing a coloratura soprano note. Kaboom!
  • Hannibal Lecture: One of Moonstone's specialties, given she's both manipulative and has a psychiatry experience.
  • 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 assassinated (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.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: After turning on the T-Bolts, Zemo captures Jolt and prepares to shoot her in the head, telling her he despised her from the minute she showed up. Jolt remains Defiant to the End.
  • Hoverboard: The V-Wing, a large flying platform Techno built to transport the team members who couldn't fly.
  • I Am What I Am: After Zemo spitefully reveals the team's identities and they turn on him, save Atlas and Techno, the team escape and take stock. The only one not angsting is Moonstone, who is at peace with who and what she is, even thought that means she's despicable. What she is, however, is pissed.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Gyrich grumbles that Dallas Riordan's faith (for want of a better word) in Zemo has him reaching for the nearest drink once a day.
  • Intangibility: One of Moonstone's powers.
  • Irony: During Civil War, as part of their work for the CSA the T-Bolts have to fight someone who's stolen one of Abe's old Beetle armors... which was designed by the CSA. Atlas notes the irony. Joystick doesn't get it.
  • 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 and Charcoal. More like teen hero, but the others are very adult, including stints in prison.
  • 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 an act to help take over the world.
    • However he maintains since his revelation it is to save the world. For example 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...
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: As noted before, the fact that the Thunderbolts were the Masters of Evil.
  • Left Hanging: Played with one major plot point. Zemo keeps trying to assure his new plans are about "saving the world" even though he still uses so many villainous tactics in his Batman Gambit to get there, which makes him more an Anti-Villain at best. However once he actually has the power to do something, meaning he could have used this moment to reveal the whole thing a hoax or actually do something to help the world, he gets cut down by Songbird from flat out not-trusting-him/revenge. So it's completely unknown what he was even really planning and how noble/vile it really was.
  • 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.
  • Light 'em Up: The first time the team runs into the Crimson Cowl, she gives off a blast of light so she can run away. Fixer notes that if it had been much brighter, she'd have blinded them.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Jolt, the only member of the original Thunderbolts who wasn't in on the masquerade when she joined.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Fixer's disguises for the team are somewhere between this and holographic disguises.
  • 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 didn't 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.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • Right in the first issue, the Thunderbolts fight the Wrecking Crew by the Statue of Liberty, inadvertently damaging the old girl (who was already scratched up as was). The team earns themselves some major brownie points by sticking around to fix her.
    • The first issues of New Thunderbolts had a group of villains being detonated by self-destruction mechanisms on the United Nations, with the team (along with Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man, and the sole survivor of said villains, Joystick) working to prevent the building from collapsing.
  • Morality Pet: Jolt, who makes even the self-centered Moonstone more caring, and is highlighted later as The Heart of the team.
  • Moral Pragmatist: Some of the team find that doing heroic acts gives them what they always wanted—such as fortune and fame. They start being seduced by the power of good.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Zemo laments that using the bio-modem to take over Captain America's mind and make him kill himself feels "oddly unsatisfactory"... but it doesn't stop him from doing it.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: Issue 59 was part of the "Nuff Said" month, and involved Scream, an entity created out of Angar the Screamer's body which absorbed all sound in the vicinity, with Angar's ex Songbird conceiving a plan to defeat him.
  • Not Me This Time: At the end of the first arc, Zemo's been defeated and fled, and the remaining Thunderbolts are staring down the Avengers and Fantastic Four, who advise them to surrender. The team takes stock and start to do so when they're unexpectedly teleported away. Hawkeye is the first to realize this was just as much a surprise to them as it was to the heroes.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse:
    • A soft option with Songbird. Zemo offered her a position on his new Masters of Evil, while at the same time pointing out without it she'd be a felon with nowhere to go and no-one to be with.
    • Harder with Moonstone. Zemo stages a jailbreak just so Fixer and Beetle can break her out, much to Karla's irritation, since she'd been planning on serving her time, and an attempted jailbreak would add another ten or fifteen years to her sentence, so signing up with the Masters is really her only option.
  • Origins Episode: Annual #1 has Zemo telling Jolt a highly embellished story about how he founded the Thunderbolts, with the flashbacks showing what actually happened.
  • 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. Admittedly, Zemo is also doing it to manipulate Cap.
    • 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.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: When Fixer and Atlas crack about how fighting some kids who've stolen Abe's old Beetle armors makes it a "Beetles Reunion", Songbird doesn't get it.
  • Powered Armor: MACH-1 and Abe's later armors; the updated "Beetle" suit.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Moonstone has complete mental control over her suit. That includes making it vanish at will, which she gladly does when flirting with Hawkeye.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • In one issue, MACH-1 arrests a burglar, but lies to the police about his (fake) partner getting away with their money so he can keep said loot for himself. Zemo angrily yells at him and tells him he should have left the money to the cops, not because it was the right thing to do, but because by doing this, he potentially compromised their cover.
    "Look around you! Look at this building! They gave it to us - and stocked it with the finest computers, vehicles and other technological wonders known to man! Do you have any idea how much this cost? But still, they gave it to us - Gave it to us - and you'd jeopardize that for a pathetic seven thousand dollars?"
    • Some of the team officially justified their early heroic actions under this- such as Meteorite allowing Jolt on the team because it would look good to the general public. However, in some other cases, such as when Mach-I allowing Spider-Man to go free with evidence clearing him of recent thefts when the team could have claimed he'd genuinely committed those crimes, although Mach-I claimed this was because his old enemy would know they knew he was innocent, the Thunderbolts later admitted that they really did those things because they recognised that it was the right thing to do.
    • Reversed when Zemo reveals the Thunderbolts' true identities to the world in an attempt to invoke a Heel–Face Door-Slam by destroying the world's trust in them. While Moonstone is not at all altruistic, she wanted the Thunderbolts to become heroes for real because they had a good thing going. As she saw it, being a Punch-Clock Hero for as long as the scam could last (and, as Zemo himself had previously noted, being well-compensated by a grateful government) was far better than going back to being wanted fugitives.
  • Pretender Diss: Issue #3 involves the Thunderbolts facing a new supervillain team who took the Masters of Evil names for themselves, obviously unaware the Thunderbolts are the original owners of the title. Zemo is not amused.
  • Put on a Bus: Jolt. "I have to go back to Counter-Earth. They need me."
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: Zemo, just before the retool into Warren Ellis' run, gets sent careening through time by Songbird shattering one of the moonstones. He actually did come back from that very quickly, but never returns to the Thunderbolts.
  • Red Herring: In the first arc, several people suspected that the Thunderbolts may not be what they seem to be. Mostly due to recognizing the mannerisms and tendencies of the members, Strucker to Zemo, Spider-Man to Beetle, Klaw to Songbird's tech, and several others on how they seem too good to be new (Widow, Mad Thinker, Zola). Luckily though there were probably very few people who could have recognized all six and figure out the plot in the short time period. As a result their secret actually came to light when Zemo himself revealed it to SHIELD, to defy them, and also to break Moonstone's plan of making the Thunderbolts turn against Zemo and turn their masquerade into a real thing.
  • The Reveal: The end of the first issue, in which Citizen V takes off his mask and reveals his team's real identity.
  • 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.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: The change from Screaming Mimi to Songbird. As the former, Mel looks like an evil banshee clown wrestler thing. As Songbird, she looks like a typical comic book babe, prompting Zemo on first seeing the change to comment she looks much better "without that ridiculous fright-wig".
  • Sherlock Scan: Befitting a psychologist, Karla has a knack for quickly spotting things about other people.
  • Shout-Out: When unveiling the MACH-IV, Abe jokes "one more and I have to carry around a monkey and a mechanic".
  • The Starscream:
    • Moonstone. She constantly looks for ways to undermine Zemo's leadership, and when they break away from him she assumes full control. Unfortunately, it's clear to the rest of them that she doesn't have what it takes to lead the team.
    • When Zemo took over the team in full Knight Templar mode, Songbird began plotting behind his back to foil his plan and assume leadership.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Janice Olivia Yanizeski, a.k.a. Joystick.
  • Taught by Experience: Zemo's plan to take over the world by using Enclave tech to turn everyone into People Puppets doesn't work on Iron Man, who after recent experiences being mind-controlled by Morgan le Fay (among others) has designed his armor to help prevent that.
  • Technopath: Techno. More efficient when his consciousness is put in a robot body.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: After Zemo exposed their identities and attempt to take over the world with the mind-controlled Avengers, the remaining free Thunderbolts had to work with Iron Man as the only Avenger who'd escaped Zemo's control, both sides not sure if they could trust the other but aware their options were limited.
  • 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.
    • Joystick, who eventually betrays the team and all of Earth to the Grandmaster for a shot at power. Unlike Karla, she's not a schemer. She's just a bitch.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The Elements of Doom turn on their creator, just like they did last time, and tell him either he can serve them, or be used as a lab rat.
  • Trauma Conga Line: This example extends from this section into the next but with Swordsman Andreas Strucker.
    • First Zemo kills his sister, probably the only one who genuinely cared for him. Then Zemo has him brainwashed and used as a tool, gets his sister's skin flayed into being his sword handle. Then gets the clone of his twin killed, before he himself is stabbed with his own sword and thrown out of a plane by Norman Osborn. Although apparently he and his sister had a resurrection later this is quite a lot for one guy to have gone through.
    • To be fair, given Zemo in the middle phase had become a possible Well-Intentioned Extremist it is possible he could have assumed the end justified the means and once he had the Grandmaster's power "make Andreas' life not suck" could have been on the to-do-list.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: The entire team original team. Most embraced the new names (Techno, Atlas, Songbird, MACH-X), while Zemo just returned to his real name (and other Citizen Vs showed up to claim the name back), and Meteorite reverted to Moonstone.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: In Thunderbolts #25, The Thunderbolts defeat and knock out some of Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil who then get Mugged for Disguise. They're all stripped and left unconscious in their undies, with the exception of Joystick, who is naked due to her Going Commando.
  • Unflinching Walk: When a new Citizen V shows up to confront Zemo and blows up a castle of his, Zemo walks away through the explosions because "a Zemo never runs."
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jolt asks Citizen V about the Superhero Origin of the team. We see flashbacks of the real origin, with Zemo's narration to change the meaning. For example, he said that he was devastated when Onslaught killed the Avengers, and he was... but because he's the only one allowed to defeat them.
  • 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.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: During the war on Kosmos in issue #14, Jolt is horrified by the slaughter and vomits just off-panel.
  • Warrior Therapist: Moonstone, being a former psychologist. Notably, she uses it to manipulate her own teammates, making her an evil variant.
  • Was Once a Man: On Jolt's first mission with the team, they wind up fighting some of Arnim Zola's bio-horror experiments. Moonstone quickly tells the team to hold off using lethal force, but refuses to say why. Soon, Jolt realizes why; those experiments are her friends.
  • 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.
  • Worf Had the Flu: In the flashback in Thunderbolts Annual #1, the newly formed team (barring Mach-1, Techno and the not-yet joined up Moonstone) are able to mop the floor with a bevvy of supervillains, some of whom have been capable of holding their own against the Avengers and the Hulk. Afterwards, it turns out Zemo had Abe and Norbert gas them so they'd be off their game.

    Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts I (Civil War

Examples from the Warren Ellis retool:
  • An Arm and a Leg: Venom bites off Steel Spider's arm when they fight.
  • 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.
  • The Atoner: Penance; everyone else either didn't care or had already earned their redemption.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: American Eagle and Sepulchre.
  • 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."
  • Bullying a Dragon: One of the one-shots has a group of villains trying to blackmail Norman. It doesn't work. It really doesn't work.
  • The Bus Came Back: One of the one-shots has Bullseye sent after Americop, a one-shot character from Mark Gruenwald's 90s Captain America.
  • Call-Back: The opening of one of the one-shots has Robbie Baldwin being told something, responding each time with "I could care less", much as he did during Civil War: Front Line. Not incidentally, the one-shot is written by Paul Jenkins, who also wrote Front Line.
  • 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. Also justified by Norman knowing it'd make them look bad, and feeling the team would screw up (which given they fail to catch American Eagle and get humiliated... a good call for Normy.)
  • Chekhov's Gag: See The Guards Must Be Crazy below.
  • The Chew Toy: Swordman is utterly humiliated by people like Jack Flag and Steel Spider, then his boss, the Green Goblin breaks him physically and mentally, then Bullseye kills his cloned sister, then Osborn impales him with his own sword and throws his body down a mountain...
  • 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 (who was paralyzed).
    • Green Goblin versus Swordsman, which eventually ends with Swordsman being crucified.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than other versions.
  • Deal with the Devil: Swordsman makes an agreement with Arnim Zola that he'll clone Andreas. Zola, at least, is as good as his word.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Meanwhile, Leonard Samson manages to quite literally stroll out with some incriminating footage of what Norman did, commenting out loud how security sucks.
  • I Lied: American Eagle claims he'll give Bullseye the first shot free. This happens.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue:
    • Doc Samson imagines beating up Osborn and Moonstone, knowing 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.
  • Madness Mantra: Penance starts pounding his head against a brick wall while muttering "not good enough" after the fight with Sepulcher.
  • 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.
  • Naked Nutter: Norman begins cracking up when telepaths mess with the minds of everyone in Thunderbolt Mountain and gets back into his Green Goblin costume for the first time in a while - all while ranting insanely to himself about what he'd do if he were president. After undressing, he takes a little while to take the next step into actually donning the costume, leaving him stark naked in mid-rant... and resulting in this immortal line:
    Note to self: give naked dictation more often, the ideas seem to flow more freely.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Jack Flag, sitting at home in his apartment, hears a woman being attacked. He goes out to beat them up. The Thunderbolts get called in. As a result, Jack gets beaten up, crippled, beaten up some more, and thrown into an otherdimensional prison without chance of trial or parole.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: American Eagle unleashes one on Bullseye, which combined with Moonstone activating his restraining bolt, cripples him. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
  • No-Sell:
    • A group of telepaths try prying into Samson's mind while they mess with the Thunderbolts. He just hits her with all the anger he keeps on a leash, then goes right back to counselling Trauma.
    • Moonstone gives Samson a Groin Attack. His response? Ignore it. "It's all Gamma enhanced."
  • Not Me This Time: After an unfortunate meeting between them that ends with Songbird yelling at her, Melissa's mother falls off the wagon and has a fatal car crash. Melissa is understandably suspicious, since she'd talked to Moonstone just before that, but Karla swears she had nothing to do with it. The situation is left vague, even during Secret Invasion when Karla and Norman talk about it.
    Karla: (to Norman) Did you kill her?
    Norman: Did you?
    (awkward pause)
    Norman: ... well, then.
  • Only Sane Man: Songbird and Radioactive Man.
  • Popularity Power: Famously subverted in the fight between Bullseye and American Eagle. On one end: an incredibly popular villain in the midst of his biggest push in years. On the other end: a former Captain Ethnic who'd been in about five comics ever up to that point. In most comics, this fight would usually see Bullseye murder Eagle in brutal fashion—instead, Eagle reminds us all that Bullseye is a regular guy who's good at throwing stuff, and he can lift fifteen tons, shrug off bullets, and outrun a car.
  • Psychic Powers: The telepaths.
  • Psycho for Hire: The whole team, except for Songbird and Radioactive Man.
  • Reality Show/Show Within a Show: Stan Lee is the host of Who Wants to be a Thunderbolt?
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: American Eagle gives one to Bullseye when they meet, deriding him as someone used to dealing with low-level or non-powered folks like Daredevil.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Ollie Osnick, the Steel Spider, was never exactly a model of sanity to begin with (this was a kid who decided to imitate Doctor Octopus), but his appearance here shows him not playing with a full deck of cards.
    • Everyone but Songbird when the captured telepaths start messing with everyone's minds. Some (Norman) slip more spectacularly than others.
  • Sanity Strengthening: Penance becomes a little more like his old self after a session with Doc Samson, much to the irritation of most of his teammates.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: As they prepare to fight Jack Flag, Moonstone has Radioactive Man blow up several cars, to make it look like Jack did it.
  • 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 government already knew who they were.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Norman certainly thought so, if his rant while retrieving his Goblin costume was anything to go by. Given how one of the security guards caught one of his pumpkin bombs when he decided to murder them for their incompetence, he might have had a point.
  • Tactful Translation: Telling Dr. Lu about his change of outfit, Norman tells him a man at the focus group asked when he was wearing a "diaper". He then admits the person didn't actually call Chen a "man" at all.
  • 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.
  • To Catch Heroes, Hire Villains: See Super Registration Act above.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The above-mentioned The Guards Must Be Crazy. This is actually lampshaded by Norman:
    Green Goblin: I hired some really, really dumb security forces.
  • 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.

    Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts II (Dark Reign

Examples from Andy Diggle's retool :
The Black Ops Hit Squad Thunderbolts! And Ant-Man.
  • 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-Spider-Man.
  • Continuity Nod: During the Siege crossover, Ant-Man recognizes Stature from their time at Camp Hammond. She's no more enamoured of him than she was back then.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Mr. X versus Quicksilver, ending decidedly in Pietro's favor.
  • 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.
  • The Faceless: Ghost was not seen outside his suit in this run; he unmasks a few times during Jeff Parker's run.
  • Freak Out: Scourge's reaction to Venus's voice. Making people see hallucinations is not a good mix with someone as deeply mentally disturbed as Frank Simpson.
  • 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.
  • Gatling Good: When sent up against Songbird, Paladin brings noticeably heavier weaponry than we've ever seen him with before, a colossal minigun.
  • Hayseed Name: The Headsman, Cleavon Twain
  • 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".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Dallas Riordan reappears after having been absent during Ellis's run to state she thinks Norman's doing a bang-up job. Norman turns around and accuses her and the rest of the CSA of being Skrull collaborators. Turns out the unstable lunatic couldn't be trusted.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Grizzly is described as having "rumored cannibalistic tendencies", though we aren't shown any actual evidence of this here.
  • 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.
  • Intangibility: Ghost has one.
  • Kill It with Fire: During Siege, Scourge gets set on fire. Since he's a cyborg super-soldier, it burns some of his skin off.
  • Knight Templar: Seems Osborn really does think he's a good guy and wants to help the world, no matter what it takes...
  • Legacy Character: Cody seems to like the idea of redeeming his brother's name and making the Headsman a hero...
  • Logical Weakness: As Mr. X likes to tell people, he can read their every thought. However, if said person thinks and reacts faster than he does, or happens to be a super-genius, there's not a damn thing he can do about it.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Paladin's only on the team because he's being paid, which is just another thing Scourge hates him for. Eventually, he decides he's not being paid enough and leaves.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Mr. X is on the receiving end of one from Quicksilver, as he explains there's nothing Mr. X can do about it.
  • 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.
  • 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 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, despite the writer remaining the same between here and the title's revamp into Dark Avengers.
  • Withholding Their Name: Ghost erased all record of his original identity after he became Ghost. When he recounts his origin, every mention of his original name is blacked out.
  • 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.

    Luke Cage's Thunderbolts (Heroic Age

Examples from the Jeff Parker retool:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Hyperion, when he gets zapped with argonite, pleads with the team to stop.
  • 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.
  • Badass Normal: Crossbones and Boomerang are the only non-super powered team members.
    • 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.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Hyperion pretends to be a misunderstood sort who's been thrown into the Raft via mistaken identity. The minute things go wrong, he drops this act and tries to torture and murder his teammates.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: Ghost thinks in binary terms. The rich are evil, anyone who isn't rich isn't evil. Iron Man exploits this in a fight by revealing he's lost all his money (for the moment). Learning this, Ghost immediately stops attacking him.
  • 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 by 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hot as Hell: Satana, as well as the illusion she conjures up to keep Mr. Hyde under control.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Hyperion betrays the team and tries to kill everyone using the nanochains. Then Ghost manages to grab it, and turns it on him. Then Man-Thing reconstitutes itself. And since Songbird and Luke aren't there, Moonstone, Juggernaut and Ghost just watch.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Songbird falls into one while she, Luke and Ghost are looking for the missing team.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Satana's outfit has a plunging v-neckline that goes down to her pelvis for a truly impressive display of flesh.
  • 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 on 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 numerous 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Crossbones.
    • Hyperion lets lose some very un-PC slurs while he's attacking the team.
  • 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.
  • Pretender Diss: During one issue, Crossbones and Cap are fighting near a pool that shows people who they want to be. Crossbones naturally sees his hero, the Red Skull. Cap tells Rumlow he'll never be the Red Skull.
  • Running Gag: Female inmates hooting and cat-calling whenever a male super-hero visits the Women's section of the Raft.
  • Sergeant Rock: They seem to be going for this with Luke Cage.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Shadowland tie-in has the team sent to rescue people from the Hand's underbase. Problem is, Crossbones finds the guy they were sent after first. And he's a black cop. Crossbones murders him without a second's hesitation.
  • Ship Tease: Jeff Parker seems to like Boomerang/Moonstone, a border-line crackship in some regards.
  • Stable Time Loop: During the time-travel arc, Moonstone confronts Baron Zemo, grabs him and tells him she'll let him live if he has a son named Helmut.
  • 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 the 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.
    • 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. He had become annoyed with not being let out for field missions, but in the end of the arc he ended up sacrificing himself for what could have been his end to save the timestream. In his most dramatic moment he was still a tweener.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    General Ross' Thunderbolts (Marvel NOW!

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

  • Anti-Hero Team: Aside from Agent Venom, everyone is a well-intentioned ruthless killer.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to Parker's previous run, this relaunch is messier.
  • 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. Some of the enemies they face are red and/or black as well, for symbolic reasons.
    Johnny Blaze: And the red thing? You guys are all in red.
    Flash Thompson: This is sort of Ross' thing, and he's the Red Hulk, so... All we need to do now is recruit Daredevil, I guess.
  • 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.
  • ET Gave Us Wifi: According to Ross, American Cheese was reverse engineered from alien technology leftover from a thwarted alien invasion.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Ross calmly eating his meal while Deadpool slaughters killer French mimes.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: In-Universe. Deadpool notes this of "The Mercy Problem" in issue 21.
  • Honey Trap: A male example: The Punisher has Flash seduce Valkyrie 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Leader effortlessly tears the team apart by framing Ross for attempting to kill the Punisher after he leaves, knowing Frank and the team would likely take each other out, because Ross himself refuses to just tell the truth and say he didn't try to kill the Punisher.
  • 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.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Played for Laughs at the end of issue 18 when Deadpool asks someone to shoot him so he doesn't have to endure a 16 hour road trip in a van with no radio.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Flash's reaction to teaming up with Deadpool against Ross's mustache in Issue 22.
    Agent Venom: I'm going to try to forget this ever happened.
  • 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
    • In #22, Elektra does this with one of Frank's grenades against Mercy. A Justified Trope, as her arm was pinned.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Having long since reached the physical limit on his constantly growing intellect, the Leader parceled it out in uploads to servers accessible over the internet with the correct code. When he gives his brother access to one the influx of information drastically inflates his head before it bursts.
  • Shout-Out: The code to open a secret base is the jukebox lineup "White Christmas", "Like A Surgeon", and a third, unrevealed song.
  • 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, Superpowered Evil Side not withstanding.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Johnny Blaze only gets to enjoy a few issues of freedom before the Ghost Rider returns to him.

    The Winter Soldier's Thunderbolts (All-New, All-Different
  • Amicable Exes: Abe and Melissa are this, although there certainly seems some lingering Unresolved Sexual Tension left between them.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Erik tries to pull this on Abe by saying he's eating dog food, then revealing it's stew, but Abe thinks eating cold stew out of a can is just as gross.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Bucky takes on a role somewhere between this and Parental Substitute when it comes to Kobik.
  • Big "NO!": Bucky gets one of these when Norbert shoots Kobik to stop her from overloading, shattering her into several pieces.
  • Breather Episode: Issue #6 is mostly the Thunderbolts doing relatively peaceful everyday things.
  • The Bus Came Back: Fixer, who was trapped in a timeloop in volume 1 issue 174. Issue 6 reveals that Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube freed him. Also, Songbird, who had been working with Sunspot's New Avengers and thus didn't rejoin the team until issue 7, and in issue 10, Jolt!
  • Call-Back: Bucky won't let Steve die again, the way he did on the courthouse steps after Civil War.
  • The Cameo: Ghost makes an appearance when everyone but Kobik is away, but seems too shy to stay and chat. He surprisingly returns in issue 12, to briefly fight on the T-Bolts' side, and then saves Jolt from dying of exhaustion.
  • The Cavalry: Jolt returns from Counter Earth at just the right moment to save Atlas from taking a possibly fatal beating at the hands of the Masters of Evil.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Moonstone makes no secret of disliking Bucky's methods, and finally betrays him for Zemo in issue 12.
  • Creepy Child: Zig-Zagged with Kobik. She seems friendly enough, but like the all-powerful being with the mind of a four-year-old that she is, she thinks nothing of ripping Karla's heart out as part of a game or converting people to Hydra to "help" them fix the problem they have with nazis.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Bucky's actions in Issue #5, the Civil War II tie-in, seem a little impulsive, especially for a wanted fugitive: he wants to keep Miles Morales, the current Spider-Man, from fulfilling one of Ulysses' premonitions, but doesn't want to kill him - what exactly he plans to do is unclear, but never becomes a problem, since he gets captured by SHIELD instead.
  • Dramatic Irony: Bucky's conversation with Steve is laced with it. Bucky doesn't know that Kobik has rewritten Steve's life to a deep cover Hydra agent. He is trying to keep Kobik from the people who would abuse her powers and one of them is right in front of him and he doesn't know it.
  • Fake Arm Disarm: While in SHIELD custody, Bucky's metal arm is bugged. After the remaining Thunderbolts break him out, he decides there's not enough time to get rid of the bugs and just leaves the whole arm behind.
  • Goo-Goo-Godlike: Kobik mostly resembles a four-year-old little girl and is omnipotent. With no concept of consequences or morality, reigning her in is quite a task.
  • Hidden Depths: Erik, who mostly seems to care about having a fridge full of beer confesses to missing the fake family Kobik had created as part of his life in Pleasant Hill.
  • Little Miss Badass: Due to being all-powerful, Kobik is a force to be reckoned with. Man Killer, one of the Masters of Evil, discovers this to her sorrow.
  • Mental Time Travel: In issue #10, Kobik sends Bucky back to the past, so he can fix his mistakes; he ends up in his younger body, completely unaware that thanks to Kobik's previous actions, his old mentor and friend Steve Rogers has been a covert Hydra agent since childhood.
  • Morality Chain: Bucky is this to Kobik, by forbidding her from simply using her powers because she feels like it, or because she wants to be nice to someone. It works most of the time.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Fixer has a breakdown in issue six when he realizes that Kobik rescued him from his Time Loop.
  • Never Found the Body: Abe is missing after Kobik's implosion levels the Thunderbolts' headquarters.
  • Only Sane Man: Initially, Fixer is the only one who believes Kobik is too dangerous to let run around.
  • Papa Wolf: Bucky gets quite protective of Kobik, despite the fact that she can pretty much alter reality to suit her, feeling that the way Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. used her is analogous to how the KGB used him.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Winter Soldier does this, having rescued the T-Bolts from Pleasant Hill.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bucky and Zemo give one to each other in issue 12.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jon Malin drew a sign that says "Shell Beach" on the Thunderbolt's tie-in issue to Avengers Standoff.
    • Moonstone refers to the moonstone as their "conch shell" when she challenges Bucky's leadership.
    • When Bucky reads Kobik a goodnight story, it's a book about the adventures of Disney Theme Parks character Dreamfinder.
    • Kobik has a doll that quotes Lilo & Stitch's motto about family, except using the Polish word "rodzina" instead of the Hawaiian "Ohana". (Since the German word, "Familie", would have made her true allegiance too obvious.)
      • Later, Kobik argues that they can't abandon Bucky to SHIELD imprisonment with a quote from the same movie.
        Kobik: Buckaroo is family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.
    • To ask Atlas to build a snowman with her, Kobik sings "Do you wanna build a snowman?"
    • The Thunderbolts leave Kobik with two seasons of Gravity Falls to keep her occupied.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Kobik acts the way a cosmic cube thinks small children act most of the time, but when adults yell at her she takes a sterner tone. Zig-Zagged when she gets upset and threatens to kill everyone, which in her case is a plausible threat.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Winter Soldier spends a huge amount of time bare-chested, which becomes somewhat ludicrous once they end up in the Arctic. Between him and shirtless moments for Atlas and Mach X, the comic does its best to service the Female Gaze.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After discovering in issue #11 that Kobik turned Steve Rogers into a life-long Agent of HYDRA on Red Skull's behest, Bucky loses his temper and yells at her that she ruined everything. Kobik does what most small children would do and throws a tantrum, threatening to rip reality itself apart.

    Wilson Fisk's Thunderbolts (A Fresh Start
  • C-List Fodder: For King In Black: Thunderbolts, Kingpin assembles a team consisting of Taskmaster, Mr. Fear, Rhino, Batroc the Leaper, Star, Incendiary, Ampere and Snakehead. The last three, all new characters despite being treated as established ones, all die within the first issue. When Taskmaster decides to name the prisoners they rescued from Ravencroft (all of whom are C-list most of the time) Thunderbolts, the only one who gets taken over by symbiotes and killed is Foolkiller.
  • Evil Hero: In Devil's Reign, Fisk recruits a number of supervillains into the Thunderbolts, and sends them to assist the NYPD while cracking down on superhero activity.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: In the King in Black tie-in, Wilson Fisk tells the supervillains he assembled that they can either join his Thunderbolts team or go to prison. When Incendiary picks the latter, Fisk makes it clear that by "go to prison" he meant "be summarily executed" — which prompts the other villains to immediately sign on.
  • Shout-Out: The team's debut in King in Black is a massive nod to the Suicide Squad, with a number of supervillains being press-ganged into serving a corrupt authority figure on threat of death.
    Mister Fear: The whole squad... It's suicide... We're a Suicide Team!