I've often wondered if the T-bolts had enough clout in the post-Zemo Marvel Universe to carry their own thread. What better way to find out then throwing my favorite team of the last ten years into the deep end to see if they measure up.
The founding member of the Thunderbolts is this guy:
Who was really this
Baron Helmut J. Zemo XIII
Baron Zemo, son of the Nazi superscientist of the same name, first created the Thunderbolts as the fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil. A team he wanted to pit against the Avengers, led by Captain America, a hated enemy of his father from WWII. Unfortunately for Zemo, his revenge was thwarted when the majority of the Avengers (and many other heroes) were killed off when this guy:
. . . went freaking berserk.
He then hatched new plan that turned the T-bolts into a replacement of the Avengers until they had enough public support to cast off their facade and go back to some good, ol' fashioned villiany.
Once again, though, Zemo's carefully laid plans were to be for naught as some of his teammates got to like the idea of being true heroes a little too much and turned on their leader. After they drive off Zemo, they realize that they are still wanted criminals and set up shop in Colorado.
Over the years the team added new members to the roster and lost some as well. Hawkeye even acted as team leader for a time out of sympathy for fellow anti-heroes who genuinely wanted to reform. Zemo came back into the picture during the Road to Civil War, the event that would criminalize many trusted heroes and strangely put this motley crew of former villains on the pro-registration side.
As per the pro-Registration leader, Tony Stark's orders, Zemo had been recruiting an army of supervillains to hunt down anti-Registration heroes as well as villains. Zemo still had his own agenda though, forming alliances with powerhouses on both sides in order to defeat the Grandmaster over who would control the Wellspring of Power, a mystical font of energy that permeated the entire world. He was successful, but was betrayed and cast through a time portal by his teammate Songbird:
This groovy chick.
. . . who didn't trust her megalomaniacle leader with that much power.
The next incarnation of the Thunderbolts sees them under the leadership of the CSA (C
ommission on S
ctivities) and Norman Osborne, formerly the Green Goblin. Kept on a hodgepodge of meds and seconded by the sociopathic psychologist Karla Sofen (aka Moonstone), Norman reformed the team into his own personal hero-hunting unit.
This roster included Songbird, The Swordsman (aka Andreas Von Strucker), Penance, Venom, Bullseye, Radioactive Man, and Moonstone. In a post Registration world, this team hunted down all non-Registered, super-powered individuals and detained them. Usually with unnecessary force.
Everything was going nominally until the events of Marvel's Secret Invasion
. When the Skrull Infiltration reached its climax and the invasion kicked into gear, the Skrull agent Khn'nr, posing as Captain Marvel, blew a hole in Thunderbolt Mountain in order to neutralize the team. He was only thwarted by Osborne's pep talk on how he sympathized with Khn'nr's moral conflict, who then left the Thunderbolts intact. Norman then gathered the team back together and headed to Washington D.C. to secure the capitol.
After D.C., Osborne joined the immense gathering of heroes and villains who had asembled in a grand showdown in Central Park against the invading Skrull Queen and her vangaurd. A battle was fought, but in the end it was Norman who got the headshot and exploited the circumstance to the fullest. Ascending to the position of Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Osborne dismantled both that organization and his Thunderbolts to create a new organization (H.A.M.M.E.R.) and a new team of T-bolts.
The current roster includes Black Widow II (Ylena Belova/Natasha Romanova), Ghost (an incoporial, tech wiz who's identity remains unknown), Ant-Man, Mr. X, Paladin, Headsman, and Scourge (aka Nuke). This team is Director Osborne's personal Black-ops hitsquad and have gone up against Deadpool, Nick Fury, and a few others.
Former member Songbird ended up on the run with other former teammates Mach IV and Tinkerer, while Swordsman was impaled on his own sword by Norman Osborne and thrown off a mountain. Members Venom, Bullseye, and Moonstone have since graduated to the Dark Avengers.
But sadly, good things can't last forever and change is inevitable. With the Dark Reign ending with the Siege of Asgard the Heroic Golden age is getting kick-started, thus a new team of Thunderbolts is being formed to go with the changing times.
This new, projected roster includes the Man-Thing, Moonstone, Crossbones, the Juggernaut, Ghost (can I get me a hell yah!?), and lead by the former tiara wearing Luke Cage. It seems that the T-Bolts are getting back to their roots as a team that exists to reform super-villains or heroes with criminal records.
If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten in your presence.