Is Suicide Squad Marvel? Thunderbolts Has To Be Its Own Thing One of the many reasons comic book fans love their comics so much is because of their ability to interconnect storylines into one massive epic. Batman and Superman fight crime across the bay from each other, but band together alongside the many other DC heroes to form the Justice League. In a different universe, Nick Fury recruits a team of supers from New York to Asgard to fight otherworldly villains as The Avengers. But, as are the ways of nature, their must be balance.
When there is a league of heroes to fight crime justly, there is inevitably to be a league of antiheroes who may fight crime, but will do it on their own — oftentimes violent — terms. This band of antiheroes are represented by the Suicide Squad in the DC universe and the Thunderbolts in Marvel. With the DCEU already incorporating two Suicide Squad films into its storyline, the MCU is stepping up in 2024 to bring their own antihero squad with the Thunderbolts film.
Is Suicide Squad Marvel?
The Suicide Squad has evolved into one of DC’s most popular team concepts. Centered around a group of criminals recruited by Amanda Waller to carry out missions for the US Government, the Suicide Squad has been reimagined plenty of times over the years. Over the years, Marvel has had fun approaching the idea in different ways, in both the core-Marvel Universe of Earth-616 and in other timelines.
On top of playing with the concept of incarcerated super-criminals being made into a reluctant superhero team, Marvel’s various answers to the Suicide Squad usually end up highlighting the team’s inherent causality problem and moral ambiguity. Especially when the Marvel versions of the Squad are introduced in variant timelines, they tend to leave a lot of bodies and don’t make it very far. Here are the most notable examples of the Marvel heroes and villains creating their own versions of the Suicide Squad.
How The Thunderbolts Became Marvel’s Suicide Squad
In their original incarnation, the Thunderbolts were veterans of the Masters of Evil, taking on new identities to fill the vacuum left in the aftermath of Onslaught. But the original roster became a more emotionally complex team of redeemed villains before going through a series of reinventions and reimaginings over the years. One of the most effective of these was the one introduced during the events of Civil War, which rebranded the team as a group of arrested criminals, repurposed into agents of the superhero registration act.
Thunderbolts #110 (by Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato Jr., Rain Beredo, Richard Starkings, and Albert Deschesne) carried the concept into the aftermath of the event, with Norman Osborn in charge of the program, placing Venom, Bullseye, Songbird, Moonstone, Swordsman, Radioactive Man, and Penance under his command. The concept would be reattempted years later in the aftermath of Siege, this time with more heroic figures Luke Cage at the command — nominally a more noble version of Amanda Waller. Both core-Marvel Universe teams were similar to the Suicide Squad in intent but never tried to hide the villainous roots and impulses of its most consistent members. Other timelines showcased more overt takes on a Marvel-like Suicide Squad — and carried as much of a death-count as the Squad usually encounters.
Thunderbolts and Suicide Squad Have Similar Premises
The obvious similarity both Thunderbolts and Suicide Squad share is that they are both teams of antiheroes. The Suicide Squad (in reference to the 2016 film) is composed of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, and Slipknot — all of whom are criminals and at one point or another villains of various members of the Justice League.
Then there are the Thunderbolts, whose team consists of Yelena Belova, Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier), John Walker (aka US Agent), Red Guardian, Ghost, and Taskmaster, among other former criminals seeking redemption that have yet to be confirmed for the film.
In addition to being a band of antiheroes, each group was recruited by a government agency. The Thunderbolts are being recruited by the CIA while the Suicide Squad were brought together by US intelligence officer Amanda Waller. Both recruitments were under somewhat sketchy circumstances, with the DC villains being used to basically cover up the government’s mistakes, and the Thunderbolts’ formation remaining a mystery to fans and viewers alike.
Thunderbolts Is Using More Established (But Less Popular) Characters
Between the many DC animated shows and video games, most fans were already very familiar with the characters of the Suicide Squad. However, for the two films that came out as part of the DCEU, they were the first time any of the characters were introduced on the big screen (minus the Suicide Squad post credit scene featuring the Ben Affleck/Bruce Wayne cameo that hinted at the formation of the Justice League).
So, one thing Thunderbolts has going for it is that every character that will make up the team has already been established in a previous MCU film. They’ve accomplished this by the continuing recruitment which has been orchestrated by Valentina Allegra de Fontaine of the CIA (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), starting with the recruitment of John Walker in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. She again appeared at the end of Black Widow to recruit Yelena Belova, and once more in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
While the MCU has done well in establishing these characters, many casual fans may not have been familiar with them until their introductions in the MCU, while other more dedicated Marvel comic book readers might have already known the characters and the potential of the Thunderbolts team. That’s not to say that the casual fans can’t get to know these characters, as the MCU has already begun creating each of their character arcs.
Thunderbolts Has To Be Its Own Thing
While having two major comic book universes may, at the surface, seem repetitive and unnecessary, it can also be extremely enjoyable for fans to see the different turns that each respective story can take while infinitely expanding the list of characters being used — both heroes and villains. That’s why it is so essential that Thunderbolts stands on its own, which, so far, it’s already on the right track to do so.
The antiheroes in Suicide Squad are villains who don’t fully regret the route their lives has taken them up until that point. Their main motivation is to either escape prison or to see their freedom sooner than expected. As for the Thunderbolts, the antiheroes are mostly characters who want a shot at redemption. For instance, both Yelena and Bucky were victims of brainwash enforced by enemy powers and went on terrorist rampages unbeknownst to themselves.
So, the MCU is already on course to separate itself far enough from Suicide Squad with Thunderbolts. The only piece of information left is the mystery behind why the Thunderbolts are being formed in the first place.
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