Are the Thunderbolts an essential Team anymore?
There was a time in the Marvel Universe where the Avengers were gone and Marvel Earth was then left virtually unguarded. A team emerged from it all to take their place and do what they couldn’t in their absence.That team was the Thunderbolts.Of course you know by now that the Thunderbolts were actually the Masters of Evil in disguise as heroes but that is deemed one of the most interesting concepts in comic book history. Never before had anything like this occurred.The team over time transformed into a super-villain rehabilitation program and that’s where for me the idea becomes stale.
First of all, the Thunderbolts program has a very low success rate.The only members of the team that end up ACTUALLY becoming heroes are ones that weren’t really all that evil to begin with. You can’t expect psychopaths like Norman Osborn,Bullseye,Crossbones,and Baron Zemo to ever change their ways. Aside from the fact their personality disorders won’t allow it, there’s also the part about how valuable they are to their respective enemies.
When Warren Ellis was writing the book, back during Civil War, I couldn’t help but notice how useless that team was in comparison to previous team rosters.By then it was much less a rehab program and more Tony Stark turning a blind eye to villains, poorly playing heroes. Marvel has this “status quo”, and that status quo suggests that things will never change to much in the Marvel Universe, so i’m pretty sure you could have predicted based on that, how many villains would actually reform.
Apparently the Thunderbolts are going to turn into the Dark Avengers.(They technically already did in Dark Reign but now they are officially revamping the book), some people are angry, but let’s be honest…the book hasn’t served any real purpose since the Avengers returned.If Marvel wants to make a book about a team of villains, they should just do that.I couldn’t have taken another volume of a bunch of villains pretending to be heroic.
The OP here makes it sound like rehabilitation is a fairly new introduction to the Thunderbolts formula instead of its most essential theme since the beginning. It was barely ten issues before Zemo dropped the “Earth’s New Heroes” ruse, and he did it because he was worried the team was getting too comfortable playing hero.
The Ellis run took the New Thunderbolts, who had enjoyed some real success in saving the world — spearheaded behind the scenes by Baron Zemo, of all people — and introduced official government sponsorship under Osborn, corrupting the team beyond recognition.
Since then, even the reintroduction of original members to the roster hasn’t been able to return the T-bolts to their roots. Why?
The Thunderbolts formula relies on villainous characters experiencing fulfillment through altruistic actions originally performed out of self-interest. For the experience to be genuine, they can’t attribute their motivation to someone else’s will; they have to feel enough self-determination to conclude that they acted nobly because they wanted to. A hero isn’t a hero just because someone else says so — Osborn’s teams are inherently cynical because even the villains he employs know this.
It’s hard to convince a group of cons on work release that they’re suiting up for anything other than a better cell; I’m not as familiar with DC comics, but for me this was a big part of why Suicide Squad never really appealed to me. When they started pumping the Thunderbolts full of deadly nanites, the team’s sense of self-determination evaporated and, with it, their best chance of reform.
The OP is right to point out that Marvel seems hell-bent on keeping things the way they are. Few of the Thunderbolts who have decided to turn their lives around have been given any validation from the superhero community, even though there’s plenty of precedent for villains becoming heroes; lack of respect caused both Fixer and Atlas to fall off the wagon. Real redemption has been off the table for a long time.
If Thunderbolts has lost its momentum, it isn’t because it’s about villains pretending to be heroes. It’s because nobody else has been willing to play along.