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Why The Thunderbolts Lineup Has MCU Fans Scratching Their Heads

Among the announcements of new and known projects at D23 Expo, the lineup for "The Thunderbolts" has caused a fair amount of chatter. While there will always be criticism from comic fans when a beloved character (or in this case, a team) is adapted for the screen, this lineup of antiheroes who will be doing the right thing for their own individual reasons has caused some confusion among the Marvel loyal.

The team announced consists of Yelena Belova, aka Black Widow (Florence Pugh); Ava Starr, aka Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen); Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan); Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian (David Harbour); Antonia Dreykov, aka Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko); and John Walker, aka U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell) (via The Hollywood Reporter). Also included in the cast is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who seems to be setting herself up as the Nick Fury equivalent for the Thunderbolts.

As Marvel president Kevin Feige teased back at San Diego Comic-Con, "There are many more surprises to come" (via TheDirect), but this team doesn't seem to be what fans had in mind. Here are some reasons fans on social media are confused by the presented lineup.

Bucky doesn't seem to fit

Bucky Barnes has an interesting history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He started as the strong and loyal friend of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), only to be thought dead and turned into an assassin for Hydra. As the Winter Soldier, he committed numerous atrocities, including the murder of Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) parents, the almost murder of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) ("bye-bye, bikinis"), and the implied murder of John F. Kennedy. Throughout his character arc, he has redeems himself thanks to Cap's belief in him, detoxing with the Wakandans, and teaming up with Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), in their Disney+ series.

That redemption arc makes his inclusion on a team of antiheroes-slash-villains an interesting choice. In the announcement, Kevin Feige referred to him as the "beloved Winter Soldier," but the character claims in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" that he is no longer the Winter Soldier; he is James Buchanan Barnes making amends — not to mention that his inclusion means he will have to work side by side with John Walker, who is one of the main antagonists in that series. As Redditor u/Hungover52 pointed out, "Bucky working with US Agent seems weird after FatWS." While fans will always be happy to see Bucky's return to the screen, his inclusion in the Thunderbolts seems a curious choice.

Ghost's story seemed to have an end

There is an incredible roster of villains in the MCU. From Loki to Killmonger, each one has their own arc to death or redemption. Because there are so many villains throughout the nearly 30 movies and over half a dozen series, some of them can be forgotten, disappearing into Marvel obscurity. Ava Starr is a villain who falls below the line of memorable appearances.

Starr suffered the loss of her parents at a young age in a laboratory accident that left her unable to maintain a tangible form due to a lack of quantum energy. This got her on SHIELD's radar, and the organization turned her into a stealth operative named Ghost. In "Ant-Man and the Wasp," Starr is near death until Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) transfers some of her quantum energy to her, sustaining her. The character disappears with Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), with him vowing to keep her safe.

Her arc seems to end here, which makes her another curious addition to the Thunderbolts team. @Brother_Drum expressed his confusion by listing out the abilities of the team's members, noting that he thought Starr's condition had been cured at the end of "Ant-Man and the Wasp," making Ghost feel like a reach into MCU obscurity.

No Baron Zemo feels like a slight to the comics

Baron Zemo also seems to be on most fans' minds as they react to the Thunderbolts lineup. In the comics, Zemo is one of the most prominent members of the team, even its leader at times. His absence from the announcement feels like a massive separation from the comics, which is more than some fans can handle.

@GriceSolomon responded to IGN's announcement on Twitter with a photo from the comics of Zemo standing in front of the team with the comment, "So Zemo don't exist?" While many users agreed with this by sharing their own gripes about the exclusion of Zemo, others are hopeful. Redditor u/Situation_Gloomy believes that Zemo and others will be in the movie; they just haven't been revealed yet.

In response to @GriceSolomon, @RogueDemon2099 posited that Zemo either is the villain the Thunderbolts will face in the movie or will be added in a post-credits scene leading up to the film's release. With his hatred for super soldiers and the inclusion of three on the team (Red Guardian, the Winter Solder, and U.S. Agent), it isn't a far-fetched idea that Zemo would come into conflict with the team.

No Blonsky is an abomination

While the Avengers sported a super soldier, a tech genius with dozens of armors for any situation, a genuine god of thunder, and a hulked-out monster, the Thunderbolts lineup feels like Marvel is bringing the team back down to Earth. There are three super soldiers, two master assassins, and a stealth agent. However, fans can't seem to overlook the lack of a big hitter like the Hulk. While Red Hulk is the character filling the role in the comics (via Marvel Database), Thunderbolt Ross actor William Hurt's death ended any hope he would appear. However, a built-in replacement is already present in the MCU, and fans seem disappointed that he isn't on the roster.

Journalist @_CharlesMurphy dropped the hint that Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination, wouldn't be appearing in "The Thunderbolts," and the response was almost overwhelmingly negative. @Moldy_xx said plainly, "[The] Abomination not in 'Thunderbolts' seems like a genuine mistake." In another thread, @halfnakedsnake_ said, "They need [R]ed [H]ulk or [the A]bomination, most of these guys just look the same and have the same abilities of hand[-]to[-]hand combat and superhuman strength."

However, since the Abomination is a current character on "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law," one theory keeps popping up among fans on social media: @Jimmy_Mac_4701 urged fans to be patient, claiming that revealing the Abomination as a Thunderbolt member would effectively be a spoiler for the show, and therefore, he could be added later.

Taskmaster isn't what fans wanted from the character

Maybe the biggest surprise regarding the Thunderbolts lineup is the inclusion of Antonia Dreykov. Taskmaster is one of the most beloved villains in Marvel Comics, and the "Black Widow" version wasn't well received (via Reddit). With the much-maligned character returning to the franchise, fans aren't excited that they're getting another dose.

Redditor u/Spider-Flash24 expressed their distaste for the addition, saying, "Imagine putting Walmart[-b]rand Taskmaster on the team before [the] Abomination or Zemo..." @b1tchl355 complained, "Omg can we please get the real [T]askmaster."

While there is still hope for some of the characters to be added later, some genuine confusion and ire are coming from fans in the social media arena. We will have to wait and see whether any more members will be added to the team and hope that some of the characters that weren't well received make a better impression this time around.