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Wakanda Forever Gives Val The Power She Needs To Start The Thunderbolts

Contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has largely occupied itself with reshuffling the pack. Many of the heroes who survive the Infinity Saga become respected elder superhero statesmen, and new heroes and legacy characters like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) emerge. Among the more interesting Phase Four arrivals is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a mysterious figure who's waltzed across various movies and Disney+ shows like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) back in the day. Kevin Feige himself confirmed early on that Val's various appearances are indeed building toward something, and said something has since turned out to be the new superhero team in the MCU ... provided that you want to call the antagonist-filled Thunderbolts lineup "heroes" in the classic sense of the word. 

The main difference between Nick Fury and the Contessa is, of course, that everyone knows who the former is, while the latter has gone through some pains to keep everything but her full name and title of nobility hidden from the viewer. Superficially affable as she may be, she's still clearly tough as nails, and just ominous enough that you can't be quite sure whether she's a hero or a villain. 

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" continues Val's patchwork storyline by finally revealing something concrete about the mysterious Contessa. The viewers find out that she's the director of the MCU's version of the CIA, and the ex-wife of the hitherto most prominent Agency character, Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). This explains a lot of Val's actions over the course of Phase Four, and how she has the sway and know-how to pull her power moves over the various super-people we've seen so far. Most importantly, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" finally reveals in no uncertain terms just how Val will be able to start the Thunderbolts.

Val's job as the Director of CIA puts her in the perfect spot to recruit the Thunderbolts

"Wakanda Forever" makes clear that unlike the science-fantasy machinations of Nick Fury's SHIELD, the CIA is a far more mundane and secretive spookshow — and its director reflects this. While Fury is basically a superhero himself, Val seems to prefer classic behind-the-scenes espionage methods and deceptively easy banter that hides her true intentions. She's so good at this that she runs rings around Everett Ross, who not only knows Val very well, but is also a highly capable CIA operative himself. 

Val's connections and position as the CIA director put her in the perfect place to seek out and put together a team like the Thunderbolts. Depending on how you want to view it, she definitely seems practical or amoral enough to tinker with a lineup that consists of antagonists and grey-area players like The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Yelena Belova, U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko). With the Agency's assets at her disposal, she also has little problem tracking them down. 

As for the team namesake who may very well appear in the "Thunderbolts" movie, Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross – played by Harrison Ford in "Captain America: New World Order" after William Hurt passed away in 2022 — Val has connections to him as well. Even if the high-ranking general and Secretary of State would somehow have managed to avoid the director of the CIA in a professional context, the fact that Rosses Everett and Thaddeus (no relation, probably) have both been affiliated with the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre pretty much guarantees that Val and Thunderbolt have ran into each other at some point. 

It's hard to think of a better position for Val than the head of the CIA, and now that "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" lets the cat out of the bag, it'll be interesting to see how she wields her considerable power. Hey, she could even turn out to be a Skrull or Madame Hydra, like in the comics. How surprised would Everett Ross be?