The Thunderbolts were first presented as a group of superheroes like the Avengers, both to readers and to the Marvel Universe, who became heroes to help protect the world when the Avengers were declared dead after the events of the 1996 “Onslaught” crossover. However the final page of the first issue of their comic book revealed that the Thunderbolts were the Masters of Evil in disguise, a surprise twist carefully guarded by Marvel.

A new team composed of Red Hulk, Deadpool, Elektra, Venom, and Punisher debuted as a part of Marvel NOW! major relaunch. Written by Daniel Way with art by Steve Dillon. This incarnation is not a government-sponsored team.

Red Hulk assembles his incarnation of the Thunderbolts to be a strike team that is close to “Code Red.” He has gathered Deadpool, Elektra, Punisher, and Venom because “their conditions cannot be cured.” Red Hulk has his Thunderbolts do things that are similar to X-Force. Red Hulk has obtained Samuel Sterns’ body and hooks it up to a machine that emits Red Gamma Radiation onto Samuel Sterns. Deadpool later finds Samuel Sterns as a Red Leader with no apparent powers as he expresses his view that the Punisher won’t be pleased. Punisher finds Red Leader’s body and shoots him between the eyes disrupting whatever plans Red Hulk has for Red Leader. 

Red Hulk brings the Thunderbolts along to deal with gamma technology on the island of Kata Jaya where the technology was supplied by Madman. During the fight against Madman, Red Hulk took the Leader to a pipe line that feeds Gamma energy to Madman’s lab. Red Hulk then absorbed the energy himself and then forced fed it to the Leader, bringing him back to life.



In Marvel Zombies: Dead Days, zombified Thunderbolts appear, rampaging across New York. The undead Thunderbolts are killed by the combined forces of Nova, Thor, and the Fantastic Four. 

In the limited series, Wolverine: Days of Future Past, the Thunderbolts are the private security force of the ruling Sentinels, under the command of Baron Zemo. However, Zemo is also secretly working with Shinobi Shaw and Psylocke as part of a new Hellfire Club to bring about the Sentinels’ downfall.


Though during the 1940s the existence of mutants was unknown to the public, a few individuals were aware of the coming of Homo Superior, and that they had the potential to replace baseline humans as the dominant species of Earth. Thus Weapon Plus was created to address the so-called mutant problem. What was ignored by everyone involved in Weapon Plus is that its mastermind, John Sublime, was actually the host body for a sentient bacteria present on every living creature on the planet, save for mutants, who were genetically immune to the Sublime infection.

Sublime (Marvel Comics)
Sublime (Marvel Comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sublime was the self-appointed name of a sentient bacterial lifeform that arose during the beginnings of life on Earth. With the rise of multicellular lifeforms, Sublime found endless numbers of hosts it could infect. However, mutantkind, immune to Sublime’s infection, eventually arose and multiplied, becoming the first threat to Sublime’s domination.

It was hinted that the very hatred and fear of mutants was caused by Sublime itself. But the bacteria took more direct actions in order to ensure that mutant population would be held in check, if not exterminated, in order to keep it from becoming the dominant species of the planet.

Wolverine, a.k.a. Weapon X (Weapon Ten)
Wolverine, a.k.a. Weapon X (Weapon Ten) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first step was the Weapon Plus Project, Sublime took over a human body, dubbed Dr. John Sublime, and became the director of the Program, overseeing the creation of living weapons created by each installation of the program, from Captain America, Nuke, Wolverine, and Deadpool, to the Sentinels.


For many years, Sublime remained behind the scenes, manipulating the Weapon Plus Project and installing Malcolm Colcord as the Director of Weapon X, which would eventually lead to the so-called War of the Programs between Colcord’s replacement, Agent Brent Jackson, and Sublime, as Weapon X became an independent organization.

Malcolm Colcord
Malcolm Colcord (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Weapon Plus includes the following Projects:

  • Project Rebirth: succeeds in creating Weapon Zero, but subject Clinton McIntyre was placed in suspended animation due to ill effects from the serum.
  • Project Rebirth: succeeds in creating Weapon I, known as Captain America.
  • The Weapon II project was focused entirely on animals. The outcomes of this project remain classified.
  • The Weapon III project ended with the creation of the Cold War Operative known as The Skinless Man.
  • The Weapons IV-V projects experimented on various ethnic groups and prisoners.
  • Project Homegrown focused on experiments with soldiers during the Vietnam War. The only successful result of this testing was a man known as Nuke, who is referred to as simply Weapon Six. However, the UK version of this Project called Black Budget was much more suvvessful, resulting in the creation of several Super Soldiers, namely: Dauntless, Gog, Dreadnaught, Revenge, Victory, Invincible, and Challenger.
  • Weapon VIII focused on the use of drugs and hypnosis to trigger assassins/sleeper agents. This may very well be the basis of the ongoing Secret Avengers storyline, but only time will tell.
  • Weapon IX dealt with the use of cybernetics, powered armors and battlesuits.
  • Weapon X was implemented as a covert government operation by the Canadian government Department K and funded by the U.S. Developed to turn willing and unwilling participants mostly mutants and humans into living weapons. This project resulted in the creation of several Super Soldiers, but is best known for creating the agent known as Wolverine.
  • Weapon XI: No individual with the ‘Weapon XI’ moniker has been seen, but John Sublime has mentioned it. A likely candidate for Weapon XI’s true identity is the Hound, a mutant with the power to hunt and kill other mutants.
  • Weapon XII  produced the Huntsman at the England-based facilities of The World. He was the first living weapon created employing artificial evolution and nanosentinel technology.
  • Weapon XIII: This project created Fantomex whose real name is Charlie Cluster 7, also at The World. However, Fantomex rebelled against his creators and was deemed a failure.
  • Weapon XIV was created in The World by John Sublime using ovaries stolen from Emma Frost to create clones designed to entrap the Phoenix Force in order to use its power to fuel their psychic abilities so they can wipe out all mutants on earth.
  • Weapon XV: This project produced Ultimaton, designed to be the Super-Sentinels’ grand powerhouse. Weapon XV was killed by Weapon X, Wolverine.
  • Weapon XVI: The most recent project of Weapon Plus is that called “Allgod.”  It is called a  “living religion”, a virus that attacks the faith reserves and makes them subservient to The World’s sentience.
Sentinel (comics)
Sentinel (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





“Registration today, gas chambers tomorrow”

The first direct mention of a piece of legislation specifically aimed at super-humans in the Marvel Universe comes in Uncanny X-Men #141 in which the “Mutant Control Act”, a law from the future, is mentioned. In the course of the story, the first part of the two-part “Days of Future Past” storyline, Kate Pryde travels back in time from a dystopian future to the present and possesses the body of her younger self, X-Men member Kitty Pryde. On revealing herself to Kitty’s team-mates she recounts to them the series of events which led to her dark future, in the hopes that the X-Men might be able to prevent those events from coming to pass.

One of those pivotal events was the passing of a “Mutant Control Act” by the government of the United States. When the Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional the government responded by reactivating their robot Sentinel program so that they might police the mutant race. The Sentinels interpreted their mandate in such a way that they decided to forcibly take over the government of the country and instituted a harsh regime where mutants were severely persecuted. The reference to the Mutant Control Act is brief, and it is unclear exactly what its provisions would entail, though it would appear that registration forms at least one part of it.

In the course of the story the X-Men are successful in preventing one of the pivotal events which Pryde had described to them (the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly) from occurring, though the story’s end is intentionally ambiguous as to whether Pryde’s dystopian future was fully avoided. Although no Mutant Control Act has been introduced in the comics, the Mutant Registration Act may be its equivalent and the events of “Days of Future Past” continue to be alluded to in X-Men comics as a possible future.