Marvel Studios Thunderbolts won’t hit theaters until 2024, but it’s already becoming incredibly interesting. Word that the villain of the film is set to be an “evil Superman” has sparked an incredible amount of debate and speculation as to who it is that the Super Soldier-heavy team will take on in the film. Over the years there have been plenty of “Superman” analogs on the pages of Marvel Comics, but not too many of them really fit the bill as “evil.” One, however, does have a bit more of a bad streak in him than the rest and an origin that’s tied to the Super Solider Serum making him a more likely option than the rest.
The MCU loves its Super Soldier Serum. First mentioned in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk as General Thunderbolt Ross’s pet project, the backstory of the original serum, and its creator, Dr. Abraham Erskine, was filled in in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. More was learned about the Serum in Captain America: Civil War and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and at current, there are about a half dozen known Super Soldiers in the MCU including Bucky Barnes, Alexei Shostakov and John Walker, all of whom are set for roles in Thunderbolts. While The Falcon and The Winter Soldier seemed like the end of the line for new Super Soldiers in the MCU, it’s possible that the “evil Superman” set to antagonize the Thunderbolts could be one of the comics’ most powerful Super Soldiers ever: Robert Reynolds, aka The Sentry.
While Doctor Erskine created the Super Soldier Serum for the United States, several countries developed their own serums and it might be the right time to find out about one more country’s work on it: Canada. In the comics, Canda’s Department K, a shady little part of the Canadian government, scraped together what they could from Project Rebirth, the Weapon Plus experiment that created Captain America, and tried to recreate the effects as part of Project: Sentry. The result of their work was a serum, The Golden Sentry Serum, that was thousands of times stronger than the U.S. version. That serum was ultimately consumed by a drug addict named Robert Reynolds, who turned into a superhero known as The Sentry.
For years, The Sentry was one of Earth’s greatest protectors; a hero amongst heroes. The Sentry found himself up against a great evil, The Void, who became his archenemy. However, when the equally powerful and destructive Void was revealed to be a part of himself, The Sentry worked with Doctor Strange and Mister Fantastic to make the entire world, including himself, forget he ever existed. This worked so incredibly well that The Void disappeared and Reynolds went on to become a balding, overweight, middle-aged man that had no idea of the power within him.
A direct adaptation of The Sentry wouldn’t truly result in an “evil Superman”, but Marvel Studios rarely directly adapts anything and just based on the little information provided above, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the character could end up in opposition to the Thunderbolts. Just exactly what to expect from the MCU’s Sentry is a little tricky to predict. If he were truly the fully powered-up version of the character from the comics, the Thunderbolts wouldn’t stand a chance against him, meaning whatever version of the Serum he takes, it probably won’t result in him gaining “the power of a million exploding suns.” But it doesn’t mean that a version of the character can’t or won’t exist, even if he’s not Candian.
All the plot really needs is someone willing to be working on Weapons Plus behind the backs of others and Thunderbolts has no shortage of people like that among its cast of characters. Harrison Ford’s Thaddeus Ross, who is rumored to be the U.S. President by the time the film rolls around, has always had an interest in the serum. Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ CIA Director Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who has been assembling the Thunderbolts for some time now, seems to have a great affinity for Super Soldiers, having collected 3 of them for her team. Other options could exist as well as the entire cast of the film isn’t known at this time. What does seem clear though, is that the true villain of the film won’t be the “evil Superman”, but whoever made him in the first place.
Given that the future of the MCU will include the X-Men, Thunderbolts is as good a time as any to learn that someone has restarted the Weapon Plus Program that, in the comics, created Weapon 1, Steve Rogers, and Weapon X, Wolverine, among its many Super Soldiers. Even Ted Sallis, aka Man-Thing, has a history with Weapon Plus in the comics. Weapon Plus had a broad reach in the comics and Phase 5 would be an ideal time to continue to add to its MCU backstory while potentially preparing for the arrival of the mutants on the scene.
Val made her Vibranium lust known in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and while it’s really hard to imagine her team of Thunderbolts being able to take on the combined might of both Wakanda and Talokan in order for her to get her hands on some (though it should be pointed out that a fully powered Sentry could do whatever he chose), the possibility that she might be connected to an ongoing, covert Weapon Plus program does bring another precious metal to mind. It’s obviously just wild speculation, but they need to do something drastic quickly to make Val’s character interesting and having her be the link from Cap to Wolverine might just do it. Should Val somehow be behind whatever they choose to call the MCU’s Project: Sentry (Project: Sentry has a nice ring to it), a lot of things start to make sense, both in the present and the future.
At the end of the day, a Super Soldier experiment gone wrong really does make for the best choice for the “evil Superman” of Thunderbolts and it isn’t much of a stretch to see how easily Robert Reynolds’ comic book origins as Sentry could be tweaked to fit the ongoing narrative of the MCU. Will he be strong enough to rip the God of War in half? Probably not. But he’ll almost certainly be strong enough to take on John Walker.