A Thunderbolts comic book storyline from 2021 supports rumors regarding who will be the villain of Marvel Studios' movie of the same name.
Recently speculation made its way online, stating that the upcoming Thunderbolts film would see the introduction of a villain akin to an “evil Superman.” Many were quick to point to Sentry as the mystery character, one Marvel Studios seems to want Ryan Gosling or Alexander Skarsgård to embody.
More dots started connecting together when a separate rumor claimed that Marvel Studios was developing a Sentry solo project.
With all that in mind, looking back at Marvel’s comic output over the last few years, there’s one storyline, in particular, that might confirm who the Thunderbolts will be dealing with: The King in Black.
Before diving into that topic, however, it’s best to refresh one’s memories of who this rumored character is in the first place.
Who Is the Sentry?
Sentry, also known as Robert Reynolds, is an extremely powerful hero in the Marvel Universe. He first appeared back in September of 2001 in his own comic series and has popped up throughout various stories since.
The character is basically a Superman-like hero. However, this particular iteration of that type of character is struggling with his evil alter-ego, known as the Void. It’s comparable to if Superman always had to worry about turning into the brutal Injustice version of the Man of Steel at any given moment.
This destructive force has killed millions of people and is a constant fear to Sentry and those around him. The threat of the Void gets so desperate that the hero ends up erasing the world’s memory of himself to keep his evil persona at bay.
So naturally, when a world-ending event such as The King in Black goes down, those in charge are going to want to send in their heavy hitters. However, in this case, it doesn’t quite go as planned.
The King in Black & the Thunderbolts
So what exactly is The King in Black about? Well, the central conflict of the 2021 comic event arises thanks to the awakening of an eldritch god of darkness named Knull. Not only that, but this mysterious enemy also happens to be the creator of the symbiote, seen in the Spider-Man comics, and rules over them all.
One of Captain America’s first moves against the god is to throw Sentry at him. Though, the chain of events takes a surprising turn for the worst when, In the very first issue of the core King in Black event, Knull ends up ripping Sentry in two, brutally murdering the insanely powered hero.
This is where the Thunderbolts come in.
The spin-off focusing on the infamous group throughout Knull’s invasion runs for three issues and takes place not too long after the villain reached Earth and encases the entire planet in a symbiote shell. The short series focuses on a newly created team under Kingpin’s command. The characters on the roster include Taskmaster, Mister Fear, Star, Batroc the Leaper, Rhino, Ampere, and Snakehead.
They’re tasked by Kingpin to find the two halves of Sentry, piece him together, and then use Star’s abilities (think a Captain Marvel-scale powerset) to trigger the dead hero’s body as if it were a bomb—one that would go off next to Knull’s base of operations.
How Could the MCU Borrow From Knull’s Event?
Now, it’s pretty clear that those exact circumstances won’t be at play in the MCU. After all, Sony Pictures almost certainly owns the sole rights to the recently created Knull—so Marvel Studios couldn’t use him without their say-so. His connection to Venom and the symbiotes also makes it even more difficult to set him up for a debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But Sentry, Marvel could easily do.
It feels unlikely that the Thunderbolts will be tasked with bringing down the Sentry themselves. It’s hard to imagine such as task being possible in the first place.
Much like how the group in the comics used Sentry’s corpse, maybe the MCU team will need to use him or his abilities. So instead of fighting him, some convincing and manipulation might be required.
Another fan theory is that Sentry will start out on the Thunderbolts’ side until something turns him evil—potentially the very same Void hidden inside of the character, whose origin in the comics is directly tied to Knull himself.
One important element to also note is how Kingpin pulls together the team in this recent 2021 iteration. For those who have connected all the dots, it sure does seem like Wilson Fisk will be the one that pulls together the Thunderbolts in the MCU—or, at the very least, does so through Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Val.
Thunderbolts Punching Above Their Weight
Marvel certainly loves its synergy. The company is notorious for adjusting its current ongoing comic stories or designs to match what is going on simultaneously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This means that they also have the ability to set certain things up in the comics before the MCU has ever touched whatever it may be. This is exactly what could be happening with the Sentry-Thunderbolts connection in The King in Black event.
Previous examples (of which some could be coincidence, in theory) are how Sam Wilson debuted as Captain America a decade before he'll have his own movie, Riri Williams was only first introduced roughly four years ago, and many believe Deadpool 3 will play off of Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe.
One of the key concerns coming from fans after the Sentry rumors landed was that the Thunderbolts team, as currently announced, stands no chance against such a powerful being. The way around that issue would be them using Robert Reynolds, like how the team did in The King of Black, instead of directly going against him.
Perhaps he’ll even be a weapon that the Thunderbolts are responsible for helping aim at a specific target. Maybe at an advanced African nation or underwater city, in which both have entire reservoirs of one of the most valuable minerals in the world.