The MCU Is Ignoring The Easiest Way To Bring Back An Underrated Phase 4 Villain

Bucky Barnes in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with Ghost, Red Guardian, and Yelena Belova in Thunderbolts*

Daniel Brühl has recently teased his return to the MCU as Baron Zemo, and this should have happened in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Thunderbolts*, but he has curiously been omitted from the Phase 5 crossover movie. Brühl first appeared as Zemo in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War with a vendetta against the Avengers for the collateral damage they’ve caused. After successfully splitting up the Avengers, Zemo joined Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in Phase 4’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to take on the Flag Smashers, but it’s been unclear since when and where the charismatic villain could show up next.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended with Zemo being imprisoned in the Raft, leaving his future in the MCU uncertain. However, in a conversation with Screen Rant in June 2024, Daniel Brühl commented on his potential return to the MCU as Zemo, noting that the villain is “still not dead.”Brühl neglected to go into any detail about when or where Baron Zemo might reappear, though with his former tenuous teammates Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes set to return in Phase 5, there is an opportunity for Zemo to join them, particularly in one upcoming crossover movie.

Zemo Should Have Returned In Thunderbolts*

Zemo Led The First Thunderbolts Team In Marvel Comics

First Thunderbolts* promo image featuring Valentina, Ghost, Red Guardian, Yelena, Bucky, US Agent, and Taskmaster

Several past MCU villains and antiheroes will be returning in 2025’s Thunderbolts*, but it’s the villains that won’t be featured in Thunderbolts* inaugural cast that have caused a stir. Shortly after Bucky Barnes, Yelena Belova, Red Guardian, Ghost, Taskmaster, US Agent, and Valentina were confirmed as the first Thunderbolts team, many expressed concern that several perfect villainous candidates from the MCU’s history had been ignored. This includes Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo, whose direct connection with the group in Marvel Comics and experience as a powerful villain-turned-antihero in the MCU made him a clear choice.

Baron Helmut Zemo’s relationship with the Thunderbolts in Marvel Comics dates back to the team’s very first appearance in 1997’s The Incredible Hulk #449. The first Thunderbolts team was actually Zemo’s villainous Masters of Evil disguised as heroes to replace the Avengers following their battle against Onslaught. The fact that Zemo was the Thunderbolts’ original leader in Marvel Comics makes it even more of a shame that he won’t be included in the MCU movie. This is especially true since his Phase 4 story saw him receive some redemption, making him a great fit for the team.

Where Zemo Could Return In The MCU Instead

Zemo Could Have A Bright Future In The MCU Outside Of Thunderbolts*

Zemo in his purple mask in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Even though Baron Zemo likely won’t be making an appearance in Thunderbolts*, Daniel Brûhl’s comments suggest that he will be coming back in a different upcoming MCU project. Following his Phase 4 adventure with Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, either Captain America: Brave New World or Thunderbolts* would have made the most sense for Zemo to return. Nevertheless, Zemo has opposed many other heroes since his Marvel Comics debut in 1973, so he could reappear in any number of upcoming MCU projects.

Zemo has been a recurring adversary of the Avengers for much of his Marvel Comics history, so he could be one of the multiple villains recently teased to be appearing in Phase 6’s Avengers 5, as perhaps one of a number of powerful foes somehow released from the Raft. Zemo has also battled Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, so Daniel Brühl could return in Tom Holland’s next MCU trilogy. With recent speculation of Hawkeye season 2, Zemo’s rivalry with the archer could also be explored in live-action, meaning the villain could have a bright future even without an appearance in Thunderbolts*.

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