The Avengers Definitively Ranked- Part 2: Earth’s Most Adequate Heroes
Behold: part two of our definitive ranking of the Avengers! There have been a ton of members of the mightiest super team in the Marvel Universe. Some have been greater than others. In this second part, we look at Avengers with a lot of unrecognized potential, some classic but forgotten Avengers, and some fantastic superheroes who never really managed to fit in.
As a reminder these are the rules: each hero gets ranked based on four major factors. First is their superpowers. This is Earth’s Mightiest Heroes after all. Are they powerful? Are their special abilities unique. More points are given to characters with greater powers, but also to those who can do things no one else can. Thor ranks very highly here, Hawkeye does not. Next up is their personality. Are they a team player? Would you want to be on a team with them? Captain America ranks highly in this category, Quicksilver ranks near the bottom. Third, the characters were rated in how interesting they are. This is determined by looking at how many excellent Avengers stories they appeared in, how much they contributed to those stories, and whether or not they could (and have) headlined a solo series. Spider-Man ranks highly here, Swordsman does not. Finally, there is a factor that we will call “classic Avengers status.” Preference is given to heroes that served with the team a long time, and was with the team for critical moments. Vision ranks very highly here, Wolverine has certainly been an Avenger for many issues of comics, but he does not rank as highly.
Check out Part 1 Here
Everyone on the same pager? Those four categories taken together give us the scientifically precise and irrefutable Avengers score. Today we’ll take a look at characters who excelled in one or two of our categories, but couldn’t master all four. For our purposes, there have been 96 official members of the Avengers. Again, this is not to rank them simply as characters, but also as members of the world’s most powerful super team.
First appearing the pages of “Incredible Hulk,” Firebird brings some much needed diversity to the Avengers. As one of the earliest Latina superheroes, Bonita Juarez fit right in with the Avengers, and served the West Coast team and the Avengers proper for a surprising number of issues. Unfortunately, Firebird has been largely forgotten and her fire-plus-flying powerset prevents her from filing a special niche.
One of the most powerful characters ever to exist in the Marvel universe, Bob Reynolds can channel the power of “a million exploding suns,” whatever that means. Sentry is one of many Marvel takes on Superman, but with so much continuity baggage, he’s almost not worth sorting out. In the end, Sentry, who was never entirely stable, turned out to also be The Void, a deadly villain of biblical proportions, and had to be mercy killed by the combined might of the other Avengers. Major points for power set, major penalties for being such a crazy, evil jerk.
The Ultron family is tied tightly into the Avengers. Jocasta was built to be the “bride of Ultron.” Based on Janet van Dyne’s brain patterns, Jocasta like the Vision before her, betrayed her evil robot master and joined the side of good. Being a sexy robot lady can be pretty cool (depending on who’s drawing her), but being a spawn of Ultron means she spends half the time being hacked and reverting to evil.
#61 Machine Man
Aaron Stack a.k.a. X-51 a.k.a. Machine Man is a Jack Kirby original, first appearing in the comic adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. To quote Warren Ellis he can do “robot-y things,” which all depend on how creative the writer is feeling. Machine Man’s powers and personality have never been written consistently, but most incarnations of him do not work well with others. He’s much better off working with Nextwave, and drinking beer to lubricate his robot brain.
#60 Namor, The Sub-Mariner
The Sub-Mariner is one of the very first Marvel characters. The King of the Seas, Namor has been known to beat up the Hulk when fighting close to the water, plus he can fly and do all sorts of ocean-related superfeats. He’s the one responsible for the discovery and thawing of Captain America, and turned the tide (no pun intended) in the Superhero Civil War. What’s holding Namor back? Two problems. The first is that he’s spent more time fighting the team than working with them. The second is that even when he’s an ostensible ally, he may be the jerkiest jerk in the entire Marvel Universe.
#59 Agent 13 (Sharon Carter)
Sharon Carter is one of the best agents S.H.I.E.L.D. has to offer. She’s a hardcore super-spy, and despite not having powers, she hits way above her weight class. Sharon has often worked alongside the Avengers and been their liaison to various establishment organizations, but when her boyfriend Steve Rogers was put in charge of the entire world of superheros, she officially joined the Secret Avengers. Sharon is cool, but the Avengers are not lacking in non-powered lady superspies, and the brief time she officially served on the team was mostly due to nepotism.
Alongside Iceman, Angelica Jones was one of Spider-Man’s Amazing friends in the eponymous 80s cartoon. Before Harley Quinn, Firestar was one of the first characters to make the transition from animation to comics (though not the first, that honor goes the H.E.R.B.I.E.). Like the similarly named Firebird, Firestar can do fire stuff and fly. What gives her a slight edge was being in the right place at the right time. Firestar was a key member of the team in the late 90s, and helped take down Ultron in one of the most brutal battles the Avengers ever had. She spends a lot of time bouncing from team to team, and is probably best remembered as a New Warrior.
Comic books have always loved sexy, barely dressed cat-ladies. That’s pretty much Tigra’s deal. Greer Nelson is fast, strong, has supersenses and sharp kitty claws. Also she’s covered with fur and has a tail, which doesn’t have much utility but I guess that’s what some people are into. On her superhero resume, Greer isn’t the most impressive Avenger, but she’s an Avenger through and through, joining the team in #211, and sticking with the Avengers pretty much until the team broke up in 2004. Tigra has seniority.
The Greek God of War joined the Avengers in the mid-200s. The hard drinking, hard hitting immortal is powerful, but a weird fit for the team, even serving the Green Goblin in his Dark Avengers. Weirdly, being an Avenger seemed to slowly straighten Ares out and turn him into a more nuanced character. He never gave up his rivalry with his half-brother Hercules, but he was a secret informant during Dark Reign, helping out Nick Fury and the Secret Warriors. When he died in the fight against the Sentry he was more of a hero than a ton of his teammates.
#55 Echo/Ronin (Maya Lopez)
Maya Lopez joined the team in the early days of the New Avengers as Ronin. A super-ninja with photographic reflexes (just like Taskmaster), Maya could mimic the martial arts style of anyone she fought. She was also a professional-level concert pianist, which didn’t do much for her Avengers career, but is really cool. Maya served with the team for a short time before going back to street level crime fighting and getting murdered by Count Nefaria, which is a huge bummer because Echo was totally Avengers material.
There have been a lot of superpowered folks to use the name smasher; we’re talking about Izzy Kane, who’s got the heart of an Avenger. Izzy was inspired by her grandfather, the WWII superhero The Terror to be a hero, and when working as an astronomer, she got her chance. Izzy joined the Shiar Imperial Guard and when her grandfather died, he gave her Captain America’s phone number, which she used to save the world as an Avenger. Izzy’s got a standard flying brick power set (she’s strong, indestructible, and can fly) plus all kinds of crazy supersenses. She’s truly one of the mightiest heroes in the galaxy, but went on maternity leave to raise a kid with former New Mutant Cannonball. She’s not currently an Avenger, but they’d be lucky to have her.
#53 Protector/Captain Marvel/Marvel Boy (Noh-Varr)
The Kree warrior and explorer known as Noh-Varr can’t get no respect. He’s been manipulated into doing evil a bunch of times, finally becoming an “official” Avenger under Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers (though Noh-Varr had the sense to disappear in the dead of night). Once recruited onto a proper Avengers team, he took the lame name of Protector, but his entire team refused to call him anything other than “Alien Boy.” He eventually left the team, was forced by Wolverine to make out with a floating disembodied brain, joined the Young Avengers, and alienated them too. Noh-Varr has real heroic potential, and if other superheroes would stop treating him like the butt of an endless joke, maybe he could be one of the greats.
#52 Amadeus Cho
The Eighth Smartest Man in the World (or is that seventh?) originally joined Hank Pym’s renegade Avengers during Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign. He was an effective supergenius, and used a combination of force fields, magic weaponry, and math skills to be an awesome superhero in his own right, eventually calling himself the Prince of Power (which is badass). Amadeus eventually cured Bruce Banner of being the Hulk, and became a Totally Awesome Hulk in his own right. This kid is going places.
No one would have expected that young Bobby de Costa would work his way into Avengers history, but he was given a chance and he left his mark. He joined the huge team that Cap put together in Hickman’s run, and instead of destroying the evil A.I.M. he befriended most of their workers, bought them outright, and fired the management. When the rest of the Avengers were fighting each other, or dealing with personal stuff, Sunspot stayed true and led the last heroic vestige of the team in “Time Runs Out.” Despite the name, his later team Avengers Idea Mechanics is not accepted as an official Avengers team, but it’s clear that a combination of wealth, charm, superpwers, and heart are going to keep Sunspot from being forgotten.
#50 Wonder Man
Actor turned superhero Simon Williams is a classic Avenger. He’s super powerful, made of pure energy, and the Vision’s mind is basically a backup of Simon’s. He proudly served the West Coast Avengers for most of the team’s existence. In more recent years, Simon has really lost his way. He feels betrayed by the Avengers, and has bounced between serving them and thwarting them depending on his mood swings and the writer. Simon should take a long vacation, come back to the team with a sound mind, and become the Avenger he’s supposed to be.
#49 Black Widow
Despite her prominent role in the Avengers movies, Black Widow is not a classic Avenger. She was an early enemy of the team, evolving into becoming something more like a frenemy, but still was not trusted or relied upon. Eventually she became a trusted agent of Nick Fury, then a partner of Daredevil, and despite teaming up with (and often betraying) the Avengers, she wasn’t really a full-time member. She joined the team in the early 90s and even led it, before leaving again. Then, the Avengers movie came out and suddenly everyone started acting like Natasha was a founding member, trusting her implicitly. Of all the superspies to be an Avenger, she’s probably the most talented, but she loses points for being a long time foe and loses points again for the audacity of ignoring her history with the team.
#48 Captain Britain
Brian Braddock has spent more time teaming up with the Avengers than being an official member, and not doing very much. He accepted official membership right after Dark Reign, was sidelined for a while before running some missions for the Secret Avengers and then becoming an ally of Black Panther’s Illuminati. Brian hasn’t been much of an Avenger- but he should be. On a team that is supposed to represent the entire Earth, there seems to be a lot of American representation. Brian should be the proud, powerful member from the U.K., bringing strength, magical expertise, and interdimensional know-how to the team.
Crystalia Amaquelin is mostly connected to the Avengers through her relationship with longtime member Quicksilver, her ex-husband and father of her daughter. Crystal is a member of the Inhuman royal family and has the power to control the four classical elements, giving her essentially the powers of the Avatars Aang and Korra. Unlike most Inhumans, Crystal has spent a lot of time serving on other superhero teams and has proven herself to be compassionate, loyal, and powerful. All are traits you look for in a mighty Avenger.
#47 Human Torch
Jim Hammond is considered the first Marvel superhero, and has a very complicated relationship with Avengers membership. Jim is a synthetic man, built by professor Phineas Horton in World War II. Johnny Storm named himself after Jim Hammond, and later Jim’s body was repurposed as the original body of the Vision. Human Torch first joined up with the West Coast Avengers, and has served with a few Avengers teams since. He is back at large in the Marvel Universe, with a happening new costume, and he gets major points for his professionalism, friendly attitude, and classic status.
There have been many versions of this Marvel take on Superman, this is the man known as Marc Milton, originally from Earth-13034, transplanted to the proper Marvel world. Unlike many Hyperions from many dimensions, this Marc has always maintained a big heart, and during his time with the Avengers, looked for non-violent solutions to problems, despite his immense power. Hyperion’s most notable claim to fame is his epic bromance with the mighty Thor, the two of them (temporarily) dying at each other’s side as the universe ended in 2015’s Secret Wars. Hyperion is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe but remains humble and supportive.
#45 Agent Venom (Flash Thompson)
Flash Thompson checks a lot of awesome boxes. As a disabled war veteran, he knows the meaning of sacrifice and heroism and as a steely-willed badass, he’s controlled the Venom symbiote better than anyone who’s ever bonded with it. Flash teamed up with the Avengers a few times before becoming an official member of the Secret Avengers, a team that utilized his skills perfectly. He left Earth for spacefaring adventures but he’s got the power and the control to be an Avenger.
Wendell Vaughn is extremely powerful: with his Quantum Bands he can control energy, and do whatever the writers think that means. Vaughn was given official membership in “Avengers” #305, and served the team briefly before heading into space to deal with galactic-scale threats, dying, returning, and quietly training his successor. Quasar is crazy-powerful, but he really shines in his professional demeanor. This guy was meant to be a superhero. Always even keeled, willing to take responsibility, and willing to do the right thing, Quasar sets a gold standard for Avenging.
#43 Two-Gun Kid
In the 1870s, Harvard graduated attorney Matthew Hawk picked up a couple of pistols and became a cowboy vigilante. He of course came to the present through time travel, befriended She-Hulk and Hawkeye, and became first a reserve Avenger (in #147) and then a full member (in #174). Cowboy superheroes are awesome, and Matt’s a total gentleman, plus he’s bright enough to take time travel in stride. At some point, Two-Gun Kid will travel back to his time of origin, get older and die in his late 90s in a hospital bed, the day the world learns about Captain America in the 1940s.
#42 Blue Marvel
A veteran of the Korean War, Doctor Adam Brashear quietly spent his life being a Silver Age super-scientist, exploring the Negative Zone, and eventually becoming one of the smartest and most powerful superheroes ever. Blue Marvel has that ever important trifecta of brains, powers and heart. His anti-matter powers give him a slew of abilities, including immortality. His genius puts him on a level with Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man and Dr. Doom. But unlike those three, Doctor Brashear works hard to be a good person. He joined Luke Cage’s Avengers and then set his sights higher with the Ultimates.
#41 Shang Chi
The Master of Kung Fu didn’t join the Avengers until recently, but he obviously deserves a spot there. A lot of Avengers get by on their martial arts skills alone. Shang Chi is the most skilled unpowered martial artist in the Marvel Universe. If he does have a superpower, it’s being Bruce Lee. Who wants to mess with that?
Eden Fesi was one of Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors, and with them he discovered he had a greater destiny than playing heavy metal guitar. Manifold is probably the most powerful teleporter in the Marvel Universe, and upon joining the Avengers, found a quiet, professional dignity in serving the team. Good teleporters are in short supply outside of the X-Men, and Eden combines his power with a mind for complicated problem solving. He should be a mainstay with the Avengers.
#39 Captain America/Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes)
As the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes has never been an official Avenger, but after Steve Rogers “died” (it’s complicated, time travel, comic book stuff, etc.) Bucky picked up the shield and led the New Avengers as Captain America through Secret Invasion and the Dark Reign. It was a tough time for the team, but major props for going from brainwashed Soviet super-assassin to inspirational team leader. Bucky has moved on to a more black ops role, but his leadership of the Avengers will not be forgotten.
The size changing extended Pym/Lang/van Dyne family has a long history with the Avengers. Young Cassie Lang was an early member of the Young Avengers before becoming a full Avenger on Hank Pym’s renegade team during Dark Reign. As the first Young Avenger to get full Avenger status, Cassie didn’t embarrass herself, in fact she did well. Unfortunately, as soon as she returned to her first team, she was killed by Dr. Doom, later revived, and now is staying off of team based heroics.
#37 Black Knight
First of all, Dane Whitman is awesome. He’s got a magic sword, is immune to magic, has a flying horse named Aragorn, and his heart is literally made of stone. What’s more, Black Knight was one of the first addition to the Avengers, joining in issue #71 as the 14th member. Dane seems to be constantly forgotten, which is a shame because he’s awesome, classic, and fights against his better nature to remain good, despite evil curses and blood thirsty swords.
#36 Ant Man (Scott Lang)
While the original Ant Man, Hank Pym, switches identities every other week, Scott Lang has stepped up as the one true Ant Man. He didn’t officially join the team until 2002… and was killed in 2004. Still, for that brief tenure, Scott filled the role of Ant Man, crucial to the Avengers legacy, and did a better job than the original. He helped fight Kang and to bring down the Red Skull. Scott is loyal, sweet, unassuming, and a bit of a scoundrel. In other words, perfect Avengers material.
Psychics are usually mutants for some reason. Heather Douglas is the exception, and one of the best. Moondragon joined the Avengers in 1976, and served for longer than you may think. She went on to fight alongside her father Drax the Destroyer as an important member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Besides being a powerful telepath, Heather is educated in galactic lore, has a powerful and ass-kicking girlfriend Phylla-Vell (pictured above), and has the power to turn into a dragon- but only once, and she can’t turn back! Moondragon is a cool, classic Avenger; the team was lucky to have her.
The Mighty Hercules is sort of Thor, but more of a lout. He drinks more, parties more, and is sort of an idiot, but he’s a lovable idiot. He’s also one of the earliest additions to the team, joining in “Avengers” #45 as the 11th member of the team. Despite his flaws, Herc is a true hero, and fights through every challenge he’s faced with, even death. Hercules has the big stupid heart of an Avenger.
And with that, we’ve made it through part 2. The Avengers have had their share of misfits and freaks, but they’ve also had their share of boring regular superpeople, if such a thing exists. After looking at the worst Avengers and a mix of disappointments and heroes with a lot of potential, it’s finally time to look at the best of the best, the mightiest of the mighty. Come back for part 3!
In the meantime, what do you think? Was I too harsh on someone? Not harsh enough? Sound off in the comments!
Key words: marvel, avengers, earth’s mightiest heroes, ranking