This is gonna hurt. There’s no time for monologues, no room for banter, nor words. There’s no honor in combat, for victory goes to only the most ruthless of combatants. One-sided beatdowns have been a staple of comics since Captain America punched Hitler right in the face, from displaying a new character’s power level without use of a DBZ Scanner, to delivering the most cathartic of thrashings to those who had it coming. Whether you’ve just listened to the seminal “Last Resort” by Papa Roach, need to give your thumbs a rest from playing Injustice 2, or just watched Leonardo DiCaprio fight a bear — it’s a whooping you’re-a-wanting. We got you covered with 15 of the most brutal, no-holds-barred, pocket-sand flinging flights to have ever appeared in comics.
Seems odd to have rules for no-holds-barred beatdowns; however, we do have a few in order to qualify for this listicle. We’re highlighting one-sided fights, not compiling torture-porn, so both sides must be able to throw out at least one attack in order to qualify, making scenes like the death of Jason Todd unfortunately ineligible. Entries are mostly ranked based on a combination of brutality, thematic significance and the creativity of the fighting moves utilized.
15. ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA VS. GIANT-MAN
Captain America “supervises” the arrest of Hank Pym for super spousal abuse in The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Nick Fury orders Cap to return, and a helicopter pilot delivers an Ozymandias-worthy response: “Sorry, General, but we air-dropped Captain America four minutes ago, sir.”
Captain America roughs up Hank to start, goading him to get big to make it a fair fight. An intoxicated Hank embiggens, and Cap smiles. Little does the naked Giant-Man know that he’s just made it so much easier for Cap to hit him right in the junk. Cap trounces Giant-Man with a conveniently located construction site, pulling off second-story fish-hooks and makeshift trash-shield trick shots. The deployment team arrive just in time for Captain America to get one last lick in: “How big do you feel now?”
14. X-23 VS. DOCTOR ZANDER RICE
With the facility that created her minutes away from exploding, Laura is faced with a classic hero’s dilemma in X-23 #6 (2005) by Craig Kyle, Chris Yost and Billy Tan: Walk away, and start a family, or return to the facility and curb-stomp your nemesis? Dr. Zander Rice tags X-23 with a few pistol rounds at the start of the fight, immediately qualifying this as a fight.
There are only eleven minutes left before the charges X-23 planted detonate, so she intends to make the following 10 minutes of Zander’s life last as long as possible. Zander was one of the doctors in charge of engineering X-23, wasting no opportunity to torture her as payback for Wolverine killing his father. Therefore, Laura sheathes her adamantium-laced claws, making this beatdown more personal. Finally, X-23 walks out right as the timer hits zero like an absolute badass.
13. ZEUS VS. HULK
Zeus responds to the Hulk’s challenge against the Greek Pantheon by crashing down in a thunderbolt, ready to bro-down in Incredible Hulks #622 by Grek Pak and Paul Pelletier. Hulk has basically just shrugged off the entirety of Greek mythology while climbing Mount Olympus, but “The Strongest One There Is” is garbage compared to Zeus. With one punch, Zeus shatters Hulk’s ribcage, causing him to vomit a keg of Ecto Cooler’s worth of green blood.
Zeus could vaporize Hulk with a thought, but Zeus has his reasons: “I’m granting this blasphemer’s request to be beaten to death by hand.” Hulk intends to sacrifice himself so that his Hulk-family could be healed from being superheroes. Zeus answers Hulk’s request: “Offering yourself as a sacrifice. Dying for other people’s sins. Wrong religion.” Zeus’ next lightning-laced strike sends Hulk flying, crippling him for days.
12. PUNISHER VS. STILT-MAN
The Punisher reintroduces himself to the super villain community by nailing The All-New Stilt-Man in the crotch with a light anti-tank weapon in Punisher War Journal #1 (2012) by Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti. Honestly, when you’re tanking an explosive round with your genitals, the weapon is anything but “light.” Regardless, the top half of Stilt-Man (the man half) survives the hit, unable to feel his non-stilt, non-vaporized legs before Frank kills him.
At Stilt-Man’s wake, a bar full of liquored up villains engage in a brawl in honor of Stilt-Man. When they begin vomiting blood however, the villains realize the bartender poisoned them — right as The Punisher detonates the explosives hidden in the kerosene soaked establishment. An RPG to the genitals is impressive, but going for the hat trick with just a fake mustache for a disguise is beautifully savage.
11. BILLY BUTCHER VS. PAYBACK
Lured into a a fake hospital, Butcher orders The Boys to retreat as he is pursued by Payback, The Boys‘ version of The Avengers in The Boys #32 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (2010). It’s five against one, with only Butcher’s bulldog Terror serving as backup. Frenchie summarizes the situation: “Pauvre Payback. I almost feel sorrow for them. They are stuck in there with him.”
Discovering The Crimson Countess strangled by Butcher’s belt, Payback’s telepath Mind-Droid receives a psychic message from Butcher: “You’re next, *****.” Butcher wastes no time, throwing crushed glass into Stormfront’s one good eye. With their Nazi Superman disabled, what remains of Payback fails to rally as Butcher operates in the shadows, braining Swatto with a pickaxe before decapitating Mind-Droid with a shovel. Soldier Boy, missing a nose that Butcher bit off, crawls away as the scene cuts before Butcher finishes proving his namesake.
10. WOLVERINE VS. CYBER
Seeking to make a profit from selling adamantium, Cyber uses his brain-tracking powers to hunt down Wolverine in order to to claim his adamantium bones in the delightfully named “Cyber! Cyber! Burning Bright!” from Wolverine #79 (1994) by Larry Hama and Adam Kubert. Cyber, one of the few individuals to terrify Wolverine, is practically designed to take Logan down, augmented with adamantium-coated skin and claws laced with a variety of poisons and crunchy hallucinogens.
Wolverine ruins Cyber’s payout by popping out bone claws, seizing the moment by attempting to tear off Cyber’s fleshy face. Cyber is just disappointed, catching Wolverine’s fist. Slightly inconvenienced by the face-scratch, Cyber snaps Logan’s bone claws right out of his forearm with a precise stomp. This move not only gives Logan night terrors, but in the time it takes to heal, Logan wonders if he can even still be The Wolverine.
9. SQUIRREL GIRL VS. DOCTOR DOOM
Squirrel Girl has a win record against villains who you would think be out of her power tier, like Thanos; however, we devoted this entry to Squirrel Girl’s first victory from Marvel Super Heroes #8 (1992) by Steve Ditko and Will Murray. Squirrel Girl summons a dreadful dray of squirrels to swarm Doom, who screams “Not like this!” Doom uses a trapdoor to escape, losing his cloak in the process. Doom dives into a river, losing his mask, which Doreen gives to Iron Man like it’s no big deal. Deadpool/GLI clarifies that this was not in fact a Doombot.
For a man whose armor is powered by ego, getting absolutely humiliated by a teenager with the power of squirrel is substantially more painful than any injury ever could be for Dr. Doom. When Squirrel Girl infiltrates Latveria, a terrified Doom shows no resistance, pointing Doreen to her objective.
8. THANOS VS. THE ULTIMATES
Captain Marvel leads The Ultimates in ambushing Thanos in Civil War II by Brian Micael Bendis and David Marquez. What’s particularly brutal about this battle is that The Ultimates have precognitive knowledge of Thanos appearing, and yet Thanos still sweeps the team as the mission goes “absolute FUBAR” to quote Captain Marvel.
Marvel’s plan for her team is to keep Thanos off his feat by striking hard and fast before switching out. The plan falls through when Thanos grabs Medusa by the hair, flinging her into War Machine. Rhodey’s attack is interrupted, causing him to perform friendly fire by hitting She-Hulk with a warhead. Using the subsequent smokescreen as cover, Thanos advances, channeling his inner One-Punch-Man by blasting out a distracted War Machine’s spine with one gorgeous strike. The Ultimates retreat with a comatose She-Hulk and dead War Machine, while Thanos is totally chill.
7. DONATELLO VS. BEBOP AND ROCKSTEADY
The original gruesome twosome, Bebop and Rocksteady, have been picked by Shredder for a special mission: kill the absolute shell out of a lone Donatello in IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #44 (2012) by Cory Smith and Kevin Eastman. We quickly discover that this ain’t no Saturday morning cartoon, as Donnie’s battle banter is cut short by Bebop, the warthog-man in the sickest shutter shades, cracking a keyboard across Donnie’s face. Bebop questions the combat effectivity of the Bo-Staff by snapping it in two before Rocksteady introduces Donnie to a real weapon, Juniper The Sledgehammer.
With Bebop pinning Donatello down, Rocksteady — or Rock, if you’re nasty — charges from across the room to score a direct hit, shattering Donnie’s shell. Left for dead, Donnie only survives this bout by becoming a cyborg. To recap: Bebop and Rocksteady beat a ninja turtle so bad that it turned into Robocop.
6. SUPERBOY PRIME VS. EVERYONE
Connor Kent answers the door to discover Superboy Prime, who intends to explain why he is one the one true Superboy with his fists in Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez. Krypto joins the fray, earning a vicious throat kick that sends the canine Kryptonian comrade ricochetting halfway across Smallville. Connor calls in the Teen Titans who call in both The Doom Patrol and Justice Society of America. That’s 28 superheroes facing one hormonal Kryptonian teenager that cannot even deal right now.
Things escalate when Superboy Prime accidentally decapitates Pantha. Simultaneously trying to emotionally process his first murder and a crisis’ worth of angry heroes, Prime snaps, ripping off Risk’s arm and killing Bushido and Baby Wildebeest with tear-filled heat-vision. Every Flash affiliate bum-rushes Prime to trap him in the Speed Force, ultimately giving Superboy Prime time to build some sweet Anti-Monitor armor.
5. DEADPOOL VS. THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
It’s hard to choose just one fight from Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe (2012) by Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic, as Deadpool’s murdering only gets more marvelous as he, well, kills the Marvel Universe. Fully aware that he is a comic book character, Deadpool seeks to cease his fellow creative properties’ suffering by destroying his universe with some quality comic research.
With total genre awareness, Deadpool sweeps the entire Marvel universe (except maybe Taskmaster) with pragmatic solutions. Avengers? Ant-sized explosives. Wolverine? Healing factor hindering Carbonadium blade. Magneto? Acidic Jello cube. Practically every villain and The Punisher are killed by utilizing a kidnapped Puppet Master. Our favorite moment, however, is when Professor X tries to shut down Deadpool’s mind. Deadpool smiles as Professor X’s brain hemorrhages, unable to handle the truth that they are all pieces of fiction.
4. THOR VS. IRON MAN
After having his name tarnished with a grotesque clone, The Odinson decides to set things straight with Stark in Thor #3 (2007) by J. Michael Stracynzski and Olivier Coipel. Thor responds to Tony Stark’s arrogant monologue with two direct lightning strikes. A full volley of repulsor blasts doesn’t even phase Thor, as Tony boosts in for a physical strike only to be swatted away with Mjolnir.
This is Thor not holding back, summoning one gargantuan thunderbolt down that fries Tony’s armor. Holding Tony’s helpless form with one hand, Thor tears off Tony’s faceplate to deliver one last smackdown: “Give your orders and ultimatums to those who choose to obey, or are too cowardly to fight. Not to me. Or learn again the difference between a God of Thunder — and a mortal man in a metal suit.” Finally, Thor forces Tony to perform a walk-of-shame home in his ruined armor.
The Viltrumite Empire has sent their one-man army, Conquest, to take over the assimilation of Earth in Invincible #61 by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley. Conquest — whose name reflects his flawless combat record — does not fight for honor nor Viltrumite — he fights because it’s fun. Wanting to make this beatdown last, Conquest monologues during the entire fight, specifically reminding Mark that he’s Earth’s last hope — so stop holding back. Invincible may be Earth’s strongest hero, but Conquest shatters his bones with every strike, snapping Oliver’s arm just by grabbing it.
Invincible hits his limit break when Conquest punches straight through Atom Eve with a beautiful “Splugck!” Fueled now by dead-girlfriend, Mark’s next strike shatters his own arm and Conquest’s robot hand. Even when Mark’s other arm is mangled, he has enough head-butts left to turn Conquest’s face into a puddle of meat and teeth.
2. MAGNETO REALIZES THE OBVIOUS
Despite their many skirmishes, Magneto quits messing around and performs the most obvious move ever when he rips the adamantium right off of Wolverine’s bones in X-Men #25 (1993) by Fabian Nicieza and Andy Kubert. Magneto has blacked out the Earth with a planet-wide pulse wave, prompting the X-Men, led by an ambulatory Professor X in an exoskeleton, to launch a suicide run on Magneto’s orbital fortress of Avalon. Magneto gets real when Wolverine rips Magneto’s shirt.
How is Magneto, “The Master of Magnetism,” gonna deal with a charging a little Canadian with a metal skeleton? With one hand, Magneto calls tendrils of adamantium to burst out of Logan’s flesh. Wolverine barely survives, with a healing factor that is hindered for months to come. Can you imagine how dumb Magneto felt for taking 18 years to try that move?
1. BANE BREAKS THE BAT
An exhausted Batman returns home to find Bane waiting, ready to fulfill his life’s purpose of breaking The Bat in Batman #497 by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo. Any Amygdala could break Batman’s bones, but Bane wants to break his spirit. Bane orchestrates a prison break to exhaust Batman, making him want for death before a single punch is thrown. Batman gets one good hit in, to which Bane responds, “You are already broken.”
To ensure Batman’s defeat is absolute, Bane juices up on a fresh batch of Venom — a substance Batman couldn’t handle — to augment his already superior physique. Bane exquisitely curb-stomps Batman, crushing him under the Giant Penny before throwing him through the display case for Jason Todd’s uniform. Draped in his greatest failure, Batman discovers how much further he can fall as Bane shatters his spine over his knee.
What brutal one-sided battle was your favorite? Should we have included Supergirl versus Lobo? Darkseid fighting Batman in Apokolips armor? Despero versus The Justice League? Let us know in the comments!
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