Down the barrel of a gun ot through the scope of a hunting bow, regardless of where it comes, the viewpoint of a character about to take a make-or-break shot has resulted in some of the most iconic covers in Marvel history: think The Punisher’s first appearance, on the cover of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #129, catching the wall-crawler in his sights and just about to pull the trigger.
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Not that it’s only the weaponized vigilantes of the Marvel Universe who need to be a crack shot. There are all sorts of heroes and villains that throw, fling, or shoot their weapon of choice at their enemies of choice, where hitting a target is of the utmost importance. Some have the help of superpowers to steady their aim; others rely on a sniper scope; some of them are just natural sharpshooters. From archers to assassins, here are the best shots: the top 15 Marvel Marskmen (and women!)
Firing guns or loosing arrows is all well and good, but have you ever tried throwing a playing card? Those things aren’t aerodynamic. To successfully throw a playing card accurately, you either need to be a magician, a street hustler, or else Remy LeBeau. The cajun X-Man better known as Gambit has the mutant ability to charge items with pure kinetic energy. For some reason, he decides to channel that energy into decks of playing cards and then fling them at people. Each to his own.
It’s a brilliant visual flourish from Jim Lee, who created the character with writer Chris Claremont, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. That’s not to take away from the phenomenal aim he needs to hit anything with those flimsy bits of cardboard. Sometimes those targets are as big as Sentinels, but he’s also went up against Wolverine and Sabretooth (you need to hit those guys from a distance, lest they claw your eyes out) and in “Age of X” charged up an antique rifle to hit his target.
14. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Have you ever played a game of frisbee? It’s fun, sure, but it’s not an exact science. Part of the reason to play is to watch people run and dive dramatically to catch passes which have gone way off course. It’s not the most respected sport, but there’s a reason Ultimate Frisbee exists. You’ve got to have skills to play frisbee professionally. Now, imagine how much the already difficult act of frisbee throwing would be if it was made of a heavy, bulletproof metal. And you had to catch it yourself after throwing it.
Sounds complicated, but Steve Rogers does it every other day. Or he did, before his bit of Hydra mind-control business, ceding his round shield to Sam Wilson. No matter who’s wielding the shield, and whoever’s currently in possession of the Captain America title, they have to be a good shot in order to make any use of that shield. Being able to hit moving targets, non-lethally, with that vibranium-steel alloy frisbee, and then catch it when it bounces back makes for a true marksman.
13. SHARON CARTER
Sharon Carter, known also by the codename Agent 13, followed in the footsteps of her great-aunt Peggy both in joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and dating Steve Rogers. She went a little further than her ancestor ever managed with either. During her time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she pulled off a number of tricky espionage operations and teamed up with Captain America against the likes of A.I.M., Hydra and the Red Skull. She was good enough to become both a mercenary during some wilderness years and held a brief tenure as Executive Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sharon’s most lasting legacy, behind the barrel of a gun or otherwise, is notably less heroic. At the end of the original “Civil War” crossover miniseries, Steve Rogers is shot: once in the shoulder by a sniper, and then three times in the chest by another unseen assailant. In “Captain America” #25, it’s revealed that the person who took the first shot was longtime Cap adversary Crossbones. The one who finished him off was Sharon, having been hypnotized by Dr. Faustus to do the deed. Presumably, sadistically, though, the steady arm was all her own.
Sharon made her name for a whole new generation of comic fans as the unwitting orchestrator of “The Death of Captain America,” but Brock Rumlow has made a career out of his sharpshooting skills. And his hand-to-hand fighting skills. And for having spring-loaded stiletto knives that pop out of his gloves. Really, Crossbones is an all-round killing machine, benefiting from a combination of extensive training in martial arts, street-fighting, marksmanship and legit military strategy.
A young ruffian who was enlisted to join Taskmaster’s school for criminals, proving himself by killing one of fellow Cap enemy Diamondback’s brothers, he’s a sort of anti-Batman. Poor, little prospects, but with all the honing of body and mind that comes with being trained by a supervillain, and with a strangely balletic grace for a man his size. He’s also a crack shot, as evidenced by his part in taking down Steve Rogers, stopping Bullseye from assassinating the Red Skull and countless other successful mercenary jobs in his early years.
11. NICK FURY
Does having one eye make it harder or easier to squint through the scope of a rifle? Either way, the patch never hindered Nick Fury’s skill with a gun. Throughout his tenure as an Agent and then Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he never shied away from field operations, despite lacking any superpowers besides the impressive arsenal afforded to him by his covert government agency. Following his time as a Sergeant in the army, Fury has continued to wield a gun in most of his missions.
Then there’s the secret history of Nick Fury, the work he was doing whilst on top of his existing S.H.I.E.L.D. duties. In “Original Sin” it was revealed that, since the ‘50s, Fury had also been operating as the so-called “Man on the Wall,” a covert defender of the Earth from interplanetary attack. Inheriting the role from a murdered alien, Fury decided to be more proactive in his approach, using a sci-fi rifle to take out threats to his home planet before they could attack. Sniping requires skill. You have to assume that goes doubly so for sniping in low-gravity.
10. THE WINTER SOLDIER
The end of “Original Sin” saw Nick Fury finally retire from his “Man on the Wall” position, after decades of service. His choice of replacement was Bucky Barnes, the former boy sidekick of Captain America who returned after years M.I.A. as the brainwashed Russian operative The Winter Soldier. While Steve Rogers was still frozen in ice, his protege was kidnapped by Soviet agents and trained up to become one of the most ruthless and mysterious assassins on Earth.
The Winter Soldier was so adept at leaving no trace, few actually believed he existed. Which is why it took Cap so long to find him. The metal arm and military training certainly helped with these secret assassinations, as did a steady aim. You don’t tend to “leave no traces” if you’re taking people down in the usual bombastic, blockbuster fisticuffs fashion. It requires sneaky, accurate shooting followed by an equally well-planned escape.
It’s in his name, his job description, and most of his comic book appearances, but Deadpool’s best-known quality isn’t his skill at killing. Mainly he’s the goofy fourth-wall breaking antidote to the dour soap opera drama of the “X-Men.” Truth is, though, he’s pretty good at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice. The “Merc With a Mouth” is both: a smart-ass wise-cracker and a highly-trained killer who keeps getting hired in spite of his jabbering.
Because Wade Wilson has very definitely killed people. A lot of people. Sometimes it’s also played for laughs, and is done using the self-consciously cartoony manner of high explosives, dropping victims off cliffs or hitting them in clown cars, but he’s still almost as adept with conventional weaponry as The Punisher. In early appearances, he was less of a comedic figure, and more just a talented merc who was as skilled with hand-to-hand combat as he was guns. He’s got to at least a good a shot as Deathstroke, right?
8. THE PUNISHER
Frank Castle is a total expert with any weapon you hand him. Guns. Knives. Guns which fire knives. He can turn almost anything into an implement for killing. He’s like Jason Bourne, except instead of just slapping a guy with a rolled-up magazine he’d shove it down his throat, toss him out a window and then set fire to him. The Punisher tends to go for the over-the-top approach in pursuit of his particular brand of vigilante justice, but that’s not to say he hasn’t had his moments of elegant, expert marksmanship.
He’s military-trained, after all. Thanks to the compression of real history in Marvel time, Castle has been depicted as a veteran of numerous wars in succession (most recently, the first Iraqi conflict,) but there has always been one constant: he was a United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper. Bringing those skills back to the streets of New York and honing them into a unique form of urban guerrilla warfare, The Punisher is trained to hit an enemy from miles across a sand dune, but can just as easily hit a street hood from a Brooklyn rooftop.
Cable doesn’t actually need to be all that great a shot. In the hands of Rob Liefeld and the other ’90s artists who brought the future son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey to the pages of “X-Force,” the tank-sized mutant was frequently seen wielding a machine gun that was as big as him. Surprisingly, super strength is not his superpower (nor is “ability to generate endless pouches). Nathan Summers inherited his mother’s telepathy and telekinetic abilities, but he’s also an expert marksman along with that.
As with the Winter Soldier, his accuracy when aiming is aided in no small part by cybernetic enhancements. He, too, has a metal arm, although his techno-organic limbs are thanks to a futuristic infection. The real trump card is his cybernetic eye, which allows him to see farther than the regular human eye can into the infrared spectrum. It also operates as a “Terminator”-style targeting system, meaning he rarely misses. Cheating, maybe, but it works!
A teacher isn’t much worth his salt if his students don’t, at some point, surpass him. But Taskmaster’s focus has always been on villainy rather than education, so unfortunately for former pupil Crossbones, he ranks higher on the list of Marvel’s best marksmen. Tony Masters can perfectly copy the movements of anybody he watches. It’s not clear if this is a superpower or some sort of acute photographic memory, but it makes for a formidable opponent. Simply by spying on Captain America, he can mimic his skill with shield-throwing.
He’s stolen Iron Fist’s martial arts skills, copied some of Black Panther’s more high-flying moments of gymnastic agility, and repeated the sword skills of the Silver Samurai. His muscle memory is uncanny, but he cannot copy superpowers, and has to keep his body in top physical form in order to repeat the movement of those he sees. He could stare at Bullseye all he wanted, but if he was overweight or out of shape and sprained his arm when he threw a dagger, it wouldn’t work. Thankfully, he’s not, and that makes him a deadly shot, along with everything else.
5. HAWKEYE (CLINT BARTON)
No surprise that the purple-clad Avengers mainstay would appear on here. It’s in his title, after all. Clint Barton, or Hawkeye as he’s known to the majority of the population, is one of those tricksy superheroes who doesn’t actually have superpowers. His “superpower” is that he’s practiced with a bow and arrow. A lot. Raised in the circus after being orphaned at a young age, he was taught to be a master archer by Trick Shot, whose tutelage came as a way of repaying a gambling debt to the circus’s owner.
As was perhaps inevitable for a man with that name, Trick Shot has since become a supervillain and Hawkeye has defeated him numerous times. He surpassed his teacher and then some. The Avengers count gamma-irradiated giants, men in robot suits and literal Norse gods among their membership. For Clint Barton to have become the bedrock of the team, you know his archery skills aren’t only above average, but also they single him out as one of the best shots in the Marvel Universe.
4. HAWKEYE (KATE BISHOP)
There is somebody hot on Clint Barton’s heels in terms of being the best archer, however. He needed a rough-and-tumble childhood of bouncing between foster homes and carny training to become the crackshot Avengers mainstay he is today. Kate Bishop has been doing this since she was a teenager. The second Hawkeye, a Young Avenger who retained her borrowed codename even after the original returned from the “dead,” didn’t even have the difficult childhood to harden her.
Being born into money meant more money for archery lessons. Already strong, independent and skilled at staying cool under pressure, Kate-Hawkeye doubled down on her training after being mugged as a kid. She has more than held her own against Clint-Hawkeye, earning his respect in a back-up story around the time of “Civil War” and since co-headlining “Hawkeye” books where she has shown perhaps an even greater marksmanship with arrows, trick or otherwise, than her predecessor.
Some marksmen in the Marvel Universe got their deadeye through diligent study and learned to hold an arm steady as a result of hours of practice. Others have the superhuman ability to bend reality to their will and, subsequently, increase their luck. The latter is the case for Longshot, the genetically-engineered “X-Men” ally created in a lab to star in the murderous reality shows produced by recurring mutant baddie Mojo. Longshot eventually used his powers to hop through reality and hang out in the relative safety of the X-Mansion.
He’s suffered from amnesia on-and-off, but Longshot has never forgotten about his supernatural ability to change his luck. Hence the name! Besides increased agility, leather-tough skin and two hearts, it’s his so-called “probability manipulation” which enters him into the upper echelons of Marvel’s top marksmen. His bandolier of cleaved knives are his weapon of choice, and he never misses with them. Although he has been known to crash his jetpack, but that’s a whole other skill set.
“X-Force” was, typically for the extreme ‘90s, a very gun-heavy “X-Men” comic. Cable’s second-in-command was Domino, a fellow heavily-armed sharpshooter. Like Longshot, her mutant ability involves manipulating probability. Unlike Longshot, her name isn’t really a pun on her luck, just an reference to her white skin and the black dot over one eye. Domino, too, warps reality subconsciously so that her luck improves. As such, she rarely misses, doesn’t trip over a lot, and would probably hit the jackpot on every slot machine in every casino if she ever chose to head to Vegas.
Unlike Longshot, her luck also affects those around her. She emits a “probability field” which not only makes her more fortunate, but also makes her enemies less so. Shots miss, equipment malfunctions, and Domino generally always gets away scot free. It’s been explained to be a form of low-level subconscious telekinesis, triggered during stressful situations. Is there a more high-pressure situation than having to take a pot shot at somebody? Probably not, which is why Domino has one up on her fellow probability-tweaking mutant: she uses guns, not knives.
The number one on this list is always going to be a no-brainer (And that’s not a joke about the time he was hospitalized with a brain tumor). Bullseye’s whole deal is that he’s the best shot in the Universe. That’s his unique selling point. If somebody was a better marksman than him, what would be the point in this continued existence in that fictional world? Seriously, he’s got nothing else going on. Like The Joker, all the stories of his origins are contradictory and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Nobody even knows his real name. He is, simply, the platonic ideal of a marksman. There are some suggested origins for that great aim: playing with hunting rifles as a kid, killing a rival batter with a baseball pitch during his adolescence. From there, he’s since used his supernaturally brilliant aim to make the lives of Matt Murdock, and everybody he cares about, a living hell. There was a time after his debut in 1976’s “Daredevil” #131 where his poor track record against the Man Without Fear became a running joke, but nowadays? There’s no deadlier shot in Marvel Comics than Bullseye.
Which Marvel superhero (or villain) do you think is the best shot? Be sure to let us know in the comments!