Typically, heroes stopping villains is a good thing. Every once in awhile, however, things might have actually turned out better had the bad guys won. Now, these aren't stories where the villain was justified, or the hero was actually manipulated into fighting for the wrong side. These are all examples where the villains were doing something evil, and had things gone differently, the world might've been a better place. Granted, it might not have been a happy ending, but it still would've been better than what actually followed.
Sometimes, the bad guy getting away would've prevented a future tragedy from occurring. Other times, victory for the villain would've been less catastrophic than what followed their defeat; or, had their plan actually worked, the world would have benefited in an unforeseen way. These are 15 comics where the villain should have won.
15 TIME RUNS OUT
In "New Avengers" #1 (2013), Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting revealed that alternate realities were colliding together, with the Earth as the point of impact. These events are called incursions, and when they occur, one of the colliding Earths must be destroyed or both realities will be wiped out. This leads to the event "Time Runs Out," which depicts the last months of the Marvel Universe before the incursions eventually cause the mainstream Marvel universe to collide with the Ultimate Marvel universe.
In "Avengers" #45 (2015) by Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli, the Shi'ar empire discovers the incursions, and with a heavy heart, decide to destroy the Earth to save the universe. Iron Man stops the Shi'ar by firing a massive weapon powered by a rogue planet. While destroying the Earth never seems like a great idea, in this case, it made sense. When all of reality is at stake, destroying one planet kind of makes sense. Had the Shi'ar destroyed the Earth, theoretically, the final incursion wouldn't have occurred, most likely preventing the events of "Secret Wars" (2015).
14 THE DASTARDLY DEATH OF THE ROGUES
In the future, a group known as the Renegades has adopted the identities of the Flash's greatest villains, but instead fight against crime. They encountered Flash in the first story arc of "The Flash" (2010), which starred the recently returned from the dead Barry Allen. They travel to the past to arrest Barry for a murder they believe he will commit in the future. In reality, he's being framed by the Renegades' version of Top.
In his day job, Barry had reopened an old case where the wrong person had been found guilty of murder; one of Top's ancestors had actually committed the crime. Flash clears his name and is set free from the future court. Almost immediately, this began the road to Flashpoint, which created an alternate, dystopian world. Had Top successfully framed Barry, then he never would have gone to change the past, creating the Flashpoint world and potentially sparing us all from the New 52.
13 GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN
In "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" (2008) by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, Hal Jordan's origin is updated to fit better into modern continuity and include references to the "Blackest Night" storyline. In the updated version, Abin Sur dies while transporting Atrocitus across the galaxy and crash lands on Earth. Sinestro comes to train Hal Jordan, and the two end up fighting Atrocitus. Hal, to the surprise of Sinestro, is able to overcome the ring's weakness to yellow and defeats Atrocitus.
While detaining Atrocitus, however, Sinestro is given a prophecy about his homeworld, Korugar, falling into chaos. It's heavily implied that this led to Sinestro becoming the authoritarian ruler of the planet, which ultimately led to his downfall and eventually forming the Sinestro Corps, fueled by the fear powered yellow rings. Had Atrocitus simply gotten away while on Earth, it's possible that Sinestro never would have become one of the universe's greatest villains.
12 RETURN OF THE SINISTER SIX
Once again realizing that teaming up with other villains increases his odds of winning, Doctor Octopus reformed the Sinister Six in "Amazing Spider-Man" #334 (1990) by David Michelinie and Erik Larson. The evil doctor is actually double crossing his fellow villains, however. He's actually manipulating them into helping him launch a drug into the Earth's ozone that makes cocaine lethal. His seemingly complicated plan is that the world's rich and powerful will pay him for the cure so that they can keep using cocaine.
Unfortunately, the drug would also destroy the Earth's ozone layer. When this is discovered, Spider-Man has to undo the effects of Ock's drug, essentially saving cocaine. Spider-Man actually laments this at one point, and he's right. Cocaine is a dangerous and addictive substance, and Doc Ock unwittingly found a way to rid it from the world. If he had only found a better delivery method, then he actually would've been helping the planet.
11 LEGION QUEST
As the prologue to one of the biggest "X-Men" storylines, the events of "Legion Quest" had huge ramifications on the entire Marvel Universe. Starting in "Uncanny X-Men" #320 (1995) by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid and Roger Cruz, Charles Xavier's son, David, decides to travel 20 years into the past to murder Magneto. He believes this will help create a world where humans and mutants coexist in peace. A team of X-Men follow him through time, where they end up teaming with a young Magneto and Xavier to stop David.
Unfortunately, two major events occur. First, the fight releases a huge amount of mutant energy, awakening Apocalypse earlier than in the original timeline. Second, Xavier is killed in the crossfire. This leads to the "Age of Apocalypse," a dystopian world where North America has been devastated by the megalomaniacal mutant. While killing Magneto would have drastically changed the timeline, it still would've been a much better result than the world Xavier's death created.
10 BATMAN VS JASON TODD
Jason Todd, the second Robin, was killed by the Joker in the infamous "A Death in the Family" (1988) by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. He remained dead until years later when Superboy Prime, trapped in the paradise dimension, punches the walls of reality to escape. This alters events in the DC Universe, and Jason Todd was revived. He eventually returns to Gotham under the Red Hood persona, as a antagonist to Batman. In "Batman" #650 (2006) by Judd Winick and Eric Battle, a crazed Jason confronts Batman about the Joker.
Jason is holding the Joker hostage and plans on killing him, and questions why Batman never did. Batman falls back on his "not killing makes me better than them" argument, and uses a batarang to prevent Jason from killing the Joker. Of course, if Jason had won and killed the Joker, then he would've saved all of the Joker's future victims. Considering how evil the Joker is, that's a lot of people that would've lived had Batman not succeeded in preventing Joker's death.
9 HOUSE OF M
During the events of "Avengers Disassembled," it's revealed that Scarlet Witch had gone crazy and was manipulating reality. She is then taken by Magneto, who brings her to Genosha where Professor X tries to fix her mind. At the start of "House of M" (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, the Avengers and X-Men decide that Wanda needs to be dealt with. Quicksilver warns Magneto, and when the heroes arrive at Genosha, Wanda creates a new reality known as the "House of M."
In this world, mutants became the ruling class after a major sentinel attack in 1979. It's not a dystopia, however, and many of the heroes are living their fantasy lives. However, Wolverine breaks free of the illusion, so he "awakens" several other heroes who defeat Magneto and the Scarlet Witch, restoring reality. Unfortunately, right before setting things back, Wanda says "no more mutants," which depowers the majority of the world's mutants, spreading chaos across the globe. That seems like a worse outcome than allowing the fake, but not terrible, House of M world to go on.
8 CIVIL WAR
In the opening issue of Marvel's "Civil War" (2006) by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, the New Warriors are tracking a group of villains hiding out in Stamford, Connecticut. The villains, consisting of Cobalt Man, Speedfreak, Coldheart and Nitro spot the heroes and a fight breaks out. The Warriors take down the villains, except for Nitro, who tries to escape. Namorita pursues him, causing Nitro to explode in the middle of town, creating a massive blast that destroys Stamford.
As a result of this catastrophe, the government passes the Super Hero Registration Act, a bill that requires heroes to register with the government and provide their secret identities. This creates a divide between the pro registration heroes and those against it. War then breaks out among the heroes, which ultimately results in the death of Captain America. Had the villains beaten the New Warriors, however, Nitro wouldn't have needed to explode, sparing Stamford. Considering that this was a group of C-list villains, they would've just been captured by other heroes eventually anyway.
7 AVENGERS VS X-MEN
When it's discovered that the Phoenix Force is headed to Earth, it ignites a fierce battle between the Avengers, who want to stop the Phoenix, and the X-Men, who believe the entity will save mutants. When it finally arrives in "Avengers vs X-Men" #5 (2012) by Matt Fraction and John Romita Jr, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor are possessed by it, creating the Phoenix Five. The Avengers decide that the five are too powerful, and decide to take them down. While they're eventually successful, it comes at a great price.
While the Phoenix Five eventually turn evil, their immediate actions are actually quite peaceful. They bring food, clean water and electricity across the globe, and it isn't until they are provoked that things go bad. Granted, this resulted in the destruction of Wakanda and the death of Professor X (which would ultimately lead to the Red Skull stealing Xavier's brain and gaining his power), but if the Phoenix Five hadn't been threatened by the Avengers, it's very possible none of those things would have happened.
6 ULTIMATES 3
In "The Ultimates 3" (2008) by Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira, the Scarlet Witch is killed by an undercover Ultron robot. Magneto and Quicksilver steal the body and bring it to the Savage Land, where the Ultimates give chase. The Ultrons also follow the teams to the Savage Land, resulting in a huge fight. During the battle, the Ultimates try to calm Magneto down, but Hawkeye surprises everybody by shooting an arrow. Quicksilver jumps in front of Magneto, and is seemingly fatally wounded, having sacrificed himself to save his father.Magento retreats, and all of this eventually leads to "Ultimatum" (2009) by Jeph Loeb and David Finch. Magneto uses his magnified powers to unleash catastrophes across the globe, killing countless people. If Magneto had defeated the Ultimates before Hawkeye could shoot Quicksilver, then the master of magnetism wouldn't have been driven by his grief to attempt the destruction of the planet.
5 THE TRIAL OF JEAN GREY
In "All-New X-Men" (2012) by Brian Michael Bendis, the original five teenaged X-Men, including Jean Grey, are brought to the modern world by present-day Beast. They end up getting stuck in the current time period, and have to deal with the fact that, for many of them, their futures contain much darkness and misery. When the Shi'Ar discover the existence of the teenage Jean Grey, they kidnap her and put her on trial for her future actions as the Dark Phoenix. The cosmic entity was responsible for the destruction of an entire planet, a catastrophe that the Shi'Ar believe can be avoided by killing the young Jean Grey before she can ever bond with the Phoenix.
"The Trial of Jean Grey" (2014) by Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen and Sara Pichelli was a crossover between the All-New X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. While the two teams were able to save Jean, the Shi'Ar did have a point. Had the Phoenix never encountered Jean Grey and copied her form, the events of the "Dark Phoenix Saga" would have been avoided, and an entire civilization may not be dead.
4 SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES
When a Kryptonite asteroid is discovered to be hurtling towards Earth, then-President Lex Luthor uses the opportunity to blame the situation on Superman. When Batman sides with the super hero, the two are declared public enemies in the opening story arc of "Superman/Batman" (2003) by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. The two are able to not only destroy the asteroid, but also expose Luthor as a criminal during a fight where he injects himself with a Venom/kryptonite hybrid and dons a battle suit. This defeat removed Luthor from office, but it also had some unintended consequences.
Luthor vanished from the public eye, and then resurfaced forming a new Secret Society of Super Villains in "Infinite Crisis" (2005). This was actually Alexander Luthor, posing as Lex, in order to trick the villains into helping him reform the multiverse. Had Lex never been removed from office by Batman and Superman, then Alexander Luthor never could have posed as him, which would have potentially prevented "Infinite Crisis."
3 SPIDER-MAN VS VENOM
One of the deadliest villains in the Marvel Universe is Carnage, a symbiote that bonded with serial killer Cletus Kassady. The two were brought together when Kassady was cellmates with Eddie Brock, aka Venom. At the time, Brock was separated from the symbiote, so he was treated like any other human prisoner. When the symbiote came looking for Brock, it broke him out of prison, but also left behind a young symbiote it had just given birth to, which bonded with Kassady. The formation of Carnage led to hundreds if not thousands of deaths at the hands of the brutal killer.
These events all lead back to "Amazing Spider-Man" #333 (1990) by David Michelinie and Erik Larson. During a fight with Venom, Styx and Stone show up and join the fight, taking on both Spider-Man and Venom. Styx, who can kill anything organic with one touch, seemingly kills the Venom symbiote by touching it. Obviously, it was only wounded, but had Venom escaped or won the fight, the symbiote never would have been separated from Brock and everyone of Carnage's victims would still be alive.
2 FATAL ATTRACTIONS
While the X-Men couldn't let Magneto succeed, their victory at the end of "Fatal Attractions" (1993) caused an even worse outcome. In response to the UN activating the Magneto Protocols -- a plan that used satellites to nullify Magneto's powers on Earth -- the evil mutant unleashed an electromagnetic pulse across the planet. In "X-Men" #25 (1993) by Fabian Nicieza and Adam Kubert, Professor X leads a team to Asteroid M to confront the master of magnetism.
Things go wrong, and Magneto rips the adamantium off of Wolverine's skeleton, nearly killing him. Xavier, horrified by his old friend's actions, used his telepathy to shut down Magneto's mind. At first, this seemed like a victory, but this actually merged the darkness in Xavier's brain with Magneto's, creating the villainous Onslaught. This powerful entity would go on to threaten the entire planet, and was only stopped when the Avengers and Fantastic Four sacrificed their lives to destroy it. Things would've turned out better if Xavier had just found a way to let Magneto live on Asteroid M, if he promised to leave the Earth alone.
1 THOR VS APOCALYPSE
In a flashback set during viking times, "Uncanny Avengers" #6 (2013) shows the first meeting between Thor and Apocalypse. The Asgardian god, still arrogant and boastful, is attacked by the ancient mutant, who claims that Thor is a threat to the future. In reality, Apocalypse is being manipulated by Kang, who knows that Thor's power isn't strong enough to break through Apocalypse's celestial armor. Instead of accepting defeat, Thor returns to Asgard and, against his father's wishes, has a magical axe named Jarnbjorn.
This weapon is one of the few items in the Marvel universe able to crack Celestial armor. While Thor used it in the past to defeat Apocalypse, it was used in the future by the Apocalypse twins to kill a Celestial. This caused the other Celestials to target Earth for destruction; they were ultimately successful, kicking off the "Avenge the Earth" storyline. If Thor had just let Apocalypse beat him, then the Earth never would've been crushed under a giant Celestial's foot (yes, this is how the Earth was destroyed). Thor will try to prevent the villains from achieving ultimate victory is Asgard in "Thor: Ragnarok" when it hits theaters on November 2, 2017.
Can you think of a time in comics where the villain should have won? Let us know in the comments!