Unlike DC’s premiere superhero team the Justice League, the Avengers have never really been about collecting all of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful players in one place. In fact, just the opposite is true. Pretty much anybody can be an Avenger, nowadays. So long as you have a burning desire to do some avenging, possess a relatively useful skillset and currently draw breath, then you’re a potential candidate for membership.
This got us to thinking. There are plenty of good reasons why certain heroes should never have made the cut. Now we’re not trying to recreate the JLA here. This is about “fit,” rather than ability. Do the Avengers have the right people in the right seats around the table? We don’t think so; not right now, if they ever have. Here are 15 (or more) heroes, who for one reason or another, never should have been Avengers.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel
15 JESSICA JONES
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, Jessica Jones first appeared in the now-classic “Alias” #1 as a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking superhuman private eye, trying to escape a tormented past that included a traumatic experience as one of the Purple Man’s puppets. Under his control, she mistakenly attacked the Avengers and was nearly killed by Iron Man and the Vision. She became a member of the New Avengers as Power Woman in a nod to her husband Luke Cage, but didn’t stick with the team for long before leaving to raise her infant daughter, Danielle.
Jessica has never been much of a team player, even if she’s spent much of her life looking for a place to belong. Although she’s set to appear as an integral member of the Defenders in print and on TV, a more structured group like the Avengers always felt like an arranged marriage between two people who’d never met. She works best as a character protecting people rather than saving planets. Without Alias Investigations, who’s left to look out for the little guy? Thankfully, Jessica has returned to roots in her latest ongoing series and seems committed to her unique brand of street-level justice.
The Avengers have always had a thing for strays but Demolition Man’s inclusion among their storied ranks feels more like the superhero equivalent of a pity date, rather than a serious offer of membership. Nobody actually expected Cap’s latest sidekick project to show up, did they? Although his membership as a reserve member of the Avengers became official in "Captain America" #349, he never participated in any missions before he was presumed dead, after sacrificing his life in the Arctic to destroy Flag-Smasher’s doomsday weapon. From there, life became even more difficult for D-Man. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, an unfortunate side-effect of the procedure that gave him his superhuman abilities.
This made D-Man particularly vulnerable to psychic attacks and after battling the Avengers as a member of the equally unstable Wonder Man’s Revenger squad, was manipulated into becoming the new Scourge by Henry Gyrich. Sharon Carter had to put him down, when he managed to get the drop on his former hero, Captain America. He was resurrected just before the final incursion that preceded “Secret Wars,” and somehow survived the event to become partner of new Cap, Sam Wilson, for whom he serves as mechanic, pilot and technician.
For a team supposedly dedicated to stopping wars, it seems odd that the Avengers would embrace a former adversary and the reigning Greek God of War as a comrade-in-arms. Although Ares' recruitment during “Civil War” wasn’t the first (or last) time the team has welcomed a villain into their ranks, his inclusion seemed like an arbitrary choice, especially considering he’d been trying to lead a normal life, free from the violence and bloodshed of war. We’re assuming the Marvel powers-that-be figured that any crossover event called “Civil War” had to include an actual God of War in some capacity, no matter how minor or tangential.
A staunch member of the Avengers during his relatively brief stint with the team, Ares' most infamous act as a member to date was his gratuitously violent and grotesque death at the hands of the all-powerful Sentry, who tore the god completely in half. He was most recently revived by scribe Al Ewing during the latest “Contest of Champions” and is now traveling the world in search of adventure with his fellow survivors of the grueling off-world competition.
Eros of Titan has always kind of creeped us out. Maybe we’re just insecure, but anybody whose most notable power is to stimulate the brain’s pleasure center seems like an odd, somewhat cynical candidate for membership. On the one hand, can you ever completely trust him not to manipulate his fellow members, even subconsciously? On the other hand, should he even be allowed to use what is essentially mind control on their adversaries? Where does one cross the line and should the Avengers have their own Purple Man on speed dial?
This isn’t to say that Starfox hasn’t served the Avengers honorably since his recruitment as a trainee, in “Avengers” #232. He stood beside them through many battles over the course of his career, most notably against his mad brother Thanos. But there always seems to be a “but” with Starfox. He has been known to use his powers selfishly, as was illustrated by his manipulation of She-Hulk’s affections for John Jameson. If even the Jade Giantess isn’t safe from Starfox’s influence, then we have to wonder who the heck is? Maybe we should all lock up our daughters and sisters -- hell, the whole family -- just in case.
11 STAR BRAND & NIGHTMASK
Star Brand and Nightmask each debuted as probably the two strongest characters of Marvel’s ill-fated New Universe imprint. The line was the brainchild of then Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and a host of writers and editors, who believed there was room in Marvel’s catalogue for a separate shared universe of more realistic superhero adventures. The line ultimately (ha, see what we did there?) failed horrendously thanks to inconsistent world-building and weak concepts (we’re looking at you “Kickers Inc.”). Despite an abandoned attempt by Marvel and Warren Ellis to reboot the line, the general consensus on the New Universe was that it was probably a chapter in the publisher’s history best left forgotten. Then, Jonathan Hickman entered the picture.
During the sprawling “Infinity” storyline, Hickman dramatically expanded the Avengers roster to bolster their ranks to confront cosmic threats from multiple factions. Along with former adversaries like Ex Nihilo and Abyss, Hickman added the 616 versions of Star Brand and Nightmask. The pair never felt like real members of the team and more like plot devices that helped lay the foundation of the crossover event. A recent ongoing hoped to refute their one-dimensional existence but was cancelled after only a handful of issues.
Blade’s initial entry into the ranks of the Avengers came in the form of an apocryphal story set in 1972 that depicted the formation of a team of Mighty Avengers led by the Blue Marvel. The team came together to steal the Talisman of Kamar-Taj from the immortal Deathwalkers. He would rejoin the team years later using the vacant Ronin persona, on the run from his former adversaries and secretly on the hunt for the missing Talisman. Although he would eventually locate the artifact in Attilan and defeat the Deathwalkers with the help of the Avengers, Blade’s membership on the team always felt a little forced.
Reduced to little more than a plot device used to bring the ‘70s Mighty Avengers retcon full circle, Blade left the team shortly after taking down the Deathwalkers. His time as an Avenger was tainted by controversy, when the supposedly secret identity of the latest Ronin was leaked before the big reveal. It’s probably just as well, considering the ongoing guessing game of “Who is Ronin (this time)?” had long ago played itself out, diluted by one too many undeserving heroes shoehorned into the persona.
9 THE SENTRY
Originally conceived by Paul Jenkins, Rick Veitch and Jae Lee as a fictional construct with his own fictional in-universe publication history, the Sentry really should have been left on the Raft, where he ended up after believing he killed his wife. Essentially an extremely powerful, extremely unstable version of Superman, Robert Reynolds tried to erase all memory of his superhero persona from the world, in an effort to contain the evil Void. He eventually went rogue as a minion of Norman Osborn and ripped Ares in half during the Siege of Asgard, as we’ve already mentioned -- but that’s not really why Reynolds should have remained shelved.
The Sentry worked as a one-off concept, providing a nuanced alternative to the archetypal comic book “superman.” The problem is that Marvel could never really figure out what to do with him afterwards. Despite a slew of powerful members and several cosmic adventures, the Avengers have always remained somewhat grounded. To force an overwrought, deconstructed version of Superman into their ranks was simply a clumsy attempt to find the Sentry a home, when he already had an appropriate place of residence in our memories. Besides, isn’t Thor the only superman (or woman!) the Avengers need?
8 THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Ever since their historic debut in “Fantastic Four” #1, Marvel’s First Family have stood as four of the most respected heroes in the publisher’s pantheon. But are they Avengers material? The Avengers and the FF have always worked closely together, especially when the cosmic stakes are high, but that doesn’t mean they should all be on the same team. What has always set Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe is that they've always been heroes of exploration first and foremost, rather than reactive superhuman soldiers, who swoop in at the last minute to save the day.
They are much more comfortable exploring the multiverse and pushing the limits of science and human understanding than busting up the latest incarnation of Hydra. To grant them Avengers membership, while superficially justifiable due to their unique skill sets, dilutes their own team identity and treads unnecessarily on their singular family dynamic. Although their title is currently on indefinite hiatus, while Reed, Sue and the kids rebuild the multiverse, the Fantastic Four are a distinct and integral part of comics history that should be allowed to stand apart from their compatriots in the Avengers.
7 BLACK WIDOW
As we all know thanks to Scarlet Johansson’s famous line to Loki in the first “Avengers” film, the Black Widow is a character with a lot of “red in her ledger.” This isn’t why she never should have joined the Avengers, though. Plenty of Avengers have checkered pasts. This is a team that currently counts Deadpool as a member, don’t forget. Rather, the reason Natasha should have steered clear of the Avengers is because she is much more effective as a super-spy than she is as a superhero. In short, all those capes, shields and hammers cramp her style.
When you consider her history with the team, it’s not like she sticks around for very long, anyways. More concerned with real world threats from the likes of rogue governments, radical terrorists and organized crime cartels, the Black Widow is far less effective against say, Thanos or Korvac. Let Natasha balance her ledger from the shadows, getting her hands dirty for the benefit of the free world, while the Avengers stomp about saving the cosmos. It’s less a case of Natasha not being able to hang in the big guns, and more of a question if they can hang with her.
6 QUICKSILVER & SCARLET WITCH
These crazy kids joined the Avengers as members of Cap’s Kooky Quartet, after waging war on humankind at Magneto’s side in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Perhaps their previous positions as soldiers in a murderous mutant terrorist group should have clued the Avengers in to the crisis-level hijinks the Maximoff siblings would get up to later on in life, but hey, nobody’s vetting process is perfect, right? We believe in second chances as much as the next person, we’re just saying that perhaps Wanda and Pietro’s should have come after rehabilitation during a long period of incarceration.
Both of them have run off the rails in major ways since joining the Avengers. Wanda used her probability-altering powers to not only disassemble the Avengers but rewrite reality by uttering the now-famous phrase, “No more mutants,” during “Decimation” and initiating “House of M." For his part, Pietro once killed a whack of normal humans during “Son of M,” while attempting to use the Terrigen crystals to restore mutant abilities to his people. One would think mass murder would preclude Avengers membership and maybe even warrant a bit of jail time, but both siblings are still gallivanting around the Marvel Universe free as birds. Go figure.
Brian Michael Bendis, who should be lauded for bringing both Luke Cage and Iron Fist into the Avengers fold, stumbled when he had Daredevil join the team shortly after the “Fear Itself” storyline. Our objection to Matt Murdoch’s Avengers membership is based on his traditional role as an underdog, who fights against the establishment for the little guy, regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent in the eyes of the law. So how does he manage to do this as a member of what is essentially the most visible representation of the superhero establishment around? We don’t think he can, actually.
There’s a pretty huge philosophical gap, here. Just how much damage have the Avengers caused in Hell’s Kitchen over the years and can Murdoch justify his association with a team that has caused such widespread carnage in his community? Instead, we think he should be suing the Avengers for financial remuneration, not suiting up with them to wreak havoc all over greater Manhattan. This would be more in keeping with Daredevil’s anti-establishment streak and provide all sorts of intriguing plotlines, as the one hero with enough gumption to hold the world’s premiere superhero team accountable for its destructive actions.
As one of comicdom’s most popular characters, we could easily go with over-saturation for the theme of this entry, but we’re saving that for later. Instead, we have a slightly different argument in mind. Wolverine has always been a loner. Even as a member and leader of the X-Men, Logan was notorious for his extended absences to deal with whatever personal vendetta had caught his fancy that day. His membership on the world’s most famous superhero team always felt dubious, because Logan usually avoids the public eye and there’s no brighter spotlight than that shining on the Avengers.
For someone who required so much alone time, it seemed like a bit of an odd choice to abandon his family just to hang with a bunch of costumed strangers. We can only hope, now that the 616 version of Wolverine suffered one of the most unsatisfactory deaths in comics history, that he’ll at least be free of the Avengers for a while. However, with the much-hyped “Logan” hitting theaters next month, it wouldn’t surprise us to see Old Man Logan join the team in his place. Huh, maybe this was all about over-saturation, after all.
3 THE HULK
Here’s an entry Marvel actually got right early on. Originally a founding member of the Avengers, the Hulk bailed on the team in the series’ second issue, after realizing his colleagues were afraid of his nasty temper. As Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch showed us in the pages of “The Ultimates,” where mild-mannered Bruce Banner hulked-out and pretty much killed Manhattan, the Avengers are right to fear old Green Genes. Truth be told, the Hulk has always been more of a liability to the Avengers than an asset. At the same time, they’ve always felt responsible for their former teammate, corralling his rampages as best they can, while preserving Banner’s life.
They even let him rejoin the team, when it appeared Banner had managed to finally gain control of the beast within, during the conflict between the Avengers and the X-Men. This turned out to be a bad move, when a new, more ruthless and previously repressed version of the Hulk emerged and promptly went on a destructive rampage. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about such lapses in judgement any more, after cooler and more pragmatic heads prevailed and Hawkeye put an arrow through Banner’s eye during “Civil War II.”
Let’s chalk this entry up to good old fashioned over-saturation. It seems publishers can never resist a little overkill to pad their bottom lines. DC was guilty of this ill-considered and cynical strategy during the ‘90s, when they forcibly plugged Lobo into every book in their catalogue, from “Justice League International” to “L.E.G.I.O.N.” Marvel perfected this sales tactic, when they plastered Wolverine on pretty much every book they put out during the same period. Now, bolstered by an incredibly successful movie, the already popular Deadpool is being used in a similar capacity, shouldering his way onto the Avengers, while popping up in various X-books and elsewhere.
The thing is, not everybody should be an Avenger—especially if they’re joining the team simply to boost sales. When sales trump solid storytelling, as they often do in the comics industry, we always -- that’s right, always -- get substandard books in return. Deadpool shouldn’t be an Avenger because there’s no real reason to have him on the team, other than sales. Comics may be a big business to the publishers, but they would do well to remember the implosions of the ‘70s and ‘90s, when too much of a good thing turned very bad indeed.
There was a time when your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was considered off-limits for teams like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. It’s kind of hard to maintain your anonymous everyman status when your neighborhood now encompasses the entire universe. We think it’s a shame Marvel ever diverged from this editorial moratorium, because in doing so they robbed us of the one superhero we could all be. Thanks to that full face mask and an array of everyday problems we could all relate to, it was easy to believe, if only for 22 pages or more, that any one of us could be a Parker.
By making Spider-Man a member of the Avengers (or making him obscenely rich, for that matter), Marvel diluted the core traits of one of their most iconic characters. How many of us can relate to one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world, who gets to moonlight as a superhero alongside the Avengers? Not any of us, that’s for sure. The Marvel Universe never needed another Tony Stark. What it does need is a grounded Peter Parker that has more in common with the average person than he does with Bill Gates.
Who do you think never should have joined the Avengers? Let us know in the Comments!