With comic books becoming such a popular storytelling medium for the better part of a century at this point, it’s no surprise that there are many characters with a deep, storied history for fans to draw on. Characters have been through the worst and best of times throughout their storied histories and there are literally hundreds of stories to draw from that have heroes achieve the highest of highs, as well as the lowest of lows. Another problem is that this history brings with it an awful lot of baggage for our favorite superheroes — and an awful lot of horrible mistakes and misdeeds, too.
Due to the nature of comic books however, status quo is more often than not restored pretty quickly, and the villainous acts of many superheroes are usually either written out of continuity, or just completely forgotten about. With all the omnipotent powers and super-powerful gadgets out there, time can be reversed or rewritten, and mistakes can be erased with the greatest of ease. Well no more! It’s about time these menaces were held accountable for their horrendous, and sometimes unforgivable, actions and we feel it’s our duty to shine a spotlight on 15 of the most unforgivable acts committed by superheroes.
15. HANK PYM HITS HIS WIFE
Hank Pym (AKA Ant-Man) was something of an A-list character back in the early days of Marvel, starring in his own popular comic book series and helping found the popular Avengers franchise. His tumultuous relationship with the latter, however, managed to sink Hank Pym into relative obscurity, thanks to the infamous issue that sees a stressed-out Hank backhand his wife in a heated moment of frustration, and tarnishing his image as both a superhero and fan-favorite character.
Hank’s reputation never quite recovered from the incident, and no matter how much writers backpedaled and tried to make Hank a more sympathetic character, nothing worked. As a result, his character was relegated to the sidelines in the decades that followed, and while perhaps the least gruesome act on this list, it seems there’s something just a little too real about this incident that’s made it stick to the character like glue.
14. FLASH CONTINUALLY TEARS TIME APART
It comes as no shock to fans of The Flash that the character’s time-traveling antics have been a frequent point of conflict throughout his superhero career, with Barry traveling back in time to fix mistakes that inevitably make things a whole lot worse than before. It goes beyond altering small details, as his abuse of time travel literally tears the Multiverse apart, muddying timelines and causing changes to the history of the DCU.
This most famously happens in Flashpoint, and while these alterations to the universe are much broader in the comic, the TV show gives viewers a much more personal view of Barry’s actions. He doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes, still using time travel despite learning in The Flash #35 that his actions are tearing both the Speed Force and time itself. This reckless abandon in the face of dire consequences is ultimately his biggest sin.
13. BUCKY KILLS IRON MAN’S PARENTS
One of the most emotionally taxing moments in the entire MCU so far came in Captain America: Civil War, in which we discover that it was in fact Captain America’s BFF Bucky Barnes (AKA The Winter Soldier) that killed Iron Man’s parents. On the surface it might seem easy to forgive Bucky for this, given that he was brainwashed into committing the murders by HYDRA, but seeing the coldness and brutality of the murders first hand, as well as how they affect Tony Stark, complicates it.
The cherry on top is the discovery that Captain America knew about this, but chose not to tell Tony, which is what ultimately breaks his heart. As a result of this betrayal, audiences finally got to see something they’d never quite seen before — an emotional Tony Stark. Gone are the quips and bravado, just a man who’s had his entire world torn apart.
12. JASON TODD BEHEADS CRIMINALS
Years after his brutal torture and supposed death at the hands of The Joker, Jason Todd finally returns and takes to the streets as Red Hood, an ultra-violent vigilante with an obsession of cleaning the streets of crime whilst getting revenge on those who’ve wronged him. Red Hood’s brutal tactics make Batman look tame, and there’s no better example than when he hands a group of drug dealers the heads of their lieutenants as a warning, and in one hell of a power move demands 40% of their profits.
While none of this sounds shocking given that Red Hood is by nature a morally reprehensible character, it’s easy to forget that it’s still Jason Todd under the mask, a kid who once ran around fighting crime alongside Batman in a Robin costume, and this is definitely one of the moments that proves he’s truly past the point of no return.
11. HULK COMMITS INCEST, EATS WOLVERINE
As many comic book fans are aware, Mark Millar is a writer who’s not one to shy away from dark, disturbing subject matter, and “Old Man Logan” is proof of that. Set in a post-apocalyptic timeline in which villains have conquered the world and divided it amongst themselves, Hulk has taken it upon himself to sire a family with the only person who can survive his gamma-irradiated genes — his cousin, She-Hulk.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, this alternate universe Hulk and his hillbilly family act as landlords to the area Logan calls home, and the Hulk Gang kill Logan’s wife and child after he fails to pay them what they’re owed. Logan pays the Hulk a visit, who responds by eating him whole, but Logan does eventually heal inside Hulk’s stomach before tearing his way out, killing the giant hulking beast.
10. THE CREATION OF RAGNAROK
During the events of 2006’s Civil War in which Thor’s whereabouts are unknown, Tony Stark takes it upon himself to build a clone of the God of Thunder to help round up the remaining anti-registration superheroes at large. Aided by fellow scientists Hank Pym and Reed Richards, it all seemed like a great idea, until tragedy struck. Quickly proving to be unstable, it doesn’t take long for the Thor clone, dubbed Ragnarok, to exhibit violent tendencies, killing Black Goliath by blasting a hole through his torso and leaving everyone distraught.
This moment led heroes such as Spider-Man to switch over to the anti-registration camp, but what’s worse is that Ragnarok managed to remain on the loose for a significant period of time after this. What’s truly unforgivable is how the those responsible allowed this to happen at all, especially with Hank Pym’s creation of Ultron being such a disaster.
9. FANTOMEX MURDERS A CHILD
While Fantomex was serving as a member of X-Force in the pages of Uncanny X-Force, he and his teammates discover that supervillain Apocalypse has been reborn in the body of a child — a child currently being indoctrinated by an evil clan of moon-dwellers. After tracking the child down and dispatching Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, the team stumbles upon the confused looking child, ultimately realizing that killing a child is wrong.
All of them besides Fantomex who callously puts a bullet through the child’s head, killing him instantly. Just to put that in perspective, even Deadpool had the moral fortitude to walk away, but Fantomex didn’t. It’s later revealed that Fantomex had cloned the child to see if he could be raised in a controlled environment, but that doesn’t change the fact that he still murdered the original, proving that while he’s a superhero, that doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.
8. SENTRY RIPS ARES IN HALF
Despite remaining a relatively obscure character in Marvel canon, Sentry is actually an incredibly powerful hero, often compared to Superman. He also has a very serious mental issue that manifests itself as The Void — his darker half — that rears its head to cause mayhem. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for a supervillain to sniff out and abuse his destructive potential, and this time it’s Norman Osborn who subtly goads The Void to come out, allowing him to take control of the hero.
During Siege, Sentry assumes a role in Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers, displaying his extraordinary power by ripping Ares in half in one of the most strikingly gruesome panels in Marvel’s history. It’s a dark moment in the company’s history, and while heroes have certainly come back from darker depths, it’s the incredibly visceral violence displayed here that makes it almost impossible to forgive and forget.
7. NICK FURY KILLS THE WATCHER
The big mystery of the Original Sin series revolves around the identity of Uatu The Watcher’s killer, after being found with a bullet through his head and his eyes scooped out. The Watcher is an alien who monitors Earth’s events without getting involved with the conflicts. After following the trail of breadcrumbs, the heroes discover that Uatu’s murderer was Nick Fury, who grew impatient when Uatu refused to reveal the identity of a powerful threat to Earth who took one of The Watcher’s eyes.
Realizing Uatu’s eyes served as a kind of cosmic security camera, Fury took his remaining eye before finding the stolen one, allowing him to monitor any potential threats to the planet. In the ensuing fight between Fury and many of Earth’s heroes, Fury manages to make Thor unworthy with a single whisper, effectively ruining the hero and Thor still hasn’t proved himself worthy to this day.
6. CAPTAIN AMERICA IS HYDRA
In one of the most controversial twists in history, it’s revealed that Captain America was — and always had been — an agent of Hydra, which fans of the Avenger didn’t take well. While it initially seemed like a cheap, temporary PR move by Marvel, it was revealed that Hydra used the Cosmic Cube to manufacture Captain America’s heroic persona until the time came for his true nature to be revealed.
Not only was this a betrayal to all the people who idolized Steve Rogers in the Marvel Universe, but also to the fans who’d spent decades following the adventures America’s favorite hero. It seems likely that Marvel will eventually take all of it back, but none of this will change the fact that the original Steve Rogers was not only a Hydra agent, but a Nazi as well, essentially tarnishing his origin — and the character — forever.
5. HAWKEYE KILLS HULK
The center of conflict in Civil War II, Ulysses Cain is an Inhuman with precognitive abilities that allow him to see the future. After She-Hulk and War Machine use Ulysses’ power to ambush Thanos, War Machine is killed in the battle, causing a conflict between Marvel’s heroes over whether they should use Ulysses’ visions to end threats ahead of the actual act.
Things get bad when it’s revealed that Ulysses had a vision of Hulk destroying the world, leading Hawkeye to track down Bruce Banner and kill him. Though he testifies that Bruce had asked Hawkeye to take him out if he lost control, there’s a callousness to Hawkeye’s actions. It gets worse when Iron Man reveals that Ulysses’ powers are based on probability and not certainty, meaning that all the deaths related to these visions may have been based on an event that might never occur.
4. HAL JORDAN PARALLAX
When Hal Jordan’s home, Coast City, is destroyed by the supervillain Mongul, Hal unfortunately takes a turn for the worst as he descends into madness, calling himself Parallax and terrorizing the DC Universe over the years that followed. While he committed many terrible acts during his time as Parallax, perhaps the most unforgivable of all is the destruction of the Green Lantern Corps, as he kills all his old friends and colleagues (including Kilowog) and even the Guardians, the ancient beings that founded the Green Lantern Corps.
While DC attempted to explain this away in the following decade, citing that Hal was overcome by an evil parasitic entity, he clearly must’ve had some control over the situation given that he eventually sacrificed his life to reignite Earth’s sun; meaning the degree to which Hal Jordan is responsible for his grisly actions as Parallax are still somewhat debatable.
3. CYCLOPS KILLS PROFESSOR X
While Cyclops had been slowly edging his way towards pseudo-villainy in the time running up to “Avengers vs. X-Men”, it was in this story that things finally took a huge step forward after a Phoenix Force-powered Scott Summers murders his former mentor and father figure Professor X. The relationship between the two had been one of the most important in the entire Marvel Universe going as far back the team’s introduction, with Professor X taking on the role of proud father, while Scott in turn served as the moral compass for mutantkind.
Needless to say, watching Cyclops murder Charles in cold blood is one of the more heartbreaking things we’ve seen in the X-Men’s history, and the event led to a more morally murky version of the Cyclops character, becoming more like Magneto than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
2. SCARLET WITCH COMMITS GENOCIDE (SORT OF)
When Scarlet Witch discovers that the existence of her twins was wiped from reality by the same demon that created the children to begin with, she understandably begins to lose her mind. Turning to Doctor Doom’s magic to revive her kids, an evil entity latches onto Wanda, causing her to turn from unstable to insane. Blaming the Avengers for her plight, Wanda attacks them, resulting in the deaths of Vision, Hawkeye and Ant-Man.
Quicksilver convinces her to create an artificial reality for the heroes — a reality in which all their deepest desires are granted. While the heroes eventually triumph, Magneto murders Quicksilver for his role in everything, leading Wanda to utter “no more mutants” — a hex that removes the powers of 90% of the world’s mutants. Wanda’s actions serve as perhaps the darkest moments in mutantkind’s history, and it subsequently takes many years for her to achieve redemption.
1. SUPERMAN KILLS JOKER, CREATES A MURDEROUS REGIME
In the alternate reality Injustice: Gods Among Us story, The Joker succeeds in nuking Metropolis and tricking Superman into killing not only Lois Lane but also their unborn child, which finally sends Superman over the edge. Bursting into the Joker’s interrogation, Superman plunges his fist through the Joker’s chest and resolves to create a violent, authoritarian regime to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
Of course, Superman succeeds in establishing his regime, but the group soon clashes with an insurgent group of heroes led by Batman, kicking off a war that results in the death of dozens of heroes, primarily at the hands of Superman. While the Joker’s death isn’t exactly the most unforgivable of all in the series, it’s what it represents that cements its place at the top, marking a turning point for Superman that not only sees him willing to murder criminals, but friends too.
Are there other horrifying acts that we missed on this list? Let us know in the comment section!
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