Traditionally, superheroes seek out justice against those who have committed crimes and otherwise done wrong. Superman always sends Lex Luthor off to jail for the crimes he has committed. The X-Men work to protect mutantkind from the terrorists who would endanger their people. Spider-Man usually leaves criminals webbed up so the police can arrest the perpetrator. Batman has a strict code against killing, no matter how many times his villains escape capture. It has always been about doing what is right and protecting the innocent over personal vendettas.
But what happens when the superhero fails? When something so awful happens that even the most morally centered hero is faced with no other alternative but to seek out revenge against the person who did them harm? The loss of a loved one can make the most heroic person turn violent vigilante. It’s never a good idea to get on the wrong side of someone who has superhuman powers or is a highly-trained killer. All those powers and enhanced abilities are going to lead to a pretty vicious confrontation, where justice is ignored and the hero is looking for blood. Here are the 15 most vicious ways superheroes got their revenge.
15 HARLEY QUINN BEATS UP THE JOKER
When Harley breaks Mason Macabre out of prison in Harley Quinn #25, she comes face to face with the Joker. Despite Harley’s independence since leaving her ex, she still struggles to deal with him in person. What follows is an important confrontation that sees Harley triumph over her oppressor. She also takes a moment to punish him for what he put her through.
The Joker wants things to be the way they used to be, and he immediately starts putting her down again. However, things are different this time, and Harley won’t be pushed around. She beats him up until the Joker kisses her. She takes this opportunity to bite off his lower lip, spit it back in his face, and beat him senseless on the floor of his cell. Harley even waves a gun in his face for good measure.
14 KATANA CUTS OFF DEADSHOT’S HAND
When you put together a group of villains in order to do some good, a few of them are going to get out of line, no matter how hard you try to corral them. In Suicide Squad, longtime member Deadshot betrays the team when he shoots Amanda Waller and leaves her for dead. It is later known that he agreed to assassinate her in order to get his daughter back.
Deadshot captures Katana and Rick Flag while working with Rustam and his team. However, when Waller turns up alive and well, Katana takes this moment to escape from her chains. She steals her sword back and her first order of business is to cut off Deadshot’s hand as revenge for his betrayal. In the end, Floyd ends up saving Waller’s life from Rustam and earns a place back on the team.
13 BATMAN BEATS UP THE HERETIC
When the Heretic kills Damian Wayne, Batman swears revenge for the death of his son. He injects himself with the Man-Bat serum and uses a hi-tech batsuit to violently defeat Leviathan’s army of Man-Bat ninjas. He then takes on the Heretic in a brutal fight across the Gotham City skyline.
This battle is gritty, it’s messy, and it’s ugly. Batman is practically frothing at the mouth. Nightwing and the new Knight also get in on the action, eager to take their turn beating the Heretic and get revenge for their losses. Batman is actually on the verge of killing him before seeing how much the clone resembles his late son. Disgusted by what he sees, Batman tosses the Heretic away. Talia al Ghul later kills her son for failing to defeat the Dark Knight.
12 GREEN ARROW KILLS PROMETHEUS
In James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli’s Justice League: Cry for Justice from 2009, Green Arrow and Green Lantern’s splinter group enters into a conflict with Prometheus. The villain goes after superheroes by targeting their cities and blowing them up. Despite the Justice League’s effort to stop him, Prometheus manages to destroy Star City.
Among those killed in the devastation was Lian Harper, the daughter of Red Arrow, who Prometheus had already maimed. Green Arrow was determined to bring the villain to justice for what he did to his former sidekick. At the end of the series, Oliver Queen tracked Prometheus to his secret lair and executed him with a single arrow to the head. He might be crying for justice, but it was all just cold-blooded revenge.
11 HANK PYM KILLS THE BLOB
During the Ultimate Marvel event comic Ultimatum, by Jeph Loeb and David Finch, New York City is flooded by Magneto, resulting in utter devastation of the population. Many superbeings drown in the flood, including the Wasp. Yellowjacket goes out looking for her, growing to the size of a skyscraper in order to locate Jan among the dead.
When he finally finds her, the Blob is there eating her lifeless body. In a fit of rage, Pym picks up the Blob and bites his head off. He spits the head out and throws the body away, making note that this was personal. For Hank Pym, this was all about revenge, never about justice. Yellowjacket then takes her body in hopes of bringing her back to life.
10 THE FLASH TURNS INERTIA INTO A STATUE
After Inertia manipulates the Rogues into killing Bart Allen, Wally West is released from the Speed Force. The Flash goes looking for revenge after learning of Bart’s death, and he tracks down Inertia in order to kill him. Once he has the villain in his clutches, Wally decides to give him a fate even worse than death.
He uses the Speed Force to drain all of Inertia’s residual speed, essentially freezing him in time like a statue. However, he is left conscious in real time, meaning that he can think while trapped in his body. Wally places him in the Flash Museum in front of a statue of Bart Allen, forcing Inertia to stare at the boy he could never hope to measure up to. That is absolutely haunting.
9 HYPERION KILLS NAMOR
This one gets confusing. In the face of the incursion of the Marvel Multiverse, Namor reforms the Cabal in order to spare Earth-616 from destruction. His team preemptively destroys universes it deems to be a threat to their reality. One of these worlds belonged to Doctor Spectrum, so when a new Squadron Supreme forms made of members from multiple universes, the group collectively looks for revenge.
In the first issue of Squadron Supreme from James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, the group deems Namor a threat to their new home and must be put down. Namor, however, calls them out for what this really is — revenge. Hyperion destroys Atlantis and then decapitates the Sub-Mariner with his heat vision. Later in the series, the team has a change of heart and decides to spare him from this fate via time travel.
8 DAREDEVIL BREAKS BULLSEYE’S BACK
In Daredevil #181 from Frank Miller, Bullseye hunts down Elektra and kills her with her own sai. This ultimately leads Daredevil to seek revenge for her death. The two end up in a brutal fight, which ends with Daredevil dropping Bullseye from the top of a telephone wire, breaking the villain’s back and leaving him paralyzed. You might think it would be over there, but Daredevil was just getting warmed up.
Matt Murdock may have gotten his revenge by physically destroying his enemy, but he was not finished messing with Bullseye’s mind. He later sneaks into the hospital and forces Lester to play Russian roulette with him, further torturing him for killing his former lover. In order to get his revenge, Daredevil transforms into a violent, even sadistic, vigilante.
7 BATMAN DRIVES JOE CHILL TO SUICIDE
In Batman #673 by Grant Morrison, Batman gets his revenge on Joe Chill, the criminal who murdered his parents. In the story “Joe Chill in Hell,” Batman visits his home every night for a month. The Dark Knight terrorizes him with threats and insults, bringing Chill to his absolute breaking point.
Batman then gives Chill the gun he used to murder Thomas and Martha Wayne with one bullet remaining. He realizes that he was responsible for the creation of Batman, and instead of facing the wrath of the criminal world, he instead decides to commit suicide. The psychological trauma Batman induces in his victim can not be easily shaken. The events of the story may have simply been a hallucination of Batman’s, but that doesn’t make his revenge any less vicious.
6 THING KILLS DOCTOR DOOM
At the end of Ultimatum, the event series that destroys much of the Ultimate Universe, it is discovered that Doctor Doom killed the Scarlet Witch. This is what set Magneto off in the first place, flooding New York City, and killing millions. The revelation that Doom was responsible for setting this whole thing off seemed to get lost in the events leading up to the superheroes stopping Magneto.
One hero, however, remembers who is responsible. When the imminent threat has ended, the Thing travels to Latveria to hunt down Doom and make him pay for what he caused. Ben Grimm was sick of the villain’s attempts to control things from the shadows, so he shows up and promptly crushes the villain’s head in his hand. This was about revenge, not justice.
5 DRAX KILLS THANOS
Drax’s path to revenge was a long one. Arthur Douglas and his family were killed by Thanos, but his spirit was spared and used in the creation of Drax the Destroyer. This new being had amazing abilities and was driven by the singleminded goal of avenging his family. During the cosmic event series Annihilation, Drax would finally get his revenge.
Thanos had aligned himself with Annihilus, but seeing the villain’s end goal of ultimate destruction, he decided to betray his former ally. Just as Thanos is about to release Galactus, and cripple Annihilus’ plans, Drax appears to get his revenge. Before anything else can be done, he murders the Mad Titan by ripping his heart out of his body. This wasn’t the last time Drax would get a chance to kill his mortal enemy, but it was definitely the most brutal.
4 PUNISHER KILLS EVERYONE
In Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe from 1995, Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite tell the story of how Frank Castle’s family is killed as collateral damage during a superhero battle involving the X-Men and the Avengers. Enraged by the carelessness of the heroes, the Punisher shoots Cyclops dead when he tries to apologize. Frank is also able to kill Hawkeye and Kitty Pryde before he is arrested.
After his trial, Frank is secretly transported to a rich benefactor who hopes to harness his hatred of superheroes in order to wipe them all out. Supplied with the necessary resources, the Punisher indiscriminately kills heroes and villains until only Daredevil remains. After a final confrontation between the two leaves Matt Murdock dead, Frank realizes that he has just killed his childhood friend. Distraught and angry, he takes his own life in the end.
3 ARSENAL KILLS THE ELECTROCUTIONER
Roy Harper falls into a downward spiral following the death of his daughter in Justice League: Cry for Justice. Prometheus’ plan to destroy several cities around the country was assisted by petty criminal the Electrocutioner, who helped place the bombs for a paycheck and a little bit of glory. Following Arsenal’s mental breakdown and descent into drug use, the archer goes after Lester Buchinsky for revenge.
He tracks the criminal down and injures him badly before Green Arrow is able to convince his former sidekick to take him into custody instead. Roy has a change of heart in Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal. He finds the villain in jail and guts him right there in his cell while Green Arrow can only watch. At this moment, Arsenal’s fall into villainy is complete and he is now a drug-addled killer.
2 SUPERMAN KILLS THE JOKER
In the world of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman has become a tyrannical dictator following the death of Lois Lane. In the opening of the accompanying comic book series, we see that the Joker had poisoned Superman into thinking he was fighting Doomsday. When he took the monster into space and away from civilization, he finally realizes that it was Lois all along. Her death also causes a bomb to go off in Metropolis, killing millions.
The Justice League captures the Joker for his crimes, but Superman has seen enough. Time and again, he is allowed to escape Arkham Asylum, only to kill more people when he escapes. Seeking an end to the madness, the Man of Steel returns to Earth and promptly murders the Joker by punching a hole through his chest. The killing signals the fall of Superman from hero to villain.
1 JOHN HARTIGAN “TAKES CARE OF” THE YELLOW BASTARD
In That Yellow Bastard, one of Frank Miller’s Sin City yarns, John Hartigan is an old cop looking to stop a masochistic rapist and pedophile who is protected by his father, Senator Roark. He stops Roark Junior from making Nancy Callahan his latest victim by shooting his genitals off, but Hartigan is shot and blamed for all of Junior’s crimes.
After serving years in jail, Hartigan is finally released and Roark Junior is confirmed to be alive, albeit as a grotesque yellow bastard. In a final confrontation between the two, Hartigan gets his revenge after eight long years in jail. He castrates Roark Junior with his bare hands and beats him to a bloody pulp, his disgusting yellow blood everywhere. Hartigan finally kills the criminal, ensuring that his father can never protect him again.
Know any other examples of superheroes getting their revenge? Let us know about them in the comments.