The Avengers didn’t earn their reputation as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” by being pushovers – on the contrary, the Marvel Universe’s premier supergroup fights the good fight better than anybody. Over the past 56 years, the Avengers have triumphed over countless home grown and extra-terrestrial foes bent on world domination (or decimation!), lending them an aura of invicibility.
However, a quick flick through a fan's comic book collection will reveal that reports of the Avengers’ unstoppable might are greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the team has been vanquished on numerous occasions – often with literally Earth-shattering consequences. Sure, the Avengers are usually able to regroup and save the day before all is said and done, but as this list shows, they are certainly no strangers to defeat.
10 Under Siege
Despite being certifiable geniuses, most supervillains are pretty dumb – how else do you explain their preoccupation with tackling the Avengers’ powerhouse-stacked line-up head on? So, the Masters of Evil deserve kudos for opting to forgo the typical full frontal assault tactic in the classic Under Siege story arc, in favor of the smart play: invading Avengers Mansion while (almost) nobody is home.
Catching the team napping, the Masters of Evil quickly overpowered an outnumbered Captain America, forcing him to watch Edwin Jarvis being beaten black and blue. They also dished out a near-fatal thrashing to Hercules and just generally trashed the joint before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were able to rally and evict these nefarious squatters.
9 World War Hulk
Never much of a team player, one-time Avenger Hulk’s famously strained relationship with his former crimefighting colleagues hit rock bottom during the World War Hulk event. Here, a justifiably angry Hulk smashes his way through several Avengers teams who stand between him and his goal: the Illuminati, who launched him into space.
Operating at rage-fuelled strength levels never seen before, the so-called World Breaker Hulk swatted aside pretty much everyone who stood in his path. Even with back up from the likes of the Sentry, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, the Avengers never stood a chance.
8 Original Sin
Then there was that time in Original Sin when the Avengers had their butts handed to them by a geriatric geezer. Admittedly, the old guy in question was none other than the Marvel Universe’s ultimate super spy, Nick Fury – who was armed with cutting edge military hardware and decades of tactical combat experience.
Fury didn’t exactly play fair, either: he disabled Iron Man’s armor via override codes and sneakily rendered Thor unworthy to wield his hammer. But at the end of the day, what this battle boils down to is an elderly opponent – seriously: Fury wasn’t even juiced up on the Infinity Formula, so dude got old – trouncing our heroes single-handedly!
7 The Korvac Saga
The best that can be said about most of the defeats on this list is that at least the Avengers went down fighting for a good cause, but that’s not the case where the Korvac Saga is concerned. Here, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are kinda the bad guys for teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to confront Korvac, a nigh-omnipotent being whose utopian dreams were misguided, not evil.
While the morality behind the ensuing fight is debatable, the outcome certainly wasn’t. Backed into a corner, Korvac reluctantly unleashed the full extent of his unthinkable power, vaporizing countless costumed adventurers without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, the slain Avengers and Guardians were resurrected by Korvac before he took his own life in despair (bummer), drawing this whole sorry affair to a close.
6 Secret Empire
Everyone knows that Captain America is often the only thing standing between shadowy terrorist outfit Hydra and achieving its goal of world domination. So, it’s ironic that the Sentinel of Liberty – who was acting under the influence of the Cosmic Cube (totally a thing in the Marvel Universe) – was also the key to Hydra’s successful global coup in Secret Empire.
With the help of “HydraCap”, Hydra managed to take over the world at long last, rolling the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. and anyone else who stood in their way. So what if their new world order only lasted like…a month (tops)? They still left Earth’s Mightiest Heroes down for the count!
5 Kang Dynasty
As you’d expect from a guy rocking the handle “Kang the Conqueror”, time-travelling warlord Kang’s whole deal is that he really, really wants to conquer the Earth. And to his credit, he did – in the Kang Dynasty storyline. What’s more, he did so while at the helm of a spaceship shaped like a gigantic sword, which may be the most baller play of all time.
Kang didn’t merely defeat the Avengers, either; he humiliated them, too. First, he marooned the team in space, and then – after proving beyond any doubt how technologically superior his forces were – he even coerced them into surrendering (although they later recanted, obviously).
4 Age Of Ultron
Not to be confused with the Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster of the same name, the Age of Ultron story arc saw its titular killer robot steamroll the Avengers (and everyone else) to crown himself king of the world.
Completely overwhelmed by Ultron’s horde of drones – which left several cities around the world in ruins – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were forced to take refuge in the Savage Land. They’d still be there now, if they hadn’t engaged in a spot of time travel shenanigans – a two-pronged assault, 50% of which ends in tears – through which they were just barely able to boot Ultron off his throne.
Few losses sting worse than those brought on by betrayal, as the Avengers found out the hard way during Avengers Disassembled. In this harrowing crossover event, Scarlet Witch wreaks havoc with her reality-warping abilities to turn her teammates’ world upside down.
Unconstrained by the laws of nature, Wanda stages an escalating series of nightmarish scenarios that leaves the t Avengers roster of the time in tatters. Seriously, by the time this storyline wraps up, Hawkeye and Ant-Man are both six feet under, Vision lies on the scrap heap, and the only thing in worst shape than Avengers Mansion is the team’s morale.
2 Infinity Gauntlet
As defeats go, it’s hard to top the drubbing the Avengers receive in Infinity Gauntlet. Not only does the entire squad get wiped out by Thanos, but – as immortalized on screen in Avengers: Infinity War – they fail to prevent the Mad Titan from erasing half of all life from the universe.
True, it wasn't just the Avengers who dropped the ball here – but they also weren’t the ones to set things right again, either. Instead, it fell to cosmically powerful beings like Adam Warlock, the Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange to reverse the devastating effects of Thanos’ actions.
1 Time Runs Out
Okay, so, you know when we said that we couldn’t think of anything capable of topping the fallout from the Avengers’ defeat in Infinity Gauntlet? Well, it turns out we’d totally forgotten about Time Runs Out, the storyline that culminates in the entire Multiverse going kaput, courtesy of the god-like Beyonders!
Fortunately, the ramifications of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ inability to stop the Beyonders were surprisingly limited – in the end, Mr. Fantastic essentially flips a cosmic reset button, restoring the Marvel Universe (and everything else) with relatively minor alterations. But this is yet another occasion where the Avengers didn’t just lose, but weren’t able to make amends, either.