The Avengers! Earth’s mightiest heroes! Marvel Comics’ premier superhero team has obviously had a very big decade with the MCU making them a household name. This is great news for long-time fans, but itt also means that a lot of former Avengers get swept under the rug for the bigger, marquee names. In some cases, we’re not going to fight that too hard — we’re not super invested in keeping alive the legacies of Swordsman, Dr. Druid, or that brief time where Black Knight had a five o’clock shadow and an earring. The fact remains, however, that there are some really fun, really cool, and frankly really goofy characters who are also card-carrying Avengers, and we feel they should be as well known as Thor or Iron Man.
Speaking of whom, while we’re at it, we also want to give you the rundown on some of the A-list heroes who also run the risk of being severely overrated. The lasting popularity of these characters is no accident; they’ve been considered A-listers for years for good reason. Too much of a good thing is still too much, though, and as great and storied as those heroes may be, we feel it wouldn’t hurt anybody to let some of the smaller guys have a moment in the sun. Seriously, do these A-list heroes need solo books and team books? Yes, we’ll still read them, but this is exactly why the Avengers roster has always been varied over the years; to lock down just one core team for the last 55 years would have made for a very dull book indeed.
20 UNDERRATED: LIVING LIGHTNING
When Miguel Santos appeared in the recent Marvel event Avengers: No Surrender as a principal POV character, many were scratching their heads. This only goes to show how little history is being taught in schools these days. Living Lightning may not be as (ahem) flashy as your top-of-the-line Avengers, but he has the pedigree of a founding member.
Miguel has seen action in some of Marvel’s biggest events, including the Kree/Shi’ar War in Operation: Galactic Storm, against the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion, and he also stood fast by the side of Captain America during the first Civil War. A true team player, only a “second-stringer” like Lightning would take on the Grandmaster in a game of poker.
19 UNDERRATED: RED WOLF
The current Red Wolf comes about his Avengers membership through Hawkeye’s recent offshoot Occupy Avengers, and has therefore not been an active member long. However in that short time, he’s already proven his mettle — as everyone knows, just putting up with Hawkeye for an extended period of time should earn you a Nobel Peace Prize.
Red Wolf first appeared on Doom’s Battleworld in 2015’s Secret Wars, where he gave the Roxxon Mining Company a major headache. Once on Earth-616, he kept the Old West tradition alive by helping Hawkeye defend the residents of a reservation from the machinations of a greedy corporation, and also Hydro-Man. Finally, Red Wolf joined the Underground when evil Steve Rogers and Hydra took over the United States.
18 UNDERRATED: DOCTOR VOODOO
Originally known as Brother Voodoo, Jericho Drumm obtained his doctorate when he took over the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme from Stephen Strange in New Avengers #53. Not long after, Voodoo earned a spot on the Avengers’ Unity Squad, where his magic combined with the Scarlet Witch’s mutant hex powers made the team literally one of the Avengers’ most magical.
In his short time as an official Avenger, Jericho has risen to the call of leadership time and again, establishing himself as an authority in the field. The ghost of his brother Daniel has long been an adversary of Voodoo’s, and this long-time feud led recently in the pages of Uncanny Avengers to Jericho fighting one of the most exciting villains: Zombie Ninja Hulk!
17 UNDERRATED: HELLCAT
Known more for her active role in the non-team The Defenders, former teen sensation-turned-princess-of-Hell, Patsy Walker still retained her Avengers membership, even though she spent her earliest days as an Avenger training with Moondragon on Titan. Perhaps this is why she doesn’t get the respect she deserves, but anyone married to Daimon Hellstrom deserves our praise.
Though she may have been on the wrong side of history, Patsy willingly submitted to the Superhero Registration Act and at the very least was a force for good in the Avengers 50 State Initiative (even though she ended up in Alaska). As best friend and confidant of current Avenger She-Hulk, Patsy helped her legally foil such long-time adversaries as A.I.M. and aid such allies as Steve Rogers.
16 UNDERRATED: TWO-GUN KID
Perhaps the most unexpected Avenger, Matt Hawk actually began the tradition of Hawkeye teaming up with a time-displaced figure from the Old West. When the Avengers found themselves in the 1870s while battling Kang, the Two-Gun Kid helped the team defeat him. He then joined the team as they returned to the modern day.
Not unlike the later Occupy Avengers, Hawkeye accompanied the Two-Gun Kid as he explored the country until it got to be all too much for him and he returned home. If any readers cannot relate to that, they are doing excellent in life. He met with the Avengers again in his own time when he rescued Mockingbird from the clutches of the Phantom Rider. Once an Avenger, always an Avenger.
15 UNDERRATED: MACHINE MAN
Another hero who generally works alone, X-51 began his association with the Avengers when both east and west coast squads battled Terminus. Machine Man was made a West Coast Avenger reservist in the latter days of that team’s run. Unfortunately, Machine Man became part-Sentinel at one point and attacked Justice and Firestar, and his membership was revoked.
This didn’t set the living robot back too far, for he soon joined up with Nextwave, who were basically the Avengers if they worked for a hip conglomerate. He was joined by fellow Avenger Monica Rambeau, but by this point, Machine Man had lost some of his affection for the human race, and his attitude and drinking problem showed it.
14 UNDERRATED: CAPTAIN MARVEL (MONICA RAMBEAU)
Speaking of Monica Rambeau, before she became Spectrum, Captain Marvel not only led Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but was their first African-American female member. Making her bones in battles with Egghead and Plantman, Monica became leader not long after Baron Zemo’s siege on Avengers Mansion.
Future Thunderbolt Karla Sofen, aka Moonstone, was able to get the drop on her old nemesis early in that siege and trap her in the Darkforce dimension. In spite of her light-based powers being very weak in that dark place, Captain Marvel was able to escape in time to help defeat the Masters of Evil. She led the team valiantly until she lost her powers for a time in the great battle with the monster that was once Sub-Mariner’s wife, Marrina.
13 UNDERRATED: HAVOK
Another recent addition, little Alex Summers joined the Avengers Unity Squad after the death of his brother Cyclops, who had become the world’s number one mutant extremist. Alex’s joining of the team was a huge public relations move on their part, but one would have to be truly cynical to write his tenure off as a simple P.R. stunt.
Although Havok is currently occupying a moral gray area, Alex Summers gave a huge part of his life to the team. During an extended battle with Kang, Havok lost not only half his face, but his daughter with Janet Van Dyne. That timeline became undone, but it is little surprise that Alex remains confused and by the side of Emma Frost.
12 UNDERRATED: SHANG-CHI
Another recruit after the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, the Master of Kung Fu represents a push for the team to have more street-level members, teammates who may be less powerful but far better trained warriors. Shang-Chi definitely fits that bill, and quickly became a key member of Sunspot’s Avengers.
Shang-Chi was part of the rescue squad assembled by Steve Rodgers when the Avengers were held captive on Mars, bringing the streets into space. His tenure with the team has also seen some very exciting powers: He not only used Pym particles to become a giant and defeat a dragon attacking China, he had to literally battle himself and thereby gain the power of replication.
11 UNDERRATED: MANIFOLD
Many years ago, when the X-Men were based in Australia, their way in and out of their headquarters was an aboriginal mutant named Gateway, who rarely said a word. This did not stop Gateway from discovering and then teaching Eden Fesi, the mutant teleporter who would become Manifold and a key member of the Avengers.
Brought into the fold around the same time as Shang-Chi, Eden was meant to widen the Avengers’ scope in order to truly protect the entire Earth. He later joined Sunspot’s official unofficial off-shoot, the Avengers Idea Mechanics. In his final act as an Avenger, Manifold died transferring his powers into the hands of the Illuminati before the multiverse was destroyed. Happily, he’s back and living in Wakanda these days.
10 OVERRATED: ANT-MAN
With all due respect to Dr. Henry Pym, one of the founding members of the Avengers, the most sympathetic way to describe him would be unstable. The man can hardly land on an identity for more than a few issues, and even once went under the codename of… Henry Pym. Really put a lot of thought into that one, Hank.
Though at one time he held the title of Scientist Supreme, Pym’s scientific genius often seems to pale in comparison to Tony Stark or Bruce Banner (or Reed Richards, but that’s a little unfair). But if you need someone to create for you an artificial intelligence who is almost as powerful as a god and dedicated to eradicating the human race, Dr. Pym’s your guy.
9 OVERRATED: HAWKEYE
Yes, Clint Barton is a lot fun to be around, but he’s like your uncle that no one really talks about -- good for a few laughs, but you don’t want to let him babysit unless you’re fine with the kids getting tattoos or something. Hawkeye has definitely come a long way from his villain days, and was perfect as leader of the Thunderbolts, but to be such an A-list Avenger?
However, where Clint’s involvement really should have been limited is in how many of his teammates he’s dated. Black Widow, Mockingbird, the Wasp: the list is seemingly endless. He seems to make it work, but his human resources file must be thicker than the Yellow Pages.
8 OVERRATED: SPIDER-MAN
Spider-Man in the MCU as an Avenger is exciting for many reasons, but his joining the team in the comics has always felt just a little bit... off. One of the very earliest appearances of Spider-Man shows how just not good Peter is at the team dynamic when he tries to join the Fantastic Four.
Add to that his seemingly utter complacency to Stark during Civil War when he reveals his identity to the world. This was a jaw-dropping turn in the story and highly entertaining, but why would he do that all of the sudden? This of course led into the events of One More Day and Brand New Day, which remain controversial to many fans. Simply put, we were fine with solo Spidey.
7 OVERRATED: WOLVERINE
Truly one of the funniest things about Wolverine is that he has always been characterized as this tough lone-wolf type of fellow, yet he has been on no fewer than 8,000 teams since his introduction 40-some years ago. Okay, maybe that's give or take a few thousand there, but regardless, it’s still a high number.
Without Wolverine on the team, House of M may have had a much different outcome, we will grant that. On the other hand, during the Avengers vs. X-Men story, Wolverine sides with the Avengers, which is crazy. Wolverine may be many things, but for him to turn his back on his original team, the one that first gave him a home when no one else would, is beyond our ken.
6 OVERRATED: THE SENTRY
Though he made his first appearance in the year 2000, subsequent retconning has placed The Sentry throughout the entirety of the Marvel universe, and for some, this requires a stunning effort to willingly suspend disbelief enough to buy. Additionally, if Hank Pym is merely unstable, then Bob Reynolds is nothing short of 8.6 earthquake.
Since he’s so mentally troubled, Bob is easily manipulated into joining the Dark Avengers during Osborn’s Dark Reign, and with a powerhouse like The Sentry on his side, there was virtually no stopping Norman. This was one of the reasons he felt like he could invade Asgard during Siege, and though Bob eventually sacrificed himself to save the day in that storyline, his Avengers membership caused more harm than good.
5 OVERRATED: THE VISION
The Vision has always been an interesting character, but how he became such an A-lister is still rather lost on us. His progression as a character has been well served by the team dynamic, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a two-way street. If his solo series are any indication, like the 2015 series by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Vision works best on his own.
Probably the strangest thing about Vision’s apparent popularity as an Avenger is that when he was given a team to lead in its own book, Avengers A.I., it was cancelled after only 12 issues, even though it was really good. We suppose people want to give the android respect, but not too much.
4 OVERRATED: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Steve Rogers as a character has come a long way in the 21st century, especially once Ed Brubaker took over as writer, and the staunchy, corny old super patriot has become more than that. On the other hand: Cap-Wolf, anybody? It’ll take a lot more before we feel Cap is as dynamic a character as we are told he is.
Also, Secret Empire was nothing if not interesting, and we certainly waited until it ended before landing on a final judgement. After all that, though, we got to say Evil Captain America? No thanks. We hate to say it, but it left a bad taste in our mouths (which was helped by the Falcon taking up the shield, even if just for a bit).
3 OVERRATED: CAPTAIN MARVEL (CAROL DANVERS)
Carol Danvers has had a long and storied superhero career, and again, we are left scratching our heads as to how she became such an integral Avenger. Her first alias of Ms. Marvel, in fact, quite supports her vital independent streak, which is far and away her most appealing characteristic. So why bog that down with a team?
Further, Carol was an integral part of the just-okay follow-up to Civil War, the aptly named Civil War II. As often happens with authority figures, Carol becomes totally fine with sacrificing individual choices and rights if it protects the public good, a very slippery slope indeed. Carol has become Marvel’s major female hero in the last decade or so, but we’d rather have Monica Rambeau, frankly.
2 OVERRATED: THE WASP
Talk about getting the short shrift (yes, that is a size joke). Not only a founding member of the Avengers, but the one who came up with the name, Jan was relegated in the early days to being the token female character, generally more interested in Thor’s pretty blue eyes than anything else.
Her apparent death at the end of Secret Invasion was rather a shock, so she definitely holds some importance to the team. However, these days, it feels like she’s now the token founding member instead of the token woman. She didn’t have much to do on the Avengers Unity Squad, aside from her marriage to Havok(!). Okay, maybe we’re wrong, Jan is pretty fun to read about.
1 OVERRATED: THE HULK
Okay, but seriously, how is The Hulk a founding member? The Avengers came together as a team to stop the Hulk. Yes, granted it was Loki that was behind the whole thing, but the volatile team members we’ve mentioned so far? Dr. Bruce Banner’s alter-ego is the absolute most volatile of all.
The Hulk remains one of our favorite Marvel superheroes, but all these years later for him to be such a major Avenger simply does not add up. He is the very definition of not being a team player. He worked much better as a member of the Defenders, specifically because technically the Defenders were not a real team. It’s comic book logic, but it still counts!