Over the past decade, the Avengers took over the Marvel Universe. While Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are at the center of the biggest movie franchise in film history today, the Avengers were arguably Marvel’s second (or third) most important superhero team for years. In the mid-2000s, that started to change with blockbusters stories like “Avengers Disassembled” and Marvel’s Civil War. After those landmark events tore the Avengers apart, the numerous Avengers squads that formed in their wake became the clear center of the Marvel Universe. Where there only used to be one or two Avengers teams at any given moment, new Avengers teams like the covert Secret Avengers and the tech-focused Avengers A.I. started to pop up. Since there are only so many classic Avengers, those new teams had to recruit a lot of new members to fill out their respective rosters. While membership in the Avengers used to be reserved for Marvel’s most respectable heroes, this recruiting drive opened up the team’s doors to pretty much everyone in the Marvel Universe.
Now, CBR is taking a look at the best and worst new Avengers recruits of the past decade. In this list, we’ll be looking at heroes who joined any official Avengers team in 2008 or later. While we’ll be focusing on characters and teams from the main Marvel Universe, we will be factoring in some of their appearance in other media and alternate dimensions. While some of these characters distinguished themselves through their time with the Avengers, others didn’t. They’re not bad characters, but they weren’t quite a great fit for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
20. BEST: GHOST RIDER (ROBBIE REYES)
Given the number of magical threats they deal with on a regular basis, the Avengers usually keep a few mystical heroes aroundon the roster. While the team only recruited Doctor Strange shockingly recently in 2007, the Avengers filled out their supernatural numbers with their newest recruit, Ghost Rider.
Robbie Reyes, the current Ghost Rider, joined the team in 2018’s Avengers #1, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness. Even though he’s still early in his tenure, he’s already used his supernatural powers to take control of a fallen Celestial. To defeat the Dark Celestials, Robbie also channeled the minds and powers of the other Avengers into a massive blast that took down the cosmic beings. That’s a pretty good way to make a first impression.
19. WORST: CABLE
The time-traveling Cable might be the founder of X-Force and one of the X-Men’s most famous leaders, but his time with the Avengers was largely unremarkable. Before he joined the Avengers, the telepathic mutant spent an entire miniseries fighting them in Avengers: X-Sanction, which served as a prequel to the 2010 crossover Avengers vs. X-Men.
After the Avengers and X-Men made up and formed the Avengers Unity Squad, Cable joined that team in 2016’s Uncanny Avengers #3, by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman. After helping a motley crew of Avengers defeat plants that almost consumed the world, Cable stayed around for a few more adventures. However, Cable was sidelined with a “telepathic coma” and left the team after just over a year.
18. BEST: ROGUE
With her history, Rogue almost makes more sense as a member of the Avengers than as an X-Man. The Avengers have a history of recruiting former villains, and Rogue debuted fighting the Avengers with Mystique in 1981’s Avengers Annual #10, by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden. After absorbing the powers of the Avengers’ Ms. Marvel, Rogue left for the X-Men, where she transformed into one of the team’s core members.
After Avengers vs. X-Men, Rogue joined the Avengers Unity Squad in 2013’s Uncanny Avengers #4, by Rick Remender and John Cassaday. Rogue flourished on the team and became the group’s longest-serving leader. She played key roles in helping the group defeat world-ending threats like the Celestial Exitar, the High Evolutionary, Ultron and the Red Skull.
17. WORST: PROTECTOR
In Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones’ Marvel Boy #1, the extra-dimensional alien Noh-Varr crashed into the Marvel Universe. While that 2000 series set him up to be Marvel’s hippest, most dangerous hero, he went unused, unmentioned and ignored for years. Once Marvel Boy finally re-emerged, he struggled to find his place in a world filled with other heroes.
After taking the superhero name Protector, Noh-Varr joined the Avengers in 2010’s Avengers #6, by Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr. After serving with the Avengers for some unremarkable adventures, Marvel Boy betrayed the team for the alien Kree Empire. While he wasn’t welcome on the main team, Noh-Varr found more success as a member of the Young Avengers and helping the Inhuman Royal Family.
16. BEST: SPIDER-MAN (MILES MORALES)
After Peter Parker perished in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales took over his role as that world’s Spider-Man. At the end of the universe-shattering crossover Secret Wars, Miles found himself in the main Marvel Universe and quickly earned a spot on the Avengers.
Along with other young heroes like Ms. Marvel and Nova, Miles joined the Avengers in Mark Waid and Adam Kubert’s All-New, All-Different Avengers #3. During his time on the team, Miles and his young teammates took on classic Marvel villains like Kang and Annihilus while forming friendships that cemented them as the next generation’s biggest heroes. In Marvel’s Civil War II, these friendships kept Miles from taking a dark path and set the stage for the newest incarnation of the Champions.
15. WORST: STAR BRAND
The Star Brand is a sigil that grants whoever has it an infinite amount of vast cosmic power. When college student Kevin Conner was given the Star Brand, he accidentally vaporized his entire college campus. Instead of teaching him how to use his abilities, the Avengers just dropped Star Brand on a space station next to the Sun.
In 2013’s Avengers #17, by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy, and Marco Checchetto, the Avengers invited Star Brand to join so they could use his immense power in a cosmic conflict. Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Star Brand spent much of his Avengers tenure on the front lines of interstellar wars, where he ultimately perished in battle.
14. BEST: SUNSPOT
Sunspot never really seemed like Avengers material. After growing up in the New Mutants, the hot-headed Roberto da Costa joined the renegade X-Force and kept to the X-Men’s general orbit. But when Captain America called Bobby in 2013’s Avengers #2, by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena, he and his buddy Cannonball jumped at the chance to join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Through some unorthodox methods, Sunspot managed to take down a group that had plagued his fellow Avengers for decades. In an ingenious move, Sunspot used his family fortune to buy Advanced Idea Mechanics, an organization made up of Marvel’s notorious mad scientists. While that move bothered some older Avengers, Sunspot used A.I.M.’s resources as the foundation for teams like the New Avengers and the U.S.Avengers.
13. WORST: IRON HULK
While Bruce Banner’s Hulk might call himself “the strongest one there is,” the Iron Hulk definitely couldn’t say the same. After General Robert Maverick helped S.H.I.E.L.D. absorb Sunspot’s A.I.M., he used Hulk Plug-Ins to transform into a Hulk for one hour at a time. In Al Ewing and Paco Medina’s U.S.Avengers #1, Maverick joined the government-sanctioned team as the Red Hulk.
However, the Hulk Plug-Ins came with some serious side effects, which only got worse when Maverick tried to make his powers last longer. After being warned against using his powers again, Maverick hulked-out and donned the Iron Patriot armor to become the Iron Hulk. Despite Maverick’s best efforts, the original Hulk ultimately defeated the Iron Hulk and turned him back into a puny human.
12. BEST: MS. MARVEL
More than any other single character, Kamala Khan represents the future of the Marvel Universe. Since she burst onto the scene as Ms. Marvel in 2014, Kamala has become Marvel’s most endearing new character in years. After growing up idolizing the Avengers, this super-stretchy Inhuman joined the team in Mark Waid and Adam Kubert’s All-New, All-Different Avengers #3.
While Ms. Marvel helped the team defeat Annihilus and Kang, Kamala distinguished herself as a real hero when she left the Avengers in protest. While Marvel’s Civil War II divided the superhero community, Ms. Marvel quit the team she loved since they weren’t helping enough people. In all likelihood, it’s only a matter of time before Kamala takes her rightful spot in the Avengers once again.
11. WORST: SABRETOOTH
Sabretooth might be one of the most savage villains in Marvel’s history, but he was largely defanged after the 2014 storyline Axis. Along with several other heroes and villains, Victor Creed’s personality was “inverted” during a battle with a telepathic Red Skull. This turned the vicious villain into a Wolverine-esque hero, who kept his new personality after the story ended.
Despite his criminal past, the kinder, gentler Sabretooth joined the Avengers Unity Squad in 2015’s Uncanny Avengers #1, by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna. He only stayed with the team for a single adventure. After defeating the High Evolutionary, a powerful mad scientist, Sabretooth left the Avengers and joined a few X-Men teams that made better use of his talents.
10. BEST: SHANG-CHI
As his nickname suggests, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu, is arguably the best physical fighter in the Marvel Universe. After his solo series ended in 1983, Shang-Chi was largely reduced to making the occasional guest appearance during team-ups with Spider-Man or Wolverine. However, Shang-Chi found a more permanent home after he joined the Avengers in 2013’s Avengers #1, by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena.
During his time with the team, Shang-Chi leveled up to deal with the team’s cosmic threats. He augmented his abilities with hi-tech nunchaku and other Stark-designed weapons. Using Pym Particles, Shang-Chi grew to a giant-size and punched out a dragon. While he was investigating a site that aliens had terraformed, he even gained the handy ability to create duplicates of himself.
9. WORST: EX NIHILO
To make an extremely convoluted story short, Ex Nihilo is an alien Gardener who was tasked with turning anyone and anything he encountered into perfect lifeforms. For instance, he used his life-sustaining powers to transform Mars into a habitable planet. When he turned his attention to Earth, he wiped out entire cities by accelerating the evolutionary process to a devastating degree.
After the Avengers exiled him to Mars, they asked Ex Nihilo to join the team in 2013’s Avengers #17, by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy, and Marco Checchetto. While he helped the team out during a cosmic crisis or two, he ultimately perished turning one of the most powerful entities in the universe into a giant tree.
8. BEST: HUMAN TORCH
At some point over the past few decades, three members of the Fantastic Four joined at least one Avengers team. Oddly enough, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, didn’t officially join an Avengers squad until 2015’s Uncanny Avengers #1, by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman. After the Fantastic Four broke up, Johnny spent some time with the Inhumans. When the Avengers Unity Squad wanted to add some Inhumans into its mix of mutant and human heroes, Johnny joined too.
After inheriting the rights to Mr. Fantastic’s patents, the Human Torch became an overnight billionaire. In addition to setting up charities around the world and fighting bad guys with the team, he purchased the abandoned Avengers Mansion and turned it into the team’s new home.
7. WORST: AVENGER X
Even though she was only created a few years ago, Avenger X was retroactively inserted into the early days of the Avengers. When the Avengers found Cressida while on a mission in Thailand, they discovered that she could amplify their powers. In Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Avengers #2.1, Cressida joined the team. However, she didn’t tell anyone that her abilities were powered by taking other people’s lives.
To keep her secret, Cressida began turning the team against each other. Despite their relative inexperience, they caught on fairly quickly and took her down. Paste Pot Pete and some other villains found her and trapped her in a hole for years. After she freed herself and fought today’s Avengers, Iron Man exiled her to the Microverse.
6. BEST: STORM
While Storm was one of the most prominent X-Men and arguably Marvel’s most famous female hero for years, she surprisingly didn’t join the Avengers until 2011. In Brian Michael Bendis and Daniel Acuna’s Avengers #19, she joined the team during a recruitment drive. During her fairly short stint with the team, the weather-controlling mutant helped the team take on Norman Osborn.
As one of Marvel’s most powerful, and respected, mutants, Storm’s membership in the Avengers was long overdue. However, her time with the team came to an abrupt halt in the lead-up to the crossover Avengers vs. X-Men. she was only around for a little while in the main Marvel Universe, Storm served as the Avengers’ second-in-command in the long-running all-ages title Marvel Adventures: Avengers.
5. WORST: KALUU
From Doctor Strange to Magik and the Scarlet Witch, the Marvel Universe is filled with fan-favorite mystical heroes. Kaluu isn’t one of them. After he was created by Dennis O’Neil and Bill Everett in 1966’s Strange Tales #147, this ancient sorcerer took over Kamar-Taj and used mind-control to turn its residents into his loyal army. Using his knowledge of dark magic, he also battled Doctor Strange a few times before forming an uneasy alliance with the Master of the Mystic Arts.
Despite the nature of his powers and his history of conquest, Kaluu served on the Mighty Avengers. When Blade and the team were dealing with supernatural threats, Kaluu joined the fairly short-lived team in 2014’s Mighty Avengers #13, by Al Ewing and Salvador Larroca.
4. BEST: BLUE MARVEL
The Blue Marvel is one of Marvel’s more recent attempts to weave a Superman-esque character into the fabric of Marvel Universe. After being exposed to energy from the Negative Zone, super-scientist Adam Brashear developed an array of anti-matter-based powers. After fighting crime as the Blue Marvel in the 1960s, Brashear was forced into early retirement.
While he spent years continuing his research in his private undersea bunker, Brashear reemerged as the Blue Marvel and joined Luke Cage’s Avengers team in 2014’s Mighty Avengers #3, by Al Ewing and Greg Land. Despite his years away, he joined just in time to help the team deal with the all-powerful cosmic squid Shuma-Gorath, Thanos’ Black Order and a dangerous group of aliens called the Beyond Corporation.
3. WORST: ANT-MAN (ERIC O’GRADY)
Most of the characters who’ve ever called themselves Ant-Man have done some pretty bad things in their life. For Scott Lang, the good he did as Ant-Man certainly outweighed his history of petty crime. Unfortunately, the same thing couldn’t be said for Eric O’Grady. After stealing an Ant-Man costume off of his friend’s body, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent began fighting and committing crime as the “irredeemable” Ant-Man.
Although he did some good, the suit’s shrinking powers allowed O’Grady to follow his worst impulses. To atone for his misdeeds, O’Grady joined a covert Avengers squad in 2010’s Secret Avengers #1, by Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato Jr. After stumbling his way into helping the team, O’Grady perished saving a child from a vicious group of robots.
2. BEST: WINTER SOLDIER
For decades, Bucky Barnes was one of the only comic book characters who never came back to life. But since he was resurrected as the Winter Soldier, the Marvel Universe has felt empty whenever he’s not around. After he took over Steve Rogers’ role as Captain America, Bucky joined the New Avengers in 2009’s New Avengers #48, by Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan.
Bucky served as the Avengers’ resident Captain America through major storylines like Secret Invasion, Siege and Fear Itself. In the midst of an alien invasion, he even let the team crash at his secret safe house. Even in Avengers: Infinity War‘s Battle of Wakanda, Bucky cemented his status as an Avenger by serving as a dependable soldier during earth-shattering conflicts.
1. WORST: DEADPOOL
When Deadpool debuted in Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s New Mutants #98, he was a neat-looking, funnier-than-average villain. Despite his obvious appeal, Wade Wilson never seemed like Avengers material until he became one of Marvel’s signature heroes.
Just before his first solo movie, Deadpool joined the Avengers in 2015’s Avengers #0, by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman. After he proved himself to Captain America, the patriotic hero offered him a spot on the Avengers Unity Squad. While that started out well, it ended in tragedy. When that imposter Steve Rogers broke bad and conquered the country in Secret Empire, Wilson felt compelled to side with him out of loyalty. Even though he helped defeat Cap, Wade’s decisions took a serious toll on Deadpool’s superhero credibility.
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