The Marvel Universe is packed to the brim with villains. On every side of the cosmos, throughout the multiverse, villains have existed to bring each and every hero down a peg, whether it’s Thanos and his amassing of alien armies to siege an entire system, or Galactus’ animalistic hunger for the energy of an infinite number of planets. But not every villain can stand with these cosmic powerhouses and actually change the face of the Marvel Universe in their quest for domination. No, some villains don’t quite live up to expectations.
But we’re not just talking about bit villains and punchlines baddies here. Sure, every superhero has their Batroc the Leaper or Shocker, but some villains, even with all of the power in the universe and a major comic series behind them, just don’t quite live up to expectations. And with a history as long and colorful as Marvel Comics, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have seen their fair share of lackluster villains. For every Kang the Conqueror and Green Goblin, there’s a High Evolutionary or Red Goblin to take their place — in some cases literally. This list takes a look at a number of Marvel villains that didn’t quite live up to the grand expectations set of them and anticipated. Some are the offspring of great heroes like Hulk or Wolverine, while others are clones or body doubles of heroes like Captain America and Spider-Man. Some would go on to be heroes, while others would just fade into the comics ether.
20. RONAN THE ACCUSER
Ronan the Accuser has played a zealous Kree executioner, but he’s also played a bastion of hope in the cosmos of the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately for him and his villainous career, he’s better off playing the good guy, leading the times he attempts to be a villain sorely lacking.
In recent series like “The Black Vortex” event with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men, or in Royals, Ronan comes off more as a man looking to steal a fancy weapon more so than someone looking for earned revenge. But his appearance in Annihilation cements him as one of the tentpoles of the Marvel cosmic universe.
19. HANK PYM/ULTRON
Hank Pym’s fusion with Ultron could have been something amazing, and springing off the heels of Avengers: Rage of Ultron, his villainy could have been something truly awful for the Avengers. Instead, Ultron/Hank Pym has became a bit of a bit character in a number of major events.
During “Secret Empire,” he played a sort-of mediator for each side of the war, while in the lead up to “Infinity Wars,” he fell to an animalistic desire for an Infinity Stone. But who knows? If Hank Pym ever split off from his worst creation, maybe we’ll see a truly evil Ultron once again.
18. HYDRA CAP
What, you didn’t see this one coming? Sure, he’s a more recent example of a big bad whittled down to basically a non-threat, but at one point Hydra Captain America was the greatest threat in the Marvel Universe. He lurked in the pages of a number of events following “Secret Wars,” even puppeteering parts of “Civil War II” to take prominent heroes off the board.
But the reveal that he is “not a clone” that’s basically a clone left many feeling cheated, maybe even more so than the first time Steve Rogers muttered “Hail Hydra.” And despite putting the entire world in a vice grip, the *good* Steve Rogers is back and action and back to being the beacon of hope. Nice try, Hydra Cap.
17. SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
You may have your thoughts about Doctor Octopus as the Superior Spider-Man, but you can’t say it wasn’t risky. As a villain, Doc Ock’s take on Spidey wasn’t quite as menacing as we’d expect. Rather than take the time to totally ruin Peter Parker’s life, Otto actually made his life better, took care of Aunt May and even fell in love.
In a sense, the Superior Spider-Man became a pretty incredible, if not stubborn hero that we hated to see go so soon. And sure, he’s sort of floating out there in the post-Hydra ether in a cloned Peter’s body, but we’ll never know what could have been if Doc Ock kept his villainous tendencies while living as Peter.
16. MAGNETO (ULTIMATE)
In the early years of the Ultimate line of Marvel Comics, villains amped up just how murderous and terrifying they were. So when the Ultimate line reached a peak and tried to garner back its audience with the events of “Ultimatum”, Magneto was used as a keystone for a dark and villainous plot.
That’s right, Magneto swapped the poles of the planet and caused catastrophic storms the world over — oh, and he got Thor’s hammer. It was a blatant use of shock value that not only devalued Magneto as a character, but it made the “no resurrections” motto of the Ultimate universe feel like just another misdirection for fans to buy books to see what happened next.
Love him or hate him, Frank Castle hasn’t always been the biggest and baddest of villains, in the traditional sense. To most heroes, Castle is an unchecked vigilante, and his prowess in the Marvel Universe was set to explore a realm of blurriness between what actually makes a good hero and what makes that hero a villain.
Unfortunately, albeit a few stellar runs, Punisher as a villain never really hit any of the moral highs it was promised to, but his ventures into heroism actually pay off — go figure. Thankfully, the live-action take on Frank Castle from Marvel’s Daredevil plays off of his more prominent comic runs, giving us a more nuanced take on the murderous, vengeful Castle.
14. RED GOBLIN
Everything had been set in place to make Red Goblin a truly terrifying villain that would give Spider-Man a run for his money. And while Dan Slott crafted a pretty creative baddie with Norman Osborn and the Carnage Symbiote, there just wasn’t enough time to make Peter Parker’s battle with his greatest enemy one truly for the books.
The threat was there, but Slott’s last few Spidey issues became more about celebrating what makes Peter who he is as opposed to a death-defying final battle with Norman Osborn — and it was a wonderful love letter to the character, if only he had had more time.
The concept that makes Skaar, the son of Hulk, a “villain” is actually a pretty great one. With what we knew about the “Planet Hulk” story arc and Bruce Banner’s response to that, Skaar threw a wrench in everything the character may have done to make peace with that part of his life.
Skaar was the powerful offspring of one of the toughest, untouchable heroes in the Marvel Universe — and he wasn’t happy about it. He joined up with the Dark Avengers, formed by Norman Osborn, and honestly just kind of fizzled out after that, only popping up from a brief moment of mourning in “Civil War II.”
12. OMEGA RED
There was a lot of thought put into whether Omega Red belonged on this list or not. In many ways, the X-Men villain with terrifying tentacles lived up to a lot of his promise during early incarnations of his character. He played an integral part in the formative years of plenty of X-Men, but recently, he hasn’t been making good on the premise of his villainy.
His appearance in the Ultimate series of comics was lacking, and he ultimately fell to Wolverine via the Muramasa Blade. Even more recently, Omega Red appears as an odd joke in the bonus features of Deadpool 2’s home release.
All things considered, Namor makes a pretty great villain, but the fact that there is never a true commitment to his villainy lands him on this list of disappointments. Namor plays the antagonist numerous times throughout the history of Marvel Comics, more recently as a rogue member of the Illuminati in the lead-up to 2015’s “Secret Wars,” and as the militaristic government leader responsible for Atlantis’ siege of Wakanda and subsequent siege of Atlantis by Wakanda.
But lately, Namor has been playing the hero in books like X-Men Red, and while he is still frank and quite sarcastic, his place on the side of good (and for the side of Atlantis) ultimately makes him a better character.
10. MISTER X
This mutant ending machine has a lot of potential to be a truly terrifying piece of work, but his exploits in the comics and over-edgy appearance has led to a not-so-great payoff when he comes to blows with members of the X-Men, mostly Wolverine.
Mister X is obsessed with the concept of the end and sharing the final moments of mortal life with those about to pass, eventually leading to him ending them himself just so he can take part in the experience. He was also an annoying part of the villainous team during “Siege,” before being apprehended, where we haven’t heard from him since.
Lash’s whole deal was actually pretty terrifying. He felt that the NuHumans (Inhumans that had their latent power awakened by the Terrigen Mists) were impure, and that their appearances and abilities should be purged from the living.
He had a horrifying appearance to boot, but when the Inhuman series fell flat on delivering a satisfying conclusion for the villain, we were left wondering just how dangerous Lash really was and just what kind of threat he posed to an entirely new generation of Inhumans. Couple that with a lackluster and quite odd live-action appearance in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Lash gets a spot on this disappointing list.
Daken exists because every major superhero has to have a kid that’s supposed to be evil, right? Right. Daken had a lot of promise in his introduction to the Marvel Universe, but quickly fell to a number of tropes that left his interactions with Wolverine emotionless and his recruitment to teams like the Dark Avengers way less earned than one could have imagined.
But Daken has seen recent new life in the comics, mostly as a hero tagging along with X-23 and her clone/sister Gabby. His characterization is superb and his role as a hero makes a heck of a lot more sense, anyway.
7. HIGH EVOLUTIONARY
The High Evolutionary should take his place among the greatest of Avengers’ villains as a top tier baddie hellbent on twisting the universe to his own grim image, but the execution of most of his plans have actually been pretty lackluster.
In everything from the High Evolutionary War to more recent stories in books like Champions and Uncanny Avengers, the High Evolutionary just comes off as a crazy guy who wants to turn people into animals, robots into people and plenty more. He’s terrifying in concept and fairly steadfast in his goals, but compared to the likes of Thanos or Galactus, he quickly pales in comparison.
6. RED ONSLAUGHT
While the original Onslaught was edgy in his own right, at least he made a good case for why he was a pretty strong villain for the X-Men. But among the things wonky with the Avengers vs. X-Men: AXIS plot, Red Onslaught may have been one of the worst.
All of the worst parts of Magneto, Professor X and Red Skull were brought together to create a twisted visage, one that only made the good-to-bad and bad-to-good plot line of “AXIS” that much weirder. He was quickly defeated, though Red Skull did proceed to do mostly nothing with Professor X’s brain in his head for a number of years.
5. MARVEL ZOMBIES
The Marvel Zombies never really got their day in the sun in the main Marvel Universe, but in all honesty they could have been the next big thing. And while the first volume of issues was certainly a fresh take on the zombie genre, subsequent entries diluted the brain-eating brand and turned them into more of a joke than a universe full of terrifying, undead superheroes.
Will they come back in the future? Maybe, but they’re gonna need some real power behind them if they want to face off against the living. The “Secret Wars” spin-off story was a start, but who knows where the Zombies will go in the future.
As the latest edition to the Elders of the Universe, Challenger promised to be quite the threat to some of the new guard of the Marvel Universe. Falcon, Jane Foster, the Avengers Unity Squad and a handful of others played in the game that Challenger had set up with the Grandmaster, which quickly devolved into a meddling of memories with the Avengers.
But Challenger was merely a background threat, while the daughter of Grandmaster, Voyager, played the true soul of an Avengers event that celebrated the entire history of the super team. Challenger, however, fell flat as a main baddie.
3. SPIDER QUEEN
A villain that wants to turn the bright and wonderful powers of Spider-Man into a weapon to evolve the human race? We’re in. Unfortunately, this plot led to the high-concept “Spider-Island” event, which really just ended up being a lot of really grotesque takes on some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Even the Spider Queen herself mutated into something quite terrible, but the plot involving Kaine, Jackal, Peter and more quickly devolved into a “beat the bad guy, foreshadow the future” trope that plagues many major comic events. Both Kaine and the Jackal would go on to play integral part of Dan Slott’s run on Spider-Man.
Another villain to make the jump to main Marvel Universe following the events of “Secret Wars,” Maestro could have been the one to let loose on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Instead, Maestro had a bit of fun in Contest of Champions, fell to Wolverine in Old Man Logan and even had a one-sided spar with Thanos in the pages of the Donny Cates/Geoff Shaw run on the character.
For a super-intelligent and extremely powerful take on the Hulk, Maestro truly fell flat on what could have been incredible villainous potential. He does get points for his time in Spider-Man 2099 though, as he faced off against the futuristic Spider-Man.
1. THE MAKER
There’s something so wonderful about the concept of an evil Reed Richards waging war on the family he claimed to love — and the entire Marvel Universe by relation. So fans considered it a major disappointment when The Maker survived the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, only to be relegated to half of a villain in the pages of New Avengers after “Secret Wars” concluded.
With all of that build up, how could fans not feel betrayed by the misuse of a villain with 10+ years of Ultimate Comics backstory. For now, The Maker remains just a pawn in the villainous game of the main Marvel Universe.
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