The Avengers have been protecting humanity since 1964. From the moment that Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man, Thor, and the Wasp banded together, we’ve all expected Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to be infallible and protect humanity every single time. They’re used to coming up with creative strategies and using their unique powers to win the day. Their sheer might is generally enough of a deterrent against most threats, but the Avengers are not unbeatable and that fact has been on display numerous times. Whether Kang has taken over the entire world or Thanos bats them away without a thought or a secret race of androids proves to be unstoppable, the Avengers have lost more than once.
Since this is comics, things are usually alright in the end, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the Avengers took a massive L in some cases. On top of that, many of the times that they’ve come back from these losing scenarios are due to luck or the enemy’s hubris or outside help. It may be due to overwhelming odds or just bad luck, but the Avengers have had some embarrassing losses in the past and we’re here to document some of the worst ones. With that, here’s the 20 Most Embarrassing Avengers Losses.
20 INFINITY GAUNTLET
Thanos had always been a powerful foe, but never had he been so unstoppable as when he wielded all six Infinity Stones and gained absolute power over every aspect of the universe. In 1991’s Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos had assembled the Infinity Gauntlet and pondered how he would use the Gauntlet’s power to impress mistress Death. This train of thought led to him snapping his fingers and killing half of all life in the entire universe.
The Avengers assembled at his outpost in space to stop him, but there really wasn’t anything that any of them could do.
They were given a fighting chance when Mephisto convinced Thanos to fight them using only one stone at a time. But even then, they posed no challenge whatsoever to Thanos as he mowed through the heroes. He made an organism grow on Namor and She-Hulk that killed them, he sent Mjolnir away and dismissed Thor, he turns Wolverine’s Adamantium into rubber and even encases Cyclops’ head in a clear block of energy that cut off his oxygen supply preventing him from firing his optic beams. He defeated all of the Avengers and killed almost all of them. The only reason Thanos eventually lost was because he left his body to assume an astral form and Nebula was able to steal the gauntlet from his empty body.
19 AGAINST THE ADAPTOIDS
The Secret Avengers were created by Captain America in the wake of "Dark Reign" and "Siege". While the Avengers would serve as the public defenders of the peace, the Secret Avengers took on more covert missions with less government interference. One of these missions in 2012'S Secret Avengers #22 involves them investigating the Descendants, a collection of androids that were built to be human and were patterned after the original Human Torch.
The offshoot of the Descendants that the Secret Avengers faced off against most often was the Adaptoids, androids patterned after the Super-Adaptoid. In every encounter the Secret Avengers had with the Adaptoids, they were thoroughly outmatched. Their ability to adapt to any power stumped even the strongest of the Secret Avengers. They were only able to rally when Agent Venom appeared and caught the Adaptoids by surprise. Regardless, they were still unable to stop any of them during their initial encounter and could only delay them as they fled. Meanwhile the Adaptoids killed Ant-Man and replaced him with a Life Model Decoy and convinced the original Human Torch to lead their forces on an assault on humanity. The Secret Avengers were only able to stop it by bringing the Human Torch back to his senses so that he could destroy the source of the Descendants’ power. The Secret Avengers were physically outmatched during this entire ordeal.
18 SECRET EMPIRE
Hydra has been a very long lasting force for evil in the Marvel Universe. Generally they haven’t been successful in their attempts to take over the world and remake it in their image. However, one might wonder how successful they would be if they enlisted the help of their greatest enemy. Well readers got the chance to see what would happen if Captain America was a part of Hydra in 2017’s Secret Empire. In this event, the Red Skull used a sentient Cosmic Cube to replace Captain America with an alternate version of himself that was a Hydra sleeper agent since the '40s. The storyline was divisive but it truly shocked readers to see an irredeemable Captain America leading supervillains and a Hydra army to take on the Avengers.
Secret Empire was another event where the heroes came perilously close to total defeat.
Hydra and evil Steve Rogers managed to actually take over the world for a period of a few weeks. They outmaneuvered most of the heroes and confined them to where they couldn’t interfere. A small Underground resistance remained but Hydra still effectively won at that point. Eventually, the Underground allied with a few other remaining heroes and obtained a fragment of the Cosmic Cube which allowed them to free the other heroes. But even then, evil Captain America donned an armor powered by multiple fragments of the Cosmic Cube and trounced the Avengers and other heroes that opposed him.
17 DARK REIGN
You have to consider it a failure when you let a known supervillain obtain a position of extreme power within the government of one of the most powerful nations on Earth. After the events of 2008’s "Secret Invasion", the United States government was shaken by the nearly-successful Skrull invasion, leading to sweeping changes in their defense policy which would only invite more disaster. From 2008-2009, Norman Osborn became the United States primary defense officer and this era was known as Osborn’s "Dark Reign". This period saw the public opinion of superheroes at incredible lows while diabolical beings were able to plot their terrible schemes out in the open. This was truly a peak for the villains.
The fact that this was allowed to happen should be already counted as a defeat for the Avengers. But there were were several instances during Dark Reign where the Avengers were defeated both physically by the Dark Avengers and politically by losing a lot of support to Norman Osborn. Osborn’s position of power and cunning mind allowed him to gain influence over the Mighty Avengers, get Thor exiled from Asgard, and rise to the highest defense position in the United States government, giving him access to unparalleled resources. The Avengers were outmatched at every level during this time period.
16 CIVIL WAR
This was a philosophical battle that escalated into a devastating war between many of Marvel’s most recognizable heroes. Unlike most conflicts, both sides suffered a major blow and virtually every hero on Earth in the Marvel Universe lost. The 2006 and 2007 crossover event Civil War featured a division within the heroes that saw Captain America and Iron Man leading teams of heroes against each other in a battle debate over the Superhero Registration Act. This act required all superheroes to register with the government and make their identities public knowledge. Captain America believed that this infringed on the civil liberties that heroes had while Iron Man believed that regulating heroes in this manner was necessary to keep other people and themselves safe.
The bout between the heroes went way too far in this case.
Tony developed devices to control supervillains and used them against Captain America’s Anti-Registration forces. Cap worked with the Punisher and deployed him to steal plans from the Pro-Registration forces. On top of all of this, Goliath was killed in one of these fights and, in the aftermath of this encounter, Captain America was killed as well. The toll that this confrontation took on the heroes and their relationship with one another ensured that every one of them lost.
15 AGE OF ULTRON
Ultron has come so close to succeeding in his evil plans that it isn’t hard to imagine what it would be like if he actually won his war against the Avengers.That question was answered in the 2013 series Age of Ultron which featured Ultron as the ruler of Earth. In this story, Ultron launches an attack that catches the entire world by surprise. He starts first by attacking New York, then Ultron drones flood every city. Most heroes are defeated in the blink of an eye and the remaining ones are forced to take refuge in remote or tiny places where they can remain hidden from Ultron’s forces.
This was a total defeat for the heroes as they were forced to first hide underground in New York then flee to the Savage Land. It was eventually revealed that Ultron was actually attacking them from the future and was using Vision as a conduit to while he safely punished humankind. With the heroes losing more people every day, they decided that time travel was the only recourse. Most of the remaining Avengers wanted to travel to the future to confront Ultron and stop him from launching the attack. Meanwhile, Wolverine decides to instead go back in time and kill Hank Pym before he created Ultron. The heroes in the future are unsuccessful in their assault, but Wolverine, with some help from Sue Storm, is able to get Pym in the past to create a fail-safe in Ultron instead.
14 OLD MAN LOGAN
Alternate universe stories allow companies to explore much darker storylines and events. And obviously, many people wanted to know what would happen if Wolverine were tricked into killing most of the X-Men and went into a life of seclusion as the world turns into a lawless wasteland run by the strongest individuals. One of the many post-apocalyptic universes that Marvel has explored, "Old Man Logan" was a 2008 storyline that followed a now pacifist Wolverine as he tries to simply pay the rent by taking a job from Hawkeye to help deliver a package across the country.
Obviously hijinks ensue when the two of them decide to travel a ravaged world together.
Logan and Hawkeye get into adventures across the lawless country, kill the President (Red Skull), Logan eventually pops his claws once again when his family is killed by the Hulk's inbred children (comics are weird). But the reason that this lawless wasteland even exists is because the supervillains rose up and defeated the heroes, the Avengers included. There's very few heroes left to keep order, so almost anything can happen. Even the X-Men were killed off. But in this universe, they were killed off by Wolverine who was tricked into thinking that they were enemies by Mysterio. This is truly a sad future that the Avengers and other heroes had the opportunity to prevent.
13 UNDER SIEGE
One of the most embarrassing ways to lose to your archenemies would have to be doing so on your own turf. During the "Under Siege" readers got to see exactly that. The Masters of Evil have been the antithesis of the Avengers since they premiered in The Avengers #6 in 1964. They were assembled by Captain America foe Baron Heinrich Zemo who was tired of always losing to Captain America and wary of the formation of the Avengers. Later, his son would pull together another incarnation of the Masters of Evil made up of others who were tired of being defeated by the Avengers. This time, fueled purely by revenge, they avoided the big evil plan and just invaded Avengers Mansion while the Avengers were out.
From there, things had to get worse for the Avengers before they could get better. Zemo and the Masters laid waste to the mansion and tortured Jarvis while Captain America watched. They even managed to beat Hercules within an inch of his life using a combination of manipulation and raw power. The Avengers had to regroup and call in some back up before they were able to retake their mansion. But for some time there, the Masters won. They took the Avengers’ home from them and trashed it while mercilessly beating several people they cared about.
12 THE KANG DYNASTY
This particular defeat was on the whole world and not just the Avengers. Kang, a time traveling warlord, has always been a particularly challenging threat to the Avengers. His ridiculously advanced technology, knowledge of the future, vast resources, and skill as a warlord allows him to combat the Avengers and the entire world with them. At no point was his might more apparent than in The Kang Dynasty, a storyline that stretched from 2001-2002. In this story, Kang did what many others threatened to do: he took over the world.
In this story, Kang appeared in the present and declared that he would be taking over the world in order to lead it the correct way (you know, typical villain stuff). From there, he launched an assault on all of Earth the likes of which had never been seen before. His armies attacked every continent on Earth and the forces of Earth didn’t really have much to answer with. Any technology that could combat Kang’s was few and far between and on top of that, a lot of Avengers had been trapped in space after a failed assault on Kang’s Damocles Base. Kang even wiped out Washington D.C and everyone that lived there. Once his destructive potential became apparent, Earth’s forces and the remaining Avengers actually surrendered to Kang. Eventually, the Avengers in space were able to turn the tide and Earth’s forces finally repelled Kang. But for some time, the Avengers and all of Earth were soundly beaten.
11 AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
The MCU is technically a canon universe in the Marvel Comics. It is designated Earth-199999 and things are slightly different in this reality. However, some things can’t help but remain the same and one of these constants was the Avengers defeat at the hands of the Mad Titan Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. In the 1991 event Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos laughed at the Avengers attempts to defeat him with the power of a fully realized infinity Gauntlet.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos may not have been laughing, but he seemed genuinely unstoppable as none of the heroes in the universe were able to prevent Thanos from achieving his goal.
Thanos tore through two separate teams composed of members of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy on his quest to collect the Infinity Stones. He stabbed Iron Man, tore a hole through Vision’s forehead, trounced Thor and killed half of the already endangered Asgardians, killed more than one important character. And when he completed the Infinity Gauntlet, he killed half of the life in the universe, including many of the heroes, leaving those remaining reeling and broken. Thanos imposed his will on the entire universe and the Avengers weren’t able to do a thing about it, no matter how hard they tried.
10 NEXT AVENGERS: HEROES OF TOMORROW
This may not be the most well known movie, but it’s still a Marvel property that was actually an enjoyable animated feature. 2008’s Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow was a part of Marvel’s Animated Features and featured primarily children of the original Avengers. In this world, all of the Avengers except for Iron Man were killed during a battle with Ultron, allowing him and his robot army to take over the world. Iron Man, on Captain America’s suggestion, takes the Avengers’ children to a secret refuge and raises them while simultaneously training them.
The children are: Black Panther and Storm’s son, Azari, James Rogers who is the child of Cap and Black Widow, Torunn, the daughter of Thor and Sif, and Henry Pym Jr, the son of Hank Pym and the Wasp. Eventually, Iron Man gets captured and the Next Avengers are forced to venture out and find him, where they run into Francis Barton, the son of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Together, they rescue Iron Man and come up with a plan to use the Hulk to defeat Ultron. The Avengers laid down their lives in the battle against Ultron, but at least their children were able to finish the fight.
9 MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE
While many villains threaten to take over the world and fulfill their evil ambitions, the best villains actually do it. The best villains are those whose power, cunning, and determination allow them to succeed in their plans and force the heroes to go beyond their limits in order to stop them. Doctor Doom is one of those villains and that was shown on full display in the 2006 video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It may not technically be an Avengers game, but it did feature a plethora of Avengers members such as Cap, Iron Man, Black Panther, Wolverine, Thor, Daredevil, and others as they try to stop Doctor Doom and the newly reformed Masters of Evil from completing whatever diabolical plan Doom had in store.
It turns out that Doom's plan was to use the Twilight Sword to steal the power of Odin and reshape the earth in his image.
And yes, he absolutely succeeded. Despite the heroes battling him and the Masters of Evil in Asgard, Atlantis, Niffleheim, the Skrull homeworld, the Shi'ar empire, Mephisto’s Realm, Doom still managed to steal Odin's power and turn the world into a place that worshipped him. He was only defeated when the heroes were able to steal a portion of his power to weaken him until a revived Odin is able to strike him down. But before the assist from Odin, the heroes were outmatched and outwitted by Victor von Doom.
8 OPERATION: GALACTIC STORM
A classic crossover storyline that spanned much of the cosmos, "Operation: Galactic Storm" featured the Avengers as they get involved in the Kree-Shi’ar War. The 1992 story lasted 19 parts and ran through several issues of Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Wonder Man, and Quasar. In this story, the Avengers discover that a stargate near the Earth’s sun is putting the entire solar system at risk. They then split up and leave a contingent of Avengers to protect the Earth while the others go out to the Kree and Shi’ar and try to get them to stand down.
Because this is a comic book, the two warring races wanted nothing to do with peace initially. They battled the Avengers for some time until the team at the Shi’ar empire are able to convince Lilandra to try and begin peace negotiations. But, it’s too late as the Skrulls, sensing a chance to strike at their mortal enemies, got involved and stole a planetary-level explosive known as a Nega-Bomb from the Shi’ar. Despite Wonder Man and the Vision’s best efforts, the bomb was detonated on the Kree homeworld, killing billions in the blink of an eye. Not only did the Avengers fail to stop the conflict, billions of innocent Kree died in a flash. All of the Avengers managed to survive the events but the impact of this war and its aftermath created a schism that took some time to repair.
7 AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED
As the name implies, this was certainly a bad point in time for almost all of the Avengers and it certainly qualifies as one of their worst defeats. The 2004-2005 crossover storyline was Brian Michael Bendis’s way of revamping the Avengers into a team and state that he felt was better at the tim. It featured a story that weaved between several key Avengers members and showed them at their worst: Iron Man’s long time love interest dies so he decides to give up being the Secretary of Defense and Iron Man; Thor and the rest of the Asgardians are wiped out by a force that is supposedly the physical embodiment of Ragnarok, which they had averted numerous times before; and Spider-Man is transformed into a spider creature loyal to the Spider Queen Adrianna.
In the main Avengers storyline, they’re assaulted by a mind controlled Scarlet Witch.
She summons a zombified Jack of Hearts (who explodes), a weakened Vision who vomited up eggs that turned into Ultron drones, and a Kree warship. Numerous heroes are killed in this conflict including Vision, Jack of Hearts, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), and Hawkeye. On top of that, the Avengers have their security clearance revoked and public opinion about them has fallen. This was a bitter defeat for the Avengers that was caused by one of their own. Once they confront Scarlet Witch, she sends wave after wave of artificially created constructs until Doctor Strange puts her into a coma.
6 SECRET WARS (2015)
1984's Secret Wars left a big impression on fans, with heroes and villains alike being whisked away to do battle on an isolated planet all for the entertainment of the all powerful Beyonder. Any storyline that took the name of this event had to be big and Marvel certainly achieved that with 2015's rendition of Secret Wars. In the previous story, "Time Runs Out", the Illuminati learned of an event called an Incursion in which earths from alternate universes threatened to collide with one another which would cause a chain reaction and destroy the entire multiverse. They fought desperately to find a way to stop it, but were unable to.
Luckily for them, Doctor Doom had stolen the Beyonder's power mere moments before an Incursion and used this power to stop it. However, of course, instead of restoring everything, he assembled parts from every Earth into one world called Battleworld where he ruled as God Emperor Doom. Luckily for life as we know it, a small band of heroes had survived the multiverse-changing event onboard an escape craft that Mister Fantastic built to survive the Incursion. After a long time and a lot of preparation, Mr. Fantastic is able to convince Molecule Man to grant him the Beyonder's power as well and he's able to defeat Doom. Yes, all was well in the end, but that was the worst that it’s ever gotten in the Marvel Universe.
Everybody loves crossovers but this was the crossover to end all crossovers. JLA/Avengers, a 2003-2004 crossover series featured Krona, an exiled Oan from DC comics, squaring off against the Grandmaster from the Marvel Universe in a cosmic game with multiversal stakes. Krona was on a quest for knowledge that turned destructive. The Grandmaster, concerned for his universe, convinced Krona to play a game: they would assemble a team from one universe or the other and those teams would have to fight over twelve items of power from both universes. Krona chose the Avengers as his champions while the Grandmaster chose the Justice League.
If the Grandmaster won, Krona would have to spare his universe, but if Krona won, then the Grandmaster would take him to Galactus.
What followed was four issues of pure fun with entertaining match-ups like Superman and Green Lantern vs Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man, and Hawkeye and Iron Man vs Captain Atom and Green Arrow. By the end of the storyline, the score was 6-6, but Captain America and Batman eventually figured everything out and threw the game so that the League would win. Though intentional, this still counts as a defeat in front of a multiversal audience. Regardless of who won the actual game, though, everybody involved won in the end. The Justice League and the Avengers saved their universes, the Grandmaster participated in a terrific game, and Krona was turned into a cosmic egg so he can learn about creation by undergoing it.
4 WORLD WAR HULK
There were so many bad decisions that happened during the time of "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk". During the 2007 storyline, "Planet Hulk", the Illuminati decided that the Hulk was too dangerous to keep around Earth all of the time. Therefore, they decided to send the Hulk away to a peaceful planet so that he'd stop laying waste to human cities. Unfortunately, a malfunction caused him to crash on the much more violent planet, Sakaar, where he was forced to compete in a gladiatorial competition. He was successful in the fights and even successfully led a coup d'etat against the leaders of Sakaar, leading him to become a hero to those that were enslaved.
Unfortunately, the peace was not meant to be and the ship he was sent there on accidentally exploded, killing the family he made while on Sakaar. This drove the Hulk into a rage deeper than any he'd ever experienced and thus began "World War Hulk". Hulk led a contingent of former gladiators called the Warbound to Earth in order to find the Illuminati and kill them all. Once he landed on Earth, he mowed through any and all heroes that tried to stop him. The Avengers stood no chance against World Breaker Hulk who ran a gauntlet of heroes consisting of Hulkbuster Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Black Bolt, Juggernaut, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and even the Sentry. And he took down several Avengers teams as well.
In the late 2000s, the ending of "Secret Invasion" left Norman Osborn as the United States primary defense officer which inevitably led to upheaval in the Marvel Universe. This upheaval stretched into 2010 with "Siege", the crossover event that saw the Avengers defending Asgard when Loki manipulates Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers into invading. The Avengers assembled and came to the defense of Asgard. Through their efforts, they’re able to defeat the Dark Avengers and expose Osborn for what he really is to the entire country. However, the Sentry soon lost control over his body and the villainous and more powerful Void personality took over and began to raze Asgard and kill everything in its sight.
The Sentry is one of the most powerful beings in the entire Marvel Universe and proved to be a real challenge for all of the Avengers, including the mighty Thor.
But once the Sentry’s even more powerful alter ego, The Void, came to the forefront, he proved to be too much for the Avengers. Even while being empowered by the Norn Stones, they were unable to defeat the Void and he sent Asgard itself crashing back down to Earth. The only thing that the Avengers could do was fight the Void until the Sentry was able to take back control of his body and then begged for Thor to kill him. The only reason they beat him was because he wanted to die.
2 AVENGERS VS X-MEN
There's nothing like seeing two teams go to bat against one another. It's exciting to see individual members of one team square off against individual members of another team and to witness the different tactics and ideologies clash against one another. Fans were treated to a massive version of this when Marvel's two biggest teams squared off in the 2012 storyline "Avengers vs X-Men". In this event, the two titular teams squared off when they disagreed on how to deal with Hope Summers who had recently become the chosen host for the Phoenix Force.
This all came to a head when, during a battle between the two teams, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik, and Namor all gained a portion of the Phoenix Force power which drove them all to become wild cards in the confrontation. The actual fights between the Avengers and X-Men were pretty even but once the Phoenix Force got involved, the Avengers proved to be no match for the extradimensional energy source. In several instances during the conflict, the Avengers were defeated by the Phoenix Five. The conflict ended when Hope and Scarlet Witch were able to defeat Cyclops who had become Dark Phoenix by this point. A joint Avengers-X-Men assault wasn’t able to take out Cyclops, but they luckily Hope and Wanda were there to bail them out.
1 ORIGINAL SIN
Nick Fury’s superpower is preparation. He's known for always preparing for every eventuality even if some of those are unpleasant. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has the knowledge and equipment necessary to deal with the Avengers. That’s exactly what he was forced to do in 2014’s Original Sin. In this event, the Avengers investigated the murder of Uatu the Watcher. The mystery drew the Avengers deeper and deeper into a big secret that Nick Fury had been sitting on for some time. Eventually it was revealed that Nick Fury was the one who murdered Uatu, though it was with benevolent intentions.
Obviously the Avengers feel the need to take him down.
This fight does not go well for the Avengers as an old man in a suit or armor was able to take them down and escape from their grasp. He defeated most of them through a combination of tactics and his armor. He used override codes on Iron Man to shut his armor down. But Thor got it worse than anyone. With a single whisper, Fury makes Thor unworthy to wield Mjolnir, sending it crashing to the moon. This move even had a lasting effect, as Thor is still unable to wield Mjolnir four years later. Nobody would consider this the Avengers’ finest hour.