It's a common criticism. We've all heard it. The claim that MCU villains (whose names don't rhyme with pokey) are forgettable or generic. Whether you agree with this thesis or not, there's a solid argument that Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is its antithesis. Jordan brings his usual charismatic and earnest screen presence to the role, and the character's dialogue is written with intelligence and sensitivity, sidestepping the tropes that beset lesser antagonists. Although his methods are morally dubious and his lust for violence is disquieting his motivations are neither generic or cliche. Killmonger's voice is the voice of centuries' worth of oppression, his rage at Wakanda for sitting in their technologically advanced ivory tower while black people all over the world were subjugated for centuries is entirely justified.
Killmonger represents the rare and beautiful combination: a well crafted character, and a clear and present threat to the protagonist. His combination of righteous anger and years of honing his skills on the battlefield makes him stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the MCU's heaviest hitters. But where does he rank among the pantheon of MCU villains? Here are 8 Marvel bad guys who would prove more than a match for Erik, and 7 who would be at his mercy...
15 WOULD CRUSH HIM: LOKI
He's the quintessential MCU bad guy and the villain we all love to hate. Over the years we've seen him stride the fine line between good and bad... and almost always choose bad. Every time we think a redemption arc is coming, the son of Laufey is only too happy to prove us wrong. Time will tell if his conversion to the side of the angels in Thor: Ragnarok will last, but we can't wait to see what Infinity War has in store for him.
Though he's mostly known for his guile and deception, he can hold his own in the hand-to-hand combat department. He's gone toe-to-toe with Thor and taken Captain America to school. For all Killmonger's martial prowess he is just a man. Even with access to the heart shaped herb and his Wakandan suit he'd be no match for the Asgardian demigod.
14 HE WOULD DESTROY: IRON MONGER
The MCU version of Obadiah Stane wrote the book on betrayal. A cuckoo lurking in the nest of Stark Industries, quietly manipulating events to further his own monetary gains, no matter what the ethical cost. Although this eventually necessitated climbing into a 'roided out answer to the Iron Man suit to face off against his rival Tony Stark, his domain is the boardroom rather than the battlefield.
The Ironmonger suit is an impressive contraption, but its firepower pales in comparison to the vibranium based Wakandan tech to which Killmonger would have access. There's nothing the Iron Monger suit is packing that Erik couldn't shrug off, and for all his duplicitous tactics, he'd be no match for Killmonger's years of experience in combat strategy. We've seen how readily Stane underestimates his opponent, and if there's one man who's not to be underestimated it's Erik Killmonger.
13 WOULD CRUSH HIM: RONAN THE ACCUSER
There are many ways in which Killmonger is a stronger character than Ronan The Accuser. He's better written and developed. His motivations are way more sympathetic; while both are rooted in race and culture, Killmonger's is the voice of the oppressed while Ronan's is that of an embittered imperialist. In terms of raw power, however, Erik can't compete with Ronan's extraterrestrial might, even without the Power Stone.
He may be one of the MCU's more forgettable bad guys, but it's hard to argue against Ronan's physical prowess. We've seen him dispatch The Other with a mere shrug (even Loki was scared of that guy) and we saw him throw the fearsome Drax around like a ragdoll. The characters are comparable in terms of combat experience, fighting technique and military tactical knowledge, Ronan's Kree physiology gives him a distinct physical advantage.
12 HE WOULD DESTORY: WHIPLASH
Iron Man 2 may not have provided the best platform for him, but on paper Ivan Vanko is a pretty significant threat. His genius level intellect is warped by a fanatical hatred engendered in him by his late father who spent most of Vanko's childhood in "a vodka fueled rage". His prison tattoos tell of a hardened life and we've seen him fight with brutal efficiency, both with and without his arc reactor powered laser whips.
Vanko may be formidable, but Killmonger outmatches him in virtually every way. While Vanko may have the edge in terms of scientific knowledge, he (like the best of us) cannot begin to comprehend the advanced Wakandan tech that comprises Killmonger's arsenal. Plus, while the energy output of Vanko's whips is impressive, it's nothing that Killmonger's suit can't absorb and redirect.
11 WOULD CRUSH HIM: ABOMINATION
This would actually be a surprisingly close one. With the combined benefits of the heart shaped herb and the next generation Black Panther suit, Killmonger could probably give Emil Blonsky a run for his money. Both are military men (Killmonger's background is in CIA black ops, while Blonsky is a Russian born British Royal Marine), with comparable combat experience and tactics. Blonsky, however, has two aces up his protruding bony sleeve.
The Abomination is a product both of the Super Soldier serum and gamma radiation meaning that he would have the edge not only in terms of size and weight but physical strength and endurance. Killmonger's ferocity and his Wakandan tech would keep him in the running a lot longer than most but it would only be a matter of time until the Abomination crushed Killmonger.
10 HE WOULD DESTROY: MALEKITH
Malekith is the very embodiment of wasted opportunity in the MCU. Not only does the comic book character have a rich and fascinating history, he was played by a phenomenal actor (Christopher Eccleston). Unfortunately, the MCU version of the malevolent Dark Elf was somewhat underwhelming in Thor: The Dark World, only representing a real threat when he got his hands on the Aether/Reality Stone.
He was no match for Thor (he barely held his own against Thor's mother), and we suspect that his arrogance combined with his over reliance on the Dark Elves' technology, would be his undoing. It's unlikely that this interpretation of the character would be able to stand up to Killmonger's ferocity and martial arts prowess based on what we saw from him in the movie.
9 WOULD CRUSH HIM: ULTRON
The most versatile substance on the planet, and here are two combatants who have the sense to use it as more than a Frisbee. Both Ultron and Killmonger rely on vibranium's unique properties as a key component of their arsenal. Indeed, in his Prime incarnation, Ultron's entire chassis is laced with the stuff, while it appears that Killmonger's Black Panther suit has the fictional super metal bonded to its every cell. This may lead one to believe that these two are evenly matched...but one would be wrong.
Killmonger's knowledge, skills and rage make him a formidable threat, but Ultron has faced off against all the Avengers at once. His consciousness can transfer seamlessly from one body to another and unlike Killmonger, Ultron will never, ever get tired. Though he would fight valiantly to his dying breath, Ultron would claim the win here.
8 HE WOULD DESTROY: THE VULTURE
Like Killmonger, Michael Keaton's Vulture has been lauded as one of the most well crafted and compelling villains of the MCU. Both characters are complex and multifaceted, and their goals are believable and somewhat justified. Both are played by gifted actors and a real joy to watch. In a one on one fight however...it's no contest really.
Sure, Vulture has access to reverse engineered Chitauri tech and he's not above fighting dirty if the occasion arises. Those lethal wings would also give him a temporary advantage. But Killmonger has youth on his side, not to mention rigorous combat training, enhanced strength, speed and reflexes and comparable tech. Combined, these threats would be too much for the MCU's affable, blue collar villain. As much as we love The Vulture (and Michael Keaton) this would be a short fight.
7 WOULD CRUSH HIM: ALDRICH KILLIAN
No matter how you feel about Iron Man 3's divisive plot twist or Guy Pearce's performance in the movie, it would be disingenuous to overlook the threat that the character represents. Through the Extremis virus, Killian has achieved a state close to immortality. He can take pretty much anything Killmonger can dish out and regenerate in seconds. Looking at the weapons used by Killmonger Black Panther, there doesn't appear to be anything in his arsenal that could negate The Mandarin's healing factor.
Killian's exposure to the Extremis virus grants him superhuman strength that eclipses Killmonger's even with the heart shaped herb. Moreover, his exothermic abilities and his ability to spit fire would likely eventually eat through the protection of Black Panther suit (remember it absorbs kinetic energy, not thermal energy). While Killmonger may be the superior fighter, he can't compete with Killian's raw power.
6 HE WOULD DESTROY: CROSSBONES
This would be a closer fight than many may think -- hate is a powerful motivator. Brock Rumlow's hatred led him to survive a building dropping on his face and motivated him to go toe-to-toe with Captain America on his own terms. Here's a man who was prepared to blow himself up in the name of revenge, and though Killmonger may have Rumlow outmatched in pretty much every way, you can bet he'd go down swinging.
Rumlow's military history is similar to Killmonger's and their skill in combat seems fairly comparable. Indeed, in a fair fight Rumlow's experience in the field might give him a slight edge against the younger Erik. Throw in Killmonger's superior tech and enhancements, however, and it becomes a different story.
5 WOULD CRUSH HIM: EGO
As much as we may love Killmonger and Michael B. Jordan's multilayered performance...come on. It's man versus planet here! Killmonger would likely try to engage Ego's physical manifestation (which is more or less indestructible anyway) but it's not out of the question that he might try and attack the living planet's topography. There's a historical precedent for CIA operatives targeting the native water supplies and flora of enemy territories.
Even if Killmonger were smart enough to be able to figure out that he could disable Ego by attacking his core, he'd never be able to get to it (even with the same resources as the Guardians) with a conscious Ego thwarting his every move. Remember that Mantis (and only Mantis) was able to incapacitate Ego for long enough to allow the Guardians to launch their attack on Ego's core.
4 HE WOULD DESTROY: KINGPIN
He's a heavyweight in every sense of the word. Through years of behind the scenes negotiations and manipulations Wilson Fisk managed to position himself as New York's number one crime boss. Fisk is a man of great patience and even greater intellect, but his skills aren't just cerebral in nature. He's a gifted brawler who knows how to use his size and brute strength to his advantage, even crushing a grown man's head to jelly in a car door (which we're still not convinced is physically possible).
Fisk's windmilling, however, would be no match for Killmonger's strategic mind honed by years of military combat. Killmonger has defeated T'Challa (one of the best martial artists in the Marvel Universe) in single combat even without any enhancements. While Kingpin's brute force may be formidable, Killmonger would make short work of him.
3 WOULD CRUSH HIM: YELLOWJACKET
Outside of the Yellowjacket suit, it's unlikely that Darren Cross would last a minute against Erik Killmonger in a fair fight. While he reveals himself to be a fairly competent fighter (for a tech magnate), he can't come close to matching Erik's physical attributes or years of training and combat experience. In the suit, however, the odds favor Cross.
All the enhanced abilities and Wakandan tech in the world matter little against an opponent you can't see. Since we can assume that Cross' suit can shrink down to the size of a molecule (it's based on Hank Pym's tech which had this ability) he would be able to permeate Killmonger's Black Panther suit and do some real damage, destroying the son of Prince N'Jobu from the inside out.
2 HE WOULD DESTORY: THE RED SKULL
A soldier, a scientist, a fanatic deemed too extreme for the Nazis and the embodiment of evil in the MCU Johann Schmidt is powered by a prototype version of the Super Soldier serum that made Captain America. Like his sworn enemy, The Red Skull was used by his native government as a propaganda tool, a horror story designed to scare Jewish children into subservience. But while Schmidt may have Super Soldier serum in his veins, he'd be no match for Killmonger.
We've seen from the altercation between Black Panther and Bucky in Civil War that heart shaped herb is a match for a Super Soldier and while Schmidt may think he has science on his side, his Hydra weaponry cannot compete with that of Wakanda.
1 WOULD CRUSH HIM: THANOS
We all know that Thanos is powerful, and come May 4th, we'll see just how powerful the Mad Titan really is. Nonetheless, there's sufficient evidence from within the MCU and the source material to suggest that even without the benefit of the Infinity Gauntlet he'd be more than a match for Erik Killmonger. We know that Ronan (whose Kree physiology would make him virtually impossible for even an enhanced human to beat) is terrified of him, and the comics have proven that he can more than hold his own against the likes of Thor or The Hulk.
Since we haven't seen the MCU version of Thanos in combat we've no way of knowing who (if anyone) could harm him but since only the likes of Odin and Galactus have been able to damage him in the comics, it's unlikely that Killmonger would be able to get a shot in.