Power levels of characters in the Marvel Universe fluctuate for any number of reasons. It may be that a new power is acquired by a hero or villain, or they learn to use existing powers in new ways. There are also cases in which characters are given powerful artifacts or imbued with an external power far greater than their own. Heroes and villains who were once underestimated can be upgraded to take on some of the most fearsome opponents. Power isn't without a price, however, as some power corrupts entirely or harms the wielder. The trade off for power can even involve making a deal with Mephisto in some circumstances, which is always inadvisable.
Not all changes in power are in favor of the wielder, as some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy can have their power reduced. Whether they lose the object that gives them their power or they're weakened by an adversary, power can be fleeting in the Marvel Universe. In other cases, power is temporary, and the usual state of an individual is quite average. There is also age and time to factor into power, as over time someone's potency can be reduced vastly. In other instances, a character can have their skill set hampered by an injury or a traumatic event. With all this in mind, CBR reads the gauges to see who was upgraded and who was downgraded!
20 MAJOR UPGRADE: NIGHTCRAWLER
The upgrade in Kurt Wagner's power came from unfortunate circumstances. It all began when he lost his life defending Hope Summers during the X-Men: Second Coming arc. The next time Kurt appeared, he was residing in heaven having passed over into the afterlife. When his demonic father Azazel tried to conquer heaven with his army, Kurt and the X-Men sprang into action.
Kurt gave his soul to return to the physical realm to help his allies fight his father. Without a soul, Kurt is now immortal, able to recover from extreme injuries including teleporting himself partially into rock structures, shown in X-Men Gold.
19 DOWNGRADED: ODINSON
Odinson has always been a heavy hitter in his own heroics and during his Avengers tenure. The God of Thunder was destined to replace Odin one day as King of Asgard. Though not the source of all of his power, his wielding of the mythical Mjolnir made him a titan.
Unfortunately for Odinson, during the Original Sin event, a desperate Nick Fury disclosed information to the Asgardian that proved he was actually unworthy. Mjolnir fell from his hand, to be picked up by Jane Foster later on. For a few years Thor was without his legendary hammer, a huge step down in his offensive power.
18 MAJOR UPGRADE: JUBILEE
Jubilee has been part of the X-Men's sphere for some time now. Her mutant power involves explosive energy, similar in appearance to fireworks. This power has never been the most feared or coveted, nor has Jubilee ever been the most skilled in hand-to-hand combat. This all changed when Jubilation Lee was infected with a virus concocted by Dracula's son, Xarus.
The virus turned her into a vampire, greatly enhancing her in several aspects. Jubilee now enjoyed a healing factor, enhanced strength and speed as well as the ability to turn to mist. On top of this, she retained her energy manipulation, giving her a ranged aspect to her arsenal as a vampire.
17 DOWNGRADED: GAMBIT
The Cajun thief is skilled in many facets, from acrobatic feats of agility to charismatic influence without the aide of superpowers. Gambit's ability to manipulate kinetic energy within objects is a useful power to have also, and this is the primary power gained from his mutation. Though he uses his power on a small scale, favoring projectiles, Gambit could have been monstrous.
His explosive power developed quite quickly from its emergence, and the potential scared Remy. He approached Mr. Sinister, asking him to experiment on his brain and put a pseudo-limitation on his powers. From that point on, Gambit was prevented from being as destructive as he might have been.
16 MAJOR UPGRADE: SCARLET WITCH
For a long time, from her early days on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and even on the Avengers thereafter, Wanda Maximoff didn't realize the power she had. Her ability lies in Hex Magic which, to begin with, could alter probability on a small scale. Wanda also learned several other spells, to supplement her natural magical abilities.
It would be her Hex Magic, however, that would push her to the upper tier of powerful superbeings. Her manipulation over probability went awry after the loss of her children, her grief amplifying her power. She was able to manipulate reality itself in her outburst, setting in motion the events of House of M.
15 DOWNGRADED: HULK
Bruce Banner's angrier, meaner alter ego has had a fluctuating power level for the longest time. This comes with Hulk's power being based on an emotional basis, getting his strength from anger. Recently, in Avengers No Surrender, it was revealed the Hulk can't be destroyed and that he is immortal. While immortality is a very impressive aspect to hold, Hulk isn't as powerful as he once was on offence.
During World War Hulk, Hulk was emboldened by so much rage from both vengeance and the grief at the loss of his family. Dubbed "Worldbreaker Hulk" he was able to battle the extremely powerful Sentry to a near standstill. Ever since then, however, Banner has been cautious of getting himself to that point ever again.
14 MAJOR UPGRADE: GAMORA
It's hard to imagine how one can go up from being the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy, but Gamora managed it. While Gamora was indeed a formidable martial artist and weapons master, she didn't have powers near to some of her fellow Guardians. Losing part of her soul to the Soul Stone, Gamora set out on a quest to complete herself once more.
Desperate and willing to double-cross even the Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora succeeded in obtaining the Power Stone. She had the stone forged into a large sword and took the name Requiem. With the Power Stone, she was able to seize the other Infinity Stones and warp reality itself.
13 DOWNGRADED: SUNSPOT
Though Sunspot enjoys a great amount of power both financially and intellectually, his mutant power is very impressive too. Drawing immense energy reserves from solar radiation, he can re-purpose that radiation for several abilities. These abilities include thermokinesis, flight and enhanced physical strength and durability.
Unfortunately for Roberto, he contracted a mutant-specific disease known as M-Pox. Though he didn't perish, as most do, it had an adverse ramifications on his powers. Every time Roberto used his powers following his contraction of the disease, it would ravage his body a little more. This means he can only use his powers in limited doses, as each use takes time off his life.
12 MAJOR UPGRADE: ANNIHILUS
Annihilus was definitely not feared when he began life as a scared little larvae in the Negative Zone. Realizing that the Negative Zone and the universe beyond was full of things that would destroy him, Annihilus sought the means to destroy everything that posed a threat to him. This paranoia and lust for power led him to the Cosmic Control Rod.
A powerful artifact, the Cosmic Control Rod turned Annihilus from a scared bug to a feared tyrant. He amasses waves upon waves of bug-like creatures with which to ravage the universe. His Annihilation Wave, as he called it, once had the universe quaking at its very mention. This notorious status was far cry from his scared and pathetic beginnings.
11 DOWNGRADED: DEADPOOL
Deadpool is notorious for being extremely hard to get rid off. His immense healing factor makes him one of the most formidable regenerative beings on Earth. Able to survive in sections and was even once reformed from being shattered by a sinister reflection of Iceman, Wade always bounced back.
For a time, however, Wade lost what made him able to keep up his flippant assaults during battle. During his tenure on Uncanny X-Force, Deadpool lost his healing factor and his scarring disappeared. This meant he could now lose his life, and almost did while trying to save Evan Sabahnur from Daken.
10 MAJOR UPGRADE: ICEMAN
Bobby Drake has been an X-Man for as long as the X-Men have been active. He's been in countless incarnations of the X-Men and their affiliate teams. While not useless by any means, his powers were thought to be pretty middle-of-the-road among his fellow mutants.
This was a mistake, however, as while probing his mind, Emma Frost discovered an ocean of potential within Bobby, and unlocked it. This rocketed Bobby to the status of an Omega mutant, his command over ice and his own form becoming immense. Though to be able to cause a planet-wide ice age, Bobby has to tread carefully when using his powers in intense ways.
9 DOWNGRADED: WOLVERINE
Logan is one of the longest operating heroes on Earth, owing to his healing factor preserving his body. Bolstered by an adamantium skeleton, Logan's powers are so sought after he's been cloned a few times, captured many other times and is feared by many. He has also been trained in many of the world's most prevalent martial arts disciplines.
The adamantium that coats his skeleton is poisonous however, his healing factor being the only thing keeping the poison from his body. In the future, we see Old Man Logan's healing factor finally start to sputter out. With age and the poison within him catching up to Wolverine, he isn't nearly as spry as he once was.
8 MAJOR UPGRADE: MR. FANTASTIC
While his true power lies in his vast intellect, Mr. Fantastic's actual super power isn't exactly Earth shattering. His ability to stretch his body has great utility on a small scale but it doesn't rank him among the superhuman behemoths he associates with. This is likely why he uses his IQ and inventions to compensate where necessary.
Reed Richards would receive one heck of an upgrade following the Secret Wars event, however. Confronting his nemesis Dr. Doom, he was able to influence Molecule Man's decision to strip Doom of his godhood. Trusting Richards as a more responsible person to wield the power, Owen Reece gave the god-like power to mold realities to the Fantastic Four patriarch.
7 DOWNGRADED: DR. DOOM
Dr. Doom is rightfully feared throughout the universe for several reasons. He's already incredibly smart, resourceful and powerful in his own right, but he is rarely idle. Doom always has designs on obtaining great power for himself, the issue being he can rarely keep a hold on the powers once he obtains them.
On several occasions he has obtained powers akin to a god and lost them. He has defied Beyonders to gain the power, manipulated the Scarlet witch to gain them and several other ploys. Each time he's thwarted however, meaning he's only ever has temporary tastes of his desired power level.
6 MAJOR UPGRADE: AVRIL KINCAID
Avril Kincaid probably never expected to become one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. She began her career by enlisting in S.H.I.E.L.D. like many others, with the thought she'd remain working in intelligence for the foreseeable future. Avril was then assigned to the Cosmic Cube-altered reformation facility Maria Hill set up to rehabilitate supervillains.
When things went wrong, her life was put in danger as the villains attempted to destroy her. Using her resourcefulness and aptitude for combat she survived, only to be approached by Wendell Vaughn. Once Quasar himself, he informed her that she was to be the next Quasar, destined to protect the cosmos with the Quantum Bands.
5 DOWNGRADED: THE INHERITORS
The Inheritors are a horrifying natural enemy to all spider-heroes across the multiverse. Feeding on animal totems throughout the realities, they find spider-beings to be particularly delicious. The main antagonists in the Spider-Verse, they almost hunted Peter Parker and his multiversal reflections to extinction with their hunger.
Luckily, they were defeated by the combined efforts of several dozen wall-crawlers. After their defeat, they were abandoned on a radioactive world where the only food source was small, irradiated spiders. Withered, desperate and without their most powerful member, Solus, they lurked, waiting for a method with which to return to the multiverse.
4 MAJOR UPGRADE: ELECTRO
Electro has been a pain for Spider-Man for a good few years, but was never really too much of a threat. While he was never as easily thwarted as the likes of Shocker, he wasn't on the same level as a Doctor Octopus or a Green Goblin. This would all change when a spurned Black Cat got involved, following a misunderstanding with Superior Spider-Man.
Otto had taken down Black Cat, leading for the mercenary to feel betrayed by Peter, who she had no idea was not in control at the time. She orchestrated circumstances to cause Electro's powers to go haywire, breaking out countless supervillains from prison and permanently upgrading Electro. Since then, Spidey's had to take the live wire a lot more seriously.
3 DOWNGRADED: DR. STRANGE
Sr. Stephen Strange was once immeasurably powerful, enjoying the full privileges of being the Sorcerer Supreme. If there was a spell for a situation, he'd know it and call upon it, life was pretty good for the magic Avenger. Not all things last, however, as Stephen's powers would be reduced over the years, as it was hard to write him into new, compelling stories as he was near infallible.
In his comics he was taken down a few pegs too, with the arrival of the Empirikul. A group who hated magic, they sought to wipe it from the universe entirely and left magic at its weakest state ever. Strange set about to gather what he could of the remain vestiges of magic, attempting to rebuild his power once more.
2 MAJOR UPGRADE: ANGEL
Angel's base power set is pretty good to begin with, he has a decent healing factor and his wings grant him flight. He can even shoot his feather pinions for a ranged supplement to his combat. However, when Apocalypse got his hands on Warren, he became more powerful than ever. Apocalypse has decided that Warren would become his horseman of Death.
Using Celestial Technology, similar to the tech he himself used, Apocalypse morphed the young mutant into Archangel. Immensely powerful and now bolstered with a metal alloy on his wings, Warren became a destructive machine of a person. He became such a danger that when he was rehabilitated, Psylocke locked the Archangel aspect of Warren's mind in a mental cage. Even with the cage, the Archangel could not be imprisoned for long.
1 DOWNGRADED: BLACK KNIGHT
This downgrade comes with every Black Knight, not just one in particular. It is also possibly the most unfortunate of the downgrades and the most unavoidable. Every person to take up the mantle must also take up the legendary Ebony Blade, and therein lies the problem.
Though the Ebony Blade is a powerful weapon, it thirsts for blood and combat. The need for these things simply increases the more the user wields the blade until the influence of the sword either drives them mad or their motives align. This can turn a potential Avenger into a villain or it could see them lose their mind entirely.