With Avengers: Infinity War quickly approaching, the Avengers are set to dominate pop culture once again in 2018. While it’s increasingly difficult to think of a time when the Avengers weren’t the most popular superheroes in the world, they weren’t always Marvel’s biggest super team, even up until fairly recently. As the Avengers have grown to become the beating heart of the Marvel Universe, they’ve starred in a number of high-profile movies and shows that draw massive global audiences. With an every-growing roster that includes almost 200 members across the various Avengers comic book teams, pretty much every hero in the Marvel Universe has been an Avenger at one time or another. That staggering number of potential members means that no two Avengers squads look exactly alike.
Now, CBR is counting down the on-screen Avengers teams from worst to best. In this list, we’ll be ranking these Avengers squads based on their raw power, experiences and overall popularity. While we won’t be looking at motion comics, we will be looking at the core Avengers teams from the Avengers’ TV shows, animated movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ll also be looking at some teams that feature multiple Avengers and essentially fill the same role as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
18. AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND
Even though they’ve been around since 1963, the Avengers didn’t star in their own cartoon series until 1999. Unfortunately, Avengers: United They Stand wasn’t the series that Marvel fans had been waiting for. Instead of starring iconic Avengers like Thor and Iron Man, the show featured a team that was largely inspired by the West Coast Avengers, a secondary Avengers team from the 1980s.
Over the course of 13 episodes, the Fox cartoon followed Hank Pym’s Ant Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Falcon, Vision and Tigra. The team fought a mix of formidable foes, like Kang the Conqueror and Ultron, along with some less imposing villains like Egghead and the Circus of Crime. Since the show took place a few decades in the future, several Avengers changed into high-tech suits of battle armor in Power Rangers-like morphing sequences. Ultimately, these unique choices made most viewers change the channel.
17. IRON MAN’S FORCE WORKS
Starting in 1994, Iron Man: The Animated Series put a spotlight on another unusual Avengers splinter group: Force Works! In comics, Force Works was formed by the members of the West Coast Avengers after Captain America disbanded that team for its general incompetence. Iron Man followed a version of that then-current team that included Iron Man, War Machine, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Julia Carpenter’s Spider-Woman and the alien warrior Century.
In Iron Man‘s first season, the Force Works squad mainly played a supporting role in Iron Man’s ongoing battle against the Mandarin. While War Machine and Spider-Woman still had substantial roles in the show’s second season, the series left the rest of the team behind as it focused more on Iron Man’ solo adventures. A few months after Iron Man‘s 1996 finale, Force Works’ comic book series was canceled and the team was quickly forgotten.
16. DISK WARS AVENGERS
While it might not be widely known to Western audiences, Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers is one of the strangest shows Marvel has ever produced. In an attempt to localize the Avengers for the Japanese market, this Toei Animation series basically treated Marvel’s heroes like Pokémon by trapping them in Stark Technologies DISKs that could only be opened by children with a specific “Bio-Code.”
Even though they’re Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Hulk and Captain America could only be freed by their child masters, Akira Akatsuki, Hikaru Akatsuki, Jessica Shannon, Edward Grant, and Chris Taylor. While the 51-episode series featured a solid number of other Marvel heroes and villains, the Avengers were still basically trapped in hi-tech Pogs. Disk Wars premiered in Japan in 2014, and an English dub aired across Asia in 2015. Sadly, there are no public plans to release this deeply weird series in the United States.
15. NEXT AVENGERS
In 2007, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow introduced viewers to the next generation of Marvel . The animated direct-to-video movie followed a team formed by the children of the original Avengers in a dystopian future ruled by Ultron. The Next Avengers included James Rogers, Captain America and Sharon Rogers’ son; Torunn, Thor and Sif’s daughter; Henry Pym Jr., Ant-Man and Wasp’s son; Azari, Black Panther and Storm’s son; and finally, a new Hawkeye, the original Hawkeye and Mockingbird’s son. They also had got some help from older versions of Iron Man, Vision and Hulk, who played a main role in defeating Ultron.
While Azari has a combination of Black Panther and Storm’s powers, the rest of the Next Avengers are basically just less powerful, less experienced versions of their parents. Despite that, the Next Avengers still led the fight against Ultron and his Iron Avengers, robotic versions of the original team.
14. AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL
Despite its somewhat misleading title, Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is surprisingly light on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. After a string of successful TV co-productions, Marvel teamed up with Japanese animation studio Madhouse for this 2014 anime. While Black Widow and the Punisher were the focus of the movie, it also featured a team of Avengers that included Iron Man, War Machine, Captain Marvel, Thor, Hawkeye and Hulk.
While a few of those Avengers were big parts of the movie’s marketing, the Avengers had a minimal role in the film’s proceedings. Most of the movie followed the Punisher and Black Widow as they went up against Leviathan, a secret organization that wanted a make an army of super-soldiers using the blood of super-powered superheroes. Since that duo’s gunplay-filled action scenes took up most of the film’s running time, Avengers like Thor were left with only a few moments on screen.
13. FUTURE AVENGERS
In another Marvel and Madhouse co-production, the Avengers have taken on a new generation of heroes in the anime series Future Avengers. In this show, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Wasp train some kids named Makoto, Adi and Kuroe, who received superpowers as a result of genetic experiments.
With this mix of established standard Avengers and new characters, the show has done reasonably well since its 2017 debut in Japan. Other Marvel Universe mainstays like Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, the Winter Soldier, and the Inhumans have also made appearances on the show. The anime series has already been adapted into a manga, and was recently renewed for a second season. Like Marvel Disk Wars, there are currently no public plans to bring this series to western audiences.
12. THE 1960s AVENGERS
The Avengers made their TV debut along with the rest of the Marvel Universe in the short-lived 1966 cartoon, The Marvel Super Heroes. The syndicated anthology series featured a rotating roster of heroes that centered on Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor or Namor the Sub-Mariner, depending on which day of the week it was. Although the show’s crude animation style relied heavily on pre-existing comic book art, the series was still a memorable introduction to the Marvel Universe for a generation of young viewers.
Over the show’s 13 week run, these segments featured two different comic-accurate Avengers squads. The first team included Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Giant-Man and a just-revived Captain America. Captain America took charge of the second Avengers team, which included the reformed villains Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. With stories literally ripped from the comics page, these young teams defeated several of Marvel’s most famous villains.
11. THE MIGHTY AVENGERS
While they were initially introduced as antagonists on the ongoing animated series Avengers Assemble, the Mighty Avengers have grown to take on starring roles in the show. When they were originally assembled during the show’s third season adaptation of Civil War, the team included Black Panther, Scott Lang’s Ant-Man, Red Hulk, Vision, Songbird and Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel. After fighting the Avengers, the Mighty Avengers joined the main team to take down Ultron.
In the show’s fourth season, Black Panther reformed the team as the All-New All-Different Avengers. While this group didn’t include Red Hulk or Songbird, Hope van Dyne’s Wasp and Jane Foster took their spots with the team. When the original Avengers were scattered across time and space, these Avengers led the search for their fellow heroes and protected the Earth from formidable threats like Loki.
10. IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES
After the success of 2008’s Iron Man, a much younger version of Tony Stark took center stage in Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Over two seasons on the Nicktoons Network, the show followed a teenage Iron Man as he fought most of his regular villains like Whiplash, M.O.D.O.K. and a teenage Mandarin. While Iron Man mainly worked with his fellow teen War Machine, the show regularly featured guest stars from around the Marvel Universe.
In the series finale, most of these superhero guest stars returned and effectively formed an Avengers team to stop a Makluan alien invasion. This loose group included Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Hulk, Black Panther and Pepper Potts’ armored hero Rescue. With an assist from a repentant Mandarin, this team of young heroes and experienced fighters was able to save the day without any real trouble.
9. THE NEW AVENGERS
By the end of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, most of the original cinematic Avengers had quit the team. In the final moments of that Joss Whedon film, Captain America and Black Widow formed a new team of Avengers with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s leftover heroes. In addition to those two veterans, this Avengers squad included Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision and War Machine.
Operating out of the Avengers’ new hi-tech compound in upstate New York, this group had one year of largely unseen adventures. Captain America: Civil War gave audiences their only look at this team in action. Although the team appeared to work well together, they couldn’t stop Crossbones from causing an explosion that killed several civilians. Since this incident was indirectly responsible for the movie’s titular superhero conflict, this intriguing group of Avengers has a less-than-stellar legacy.
8. ULTIMATE AVENGERS
In 2006, Marvel launched its line of animated features with a pair of movies starring the Ultimate Avengers. Ultimate Avengers: The Movie was heavily influenced by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates, the era-defining Avengers reboot that established a more chaotic version of the team. Under Nick Fury’s orders, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Giant-Man and Wasp joined together to fight off a Chitauri alien invasion and calm a rampaging Hulk.
The Ultimate Avengers were reassembled in 2007’s Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther. With the help of Black Panther, the team turned back another Chitauri invasion force. Both Wasp and Iron Man were seriously injured in battle, and Giant Man died after using his size-changing powers too frequently. Embarrassingly, the superhero team was also defeated by a group of Wakanda’s human warriors.
7. CAPTAIN AMERICA’S CIVIL WAR TEAM
After the battle lines were drawn in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Captain America and his team came up with a losing hand. Along with Captain America, Falcon, Winter Solider, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Scott Lang’s Ant-Man fought against superhero regulation in the Russo Brothers’ movie. While the group is light on raw power, it’s still a respectable group of Avengers with a number of veteran fighters.
Despite that, they were simply outclassed by Iron Man’s pro-regulation team in Civil War. In battle, Scarlet Witch’s powers, the team’s combined combat experience and Ant-Man’s surprise transformation into Giant-Man made them unpredictable opponents. That still didn’t keep most of the team from being defeated and taken into custody before the end of the movie. Even if Civil War didn’t have any real winners, Captain America’s team definitely lost that superhero war.
6. IRON MAN’S CIVIL WAR TEAM
Thanks to a mix of tech-heavy heroes and skilled fighters, Iron Man’s team managed to overpower their opponents in Captain America: Civil War. In addition to Iron Man, the pro-registration team included Black Widow, Black Panther, War Machine, Vision and Spider-Man. Although they weren’t a polished fighting force, this well-balanced team had complimentary skills that they were able to use effectively against Captain America’s unpredictable squad.
Although this team gave Tom Holland’s young Spider-Man a memorable debut, they still made a few critical errors. An errant energy blast from Vision paralyzed War Machine, who could only walk with the help of Stark technology. After letting Captain America and Winter Soldier escape, Black Widow was also forced into exile. While they didn’t score a resounding win, Iron Man’s team won the closest thing Civil War had to a victory.
5. THE NEW AVENGERS (ANIMATED)
In a 2012 episode of the fan-favorite cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, several famous Marvel heroes were drafted into a team for their first animated Avengers adventure. When the time-twisting Kang the Conqueror trapped the Avengers in a temporal void, Iron Man’s failsafe plan activated a team of New Avengers. Like their comic book counterparts, the New Avengers were a quickly assembled team that was built around hyper-popular characters who hadn’t historically been Avengers.
The cartoon’s New Avengers were Spider-Man, Wolverine, War Machine, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Thing. Under Spider-Man’s leadership, this team of heavy-hitters was able to stop Kang the Conqueror and free the original Avengers. A few episodes later, the New Avengers reassembled to help the main Avengers defeat Galactus and his cosmically-powered Heralds in the show’s series finale.
4. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Since Avengers Assemble premiered in 2013, that show’s Avengers have been the most consistently visible version of the team. As the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Wasp, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Falcon have had numerous adventures in this Disney XD series and across Marvel’s other animated offerings. With a roster that’s grown to include New Avengers like Captain Marvel and Black Panther, this Avengers team has enough raw strength to deal with any threat in the Marvel Universe.
Although their adventures are still ongoing, this Avengers team has already defeated villains like Thanos, Ultron, the Squadron Supreme and the Cabal. While it might not be a cult favorite, this cartoon is easily the Avengers’ most successful animated series. While this Marvel Animation series faces an uncertain future after its announced fifth season, this Avengers squad has already proven its serious staying power.
3. AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES
In 2010, comic book fans finally got the Avengers series that they’d been waiting for with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Taking inspiration from every era of the Avengers’ comic book history, the team featured Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, Hank Pym’s Giant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, Vision, and Carol Danvers’ Ms. Marvel.
Over its two season run on Disney XD, this Marvel Animation series adapted several classic Avengers tales and featured an expansive list of guest stars and villains from around the Marvel Universe. While this team doesn’t have a few major Avengers like Scarlet Witch, it captured the spirit of the team remarkably well. Thanks to the overwhelming success of Marvel’s movies, Black Widow has become an essential Avenger, and Scott Lang’s Ant-Man has taken Pym’s place as Ant-Man. As their absence here reveals, this Avengers squad captures the team right before they became cinematic superstars.
2. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
In the wake of the Earth-shattering success of the Avengers’ first movie, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron raised the stakes by introducing a trio of classic Avengers. Over the course of the sequel, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision joined an Avengers team that already included Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk and Hawkeye.
During their brief time together, Nick Fury and this team kept Ultron and his robotic army from annihilating fictional country Sokovia and the rest of the world. While this might’ve been a dream team of cinematic Avengers, they didn’t stay together for long. Quicksilver died saving his teammate Hawkeye from a hail of bullets, Iron Man and Hawkeye went into semi-retirement, and Thor and Hulk left Earth altogether. Despite the absences of Ant-Man and Wasp, this Avengers team is still the closest to the classic Avengers line-up.
1. THE AVENGERS
In 2012, The Avengers cemented Marvel’s premiere super-team as a legitimate pop culture sensation. In one of the most successful movies in history, Nick Fury brought Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk and Hawkeye together to form the Avengers. For longtime Marvel fans, it’s still a somewhat surprising line-up that includes historically irregular Avengers like Hulk and Widow instead of Avengers mainstays like Vision or Scarlet Witch. Ultimately, that bold choice paid off.
Together, these Avengers successfully defeated Loki and a Chitauri alien invasion force in Joss Whedon’s film. That’s only part of what this team accomplished though. Despite the team’s noteworthy absences, this is the Avengers squad that turned a once-ignored team into Marvel’s biggest superheroes. This is the team that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe the envy of Hollywood. And for most of the world, this is the team that will always define the Avengers.
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