Superhero adaptations have really upped their game in the past year. Not only are we getting more films with bigger casts than ever before, we're also seeing a welcome shift towards spotlighting female heroes and heroes of color that Hollywood has long neglected. And it's not just movies: whether you prefer to get your superhero fix from the big screen or the small screen, Marvel and DC have provided plenty of new material to keep everyone satisfied. With all these new characters running around, it's inevitable that some will be more powerful than others, heck, some are so powerful that fans are still talking about their awe-inspiring feats even now as the year draws to a close. But, which are the most powerful of them all? And which ones need a little more practice before they're ready to join the big leagues?
For this list, we selected 20 characters who really made a splash in 2018. Then, we ranked them according to how powerful, or not, they have proven to be... so far, anyway. Most of these characters made their screen debuts in 2018 and haven't had enough time to reach their full potential. A few have been around for longer, but recent developments have changed their power levels or otherwise shifted their role in the story. Either way, the characters here are all among the strongest, most intimidating, and/or most promising characters that 2018 had to offer. This is far from a complete list, so feel free to chime in with additional rankings in the comments!
20 NIA NAL
One of Supergirl's newest characters, Nia Nal appears to be a little underpowered. She is a reporter for CatCo who came out to her boss as trans in her second episode. So, if you want to talk about inner strength, almost no one on this list could beat Nia.
But no, we're talking about powers, and Nia's is the ability to dream the future. She’s pretty low on the list for now, since she’s only just learning how to control this ability, but Brainiac 5, who is from the far future, has hinted that there is more to Nia than we currently know.
19 BRUCE BANNER
The Hulk barely appeared in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War at all. Ever since he narrowly escaped being ended by Thanos, he has remained locked inside Bruce Banner, refusing to come out. Bruce can still use his own intellect to fight, but when physical strength is needed, he is forced to make use of Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor.
So, why has the Hulk seemingly left Bruce? It's a combination of being tired of Bruce only letting him out during battles and plain fear of being hurt again. In any event, Hulk's absence gave Bruce the opportunity to show what he's really made of.
18 AGENT LIBERTY
Agent Liberty, a.k.a Ben Lockwood, might seem like an odd choice for this list, given his lack of superpowers. But, Liberty's true power lies in his rhetoric and his charisma as a leader. He has successfully harnessed many humans' growing uneasiness about aliens into a widespread movement.
Under Agent Liberty's guidance, an increasing number of angry humans band together to exile all aliens from Earth by any means necessary (they are proving tough for even the mighty Supergirl to defeat). Even when she takes out Agent Liberty, the hate he has inspired will live on in his xenophobic followers.
17 KILLER FROST
When Caitlin Snow first appeared on The Flash, she was a scientist with no superhuman abilities. After The Flash fiddled around with the timestream, however, she gained ice powers and a wicked, second personality named Killer Frost. Caitlin has since gotten her villainous alter ego under control, and in The Flash's fifth season, we get more insight into her past and powers.
Caitlin's father, Thomas, conducted some well-intentioned medical experiments that resulted in both himself and his daughter developing powers. Also like Caitlin, Thomas' powers had the side effect of turning him into a supervillain. As the only one immune to her father's arctic blasts, it's up to Killer Frost to save the day.
Venom is an alien symbiote and one of the few characters on this list who is both hero and villain. He starts out as the latter when he bonds with discredited journalist Eddie Brock. But, the more time he spends around people, the more Venom decides he doesn't want to decimate the Earth after all. Instead, he wants to help humanity by ending anyone who breaks the law. Well, it's an improvement.
Venom's alien biology grants his host many abilities that humans would consider extraordinary, such as increased strength, agility, and a foot-long tongue. But, of course, none of his questionably heroic deeds would be possible if he didn't have Eddie's mind and body to fuse with.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse marks the cinematic debut of Miles Morales, his universe's only Spider-Man. Except, it turns out that Miles is just one of many spider-themed heroes. Miles, the least experienced of the bunch, must team up with the rest to save the multiverse.
Miles' power set differs slightly from the “traditional” Spider-Man's. In addition to the expected web-slinging and Spidey sense, he also turns invisible and can give electric shocks. So, Miles definitely has the raw power to be a stand-out superhero, and once his training catches up to his natural talents, he'll be a real force to be reckoned with.
Hope van Dyne, as the daughter of the original Ant-Man and Wasp, has heroism in her veins. She first appeared in 2015's Ant-Man, but she didn't get to be the Wasp herself until 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp. In order to save her mother, Janet van Dyne, Hope finally dons her mother's suit, which allows her to shrink and fly.
The new Wasp proves herself a trustworthy partner to Ant-Man and a great fighter in her own right. Not only does she take down her fair share of baddies, she also helps save Janet from the dimension she's been stuck in for decades.
After his wife and daughter are ended, Cable goes back in time to end the person responsible, Firefist, before he can become his monstrous future self. In addition to his time-travel doohickey, Cable takes along some guns. Huge guns. Big and powerful enough to knock even the indestructible Deadpool for a loop.
Eventually, Cable is forced to stop fighting Deadpool and actively work with him. Despite getting along with Deadpool about as well as everyone else does, Cable ultimately sacrifices his chance to go back to the future in order to spare Deadpool an overly long end scene. Aww, he does have a heart!
12 JOHN CONSTANTINE
John Constantine is a detective and a sorcerer, whose magical abilities have been especially useful during Season 5 of Legends of Tomorrow. Thanks to the events of the previous season, magical creatures are running amok throughout history and the Legends must travel back in time to stop them all.
Constantine is instrumental in this effort, as his powers allow him to defeat each of their foes and then send them back to their prisons. His usefulness in 2018 doesn't stem from any newly acquired abilities; it's just that the specific circumstances facing the Legends at the moment so neatly coincide with his areas of expertise.
11 BLACK LIGHTNING
Making his debut in his eponymous TV series just this year, Black Lightning, a.k.a Jefferson Pierce, quickly took his place as one of TV's most powerful new heroes. Jefferson can generate electricity and/or draw it from nearby technology. He then uses this electricity to shoot lightning at opponents or fly around Freeland, the city he protects.
At the start of the show, Black Lightning has been retired for several years. He only goes back into action to stop Tobias Whale, the crime lord who ended his father and captured his children. Since then, maintaining a balance between his civilian and hero personas has grown increasingly difficult.
Starfire has been one of DC's powerhouses ever since her comic book debut in 1980. Not only is she an expert fighter, but she can also channel the sun's energy into powerful energy bursts, and her status as a heavy hitter has carried over to the 2018 live-action web series, Titans.
Her portrayal here has not been without controversy. In the show's first episodes, Starfire is an amnesiac who wanders around attacking and/or burning everyone who gets in the way of her vaguely remembered mission. But, whether or not everyone agrees with her characterization is beside the point. Love it or hate it, this Starfire still packs a heck of a punch.
Domino debuted in 2018's Deadpool 2 and almost instantly won legions of fans. She was a member of Deadpool's ill-fated team, X-Force, for the five minutes it existed. In fact, she is that team's sole non-Deadpool survivor. This is thanks to her mutant power of luck, which allows victories and lifelines to appear before her as if by magic. It's an unconventional power, to say the least.
Deadpool mocks it at length, even as Domino demonstrates just how effective it can be. But with her superhuman good fortune, it's a wonder she got stuck with a bunch of misfits like X-Force in the first place.
8 OCEAN MASTER
It seems superhero films don't think much of half-siblings. The latest dysfunctional familial relationship is between Aquaman's Arthur Curry and his half-brother, Orm. While Arthur hangs out on land, Orm is ruling Atlantis with his awesome magic trident and nursing a grudge against humans for dumping all their trash into the ocean.
Orm finally has enough and declares war against humanity, sending his extremely toothy, underwater navy to make his point. Fighting an opponent who numbers in the billions might seem foolish, but a mere seven continents are nothing to a guy with all of the oceans' resources at his disposal.
Aquaman is shaping up to be an underwater version of The Lion King. It features Arthur Curry, the half-human/half-Atlantean prince who doesn't quite fit in on land or in the ocean. He'll need some convincing to take his rightful place in the circle of... uh, that is, take his place as the rightful king of Atlantis.
Arthur's unique physiology grants him enhanced strength on land, and the trailer shows him throwing around grown men and slapping swords in half. He also retains his much-maligned ability to talk to marine life; in fact, the trailer makes a point of showing how spooky such an ability can truly be.
Erik Stevens grew up hearing stories about his father's mistreatment and banishment by the royal family of Wakanda. When he grew up, he parlayed his dislike for Wakanda into a career as a black ops soldier. All of this training and experience earned him the nickname “Killmonger,” and it also came in handy when he decided to overthrow T'Challa, the current ruler of Wakanda.
After ending his associate, Ulysses Klaue, Killmonger went to Wakanda to challenge T'Challa for the throne. He ended up throwing Black Panther off a cliff, and during his brief tenure as king, Killmonger very nearly started a global war because he thought it would help black people around the world.
5 BLACK PANTHER
T'Challa is extremely powerful in more ways than one. He rules Wakanda, one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations on the planet. And of course, he is the Black Panther, high-tech hero extraordinaire. He once made use of a traditional herb to enhance his abilities, although these were eliminated by Killmonger in Black Panther.
Despite his many skills and assets, Black Panther was no match for the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, as he was among those dissolved by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. However, he is still around in cartoon form, as the star of Avengers Assemble: Black Panther's Quest.
Thor's had it rough the past couple of years. He's had to watch his brother pass twice now, on top of losing his eye, both parents, and his entire homeworld. On the upside, he also saw his powers amplified. Ever since Thor: Ragnarok, Thor has not needed his hammer to call the lightning: that power has lain within himself all along. It's a paltry consolation prize, but hey, better than nothing, right?
In Infinity War, Thor got yet another power boost in the form of a new weapon, Stormbreaker. Stormbreaker is the only object in the universe capable of ending Thanos, who had previously wiped out the Asgardians. Sure enough, Thor was the Avenger who came closest to putting a dent in Thanos.
3 JENNIFER PIERCE
Both of Black Lightning’s daughters, Anissa and Jennifer, inherited strange powers from him. Anissa, also called Thunder, is practically invulnerable and has super-strength for as long as she can hold her breath. Jennifer, who has so far resisted the idea of being a hero, can generate electricity.
According to Jennifer's mentor, Jennifer has the potential to be more powerful than any meta she's seen before. But unlike Anissa, who has trained to harness her abilities for good, Jennifer's abilities are largely uncontrolled. Add that to her growing resentment against her overprotective parents, and you have a recipe for impending disaster.
Thanos is one of 2018's most hyped villains. He is the big bad of both Avengers: Infinity War and its upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame. But, he has made cameo appearances in multiple prior films going all the way back to the first Avengers movie in 2012.
Once Thanos acquires the Infinity Gauntlet and all of the Infinity Gems, he wastes no time in putting their unfathomable power to use. He erases half the universe, including many characters that fans have loved for years. Anyone who can literally wipe billions out of existence with a mere thought is not a villain to be trifled with.
As of this writing, Mar Novu has been around for less than a month, and yet, he's already made his mark as the most powerful villain of 2018. In the comics, the Monitors are immortal beings. Each is charged with keeping an eye on one universe, but they do have a history of abusing their great power, which appears to be the case here.
Mar Novu kicks off the “Elseworlds” crossover event between the TV shows Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl by casually eliminating a universe. Only one person, The Flash, escapes the turmoil. Not satisfied with that, the Monitor heads to another universe to pass out world-shattering artifacts to undeserving individuals. Just because he can.