Top 10: Avengers Members by Jerry Whitworth
The Avengers are Marvel Comics’ premier team of heroes (though the X-Men and Fantastic Four could also meet criteria for this claim, with the idea in mind several from both groups have been members of the Avengers) combining together the best of the society of super-heroes that protect Earth from alien invasions, the folly of man’s science, mystical threats from beyond, and evil given birth upon Earth itself. Threats like the Kree, Skrull, Ultron, Kang, Dr. Doom, Thanos, Count Nefaria, and the Masters of Evil have traded blows with these heroes only for time and again these guardians to come out on top. Listed below are those considered the best of the many heroes to count themselves among the Avengers.
10. LUKE CAGE
A fairly recent addition to the Avengers (compared to others in the list), Luke Cage is a reformed criminal who founded Heroes for Hire with his friend and martial arts expert Iron Fist. Convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Carl Lucas volunteered for an experimental cellular regenerative treatment that surprisingly provided him super-strength and nigh-indestructibility. Escaping prison and moving to New York City, Lucas changes his identity to that of Luke Cage, the Power Man. After years of operating as a righteous mercenary forming Heroes for Hire, Cage marries super-powered private investigator Jessica Jones. Following a massive breakout at the Raft superhuman prison, Cage joins the Avengers and, during the Civil War event, the Secret Avengers under Captain America. After the believed assassination of Captain America, Cage takes on the role of leadership of the New Avengers opposing Iron Man and his Superhuman Registration Act. Cage would lead the team through many tumultuous times, including World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and Heroic Age where he remains as leader today.
Initially a reserve member of the Avengers when the team was given United Nations approval to operate around the globe which saw the group’s ranks swell, Spider-Man became a full-time member following a massive breakout at the superhuman prison the Raft. During the events of Civil War, Spider-Man is manipulated into revealing his identity to the world by Iron Man (endangering himself and friends and family like his wife Mary Jane Watson) and was the basis for the Scarlet Spiders. Realizing his error, Spider-Man joined Luke Cage’s New Avengers to oppose Iron Man and the Superhuman Registration Act where he has remained to today.
8. BLACK PANTHER
A frequent ally to the Fantastic Four, Prince T’Challa of Wakanda and inheritor of the Black Panther mantle would join the Avengers and remain as one of its most frequent and reliable members. Between his duties as ruler of his nation, Panther would help the team battle the likes of the Masters of Evil, Ultron, Kang, Count Nefaria, Korvac, Thanos, AIM, Squadron Sinister, Zodiac, Lethal Legion, Arkon, Egghead, and the Sons of the Serpent and joined the side of Captain America against Iron Man and the Superhuman Registration Act (along with his newly married wife, the X-Man Storm). At present, T’Challa operates simply as the Panther in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen at the behest of Daredevil.
Clint Barton was an orphan who ran away to join the circus where he became the highly-skilled archer Hawkeye. Later becoming a costumed hero, Hawkeye becomes a suspect in a robbery and is compelled to join forces with Russian spy the Black Widow and battle Iron Man. When Widow abandons him, Hawkeye clears his name and joins the Avengers. Spending a long time as a member of the team, including for a time taking on the mantle of Goliath from Hank Pym, the hero would meet and fall in love, and shortly marry, with former SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse (now going by Mockingbird) to form and lead the West Coast Avengers. Hawkeye would later die and be resurrected taking the identity Ronin and joining the New Avengers opposing Iron Man and the Superhuman Registration Act. Today, Hawkeye trains the next generation of heroes at Avengers Academy.
A founding member of the Avengers (and responsible for naming the group), Janet Van Dyne acted as the Ant-Man’s partner Wasp where the two eventually fell in love and married. However, much of their relationship involved petty fighting and after her husband had a psychotic break (which led to divorce), Wasp went on to lead the team for some time (conceding her seat briefly to the Vision who went through his own break in reasoning) against the likes of Egghead’s Masters of Evil, Taskmaster, Annihilus, Morgan le Fay, Terminus, Nebula, the Beyonder, Kang, Attuma, and, one of the gravest threats the team ever faced, Baron Zemo’s veritable army of villains in the Masters of Evil for the prolific storyline Under Siege. The Wasp joins who she believes to be her ex-husband (in reality a Skrull infiltrator) alongside Iron Man in support of the Superhuman Registration Act and would join Stark’s Mighty Avengers. The Skrull Hank Pym impersonator gave her a serum that turned her into a bio-bomb which resulted in Thor being forced to kill her to prevent her detonation.
The Norse God of Thunder and son of the King of the Aesir Odin, Thor was exiled to Midgard (Earth) where he was forced to share a body with lame medical physician Donald Blake to quell his inflated ego. Thor’s adopted villainous brother Loki would use the Hulk in a plot to destroy the hero which led to the formation of the Avengers. Thor would be one of the longest standing members of the team facing enemies like Graviton, Ultron, Count Nefaria, and Korvac (as well as making a brief appearance to turn the tide against Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil in the storyline Under Siege) between his responsibilities to Asgard and its varied threats. Thor would eventually take his father’s throne upon his death battling Surtur and ruled Asgard and Earth, defeating his former teammates. However, this reality would be undone in a battle Thor had in the future and the timeline would be changed with Thor in hibernation during many of the events that troubled Earth in recent history (though, Iron Man along with the Skrull Hank Pym impersonator and Mister Fantastic used Thor’s DNA to make a clone to battle Captain America’s anti-Superhuman Registration Act forces which resulted in the death of Hank Pym’s protege, Bill Foster the Goliath). Thor would return as Asgard became a part of Earth and rejoined to the Avengers after the Superhuman Registration Act was dissolved where he remains today.
A synthezoid built from a copy of the Golden Age Human Torch android and the brain waves of Simon Williams the Wonder Man, the Vision was created by Hank Pym’s villainous robotic creation Ultron to infiltrate the Avengers and bring them into a trap that would spell their doom. However, Vision turned on his master and joined the team where he has remained one of the group’s longest active members. As a member, he fell in love with and married fellow teammate Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch and had two children (though, they would in fact contain shards of Mephisto’s soul, which he reclaimed at a loss of their lives, and Wanda’s memory was altered to forget they ever existed until the events of Avengers: Disassembled). The Vision would lead the Avengers for a time when recovering from being shutdown in a battle with Annihilus but this would lead to his attempt to conquer Earth by controlling its computers. He would recover only to later be disassembled during the storyline Vision Quest and be put back together by Hank Pym using the brainwaves of deceased scientist Alex Lipton so that he could experience emotions again after the trauma. When the memory of Wanda’s children was restored, she manipulates She-Hulk into tearing the Vision apart and it wouldn’t be until the recent event Fear Itself that he was rebuilt and rejoined the Avengers.
3. IRON MAN
Founding member and financial backer to the Avengers, Tony Stark is a genius few on Earth (perhaps in the known universe) can compete with. Building his first suit of armor from scrap munitions in a cave with simple tools, Stark juggled an ongoing heart condition caused by the explosion that brought him to that aforementioned cave, running his father’s empire Stark Industries, and his own ego and undermining behavior that pushed away friends (and greeted the loveliest of strangers). Stark has tackled many demons in his time, such as when he discovered his armor designs were stolen and shared with some of his greatest foes (per Armor Wars) but most dire in falling over the edge in his addiction to alcohol (per Demon in a Bottle). While Stark has been a constant ally to the Avengers, be it as a member, as their leader at times, as their main source of income, or lending his armor to his friend Jim Rhodes to act in his stead (or alongside him), he has also threatened to tear the team apart be it from his addiction to more recently in supporting the controversial Superhuman Registration Act (leading most of the Avengers to then be his enemy under Captain America), becoming the figurehead of the measure. Time would pass, Stark would realize the mistakes he made in the routes he took in exercising the Superhuman Registration Act ultimately helping to see it dissolved (and helping destroy the government records, and his own mental record, of superhero identities, threatened by the likes of the Skrulls and Norman Osborn of being exposed). Iron Man now serves together with Captain America in the Avengers again.
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA
When the twenty-something Steve Rogers proved to be too scrawny to enter the armed forces during World War II, he opted into an experimental program to turn him into a super-soldier. With the scientist who developed the process slain, Rogers remained the sole product of the program to become the United States’ hero Captain America (an earlier subject was retconned named Isaiah Bradley, which led to Josiah X and Patriot). Rogers would take on a sidekick in Bucky Barnes and lead a team of emerging heroes called the Invaders (whose core was composed of the All-Winners Squad of the android Human Torch, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, Whizzer, Miss America, and associated sidekicks like Bucky and Toro) before being frozen in an iceberg and recovered in modern times. Though a man out-of-time in a now unfamiliar world, Rogers again picked up his shield as a member of the Avengers (oft times their leader, even more commonly looked upon as a leader though another chairs the group). Cap would also train many of today’s heroes into fighting machines for justice, taking on proteges like the Falcon, Nomad, and D-Man and partnering with Diamondback and Vagabond (while inspiring the creation of Red Guardian, Hauptmann Deutschland, Guardian, and USAgent and the Project: Rebirth program partly evolved into Weapon X). The hero would also have a longstanding friendship with Nick Fury, the pair fighting side-by-side when Fury led the Howling Commandos to today where Fury generally heads up the agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Captain America would oppose the institution of a Superhuman Registration Act that forced heroes to reveal their identities to the US government or be labeled outlaws leading most of the Avengers in an underground movement of heroes against supporters of the law including Iron Man, the Skrull Hank Pym impersonator, and Mr. Fantastic. It was after the conflict when Cap’s troops failed that he would be believed to have been assassinated and his long lost sidekick Bucky took on his mantle. Rogers would return and now heads up the United States’ security agencies, rejoin the Avengers, and operate his own Secret Avengers team.
1. HANK PYM
A founding member of the Avengers alongside his partner Wasp (oft times lover, at times husband and wife), Hank Pym has taken the guise of almost as many heroes as Wasp has altered her costume (a gross exaggeration) beginning as Ant-Man and becoming Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Wasp (in honor of his ex-wife after she was killed), and at times simply by his own name. His career has spawned several heroes including two Ant-Men, four Goliaths (one being Hawkeye and another being a villain turned hero in Atlas), and a female Yellowjacket. Pym has had a long and perilous relationship with the Avengers, where despite his genius (perhaps the world’s leading biochemist and one of the top developers in robotics) and abilities granted through his discovery of Pym Particles (allowing him to grow and shrink in size), as well as developing technology like bio-stings and a wingless flight suit without jet propulsion, he’s long felt inadequate in the presence of heroes like Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor, his history rife with bouts of depression occasionally being suicidal and prone to mental breakdowns. This has been reflected in his love affair with partner Wasp, falling in love and being married only for Hank to verbally and physically abuse her. Despite parting ways, they time and again found each other as Hank has worked hard to overcome his fears and become the hero others see him to be. It’s likely for all these reasons Pym has reinvented himself so often but he’s always been a critical member of the Avengers whenever possible, serving under many several incarnations including a critical role in the Avengers West Coast (during his fan-referred Doctor Who days when he adventured without a heroic identity and took on an appearance and modus operandi similar to the Fourth Doctor, with Rover in place of the TARDIS and his female companion La Espirita, that began in the time travel arc Lost in Space-Time). Pym has offered power with his size growth, versatility with shrinking, flight, energy blasts, and microscopic arsenal and tools, and his intelligence as one of the most brilliant minds on Earth (and beyond). Recently, Pym founded Avengers Academy to help foster and train at risk youth into the next generation of Earth’s heroes while operating as a member of Captain America’s Secret Avengers again taking up the name Giant-Man.