By Jon Durmin
Greetings Body Politic! Before I give you a thoroughly vetted list of the top 10 Avengers I want to express my thanks to Daniel Acuna for the VERY thorough and gorgeous interlocking covers/poster for the team’s 50th anniversary.
Now some ground rules:
- – There will be no thought given to Alternate, Ultimate or MCU nonsense here. This is Marvel 616 Politics, and we’re all about the 616 here!
- – The Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. That being the case we’ll be honing in on might, association with the third rock from the sun (we’ll make it up to our primarily cosmic characters down the line with future top 10 lists, promise), and above all the rest, heroism. Being a true hero, doing what’s right and good no matter what, is what being an Avenger is about.
On board? Let’s do this True Believers!
Jarvis deserves recognition as a stalwart rock of the Avengers organization from the beginning. Without his devotion and support the team would have fallen apart during some rough and tumble times.
Yes, Tony Stark helped found the team, acted as the initial chairmen, and bankrolled the Avengers from the start. However, whether he meets the criteria for this list, especially the selfless heroism that defines a great Avenger is a matter of debate. Tony’s relationship with the team, and record in the superhero community have been guided more often by self-interest than by true, selfless heroism. Heck, when inverted as a result of the AXIS storyline Tony’s attitude and behavior didn’t even shift very significantly as he was inverted from an “Invincible” Iron Man to a “Superior” one. This is all enough to grant Tony recognition as an anchor of the team, but also enough to knock him off the list.
Sam is stepping up strongly as the current inheritor of the Captain America mantle, and I have no doubt he’ll one day knock somebody out of a spot on this list. For the time being, however, Mr. Wilson’s record of leadership and heroism as an Avenger is outweighed by his reluctant and contentious early association with the team back in his days as the Falcon.
Loki? A stretch, sure, but beyond being a Young Avenger during his Kid Loki phase, the god of mischief and/or lies is single handedly responsible for orchestrating the scenario that birthed the Avengers. In other words, without this arch-trickster there would be NO Avengers. Given that Loki tends to play a long game I’m still not entirely certain he didn’t actually intend to create the Avengers for some other, greater purpose that we have yet to see revealed.
Finally, Wolverine. Okay, okay, I know calling Wolverine a runner-up might ruffle some feathers, but hear me out. Becoming an Avenger has been HUGE for James Logan Howlett. After joining the team he evolved from a guy who just did the dirty work so others didn’t have to, an outsider among outsiders, to a team player & leader with an increasingly well-developed sense of justice and right. As a result, Wolverine became more loath than ever to use lethal force and to see others pushed into a life of violence; a perspective that led him to found and head the Jean Grey School and ascend to the head of the [non-fugitive/rogue state version of the] X-Men.
Okay, on to our countdown!
If you’d told me back in January 2012 that Sunspot was going to be a consistent member of the Avengers I’d have looked at you with exaggerated skepticism. If you’d told me he was going to become an incredibly important member of the Avengers I’d have laughed. If you’d told me he would be one of my flat out favorite Avengers ever within three years I’d have emailed your parents to let them know I was deeply concerned, and to offer to help arrange an intervention for your newly obvious substance abuse problem. However, you would have been right. Somehow in the space of less than four years Avengers scribe extraordinaire Jonathon Hickman has catapulted Roberto da Costa, the super strong, solar powered, girl crazy, dilettante, new mutant we first met in Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod’s Marvel Graphic Novel #4, to the ranks of Avengers superstar. Bobby has become a core member of the larger Avengers organization. Not only that, he successfully defeated A.I.M. and turned the one time techno-terrorist organization into a force for Avengers grade solutions to major global problems and a provider of Avengers Infrastructure. Furthermore, during the ‘Time Runs Out’ storyline that led into Secret Wars, Sunspot formed an all new, internationally respected Avengers team that challenged the warring Illuminati and S.H.I.E.L.D. factions of Avengers by carrying forward the moral authority from which those two groups had strayed. In Al Ewing’s upcoming New Avengers relaunch Sunspot will continue to head both A.I.M. and a core Avengers team. If all that doesn’t qualify him to sneak onto this list I don’t know what does. (Author’s Note: Believe it or not true believers, if this were an unqualified, personal Top 10 Bobby would rank much higher than spot #10 here).
9. Clint Barton
Not always so much a team player as many of the others on this list (even Cage is more reliable at this than Clint at this point), he’s always been there for the Avengers when he was really needed and represented the good name of the team with courage and honor, whether as Hawkeye, Ronin or Goliath.
Wanda has been a leader, and nearly constant presence on the team, shaking her dark past. I might rank her higher if all that House of M/Disassembled non-sense wasn’t still casting shade on all her good deeds. Here’s hoping that James Robinson’s upcoming Scarlet Witch solo-series will help us rowdy readers to put that business behind us.
I will never be able to forget the start of Kurt Busiek’s Heroes Return Avengers run where Vance Astrovik had so much devotion to the idea of being an Avenger it broke Morgan Le Fay’s hold over him and before he was even a member of the team. A future leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, doing his part to train and guide future Avengers, and coming through for the team even when severely injured, Vance is a true Avenger.
6. Hank Pym
Too often maligned for his hand in creating Ultron and a singular loss of control during a moment of severe stress and impaired mental health (not that it’s undeserved, but I can name 3 other Marvel heroes who have slapped their S.O.’s around while under way less duress than Pym was that suffer NO stigma for their actions). As we were reminded in Rick Remender & Jerome Opena’s beautiful Rage of Ultron OGN, Doctor Pym’s potential was hampered by a shaky sense of self-esteem and his numerous acts of heroism and self-sacrifice along with his long-standing devotion to the concept of the Avengers, whether in a supporting or active role, or as a guide to a younger generation more than outweigh the mistakes of his past. A true Avenger and a hero in the mighty marvel mold.
5. Luke Cage
Wait? Really? Yes, definitely. Since he was brought in as part of the New Avengers the man born Carl Lucas has lived the life of an Avenger, holding teams together through good times and bad (i.e. Civil War) and served as an example to others on the wrong side of the law that they too have the capacity to turn their lives around and give back to society. He totally stepped up by founding a new Mighty Avengers team in Al Ewing’s Infinity era relaunch of that title. He’s come a long way from the hero for hire.
He broke through the programming of his “father” Ultron to discover his humanity, a true sense of justice and a heroism worthy of the Avengers name. He’s settled comfortably to perfect a balance of confidence, heroism, innovation, and pragmatism that his grandfather (of a sort) Hank Pym never quite sorted out. Even being bodily disassembled and having his programming wiped of the emotional patterns of Simon Williams couldn’t keep this guy from being an Avenger. Vision’s become a true blue (or green, yellow and red) icon of the team, an Avengers leader, and is one of the mightiest and most heroic Avengers of all.
Before Remender’s Uncanny Avengers book I really didn’t like the character. I don’t know how, but between that and re-reading of some of Busiek’s stuff and exploring Roger Stern’s run for the first time I’ve really come to see that when Jan is in the hands of the right writer her heroism comes to the forefront and it becomes clear that the socialite bit is really just that. Jan even came up with the name “Avengers”. Another leader in the way Cap is, knowing when to take command and when to let others guide the team. Me from ten years ago can’t believe I’m saying this, but Ms. Van Dyne is a great Avenger.
2. Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Since his revival Steve has been the most consistent and dedicated member of the team, a true hero in every sense of the word, a moral compass for what’s right. Steve may be the greatest leader of the Avengers as well, a brilliant tactician & strategist standing tall against incredible odds time-and-again, and knowing when to stand aside to let others take the lead for the betterment of all.
The mightiest of all the Avengers. A hero of multiple worlds and time periods. Even more a literal living legend than the good Captain. A leader, warrior and agent of justice and example to all of the meaning of the title Avenger.