Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Best Avengers Villains

January 26, 2023 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Thanos Avengers Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed Most Overrated Comic Book Storyline. Here’s what some of you had to say:

redraptor: “I dont think Watchmen is overrated as much as it’s misclassified. It deserves all the accolades, but I have never thought of it as a traditional comic book. To hold it in the same catagory as Fantastic Four or Superman is like comparing apples to oranges or Citizen Kane to Friday the 13th or an MCU movie. Sure it’s the same medium but these things are not the same. I think the vast majority of books from the 60’s-70s are overrated. I’m a big F4 fan, but while the concepts put forward in those early books are wild, the execution pretty rough. Great evolution for the time, but it just doesn’t hold up.

Crisis of Infinite Earth’s suffers in a similar fashion removed from the continuity surrounding it (which could be fairly said for the majority of the big crossovers.

The Infinity Guantlet and the subsequent books spend a significant amount of time navel gazing into the abyss with Starlin’s precious drama couple Thanos and Warlock.

Lastly Civil War is honestly a garbage fire packed with out of character motivations just to forward the plot and cause the heroes to fight. It wasn’t even particularly fun to read. Why it is continually pushed by Marvel is beyond me.”

Lariooooot~: “I agree about Watchmen, but for different reasons. I think it is excellent in regards to Alan doing what he set out to do, which was to create a story that used the form of sequential art to all of its unique strengths, and show that if you make superheroes fully realized human beings, they become monsters. The problem is nearly everyone who was influenced by it completely missed the point, and we’ve ended up with nearly 40 years of cynical, edgy crap as a result.

In terms of his work though, I rate it quite low. I’d certainly put it firmly behind The Ballad of Halo Jones, his run on Swamp Thing, Marvelman (fucking sue me Marvel), From Hell, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, and Promethea.”

Madness74: “I am going to go with Blackest Night. I enjoyed it but thought the praise it got was overblown. Probably in the minority but I don’t think it really hit a home run! Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Watchmen, Killing Joke, etc.. I hold in higher regard.”

BN: “Calling Watchmen overrated is like calling The Sopranos overrated; both helped usher in vastly superior storytelling that immeasurably improved its respective medium.

But actually overrated? Most X-Men storylines fit the criteria.”

Robert Stewart: “Definitely Dark Knight Returns. I agree with that. It’s, like, the 5th best Batman book.

Holy shit, New Frontier springs right to mind for me. I read that for my previous podcast, and I DESPISED it. 400 pages of no story whatsoever. It feels like I’m STILL reading that tedious, unfocused, misogynistic mess.”

jfgibson73: “I will say Killing Joke. I think the “possible backstory” sections are really well done, but I have problems with the main story. I think a lot of readers feel like the ending makes this profound point about how Batman and Joker are two sides of the same coin, but all I can focus on is the fact that Joker paralyzed Batgirl, and Batman’s reaction is to to laugh at his joke and clap him on the back like they’re a couple of the bankers from Mary Poppins? “Capitol bit of humor, sir!””

Too many great comments to list! Thank you to everyone who commented last week!
This week we discuss…

Best Avengers Villains
I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.  Not only will it kick-start Phase 5, it will give us a worthy threat from Kang the Conqueror. Jonathon Majors will be playing Kang and did an interview with Fandango where he says his character will be the “biggest, baddest MCU villain that we’ve had.”

Which got me thinking about the bad guy roster the Avengers have. Which, to be honest, is powerful but not as deep as you’d think. 

Let’s start with Kang the Conqueror. While I love time travel movies, I’m not a big fan of time travel villains for the most part. What’s stopping them from going back and just shooting the superheroes’ grandparents, preventing them from being born? Or something along those lines.

But in the interest of the column, Kang’s day has come and I think, when it comes to the comics, his best stories are still to come. Not bad for a character that first appeared in Fantastic Four #19. He was first introduced as the pharaoh Rama-Tut, a criminal from the year 3000 who had travelled back in time and conquered ancient Egypt, and, interestingly enough, was implied to be a descendant of Doctor Doom. Fast forward to The Avengers #8 which told the readers that Rama-Tut had gone on to travel to the year 4000, where he had adopted the identity of Kang. Later on we got to meet Immortus, which was a future identity of Kang’s.

Things get complicated with Kang in the comics but overall he’s been more of a nuisance for the Avengers but I expect that to change very soon. 

I have to give a nod to Michael Korvac. Some of you new readers may not know much about The Korvac Saga from the 70s but it’s a solid story that still holds up well today.  Michael was a computer programmer who was transformed into a cyborg by alien conquerors known as the Badoon. He was then exposed to Galactus’s Power Cosmic and then things got interesting as he became near-omnipotent.

The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy tried to stop him but ended up dead as a result. Korvac was making his paradise and it took the cosmic entity known as the Collector to intercede. I won’t spoil it because it’s a fun ride which I could see them using for a future movie. Korvac may not have stuck around long but he certainly made an impression. 

We have to talk about Thanos. In the comics he’s had a number of memorable stories and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Infinity Gauntlet is a must read. I can see them bringing him back whenever they need a super powerful baddie to give the Avengers all they can handle. 

I’ve always liked Ultron because he’s always been framed as the Avengers’ greatest failure. Created by Hank Pym, who was a founding Avenger and scientist who was also Giant-Man/Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, Ultron was supposed to be the world’s first true artificial intelligence. Only things didn’t work out that way. Over the years he’s battled the Avengers and we get a sense of how powerful and evil he is in the Age of Ultron storyline. He’s another “go to” that I expect will return sooner rather than later.  

While it’s not mentioned as much as it used to be, we have Norse god Loki to thank for the Avengers forming in the first place. He was the ‘threat no single hero could withstand,’ and it took the combined power of our heroes to drive him back. It didn’t hurt that he was related to Thor. 

My favorite villain(s)? Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil. The Under Siege storyline was huge to me and it still sticks out to me as one of my favorites tales involving Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Definitely look for it as the Masters attack Avengers Mansion, destroying it, beating the Avengers pretty convincingly, and beating Jarvis even worse. It was a pretty heavy story. While the roster has changed over the years and the team hasn’t been as active as the Masters of Evil (Thanks Thunderbolts!) as much, it’s a concept worth going back to. 

OK, I left some low hanging fruit for you. Who’s your favorite Avengers villain? Scarlet Witch? Norman Osborn? Skrulls? 

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!