Marvel’s Avengers have gone from a group of b-tier heroes who couldn’t sell their own books to the world’s most famous super team. It really is something special that the general public is now familiar with concepts like the Infinity Stones, the superhero Civil War, and eventually the multiverse-shattering Secret Wars. The stories of the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, have gone from obscure nerd trivia to pop culture iconography. Despite their relatively new-found popularity, there are still several stories and events that most people simply aren’t going to remember or even ever experience without having dug deep into the Avengers comics.
Some Avengers’ victories and achievements sadly never make it into the cultural zeitgeist. Some wins are so small and mundane, or obscure and convoluted that even the biggest Marvel fans may not stop to consider them. Thankfully, there’s no running out of stories anytime soon. While big events are talked to death as trailers and announcements prompt fans to theory craft and hunt for easter eggs, there will always be time to shine a light on the less-appreciated moments from the long history of Marvel’s premiere super team.
10/10 The Avengers Battled Onslaught (And Survived Liefeld)
Discussing Onslaught is opening a giant can of ’90s-shaped worms. Some of Magneto’s evil reflected onto Professor Xavier’s mind when he mentally wiped the X-Men’s longtime villain, creating Onslaught, a psionic being composed of Professor X’s and Magneto’s worst impulses.
Following a climactic battle, the core Avengers and Fantastic Four were sent into a pocket universe where Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld had total creative control. The fact that characters like Captain America survived this unpopular stint being revised by an unpopular creator when their mainline book sales were already low says more about the characters’ power and grit than any doomsday event could.
9/10 Cap’s Leadership Repealed The Superhuman Registration Act
The superhero civil war that split the Marvel universe in twain was much larger in scale originally. While the MCU’s blockbuster adaption narrowed its focus to maintain the story’s emotional drama, the comics literally involved every active hero in the world. The Superhuman Registration Act restricted superheroic activity and forced heroes to disclose their secret identities to the federal government.Following the death of Captain America at the end of the event, Marvel’s status quo moved into a dark place aptly titled Dark Reign. Years later, Cap returned and ushered in the Heroic Age, and with his first act SHIELD’s Director repealed the Act, allowing the world’s heroes to save the day unabated by government interference once more. While fans love to focus on the epic and heart-wrenching drama of the Civil War itself, few appreciate the end of the crisis following the Siege event.
8/10 Avengers Saved The Day In JLA/Avengers
While Krona’s defeat during JLA/Avengers was a group effort from both DC and Marvel’s roster of heroes, it was the Avengers rep Clint Barton A.K.A. Hawkeye who fired the final shot. The Justice League of America may have won the initial contest, but the Mightiest Heroes of Earth 616 still proved to be the vital component in the heroes’ win.
This is, unfortunately, underrated in large part because of both companies’ refusal to come to a compromise about creating widely accessible reprints and rereleases of classic crossovers like JLA/Avengers. With both stables of heroes owned by mega-corporations, it’s unlikely these stories will see another reprint after the charitable production in honor of the late George Pérez.
7/10 The Avengers Babysat The Beyonder
No, this isn’t about Secret Wars. Those exploits are, ironically, well known. Instead, this is about the less well-received but more experimental sequel, Secret Wars II. Here, the omnipotent Beyonder took on human form, complete with a stylin’ disco collar, and arrived on Earth to wreak havoc.
Despite being imbued with godlike reality-altering power, the Beyonder himself is simply a child. The Avengers and the rest of Earth’s heroes spend most of the story doing their best to contain and babysit the Beyonder until he finally stops throwing a tantrum and returns to his own realm. It didn’t seem like a typical heroic pursuit, but managing his existential crisis ensured humanity’s survival.
6/10 The Avengers Revived Captain America
It was technically Namor the Submariner who first found Steve Rogers’ frozen body being worshipped by a group of Inuk people (not making that up). However, the Avengers themselves decided to thaw out the Captain and revive him in the modern-day… 1960s.
Restoring Cap’s consciousness not only ends up paying dividends for the group itself but basically ensured the survival of the planet tenfold. Cap’s leadership during events like the Infinity Gauntlet, the Kree/Skrull War, and Secret Wars was a crucial part of the Avengers’ success. Without an honest and inspiring figure like Cap serving as their moral compass, the Avengers could easily have lost their battles or lost their way.
5/10 Many Avengers Balanced Their Personal Lives
This may seem incorrect at first. Obviously, a lot of comic book drama stems from the way heroes fail to balance their heroic and personal lives. However, every Avenger is roughly as famous as a top-tier Hollywood actor, but also is under greater threat of assassination than any world leader. The fact that high-profile heroes like The Avengers have lives at all is an achievement.
This is doubly true for heroes who don’t have proper secret identities, like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, who are raising a child together. While heroes like Iron Man are known for their poor work-life balance, they’re the kind of people who would be consumed and defined by their work even if they weren’t perpetually saving the world. Somehow, many of them still find love and fulfillment outside their work.
4/10 The Avengers Reformed After Being Disassembled
Even the MCU has yet to go full Avengers: Dissembled. In this story, Brian Michael Bendis aimed to do with Avengers what Grant Morrison did with the JLA, and his first step was wiping the slate clean by destroying the existing team.
Even ignoring the miraculous revivals of characters like Hawkeye and Ant-Man in the years after Avengers Disassembled, the fact that anyone was willing to make a new team after such a cataclysmic event speaks volumes for what The Avengers means to the heroes in-universe. Of course, not having an angry reality-warping Scarlet Witch out for their blood certainly helps.
3/10 The Avengers Are Still Expanding Their Roster
How the Avengers haven’t recruited every single super-powered hero in the Marvel Universe at this point is anyone’s guess. What’s even more bizarre are the characters who made it on before others. For example, Marvel’s Sandman was an Avenger a solid decade before Spider-Man joined the roster.
Either this says something great about the boundless creativity of Marvel’s writers when it comes to creating and embracing new characters or hints at a Mean Girls-style clique that old guard has formed within the team. Tony Stark is absolutely a member of the Plastics in this analogy.
2/10 The Avengers Operate As A Cohesive Team
Any team led by the Sentinel of Liberty is sure to succeed, but even Steve Rogers has limits. Volatile components like Thor Odinson’s pigheadedness or Hulk’s abrasive loner mindset could shake apart any team. For example, Marvel’s Defenders was formed by collecting characters who naturally wouldn’t work together. Rather than the street-level super team of the Netflix series, the original group was composed of known problem children like Hulk, Namor, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer, who all went on the become Avengers.
Most high school group projects feel more cohesive than Marvel’s number one super team. Working together is yet another miracle from Earth’s Mightiest. Living in a mansion and getting free food from Jarvis probably helps ease tensions, the Avengers are still Marvel’s premier dysfunctional family.
1/10 The Avengers Are Still Marvel’s Premier Superhero Team
It wasn’t that long ago that the Avengers were considered the Marvel Universe’s B-Team. Anyone who grew up in the ’90s can attest to the stranglehold the X-Men held on popular culture back then, and even in the ’60s, it was The Fantastic Four who earned the title Marvel’s First Family.
However, despite an X-Renaissance on the horizon, with their inevitable addition to the MCU, the Avengers has still remained Marvel’s premiere superteam. The MCU certainly helped but major moves made by writers like Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman showed audiences what the team could be while at the same time respecting the foundations laid by those that came before.
NEXT: The 10 Best Avengers Stories, Ranked