The Avengers have been around in the Marvel Universe since the Silver Age of comics. In that time, they’ve made plenty of friends and enemies. They’ve worked alongside the Defenders, Fantastic Four, and X-Men, and they’ve taken on the likes of Kang the Conqueror, Thanos, and the Masters of Evil.
Sometimes, the dividing line between enemy and ally isn’t that clear, and sometimes teams fall to infighting and ideological differences. The Avengers haven’t been immune to that, with the rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man being among the most famous in comic book history. That said, what have been the worst betrayals the Avengers have experienced? And when have they had it coming?
10 WORST BETRAYALS: Yellowjacket
One of their earlier and stranger betrayals was that of Hank Pym, aka Yellowjacket, Giant-Man, Ant-Man, and Goliath. He had a mental break when he became the Yellowjacket. Hank kidnapped the Wasp and proposed to her as Yellowjacket. The Avengers eventually came to her rescue, and Yellowjacket claimed to have killed Hank Pym. Despite everything, Hank and Janet did marry, and Hank kept the Yellowjacket persona as an Avenger. The marriage was short and troubled, and it ended with Hank hitting Janet. Hank was kicked off the team until he could get himself sorted out.
9 DESERVED IT: World War Hulk
After a particularly destructive Hulk rampage, the Illuminati, a clandestine team of Marvel superhero leaders and geniuses, sent the Hulk into space where he could no longer be a danger to anyone. However, he landed on the savage world of Sakaar, which he conquered with the help of a rebellious cadre of warriors. Eventually, Hulk took his Warbound back to Earth and brought the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four to their knees. He captured the Illuminati and made them fight in a gladiatorial arena so they could see what he experienced. Hulk’s rage was righteous in this instance. The Illuminati betrayed him, so he brought them low.
8 WORST BETRAYALS: Illuminati
The Illuminati themselves greatly betrayed the trust of their fellow heroes. They moved behind the scenes many times throughout Marvel history, making their decisions unilaterally and without the input of their friends, family, and allies. They were initially exposed when the Hood began stealing the Infinity Gems held by the Illuminati, and the Avengers were furious over what they had done. The Illuminati reformed later when the Incursions began, and it ended with an all-out war between the Avengers and the Illuminati that was only stopped by the imminence of the Incursion crisis.
7 DESERVED IT: AvX
Despite their claims to care for mutants and that they consider the X-Men friends, it could easily be argued that the Avengers have not done everything in their power to help the mutant population. The mutants have been hunted, exterminated, rendered impotent, and all but gone extinct multiple times.
This came to a head when the X-Men began trying to summon the Phoenix Force to help revitalize the mutant population. The Phoenix Force is capable of destroying worlds, so the Avengers tried to stop Cyclops from doing this. This brought the tension between the teams to a breaking point, and the Avengers and X-Men went to war.
6 WORST BETRAYALS: AvX (Again)
That said, the Phoenix is an agent of grand destruction and has wiped out billions of lives. While the Avengers haven’t been great friends to the mutants, they have tried to stick up for them many times in the past and have accepted X-Men onto the Avengers many times. Cyclops was doing a dangerous thing in trying to summon the Phoenix, and he wasn’t willing to negotiate with Captain America over this course of action.
5 DESERVED IT: Cap’s Rebellion
When the United States government passed the Superhuman Registration Act, it threatened the privacy, safety, and liberties of every superhuman in the country. Captain America couldn’t stand by and allow this to happen, so he and a band of superhero rebels fought against this. Half the Avengers sided with Iron Man and the government on this, and Cap and his Secret Avengers fought tooth-and-nail to keep superheroes from becoming superpowered cops for the government.
4 WORST BETRAYALS: Iron Man And The SHRA
The SHRA itself was a grand betrayal of the Avengers and every hero who wasn’t interested in working directly for the government. Iron Man sided with the Registration Act, and he took extreme and cruel measures to try and wrangle the Avengers to join his side.
He, Mister Fantastic, and Yellowjacket cloned Thor, and that clone later killed Goliath, aka Bill Foster. They opened up Prison 42 to house superheroes in the Negative Zone. They began using nanites to control supervillains and put the Green Goblin in charge of a government-run Thunderbolts team. All of this ended with Captain America being assassinated.
3 DESERVED IT: Avengers Disassembled
While none of the Avengers could have accurately predicted what happened during the events of Avengers: Disassembled, there were warning signs. Scarlet Witch was struggling with the extent of her powers and clearly needed proper help. Instead, the Avengers ignored it, and it ended with the deaths of Ant-Man, the Vision, and Hawkeye. Wanda needed help, but, as Hawkeye said himself, the Avengers are good at stopping threats but bad at cleaning up after themselves. This event led to the downfall of the Avengers, though the New Avengers would form not too long afterward.
2 WORST BETRAYALS: Secret Empire
The Avengers, understandably, also couldn’t predict Captain America turning out to be a fascist and an agent of Hydra, but that still happened. Thanks to the work of Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube, Steve Rogers’ entire life story was rewritten so that he was always a sleeper agent for Hydra. He led a coup that placed Hydra in charge of the United States, and a few heroes, such as the Odinson, a corrupted Vision, and a mind-controlled Scarlet Witch joined him. However, many heroes rebelled against him, and the true Steve Rogers was brought back. He led the Avengers and X-Men in a charge to bring down the villainous Hydra Steve Rogers and liberate the country.
1 DESERVED IT: Avengers Annual #10
Among the more controversial and bizarre stories to ever come out of the Avengers was the case of Ms. Marvel’s pregnancy. Carol suddenly became pregnant, and, despite everything, was overjoyed. She gave birth to the child, which turned out to be an extra-dimensional being named Marcus who immediately grew into an adult, and the two became a loving couple that left through a dimensional portal together. Chris Claremont later wrote a follow-up to this story in Avengers Annual #10, where Ms. Marvel returns and rips into the Avengers for not helping her with Marcus, who was clearly manipulating her mind. This one can’t even be rightly called a betrayal – it’s Ms. Marvel confronting her friends over the carelessness. It’s easily the moment where the Avengers most deserved to be smacked down for their actions.
The Avengers have had ups and downs throughout their history, including some terrible betrayals. Some were deserved but others weren't.