The Ten Most Powerful Threats in the Marvel Universe
Who grabs your attention the most when you see him in a comic book story?
Who are the heavy hitters in Marvel?
The Marvel Universe has more than its share of universal threats. Most readers and comic book fans aren't aware of most of them. I decided that writing this article was more out of need than out of pleasure when I found that Thanos was a mystery to some of the younger comic book readers.
I'm actually happy that Thanos is now getting the attention he deserves.
Over the last fifty years, Marvel Comics has amassed some pretty powerful villains - and villains are people you should be worried about. However, the term "villain" and "threat" are not necessarily synonymous.
In a real world example Osama bin Laden was a villain who was a threat. He was evil and wanted to cause destruction. However, bin Laden at his worst could not cause the same kind of devastation as a natural disaster or the "threat" of global warming.
Blizzards, hurricanes, and floods are not evil - they just are.
The best title for this is "threat" rather than villain because some of these beings are not evil as we understand them.
Let's begin with the most popular.
Galactus the World Eater
Case in point: Galactus.
Some would argue that Galactus is the worst villain in the Marvel Universe. He's not. Although what Galactus does is incredibly destructive, causes death, and ends worlds - the term "evil" does not really fit. Galactus does what he needs to survive. There is no malice in what he does just as there is really no malice for any MacDonalds customer to any cow that was part of his cheeseburger. The death and destruction that Galactus causes are incidental to his survival.
Galactus needs to consume the life-energy of planets in order to survive. If the planet he consumes is inhabited, it is unfortunate.
What we can call Galactus is a universal threat. After all, what would you call someone or something that needs to destroy planets to survive? What would you do about such a threat? All inhabited planets that have been consumed by Galactus have tried to fight back. Unfortunately for them Galactus is too powerful to be stopped.
The Beyonder - God in Another Universe
Okay, yes, he looks like some kind of glam rocker from the eighties. But don't be fooled, he's all powerful.
Back in the eighties, Marvel Comics ran a storyline that lasted for almost a year called "The Secret Wars". Marvel's big name heroes (Spider-man, The Hulk, Mister Fantastic, The Human Torch, The Thing, Iron Man, The Wasp, Captain America, Captain Marvel II, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Thor, Spider-Woman, Professor X, Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Wolverine, and Lockheed the Dragon) faced off against a collection of villains (Galactus, Doctor Doom, The Molecule Man, The Wrecking Crew, The Lizard, Klaw, Magneto, The Absorbing Man, The Enchantress, Kang, Titania, Ultron, and Volcana). They were gathered by a bodiless being called The Beyonder.
You see the Beyonder didn't understand the nature of good and evil as well as the motivations behind humanity. He told both groups to slay their enemies and he'd grant the winners whatever they desired. Nothing was impossible for him to grant.
In the aftermath of the Secret Wars, the Beyonder wanted to experience life as a human. Originally he created a body from parts of the beings he observed from the participants of the first Secret Wars. In his second attempt, he modeled a body from that of Captain America and then later he changed his hairstyle and clothes based on recommendations from a mob family.
Reality bends at the whim of the Beyonder. In his home universe, he was everything and everything was him. There is no being or entity in the Marvel Universe (save the Molecule Man) who can challenge his might. This includes Galactus, Mephisto, and Death.
Owen Reece, The Molecule Man
Looks like a ninety-eight pound weakling, doesn't he? Yeah... don't screw with him.
Owen Reece essentially was irradiated and absorbed the energy of a cosmic cube. The accident put lighting-like scars on his face. Initially, Reece, thought he could control all the aspects of inorganic matter. Calling himself, the Molecule Man, the picture of a disgruntled lab worker in a giant corporation, took revenge on the corporate president that fired him for causing the lab accident.
Not a good idea when the accident gives you power over matter and energy.
The Molecule Man was the frequent foe of the Fantastic Four - as the Watcher, in an oath breaking piece of interference, alerted the group of Reece's power.
Reece was wrong about his own power and subconsciously thought he only had the power to effect inorganic matter. It turns out he could affect ALL MATTER AND ENERGY. That makes you about as powerful as a god.
It is a good thing that within recent years, Reece sought out therapists to help him with his own inner demons of inadequacy and, more or less, has become psychologically stable. A natural home body, Reece prefers to be left alone and not to be disturbed unless the crisis calls for his intervention.
This is not Arizona at night.
The dark side of the Phoenix force is something to be feared and dreaded. We know the Phoenix force as the energy that joined with Jean Grey, cloned her and for a brief time on Earth lived life as Jean Grey.
Our experience with the Phoenix force is with Jean Grey and Rachel Summers. When it had bonded with Grey, it was subject to all of her mind and emotion. With that being said, it was also vulnerable to her psychological dark side that everyone has. As a high level psionic energy manipulator, Grey may have eventually been able to work with the force - however, during her time when she was manipulated by the mutant Mastermind while at the mutant Hellfire Club, she may have lost the necessary control she needed.
The Phoenix force which usually manifests itself in the shape of a great bird of fire bonds with a high level telepath and thereafter can manipulate time, energy, matter, and be at one with cosmic awareness - making it omniscient. It is indestructible and is part of the primal energies of this universe. Many have said that the Phoenix force is second most powerful force in the universe.
The Dreaded Dormammu
Cosmic level threats come from many places - physical and mystical.
The Dreaded Dormammu reigns the mystic dark dimension. According to Doctor Strange, sorcerer supreme in this dimension, the Dormammu is a threat to "the life of the universe itself". He has displayed energy projection; matter transmutation; size shifting and teleportation; body possession; resurrection of the dead; bestowing of power; and creating demon lords. Within his own dimension there is no entity that can stop him.
It is only through the Dormammu's own oath, as he is indebted to Doctor Strange for helping him protect his own dimension, that he does not invade this one. While he won't invade Earth or this dimension directly, he is not beyond using pawns to carry out his evil deeds. In the past he has used Baron Mordo, Nicolas Scratch, and the demon Satanish to do his bidding.
The brief episodes that the Dormammu has made his incursion upon this dimension (through merging the Dark Dimension with this one) his presence has caused humanity to turn into demon like creatures and the world into a hellish environment.
Mephisto - Pure Evil
The Devil, you say?
All of you know this guy. He the guy you meet when you say, "For (fill in the blank), I'd sell the Devil my soul." Mephisto not only will make the deal but will accept all major forms of trade and barter to make this deal come true.
He's bad... Really, really bad. He rules what we'd term "Hell" - complete with damned souls, fire, brimstone, you name it. Mephisto pops up anytime there is a character that seems to be incorruptible and has a unique kind of problem that a master of time, space, and dimension can solve.
Normally, his victim is the Silver Surfer. He takes a particular type of joy in the fact that while the Surfer was trapped on Earth that he could torture and tease him by showing him his true love, Shalla Bal and denying him when he said, "No."
Like all the stories, any time anyone makes a "deal with the Devil", things usually don't quite work out as the bargainer intends. It's all in the fine print. However, there are some times when a hero gets the better of Mephisto. Spider-man and Mary Jane managed to resurrect Aunt May at the cost of their marriage and continuity - with just the lingering in their subconscious of what they'd given up, so that they'd suffer that much. In this deal, however, it is still possible for Peter and MJ to still find each other and find happiness while not breaking the deal.
Thanos the Titan
Thanos has ruled the universe at least three times in the past.
What can you say about a character that starts out with a few mediocre powers and develops his mind and body to achieve his goals of universal domination and destruction. Thanos' goal has always been to woo Death. The more people he kills and the more planets he destroys, the more he believes Death will love him back.
When you consider the fact that he has successfully schemed and plotted three different ways to become all powerful, you have to acknowledge that Thanos is a threat to all that lives. Indeed, when he possessed the Infinity Gauntlet which had the gems controlling Power, Time, Space, Mind, Soul, and Reality, no one - not even Mephisto - could challenge him for his power.
Thanos, while completely dedicated to Death, is not completely evil. He has wrestled control of this reality to fix a defect within the universe itself. As characters have found ways to resurrect themselves, they have weakened the fabric of reality. Thanos "rebooted" the universe to correct this and accomplish his goal that anyone who died from that moment on, STAYED DEAD.
Ironically, Thanos was recently resurrected against his will.
This is what happens when an alien invading force tortures an IT guy.
In a distant, alternate, future, where the Badoon have successfully taken over Earth, Michael Korvac was traitor to the human race. While working for the invading enemy force, he fell asleep. The aliens didn't like that and GRAFTED HIS LOWER BODY TO A COMPUTER.
In a battle with the Grandmaster (one of the Elders of the Universe), Korvac uses his computer cyborg body to scan the Grandmaster's powers. In doing so, he was able to destroy his Badoon overlords in revenge. He got another chance to expand his power when he was able to slip onboard Galactus' spaceship. Once he was able to merge with the computer on Galactus' ship, he became practically a god after downloading "the power cosmic".
He has displayed energy projection; matter alteration; teleportation and manipulation of time and space - typical god stuff.
Surtur - Nordic Demon
When you threaten to destroy the Nordic "Nine Worlds" in Ragnarock - that's us, too.
Surtur is a fire demon whose power is of apocalyptic proportions. In essence, he the guy who was fortold to bring about the end of the universe. He has appeared "prematurely" however to attempt to bring this about. In every attempt, it's up to Thor and Odin to stop him from destroying Asgard.
Surtur is a skilled warrior and swordsman and usually grows to a gigantic level anytime he makes the attempt to destroy... everything. When he does this, he grows to be a thousand feet tall.
As he's a fire demon, he is vulnerable to cold things - however other than that, he's a pretty serious threat to everything that breaths.
The Sentry / Void
Who'd have thought that the power of a million exploding suns could be that powerful?
Originally, the character of The Sentry was Marvel's answer to Superman. However, Marvel being Marvel needed to put a twist on the character. As part of giving the Sentry all of this heroic ability there needed to be some kind of balance.
So the Void came as well.
The Void was everything that the Sentry was not. Where the Sentry would do heroic feats to save lives, the Void would create disasters that would cause so many lives to be lost. It was like the tide with ebbing and flows.
Here's the catch: The Void and The Sentry are the same guy.
The Sentry/Void has the power of a million exploding suns which allows him to regenerate himself upon complete disintegration. As per Uatu, the Watcher, the Sentry/Void has been an avatar of Death and in some cultures "The Angel of Death" itself.
Knowing the players is part of any game.
In the Marvel Universe there are several threat level types. These range from the burglar who steals the box office receipts from a wrestling gig to egos that can end all that is. In some instances - especially on the level of the individual - we can care more about the burglar because we understand that retribution is more likely.
It's very much like pondering the crimes of a mass murderer that commits genocide. I paraphrase Eddie Izzard's point that after one million people dead, our minds can't cope with it and we say, "Well done! You must really be productive."
I don't undervalue the little menaces as the burglar that Spider-man failed to stop was the man who killed his Uncle Ben. We all know that there are dictators responsible for killing thousands of innocent people and as individuals there is little to nothing that we can do about it.
When I speak of these universal threats, they are to be taken in almost the same vein that eventually a large asteroid will destroy our planet sometime in the future. There's nothing we can do about this and it's best that we don't even think about it if we plan to ever have a peaceful sleep again.
In this venue we are dealing with fiction.
Knowing the big threats and knowing the potential for harm don't cause us to worry. For us, we need to know about them to enjoy the story more. We ask ourselves when we see them in a story, "What does this character bring to the table?"
We also wonder who the protagonist will be and how will he deal with that threat? Will this be a physical crisis or will it be a crisis of the soul? What will it eventually wind up costing our hero? Will he need help? If he does need help, who should he call on? We all wonder and we all read just that more intently.
As enthusiasts we all wonder about the protagonist's struggle of "man vs. man", "man vs. nature", "man vs. self", or "man vs. society". These villains in some sense translate to "man vs. god". When we read those stories, we are challenged by that concept.
And in some ways their victory is ours as well.
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi