Marvel has always generated heroes in a unique style compared to its prominent competitors. Marvel’s cast of revered heroes has flaws and quirks that make them more approachable to fans, and many of their backstories are rather dark. Indeed, for a while, Marvel was all about introducing anti-heroes, bringing in heroes with darker, more convoluted backstories.
Even when anti-heroes are excluded, many of Marvel’s heroes may be substantially darker than the villains they battle, including those that people would not expect to be. This has won them many supporters throughout the years, making them more entertaining to read about than more one-note heroes.
5. The Sentry
The Sentry was Marvel’s Superman with a twist—an all-powerful protector of good with a darker side than anybody he fought. To begin, his backstory is essentially that of a villain: he sneaked into a scientist’s lab hunting for medicines and discovered the serum that gave him his powers. From there, his mental flaws gave rise to the Void, one of the most lethal monsters on the planet.
The Sentry has fought a variety of villains throughout the years, but none of them is a tenth as evil as him. The monster within him, born from the furnace of his imagination, overshadows them all, making him one of the darkest heroes around.
Illyanna Rasputin was merely a Russian mutant with the ability to teleport anywhere whose brother was a member of the X-Men, but her life was irrevocably changed when she was drawn into Limbo. Magik, who was left to fend for herself and learn magic from otherworldly Storm and Kate Pryde, would eventually return to the actual world as the young queen of Limbo.
That’s dark enough, but then there’s the Darkchylde—the demon half of her that took her a long time to master. Magik’s existence was filled with physical demons and learning to manage who she became after her damaged upbringing made her darker than any of her adversaries.
3. Iron Man
On a personal level, Iron Man is one of the worst heroes in the Marvel Universe; yeah, he saves the day a lot, but as a human being, he’s dreadful. Iron Man has done things that even villains would not do; he has repeatedly betrayed the only people in his life (apart from his parents) who matter anything to him.
Sure, villains attempt to rule the world, but it’s a bit impersonal. Iron Man betrays, battles, and lies to individuals who adore him. That’s a whole other level of evil, and it doesn’t even address the issues that lead to his alcoholism.
Wolverine has lived a life that should have made him a villain: he accidentally murdered his mother when his powers developed, he was always on the run, he served as a secret agent performing all kinds of dirty deeds, and he has had several loved ones slain. Not to mention working with Romulus, being transformed into a monster by Weapon X, and clawing his way back.
Wolverine is one of the anti-hero monarchs, and even his deadliest opponents, such as Sabretooth, can’t equal the tragedies of his existence. Sabretooth is in command when doing his crimes; he picked them. Wolverine has done heinous things that he couldn’t stop himself from doing.
- Darkest on the list is the Punisher
The Punisher battles criminals in the most violent way imaginable, and while his mission may be justified, he has long ago avenged his family. He still can’t get over that formative experience, and it drives him to this day. His intentions are far darker than those of his adversaries.
The majority of offenders are motivated only by greed. The traumas of Punisher’s past have molded him into something that makes even the most heinous criminal look benign in contrast. Punisher’s anti-crime crusade has long gone beyond the pale, and he’s easily darker than his adversaries.