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Take 10

Take 10: Mightiest Avengers

The Secret Cabal selects the cream of the crop when it comes to Earth's Mightiest Heroes

By Ben Morse Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas. You can't blink without seeing Avengers all around you this week, as NEW AVENGERS #39, MIGHTY AVENGERS #10, AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #10 and AVENGERS: FAIRY TALES #1 all hit the stands! And since the Secret Cabal loves to blink, they figured now would be as good a time as any to rattle off their top 10 Avengers and explain why they truly deserve to be called Earth's Mightiest Heroes. For each candidate, you also get a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!

10. HERCULES First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY ANNUAL #1 (1965) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: The Avengers have had some off-the-wall characters in their ranks over the years, but few have been as boisterous as the Prince of Power, Hercules. Herc's temper and propensity for alcohol and women may have given his team leader's

headaches, but his hearty spirit has been a morale booster for any Avengers roster lucky to have him and his strength makes him a force to be reckoned with. Mightiest Moment: With the main Avengers roster out of commission, Hercules battles alongside the reserves and risk his life to defeat the High Evolutionary and end the Evolutionary War. (AVENGERS ANNUAL #17-1988) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v1 #50 Hercules and the Avengers storm Olympus to take on Typhon.

9. LUKE CAGE First Appearance: HERO FOR HIRE #1 (1972) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: The personification of the modern day Avenger, Luke Cage has had to deal with difficult ethical choices and shifting questions of loyalty since joining the ranks of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but his moral fortitude-as rock hard as his indestructible skin-has carried him through. The current leader of the New Avengers, Cage has become a rallying figure for heroes who eschew Superhuman Registration but remain steadfast in their desire to protect the innocent.

Mightiest Moment: Helping to stem a breakout on the Raft, Luke Cage overpowers the mind control abilities of the Purple Man and redeems his lover Jessica Jones' years of torment at the villain's hands. (NEW AVENGERS #3-2005) Spotlight Comic: NEW AVENGERS #27 Luke Cage reunites and leads the New Avengers in the aftermath of Civil War.

8. THE SCARLET WITCH First Appearance: X-MEN v1 #4 (1964) Learn More About Her... here Why She Makes The List: Wanda Maximoff has been a tragic figure in the Avengers mythos, even causing the destruction of the team when her mind collapsed into insanity, but she has also been pivotal to many of the team's greatest moments. From her romance with the Vision to her stints leading the West Coast

Avengers and serving as field commander when the group returned from the "Heroes Reborn" universe, Scarlet Witch has constantly been in the thick of Avengers action. Mightiest Moment: With reality remade by the magic of Morgan Le Fay and nearly all the Avengers under her thrall, the Scarlet Witch summons all the willpower she can muster, conjuring up Wonder Man from the "dead" to turn the tide. (AVENGERS v3 #3-1998) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS #171 The Scarlet Witch must overcome her own shattered mind to defeat Ultron.

7. YELLOWJACKET First Appearance: TALES TO ASTONISH #27 (1962) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: A founding member of the team, Hank Pym has proven over the years that even Avengers can make mistakes, but he has also demonstrated that a true hero can atone and reclaim his life. After suffering a nervous breakdown that led him to abuse his wife, get thrown off the Avengers and be framed for a crime he didn't commit, Yellowjacket pulled himself together and ultimately regained

his reputation and standing on the team, if not the love of his life. Hank remains quite imperfect, but he never gives up trying to better himself. Mightiest Moment: Alone against the brainwashed Avengers West Coast, Hank Pym manages to subdue his teammates without seriously injuring them, while defeating his old enemy the Voice to earn some measure of redemption. (WEST COAST AVENGERS #36-1988) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v1 #28 Hank Pym returns to the Avengers as Goliath.

6. THE VISION First Appearance: AVENGERS v1 #57 (1968) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: For the Vision, the Avengers have been more than a team to him over the years, they have been his family. An android who has never fully understood the nature of his own existence and struggled to find a place in the world, Vizh has found

acceptance and even love among the ranks of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In return, Vision has served as a dedicated friend and teammate who has played a key role in propelling the Avengers through good times and bad. Mightiest Moment: The Vision throws off the programming of his creator, Ultron, and helps the Avengers to overcome the evil robot, earning himself membership on the team-and proving even an android can cry. (AVENGERS v1 #57-1968) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS ICONS: VISION #1 An amnesiac Vision battles the Gremlin with the help of a young boy named Derek.

5. THOR First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83 (1962) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: Thor's membership in the Avengers stands as a lasting testament to the importance and effectiveness of the organization. That this team warrants not only the attention but continued participation of a legitimate god speaks volumes to the good that the Avengers accomplish. Beyond his track record as a

reliable team member and invaluable power player, Thor's worth as a symbol of the Avengers' status can't be overlooked. Plus, it's just cool when he plays cavalry... Mightiest Moment: With the Avengers dwarfed by the power of Scorpio and the In-Betweener, the Thunder God makes a dramatic surprise entrance to come to his former teammates' aid. (AVENGERS v3 #59-2002) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v1 #7 Under the spell of the Enchantress, Thor battles his own Avengers teammates.

4. THE WASP First Appearance: TALES TO ASTONISH #44 (1963) Learn More About Her... here Why She Makes The List: Perhaps no Avenger's relationship with the team has been as mutually beneficial to both parties as that of Janet Van Dyne, aka the Wasp. Despite being a founding member of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Wasp spent her early years with the team alternating between flighty heiress and damsel in distress. That all changed when Janet's marriage to Yellowjacket disintegrated and she took over leadership of the Avengers to fill the void in her life. Wasp proved an impressive chairperson, demonstrating strength of character and impressive ability in managing her strong-willed teammates. Wasp led the Avengers through their darkest days and both emerged the better for her tenure.

Mightiest Moment: With Avengers Mansion overrun by the Masters of Evil, Hercules injured and Captain America held hostage, the Wasp leads a ragtag assemblage of Thor, Ant-Man and Dr. Druid in a desperate bid to save the day. (AVENGERS #276-1987) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS FOREVER #2 The Wasp leads a team of history's greatest Avengers against the forces of Immortus.

3. IRON MAN First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 (1963) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: Since the team's inception, the responsibility of holding the Avengers together, along with many of the thankless jobs that go with that calling, have fallen to Tony Stark. Fortunately, he shoulders the burdens with an iron will, recognizing the importance of the organization he helped found. In addition to providing the Avengers with financial backing, Iron Man must also make many of the hard decisions that keep the team going, be it disbanding the West Coast branch after it became stagnant or keeping government bureaucrats at arms length. His choices may not make him the

most popular Avenger among his peers, but without Iron Man at the helm the team probably would have gone the way of the Champions long ago. Mightiest Moment: In the Avengers' very first outing as a team, Iron Man steps up to engage the Hulk, distracting him long enough for the rest of the group to locate the true source of their troubles: Loki. (AVENGERS v1 #1-1963) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES #3 Iron Man struggles to hold the fledgling team together as the Avengers face fantastic foes and public scrutiny.

2. CAPTAIN AMERICA First Appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: Iron Man may provide the tools and fuel to keep the Avengers running, but Captain America lit the team's fuse and has kept it burning ever since. Many say the Avengers didn't become the Avengers until the founding members fished Steve Rogers out of suspended animation in the Arctic-and those many have a good point. Cap provided the team with their first true capable leader and has always been the source of inspiration and

perseverance they look to and rally around in times of crisis. Even in death, Steve Rogers' legacy continues to press his former teammates into the cause of justice. Mightiest Moment: Despite his frustration with upstart Avengers Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Cap leads his kooky quartet to unlikely victory against the armies of Kang, liberating an empire. (AVENGERS v1 #24-1966) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS v1 #4 The Avengers discover a dormant Captain America and awaken yesterday's greatest hero to a new age.

1. HAWKEYE First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (1964) Learn More About Him... here Why He Makes The List: Clint Barton represents all the best qualities of an Avenger and what the team aspires to be in its most idealized form. Hawkeye started out as a villain, albeit one with dreams of heroism, and found not only rehabilitation, but unqualified redemption as an Avenger. He began his tenure with the team as a young hothead, questioning Captain America at every turn, and grew into a valued leader and one of Cap's closest confidantes. Time and again, when the most powerful Avengers have been down and out, Hawkeye has proven that a bow and arrow coupled with guts and heart can save the day. One of the

most consistent and committed Avengers over the years, Hawkeye stands out as perhaps the team's greatest success story and a man worthy to be called one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Mightiest Moment: With the entire Avengers roster-Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, et al-incapacitated by the cosmically-powered Collector, only the non-powered Hawkeye and a million-to-one shot can save Earth's Mightiest Heroes. (AVENGERS #174-1978) Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS #172 Hawkeye meets Henry Peter Gyrich for the first time before stepping out of his weight class to aid the Avengers against Tyrak.

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Why is Hercules on this list?