The ebbs and flows of time bring many a change to the characters we love and know — or, rather, think we know. An action considered unconscionable, or a choice unfathomable, can take these beloved figures into unfamiliar territory.
Sometimes all it takes is a phrase like "Hail Hydra" to change everything you thought you knew.
Nick Spencer's tenure on the Captain America titles have been about establishing Sam Wilson as the cornerstone of new sensibilities in the Marvel Universe, while Steve Rogers and his past have been subverted to become the foil to those new ideals.
It all began with a Cosmic Cube becoming sentient, the Red Skull making an influence, and the perversion of everything the Sentinel of Liberty once stood for.
It all comes to a head in Secret Empire, Marvel's latest event series, when Rogers comes out of the shadows and into the sickly green light of Hydra, exerting his will across the country.
But while this might be the first time Steve Rogers has fallen from the grace of angels, it is not uncommon for the heroes of the Marvel Universe to find out how the other half lives. In fact, it's almost a rite of passage for some of the most well-known characters.
Here are some of the most notorious times a Marvel hero has broken bad, flipping the switch from hero to villain.
Spider-Man — Superior Spider-Man
The culmination of a years-long plan, Doctor Octopus finally got the best of his nemesis when he switched bodies with Peter Parker and left him trapped in Otto's own frail frame.
Parker attempted to reverse the effects but fell short, dying in his own arms as Doc Ock pledged to destroy everything Spider-Man had accomplished. But Otto learned Uncle Ben's old adage with Parker's dying wish, and made the new Spidey re-experience a shared version of all of their traumas.
Otto then decided to become a Superior Spider-Man, unburdened by the weaknesses and restraints that he felt held Parker back for many years. He was ruthless in his battles against supervillains, some even resulting in fatal finishes.
While Otto did force Peter back into grad school to finish his doctoral studies and establish his own company, he also sacrificed many relationships from Parker's old life to get ahead.
Then there were all of the ethical lines he skirted or crossed to get his job as Spider-Man done, including establishing his own base of operations complete with henchmen and unleashing a drone army of spider-bots across the city to monitor for crimes.
Parker eventually found his way back, but not before Otto did a lot of damage to his life. The two personalities had to come to terms with each other when the Green Goblin and his Goblin Army took over New York City, which eventually led to the one, true Amazing Spider-Man's return.prevnext
Daredevil — Shadowland
After Daredevil received a new ongoing series under the Marvel Knights banner, originally established by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, then series writer Kevin Smith laid a down a gauntlet that was followed by every writer since. Until Mark Said, Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, and Chris Samnee took over, but that's another story.
Smith's arc ended with the death of Matt Murdock's lover, Karen Page. Brian Bendis took over, dealing with unresolved trauma and resultant PTSD, causing Daredevil to reveal his identity to Hell's Kitchen and subsequently being sent to jail. Ed Brubaker took over, with Murdock escaping from jail and assuming leadership of evil ninja faction, the Hand.
That's when Andy Diggle took over, and things didn't get any better for Murdock at that point. Daredevil was put between a rock and a hard place by being offered control of the Hand and only decided to be the leader when he thought he could turn the group into a force for good. But then Bullseye blew up a few buildings in Hell's Kitchen, killed a bunch of people and drove Murdock to the brink.
Daredevil ended up building a fortress over the site of the tragedy, becoming more callous and cold in his dealings, and eventually murdered Bullseye in a confrontation to exact his revenge.
He was subsequently consumed by a demonic deity worshiped by the Hand, called the Beast, and began fighting his friends like Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Spider-Man. Punisher and Elektra also joined the fray, but none were able to convince him to stop his crusade.
Daredevil ordered the Hand to kill his former allies who would not join him, and the Hand's influence on Hell's Kitchen turned the city into a war zone in which they would fight among themselves. He even attempted to resurrect Bullseye as an obedient killing machine, much like the Hand is wont to do (see the entry on Wolverine: Enemy of the State).
But the Hand's influence was cleansed with the help of Iron Fist, who eliminated the possession from the Beast. Murdock left Hell's Kitchen in an attempt to rehabilitate his mind and soul, believing himself responsible for the evil of Shadowland.
Black Panther assumed responsibility of Hell's Kitchen's well being. And Kingpin took control of the Hand in the wake of Daredevil's departure. This series gave way to Waid and Co.'s arrival on the series, notable for being a light hearted and swashbuckling take on the character.prevnext
Wolverine — Enemy of the State
Mark Millar and John Romita Jr teamed up for this series which saw the Hand team with Hydra, AIM, and other secret organizations bent on world domination. Their plan was to kill heroes and resurrect them under their control (they do that a lot, as you'll see), starting with Wolverine.
They leave the brainwashed Wolverine for SHIELD to find. When he gets in their custody, he murders many agents. Elektra attempts to stop him, brought in for her dealings with the Hand and knowledge of their corruption techniques.
But Wolverine escapes and makes his way to the Baxter Building where he attempts to steal some of Reed Richards' sweet sweet world-changing technology.
After battling with the Fantastic Four, he slaughters more innocent people and then helps Hydra agents destroy a Stark building.
He then attempts to kill Daredevil so that he could be resurrected in the same way while Elektra goes against the new leader of the Hand, the Gorgon. During the battle, Wolverine reveals his fight with Daredevil was a feint, that Elektra was the real target. Gorgon is successful in killing her, and she is brought once again under Hand control.
Wolverine finally makes his way to the X-Mansion where he attempts to coerce Rachel Grey into using Cerebra to kill the President of the United States. When the plan backfires, he murders Northstar in an escape attempt (who is brought back as a Hand agent as well), before he is captured and returned to SHIELD custody. They have difficulty keeping Logan subdued, but they eventually break his programing.
When he learns of his deeds, he becomes a temporary Agent of SHIELD to atone for his crimes and gain some revenge.prevnext
Bucky Barnes — Captain America: Winter Soldier
Marvel used to have a "dead means dead" impetus after many character's bit the dust then eventually returned. It lasted for a couple of years until Joss Whedon decided to bring back Colossus in Astonishing X-Men, which opened the door for a lot of characters to make their way back.
But including Uncle Ben, Captain America's old sidekick was one character who was considered 'untouchable' by creators to bring back to the land of the living. Bucky's influence loomed heavily over Steve Rogers, the Man Out Of Time.
And then Ed Brubaker introduced him into the present as a brainwashed assassin responsible for the deaths of thousands over the better part of a century.
When Bucky was thought to be killed during a mission in World War II, his body was recovered and he was revived to be a Russian operative for Department X.
As the Winter Soldier, Bucky killed Wolverine's wife, Itsu—and nearly killed their unborn child Daken—as well as the Red Skull. After a confrontation with Captain America, Bucky broke free of his programing and began coming to terms with his guilt.
Bucky has since become one of the most high-profile heroes in the modern Marvel Universe. After Steve Roger's short-term death, he became the new Sentinel of Liberty, brandishing his mentor's shield as the new Captain America.
Since Steve's return, he's become a covert protector of the Earth against daunting cosmic threats as the Man On The Wall, and developed a relationship with another former Russian agent, the Black Widow Natasha Romanov.prevnext
Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic — Civil War
Hey, look! Another Mark Millar entry! I'm starting to think it's a thing with him…
Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic are unique on this list in that they were not possessed or brainwashed or had their histories altered by a Cosmic Cube. No, these two heroes who think they know better than everyone else simply thought their way was the only way. And when it came to superheroes registering for the government, the ensuing battle turned these two into villains who imprisoned their own friends and family for the sake of the greater good.
Tony Stark was the biggest proponent for the registration side early on and Reed Richards backed him up, even though members of the Fantastic Four did not agree with the position. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic then developed a prison in the Negative Zone to contain all of the heroes they would eventually arrest—an action that Dr. Doom would find impressive.
Things got even more out of hand when their cyborg-version of Thor went a overboard in a battle and murdered the size-changing hero Goliath. Suddenly there was blood on their hands, the exact thing they wanted to prevent.
Reed and Tony eventually "won" the war when Captain Americaturned himself in, but their victory heralded a dark time for the Marvel Universe. Tony became the leader of SHIELD and Reed nearly lost his family. Iron Man's system was eventually compromised and Norman Osborn took over his position, while Reed tasked himself with 'solving everything' which caused a series of events that lead a group of parallel versions of himself to nearly destroy the earth.
Overall, not a good look for two characters that are sometimes considered the smartest in the Marvel Universe.prevnext
Scarlet Witch — Avengers Disassembled
It's hard to get into what really happened here without getting into alterations and retcons that changed specific details of the story, so we'll just give it to you straight as it happened.
The Avengers' No Good Very Bad Day began when a zombified Jack-of-Hearts waltzed toward Avengers Mansion. The Ant-Man Scott Lang approached Jack, who promptly blew up and killed them both.
Then the Vision crashes a quinjet into the mansion. Vision attempts to warn the team of… something, when an enraged She-Hulk promptly rips them in half. But not before Vision coughs up a bunch of Ultron eggs for the rest of the Avengers to fight.
Then Iron Man appears to be drunk, despite years of sobriety in the wake of the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, and the Avengers are condemned by the UN. The team has a moment to recover, which is quickly ruined by an attacking Kree armada. Hawkeye gets killed in the battle.
Suddenly, Doctor Strange appears and blames the Scarlet Witch for this level of reality manipulation. The Avengers confront her and find she's suffered a nervous breakdown years after the loss of her children with the Vision, reignited after recent events, and that she's responsible for every terrible event that befell the Avengers that day. Before she can be dealt with, Magneto appears and whisks her away, taking her to the ashes of Genosha.
Then House of M happens, where Scarlet Witch rewrites reality so Magneto is king of the mutants and everyone else has everything they could ever want. The Avengers team with the X-Men and make everything normal again, but Scarlet Witch disappears before she can be rehabilitated or pay for her crimes.
And then Avengers: Children's Crusade happens where it reveals that Dr. Doom was responsible for everything, and he marries Wanda and steals her reality warping powers for herself.
The Avengers eventually defeat Doom and bring Wanda back into the fold, but many of them still refuse to trust her. She's since attempted to become the friend and teammate she once was. It's definitely one of the more convoluted series of events, and one that's never truly been explained to satisfaction, but when it comes to former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants nothing is out of the realm of possibility.prevnext
Phoenix — Dark Phoenix Saga
Before Spider-Man donned the symbiote Spider-Suit in Secret Wars, Jean Grey became the Phoenix. It was one of the original falls from grace and full-blown turn to super villainy by a beloved hero. And it's still considered one of the greatest X-Men stories of all time.
When Jean first came into contact with the cosmic god of death and rebirth, she foresaw its vast powers overwhelming her and decided to place restrictions on her abilities. But these mental blocks allowed the villain Mastermind to manipulate her into thinking she was a Hellfire Club member named the Black Queen.
After a confrontation between the Club and the X-Men caused a psychic battle in which Mastermind nearly destroyed Jean's lover Cyclops, the Phoenix broke the restrictions and snapped, becoming the Dark Phoenix.
She drives Mastermind insane and nearly kills the X-Men before departing Earth and sailing across the cosmos. The trip nearly drains her of her powers, and she must consume a star to regain strength. The resultant supernova kills a planet filled with broccoli people. Yes, broccoli people.
Her villainous turn causes the Earth's superheroes—and, separately, the Shi'ar Empire—to debate how they should deal with her. When the Dark Phoenix returns to the planet, the X-Men attack and Charles Xavier manages to get through to her, replacing the mental blocks that restrict her abilities and revert her personality to Jean Grey.0comments
But then the Shi'ar have to go and ruin everything. They hold her accountable for her broccoli-murdering crimes, causing a series of events in which the X-Men battle the Shi'ar Imperial Guard on the moon for the fate of Jean Grey.
When Jean sees Cyclops suffer a near-fatal blow, she breaks the mental blocks yet again (dammit, Cyclops) and becomes the Dark Phoenix yet again. The X-Men battle her just long enough for Jean to regain her senses, after which she finds a Kree cannon and kills herself, sacrificing her own life so that the Phoenix Force cannot do anymore damage.prev