The Marvel Cinematic Universe enters a whole new era as it unfolds its multiverse saga, culminating in the thrilling two-part finale Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. This new saga will undoubtedly join the biggest Avengers franchise ever to hit the screen.
While the Avengers are certainly a force for good within the confines of their own fictional world, many of the group’s characters haven’t always been as heroic as they are now. In fact, several Avengers have struggled with surprisingly dark pasts that have haunted them long after their heroic tour.
Tony Stark may have been one of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen, but he wasn’t always the selfless superhero. Beginning life as a selfish and spoiled heir to the Stark fortune, it wasn’t until Tony turned his life around with the help of his closest friends that he truly became an admirable man.
Despite his turn to heroism late in life, Tony never seemed able to outrun his demons. Many supervillains appeared during his career as Iron Man, who felt slighted by a less responsible Stark in his early years. Aldrich Killian, Maya Hansen, Adrian Toomes and Quentin Beck all stood against Stark and his legacy, never letting the superhero forget his less-than-admirable roots.
Natasha Romanoff is a departed character who is sorely missed by MCU fans as her humor and heart held the Avengers together through many divisive moments. While ultimately a deeply important member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, she got her start as a KGB assassin, trained in the gruesome Red Room as an agent of the Black Widow.
Although she eventually left the Black Widows, Natasha never forgot the horrors she was forced to commit in their service. Sometimes she calls herself a monster and still remembers what General Dreykov made her do. Natasha manages to overcome this storyline, but kills Dreykov once and for all in Black Widow.
Bucky Barnes becomes a future member of the Thunderbolts team, but the WWII veteran didn’t always fight alongside the Angels. In fact, he has spent much of his life assassinating targets for Hydra after being brainwashed following his apparent death in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Although he spent years overcoming the brainwashing that led him to become the Winter Soldier, Bucky will still never be able to forget the many lives he took in the service of Hydra. He even reveals to Tony Stark that he remembers all of his victims, including Howard and Maria Stark. No matter how many lives he saves as the White Wolf, Bucky will always remember the innocent people he killed as the Winter Soldier.
Dr. Bruce Banner recently reconciled with his more powerful alter-ego, the Hulk, but the relationship between the two very different characters hasn’t always been as functional as it is now. Banner reveals in The Avengers that at one point he was so upset with his cursed existence that he tried to end his life, even though the Hulk refused to let him die.
Bruce’s debut as the Hulk was a truly dark time for the Avenger, who believed his powers to be a curse rather than a blessing. These travails return occasionally as Bruce is often asked to reevaluate his relationship with the Hulk, forced to relive the darkest period of his life.
Clint Barton is one of the few remaining members of the original Avengers roster, but his time on the team was cut short for a period of five years, during which time he adopted the moniker Ronin. As a far more violent alter-ego, Clint wreaked havoc on the criminal underworld, slaughtering his enemies with maximum damage.
After losing his family, Clint took countless lives to exact revenge on the universe for his misfortune. But he would learn the truth about his actions in Hawkeye when he found out that he killed Maya Lopez’s father, breaking up the only family she had ever had. His time as Ronin will forever mark Clint’s otherwise stellar history as a superhero.
Although Marc Spector is not yet an official member of the Avengers, he has recently become the superhero known as Moon Knight. However, his dark past is revealed during the events of his solo Disney+ series, where viewers see the abuse he suffered at his mother’s whims, causing him to develop multiple alternate personalities as a defense mechanism.
Marc seems to have embraced the darkness of his past, fully becoming the Moon Knight and fitting into his alter-ego, Steven Grant. Nevertheless, the problems he endured early in his life led to Moon Knight being a far darker hero than most Avengers.
Nebula recently became an official member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and even served as an Avenger under Blip. However, the character was a bona fide supervillain in his early years in the franchise, aiding the genocidal Ronan the Accuser in his attacks on Xandar and even serving as a lackey for his abusive father, Thanos, for many years prior.
Nebula’s long history of torture at the hands of her adoptive father will forever haunt her as she tries to make amends for all she has done in his name. But his redemption reminds everyone that even the most wounded people can turn their pain into heroism.
Rocket Raccoon has begun to embrace his heroic side as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but his tortured past prevents him from sympathizing with others. He was experimentally created by the High Evolutionary and tortured for the first few years of his life, a story rumored to play a significant role in the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.
Rocket’s history has yet to be fully explored in the MCU, but the character has revealed that he was constantly torn apart and rebuilt by his creator, who seemed to care little for the emotional pain he caused him. . Rocket will forever remember this painful existence and will be forced to relive it when his team takes on the High Evolutionary in their next adventure.
Wanda Maximoff began her career as a supervillain alongside her twin brother Pietro. Seeking revenge on Tony Stark for the death of her parents, Wanda sided with Ultron until the Battle of Sokovia and eventually joined the Avengers to stop the genocidal AI that can destroy the world.
Wanda has never been able to come to terms with her dark past, especially as her new loved ones continue to be killed at an alarming rate. She even let the darkness overwhelm her after reading the Darkhold and turned into a villain in her own right in the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, though she found redemption in her final moments of the film.
Scott Lang is generally considered a comedic and light-hearted character, but many fans forget that the Avenger has a checkered history. He spent several years in prison after a cat burglary gone wrong. During this time, his marriage fell apart and he missed several formative years with his daughter, Cassie.
Scott Lang never seems to be able to break free from his past as a thief. Even as a superhero, he’s constantly asked to go on bigger and bolder heists, and he’s never seen as anything more than a con artist. Now, as he takes on a fearsome new villain in Kang the Conqueror, Scott will have to prove once and for all that he is more than a thief, but a true superhero.