Power Corrupts!1 of 12Spoilers for this week's Extraordinary X-Men #8.
Oh sure, everyone loves a good redemption story, but maybe even better is when things go the other way.
Heroes becoming villains is a fairly common trope in superhero comics – not long ago Marvel turned all their good guys into bad guys during Axis. Those effects have since been reversed, but Marvel is still turning their heroes to the dark side.
Just this week, Colossus, a stalwart X-Man, was revealed as one of the new Horsemen of Apocalypse – and he’s not the only hero in the service of En Sabah Nur. With that in mind, we're taking a look at the biggest falls from grace for some of the most heroic good guys and gals in superhero comic books.
And that brings us back to these 10 characters. To limit each entry, we're stopping at when they went bad for the most part, as well, but note that many of these characters have redeemed themselves... to a point.
Oh, and uh, Spoilers On, of course.
OMNI-MAN2 of 12The Viltrumite alien race is not known for their heroes. When they sent one of their own to Earth, he apparently came to take care of the humans as their greatest protector. As "Nolan Grayson," the alien visitor had a wife and a son, Mark.
When Mark began his career as the superhero Invincible, excited to fight by his father's side, however, his father turned against him, revealed as the herald of the conquering race. Mark didn't take too kindly to the betrayal, and he took even less kindly to the severe, near-death beatdown daddy dearest gave him as a parting shot.
Omni-Man's betrayal isn't as whole-hog as it looks though, and his story was far from over, with the character returning several times throughout the series, as both villain and hero. The ideal that he once represented even inspired his second son, Oliver, to take up the name "Kid Omni-Man" once he became a hero.
SUPERBOY PRIME3 of 12The story is somewhat familiar at first, with a young Kal-El being sent to Earth as Krypton is destroyed. However, this particular Earth doesn't have any superheroes. it does have a DC Comics, and that company publishes the stories of many heroes, like Batman, Green Lantern, and the greatest hero of all, Superman!
This baby boy is found by a family with the surname Kent, and despite the new father's misgivings, they name the boy Clark. Clark then receives Superman memorabilia all his life, even sometimes made fun of by his peers for his name. That is, until his powers kick in (conveniently while he's in a Superboy costume for Halloween).
After he helped save the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superboy from Earth-Prime was sent to a "paradise dimension" with his mentor Kal-L, his wife Lois, and Alexander Luthor from another Earth. Unfortunately, it wasn't a paradise to the young Clark. He went batty watching the heroes of the new Earth falling into darker and darker times, getting so angry that he punched his way through a wall of reality to break out of his prison (changing some origins and deaths along the way).
Once he got out, well, there was soon no doubt of his villainous intentions. He pushed planets out of orbits, destroyed the Watchtower of the JLA, killed multiple heroes (he had a penchant for pulling off limbs), and complained. A lot. He winds up on a tour of the restored multiverse, killing one entire Earth... and one entire universe. After a trip to the far future and battles with everyone from the Legion of Super-Heroes to Superman to Superboy (Conner, that is), he fights himself (yup), which magically warps him back to Earth Prime, where all his friends and family know how evil he is, as they've read the DC Comics printed about his story.
HAL JORDAN4 of 12At times, he's been called the greatest Green Lantern. At others, though, he's been their worst enemy. in the storyline "Emerald Twilight," after the destruction of his hometown Coast City, Hal uses his ring to recreate the city and help him through his mourning process. The Guardians say that's a no-no, and he does what anyone would do in that situation: snaps, kills all his friends, steals all their power rings, and absorbs all of the power from the Central Power Battery of Oa.
Calling himself Parallax (which it turns out is the entity that embodies fear, and was locked away in the Central Power Battery), he continued his rampage, killing and severely injuring several others, until eventually being shot by Green Arrow and sacrificing his life to reignite Earth's Sun.
Of course, he was subsequently absolved of just about all culpability, returned to life and again became DC's main Green Lantern, which continued into The New 52. But despite what followed, Hal's descent stands as one of the most controversial comic book events in superhero history.
THE PLUTONIAN5 of 12In a new world conceived by Mark Waid, tSuperman archetype of his world. A combination of events that would affect any normal person affects a superhero too, except in a much bigger way. The Plutonian, feeling perilously under-appreciated, snaps and goes on a mass murder spree. He kills a whole city. He kills friends and allies. He sinks Singapore. And that's just in the first arc.
In fact, this is the "purest" good guy gone bad on our entire list, as he hasn't sought redemption in any way. The entire book Irredeemable was about his fall from grace, and how once he went villain, he just plain stayed that way.
JASON TODD6 of 12Oh, poor Jason. Back in 1988, DC Comics tried something a little different. Letting fans vote via a 900 number as to whether the second Robin would live or die, they found out comic book fans, while always claiming to hate senseless death, are actually quite bloodthirsty.
When the vote came in to kill off the character, DC followed through, letting the Joker beat him down and blow him up. Then our number 9 entry, Superboy Prime, punched reality, and Jason Todd came back to life. Feeling betrayed by Batman for letting him die and worse, not avenging him by killing Joker, he decided to show him how he could do the job better.
While never going 100% down the villainous path, Todd's methods since his return have been less than heroic. He is more than willing to kill his enemies, from low-level thugs to supervillains.
While Jason has narrowly tiptoed the line of the righteous, since the advent of "The New 52" he's been chaotic good, so to speak, and will continue his anti-hero career in Rebirth with the new title Red Hood & The Outlaws, but still doesn't seem to be on good terms with most of the Bat-family.
WOLVERINE7 of 12James "Logan" Howlett has never been a very nice guy. Alive since 1882, Wolverine has fought for various armies, special forces units, and superhero teams, usually to do what it is he's best at, killing people.
But with a fractured mind from multiple wipes and memory implants, he has also been horribly susceptible to brainwashing. In fact, since the 1990s, Wolverine has been pitted against his friends in the X-Men not once, not twice, but numerous times.
The first was as Apocalypse's Horseman of Death, the next thanks to Hydra and the Hand, and finally when he was recently sent to hell, with his body possessed by a demon.
A few years later, Wolverine went deep-cover with a villainous organization in an attempt to take down a larger villainous organization, too.
A more recent memorable won is the reveal of "Old Man Logan" that he was tricked by Mysterio into massacring the entire X-Men crew and brought about the age of villains led by Red Skull.
A bit of a "gimme" on this list, Wolverine technically hasn't gone bad of his own volition. However, his feral nature and willingness to kill when operating as a good guy certainly has something to do with it being so easy to turn him into a bad one.
TERRA and JERICHO8 of 12The Teen Titans is not a place you want to be if you intend to never be betrayed. In the New Teen Titans era, they were betrayed twice by members of their team, both of whom had close connections to Deathstroke the Terminator.
Terra was always intended to be a traitor by her creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, unbeknownst to readers or her teammates. She was only with the team for a short time, soon revealing her secret alliance (and relationship...ew) with Deathstroke, helping him capture the team. With the help of Jericho, Deathstroke's son, the team broke free and her own rampage left her crushed under a building.
Jericho, however, too turned against the Titans. His betrayal wasn't caused by his father, but rather by Raven's father, who had souls from the demon world of Azarath possess the boy. He managed to fight them off for just a moment, giving Deathstroke enough time to kill him and set him free. Like most comic book characters, he wouldn't stay dead, and returned multiple times as both a villain, and more occasionally, a hero.
ALEX WILDER9 of 12When the Runaways left behind their supervillain parents, the Pride, they vowed to help each other and never become like their parents. Unfortunately, one of them left behind a note to their parents stating that they'd never betray them, acting as a mole within the children.
After journeying together for some time, Alex, the de facto leader of the group, manipulates the entire team into being taken down and handing over their weapons to him. Armed with Chase's fistigons, Gert's telepathically controlled raptor Old Lace, and Nico's magical Staff of One, he easily takes down Karolina and reveals himself as the traitor. He was actually paradoxically selfishly altruistic. With only 6 spots in a utopian new world available, he was trying to secure them for himself, his parents, Nico (who he had a thing for), and her parents. Unfortunately, Nico was unwilling to give up all of her friends' lives for this promised paradise, and the recovered team works together to both take down Alex and destroy the sacrifice necessary to tame the fabled giant from another dimension, the Gibborim. Without the sacrifice, someone had to pay. Alex takes responsibility for the mess, and is zapped out of existence.
In typical comic book fashion, he got better - or at least is back from the dead, thanks to machinations by the Masters of Evil in trying to recruit some of his former teammates.
JEAN LORING10 of 12While not a superhero, her betrayal is certainly legendary.
In an extremely misguided attempt to repair her relationship with Ray Palmer, the Atom, Loring lost it. She thought that by hurting another hero's wife, Ray would want to take care of her again. Donning his shrink-belt, she hopped into the brain of Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. She only intended to hurt Sue, letting her recover while everything was hunky-dory with Ray, but kicked a little too hard. Sue, and the baby she was carrying, died, and Jean did what any nutcase in the situation would do, burning the body and running away.
Jean made matters worse throughout the story of Identity Crisis, directly leading to the death of Tim Drake (Robin)'s father, as well as the death of the villain Captain Boomerang.
Jean's descent into villainy doesn't end there, though. She later becomes the villain Eclipso, and finally, after being eaten by a shark, comes back as a Black Lantern (damn dirty zombies!) and kills the hero Damage.
Jean hasn't returned since DC rebooted with Flashpoint, but Ray Palmer has returned both in comic books and as part of the cast of DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
JEAN GREY11 of 12Was there any doubt?
Jean Grey and the Phoenix are intertwined. When Jean Grey apparently died saving the rest of her team from a shuttle crash, she emerged from the depths of the ocean in X-Men #101 as The Phoenix, an incredibly powerful being.
She maintained her new power level as a hero for about two years, before the Hellfire Club started messing with her mind, guiding her toward, for lack of a better term, the dark side. Unfortunately, when Phoenix finally gives in to the idea of total power, she is far too powerful for the likes of Mastermind to control, and teleports to the far reaches of space. There, she eats a star, killing billions in the star system. Phoenix was brought back "down to Earth" by Xavier and the X-Men, only to then stand trial for genocide via the Shi'ar Empire.
In a battle between the X-Men and the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, Cyclops was injured, allowing Dark Phoenix to rise once more. When she gained control again, she destroyed herself with a Kree laser, dying forever (well, six years).
And clearly, the Phoenix still has a seditious influence over its hosts, having possessed - and turned - five other X-Men during Avengers Vs. X-Men.
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