Revenge is at the heart of many of the best rivalries in comics, as superpowered foes battle it out over old wrongs and villains raise the game with new atrocities. At many different points in the long history of comic books, revenge stories have been everything from throw-away arcs that cover only an issue or two, to entire comic runs and vital elements of character backstory. The majority of these happen in superhero stories, but comic revenge isn’t limited to the superhumans. Many graphic novels also dip into the revenge genre, giving us noir-style storylines that center on vengeance and retribution. All of these revolve around one primary event that spurs our vigilantes to seek their own forms of justice – whether that is the wisest course of action or not!
Soaked in blood and pulsing with rage, we’ve rounded up fifteen of the best revenge stories in comics, although there are many more.
15. Spider-Man Gets A Whole Revenge Squad
One of the least effective revenge schemes in comics, this is a rare funny vengeance tale, rather than a brutally violent one. The Revenge Squad was formed when a group of Spider-Man villains (very low-level villains!) clubbed together in an attempt to take down the web-slinger. There were four members: Grizzly, Kangaroo, Spot, and Gibbon. Although there may have been some merit to the idea of strength in numbers, the Revenge Squad failed miserably at actually taking any revenge.
The four fought amongst themselves about what to do (with some wanting to commit crimes and others wanting to track down Spidey), and although they did end up battling Spider-Man, they couldn’t defeat him. Instead, Spidey faked unconsciousness in order to learn their plans. He discovered the division between the members of the “Legion of Losers,” and decided to take the two criminal-minded villains to jail, leaving Gibbon and Grizzly to go free. This generosity inspired both to reform, thus ending the Revenge Squad.
14. Wesley Gibson’s Revenge on the Fraternity in Wanted
Wesley Gibson is the ultimate anti-hero, a cubicle-dweller with a crappy life who learns that he is a super-powered assassin, and joins a league of others like him known as the Fraternity. In the original comics by Mark Millar, there is only a minor element of revenge to this story. Wesley, as part of his Fraternity training, takes revenge on all the people who wronged him in his life: his colleagues (who he verbally attacks before quitting), his cheating girlfriend (who he threatens), his best friend who was sleeping with his cheating girlfriend (who he murders), and the man who trained him (who he stabbed in the head). The rest of the story then goes down a path of faction vs faction, rather than a clear revenge tale.
However, the live-action movie adaptation made sweeping changes to the original storyline, creating a new tale of revenge. In this version of Wanted, The Fraternity lies to Wesley in order to recruit him. They tell him that his father (a legendary member) was killed by a man named Cross and that Wesley must avenge his death. After training to become a super-powered assassin, Wesley hunts Cross down and shoots him – but before he dies, Cross reveals that he is Wesley’s father. Wesley was recruited to kill him because the Fraternity knew that Cross would not kill his own son, even if he attacked him. Heartbroken by the betrayal of the Fraternity, Wesley creates a new scheme for revenge, involving explosive rats and lots of guns. He takes out the Fraternity building and everyone in it, before finally facing off with Sloan, their leader, and getting his revenge.
13. Professor X Brainwashes Magneto
Although Professor X is generally a stand-up guy and the benevolent leader of the X-Men, there have been many times throughout his history that he has done less-than-wonderful things. He is constantly up against Magneto, his nemesis (and nearly his best friend), a Holocaust survivor whose childhood experiences predisposed him to suspicion, leading him to believe that humankind would rise up against mutant-kind if given the chance. These two men represent the two main attitudes among mutants toward non-mutants, and their battles are intense (and usually backed up by teams of superpowered beings).
In one instance, however, Professor X does something that can only be considered the embodiment of cruel irony. He takes revenge on Magneto for his crimes, and for his hatred of mankind… by using his psychic ability to brainwash the mutant into believing that he is a human social worker. This happened in the Ultimate Universe, where Charles didn’t just take his revenge, but enjoys it – heading back to visit the new “Magneto” every week, just for the sheer evil pleasure of it.
12. Batman Fails To Get Revenge For The Death of Jason Todd
Not every revenge story in comics ends with the villain getting their just desserts. However, sometimes the desire for revenge, and the failure to achieve it, is what makes a story arc phenomenal. In A Death In The Family, Batman is up against his greatest foe, The Joker. Partnered by the second Robin, Jason Todd, he chases the Joker around the globe in an attempt to stop his evil plans. However, Jason will not survive this encounter, as the Joker brutally beats him with a crowbar before blowing Jason (and his long-lost mother) up.
Although Batman seeks revenge for this death, swearing to take the Joker out once and for all, he fails. The Joker slips from his grasp and this failure to exact revenge has a long-term impact on the Dark Knight. For quite some time afterwards, Batman’s grief drives him to a point of near-insanity, new violence and isolation. This revenge story ends with the near-death of Batman at the hands of Two-Face, saved only by a new Robin: Tim Drake.
11. Sabretooth Launches A Vendetta Against Wolverine
For two of Marvel’s favorite nemeses, the beef between Sabretooth and Wolverine goes back over a hundred years, to Canada in the early 1900s. Victor Creed (for reasons that even he isn’t entirely sure of, thanks to various people messing with his mind over the years) hunted down Logan where he was living in a small town in the Canadian Rockies. Furious at the happiness that Logan had found there with a woman named Silver Fox, he planned to ruin Logan’s seemingly peaceful life. On Wolverine’s birthday, Sabretooth attacked Wolverine, and appeared to rape and kill Silver Fox. Wolverine was unable to beat Sabretooth then and there, but vowed revenge for the death of the woman he loved, and the long-standing hatred between the two mutants was born.
Sabretooth continued to hunt Wolverine down and attack him on his birthday each year, and the hatred between them grew (although they have managed to work together once or twice). Eventually, it was revealed that Silver Fox was still alive, but Victor murdered her a second time, and Wolverine took her body back to the Rockies for burial.
10. The Entire Plot of V For Vendetta
It’s baked right into the title, and this graphic novel (turned live-action adaptation) is essentially a story of revenge. In fact, it is made up of multiple smaller stories of revenge all connected through a larger one. The central story of V is that of his revenge against the fascist government who imprisoned and tortured him. Throughout the series, he works to undermine the government, incite a revolution, and create a society of pure anarchy.
Around his story is the story of Evey, a young girl who attempts to dole out some revenge of her own. During the events of “The Vicious Cabaret,” Evey’s lover is killed and she attempts to murder his killer as payback. Another woman who loses her lover, Rose, also seeks vengeance for his death, putting a bullet in the brain of Adam Susan. More tangled webs of betrayal and vengeance lead to the eventual deaths of all those at the highest levels of government; revenge for lost loyalty, bought loyalty, cheating wives, and lies told. Revenge lies at every turn of this classic dystopian story.
9. The Flash Tortures Zoom With A Moment In Time
There have been multiple Flashes and Zooms in the comic book universe, and many of them have dealt with revenge and justice over the years. However, this particular incident between Wally West and Hunter Zoloman is particularly cruel. Hunter, an FBI profiler, was once good friends with The Flash – although he always harbored a secret resentment about being stuck behind a desk. One day, Gorilla Grodd paralyzed Zolomon from the waist down. It was a tragedy and, because Hunter knew about the Flash’s time-traveling cosmic treadmill, he begged his friend to go back in time and stop him from becoming paralyzed.
The Flash refused – a decision that would come back to haunt him. Zolomon attempted to use the treadmill himself, and it exploded – unintentionally giving him speedster powers. Out of revenge for Wally’s refusal to help him, Zolomon took up the mantle of Zoom, attacking the city and intending to murder Linda Park (Wally’s wife). The Flash was able to stop Zoom, but as punishment for his attempt on Linda’s life and the resulting miscarriage she suffered, Flash forced him into a temporal anomaly. This put him in a coma-like state, but also trapped his consciousness in time. To be specific, it forced Zoom to re-watch his greatest regret over and over – the murder of his father-in-law as a result of Hunter’s inaccurate profiling. Revenge on top of revenge.
8. Daredevil Hunts Down Bullseye For Killing Elektra
Elektra herself is a character driven by revenge, though she began as a civilian love interest for Daredevil. However, when her father was killed by terrorists, she dropped out of school to train as an assassin and get her revenge. Becoming corrupted, she first works for The Hand, before returning to New York as a skilled killer and taking up employment with Kingpin. No longer his lover, Elektra has become Daredevil’s enemy. Despite this, he still loves her.
Elektra, meanwhile, is given a mission to kill Foggy Nelson, but she refuses as she cared about him when she was with Matt Murdock. Furious with her failure, Kingpin hires Bullseye to assassinate the assassin, which he does (with her own sai). Mortally wounded, she finds Daredevil just in time to die in his arms. As revenge for murdering the woman he loved, Daredevil hunts down Bullseye, and in the course of their fight he allows him to fall from a telephone wire. The fall shatters Bullseye’s spine, leaving him paralyzed.
7. Batman Drives Joe Chill To Suicide
He’s not called the Dark Knight for nothing, and in this storyline, Bruce Wayne gets seriously sadistic. The defining moment of young Bruce’s life was the death of his parents, shot in an alleyway by a mugger with a gun. That mugger was Joe Chill and in various continuities he pulled the trigger because the Mafia had hired him to do it, because Martha startled him, and just because he felt like it. However, in almost all versions of the story, one thing remained constant. He dropped the gun and he let Bruce live.
In the New Earth timeline, Bruce kept the gun that Chill dropped that night. Throughout his years of training and becoming Batman, he held onto it, vowing revenge on the man who killed his parents. Finally, he found Chill, now older and having moved from petty crimes to running his own crime ring. Batman started to slowly torment the man who ruined his life — he stalked him and ruined his business, driving him to a state of constant paranoia and fear. Finally, he confronted him, handing over the gun used to kill the Waynes with a single bullet in the chamber. As Batman stood on the roof grinning evilly, Joe Chill shot himself.
6. Marv’s Yarn In Sin City
Frank Miller’s neo-noir (and uber-violent) comic series is another that is based around a revenge plot, especially when it comes to Marv’s yarn (in The Hard Goodbye). In this, the first in the series, Marv wakes up to a beautiful blonde named Goldie – who is unfortunately dead. Framed for her murder, Marv sets out on a killing spree to find the real killer and get his revenge on whoever killed the girl he cared for and set him up. He discovers that the real killer is a man named Kevin, a serial killer and cannibal who has a taste for prostitutes. Kevin is also under the protection of the Roark family, the most powerful in Basin City, and so is free from fear that the (very corrupt) police force will find him.
Marv still manages to get his revenge though, with plenty of brutality for good measure. He cuts off Kevin’s legs, leaving him unable to run away as he is eaten by his pet wolves. Marv also slaughters Kevin’s protector, Cardinal Roark, before being forced to take the blame for Goldie’s murder and being executed.
5. Spider-Man Seeks Revenge After The Death of Gwen Stacy
The death of Gwen Stacy is one of the most important deaths in the Marvel universe, and was the first time that comic book readers saw a major character (and the girlfriend of the hero) die, rather than be rescued in the nick of time. Stacy was killed by the Green Goblin – or more accurately, as the result of his evil schemes. The Green Goblin kidnaps Stacy, intending to hold her hostage to torment Spider-Man and lure him into a fight. They meet at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Goblin tosses Stacey off… but before she hits the water, Spider-Man shoots his webbing, catching her by the ankle. However, the whiplash from such a sudden stop snaps her neck – and Peter draws her body up to discover that she is dead. The Green Goblin taunts him and heartbroken, over the loss of his love, Peter blames the Green Goblin and sets out to take his revenge. The resulting fight ends in the apparent death of the Green Goblin, impaled by his own glider in an attempt to take out Spider-Man from behind.
4. The Punisher’s Entire Career
While other superheroes have specific story arcs of vengeance, the entire character of The Punisher (down to his alias) is that of a man on a mission for revenge. Frank Castle was once a proud member of the US Marine Corps, an excellent soldier, and veteran of the Vietnam War. However, he didn’t want his family to lose him to combat, so he retired. Castle became an instructor in upstate New York, where he was able to spend time with the wife and children that he loved so much. He could easily have spent the rest of his life training new recruits and watching his children grow up, if not for a tragedy brought about by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After accidentally witnessing a mob hit, the mafia murdered Frank’s family in front of him, destroying his life in a single afternoon. Although he tried to find justice through the courts, he discovered that the system was broken and corrupt. With no justice to be found, he became the anti-hero The Punisher, using his special skills to hunt down and slaughter wrongdoers as a life-long act of vengeance for the deaths of his loved ones.
3. Harley Quinn Beats Joker To A Pulp
Harley Quinn has long been a plaything of Batman’s greatest nemesis: The Joker. Originally his psychiatrist, the Joker psychologically tortured her, warping her mind until she lost her grip on sanity, and fell in love with him. She became Harley Quinn, always at his side, willing to do anything for the man she “loved,” and take whatever he doled out (which was quite a lot). It was the ultimate abusive relationship, but in recent years, Harley has been shaking off her past with Joker and becoming her own woman.
However, it wasn’t until earlier this year that she finally got her revenge on the Joker for everything that he put her through. In a new relationship with Mason, she breaks into Arkham to free her lover – who just so happens to be in the cell next to Joker. Her ex has been doing all he can to ruin her life (again), attempting to turn Mason against her and stop her from freeing him. The Joker has finally lost his hold on her, though, and Harley gets her revenge. After freeing Mason, she breaks into the Joker’s cell – and beats the living daylights out of him. Finally, in a moment of ultimate revenge, she realizes that he is intentionally tormenting her in an attempt to bring out the worst in her, even to make her kill him – and she puts the gun down, walking away and refusing to give him what he wants.
2. Deadpool Snaps Ajax’s Neck
Marvel’s recent hit live-action version of Deadpool brought his conflict with Francis to the big screen, and it remains one of the best revenge stories in comics. When Wade Wilson entered the Weapon X program in an attempt to cure his cancer, he ended up in the reject pile: Dr. Killbrew’s “workshop.” There, failed Weapon X experiments were tortured by Killbrew and his sadistic assistant, Francis. Francise hated Wade, and this hatred drove him to torment Wade’s friend, Worm, so that Wade would put Worm out of his misery… and Francis would be given permission to kill him for it. However, that plan failed when Wade’s healing factor kicked in as Francis attempted to kill him. Wade broke out to become Deadpool, believing that he killed Francis in the process. However, Francis wasn’t dead, and ended up being cybernetically enhanced to become Ajax.
Ajax wanted revenge on Deadpool for both his escape and his attempted murder of Francis. Deadpool wanted revenge on Ajax for torturing him and the other men at the workshop, and for the death of his friend. These desires came to a head in an epic battle (a multi-part story arc titled Payback) when Ajax hunted Deadpool down, intending to kill him. Once again, he failed, and this time Deadpool snapped his neck – surrounded by the ghosts of Ajax’s former victims.
1. Hit-Girl Slaughters The Men Who Killed Big Daddy
Revenge runs in Hit-Girl’s family. Her father, Big Daddy, told her that he became a vigilante to avenge the death of his wife at the hands of mobsters (although that story was a lie to give her motivation). He trained his young daughter to become a ruthless assassin in the style of the comic book heroes that he loved, but he did not train himself well enough to evade death in the end. Big Daddy was murdered by the mobsters he hated, ironically providing Mindy with a true reason to hate the mobsters that was near-identical to the fake story he told her.
In Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl, Mindy takes her revenge. Although she is now living with her mother and step-father like a normal ten year old, she continues her vigilante work at night, and seeks revenge for the murder of her beloved father. In a single night, Hit-Girl wipes out the entire Genovese crime family in a total bloodbath, finishing up by putting a bullet in the brain of Don Ralphie Genovese in a maximum security prison. This is not a ten-year old that you want to get on the wrong side of.
Comment with your personal favorite tale of revenge!