The power level of certain Marvel characters has always been a source of great debate amongst Marvel fans. You’d think it would be relatively simple to gauge the respective power levels of heroes. After all, it’s usually not tough to tell when one human being is stronger than another. The problem is that a hero’s power can vary wildly from story to story, depending on the needs of the story. Not to mention, it’s kind of difficult to compare one hero's powers to another when their abilities happen to be wildly different.
All of this confusion can sometimes lead to some misconceptions regarding just how strong - or weak - a character really is in terms of overall power level. However, a look at the accomplishments and failures of Marvel’s biggest heroes and villains reveals just how powerful they really are. When you do look at every major Marvel character in that respect, you start to realize that it’s easy to develop certain misconceptions regarding just how strong certain icons of the Marvel universe really are. Some are actually far more powerful than they get credit for. Others just don’t really measure up.
Here are 7 Marvel Characters Weaker Than They Seem (And 8 That Are Stronger).
Kingpin is sometimes treated like Marvel’s version of Lex Luthor - a human criminal behind the scenes pulling all the strings - but Kingpin distinguishes himself from certain contemporaries through his willingness to go hands-on.
Kingpin doesn’t wield superhuman strength, but he is an incredibly strong individual whose power level is comparable to some of Marvel’s lesser heroes. What really separates Kingpin, though, are his combat skills and complete lack of sympathy. He’s a very talented fighter whose skills come from years of hard living on the criminal underground. On top of it all, he has no desire or need to hold back in fights, which can give him significant tactical edges. He’s also quite smart.
Put it all together, and you’ve got a crime boss who's much more than just a well-dressed thug.
One of Kingpin’s favorite foes has long been the subject of some debate concerning his actual power level. Daredevil’s biggest detractors will brush off his powers by telling you that he’s a blind man who can see. In other words, he’s a normal dude. That’s not true - Daredevil possesses inhuman senses and instincts - but it does speak to the fundamental problem with Daredevil’s powers.
Daredevil is an extremely gifted fighter whose abilities are helped by his supernatural senses. He can even detect if you’re lying. The problem is that Daredevil is arguably not as talented in pure hand-to-hand combat as someone like Black Widow, and he arguably lacks Batman’s intensity and burning desire to overcome his human limitations. Daredevil is the scourge of street thugs everywhere, but there are limits to his abilities.
Let’s talk about Black Widow. Much like Kingpin, Black Widow’s overall power level tends to be downplayed too quickly simply because she is only a human. Technically, Natasha Romanoff possesses no superhuman abilities. We say “technically” because Black Widow’s overall skillset really does make you question what defines a superhero.
Black Widow was trained from a young age to be the ultimate human weapon. She’s like a Spartan in that respect, but the Spartans were trained to operate as a group. Natasha was trained to be a lone survivor if need be. She’s an expert marksman, a master spy, she’s fluent in several languages, and she absolutely refuses to lose. She may also be one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the Marvel universe. She's basically James Bond.
Not only is Cyclops one of the most important X-Men characters ever - you could devote an encyclopedia to his exploits - but he’s arguably one of the most recognizable X-Men to a mass audience. Everyone knows about Scott Summers and his ability to produce a deadly beam of energy from his eyes.
That beam of energy is the crux of Cyclops’ overall abilities and the aspect of his character that tends to be a bit of an issue. Part of what makes Cyclops interesting as a character is the fact that he’s long struggled to really control his energy beam. That’s a great character trait, but it also means that Cyclops isn’t even the most powerful energy wielder in the Marvel universe.
Outside of that, Cyclops doesn’t possess extraordinary strength, intelligence, or fighting skills.
It’s quite amazing that Heimdall is known by so many MCU fans given that he hasn’t enjoyed that much screen time. Perhaps you can chalk it up to Idris Elba’s undeniable screen presence. Those who are only familiar with the character because of his film appearances may not realize just how powerful Heimdall really is.
Heimdall isn’t quite on the same power level as Odin and Thor, but he still possesses incredible physical strength - he can lift about 50 tons - as well as above average agility and a respectable regenerative healing factor. What really sets him apart, though, is his perception. Heimdall has the ability to foresee certain events through a combination of logic and baseline psychic abilities. At one point, Odin even gave Heimdall a good chunk of his own powers.
Doctor Octopus is regularly portrayed as one of Spider-Man’s greatest threats. There are very good reasons why that is the case: Octopus is incredibly smart, physically capable when he has his metallic arms attached, and he understands Spider-Man’s psychology. All of that makes him a great Spider-Man villain.
However, Otto Octavius’ resume doesn’t really stack up as well when you weigh it against the other big villains of the Marvel universe. He’s smart, but he isn’t in the top-tier of Marvel geniuses. He’s strong enough with his attachments, but not overwhelmingly strong.
Doctor Octopus is a tremendous Spider-Man villain because he understands what he needs to do to fight Spider-Man. If you were to stack him up against some other Marvel heavy hitters, though, he may not achieve the same results.
It’s strange to think that Marvel’s Iron Man movie is really what kicked off the MCU. After all, Iron Man was never really the most popular Marvel character amongst a mass audience. He was a known quantity but wasn’t held in the same regard as Captain America or Spider-Man.
However, Marvel fans know that Iron Man has long been treated as one of the most dominant single forces in the Marvel universe. Yes, Tony Stark himself is just a human, but he has basically designed his entire life around his need to be able to rise to any occasion. Thanos is in town? Iron Man has a suit for that. Is Hulk on a rampage? Iron Man has a suit for that. He’s intelligent, capable, and able to stand toe-to-toe with a variety of foes.
Rogue is potentially one of the most powerful mutants alive. Actually, she could theoretically absorb the powers of another mutant that is more powerful than her and just assume their abilities. There are times when Rogue has been referred to as one of the most powerful beings in existence.
However, it’s best to think of Rogue as a Swiss Army Knife. A Swiss Army Knife can do everything from open a wine bottle to get a splinter out of your finger. It’s a great tool to have, but it’s not the tool you want if you’re trying to take down a bear. Rogue’s top-tier power levels require her to make contact with very powerful foes. Even then, she doesn’t always permanently absorb those powers, and she doesn’t always have mastery over them.
The Ant-Man film did a decent job of really capturing what makes Ant-Man a fun character. It was a lighthearted film that still showcased Ant-Man’s ability to be a capable hero when he is called upon to serve as such. However, it was Captain America: Civil War that should give MCU fans an idea of just how capable he really is.
In a universe where the biggest and baddest heroes get all the attention, Ant-Man is able to shrink down and strike at the heart of some of Marvel’s most daunting threats. Granted, there’s a reason that he’s occasionally treated as an afterthought, but Ant-Man is an excellent precision weapon who could topple some much more “powerful” foes if he simply must.
Jessica Jones recently achieved mainstream fame courtesy of her stellar Netflix series. That show did a great job of really explaining what makes Jones such a fascinating character. At her best, she’s basically Humphrey Bogart with more substance abuse issues and a suite of superpowers. That’s a great premise.
The problem is that Jessica Jones is only really a powerful force in her little corner of the world. She’s strong - incredibly so - but she’s not Incredible Hulk strong. She has a great healing factor, but it wouldn’t really hold up against Marvel’s biggest threats. So far as private detectives go, Jones is certainly more capable than the competition. If we’re talking about the scope of the Marvel universe, though, she simply doesn’t rank.
Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s most beloved characters for a good reason. While his abilities are inherently exciting - a man with the powers of a spider probably sounded better in the golden age - writers have long mastered the delicate balance between Peter Parker and Spider-Man. We love Spider-Man because Peter Parker is a mirror of so many of us.
Even though Parker is so lovable because he’s often a young everyman who is just happy to have superpowers, the truth is that Spider-Man is a really powerful character. His punches would destroy an average thug, and his agility makes him a frustrating target for just about any enemy that relies on pure power. In fact, Spider-Man’s relative power level is part of the reason that there are so many great Spider-Man villains. They need to be great to topple him.
It’s a shame that a good Fantastic Four movie seems to be so far out of reach because the Fantastic Four is an incredible band of superheroes. Their collective mythology is massive. Their roster of villains is impressive. They’re a vital part of the Marvel universe and have been the stars of some incredible storylines over the years.
However, they are most impressive as a group. That is roughly the start of Mister Fantastic’s problems as an individual hero. If we ignore Fantastic’s ability to stretch - which, let’s face it, is a limited power - then you have to consider Reed Richards' intelligence to be his defining attribute. The problem here is that Richards has always been portrayed as kind of a mad scientist whose ambition often outstrips his ability to control the results.
Jubilee has been treated as something of a joke character in the past. To be fair, the early days of her character were lowlighted by stories penned by writers who clearly didn’t have a great idea of Jubilee's true role in this universe. Fans of the X-Men animated series might remember her as “that fireworks girl.”
Recent changes have significantly raised Jubilee’s abilities (she was turned into a vampire), but Jubilation Lee was pretty strong even before that little incident. She’s always been one of the most powerful energy wielders in the Marvel universe. While she sometimes uses these abilities to simply blind her enemies - in video game terms, she fills a support role - she is also capable of detonating individual molecules if she so desires.
Considering Captain America’s ultra-patriotic origins, it’s pretty amazing that Marvel’s writers have been able to keep the character so fresh and relevant over the years. In many ways, Captain America stands as the centerpiece of the Marvel universe. That’s especially true of the MCU.
So far as power levels go, Captain America is the baseline of a Marvel superhero. He is not necessarily especially gifted in any one respect (except for his fighting skills). Instead, Captain America is often used as a median to help properly convey the powers of other characters. He’s a very strong, very fast, and very instinctive human being, but all of his attributes rank high only in comparison to other human beings. That makes him a good character, but not as strong as you might think.
It’s a shame that Blade hasn't been adapted into the MCU yet. Sure, the Wesley Snipes films are still entertaining in their own right, but Blade is actually a far more interesting - and powerful - character than those movies would have you believe.
What makes Blade so interesting as a hero - especially in terms of his power level - is that he is essentially a villain. A vampire with expert assassin skills? That’s a Marvel villain if we’ve ever heard of one. What Blade truly is, though, is a hero that doesn’t hold back. He’s incredibly strong and fast, but it is that killer instinct that truly separates Blade from the pack and makes him a frighteningly strong hero.
Which other Marvel characters are deceptively weak or strong? Let us know in the comments!