Vision: “Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”Captain America: Civil War
Many villains have tried to defeat the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve tried everything from cunning manipulation and technological marvels to unleashing hordes of mooks to conquer the world. About the only thing they haven’t tried yet is a Battle of the Bands.
As the Infinity Saga draws to a close, let’s look back at the most devious, the most sinister, the evilest plans to befall the MCU.
#5 Vulture’s Scavenging Operation
Adrian Toomes: [to a Damage Control agent] “Look. I bought trucks for this job. I brought in a whole new crew. These guys have a family. I have a family. I’m all in on this. I could lose my house.”Spider-Man: Homecoming
Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) was the boss of a salvage company helping to clean up after the Battle of New York. While cleaning up damaged alien technology, his company’s lucrative contract was canceled by the U.S. Department of Damage Control, a group partially set up by Tony Stark. Damage Control effectively forced him into retirement by taking over every salvage job in New York.
Toomes, the public alter ego of Vulture, was furious and became an arms dealer, bringing his most loyal co-workers into his new gang. They stole advanced technology left behind after big superhero fights and sold it on the black market, taking care to fly under the radar. Toomes kept a prototype of Falcon’s wingsuit for himself and had one of his tech people enhance the design.
Vulture’s gang planned one last job that would set them up for life. They would hijack a Stark cargo jet filled to bursting with Avengers technology. Unluckily for them, Spider-Man got involved and defeated the entire gang.
Vulture’s scheme isn’t a grandiose take-over-the-world plan or even a “get revenge on the hero” plot. Much like him, it’s a blue collar job that proved effective. Vulture even goes out of his way to spare Spider-Man and stay out of the Avengers’ path because he knows that fighting them is bad for business. Most supervillains don’t have that kind of forethought.
#4 Zemo’s Civil War
Zemo: [talking about The Avengers] “I knew I couldn’t kill them. More powerful men than me have tried. But if I could get them to kill each other…”
Captain America: Civil War
Colonel Helmut Zemo was a loyal Sokovian soldier and family man. Then Ultron enacted his plan to destroy the world. Zemo survived Sokovia’s destruction although his family was killed in the crossfire. He swore vengeance on the Avengers and began a scheme to destroy them.
Zemo bombed the U.N., killing Black Panther’s father, and pinned the blame on the Winter Soldier. He later used a trigger phrase to take control of the Winter Soldier, leaving the Avengers divided on how to deal with their brainwashed comrade.
Zemo’s final blow was luring Captain America, Iron Man, and the Winter Soldier to a bunker where he revealed that the Soldier had assassinated Iron Man’s parents. The Avengers shattered when an enraged Iron Man attacked the other two. The only thing that kept Zemo’s plan from being a complete success was Black Panther stopping him from committing suicide and arresting him.
3: Killmonger’s Revolution
Erik Killmonger: “Y’all sittin’ up here comfortable. Must feel good. It’s about two billion people all over the world that looks like us. But their lives are a lot harder. Wakanda has the tools to liberate ’em all.”
T’Challa: “And what tools are those?”
Killmonger: “Vibranium. Your weapons.”
T’Challa: “Our weapons will not be used to wage war on the world. It is not our way to be judge, jury, and executioner for people who are not our own.”
Killmonger: “Not your own? But didn’t life start right here on this continent? So ain’t all people your people?”Black Panther
Erik Stevens was a boy whose father emigrated to America from Wakanda. Mr. Stevens grew disillusioned over racism he endured and planned to use Wakanda’s weapons to let Africans conquer the world. Wakanda learned of his plans and sent the Black Panther to assassinate him. Erik found his father’s corpse and, you guessed it, swore revenge.
Erik became a Navy Seal and excelled, eventually earning the callsign Killmonger. He went rogue, becoming a mercenary and thief. Killmonger eventually captured the terrorist Klaue and turned him over to Wakanda in exchange for an audience with the new king, T’Challa.
Killmonger revealed that he was a long lost prince of Wakanda, his father having been the previous king’s brother working undercover. Killmonger defeats T’Challa in ritual combat to rule Wakanda and begins his plans to disseminate Wakandan weaponry. Luckily for the world, T’Challa returns as the Black Panther to lead a coup d’etat.
Killmonger’s plan isn’t very original, but it is understandable. Having put up with so much racism and hatred, wanting to even the score makes perfect sense. Were his plans not genocidal and his mannerisms over the top, Killmonger is almost a misguided antihero.
#2 Thanos’ Infinity War
Thanos: “Titan was like most planets; too many mouths, not enough to go around. And when we faced extinction, I offered a solution.”
Dr. Strange: “Genocide?”
Thanos: “But random. Dispassionate, fair, to rich and poor alike. They called me a madman…and what I predicted came to pass.”
Strange: “Congratulations, you’re a prophet.”
Avengers: Infinity War
Thanos’ motivation in the comics is ridiculous. He’s a madman who kills people to impress his lover, Death. Infinity War gave him a more sensible motive. There, he is a crusader who seeks the Infinity Gauntlet in order to kill half the universe. By his warped logic, that will leave plenty of space and resources for the surviving half.
His first several plans relied on treacherous minions and failed. When Thanos finally got off his ass and onto the warpath, he managed to easily gather the Infinity Stones. Asgardians, the Hulk, two teams of Avengers, not even time itself, could stop Thanos’ plan. And so half the universe died, not with a bang, but with a snap.
Thanos’ genocide is the only evil plan to succeed in the MCU. It would be our number one if not for some glaring problems. Thanos had already pulled his “kill half the population” scheme on countless planets, whose inhabitants are now down to a quarter of their starting population. Even more beings die in accidents from all the vehicles suddenly missing drivers. And that’s just the surface of the massive iceberg called Unintended Consequences.
Thanos won, but it’s a sloppy victory.
#1 Project: Insight
Dr. Zola: “We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your life: A zero sum.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Hydra was in a bind at the end of WWII. Their attempt to conquer the world had gone pear shaped, and they were about to die. Several of the more clever members took advantage of the real life Operation: Paperclip and joined SHIELD. There, they began a more subtle incarnation of Hydra, hiding in plain sight as Agents of SHIELD.
Hydra began molding the world into one so chaotic that the masses would beg for Hydra to rule them. They forced the Winter Soldier to assassinate anyone who could screw with their plans. In the middle of it all, Red Skull’s former lackey Armin Zola created a formula to identify who would be a threat to Hydra’s plans.
Project Insight’s final phase was to use a trio of helicarriers to slaughter Hydra’s enemies en masse. Captain America exposed Hydra and worked with his allies to destroy the helicarriers. Hydra still won a Pyrrhic victory, as the only way to flush them out of hiding was to completely dismantle SHIELD.
Which evil plan do you think was the best? Let us know in a comment.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.