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The Avengers' Most Shameful Moment Was Brutally Beating Superman

The Avengers have made some mistakes, but perhaps their most disgraceful moment was teaming-up to brutally beat Superman. When heroes go head to head, things can get heated, but their inherent decency usually means a minimum of underhanded tactics or outright hate-fueled violence. Unfortunately, the Man of Steel found the perfect way to get Earth's Mightiest Heroes to set their principles aside.

In JLA/Avengers #2, by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, two worlds collide. In a game orchestrated by the Grandmaster and Krona, the Avengers and the Justice League face off. Krona arrives ready to destroy the Marvel Universe, and the Grandmaster is (reasonably) opposed to that idea. To trick the invader, Grandmaster organizes a contest between the two teams of champions. They are to race around both worlds, gathering an assortment of magical items to earn points. Neither team truly understands the nature of the game, although they know that the stakes are high. As the game comes down to the wire, Superman and Thor go toe to toe. With a great deal of difficulty, Superman bests the Asgardian, inciting the rage of the surrounding Avengers.

Related: Marvel Settles The Avengers Vs. Justice League Debate In Heroes Return

In a shameful fit of anger, several Avengers lose it on Superman. As he tries to recover from his fight with Thor - even complimenting the thunder god's strength - Clark Kent gets blindsided by the Avengers. Iron Man, Wonder Man, Hercules, She-Hulk, and Vision all jump in and beat on an exhausted Clark. Everyone, including some Avengers, looks on in horror as the heroes beat Superman senseless. Rather than being presented as a traditional superhero fight, the beating is treated as more of an assault, as Superman disappears from the frame, and only the raised fists of the Avengers appear above his prone body. Although it's understandable to be angry over such a conflict, the Avengers come across as dishonorable bullies enraged by what was ultimately a fair clash between two individual heroes.

Sadly, this fit of anger also validates many of the Leaguers' opinions about the Avengers. As they arrive in the Avengers' world, they immediately notice that people often despise their heroes in the Marvel Universe. Superman comments often about the Avengers' inferiority, considering them to be second-class heroes who have let down the people they're meant to protect (though it's later revealed the merged realities are making both Clark Kent and Captain America more irrational than usual.) Sadly, the Avengers play into the League's perception by ganging up on Superman in revenge for Thor's defeat.

The other Leaguers are horrified by their brutality as they beat the Kryptonian. This incident highlights a contrast between the two teams. Many of the heroes in the DC Universe have long been pure in heart and revered by the citizens they protect. Marvel Comics, however, has fallible protagonists. The Avengers do the best they can with what they have, and their people often hate them for it. It's also worth keeping in mind that as a joint DC/Marvel venture, Marvel likely wanted to show that while Superman is unquestionably the strongest hero, the Avengers could take him down as a team - it's just that their 'teamwork' comes off as particularly brutal.

Although they are heroes, the Avengers have made some bad choices. Their ruthless attack on Superman, a fellow protector, proves that they are only human. Anger can get the better of even the greatest of heroes. Ultimately, Superman forgave the beating, working with the Avengers to save their worlds despite having witnessed their fallibility in the most direct way possible.

Next: X-Men’s Cannonball Once Destroyed Marvel’s Superman

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