Marvel Comics is about to spend the summer capitalizing on its longstanding trend of having its heroes come to blows in fights and conflicts that have lasting impacts on the Marvel Universe with AXE: Judgment Day, which puts the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals in a three-way superhero conflict. But Marvel has already been spending the first half of 2022 taking the trend even further inside individual titles, turning heroes into villains and allies into enemies.
In several recent stories, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Hulk have all encountered new enemies, each of whom have distinct personal connections to the heroes in question as former friends and even fellow heroes – and in at least one case, is even the hero themself taking on a new, villainous form.
The idea makes sense. MCU fans will recognize the trend of Marvel heroes fighting their dark reflections, as everyone from Iron Man to Black Panther to Captain America and others have fought villains who share their themes and powers in movies and TV. In turn, Marvel Comics’ new trend is an escalation of the idea of superheroes fighting themselves, ramping things up by having heroes take full heel turns against their former allies.
So who are the new villains that fall into this camp, and how could at least three former heroes turning to villainy ripple out into the Marvel Universe? Let’s get into it.
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Moira MacTaggert was first introduced in 1975’s Uncanny X-Men #96 (opens in new tab), and in the ensuing years, she’s been one of the team’s closest allies, as well as an ally to mutantkind overall. In 2019’s House of X/Powers of X (opens in new tab) intertwining limited series, she was revealed to secretly be a mutant herself with the power of resurrection.
Every time Moira dies, her timeline is reset and she’s reborn with the memories of her previous life intact. Through the course of nine lives, Moira formed a fraught relationship with other mutants, even at one point attempting to make them extinct in one of her incarnations.
In her most recent incarnation, Moira helped found the current mutant nation of Krakoa in secret, though the truth of her involvement was disclosed to Krakoa’s leadership in the recent Inferno (opens in new tab) limited series. As a result, Moira’s secret motives in helping found Krakoa were also uncovered, revealing that her plan all along has been to ultimately exterminate mutantkind for a variety of complex reasons.
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Now, as of the early 2022 X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine (opens in new tab) dual limited series, Moira was stripped of her mutant resurrection power, and instead became a strange techno-organic cyborg dedicated to ensuring a future glimpsed in previous stories, where mutants are eliminated by humans after humanity fully bonds with the techno-organic alien race known as the Phalanx.
The recently launched Immortal X-Men #1 (opens in new tab) revealed that Mr. Sinister is harvesting mutant clones of Moira to harness her power to reset the timeline, adding a new wrinkle to Moira’s story – and she’s being set up to add some complications to Krakoa’s upcoming Hellfire Gala celebration, which she’s planning to crash. And not just crash, but show up disguised wearing Mary Jane Watson’s skin (who actually was invited as a mutant/human liaison), in order to sneak back onto Krakoa in her seemingly fully android form.
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Spider-Man is no stranger to fighting enemies who embody a kind of twisted reflection or direct response to his powers, from his early enemy the Scorpion, to the iconic Venom, and more. And now, he’s got a new opposite-number nemesis to contend with – Chasm.
Right off the bat, it’s obvious that Chasm intentionally channels the themes of a villainous inversion of his heroic enemy, from the traditional green and purple ‘bad guy’ colors of his Spider-Man-esque costume to the concepts explored in his origin story, and, perhaps more than anything, his secret identity: Ben Reilly, the so-called Spider-clone who came to popularity in the ’90s ‘Clone Saga (opens in new tab)‘ epic.
Created by the mad scientist known as the Jackal, Ben Reilly is a clone of Peter Parker who once thought he was the genuine article and that the real Peter was in fact the clone. However, that proved untrue, and after a brief stint filling in as Spider-Man, Ben was apparently killed in action. In true clone fashion, however, he has returned from the dead several times.
In his most recent return, Ben once again became the core Spider-Man as part of the now-concluded ‘Spider-Man Beyond’ story, which ended with Ben suffering memory loss that robbed him of his personal identity (and as a result, his moral foundation) and being driven to a violent psychological breakdown.
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As part of the story’s conclusion in Amazing Spider-Man #93, the villainous Beyond Corporation who employed and backed Ben Reilly as Spider-Man over Peter Parker doused their headquarters in chemicals that could rewrite and remake matter, with Ben being trapped in the deluge.
In the aftermath, he seems to have developed some strange new abilities that have yet to be truly revealed, while also taking on the newly christened identity of Chasm. And since that first appearance, Chasm popped up in the Spider-Man/Venom Free Comic Book Day one-shot apparently allying himself alongside the X-Men’s enemy Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen – a fellow clone – for an upcoming Spider-Man story titled ‘The Dark Web.’
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The Hulk has had more than his share of personalities and incarnations thanks to his ever-shifting nature, and not all of them have been what you’d call ‘nice.’ But few if any of them have ever been out-and-out villains, even when Hulk is acting in a gray area at best – until now.
Hulk is one of the Marvel heroes with the longest track record of fighting other heroes. And just as Hulk continuing that tradition by fighting Thor gladiator-style in the ‘Banner of War’ crossover that celebrates both characters’ 60th anniversaries, he’s also dealing with the aftermath of the emergence of a new, more monstrous persona that’s been dubbed ‘Titan,’ who was billed as the “deadliest” incarnation of the Hulk in the lead up to his debut in Hulk #6.
In Hulk’s current solo title, Bruce Banner has used advanced technology to separate his mind from that of the Hulk’s, with both psyches simultaneously co-existing in the Hulk’s body. To maintain control, Banner keeps the Hulk locked in a psychic battleground known as ‘The Engine Room,’ in which Hulk must metaphysically battle stronger and stronger foes in order to maintain and increase his physical strength.
As a result of being pushed too far with Banner being psychically taken out of control by a mysterious malevolent entity, Hulk’s body transformed into Titan, a monstrous, Kaiju like form described in the story as “the Hulk’s Hulk.”
Titan hasn’t emerged again since, but given the emphasis Marvel has put on how the Hulk’s “deadliest” incarnation will affect the Marvel Universe, there’s a strong chance we’ll see Titan emerge again soon, potentially in the upcoming ‘Hulk Planet’ arc in which Hulk arrives on a world populated entirely by Gamma mutates, which will in turn introduce another new villain known as Monolith.
What do Moira MacTaggert, Chasm, and Titan mean for the Marvel Universe?
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Marvel Comics has had its share of villains who turn into heroes – Magneto, Venom, and other favorites immediately come to mind. But much rarer are heroes who turn to out-and-out villainy – especially on a dime.
Marvel has often gone through somewhat shifting eras of the threats faced by their heroes. When 2006’s best-selling Civil War (opens in new tab) event hit, it changed the focus of the Marvel Universe to heroes breaking into factions and fighting each other on a previously unseen scale, leading to stories like Avengers Vs. X-Men (opens in new tab), Inhumans Vs. X-Men (opens in new tab), Civil War II (opens in new tab), Secret Empire (opens in new tab), and even the upcoming AXE: Judgment day, which centers on a three-way showdown between the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals (A-X-E, get it?), all of which have escalated and doubled down on Marvel’s hero-vs.-hero trend.
In the aftermath of Civil War, Marvel turned back to focusing on bigger and badder villains to bring the Marvel Universe’s top heroes back together, with Secret Invasion (opens in new tab) pitting them against the alien Skrulls, the subsequent ‘Dark Reign’ era reuniting the fractured heroes to rally against a megalomaniacal Norman Osborn, and the eventual Secret Wars (opens in new tab) mega-event where Doctor Doom reclaimed his mantle as the Marvel Universe’s biggest bad guy.
Now, Marvel is in the midst of a budding trend of turning good guys bad – even longtime, fan-favorite characters with strong reputations as full-on superheroes. Some of these changes, like Hulk’s turn to Titan, might be temporary, given the Hulk’s A-list starring status, even if the story of Titan leads to some longer-lasting status quo changes overall.
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But characters like Moira MacTaggert and Ben Reilly have somewhat more open roads to stick on the path of villainy.
In the case of Moira, she constitutes a recognizable figurehead for a growing threat against a population of mutants who are now mostly united, with many of their traditional enemies having joined the larger cause of mutant liberation. With Magneto, Xavier, and even Apocalypse all working together, there’s a place for a new ideological nemesis to rise up against the X-Men in the burgeoning ‘Destiny of X’ era – and that’s more than likely going to be Moira.
As for Ben, Marvel has a habit of turning Spidey’s baddest bad guys into good guys (again, we’ll bring up Venom here). So it makes total sense that Marvel would look for a way to bring some of that back around by giving Peter Parker a new opposite number who can take the place of some of his now reformed nemeses. And it also makes perfect sense for Peter’s new nemesis to be Ben, given the personal connection they share as genetic twins.
And, in an era where Marvel heroes such as Spider-Man and Loki (himself a somewhat reformed villain) are meeting their alt-universe ‘Variants’ in comics, movies, and more, Marvel Comics seems to be finding a way put a twist on the trend of multiple incarnations of heroes co-existing side by side by introducing villains that also reflect those heroes.
What it all seems to be adding up to is a new era of Marvel stories, intentional or not, which bring in new villains for top-level heroes who can challenge them not just in terms of power levels, but in terms of their psychological impact on the heroes they fight.
Moira, Chasm, and Titan are just three of Marvel’s supervillains to watch out for in summer 2022.