While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made its name by presenting heroes with incredible power, the recent successes of Black Widow and Hawkeye proved that the MCU doesn’t necessarily need to focus on superpowered heroes alone. After all, some of the strongest heroes in the franchise don’t have powers at all.
While they’re often overlooked or outright ignored, those powerless protagonists prove their skill and courage each time they elect to put themselves in the line of fire alongside Thor and the Hulk. That courage does deserve some respect, especially since these characters are often overlooked or entirely ignored.
The main protagonist from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson earned the attention of fans after dying at Loki’s hands, but it was his actions after his resurrection that really earned him respect. “Phil Coulson has been shown taking on 4-5 nameless SHIELD agents without losing his cool,” says Reddit user curiosityrover4477.
Coulson proved to be exceptionally competent, even when surrounded by superheroes and powerful villains. Though he should have been overwhelmed by all rights, he still managed to survive and take on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s many enemies even after the organization’s fall to Hydra.
A founding member of the Avengers, the Black Widow managed to survive the Battle of New York and Ultron before sacrificing herself to save half of all life in the universe. Just when she had reunited with her sister and her other allies, she was forced to leave them behind to ensure that Hawkeye could go home to his family.
Her competence in a fight also can’t be understated. “They trained their whole life to be a fighter and don’t really have powers to be stripped away, just a suit and weapons,” says Redditor Glute_Brah. Despite taking on Loki and entire enemy armies, she still survived time and time again, proving her genuine skill.
When Marvel first introduced a talking raccoon, it seemed ridiculous. But “Over the last few films Rocket has become pretty interesting with far more depth than most in the MCU. His existential crisis in Guardians 2 leads to him taking a real role as a leader on his quest with Thor in Infinity War,” says Reddit user Stinkydadman.
It’s an impressive display of growth for a character who really just started off as an angry trash panda. If Rocket does come to lead the Guardians of the Galaxy, it will show just how far he’s come since those early days in prison with Groot. Now a father and a friend, he’s learned that there’s more important things than credits.
A woman who knows more martial arts than the Black Widow does, Melinda May managed to survive time and time again, despite being outnumbered and surrounded. “She fought off two Kree soldiers at the same time whilst having a huge iron rod puncture in her thighs,” says Reddit user curiosityrover4477.
She was also incredibly competent strategically, having earned a Level Seven security clearance with S.H.I.E.L.D., while also having put together Coulson’s team. May was by far one of the best covert agents in the MCU and proved it every time she needed to take on an enemy.
Often the most underrated MCU hero, Hawkeye recently had a Disney+ show that managed to help fans recognize the potential of the character. “Seeing the Avengers fight otherworldly enemies is super cool and all but there’s just something so human and downright admirable about the Hawkeyes doing things like Clint Barton stepping into traffic to save a stray dog,” says a now-deleted Reddit user.
While street-level heroes haven’t exactly gotten their moment in the sun in the MCU, Hawkeye has certainly made a case for their inclusion. After all, he was instrumental in stopping Thanos, and his development with Kate Bishop was as exciting as it was touching when the two reunited with the Bartons.
Though he did eventually discover that he had powers, after Ego removed them once more, Peter Quill went back to the powerless guardian doing his best to survive the fact that he had the strangest family in the MCU. But, despite lacking superhuman abilities, Quill thrives regardless, even outside of his considerable combat prowess.
“Underneath all the humor, Star-Lord definitely has a heart, and I’ll say James Gunn has done an incredible job at showcasing Star-Lord’s emotional arc, from losing Meredith to losing Yondu,” says Redditor kylorenzgido. Considering that his entire journey has relied on his ability to get along with the Guardians, it really is touching to see his growth.
A character that fans waited years to see in the MCU, the Punisher was everything that they could have hoped for. An incredible fighter who managed to overwhelm Daredevil numerous times, the Punisher proved to be an extraordinary threat. “I’ve always loved him and he’s very close to the max interpretation with real good additions,” says Reddit user JD_Revan451.
A man who acknowledges that he’s little more than an anti-hero, the Punisher’s single-minded determination to track down villains makes him both engaging and tragic. Since he feels like the comic character peeled out of the books and portrayed on screen, he’s certainly one of the best-adapted characters.
One of the best new MCU characters, Yelena managed to immediately captivate fans with her tragic history, good humor, and her desperate desire to avenge her sister and find the other Black Widows. “Her whole character is amazing, and Flo did an amazing job as well,” says Anakinshighground8 on Reddit.
Yelena also proved capable of discerning the real heroes from the enemy, as she eventually elected to believe Hawkeye about her sister’s death. It will be incredibly interesting to see where the character goes from here, especially since she desperately wants vengeance.
The man who would eventually pick up the Captain America mantle, Sam Wilson has delighted fans everywhere with his good heart and his heroics. “Sam is the best because he’s a hero for the purest reasons. No baggage, no drama, just doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,” says Redditor micheal_ruby.
There are few people who would don a pair of wings and take off like a human rocket, but Sam’s willingness to do it couples with his incredible bravery. His willingness to take on the role of Captain America to honor both Steve Rogers and his community is also a major part of why fans have embraced him.
The man who started it all, Tony Stark was nothing more than a man with a brilliant mind. Yet, by taking that brilliance and creating a suit of armor, Tony managed to become one of Earth’s greatest heroes and even sacrificed himself to save the world.
“You get a sense that he is always thinking ahead and trying to improve, which reflects also in his character arc throughout these films — always trying to be ahead for the greater good,” says MikeSpace on Reddit. Though it often led to issues for Tony, like the development of Ultron, his desire to protect the world by thinking ahead showed his good nature and his classic flaw: A desperate need for control. It made him relatable to fans by showing that heroes didn’t need to be perfect; They just need to try.
Next: 10 Most Selfless Acts In The MCU, According To Ranker