In Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, we get a funny moment during M.O.D.O.K.’s “death” scene where he says “at least I died an Avenger,” having turned coat and helped the Ant-Clan against Kang. Obviously this elicits a chuckle from the audience and a funny look from Scott Lang. No, of course M.O.D.O.K. isn’t an Avenger. But what exactly makes one an Avenger in the MCU? Traditionally in the Marvel Comics, just helping some or all of the Avengers doesn’t give you full membership. And yet, with very few exceptions, we never really see any kind of induction ceremony. So how exactly does one become an Avenger in the MCU?
The For-Sure Avengers
The ones we know for absolute certain count as Avengers are the OGs from The Avengers. Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton. They have a gif, they’re definitely the Avengers.
We also pretty much know the second wave of Avengers from the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Wanda Maximoff, Vision, Sam Wilson, and James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Cap assembles them, which seems like it’s a pretty major indicator of membership. Hmm. We’ll see.
The First Maybe Avengers
Once the Avengers disassembled during the events of Captain America: Civil War, it was unclear if there even was a proper Avengers roster anymore. Half the team (save Thor and Hulk; they were busy in space) fought the other half. They also had some help. Cap’s side recruited people like the Winter Soldier and Ant-Man, while Iron Man’s side recruited Black Panther and Spider-Man. At this point, neither of those additions could realistically hope to be official Avengers.
Spider-Man, interestingly enough, was offered membership at the end of Homecoming and turned it down.
The Thanos-Fighting Avengers
The events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame both complicate and clarify the membership of many characters. Dr. Strange, Wong, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Winter Soldier, Okoye, Shuri, and M’Baku all help fight off Thanos in Infinity War. Are all of them Avengers? Or are they merely allies? Plus, most of them get dusted before anyone can officially receive an invite anyway.
Post-Snap, we have a much better sense of who is an Avenger. Why? Because we see a functioning Avengers team after the five-year time-jump. Steve, Natasha, Okoye, Carol Danvers, Rocket, Nebula, and Rhodey. Smart-Hulk seems to have left the team, as has Tony Stark. However, once Scott Lang returns from the Quantum Realm and gives everyone hope to undo the snap, they both return to the fold. Clint Barton, too, who’d been away for many movies, and Thor who went into hiding following his failure.
So the Endgame Avengers are as follows: Steve, Tony, Natasha, Clint, Thor, Banner (hey, the originals!), Nebula, Rocket, Rhodey, and Scott. We feel pretty confident calling all of these characters full members.
What About All Those Heroes in Endgame?
Honestly, this one is a bit of a who-knows. The end of Endgame has roughly 19 million good guys returning to fight against Thanos and his forces. Are all of them Avengers? Cap does say “Avengers….assemble” and it rules. But Is that enough to say they all have membership?
Naturally, some of these are Avengers by default. Hope Lang was never an Avenger before, but Scott is and her parents were, so it seems reasonable that she’d be in. Wong was the Sorcerer Supreme during the Blip and, it seems, he has worked with the Avengers on some level. So he’s in. Valkyrie, also, never fought with the Avengers, though she did fight with Thor and Hulk. Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and Winter Soldier I think are all officially in based on general heroism.
But what about the entire Wakandan army? What about the returning members of the Guardians? What about all those Kamar-Taj sorcerers? And what about Pepper Potts, who had nifty Rescue armor? Are they all Avengers just because?
Are the Avengers Even a Thing Anymore?
Following Endgame, it sure seems like the Avengers as a functioning team no longer exists. Nick Fury’s in outer space with the Skrulls; Tony, Nat, and Vision are dead. Steve went back in time and lived himself to geriatric status. Thor went off with the Guardians of the Galaxy and is now in outer space too; T’Challa sadly passed away. Pretty sure Wanda lost her Avenger status by turning evil, if she didn’t die at Mount Wundagore. Sam and Bucky seem to just be working for the US government, not even S.H.I.E.L.D. Dr. Strange seems uninterested in Avengering, and nobody can remember Spider-Man anymore. That pretty much only leaves Clint, Scott, and Banner and all three are effectively retired.
We know there will be an Avengers team by the time of The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, but by that point there won’t have been an Avengers movie in two full phases. I doubt many, if any, of the Thunderbolts will get Avengers status.
Who Definitely Are Not Avengers in the MCU?
Besides M.O.D.O.K.? Well, actually quite a few heroes aren’t Avengers. Shang-Chi, Shuri as Black Panther, White Vision, and Jennifer Walters all could receive Avengers invitations but they haven’t yet. Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau will team up with Carol Danvers in The Marvels but will she recruit them? Same holds true for any of the other “Young Avengers” they’ve set up thus far; this includes Yelena Bolova, Cassie Lang, and Kate Bishop.
Loki isn’t. Daredevil isn’t. Nobody even knows who Moon Knight is, so he isn’t. The Eternals almost assuredly will never be Avengers. Howard the Duck is absolutely not.
Part of the fun of Avengers comics is shaking up membership and roster every so often. But there needs to be someone in charge. Otherwise people can just say they’re Avengers, William Nilliam. Until Sam Wilson becomes fully vested as Captain America, we kind of don’t think the Avengers in the MCU will exist as it has in the Infinity Saga.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.