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Comic book fans have been having a wide variety of arguments ever since the medium began flourishing in the 1940s, but there are some that rage with a fire much greater than the others. Certainly at the top is the on-going Marvel vs. DC fight, but an obvious extension of that feud, is the question of which superhero team is better: The Avengers or the Justice League. Naturally, this back and forth has only intensified now that the groups have both been represented on the big screen -- so we've decided to hash it out here on CinemaBlend.
It should be noted that our staff fully recognizes that most fans (ourselves included) don't limit themselves to just liking one thing, and acknowledge that the majority actually enjoys both and don't feel the need to "pick a side." That, however, shouldn't marginalize the intellectual practice of debate, and it's with that in mind that we weigh Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye against Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.
SPOILER ALERT: What follows contains some major spoilers for the end of Justice League. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know any details about it before you do, please bookmark this page, and return after your screening!
The Avengers Are Better Than The Justice League
There is no denying that, as they were first assembled, there was a fair share of friction between the members of The Avengers. A combination of moral relativity and daddy issues put Iron Man and Captain America into conflict; Black Widow and Hawkeye are completely inexperienced with extraterrestrial threats; Hulk is a bit distracted by his own internal demons; and Thor is working to both defeat and help his brother, Loki, simultaneously. Of course, all of this is used to craft some meaty drama in the first two acts of Joss Whedon's 2012 blockbuster -- but when shit really starts to hit the fan, and the world finds itself in true peril, Earth's Mightiest Heroes reveal themselves as the incredible, powerful and cohesive group that they truly are... which is much more than what can be said about the titular team in Zack Snyder's Justice League.
As any fan will tell you, it all clicks for The Avengers when all six founding members find themselves together on the streets of New York -- immediately after Hulk has managed to take down a Chitauri Leviathan with a single punch. It's at this precise point that their roles are all clearly defined. Captain America, who led countless soldiers to victory during World War II, is the strategist, calling all the shots. Thor, who can conjure lightning with his mighty hammer, is the elemental who is the only one that can jam the Tesseract-generated portal. Iron Man, with his incredible speed and weaponry, can use his incredible technology to swiftly create a perimeter and contain the enemy. Hawkeye, who is the best on the planet with his specially-designed bow, is a classic range weapon, able to snipe down any enemy. Black Widow, with her brutal and elegant martial arts skills, is a danger to everything on the ground. And Hulk? Fiction has never introduced a more picture perfect example of the term "heavy." Operating as a unit, they are a perfectly oiled machine built for kicking ass, and perfectly justify the Monday morning quarterbacking observation that to face them in battle is to court death.
By the same metric, the Justice League is a categorical mess. Even totally ignoring the serious inexperience possessed by a third of the members, there exists zero strategy or structure within their plan to take on Steppenwolf and the Parademons -- and Batman at the start of the fight even tries to take on the whole mess solo, even after all of the time he spent recruiting the team. Even when they are all together, though, they still never actually operate as a team or seriously take on any kind of special role that suits their specific skill set (seriously, how does Aquaman not go anywhere near water in the third act?). Sure, Cyborg is put in charge of separating the Mother Boxes, but the rest of them have jobs that can basically be reduced to punching, kicking, shooting, and stabbing bugs until Superman shows up. And then when the Man of Steel does finally arrive, he showcases a whole other problem: the fact that he can basically take care of the entire situation all by himself and doesn't really need his "teammates."
Comparing the big screen Avengers and Justice League reveals that there really is no comparison. The Marvel group not only brilliantly functions like a Swiss watch, but effectively does so to defeat an enemy far more dangerous than what's faced by the DC gang. Had it been the Justice League facing off against Loki and the Chitauri army during the Battle of New York, the men and women of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be bowing down to Thanos today.
The Justice League Is Better Than The Avengers
To a casual fan, it might be hard to spot the differences between The Avengers and the Justice League. Both are ensembles of beloved superheroes, and both exist in sprawling cinematic universes. The debate over the superiority of one or the other will likely never come to an end, but I'm here today to firmly plant my flag on the Justice League side of the argument.
One of the most common distinctions that fans make between The Avengers and the Justice League is that DC's team is a bit more godlike in its characterizations. They fit more neatly into the "capes and superpowers" ideals that we attribute to the genre, and they're slightly less morally nuanced than the Marvel heroes. I agree with that assessment to a degree, but for all of their godlike abilities (I include Batman in this classification, even with his lack of real powers), Justice League gives its heroes much clearer emotional throughlines.
For Superman and Aquaman, they struggle to deal with a sense of alienation in worlds that don't understand them. Batman and Wonder Woman struggle to cope with losses in their personal lives. Cyborg suffered a tragedy that fundamentally changed his life path. Then there's Barry Allen, who continues to look for hope in his father's false imprisonment after decades of waiting for a solution. Even with their insane abilities and heightened realities, the way in for each Justice League hero feels like something that each of us can tap into and relate to on a personal level.
Those emotional realities shine through in Justice League, as the interpersonal dynamics of the League carry the film through its weaker moments. What I personally love about Justice League's take on the dynamic of a superhero team is that it doesn't rely on pure charisma or nonstop jokes to work. The relationships established in Justice League feel rooted in the characters and the source material itself.
Every member of the League has a clear and well-defined perspective during the discussion of the "ethics" of resurrecting Superman, and most of the best jokes come organically (such as Aquaman sitting on the Lasso of Truth) and don't feel forced.
Then there's the matter of each hero's unique skills and abilities as a member of the Justice League. Zack Snyder's team-up movie shows some growing pains as the team learns how to work together, but once they all generally come to an agreement that the League needs to exist, it's an absolute joy to watch them work. In The Avengers movies, I have often noticed that each hero goes off to perform a specific task that he or she is well-suited for, and he or she performs that task alone.
By contrast, Justice League shows how each hero can cover the weaknesses of another. It doesn't matter if it's watching Cyborg's synch up with Batman's Nightcrawler to take on Steppenwolf, or The Flash rushing civilians to safety while the more battle-hardened members of the League fight Parademons head-on. In the simplest of terms, the DCEU's Justice League feels like a team that chooses to work together because they understand the synergy that occurs when they do. To me, that's how a superhero team should work.
All told, The Avengers and the Justice League are both very similar teams. They're heroes who fight evil at any and every opportunity and always seem to do the right thing. While I certainly have a sincere appreciation for Marvel's particular brand of hero in the MCU, I still have to say that I gravitate more towards the Justice League on a mythic, emotional, and fundamentally entertaining level.