Let’s talk about Marvel’s most-recently-wrapped-up event, AXIS. The premise is simple enough to start with: the Uncanny Avengers, a team of X-Men and Avengers working together to make the world a better place, run into the Red Skull, who has been given a huge power upgrade in the form of Professor X’s brain. They defeat him early on but fail to capture him, and get distracted by other baddies throughout the series, so they don’t end up actually capturing him. This gives the Red Skull and friends the time they need to hatch a scheme to “save the world from the scourge of mutantkind”. And for such an irredeemable villain like the Red Skull, series author Rick Remender does an excellent job of explaining his motivations.
The now-super-powered Nazi keeps true to his old motivations of needing to dominate others to make himself feel better, but gains a new quasi-heroic “motivation”: he’s trying to save the world from mutantkind. This works great in two different ways. First, it serves his purpose of needing to dominate humanity, because he’s the one saving them from mutantkind, and he expects to be worshipped by humanity for being their savior. Second, he does make a good case that humanity needs to be saved from mutants. Their powers are so all over the map that it would only take a single mutant to destroy the Earth. But it’s clear this is a secondary motivation, since the Red Skull tells Captain America that he also needs to save humanity from itself. He sees humanity as a bunch of fat slobs who need their junk food and reality television, and that he will save them from the nightmare they’ve dreamt up for themselves.
So you’d think that AXIS would be an “everyone vs. Red Skull” dogpile. And you’d be totally wrong. It instead is a story with no one villain, and no one hero, and throughout, who is a hero and who is a villain changes. To quote the marketing material, “there’s a fine line between good and evil”, but perhaps a different way to look at it that’s equally true is Nietzsche’s line from “Beyond Good and Evil”:
You who fight with monsters ought to see to it that you do not become a monster yourself. And when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.