Millions of years ago, a meteorite made of vibranium, the strongest substance in the universe, struck the continent of Africa… – N’Jobu
There is a debate that has been raging among fans of the Marvel universe for decades, moving from the aisles of comic book stores to online forums and back again without any sign of subsiding or either faction being able to declare victory.
And that argument revolves around the properties of the fictitious metals, vibranium, and adamantium, and which, if any of them, is the strongest.
It isn’t a debate for the faint of heart, as both camps refuse to concede or give an inch of the ground that they think their argument has gained, preferring the eternal comfort of stalemate rather than admitting defeat.
Having been immersed in the world of comics for more than three decades, we can see the merits of adamantium and vibranium, and while both seemingly indestructible metals have more than proved their individual merits on the big screen and in the comics, we thought that maybe we could try and cut to the chase and finally establish, once and for all, which was the strongest, the lifeblood of Wakanda, or the interior armor that made Wolverine indestructible.
It All Comes From Wakanda
Vibranium and adamantium are, like love marriage, which as any Frank Sinatra fan knows means that you can’t have one without the other.
They have been used in vastly different ways since they first made their presence felt in the Marvel Universe, when you break the debate about which is the strongest down to its base element, there is a universal fact that cannot be ignored.
Without vibranium, there would be no adamantium,
That means that the mythical metals that the Marvel universe revolves around both come from the same source, a small country in Africa that up until the closing moments of two thousand and eighteen’s global box office monster Black Panther was content to remain hidden from the world.
But is a shared homeland all that they have in common, or are these two metals more similar than fandom would have us believe?
The Value Of Vibranium
In the opening moments of Black Panther, Prince N’Jobu tells his son, who will later assume the name Kilmonger, and challenge T’Challa for his throne, that vibranium is the strongest material in the universe, and it’s hard to disagree with him, given what we know, and have learned about the metal.
First introduced to the Marvel Universe in Daredevil #13 which was written by Stan Lee and illustrated by John Romita and published in nineteen sixty-six, vibranium in all of its forms (at the last count, there were at least four including one which had become sentient, which means that it is, for all intents and purposes, “alive”) is extra-terrestrial, which originally helped to explain its rarity and strange, otherworldly properties.
Vibranium was named for the unusual property that also makes it strong, and unlike any other metal on Earth.
As the atoms that it is made up of are constantly vibrating, it’s able to absorb all forms of kinetic energy, and while it isn’t as some poor misguided souls on the fringes of fandom believe indestructible (borne out by the fact that Thanos is able to carve Captain America’s shield to shreds in Endgame and the numerous occasions that the same shield has been “destroyed” throughout Cap’s five-decade Marvel mythology), it is light, strong and “bulletproof”.
Actually, we’re going to have to quantify that last statement, as vibranium despite the fact that Peggy Carter empties her service pistol on it while Steve Rogers is holding it, and half of the Red Skulls forces use it for target practice during Captain America: The First Avenger, the shield doesn’t deflect the bullets and as such isn’t bulletproof, it actually absorbs their kinetic energy.
It’s the same reason why Cap is able to go toe to toe with Thor while he’s swinging Mjolnir in Avengers Assemble and it can protect whoever is wielding it from any, and all energy weapons. It absorbs energy, it doesn’t deflect it.
But just because it’s light and strong, it doesn’t mean that it’s indestructible, it just means that it’s easy to mold and shape, which is why Wakanda has been able to use it to its advantage.
If an antagonist knows how to strike vibranium, as Klaw does in Black Panther and Thanos does in Avengers: Endgame, the very thing that gives vibranium its strength, can be used against it to render the protection it offers, null and void.
The Adamantium Agenda
Remember what we said earlier about not being able to have one without the other, and without vibranium, there would be no adamantium?
That’s because adamantium is a vibranium alloy, that thanks to the high percentage of steel used in its creation, is far denser and heavier than natural vibranium, and can only exist as a liquid metal for eight minutes before it needs to be cast.
Introduced by Roy Thomas as a way to explain Ultron’s nearly impervious outer shell and armor in Avengers #66, which was published in nineteen sixty-nine, adamantium was later used to explain Wolverine’s near indestructibility, by stating that Weapon X (the Canadian covert program that created him) had used the alloy to coat his skeleton, which combined with his healing factor, made him nearly invulnerable.
Ironically, it’s also the weapon that’s used to “kill” him during the Death of Wolverine story as he’s literally turned into an adamantium statue.
Adamantium gives and it takes away without remorse and has been used throughout its long history to wreak havoc in, and around the superhero community.
Which Is Stronger?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer, which is, we suspect the way that Stan Lee and Roy Thomas wanted it to be. While adamantium might be heavier and be virtually indestructible., without its vibranium core, it would be just another steel alloy.
And despite being light and strong, vibranium isn’t quite as indestructible as Wakanda, and Captain America (and Bucky, given that the arm he uses from Infinity War onwards is made from vibranium) would like to believe.
Much as we’d love to be able to provide a definitive answer to the age-old Marvel conundrum, it appears that, for the time being at least, it will have to remain unanswered.