Two of Marvel’s premiere super teams, the Avengers and the X-Men, have had numerous encounters in the years since their first appearance, in 1963. Following the Marvel team-up tradition, their meetings have rarely gone smoothly. There have been misunderstandings, strong words, betrayals and punching -- lots and lots of punching. Despite this, the teams have a number of strong connections that help bind them together, culminating most recently in the Avengers “Unity Squad."
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Sadly, the fact that the Avengers and X-Men film rights are held by different studios makes it unlikely that comic fans will see such crossovers on the big screen anytime soon, meaning that the world is denied a Robert Downey Jr/Hugh Jackman throw down. Thankfully, there’s a smorgasbord of comic crossovers that can help fill the gap. We’ve looked back through every meeting between Earth’s mightiest heroes and Marvel’s merry mutants and selected 15 of the most memorable.
15 Uncanny X-Men #9
The two teams first met way back in 1964, when the original five X-Men took on one of the earliest groupings of Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and the Wasp. One of the greatest things about Silver Age Marvel was that the creators really played up the concept of the shared Universe, where characters could regularly meet and crossover. Sometimes this worked to great effect; at others, characters seemed awkwardly shoehorned into stories simply to get them in front of new readers. This first meeting falls into the latter category.
The X-Men are attempting to help Professor X, who is fighting the deadly Lucifer (who -- somewhat underwhelmingly -- is really just a fat guy with a funny costume and a large bomb). The Avengers also arrive on the scene, Thor’s hammer having picked up vibrations of “pure evil.” With Lucifer’s heartbeat tied to the bomb, the X-Men try to halt the Avengers. And lo, there was much punching.
The fight itself is brief, with each character showing off what they can do. After Professor X telepathically explains the situation to Thor, the Avengers depart, happy to let the X-Men defuse the incredibly dangerous thermal bomb on their own.
The prelude event for the sprawling “Avengers vs X-Men” crossover, this title can essentially be described as “Cable vs the Avengers.” Cable has experienced a potential future, one in which the world has suffered terribly due to his foster-daughter, Hope, not being there to save it. When he learns that this was due to the Avengers, Cable comes up with a simple yet elegant plan. He’ll safeguard Hope and the future by kicking Avenger butt in the present day.
It would be hard to characterize this story as being deep and meaningful, but in fairness, it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a chance to watch Cable fight the Avengers, with all the explosions, posturing and heroic speeches that entails. While only superficially linked to “Avengers vs X-Men,” it does do a good job of explaining exactly why Cyclops placed so much faith in Hope and her ability to handle the Phoenix. He hears from Cable the importance of Hope to the future of the world, and sees, with his own eyes, Hope manifest the Phoenix raptor. Add in some typically scrumptious art from Ed McGuinness and the result is a fast-paced, entertaining slugfest.
13 Avengers vs X-Men
A common complaint among fans is that crossovers, for all the sound and fury during their run, often have little lasting impact on the wider Universe. The same couldn’t be said for “Avengers vs X-Men,” a crossover that profoundly affected both the Avengers and X-Men books.
When the Avengers learn that the Phoenix Force is coming to Earth to seek out Hope, they resolve to take her into their custody. Cyclops objects, believing that the X-Men are best placed to help her in her mission. And so, an optic blast is fired, battle lines are drawn, and the stakes are raised with every issue. By the end of the crossover, new mutants have been created, Professor X is dead, Cyclops is a pariah, and both Wakanda and the X-Men’s island base of Utopia have been all but destroyed.
The crossover loses points for characters acting irrationally in order to progress the story; in particular, Captain America’s aggressive stance shows how much his depiction has changed in the last decade. Despite this, for its sheer scale and ambition, the crossover has to be deemed a success.
12 X-Men #45/Avengers #53
The second meeting between the Avengers and X-Men was on a larger scale than their first: it spanned two separate comic series, a rarity for Marvel at this time. As would increasingly be the case in years to come, Magneto and his children played a significant role in provoking the conflict. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch had rejoined Magneto some time previously, after he had tricked them into again believing the worst about humans.
As a story, it’s somewhat slight, but what elevates it is some great character work: Cyclops, the last X-Men to be captured, struggles to find a way to salvage victory; Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, meanwhile, question whether they’ve done the right thing and where their allegiances should be. Most cathartic of all, after years of being belittled and abused by Magneto, Toad finally stands up for himself. When he disrupts Magneto’s desperate grip on the helicopter, condemning him to a watery grave, it’s a great moment.
Of course, Magneto’s defeat was self-inflicted. As Toad gloats: “You built the ship out of non-metals, just to prove you could do it!” That Magneto -- what a show off.
11 Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
When the “Young Avengers” series was launched in 2005, in the aftermath of “Avengers Disassembled,” one of the most intriguing aspects was Tommy and Billy’s supposed status as the presumed deceased children of Scarlet Witch and the Vision. Little was done with this until 2010, when the team set out to find Wanda. In the intervening years, “House of M” had occurred, resulting in Wanda’s declaration of “no more mutants.” With the huge damage that she had inflicted upon mutants, it’s hardly surprising that the X-Men were equally keen to find Wanda, although their intent may not have been as charitable.
The book certainly has a strong mutant presence, with both Magneto and Quicksilver front-and-center as they try to locate Wanda. The actions of the X-Men are interesting, particularly Cyclops’ hard-line stance as he threatens to kill Wanda if she does anything else to hurt mutants. Most of the Avengers are similarly torn, wanting to believe the best of Wanda but struggling to forget the destruction her actions caused. In the end, Wanda is partially redeemed, Doctor Doom revealed as heavily influencing her previous actions.
This was a fun romp, then, with great character moments and delicious art from Jim Cheung.
10 Avengers #350-351
In 1992, with comic sales setting new records and cash registers a-singing, it’s a safe bet that comic retailers expected big things from Avengers #350. After all, Marvel was well known for making a big event out of its anniversary issues, either with increased pages, enhanced covers, big events or special guest stars. Now imagine the reaction of comic retailers when they found out that the X-Men guest stars weren’t Wolverine or Cable, but the Starjammers, and a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo from Professor X and Cyclops. It certainly seems a bit of a damp squib celebration, doesn’t it?
In reality, this is a strong 2-part story that expertly built on plot threads from recent Avengers stories. Raza -- the Starjammers’ resident swordsman -- is blackmailed into killing Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, as revenge for Dane murdering the Kree Supreme Intelligence during the “Operation Galactic Storm” event. Add in the return to Earth of Carol Danvers (now in her Binary persona) and the continued relationship drama between Quicksilver and Crystal, and what emerges is an anniversary issue which has a foothold in the worlds of both the Avengers and X-Men; an unsung triumph.
9 House of M
If “Avengers vs X-Men” set a new direction for the X-books, then "House of M" did the same thing only a few years prior. All it took were three little words that, in isolation, seem quite inconsequential: “no more mutants.” When the Scarlet Witch uttered these words, removing the X-gene from all but a few hundred mutants around the globe, everything changed. Mutants were instantly transformed from the next stage in evolution, as seen in Grant Morrison’s run, to an evolutionary dead-end, facing the very real threat of extinction.
The event itself is good popcorn fodder, the main thrust of the story featuring the always-entertaining trope of characters in unfamiliar situations and new lives. Seeing mutant/human relations flipped on their head makes for an interesting read, while the event also led to Wolverine regaining his lost memories and set up Quicksilver as a quasi-villain.
But the most satisfying moment of all was seeing Hawkeye returned to life, with Brian Bendis seemingly making amends for the ignominious way that he had killed him off back in “Avengers Disassembled.” Seriously, Clint, next time just take off the quiver of arrows if it catches fire, okay?
8 Avengers Academy #38
The X-books have long had a reputation for having their characters take part in games of sport, including baseball, football and basketball. Who can forget Wolverine nearly eviscerating Nightcrawler during a “friendly” game of baseball, or Gambit distracting his teammates by playing basketball topless. Good times, all.
Following in the footsteps of this tradition, the first meeting between the Avengers Academy and Wolverine’s X-kids wasn’t the traditional Marvel team-up formula of misunderstanding, fight, and then team-up against a common enemy. Instead, it featured the two rival schools settling their differences in a much more dangerous environment: the football field.
Seeing the kids and instructors interact in this fashion is a delight, with lots of fun character moments. Iceman and Hawkeye are both benched for unsportsmanlike behavior, Gambit gives dating advice while Mettle and Rockslide discuss their genitals (or lack thereof). Sadly, many of the X-kids are now in limbo (literally), while Mettle and Reptile were casually killed-off in “Avengers Arena,” meaning that the prospects for a rematch seem slim. Here’s hoping that the Marvel revolving door of death works its magic to make this happen. After all, as any sports fan knows, sometimes miracles really do happen on the football field.
7 X-Men vs the Avengers
The year 1987 brought fans a 4-issue crossover between the X-Men and Avengers, the two teams coming into conflict over the fate of Magneto. At this point in Marvel continuity, Magneto had reformed and was working with the X-Men. Unfortunately for him, his past actions continued to haunt him. When chunks of Asteroid M -- Magneto’s former base -- began falling to Earth, the authorities became paranoid that Magneto would use them for nefarious purposes. As a result, when he traveled to the crash site, few were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The scene was therefore set for an epic throw-down between Avengers, X-Men and Soviet Super Soldiers.
Magneto’s actual intent was to utilize the technology to telepathically remove humanity’s prejudice against mutants. Is that an evil goal? Opinions may vary. Roger Stern, the writer of the first three issues, was replaced by Tom Defalco for the final issue, after Marvel editorial quashed his intention of having Magneto revert to villainy at the series’ end.
So, it was an entertaining, if uneven series; but let’s face it, any comic that features Ursa Major – everyone’s favorite mutant, humanoid bear – should be cherished.
6 Avengers Annual #10
This is very much an issue of two parts. The main plot concerns the introduction of Rogue, who would quickly become an integral part of the X-mythos. In this first appearance, there’s little sign of the hero that she would one day become, as she appears to be a willing member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She takes pleasure in defeating the Avengers and, in an act that will have long-term repercussions for her character, absorbs the powers and psyche of Carol Danvers. In this appearance and her subsequent appearances in “Dazzler,” Rogue is hardly a sympathetic character. It’s testament to the work of Chris Claremont and artists Michael Golden and Armando Gil, that she so quickly became a fan-favorite once she joined the cast of “Uncanny X-Men.”
The resolution of the story picks at the scab of one of the most controversial in Marvel history: “Avengers” #200, where Ms. Marvel became pregnant through mysterious means, before departing to begin a romantic relationship with her own "son." In this epilogue, Carol takes the Avengers to task for not appreciating the nature of her predicament, calling them out for being bad friends and teammates. As the introduction of a long-standing X-Man and a turning point for an Avenger, this is a key story.
5 Generation X #59
“Generation X” was a shining light among 90s X-books, many of which were somewhat… variable in quality (“X-Man,” we're looking at you). After a mediocre run from Larry Hama, the arrival of Jay Farber as writer saw an upswing in quality. This, combined with some lovely art from Terry Dodson, saw the book get back on track.
One of the most enjoyable features about “Generation X” is that the kids were allowed to act their age, having to take school tests in between battling supervillains and dealing with all the emotional drama that being a teenager entailed. The students were still learning, still finding their feet in the Marvel Universe, and that was perfectly captured in this issue.
On a field trip to New York City, all the students unwind in their own way. Synch tries to spot the Black Panther, while Artie and Leech attempt to sneak into Avengers Mansion. Seeing the Avengers from this perspective -- through the lens of the students’ preconceptions -- is a refreshing change, helping to humanize them. The icing on the cake is a confrontation between Emma Frost and Firestar, illustrating how far both characters have come since their previous meeting in the pages of “New Warriors.”
4 Secret Wars (1984)
The original “Secret Wars” may have been designed primarily for the purpose of promoting a toy range, but it had a variety of ramifications for the Marvel Universe. The most obvious one may have been Spider-Man first donning the black costume, but there were also key moments for both the Avengers and the X-Men. In the aftermath, Colossus and Kitty Pryde would break up, while the absence of the Avengers would lead to the Vision’s attempt at world domination.
The interaction between the two groups is interesting to read, with Magneto once again being at the root of the disagreement. Placed by the Beyonder with the heroes rather than the villains, Magneto's involvement does not go down well with the Avengers and fighting ensues. In truth, the event gives Magneto more stand-out moments than any of the X-Men, and at one point the whole team is defeated by the Wasp. Not their finest hour.
The real significance of the series is that it ushered in the era of the big crossover. This event made readers realize that when such a collection of heroes gathered, it must be to stop a threat of epic proportions. In the present-day Marvel Universe, such events are an everyday occurrence.
3 Uncanny X-Men #190-191
It’s always an interesting exercise to see familiar characters in new situations; territory exploited by “House of M,” the Heroes Return issues of “Avengers” and many more. What’s remarkable is that this tremendous story, where the Sorcerer Kulan Gath takes control of New York and turns it into a medieval wonderland, was told in only two issues. Modern day Marvel would surely spin it out into a line-wide crossover with a myriad of tie-ins.
There are so many great moments in this story. Foremost among them is the ragtag group of rebels shouting “Avengers Assemble,” Colossus, Nightcrawler and Rogue being among their number. The mind-controlled New Mutants make for surprisingly effective bad guys, while there is a strong showing by Storm as she realizes what is happening to her teammates. There’s a feeling that anything can happen as well-known characters are mutilated, killed or wounded left, right and center, before Kulan Gath is finally defeated. In the end, only a few characters remember the events of the changed timeline, but the quality of the story ensures that it will remain with readers for a long time to come.
For the 30th anniversary of the Avengers and the X-Men, Marvel decided to create a 5-part crossover, spanning books from both families. In a vegetative state after recent events, Magneto doesn’t appear in this story, but his presence drives the narrative. Terrified that Magento will try and seek revenge, Fabien Cortez kidnaps Luna -- the daughter of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch -- to use as a bargaining chip, causing both teams to combine their efforts and rescue her.
The crossover makes great use of 30 years of history and past interactions between the teams. The Avengers are forced to confront the horrors of Genosha -- a reality that the X-Men are all too aware of -- and there is fun interaction between the various characters. In particular, the grouping of U.S. Agent, Gyrich and Beast is a delight. In the aftermath of the event, the West Coast Avengers are disbanded, while Quicksilver has to cope with the ramifications of his terrible injuries. For the X-books, the introduction of Exodus as Magneto’s loyal follower gives the mutants a dangerous new adversary.
If readers needed any more reasons to pick this up, the final part of the crossover had an embossed foil cover. Oh 1993, we miss you so.
It’s fair to say that Onslaught is a character that divides opinion, not helped by the fact that the subsequent miniseries he appeared in -- “Onslaught Reborn” and “Onslaught Unleashed” -- didn’t receive a very favorable reaction from fans. But the first Onslaught event, the one that swept across the Marvel Universe in the summer of 1996? That was sheer comic book perfection.
Granted, the build-up was a bit tenuous, but from the moment that Professor X was revealed as Onslaught and tore through the X-Men, it was clear that the Marvel Universe was in deep trouble. That was the event’s greatest strength. Crossovers of this scale were still rare enough that the gathering of every hero in the Marvel Universe made it obvious that this was a huge deal.
This led to so many great moments, including Hawkeye and Iceman bonding, and the X-Men being rescued by the cavalry -- in this case, the combined might of the other Marvel heroes. This was to be the last meeting between the Avengers and X-Men for some time, with the majority of Avengers being removed from the mainstream Marvel Universe and into “Heroes Reborn.” It seems appropriate, then, that when it counted, both teams fought side-by-side as heroes one last time.
Have we missed anything? Are some of our rankings open for debate? Let us know what you think in the comments!