Mutants. Children of the atom. Professor Charles Xavier assembled a team of men and women who have extraordinary gifts that include the ability to control the weather, heal while revealing adamantium claws, transform into solid metal, or phase through walls. While humankind may hate or fear mutants, Professor X has tasked his proteges to protect both humanity and mutantkind, so that everyone could live in peace. Since the X-Men’s very first issue -- which dropped on September 10,1963 -- hundreds of mutants have stepped up to the plate to defend the world from evil mutants, giant robots, and cannibalistic aliens.
However, not every X-Man (or woman) made it back to the Xavier Institute for Higher Institute alive. Some of these outstanding mutants sacrificed their lives to better the relationship between mutants and humans. Over the past 54 years, some of the X-Men’s greatest adversaries have gotten the better of Marvel’s merry mutants. These adventures did feature gruesome battles saw the X-Men be either severely beaten and physically or mentally broken by their adversaries. While X-Men fans and comic book aficionados may have fond feelings for these classic stories, CBR found 15 times that the X-Men’s greatest adversaries brutally destroyed the team.
15 X-MEN VERSUS SHI’AR IMPERIAL GUARD
“The Dark Phoenix Saga” marked a turning point for the X-Men franchise. Mastermind and The Hellfire Club manipulated Phoenix into thinking she was the organization’s Black Queen. Their actions led to Phoenix’s transformation into Dark Phoenix and her descent into madness. Dark Phoenix brutally wiped out an innocent star system. Shi’ar Empress Lilandra demanded retribution and ordered Phoenix’s execution.
However, Professor Xavier stepped in and challenged his lover to Arin'n Haelar, a Shi'ar duel of honor that cannot be refused. Two generations of X-Men faced off against the Shi’ar Imperial Guard for Jean Grey’s life on the Blue Area of the Moon. Two generations of X-Men faced off against Lilandra’s elite troopers, and sadly, the X-Men were clobbered. The team was also unable to stop Phoenix from making the ultimate sacrifice.
14 SENTINELS DESTROY FUTURE X-MEN
Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “Days of Future Past” introduced an alternative reality where the X-Men lost everything! Sentinels rule over the United States with an iron fist, and these robotic monstrosities killed or captured a majority of the X-Men and put them in internment camps. As Rachel Summers guided Kate Pryde’s psyche to the past to prevent their hellish timeline from becoming a reality, the surviving X-Men stage one final stand against their robotic overlords.
While the Sentinels are unsuccessful at reaching Rachel and an unconscious Kate Pryde, a majority of the elder X-Men such as Colossus, Magneto, Storm, and Wolverine meet a horrifying death at the Sentinels’ hands. As the present day X-Men were successful in preventing the tragic timeline from unfolding, it came at a massive cost.
13 MUTANT MASSACRE
The '80s were not a kind decade for Marvel’s merry mutants. Between Jean Grey’s “death” and Professor X’s departure from Earth, it was a hard time to be a member of the X-Men. “Mutant Massacre's” showcased the X-Men at one of their darkest moments. The team failed to stop the infamous Marauders from decimating the Morlocks, an underground mutant group of outcasts that believe they are not worthy of living on the surface.
Also, several members of the team including Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat suffered from life-threatening injuries. Also, Harpoon mutilated Angel's wings. “Mutant Massacre's” repercussions would shake up the team so much that it would take years for Nightcrawler and Shadowcat to rejoin the X-Men and to reveal that a future member (Gambit) was the person responsible for the tragedy in the series’ 350th issue.
12 THE FALL OF THE MUTANTS
Uncanny X-Men was not the same book after the Morlock Massacre. Despite the additions of Dazzler, Havok, Longshot, and Psylocke, the dynamic was completely awkward. Making matters worse with the unexpected absence that Storm took from the team because she lost her powers. In Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1 #225 to 227, “The Fall of the Mutants,” the team and their ally, Cyclops’ ex-wife, Madelyne Pryor, found Storm in Texas.
In addition to reuniting with a repowered Storm and Colossus, the group ran into Mystique and Freedom Force. After a brief skirmish between the teams, the real problem turned out to be Forge’s longtime foe, the Adversary, who was threatening all reality. The Adversary wept the floor with the X-Men and Forge was forced to create a spell to defeat the Adversary. However, it came with a cost: The X-Men’s lives!
11 SHADOW KING CAUSES CHAOS ON MUIR ISLAND
Since his debut in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1 #117, Shadow King has been one of the X-Men’s most dangerous adversaries. This monstrous being is made entirely out of psychic energy and feeds on the humans’ hate. The Shadow King has held a grudge against Professor X for decades and has looked for ways to destroy his hated foe and his team. He was almost successful in “The Muir Island Saga.”
Shadow King not only possessed Legion, Professor X’s son, but he also possessed the entire Muir Island team of X-Men. When Wolverine, Storm, and their squad arrived in Muir Island to investigate, the Shadow King’s possessed team defeated them single-handedly. If it were not for Mystique and the original X-Factor team’s timely intervention, the X-Men would have been Shadow King’s slaves for eternity.
10 X-MEN MEET ONSLAUGHT
During the finale of the massive 30th-anniversary event, “Fatal Attractions,” Professor Charles Xavier mind-wiped Magneto. However, that action leads to the creation of a horrifying force named Onslaught. This monster slowly revealed his powers after he tore Juggernaut apart and tortured Jean Grey after she refused to join his cause. In the Onslaught: X-Men one-shot, he revealed himself to Xavier’s students and the shocked X-Men refused to become his warriors in his war against humanity.
Onslaught then proceeded to destroy parts of the Xavier Institute as he brutally took on the mutants. However, time traveler Bishop saved his teammates, and the incident forced the X-Men to receive assistance from both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Sadly, Onslaught’s attack not only decimated both teams, but it also forced the X-Men to become outlaws once more.
9 MAGNETO WINS HIS WAR
In 1999, the X-Men creators gave Magneto his most significant victory over the team. “The Magneto War” was a five-part storyline that crossed over both Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1 and X-Men, Vol. 2. In it, the Master of Magnetism unleashed a powerful electromagnetic pulse that nearly decimated North America and demanded that the United Nations create a colony for mutants worldwide. The X-Men faced off against Magneto's followers, the Acolytes, and for the first time in their history, Marvel’s merry mutants barely got away intact.
Next, the team was forced to take on their arch-nemesis who almost overwhelmingly defeated them. Before the final battle would commence, Dr. Alda Huxley and several UN representatives announced that Magneto was Genosha’s new ruler. “The Magneto War” took an emotional toll on the team as the cracks began to surface.
8 EVE OF DESTRUCTION
Only Wolverine, Phoenix, and a resurrected Cyclops were active X-Men on duty in 2001. Storm took half of the team to retrieve Destiny’s Diaries, while Shadowcat retired from active duty and Colossus committed suicide to save mutantkind from the Legacy Virus. An enraged Magneto kidnapped Professor Xavier and prepared Genosha for war. As Cyclops and Wolverine snuck into the country to protect the Professor, Phoenix assembled a ragtag group of mutants who were ill-prepared to tackle the horrors that awaited them in Genosha.
In Genosha, Magneto tortured Professor Xavier by putting him on an “X” shaped cross and attacked the “New X-Men” group with full force and mentally abused the newcomers. If it were not for the longtime acolyte, Amelia Voight, for betraying Magneto and freeing Xavier, “Eve of Destruction” would have been the last X-Men storyline.
7 PLANET X
The crescendo to Grant Morrison’s line-altering New X-Men was “Planet X.” Xorn was revealed to be Magneto, who infiltrated the Xavier Institute as the Special Class teacher and manipulated the events of several of the series’ mini-story arcs. While Xorn destroyed the institute and kidnapped Xavier, which forced the student body to retreat.
As Cyclops and Fantomex rounded up the students, Xorn made sure that his former staff members were kept busy as Phoenix and Wolverine were sent to rot on Asteroid M and stranded both Beast and Emma Frost in the ocean. Next, he set his eyes on New York City, where he brutally murdered New Yorkers in cold blood and tortured Xavier. The X-Men were able to regroup to surprise their Benedict Arnold, but Xorn shattered the team by killing Jean Grey.
6 DECIMATION HITS NEW X-MEN
When the Scarlet Witch declared: “No More Mutants” at the end of House of M #7, the latest generation of X-Men trainees’ lives was changed forever. The New X-Men’s student body was decimated from 182 to a shocking 27 mutants as many young mutants were depowered. As Emma Frost sadly sent the depowered students home, the White Queen created a “Survival of the Fittest” competition that divided the student body further as only seven students became worthy of becoming X-Men.
Tragedy struck when fanatic anti-mutant Reverend William Stryker and the Purifiers decided to hit at the young X-Men at their lowest point. The Purifiers blew up a bus containing 45 depowered students. Rubbing salt in the infected wound, Stryker and his forces kill two of the new team of X-Men’s friends: Icarus and Wallflower.
5 PROFESSOR X’S DARK SIDE & THE THIRD SUMMERS BROTHER
X-Men: Deadly Genesis marked the 30th anniversary of Giant-Size X-Men #1! The event also revealed Professor Xavier’s darkest secret. When the original group was captured by Krakoa, the Living Island, Xavier sent Dr. Moira MacTaggert’s pupils including Cyclops and Havok’s long-lost brother, Vulcan into battle. Dr. MacTaggert’s students were ill-prepared to deal with Krakoa and half of the group was brutally murdered.
When Cyclops was the only one to return from that awful mission, he broke into hysterics when he learned about his savior's death and Professor X forced Cyclops to forget that awful day. Xavier’s past actions came back to haunt him as an enraged Vulcan returned to confront Xavier. After killing Banshee and brutally beating the team, Vulcan went into space to find his mother’s murderer: D’Ken.
4 “BLINDED BY THE LIGHT”
When Mike Carey began his celebrated run on X-Men, Vol. 1, he made Rogue lead one of the most questionable line-up of X-Men ever assembled! Half of the team’s line-up was full of wild-card candidates and former team adversaries. The second volume of X-Men celebrated its 200th issue by doing the unthinkable decimating Rogue’s team by having the villains join Sinister’s newest group of Marauders!
Lady Mastermind willingly joined, and Mystique was Sinister’s mole to save her daughter, Rogue, who fell into a coma. Meanwhile, Malice digitally reprogrammed the usually reliable Omega Sentinel to jump ship. “Blinded by the Light” forced Cannonball and Iceman to face their vicious ex-teammates alone as they raced across the country to stop them from getting their hands on Destiny’s remaining diary.
3 MESSIAH COMPLEX
“X-Men: Messiah Complex” gave Marvel’s Merry Mutants their biggest story of the '00s. The X-Men raced against the clock to save the first mutant baby born since M-Day from their greatest adversaries, who had plans for the newborn. While Sinister and the Marauders hoped to use the baby for experiments, Gambit and Mystique hoped the baby could save Rogue.
Both Bishop and the Purifiers wanted to kill the baby, while the monstrous Predator X wanted to eat it. Sadly, “Messiah Complex” showed the X-Men at their lowest point as the O.N.E. Sentinels brutally destroyed the Xavier Institute and several veteran mutants such as Bishop, Caliban, Layla Miller, and Madrox were scarred by the crossover's events. After Cable took the baby into the future for protection, Bishop “murdered” Professor X and in retaliation, Cyclops disbanded the team.
2 MUTANTS VS. THE DEAD
Selene, the Black Queen, returned to blight the X-Men’s lives in the pages of The New Mutants, X-Force, and X-Men: Legacy’s crossover event: “Necrosha.” The psychic vampire gathered a loyal following and thanks to the Transmode Virus, Selene was able to resurrect millions of mutants who were killed over the years in hopes that she could ascend to godhood. The hordes of undead mutants were way too much for the team to handle.
While there were some minor victories such as the New Mutants successfully reviving Cypher and Rogue sharing a tender reunion with foster mother Destiny, there were numerous casualties from the Black Queen’s unholy resurrection act. One of those losses was Wolverine and X-Force. Despite the team successfully preventing Selene’s ascension, the blacks ops group disbanded.
1 THE SECOND COMING
“X-Men: Second Coming” marked Cable and Hope's return to the present day. While Cyclops and the X-Men were ready to welcome back the duo, Bastion and his allies planned to destroy mutantkind’s last hope in an all-out assault against Marvel’s merry mutants. By throwing every anti-mutant force at them, “Second Coming” was Bastion’s final act of terror on mutantkind.
In addition to powerful X-Men such as Hellion and Karma losing limbs to the anti-mutant forces, several veteran X-Men began to turn on Cyclops. Beast, Nightcrawler (who lost his life protecting Hope), Professor X, Rogue, and Storm took issue with the secrets Cyclops withheld from them. While the X-Men were able to defeat Bastion once and for all, the trust amongst the X-Men’s top team began to fray.
Do you know any brutal X-Men fights that we missed? Make sure to leave a comment!