[Retrospection] The X-men Versus the Avengers
This summer, the crossover event of the year will be Avengers vs X-men. It’s an event that’s been building itself since 2005 and we are finally seeing the fallout. This will be the 3rd actual event that pitted these two teams versus each other. Over history, there have been many bouts between X-man and Avenger, but these are the only ones that have donned the title Avengers Versus X-men. In fact, it is a surprisingly rare event that seems to happen every 25 years like clockwork.
Today, I thought I would go through these classic bouts and use them to tie in to the modern day X-men and Avengers teams.
|Avengers Issue 53 (1963)|
[The Set Up]
If you can’t tell by the cover above, this is the original X-men. That however is not the original Avengers. This premise alone sets the stage for one of those classic hero moments where stopping to talk would solve everything.
This event is all set up when Magneto escapes imprisonment. Looking to return his Brotherhood of Mutants to it’s former glory he forces his children, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to rejoin their ranks after they had both defected to the Avengers. Following this, Captain America leaves the team to focus on his personal life while Hercules leaves for home. This has fractured the team and left them only with Hawkeye, the Wasp and Goliath (Ant Man with a costume change). Needing new blood, they are fortunate to get Black Panther to join them a little later.
Meanwhile, the X-men have been in to a bit of trouble on Magneto’s Island Fortress and Cyclops can only task Angel to reach the Avengers for help. Angel gets caught up in a bit of trouble on the way there which forces Cyclops to get his team out of the mess they are in. Just as Cyclops attempts to take Magneto’s henchmen the Toad down, the former Avenger and Quicksilver appears to stop him.
Cyclops quickly dispatches of Quicksilver, only to find himself then surrounded by these new Avengers.
Of course none of these Avengers are familiar to Cyclops as he’s been too busy to pick up some of the latest issues, so he logically assumes they are allied with Magneto. Unfortunately for him, Magneto had bugged Angel before his escape. The Avengers had obviously assumed the mutant flyer was with Magneto and followed the signal back to his Island, leaving poor Angel tied up back home.
The Avengers are looking for Magneto and don’t want to fight. Cyclops confused and now surrounded by what he assumed were enemies has to take the first move. He blasts Hawkeye’s bow, blasts Black Panther, and well, blasts Goliath. With the Avengers confused, he makes his way to his imprisoned friends and releases them to help him deal with these new threats.
Magneto having monitors throughout his lair is delighted by this turn of events. Using a hypnotizing device on the newly freed X-men, he commands them to destroy their adversaries. With a cry to clarify their intent, Cyclops shouts “kill them! Kill the Avengers!”
The X-men initially prove too much for the Avengers until Black Panther figures out the reason for their timidity. They all think of the X-men as heroes. This is clouding the minds of his comrades and he finally commands them to fight with a renewed vigor. An Avenger shall never fall to evil, and that is exactly what the X-men are.
To even Magneto’s shock, the Avengers win.
In another shocking twist, as the Avengers begin to make their way to Magneto he then turns to find that Angel has infiltrated his command room. Yes, poor locked up Angel’s rope was never tied tight. The rope was loosened as the Avengers had figured out that he was unaware of his bug. The reason we as the reader had no idea is the wasp shrunk to whisper their plans in to his ear.
Magneto then flees and loads Toad and his children in to a ship. Just as they leave, the constantly abused Toad abandons his sadistic master on his exploding island.
This event truly was never felt in the long run of Marvel continuity. Magneto obviously didn’t die at the hands of Toad. All the heroes went back to doing their heroics with the exception of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Now these two having suffered at the hands of their father simply left the Avengers only to have an on again off again relationship with heroics.
What’s interesting to come from this event is that it really established this worn down Avengers group as a true heavy hitter. Seeing them dispatch a group of heroes like the X-men without power players like Thor, Iron Man and Captain America showcased what kind of leadership Black Panther was able to bring to the team.
|The X-men vs the Avengers (1987)|
The X-men and Avengers alike had changed a great deal in the 24 years since their last great battle. The rosters had greatly changed by then resulting in a battle with not a single person involved in the last fight. Save for one.
Magneto is once again at the heart of this battle between the super teams. Only this time he’s an X-man.
See back in the 80s, at the request of Charles Xavier, founder of the X-men, Magneto was put in charge of the team. This decision led the entire original team from earlier to leave Xavier’s school and form the group X-Factor. Those that stayed aren’t quite sold on Magneto either, but are more than willing to protect him against an unjust courtroom. After the events of Secret War, where the Beyonder had actually placed Magneto on the heroes side of his insane chess match, Magneto had seemingly started to shed his evil persona. Xavier’s trust in Magneto softened his public image and he in turn went on trial for a few of his many crimes. Due to a crazy attack, his outcome was never actually finalized and the X-men then decided to go relax after the chaos.
The Avengers meanwhile have had an even crazier time. Goliath (Hank Pym) from the previous battle goes insane, hits his wife and nearly kills all of his teammates. The team which had also grown quite large, then splits in two as the West Coast Avengers are formed under Hawkeye. He takes Scarlet Witch, Iron Man and a whole slew of others with him. The heart of the team is still left with the main branch in Thor and Captain America, however leading the team is the cosmically powered Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau).
When a giant chunk of Asteroid M comes crashing down on a K-mart in Ohio, the Avengers are alerted to a much larger piece of the base coming down in Asia. US officials then inform the Russians of the debris and they enlist the Crimson Dynamo to go to the Soviet Super-Soldiers for help. Rationalizing that Magneto may get in the way, the Avengers are tasked to bring Magneto back in front of the World Court.
The Russian government has more than enough reason to hate Magneto. In one of his greater acts of villainy, he sunk one of their subs drowning all on board. The Soviet Super-Soldiers are hesitant to trust the KGB and Crimson Dynamo especially, but he has informed them that they are only to take Magneto alive to stand trial in front of a Russian court. However, the US government is conspiring with the Russians for an assassination attempt on Magneto.
Upon finding out that his former base has come crashing down around the world, Magneto decides to take a look and find the large meteor. As Magneto sneaks away from the X-men to search for the remains of his Asteroid, Captain Marvel stands in front of him to stop him.
Once again, the Avengers want this all to end peacefully. Magneto, not wanting to waste time on these annoyances, quickly attacks what was a hologram Captain Marvel set of herself. In one fell swoop the Avengers proceed to capture him with no problem.
Fortunately the X-men finally show up and save their former dictator ally. Then, the Russians show up to claim Magneto as their own while the two teams talk it out.
So here we are at an impasse with two different organizations wanting to bring Magneto in to their form of justice, and the X-men stuck in the middle defending a mutant that would never receive a fair trial. When She-Hulk moves to assert their authority, the Russians see this as a threat and attack. So instead of opening with the epic fight between the X-men and the Avengers, we get the Avengers vs the Soviets as the X-men haul it out of there with Magneto in tow.
Expertly, the Avengers deal with the Soviets and they rush off to stop Magneto once again.
Once the X-men make it back to their ship, Magneto reveals that this Asteroid has many dangerous objects inside that must be destroyed. He then takes off leaving the X-men to chase him down. Inside the rock, he finds many things inside the ship, including his old outfit and decides it is best to destroy everything except for one little souvenir. His helmet. Before the team catches up to him the Avengers strike him down and the true battle begins.
Unfortunately, the battle is once again cut when the Asteroid ignites in a massive explosion that bowls over many of the heroes. Seeing this opportunity to escape, the team moves to their now damaged blackbird and head south as far as it will carry them. In the chaos, Doctor Druid managed to sneak on board before getting caught by Rogue and Magneto. Upon waking up, Druid finds himself in Singapore and alerts the Avengers.
The X-men then charter a Dutch freighter in hopes of escaping their pursuers.
It is here that we learn what the helmet’s secret purpose is for Magneto. He plans to use the chip inside to remove the prejudice against mutants off the planet by altering people’s minds on a grand scale. With the Avengers and the Soviets coming in to attack the ship, the X-men are forced to make plans hopefully to distract their followers and have Magneto escape.
It works well for the team, until the Crimson Dynamo goes nuts and starts blowing chunks out of the ship, sinking it in the process. All three teams sickened by his actions lay down their arms and strive to help out all the passengers on board. Shamed by their ally, the Soviets quit the hunt to bring the Crimson Dynamo to the proper authorities for his crime.
Meanwhile, Magneto is left to wander Singapore alone until he stumbles across the local group of mutants wishing for him to renew his leadership in the fight against humanity. These are men, women and children trying their best to survive in a world that hates them. It’s unfortunate when the Singapore Army kicks the door down and starts raining bullets through them. This final act of violence confirms what must be done as Magneto gathers the people and flees.
Once the X-men track down Magneto for the final time, the Avengers track them and pin them down. The final battle is upon them. Well, that is to say if Magneto hadn’t mind zapped all of them and froze them in place. Finally having tuned his helmet to appropriately deal with his assailants he makes his decision. He decides his first victim would be Captain America.
First he isolates the good Captain away from his team. Then in front of his new friends he decides to test his helmet. As Magneto attempts to twist the good Captain’s mind, he learns the shocking truth. Captain America has never held prejudice against mutants. Magneto would learn that day that man is not born with inherent prejudice against mutants. Prejudice is created by the person themselves. Upon realizing this, he surrenders and hopes for the best outcome.
Magneto however needed to use the helmet one final time in the book. In an attempt to stem off war between enraged mutants and humans, he forced the radical anti-mutant judge looking to start a race war to give him a trial without prejudice.
Surprisingly, his trial was dismissed. More surprising was the fact that none of the other judges of the court were shocked by this monster’s announcement.
Magneto was never acquitted of his crimes against humanity. It was decided that his crimes simply could not be punished in front of the world court.
He was released and humanity raged. A sentiment that would fuel the hatred for mutants even further and once more cement him as the focal point for anti-mutant sentiment and aggression for years to come. A decision that the rogue judge had planned all along.
There has been a huge arms race building between the X-men and the Avengers in the wake of Grant Morrison’s time on the X-Men. In one short run on New X-men, Grant had humanity destroy the mutant populace of Genosha, killed Jean Grey once again, and renewed Magneto’s attack on humanity resulting in the massive destruction of New York. Now this wasn’t actually Magneto (though the assailant bore his face), but humanity would still consider it to be him.
After the Scarlet Witch goes insane, killing many of her team and forcing the group to disband, many of the X-men offer up the option to kill her. Quicksilver finds out and has his sister bend all of reality to create a mutant utopia in House of M. When she is defeated by a collective of Marvel’s heroes, she breaks her reality with one final sentence. “No More Mutants.” From that moment on the once prosperous mutant population would shrink down to less than 200 powered individuals amongst their collected ranks.
From this, the Avengers would grow to meet the demand the world placed on them. After a Civil War between all the heroes, a new initiative grew to bring Avengers to every state around the country. This would be dwindled down by a multitude of changes, but eventually we are left with three greatly powered super teams in the form of the Secret Avengers, New Avengers and Avengers proper.
Meanwhile the X-men have struggled for years to gain back their strength. Their mansion was destroyed and their numbers are pitiful. So feared are they that they must form a new home for Mutants. This sanctuary will be known as Utopia, an island fortress off the coast of San Francisco. Despite some resurrections in the wake of Necrosha, the biggest event for the X-men was the birth of Hope. Hope is the first mutant born in the wake of House of M. From her birth, a handful of new mutants would appear. Her secondary ability of boosting a new mutants latent ability has given hope to the entire race. Many have branded her as the Messiah, while others believe she will bring about the downfall of the entire race.
Cyclops and his team meanwhile have paired with Magneto in defending mutantkind while Wolverine has recreated the school to further the ideas of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey. Magneto joined the X-Men because he sees in Cyclops the leader their species needs to survive. Wolverine left his former team in the hopes that he could change the school so that no more children will have to fight. This Schism has torn the X-Men in two.
Hope is the lynchpin of the entire fight. Her survival was so important that Cyclops had to send her to the future to be raised by his son Cable. Upon her return she would join Cyclops and his team on Utopia while leading the new mutants. Her ability to mimic the powers of mutants around her is what the world is looking for and is what Cyclops will try to manipulate in the wake of the news that the Phoenix Force is coming to Earth.
This girl that looks eerily like Jean Grey, will be used as the tipping point for mutants. Cyclops is looking to use her, the Avengers are looking to stop this threat at all costs as it comes crashing down on Utopia and Wolverine and his school are being dragged in to all of this by his Avengers associates. We know that Magneto and Scarlet Witch will be included as an X-men and Avengers cross up isn’t much without them. What their role will be however is unknown.
So far through the covers revealed, we have seen a great many images of X-man vs Avenger. These are really interesting battles too with Ms. Marvel vs Rogue, Thor vs Storm and Captain America vs Wolverine among others. Many of these were battles that were never shown in their previous encounter. Some of these battles are long over due.
We’ve seen two crossover vs events between these two teams and for the most part they have been non-events in the Marvel timeline. Fun events, sure. They however have never been able to live up to the hype. With about a half decade worth of stories tying in to Avengers vs X-men, the possible payout is here.
We have a Marvel Universe that is tilted to favor the Avengers, however the X-men have the trump card.
We’ve seen the battles grow larger and larger throughout history. What once was a simple crossover has tripled in size with each iteration. In April, this battle will finally come to fruition. Avengers vs X-men is the collection of a decades worth of comic book story lines tying in to one event that has had 50 years of hype.