Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men, we’re doing a poll of the greatest X-Men stories of all-time! You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest X-Men Stories!
Here is a master list of every story featured so far. Here are #3-1!
3. “The Age of Apocalypse” X-Men: Alpha #1, Amazing X-Men #1-4, Astonishing X-Men #1-4, X-Men: Omega #1 plus a bunch of tie-ins
In this alternate universe storyline, Charles Xavier’s crazed yet powerful son, Legion, went back in time to kill Magneto, figuring that he’d put a stop to the Magneto/Professor X feud before it ever started. A group of X-Men went back in time to stop him, including the X-Men’s resident time-traveler, Bishop. They fail to stop Legion but young Charles Xavier DOES stop Legion, but only by sacrificing himself to save Magneto. This, as you might imagine, throws the whole timeline out of whack. First of all, no Xavier. Second of all, Magneto now has to vow to take up Xavier’s dream for himself. Third, and perhaps most importantly, this big mutant battle years before mutants were supposed to be up and around at this level woke up Apocalypse earlier than the world was ready for. So Apocalypse proceeds to pretty much take over the world, as no superheroes were yet around to stop him. Magneto, for his part, puts together a ragtag group of mutants known as the X-Men (I think Xavier can cut the BS about the team being named after their X-tra powers when it turns out it is named after him even with him dead) to fight against Apocalypse. Sott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert, Joe Madureira, Steve Epting, Roger Cruz and a pile of other artists and writers show the adventures of the X-Men as well as every other X-related character, with the titles of each book being changed for four months (X-Factor became Factor-X, X-Men became Amazing X-Men, Excalibur became X-Calibre, X-Force naturally became…Gambit and the X-Ternals?! Okay, not all changes made sense). Bishop, being out of time already, retained his memory of the changes and he eventually helped the X-Men to get him back in time to put right what once went wrong. This was a tremendously fun and very well-coordinated crossover and the idea of actually stopping all of the books for four months (and then return them to normal) was a shocking move at the time, especially because most of the books ended on some dramatic cliffhanger before the timeline shifted (Wolverine had just popped a third claw into Sabretooth’s brain, Rogue had just kissed that slimy Gambit, etc.)
2. “Days of Future Past” X-Men #141/Uncanny X-Men #142
Days of Future Past was a major X-Men storyline, as it introduced many key figures and plotlines that would reoccur many times over the next 30 years (and counting).
The main concept of the book is that a group of X-Men in the future, a dark future where most mutants have been hunted down and killed by government-mandated genocide (using giant robots called Sentinels), decide to try to change their present by sending one of them back in time to stop the problem before it began.
The way they do this is by sending the mind of Katherine Pryde into the mind of herself as a teenager, Kitty Pryde of the X-Men.
You see, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are destined to kill Senator Robert Kelly, an anti-mutant Senator who wants to run for President. If they succeed, this will lead tot he backlash that made their timeline occur. So the idea is to avoid that by saving Kelly’s life.
The rest of the comic mixes in the present-time X-Men trying to stop the Brotherhood along with the future X-Men facing off against the Sentinels.
The story introduced the dark future timeline, which became a major trope for the X-Books (alternate timelines), plus introduced major characters like Rachel, the telepath who sends Katherine’s mind to the past, and a few new evil mutants who kept popping up over and over again over the years (Avalanche, Destiny and Pyro).
This was also notable in that it was the last storyline that the classic X-Men team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin did on the book (Byrne left the book after one more issue, a classic Christmas tale that appeared earlier on the countdown).
1. “Dark Phoenix Saga” X-Men #129-137
The last few issues of the Dark Phoenix Saga (which was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and drawn by Byrne and Terry Austin), where Phoenix actually BECOMES Dark Phoenix, almost overshadow the importance of the issues that lead up to Phoenix turning evil.
To wit, those issues (which actually were a bit of a cause for celebration for the X-Men, as they were finally reunited after being split up for a year or so – real time – as Jean Grey and Professor X thought that the rest of the team had died after a battle with Magneto) introduced the following characters:
The Hellfire Club, in general
Think about that – Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost are two of the more memorable additions to the X-Men since Giant Size X-Men #1, and they BOTH debuted in this storyline!
Not to mention the fact that the lead-up contains the fight against the Hellfire Club where Wolverine is thought dead, only to turn up at the end of #132 vowing revenge, in a panel that you readers voted the #4 Most Iconic Panel in Marvel Comics History a few years back!
And then we get to the actual revelation of the Dark Phoenix (which also landed in the Top 20 Most Iconic Panels at #18).
John Byrne really does a marvelous job on the battle sequences involving Dark Phoenix as the X-Men do their best to take down their friend. They try their best in #135, but she quickly defeats them and flies off into outer space. Her traveling makes her yearn for sustenance, which she gets by entering and imploding a star, soaking in the energy of its destruction. She does not care that the destruction of the star also destroys the planet it orbits. A starship of the Shi’Ar Empire notices, though, and challenges Dark Phoenix.
She destroys the ship easily, but not before it gets off a message to the Shi’Ar Royal Throneworld, where the Empress of the Shi’Ar Empire, Lilandra (Professor X’s current lover) springs into action.
Meanwhile, in #136, Dark Phoenix returns to Earth where her teammates and her love, Cyclops, await her with a device meant to shut down telepaths. She destroys it and once again takes care of her teammates with ease, but Cyclops manages to calm her down by appealing to her still human side. At this point, Professor X attacks, and he and Phoenix have a telepathic battle, where ultimately, due to the aid of whatever vestiges of Jean Grey remain in Dark Phoenix, he manages to shut Dark Phoenix’s powers down.
The X-Men do not have a moment to rest, though, as they’re instantly teleported to a Shi’Ar battleship orbiting Earth, where the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard and Empress Lilandra demand Jean Grey be delivered over to them for punishment for her actions as Dark Phoenix. Professor X utters a Shi’Ar ritual challenge, which Lilandra is duty-bound to accept. Therefore, in #137, the X-Men will fight the mighty Shi’Ar Imperial Guard for the fate of Jean Grey.
The next day, the teams meet on the Moon for their battle. The X-Men are heavily outnumbered and outclassed by the Guard, who are made up of the most powerful heroes of the Shi’Ar Empire. Although the X-Men fight valiantly, they are slowly picked off, one by one, until only Cyclops and Jean remain free. When Cyclops is taken out as well, Jean begins to panic and the limits Professor X placed on her begin to crumble – Dark Phoenix frees herself and wants revenge. The X-Men stand ready to battle Dark Phoenix, but Jean manages to take control long enough to intentionally trip a defense mechanism laser, killing herself so that Dark Phoenix can hurt no one else ever again. It’s a terrible poignant moment, expressed beautifully by Claremont and Byrne.
That moment, by the way, was #17 on the panels countdown.
People sure do love the Dark Phoenix Saga.
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