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CSBG Archive

Month of Avengers/X-Men Top Fives – Top Five X-Men Battles

All month-long we’ll be featuring top five lists about either the Avengers or the X-Men. Here is an archive of all the past top five lists!

This installment is the top five X-Men battles!

Enjoy!

HONORABLE MENTION

X-Men vs. Proteus (X-Men #126-128)

The X-Men had their hands full with the reality-altering, life-sucking mutant known as Proteus. He almost killed them twice! He rattled Wolverine so much in their first encounter that Cyclops actually had to provoke a fight between himself and Wolverine just to get Wolverine’s head back in the game. In the end, the battle came down to Colossus and his ability to hurt Proteus (due to his weakness to metal) and his willingness to kill if necessary.

5. X-Men vs. Magneto (in his Volcano Base) (X-Men #113 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin)

The All-New, All-Different X-Men first faced off against Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #104, where he trashed them badly in a manner of seconds before a distraction saved them.

Now, a year later, he showed up again in Uncanny X-Men #112 to finish what he started. He takes the team apart very easily, challenged only by Phoenix, who he is surprised to find such a formidable opponent. Sadly for her, her powers cut out at a bad time, and she is taken in. Wolverine is the last X-Man standing, but that does not last long.

At the end of #112, Magneto has the X-Men captive and he plans to have them held in captivity for the rest of their lives with a robotic Nanny taking care of them (similar, I suppose, to what happened to him when he was reduced to infancy).

Claremont and Byrne continue the story in the next issue where Storm’s pickpocketing experience helps her out as she picks the lock on her chair. When Magneto comes back to the base (which is underneath a volcano in the Antarctic, natch), he discovers that the X-Men are free.

While the first time around, the X-Men tried fighting him one on one (and got beaten easily), this time, Cyclops is coordinating their attacks telepathically through Phoenix, and their hit and run style of attacks are disorientating Magneto enough so that he is having a hard time using his powers.

However, during the battle, the base is damaged, and the lava from the volcano begins to seep in. The X-Men all dash for the exits, with Beast and Jean being the only ones who make it out to the surface alive – or so they think.

4. X-Men vs. Dark Phoenix (X-Men #135-136 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin)

After their battle with the Hellfire Club in Uncanny X-Men #134, Phoenix has officially flipped her lid and become Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men battle against her in Uncanny X-Men #135, but she casts them aside like they’re children compared to her might. After the fight, the ex-X-Man, Beast (now an Avenger) comes to help the team out in Central Park where Dark Phoenix left them.

The X-Men regroup and decide to try to get her into a MacGuffin device, but she ruins that plan easily and once again kicks all their collective behinds. Cyclops is left standing and he tries to appeal to the human essence within Dark Phoenix. He begins to break through, but Professor X never turns down an opportunity to attack someone, so he begins a telepathic assault on Dark Phoenix which is a major battle of the minds.

Ultimately, with the help of the Jean Grey persona within Dark Phoenix, Xavier is able to shut down Jean’s telepathic powers and silence Dark Phoenix…for now!

3. X-Men vs. Marauders (Uncanny X-Men #211-213 by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr., Bret Blevins, Rick Leonardi, Alan Davis plus their respective inkers)

The Mutant Massacre featured the Marauders, a team of vicious killers employed by the newly introduced X-Men villain Mr. Sinister, going into the New York sewers, where a community of mutants known as the Morlocks lived (the Morlocks were mutants who tended to be disfigured or were otherwise unable to fit in living with “normal” humans). At this point, the Marauders proceeded to murder as many Morlocks as they could. The X-Men entered the tunnels to save the Morlocks, and engaged in a dramatic and deadly battle that lasted from Uncanny X-Men #211 to #213 (all three issues were written by Chris Claremont, with John Romita Jr. and Bret Blevins drawing the first issue, Rick Leonardi the second and Alan Davis the third).

The X-Men suffered critical injuries soon after entering the battle, when the teleporting X-Man Nightcrawler, who was recovering from a recent injury and had only recently regained the ability to teleport, used his powers to disable one of the Marauders. However, he was unable to use his powers once he was finished, leaving himself vulnerable to the Marauder Riptide, a mutant whose power involves sending barrages of razor sharp blades flying people at high speeds. Nightcrawler was severely injured by Riptide.

This led to one of the most dramatic moments of the war when the X-Man Colossus determined that the only way to stop Riptide was to use deadly force. As Riptide continued to pummel the X-Man’s metal body with blades, Colossus forged forward until he was able to snap Riptide’s neck.

At this point, Colossus collapsed due to the wounds he incurred during his fight. As it turned out, he was so injured that while he could survive in his metal form, he could not transform back to his human form. Meanwhile, the X-Men suffered another casualty when Kitty Pryde was injured and trapped in her intangible form.

While the X-Men return to their home to recover with the Morlocks they manage to save, the deadliest of the Marauders, the evil Sabretooth, makes his way to the X-Men’s home. During the course of his journey, Sabretooth tangled both with Wolverine and ultimately with the telepathic Psylocke, who was staying with the X-Men at the time.

In the end, the X-Men managed to save many Morlocks (X-Factor also saved some, in a separate excursion into the Morlock tunnels), but the team was forever changed, with longstanding members Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler leaving the team and new members like Psylocke joining the group. The most important change for the team was that they no longer had any illusions of safety at their home, and soon left the X-Mansion entirely.

2. X-Men vs. Hellfire Club (X-Men #129-134 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin)

The X-Men were at a relatively stable point in their lives at the beginning of the Dark Phoenix Saga (the book’s creative team during this time was Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin). The team had finally reunited with Professor X and Phoenix, who had believed that the rest of the team had died months earlier in a battle with Magneto. With the team together again, Professox X felt it was a good time to go about adding new mutants to the school, and sent the team after a young teenage mutant in Chicago known as Kitty Pryde.

Unbeknownst to the X-Men, Phoenix had been manipulated by the evil mutant, Mastermind, during the time that the rest of the group had been missing. Mastermind felt that his control over Phoenix would allow him access to the Hellfire Club, a society club that secretly consisted mostly of evil mutants, particularly the “Kings” and “Queens” of the Club.

The X-Men encountered the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, Emma Frost, when they tried to recruit Kitty Pryde in Uncanny X-Men #129. Frost was also attempting to recruit Kitty for her group’s purposes. Instead, Hellfire Club agents end up capturing the X-Men sent to Chicago – Storm, Wolverine and Colossus. Kitty Pryde, meanwhile, stows away with the bad guys to see if she can help her new friends. In the next issue, the other X-Men who had been in New York meeting another new mutant, the singing Dazzler, are notified by Kitty of the situation. They travel to Chicago to rescue their friends in “Uncanny X-Men” #131, where Phoenix and Emma Frost have a powerful telepathic battle. The X-Men rescue their friends, but Frost escapes.

In the next issue, the X-Men decide to take the fight to the Hellfire Club, especially when they learn that Warren Worthington, the former X-Men known as the Angel, actually has a membership in the Club!

Cyclops, Storm, Phoenix and Colossus attend a Hellfire Club function (while Nightcrawler and Wolverine sneak into the Club through the sewers). However, once there, Mastermind completes his work on Phoenix, transforming her into the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, and she turns on her teammates. After a pitched battle, the X-Men are all captured, save for Wolverine who is seemingly killed. However, in perhaps the most famous Wolverine scene ever, we learn at the end of the issue that Wolverine is not actually dead. He has survived, and now he wants revenge.

The next issue sees Wolverine make his way to the prison where his teammates are being held, and he severely injures the Hellfire Club guards blocking his way in what was a pretty shocking fashion for the time the story was published. Meanwhile, Cyclops attempts to free Phoenix, but Mastermind begins a fight with Cyclops on the mental plane, and defeats the X-Man – almost killing him. This action causes the brainwashed Phoenix to begin to fight her programming.

In the final issue of the arc, Wolverine finally appears to save his friends, and Phoenix has turned back to the side of the heroes. She helps Cyclops escape, and the X-Men have their rematch with the Hellfire Club, which the X-Men win. However, Mastermind has pushed Phoenix too far – she snaps and becomes the Dark Phoenix.

1. X-Men vs. Imperial Guard (X-Men #137 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin)

As mentioned in the fight between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club (which was handled by the same creative team as this battle – Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin), the end result was that Phoenix had her mind messed with so much that she eventually snapped and basically became a separate entity, calling itself Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men battle her in Uncanny X-Men #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 “Uncanny X-Men” #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 “Uncanny X-Men” #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.

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

37 Comments

Great list.
Can anyone think of a better 9 issue run of comics than X-Men 129-137?

That being said I think the fight against Proteus needs to be included.

Yup. Claremont and Byrne knew how to put together a battle scene.

That being said I think the fight against Proteus needs to be included.

I should mention it as a honorable mention (and I’ll be sure to edit it in as such right now), but I don’t think it should bump any of the top five.

Outstanding list. These stories are what made the X-Men Marvel’s breakthrough series.

Proteus seriously freaked me out. The way he killed that little girl just by possessing her. Scary stuff.

Magneto became something more than your average power mad villain in the volcano base two-parter.

Mutant Massacre was the end of “my” X-Men as Kurt and Kitty left, even as Alex finally joined. I was never happy with Betsy Braddock, though. Even more so ,after she was Lee-ized.

The three Phoenix stories are all iconic. The Hellfire Club battle gave the world its first view of what Wolverine was truly all about. This is when he becomes the true breakthrough character of the series.

Professor X’s defeat of Jean was serious stuff, foreboding the final encounter with Phoenix even as Scott raced to save the human side of the woman he loved. Tear-jerking, intense, captivating, tragic, easily the best of the best and worthy of the number one spot.

Great list! Magneto-in-volcano is a personal favourite, as well as Proteus.

The Hellfire Club stuff was great (esp. issues 133 and then the big rematch in 134).

And of course, #137 was classic, made more special by the fact that the X-Men’s greatest battle was one they lost.

The one I’m not totally sold on is Mutant Massacre, which started out strong with the craziness of #211 but then in following issues trailed off into one-on-one skirmishes with Sabretooth, which felt less epic without the entire teams involved (at least, the ones that weren’t taken out in #211).

Going to miss these anniversary posts, it’s been great fun!

While I completely agree with the list Brian, I’d be interested to see what your top 5 X-Men battles not scripted by Claremont would look like. If only there were 31 days in September!

hah, is anyone surprised that all places are occupied by Claremont’s era X-Men?

the mutant massacre was so rad. they were hard to find back issues when i started reading (hard to find cheap anyway) and finally getting my hands on them was just so awesome.

tough to argue against so much Claremont/Byrne goodness, but i really did enjoy some of the later battles. the freedom force battles and the follow up Maurader battles by Silvestri were great. Jim Lee’s X-Men vs the War-Skrulls was pretty rad too.

I do think this list warranted more than one honorable mention, even if the top 5 is pretty impenetrable. For example, the original Brood Saga (and specifically UXM 166) definitely deserves honorable mention status.

And for non-Claremont stories, the X-Men vs. Fitzroy & his Sentinels in UXM 281-283 immediately comes to mind.

And I think Jason Aaron’s very recent Hellfire Saga could reach “classic” status.

Great picks. I agree with all of them. Two underrated ones that I personally love, but that I know aren’t worthy of the top 5 or even an honorable mention, are the two Nimrod battles drawn by JR Jr. One where Rogue absorbs her teammates powers to beat Nimrod and the other where the Hellfire Club and X-Men have to work together to fight him.

To Third Man: the Fitzroy battle was recently mentioned here, and it seems to be largely reviled based on the feedback. Cronin himself didn’t seem to be much a fan of it either.

Honorable mentions.

X-Men vs Marauders Round 2, 221-222 FTW!!!

Muir Island X-Men vs the Reavers 254-255

Anyone notice anything about that list? Not one story in the last 25 years made that list.. Very telling.

The one thing I have to correct is Colossus’ killing of Riptide. The order of events: Harpoon injured Kitty, Colossus tried to go after Harpoon, Riptide got in the way, Colossus killed Riptide in order to get to Harpoon. (Hence his classic line of telling Harpoon to pray to his gods.)

@T. The Nimrod stories are high on my list too.
@Daddy X. Reavers vs new new Xmen was great too
Funny that even honourable mentions are mostly Claremont too.

Secret Wars #3 when Spider-man beats down the X-Men!

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

October 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I can’t say I disagree with any of these, but I don’t know how I feel about 3 of the top 5 being from one overarching story (despite it being the best X-Men story ever told).

In any event, some others I’d throw in if it were a top 10:

-X-Men Omega (the Age of Apocalypse ender): a butt-ton of X-Men storm Apocalypse’s stronghold while Cyclops and Jean try to evacuate a bunch of civilians before the human resistance nukes New York. Magneto’s one-on-one with Apocalypse is especially awesome.

-X-Men #207 (The last chapter of Messiah Complex): The X-Men and New X-Men fight off Exodus, the Marauders and Predator X while trying to keep baby Hope and her caretaker Cable from being killed by rogue X-Man Bishop.

-X-Men Onslaught: Say what you will about the event as a whole, but that opening one-shot that had the X-Men fighting their hearts out against a newly revealed/transformed Xavier was terrific. Lots of great moments, especially Bishop saving the team from a massive energy outburst.

-X-Men Legacy #231-233: Proteus returns even stronger than ever, and it’s up to a X-Men squad of Rogue, Nightcrawler, Magneto, Psylocke and Blindfold (there may be more that I don’t remember) to take him down. Really terrific way to use a generally lackluster event (Necrosha) to make a compelling story.

-Avengers vs. X-Men #2-5: The title says it all here. X-Men vs. Avengers with nothing less than the fate of the mutant race on the line. Despite it being too draggy a first act, there was still some great action in those first few issues.

@Sam Robards, I totally agree with you on Legacy. I loved Carey’s run in general, but the Proteus arc is my favorite. It’s such a great self-contained story even though it was part of Necrosha. Husk was in that story too.

I like the list, but I would include issue 107, the fight with the shi’ar Imperial Guards. Wolverine being knocked into orbit was classic.

No love for the Neo? Or the Church of Humanity? Oh thank God. Great list, Brian.

My take on honorable mentions: (I know it’s a movie, but) X-Men First Class’ culminating battle was a blast and had some high stakes riding on it! I loved how every character was used, powers complimented/conflicted with each other very well. It wasn’t “Dude’s here for the sake of being here” BS.

I liked Joss’ first arc of Astonishing. The entirety of the Ord skirmishes–as well as all of his minions, the riot at the hospital, it all welded together very smartly.

Fraction’s final battle of the Dark Avengers vs the X-Men was a blast. I think the best of his run. Archangel vs Bullseye. Wolverine vs Capt Omega or whatever he was called–giving Logan the chance to remind that !*#@ that killing Alpha Flight was a dick move. I always thought Bendis’ execution of that in New Avengers was poor–Cap and Iron Man couldn’t have cared less and are trying to recruit the guy while Logan’s trying to remind him “YOU. KILLED. HEROES!” And finally, Cyclops just letting Osborn beat the hell out of him in front of news cameras so he could turn around in front of the world and punk him!! Fraction nailed it!!

I love that all but one of these stories were drawn by John Byrne and Terry Austin. The Claremont/Byrne/Austin era was the best run of the X-Men for me. (Add in the early Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum/Sam Grainger era. [Grainger was Cockrum's primary inker in those days, wasn't he? Much better than Joe Rubinstein, imho.])

I love John Byrne but why is it every time a list like this comes out I end up thinking “Enough Byrne worship. The Cockrum and Paul Smith runs were just as good overall”?

I honestly don’t think that three separate battles from the Dark Phoenix Saga warrant inclusion on this list. #137 definitely DOES. And the battle against the Hellfire Club was GOOD, but second best ever? No way. The battle against Proteus was better than that. And I’m not sure that the first battle against Dark Phoenix was really all that good as a battle. Good comics? Absolutely. Good battle? Eh.

It’s a shame that the battle(s) with Cassandra Nova from Morrison’s New X-Men weren’t included.

I liked the first battle against Juggernaut in X-men 12-13. They spend the first issue setting up how unstoppable he is and having him mostly off panel blasting through all their defenses, and Xavier’s back story just making the threat seem more menacing. Then they almost lose but for a clutch play. One of the best stories of the silver age IMHO.

“but Professor X never turns down an opportunity to attack someone,”

I love snarky comments about Professor X almost as much as I love snarky comments about Kitty using the N-word.

Great list. I remember the first time I read Dark Phoenix Saga, I honestly didn’t know how it was going to end, so it was a real surprise to see the X-Men being thrashed so easily. As the fight went on it gradually dawned on me that the X-Men weren’t going to win, as much as I wanted them to. Because the ending wasn’t spoiled, it just made it that much more meaningful to me.

Another great battle which I think deserves mentioning would be Uncanny X-Men #175: Cyclops vs. the X-Men. Whenever I think of how awesome Cyke is, I think of that sequence.

Great list.
Can anyone think of a better 9 issue run of comics than X-Men 129-137?

Sure! X-Men 107-115! Imperial Guard, Guardian, Mesmero and Magneto! But hey, X-men 94-150 are the best comics made in the history of the medium! We could all hope to read a new series half as good!

An Honorable mention should be made to the Brood issues. X-Men are all infeted so Wolverine needs to Kill them… The introduction to Binary and Paul smith art… Great stuff.

I think it is very, VERY telling that all of these entries were written by Chris Claremont and, except for “X-Men vs. Marauders,” co-plotted & penciled by John Byrne. I know that in the years since, there has been more than a bit of focus on how reportedly Claremont and Byrne increasingly ceased to work together amicably as their time on the series stretched on. But whatever the dynamics of their partnership, whether it involved the close collaboration of two like-minded individuals, or the result of the each of them wanting to go in opposing directions and having to come to some sort of compromise that encompassed aspects of both their visions, it resulted in some truly amazing comic books.

@DaddyX

Yeah, I was also hoping to see Muir Island X-Men vs the Reavers 254-255 on this list

3 out of 5 are from the Dark Phoenix Saga, and the Honorable mention directly proceeds the DPS.

Exactly!

UXM 126-137 (and probably a little before and after those issues… Days of Future Past is just several issues later) is my favorite run of any comic series.

Nothing is perfect, but it’s so hard for me to not call that run comic perfection.

I’m going to sound like a bitter old man at this point (though I’m neither bitter or old), but I just haven’t been able to get into the X-Men as much over the past 10-15 years because the teams are always split up. There isn’t really one title where one could find a strong core of X-Men characters. It seems like they’re all split up into several different comics and the various team rosters are filled out by characters that I don’t really care about. The nice thing about the X-Men from #94-200 (or even into the 200s) was that there was a core team.

While I’m on the subject, have there been any great battles from the Bendis X-Men books? Seems like they last a couple of pages and the rest of the books are filled with inane dialogue. I’ve finally canceled these books.

I hope that someday, a great writer pitches restoring a strong central X-Men team, similar to what Busiek did with the Avengers and Morrison did with JLA. There can always be other X-Men family comics, but I would greatly prefer one main X-Men book (published two or even four times a month) that featured a group of 7 to 10 core characters…

Uncanny 217-218 is one of my favorite X-Men vs. Juggernaut battles; Dazzler, Rogue, Psylocke, & Longshot coming together to take down one of the toughest X-Villains of them all. Claremont wrote it (shocker!) with terrific art from Butch Guice & Marc Silvestri and outstanding covers by Walt Simonson & Art Adams. Some great Dazzler stuff, especially.

I also love any X-Men vs the Sentinels (the classic fight leading into the Phoenix Saga circa Uncanny X-Men 100, a surprisingly great fight in Uncanny 202 stick out strongly for me)

From when Magneto captures the X-MEN in #112 tell the end of the Mutant Massacre is just amazing stuff thats one of greatest runs in the history of comics.

Not in continuity, but the Age of Apocalypse universe final battle in Omega was stunning. Nuclear bombs, automated killing walls, and Magneto versus Apocalypse while the world crumbled…it was a great climax.

Maybe not a top five, but I would put #175 — where Cyclops beats the whole rest of team — in for an honourable mention.

I’m going to sound like a bitter old man at this point (though I’m neither bitter or old), but I just haven’t been able to get into the X-Men as much over the past 10-15 years because the teams are always split up.

This has bothered me since the 90s.

I think there should just be one X-Men book and then just have a bunch of other mutant books called something else. Call them whatever, X-Statics,X-Cellent, X-Factor, X-Pialodocious, I don’t care what you call them, but just have one core X-Men team. I think the stories are far better when there is one core team, a clear flagship book.

I guess the problem is that such a book would be such a crown jewel that who would be the writer who gets the right to write it? And what if you put a bad writer on it? What would happen if a bad writer got all that power over such an important franchise? I shudder to think of a single X-Men title ending up in the hands of a Jeph Loeb, Brad Meltzer, or Chuck Austen.

The Proteus issues were full of good story elements, but while reading it for the very first time, and every time since, it kept bugging me that Polaris was present but not used. Proteus was vulnerable to metal; Polaris controlled metal. It seemed like a no-brainer, especially since Cyclops is supposed to be a tactical genius. Have the other X-Men stage a full frontal assault as a distraction while, from a distance, Polaris sends a rain of metal shrapnel at him from behind. Fight over, before it even starts. I’m not even a Polaris fan, but it just seemed so obvious.

Of course, that would have been anticlimactic. Better to have made an excuse for her not to have been there at all, which would have been easy. It’s been awhile since I read it, but if I recall correctly, she was only wallpaper throughout the whole thing anyway.

Great list, and a rare one in that I agree with it 100%. A couple I think would rate inclusion in an expanded list:

Even though it’s half X-Men and half Alpha Flight I love Wolverine’s rematch with the Wendigo from UXM 140.

The X-Men vs the new Brotherhood from UXM 142

I know, I know… more Claremont/Byrne/Austen worship. But in answer to an earlier poster I think the X-Men from GS1 through 150 is a solid contender for the greatest run in comics history, it’s only serious competition being the first two hundred issues of Amazing Spider-Man. It’s only natural that any top-whatever list is going to draw heavily from that group of issues.

3 and 2 hold a special place in my heart. Dawns on me that they mark Kitty leaving and joining the team

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