Could the X-Men beat the Avengers in an all-out fight? Or would Earth’s Mightiest Heroes prove too much of a match for Marvel’s Merry Mutants? That’s the debate fans on Twitter are having – enough that Avengers Vs. X-Men started trending (opens in new tab) in North America.
Fans have been asking this question almost as long as both teams have been in the Marvel Universe (both the Avengers and X-Men debuted in 1963 if anyone’s wondering). And Marvel Comics has been answering it nearly as long.
The Avengers and X-Men had their first showdown just a year later in 1964’s Uncanny X-Men #9 (opens in new tab), and have squared off fairly regularly in the years since – to say nothing of the one-on-one conflicts between individual members of both teams.
So how did that first fight go, and who has the better record overall? Well, that answer has fluctuated over the years.
It’s not exactly the ‘tale of the tape,’ but we’ll see if we can figure out who the current heaviest hitters in the Marvel Universe actually are.
Uncanny X-Men #9
1964’s Uncanny X-Men #9 put the teen mutants in the path of the Avengers for the first time, with the original X-Men line-up of Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, and Iceman taking on the classic Avengers roster of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, and Hank Pym (then in his Giant-Man guise).
The two teams clashed when the Avengers detected the presence of the villainous alien conqueror known as Lucifer, who was hiding a doomsday device in the desert.
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When the Avengers arrive, they discover the X-Men already on the scene, with their mentor Professor X inside engaged in a confrontation with Lucifer. Xavier tells his team to hold off the Avengers, for their interference would cause Lucifer’s device to activate.
Without hesitation, the X-Men jump in. And though the teen heroes are outmatched by super-science, super soldiers, and even a god, they hold their own, managing to fight the Avengers to a standstill long enough for Xavier to psychically defeat Lucifer.
Still, the story seems to establish the Avengers as the stronger team, indicating that the X-Men would likely lose the fight should it continue.
Avengers: 1 – X-Men: 0
The second fight between the Avengers and X-Men came just a few years later in 1968, in a story that was actually one of Marvel Comics’ first inter-title crossovers.
Starting in Avengers #49 (opens in new tab), former-X-Men-villains-turned-Avengers Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver rejoin Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants after Scarlet Witch is injured in a fight with human villains.
The story then jumps to Uncanny X-Men for several issues as Cyclops tracks Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch back to Magneto, then returning to Avengers #53 (opens in new tab) for the conclusion, in which the X-Men and Avengers cross paths while hunting down the twins.
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The Avengers and X-Men resolve to team up to find their allies and take on Magneto, but when they find the Master of Magnetism, he uses a device to mind control the X-Men, forcing them to fight the Avengers.
With Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver out of the picture, the Avengers are left with a roster of Black Panther, Hawkeye, Giant-Man, and Wasp to take on Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, and Beast (with Angel imprisoned by the Avengers just before the fight).
In a reversal of their first fight, this time it’s the X-Men who are about to take the Avengers down when Angel escapes the Avengers’ imprisonment and frees the X-Men from mind control – with all the heroes teaming up to take down Magneto.
Avengers: 1 – X-Men: 1
The X-Men vs. The Avengers
The X-Men and Avengers would cross paths a few more times over the coming years, though usually as allies, with Beast of the X-Men even going on to join the Avengers. The two teams became much more friendly, with fewer fisticuffs and more team-ups.
However, in 1987’s X-Men Vs. Avengers (opens in new tab) limited series, things came to a head once again – and as is often the case when the X-Men and Avengers cross paths, Magneto was right in the middle.
Seeking to take Magneto into custody to stand trial for his long history of crimes, the Avengers (with a roster of Captain America, Black Knight, Monica Rambeau, Doctor Druid, She-Hulk, and Thor) track him down to a location where Magneto himself is attempting to recover some broken pieces of his former space station Asteroid M which came crashing down to Earth.
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As they were working as his allies at the time, the X-Men also track Magneto down, finding both the Avengers and the Russian super-team the Soviet Super-Soldiers attempting to capture Magneto.
Magneto leads the X-Men (then consisting of Rogue, Dazzler, Wolverine, Storm, and Havok) to escape in the ensuing three-way fight – though this leads to the conflict escalating into a series of confrontations culminating in one final fight between the two teams. But before they can battle one another, Magneto proves that he’s got the goods to take them all down, stopping both the Avengers and X-Men in their tracks, before ultimately agreeing to stand trial for his crimes – of which he is eventually acquitted.
It’s hard to call a winner on this one. Magneto overpowered both teams, giving his allies the X-Men an edge on a technicality, but the Avengers got what they wanted – with Captain America specifically convincing Magneto to take responsibility for his villainous past. That being the case, we’ll give the Avengers the moral victory.
Avengers: 2 – X-Men: 1
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
Following the story Avengers: Disassembled (opens in new tab), in which long-standing Avenger (who was still believed to be a mutant at the time) Scarlet Witch betrays and dismantles the team, even killing several Avengers, the remaining heroes and their mutant counterparts in the X-Men convened to decide Wanda’s fate. Before they can do anything, however, Quicksilver talks her into rewriting reality, resulting in the world of House of M (opens in new tab) in which mutants reign supreme and human heroes are endangered.
When reality is restored, Wanda casts a spell that robs most of the mutants in existence of their powers and disappears. For the next few years, despite tensions caused by these events, the Avengers and X-Men manage to maintain an uneasy peace for several years.
But things change when Wanda’s sons Wiccan and Speed of the Young Avengers (who are the reincarnated souls of her magically created twin children) lead their team in tracking her down in the story Avengers: The Children’s Crusade (opens in new tab), discovering that she’s been under the influence of Doctor Doom since all the way back in Avengers: Disassembled.
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Freeing her from Doom’s influence, the Young Avengers lead Wanda back to society. But when the Avengers and X-Men each get word that she’s resurfaced, both teams come looking for her; the Avengers wishing to hold her responsible for all she’s done, and the X-Men wishing to flat out kill her for nearly wiping out mutantkind.
The whole saga culminates in a series of clashes between the X-Men, Avengers, Scarlet Witch, Magneto, and Doctor Doom – throughout which numerous teams gain and lose the upper hand – until the Young Avengers finally put a stop to the fight, arguing successfully that Wanda is not directly responsible for her actions thanks to Doom’s control, and setting aside the fight (though not the hard feelings) between the X-Men and Avengers.
We’re calling this one a full-on draw, as it’s not clear which way a full-blown fight would have gone had the Young Avengers not intervened.
Avengers: 2 – X-Men: 1
Avengers vs. X-Men
In 2012’s Avengers Vs. X-Men (opens in new tab), both the Avengers and X-Men detect the return of the cosmic Phoenix Force, each making conflicting plans on how to deal with the entity.
The X-Men plan to capture it and use its power to re-empower mutantkind following Scarlet Witch’s spell, which robbed nearly all mutants of their abilities. But the Avengers wish to destroy the Phoenix entirely before its arrival can result in another Dark Phoenix (opens in new tab) manifestation.
The two teams go to battle on the moon, with the X-Men gaining a strong advantage as the Avengers struggle to hold them off while also assembling their device to destroy or at least contain the Phoenix Force. Ultimately, the Avengers manage to activate the device – but instead of destroying the Phoenix, it splits into five parts which enter Cyclops, Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus, and Magik, who become known as the Phoenix Five.
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The Phoenix Five begin using the Phoenix Force to remake the world in their image, resulting in a series of escalating fights with the Avengers – including a devastating all-out war between Wakanda and Atlantis.
In the end, the two teams set aside their differences to take on the Phoenix Five, who are quickly getting more and more out of control. Hope of the X-Men, who was to have been the host of the Phoenix Force before it was split apart, teams up with Scarlet Witch to absorb the Phoenix Force using her mutant abilities, which she then redirects to Wanda, who uses it to reverse her spell and re-empower mutantkind before dissipating the Phoenix back into space.
Since they won the main fight between the two teams and achieved the goal of using the Phoenix Force to save mutantkind, we’re giving this one to the X-Men – though with a fair nod to the Avengers, especially Scarlet Witch, for helping defeat the big villain of the story.
Avengers: 2 – X-Men: 2
The Winner Decided
This leaves us in the inconvenient position of looking at a tie across the Avengers and X-Men’s biggest historical conflicts – though the scales of which team may be definitively stronger could soon tip once again.
The events of X-Men: The Trial of Magneto are fostering new tensions between the X-Men and Avengers as Magneto faces repercussions for the apparent murder of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, once again putting the adoptive father and daughter at the heart of growing tensions between the teams.
(Wanda Maximoff is no stranger to being in that position. Her powers, and the conflicts they cause, have been one of the main driving forces of Marvel continuity for decades).
And at the same time, the newest volume of X-Men has started out with a mandate to make the X-Men into Earth’s premiere super-team – or, phrased another way, its Mightiest Heroes.
Anyone want to place a bet on whether the Avengers will let that sit for long, given the current events of the aforementioned Trial of Magneto and its companion title Inferno (which just launched, and has already had a major impact on the X-Men line)?
Yeah, we’re expecting a rematch at some point too – maybe sooner than we think.
The X-Men and Avengers have both participated in some of the most impactful Marvel Comics events (opens in new tab) of all time.