Marvel Events Part XIV: Avengers vs X-Men

by GregFahlgren

Continuing my series on Marvel Events with the biggest story Marvel has written to date.

Welcome True Believers! I’m back, and with a new entry in my series profiling the history of Marvel’s crossover events! This time around, there’s only one event I’m going to be talking about, but it is possibly the biggest and most important in the company’s long history. That’s a big statement, I realize, but with Avengers vs X-Men, it’s an appropriate one.

Through the years, Marvel has had many, many teams. The Fantastic Four, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Defenders, the list goes on and on. However, there have been two teams that have stood above all the others: the Avengers, and the X-Men. Both teams’ rosters read like a who’s who of Marvel heroes, the best of the best joining their ranks again and again. To be an X-Man/Woman or an Avenger is an honour, one that has been bestowed upon the very best heroes Marvel has to offer.

However, the two teams have never exactly been great allies to each other. The mutant X-Men are largely outcasts, even to this day seen as freaks no matter how much good they’ve done of the world. The Avengers however are heroes, held up as examples to the people of the world as what everyone should strive to be. The two teams have worked together in the past, but it was always because of circumstance than any kind of kinship. It seemed inevitable for the two teams come into conflict, but the road to get them there was one that Marvel fans everywhere could never have predicted to be travelled, starting almost a decade before the war would come to fruition.


The Road

A Path to War

The path to this massive conflict was a long one, filled with twists and turns of every variety. Both sides suffered their fair share of hardships as they walked this unknowing path to war, changing how both the Avengers and X-Men were viewed by both the public and by themselves. To truly appreciate how this war came to fruition, we have to take a look at the road that got us here from both sides of the conflict, looking at each event and each choice lead us to the present. I won’t rehash the storylines themselves (you can visit my other episodes for more details), but a brief summary is essential to see how this conflict came to pass.


Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

The path to AVX for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes began way back in 2004 with two storylines: Secret War and Avengers Disassembled. Those events, which resulted in the wholesale destruction of the team and later reformation, made the people the Avengers were trying to protect begin to distrust superheroes and their intentions.

Attempting to find a peaceful solution to the problem of the insane Scarlet Witch, the Avengers meet with the X-Men to discuss their options. This leads to the events of House of M, which decimates the mutant population, and sowed more seeds of distrust by the general populace for the super-powered community. This led to the passing of the Superhero Registration Act in the storyline Civil War. People distrusted superheroes now, demanding that they register themselves so the government can keep control on the ever-growing population of super-powered people. Heroes on both sides of the debate lined up and went to war, eventually leading to the death of Captain America, and Iron Man becoming the head of SHIELD.

Within a few years Civil War, the Skrulls began their Secret Invasion, and everything falls apart. Norman Osborn takes control of the Avengers, ushering in the Dark Reign era of Marvel, and leading directly to the return of Steve Rogers and the events of Siege. This event forces Tony and Steve to work together, defeating Osborn with the rest of the Avengers and restoring the team’s good name.

A year later, the Scarlet Witch returns in The Children’s Crusade, discovering Doctor Doom was behind her insanity. During this storyline, the Avengers and the X-Men come into conflict over Wanda’s fate, parting a little less than amicably, Cyclops swearing that he would kill Wanda if she turned against the heroes again.

The tension between the two teams was at an all time high, only escalating when Cable begins a one-man mission to destroy the Avengers in order to protect his daughter, Hope Summers, from them. It is revealed thereafter that Hope is destined to be the next host for the Phoenix Force, drawing the concern of the Avengers towards her and the X-Men...


The Strangest Heroes of All!

The X-Men’s journey to AVX started a short time the Avenger’s had with the horrific events of House of M. Their population decimated, the team was in a state of despair. Their leaders, especially Cylcops and Wolverine, had been changed forever as they try to rationalize what had happened to their people. Cyclops became embittered towards their mission, taking more and more drastic steps to protect what little mutants were left. Wolverine on the other hand had the memories of his entire life, and after seeing the killer he was, didn’t want to be that guy anymore. What was more, Professor X was cast out by his former students, his manipulations of them over the years no longer tolerated as the truth had come out after M-Day.

The subsequent years hard on the X-Men, mutants even more outcasts than before, their enemies swooping in to finish them off, the X-Men barely able to keep them at bay. Then, hope arrived in the form of a new mutant, the first born after M-Day. Named Hope, the X-Men rescued her as an infant, and then sent her to Cable for protection in the storyline Messiah Complex. The girl was the mutant messiah, destined to bring back the mutant race, though how was still unclear. After fighting a series of conflicts to protect her in Messiah War and Second Coming, losing Nightcrawler along the way, the X-Men suddenly found themselves the only hero group that had been able to hold out against Norman Osborn during Dark Reign. This lead to the events of Utopia, as theX-Men used the remnants of Asteroid M to move out into international waters, effectively cutting them off from any government control.

However, things would not get much better for the mutants, attacked by enemies old and new. Cyclops continued to become more harsh and militaristic in his attitude, often coming at odds with Wolverine, who in the years since House of M had become gentler, more accepting of diplomacy. During the Curse of the Mutants storyline, Cyclops shut off Wolverine’s healing factor without Logan’s consent, allowing him to be turned into a vampire during their conflict with Vampire Nation. The effect was reversed, the action winning the battle against the vampires, but it nevertheless forced Logan to begin questioning Cyclops, and whether or not he should still be following him.

It all came to a head in Schism, as one questionable decision after another finally light a fire between the two men, resulting in a fight that nearly destroyed Utopia around them. After the battle was over, Wolverine left Utopia to found the New Jean Grey School on the site of the old Xavier School, taking a number of X-Men with him, dividing the team for the first time in over almost two decades. Cyclops remained on Utopia with Hope to continue teaching the students there, but it was obvious that the schism would have long-lasting effects on the X-Men.

Though it might not seem like it, this schism between Cyclops and Wolverine would be one of the main catalysts in the coming conflict. Wolverine being on the X-Men had always kept the Avengers less than hostile towards them, his long time friendship with Captain America a connection that kept the two teams civil for the most part. Now that connection was gone, and with fellow Avengers Storm and Beast leaving Cyclops with Logan, there were no Avengers on Cyclops’s team anymore. Thus, there no connection between the two teams that could have stopped what was coming. If any of the three, especially Wolverine, had been with Cylcops on Utopia when this started, Captain America may never have come to the island with an army at his back, and things may have turned out differently.


Calm before the Fire Storm

With the table set, the two teams were in a state of relative peace, the question of Hope’s fate not one that needed answering just yet. Both teams went along with their usual suerpheroing, until a face from the past returned in New York City.

The story begins with the return of the Scarlet Witch, the woman largely responsible for the events that would lead the Avengers and the X-Men into this conflict. When MODOK attempts to kill an ex-AIM scientist, Wanda intervenes, defeating MODOK with the aid of Spider-Woman and Ms Marvel. Ms Marvel convinces Wanda to come back to Avengers Mansion so she can rejoin the team, but she is turned away by the Vision, still angry about her actions during Avengers Disassembled.

Meanwhile, the X-Men are forced to leave Utopia in search of Hope Summers, who has snuck out to fight crime in San Fransisco. She defeats the Serpent Society before she is found by an angry Cyclops, but before he can reprimand her she declares that she can take care of herself and that she is, “ready for the Phoenix when it comes.”

Out in space, the new Nova, young Sam Alexander, begins a mad journey home after witnessing the destruction of the planet Terrax at the hands of the Phoenix. Discovering that Earth is it’s next destination, Sam flies as fast as he can back to Earth to warn someone before it’s too late.

Part I

The War For Hope

With Hope now destined to become the host of the Phoenix, the Avengers hold a meeting to decide what to do about the situation. In the mind of Captain America (along with many of the others), the Phoenix is simply too destructive a force to let return to Earth. With that in mind Cao begins recruiting every Avenger he can find to go to Utopia so they can take Hope into Avengers custody until they can figure out a way to deal with the Phoenix. At the same time, Thor is sent into space with Beast, Ms Marvel, and others, to stop the Phoenix or at least slow it down.

The final Avenger Cap goes to recruit is Wolverine, Steve thinking that Wolverine would agree with him about the Phoenix. However, though Logan agrees that the Phoenix needs to be dealt with, Logan objects to Cap going to Utopia with an army at his back, knowing full well what Cyclops would be willing to do in order to protect Hope. Wolverine agrees to go in the end, but he warns Cap that once he steps foot on Utopia, there would be no turning back.

On the flip side, Cyclops knows that the Avengers will come for Hope eventually, the threat of the Phoenix too large for them to ignore. As opposed to them however, Scott believes that the Phoenix should be allowed to come, and that with Hope it may complete Hope’s destiny of bringing new life to the mutant race. Not all the X-Men entirely agreed with Scott, but enough agreed that taking Hope into custody against her will  could not be allowed to happen, and that whatever happens should be her decision.

His army gathered, Captain America leads an army of Avengers to Utopia, landing alone to speak with Cyclops to find a peaceful solution. Cap asks that Hope be given to the Avengers, but Scott refuses to turn her over, citing that he cannot give the only hope for his people over to someone else. The argument escalates, the X-Men and the Avengers watching on, slowly realizing that there was no peaceful way out of this, and quietly prepared themselves for the explosion that was coming. Finally, Cap finally pushes one too many buttons, and Cyclops blasts Cap across the beach, firing the first shot in a war 8 years in the making. Resigned, Cap utters the words that he never thought he would say with such regret, “Avengers Assemble.”

X-Men and Avengers from across the globe converge on Utopia in a massive battle, friends and allies pitted against each other en masse. While the chaos reigns on the beaches of the island, Hope Emma Frost, only for her to break away. In Hope’s mind, this war is her fault, and that she has to join with the Phoenix to stop it. Wolverine and Spider-Man try to stop her from leaving the island, but her growing powers knock them out, and she flees.

As the battle begins to turn ill for the X-Men, Cyclops feigns surrender to save his people. Just when it seems to be over, he orders Magick to teleport him and the rest of the Extinction Team to the Blue Area of the Moon to hide out until he could come up with a plan. The Avengers regroup as well, Wolverine insisting that Hope be killed if she is possessed, but Captain America disagrees, and has Logan thrown out of the Quinjet (relax, Cap knew he’d survive it). Hope finds Logan however, convincing him that he has to help her complete her destiny, and makes him promise that is she does become Dark Phoenix to kill her before she can hurt anyone.

Both teams begin searching for Hope, eventually all parties going to the Blue Area of the Moon, where an injured Thor tells everyone that the Phoenix is coming, and that his mission with the Secret Avengers to stop it has failed. Another battle ensues, and the Phoenix arrives, but just as Hope steps forward to receive it, Iron Man activates a devise that diverts the Phoenix’s power in the hope to contain it. It doesn’t work, and the power escapes, splitting apart and entering Cyclops, Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus, and Magick, turning them into the PHOENIX FIVE!!!

Part II

The Phoenix Five

With the Phoenix bonded to them, the Phoenix Five begin remaking the world in their image. Surprising everyone however, they were benevolent, rebuilding roads, stopping wars, curing world hunger, their actions bringing a new age of prosperity to the people of Earth. By their actions, the X-Men were now heroes revered by all, their leaders fixing many of the problems the Avengers had never been able to. Many of the X-Men saw this as a blessing,  a welcome change after years of being feared and hunted.

The Avengers wanted to believe that the Phoenix Five would only bring good to the world, but Wolverine and Captain America knew that their benevolence wouldn’t last. The power of the Phoenix was not something that could be controlled, and the Avengers resolved that they had to do something before the situation exploded. Believing Hope to be the key, they launch a mission to extract Hope from Utopia, only to be stopped by Cyclops and the rest of the Phoenix Five. The Avengers are brought to the brink of defeat when suddenly Scarlet Witch arrives, declaring that she will not allow this to continue. Cyclops moves to kill her, but she strikes first, hurting him much to his shock. Before things escalate, Hope agrees to go with Wanda and the Avengers, Scarlet Witch spiriting them away to Wakanda Once his enemies were gone, Cyclops decides that the world no longer needs the Avengers, and declares, “No More Avengers.”

As that war continues, the X-Men and Avengers begin losing members to injury and capture, all while Hope stays in Wakanda, surrounded by Avengers for her protection. While there, she tells the Avengers that the X-Men are afraid of Scarlet Witch, her chaos magic the only thing she knows of that can hurt the the Phoenix. As the behest of Kei Lung, Iron Fist, Shang Chi and Wolverine take Hope to K’un L’un for training so that she will be able to combat the Phoenix.

Meanwhile Namor, tired of Cyclops’s complacency, takes an army of Atlanteans and launches an all out attack on Wakanda. Much of the country is devastated, but the Avengers rally, manage to defeat Namor before escaping to K’un L’un. The rest of the Phoenix Five arrive, and the Phoenix Force in Namor abandons him. The other four absorb his power, becoming stronger themselves. Just then, Professor X arrives in their minds, demanding that Cyclops and the others stop what they are doing, or he will bring them down. Cyclops refuses, and Professor X resolves himself to the fact that he has to enter a war he never wanted to happen, and possibly destroy men and women he to this day considers his children.

Part III

Dark Phoenix Takes Over

As the war continues to go poorly for the Avengers, they put their faith in Hope, who has begun training under Spider-Man in preparation for her destiny (yes, you read that right). Storm soon comes to K’un L’un, telling them that Black Panther has been captured by the X-Men, and is being held at a volcano in Siberia, and that the Rasputin siblings have begun torturing the prisoners, the Phoenix corrupting their hearts. With the aid of Professor X, the Avengers go to free their comrades, but are opposed by Colossus and Magick. Spider-Man goads the two into fighting each other, knocking both out of the war while the Avengers escape back to K’un L’un. Unfortunately Cyclops, now even more powerful with the energy of Magick and Colossus inside him, is waiting for them. While the Avengers hold Cyclops off, Hope goes to Lei Kung, who leads her into the mountains to meet Shao Lao the dragon. Hope absorbs the dragons energy as was prophesised by Lei Kung, and with the help of Scarlet Witch, she sends Cyclops to the Moon. As he recovers, Scott realizes that he is not strong enough to stop Hope, and needs the rest of the Phoenix’s power held by Emma Frost if he wants to defeat the Avengers.

Meanwhile on Utopia, Emma’s rule has become more and more tyrannical, driving the X-Men away from her, the majority secretly joining the Avengers. Magneto calls out to Professor X, begging for his help. The Avengers prepare a final desperate assault, gathering every X-Man and Avenger they can find, Captain America even going the Hulk for help, something the Avengers have not done in decades.

United as one, the X-Men and Avengers converge on Utopia, engaging Cyclops and Emma in a desperate fight. Professor X, seeing his friends fall around him, including Magneto, Captain America, and countless others, steps forward, engaging Cyclops in a mental battle. Cyclops, on the verge of losing, takes the power of the Phoenix from Emma, and uses it to strike back, killing Professor X and becoming Dark Phoenix.

Shocked and dismayed, the Avenger and X-Men launch on all out assault on Cyclops, but Dark Phoenix is too powerful, felling them one by one until only a handful remain. When all seems lost, Hope and Scarlet Witch arrive, Hope using her powers to mimic Wanda’s, combining their collective power to rip the Phoenix from Cyclops, and ending the battle. As the Phoenix searches for a new host, Hope steps forward, taking the Phoenix into herself, and merging with it as was her destiny. Together, Scarlet Witch and Hope combine their power again, and Wanda states, “More Mutants”, restoring the mutant population. Hope is elated, but with the power of the Phoenix surging through her, she realizes that the Phoenix is too strong, and needs to be destroyed before she becomes what Cyclops had turned into. Together with Wanda, she makes one more wish, “No More Phoenix”. With those simple words, the Phoenix is no more, and the battle is won... but at a terrible cost. Professor X was dead, Cyclops his murderer, and the world would never be the same.


An Uncanny Future

After the battle was won, Cyclops was arrested for the murder of Charles Xavier, and imprisoned by the Avengers. He was content to stay in prison for his crime, feeling he deserved it after all he had done. However, when he witnesses the human warden abusing mutant prisoners, he cannot let it go, and realizes that he cannot give up his fight no matter what. With the help of Magneto and Magick, he broke free, and has since become a mutant revolutionary, intent on helping the mutant cause whether the mutant race wants him to or not. This action also made him the most wanted man in the world, SHIELD under strict orders to capture him and bring him to justice, the Avengers promising their aid.

Wolverine and the remaining X-Men went back to the Jean Grey School and continued their own work with young mutants, now more important than ever with millions of new mutants appearing throughout the world. Logan was troubled however, his difficult relationship with Cyclops turning outright hostile now, many of the X-Men feeling the same way. He didn’t want another conflict with Scott, other than to bring him to justice for Professor X’s murder, but he also knew that he couldn’t just ignore the mutant revolutionary, a man that he had once been proud to follow.

The rest of the X-Men were not in great shape. Beast was horrified at what Scott had done, questioning how it had come to this, looking at the old graduation photo of the original X-Men and wondering if things could have been different. Colossus was found by Storm, having gone into seclusion. She asked if he wanted to return to the school, but Peter felt disqualified of their company given his actions during the war. Namor disappeared, not seen since his defeat at Wakanda, while Emma Frost was imprisoned and kept separate from Cyclops, hating him for betraying her in the final battle.

As for Hope, she set out to search for Cable, eventually finding him alive and well, and ready to move on. She moved on as well, heading to Alaska to live a civilian life for the first time, content that her destiny had been fulfilled.

The Avengers also moved on, becoming bigger and stronger than ever before. Captain America, remorseful over his own actions that started the war, feels that Cyclops was right that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hadn’t done enough for the mutant people in their long history. Wanting to rectify this, he goes to Wolverine and begins plans for a new Unity Squad made up of X-Men and Avengers both, an effort to unite the two teams so that a conflict like this could never happen again.


No Going Back

Avengers vs X-Men was the biggest and most universe shattering event in comic book history since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, something that many fans (myself included) thought could never be outdone (until last year with Secret Wars). In one broad stroke, AVX changed Marvel in ways that we are still feeling today, and brought the publisher to the very top of the  comic book world. More than that, Avengers vs X-Men was and still is the best large scale event I have ever read, and a triumph in the history of the medium.

The consequences of the event and its direct aftermath are almost too many to count. Cyclops and his allies were now outlaws, fighting for mutant freedom despite being hunted by the Avengers and SHIELD. The rest of the X-Men were in a state of shock, Beast especially, wondering how this all could have come to pass. In a desperate attempt to do something about it, Hank goes back in time and brings the original five X-Men forward into the future to show Scott and the others how much they had changed, creating a whole new laundry list of problems for the world in the process.

Namor was also a wanted man now, his war crimes against Wakanda not something that could be forgotten or forgiven. Black Panther swears vengeance, but the two members of the Illuminati might have to shelve their rivalry when a new threat emerges with a year of the war’s end.

On the Avengers side, the Avengers Unity Team would be founded, and lead by Cyclops’s brother Havok. Scarlet Witch joins the Unity Team much to the horror of Rogue, who joins the team in order to keep an eye on her.

The funeral for Professor X was presided over by Wolverine, but soon after his body was stolen and mutilated by the Red Skull. Skull then grafts Charles’s brain to his own, gaining Professor X’s powers and leading to the event AXIS which we’ll get to down the road.

Most importantly of all however, the Phoenix was no more, destroyed by Wanda and Hope. This would bring the attention of numerous galactic nations, Earth’s power no longer able to be ignored as our humble world of superheroes was now more important than ever.

Bottom line, Marvel’s landscape was changed forever by this storyline. There was no going back to what it was, but the company knew that, forging ahead and eating a new era of comics in the wake of the mega-event. Avengers vs X-Men was an end to a decade’s worth of stories, but it was also a new beginning, the sky being the limit for comic’s largest publisher, and I’ll be damned if they weren’t going to reach as high as they could get.

Well, that’s it for this episode. Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope that this has shown you the importance of Avengers vs X-Men was to Marvel and the comics. Until next time, HAPPY READING!

The Whole Series

First chapter of a series of blogs detailing the Events and Crossovers of the Marvel Universe.
Continuing from Part I, I explore the important cross-over events of Marvel's Silver Age
Examining the major Marvel Crossovers and Storylines from the 70s into the mid-80s.
Returning to the Marvel U, and examining the BOOM of crossover event comics.
Continuing study of the biggest events in Marvel's long history.
Continuing with my special series talking about Marvel's Crossover Events.
Continuing ongoing series talking about major Marvel Events as we hit the mid-90s!
Continuing Marvel's journey through it's major crossover story lines as the company enters the new Millenium.
Part IX of my ongoing series examining the major crossover events in the history of Marvel Comics.
Continuing my series on Marvel's biggest crossover events as the company releasing some of it's biggest yet.
Continuing my series on major Marvel Events, covering the Dark Reign era of the Marvel U.
Continuing my series on the history of Marvel's crossover events, talking about the finales to two of the most revered runs in recent history.
Continuing my series on major Marvel Events in the lead up to the company's biggest event to date!
Updated: 02/18/2016, GregFahlgren
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