Every Time Marvel's Major Super-Teams Have Gone To War And Who Came Out On Top

Sometimes, Marvel crossovers involve various superheroes teaming up to take down some larger threat, but just as often, they revolve around those same superheroes going head-to-head over some mix-up or another. It really doesn’t take much to pit two vigilantes - or two superheroic teams - against one another, and then it’s time for a big, flashy Avengers vs. X-Men-style showdown.

For all the times that heroes like Captain America and Iron Man have united to save the world, they’ve also caused some serious devastation on Earth-616 by going to straight-up war with one another. Occasionally, this takes the form of one set of supes or another being manipulated into working with the villains. More often, however, it's just a moral disagreement or a big misunderstanding - with the consequences just as dire either way.

There isn't always a winner when two teams of superheroes battle it out, but there are always losers.

  • Civil War

    The 2006 Marvel Comics Civil War is the gold standard of superhero conflict. Truly, it brought nearly every corner of the superpowered community into the fray over the institution of the Superhuman Registration Act, but at the core of it was the moral disagreement between Iron Man, who supported the act, and Captain America, who refused to abide by it. 

    Iron Man expanded the Avengers into the 50-State Initiative, bringing in all sorts of costumed crusaders to hunt down the unregistered. Captain America, meanwhile, formed an underground team of Secret Avengers that grew and grew as more became uncomfortable with the actions of the government. 

    Several direct clashes occurred, during which heroes like Bill Foster fell, and the stakes were cranked ever higher until it all came down to a brawl in the streets of New York City.

    Who Won? It wasn’t so much that anyone won as one side forfeited. In the heat of battle, and with his side arguably on top, Steve Rogers looked around at the chaos, destruction, and division being wrought by the fighting and surrendered, allowing Tony Stark to take him into custody. 

    Days later, as he was being led up the courtroom steps to his arraignment, Captain America was gunned down by an assassin. Over time, however, his position on the SRA would prove to be the correct one, and the act would be overturned - and, soon enough, Cap would be back in action, bullet-hole-free. 

  • Avengers vs. X-Men

    The clash that became known as 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men began when each faction became aware of the Phoenix Force's impending return to Earth - and when each reacted very differently to that news. The Avengers wanted to stop the often destructive cosmic bird from ever making it to Earth. The X-Men, at that point stationed on their temporary floating home of Utopia, planned to let the Phoenix Force arrive and inhabit the body of young Hope Summers, the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch’s “No more mutants” spell, often referred to as the “Mutant Messiah.”

    The loyalties of joint Avengers/X-Men members like Wolverine were tested, but the morality of the conflict changed rather obviously after an incident on the moon. There, Tony Stark punched the Phoenix in the face with a custom set of Phoenix-buster armor, and the cosmic force was split, finding five new hosts in Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Magik, and Colossus.

    This “Phoenix Five” initially appeared as a benevolent unit on Earth, but it wasn’t terribly long before Namor was flooding his old rivals in Wakanda and Emma was reading the minds of every human being. Things got so bad that the majority of the non-Phoenixed X-people, including Hope, crossed the aisle to the Avengers’ side in preparation for the inevitable final battle.

    Who Won? The Phoenix Five realized they could absorb the portion of the Phoenix Force locked within their compatriots if they just beat each other nearly to death, and they did so until Cyclops was the only one left. But he went full Dark Phoenix at that point, did away with Professor X, and then duked it out with the combined rosters of the Avengers and X-Men. In the end, he beat them all, but he could not stand up to a “No more Phoenix” spell put together by Hope and Wanda Maximoff - a spell that also sparked a brand-new generation of mutants on Earth. So, in a roundabout fashion, everybody won. 

  • IVX

    The all-out war between the Inhumans and mutants that would be stylized as IVX in 2017 was the result of several cascading consequences of prior crossovers. To make a long story short, the Inhumans moved their royal base of Attilan from the moon back to Earth, then Thanos came there looking for his bastard child, the whole place got blown up, and enormous clouds of Inhumanity-inducing Terrigen Gas flooded the globe.

    In those with Inhuman ancestry, the process of Terrigenesis manifested in a gift of wondrous powers. To mutants, however, the Terrigen Cloud proved occasionally lethal, so the X-Men and other mutant factions reasonably saw the Inhumans’ embrace of the spreading gas as an act of genocide.

    While some mutants, such as Beast, attempted to work with the Inhuman royal family to develop a cure, Cyclops - by then sprung from prison after AVX and in charge of an extremist mutant splinter group of his own - took the fight right to Black Bolt, and perished in the process.

    Or, at least, he appeared to. With that blood on the ground, the two sides dug in for a bitter engagement in which each believed that the other was out to exterminate their kind. 

    Who Won? In the chaos that followed, it became clear that Cyclops had actually passed on much earlier than previously realized from acute Terrigen poisoning, and that Emma Frost had been projecting an image of him into the minds of everyone involved in the conflict since, up to, and including the point of his “demise” at Black Bolt’s hands. With that truth laid bare, the Inhumans and the X-Men quickly reconciled, and Queen Medusa destroyed the Terrigen Cloud herself, bringing an end to the threat to mutantkind and restoring peace.

  • Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men

    Like much hero-on-hero strife, 1987’s Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men was built on the back of some epic miscommunication and misunderstanding. It came on the heels of an incident in which Kitty Pryde had been stuck in her intangible form and was in danger of dispersing altogether. In dire need of assistance, the X-Men naturally turned to Reed Richards for a cure. Unfortunately, Mister Fantastic was going through an uncharacteristic crisis of confidence at the time, so he refused to help.

    This enraged Wolverine and other X-Men enough to attack the FF, but cooler heads would prevail, at least for a little while. That changed when the X-Men went to Doctor Doom for help instead, leading the two teams to have it out once and for all and find themselves rather evenly matched.

    Who Won? Kitty nearly voluntarily dispersed herself just to stop the fighting and prevent her team from making a bargain with Doom, but young Franklin Richards convinced her not to - and then he convinced everyone else to work together to save Kitty. Franklin’s words were so strong that Reed and Doom temporarily buried the hatchet and worked together on a cure, ultimately succeeding and ending the saga on a happy note. Kitty and Franklin have been the best of pals ever since, even when their teams have occasionally found new reasons to quarrel. 

  • X-Men/Fantastic Four Vol. 2

    2020’s X-Men/Fantastic Four marked the second intensely serious conflict between the two titular teams, and once again it centered around Franklin Richards, son of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman - though this time around, the circumstances and stakes were vastly different. 

     The miniseries arrived shortly after Charles Xavier and Magneto had founded the living sovereign nation of Krakoa, and invited all the world’s mutants to live there - including Franklin. When Franklin - now understood to be among the more powerful beings ever born on the planet - didn’t respond to the initial summons, Xavier and Magneto decided to make their appeal in person, and Franklin’s parents didn’t take too kindly to that. So, Reed Richards invented a device that would mask his son’s X-Gene and prevent him from traveling through Krakoan gates, and the X-Men really didn’t take too kindly to that.

    A brouhaha ensued before cooler heads could prevail, but things got decidedly more complicated after Franklin decided to hitch a stowaway ride with Kate Pryde and the Marauders back to Krakoa, which the FF interpreted it as a kidnapping - and then even more complicated after Doctor Doom decided to actually kidnap the lot of them. 

    Who Won? As per usual, the two sides fought a little bit more and then figured out that Doom was the real enemy before uniting to defeat him. But the conflict wasn’t done there. Xavier was still livid about the whole gene-masking thing and confronted Reed about it, accusing him of essentially creating a tool of potential genocide. He then erased the portion of Reed’s mind that had come up with the design, and all related memories, informing him that if he ever invented anything that targeted mutants again, the consequences would be even more dire.

    Richards and Xavier have been embroiled in an intellectual cold war of sorts ever since. 

  • Avengers/Defenders War

    The Avengers/Defenders War of 1973 is one of the earliest examples of a super-team versus super-team conflict in comic books, and it set a tone that many subsequent crossovers would follow. The storyline snaked through Avengers #115-118 and Defenders #8-11. An Avengers roster of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Panther, Swordsman, and Mantis were convinced that they had to compete with a Defenders roster of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor, Valkyrie, Wong, Silver Surfer, and Hawkeye to retrieve the pieces of the “Evil Eye.” 

    Each side believed they had to beat the other squad to the punch in order to prevent the Evil Eye, an ancient, arcane artifact of great power, from falling into the wrong hands. And so, the battles were fraught and intense, but all was not quite as it seemed. 

    Who Won? The Defenders were ultimately successful in bringing together the various pieces of the Evil Eye. But both they and the Avengers soon realized they’d been manipulated into the conflict by Dormammu and Loki, respectively. When Dormammu swiped the assembled Eye and tried to use it to merge Earth-616 with his Dark Dimension, the two sides teamed up, and even Loki lent a hand in defeating Dormammu and saving the universe from a horrific fate.