Vision said it best in Captain America: Civil War, “Our Very Strength Incites Challenge. Challenge Incites Conflict.” One thing that the X-Men have been able to do consistently over the years is ‘incite conflict.’ It’s their own fault. They proved to their foes that teamwork pays off, especially when superpowers are involved.
Over the years the X-Men’s existence has inspired many groups – most of them rather inept – but there are a few worth discussing. Here are the X-Men’s 10 deadliest supervillain teams.
10. Dark X-Men
During the 2008 Marvel Comics company crossover event Dark Reign – where we saw Norman Osborn take over S.H.I.E.L.D (renamed it H.A.M.M.E.R.) and had much influence over the government – atop of replacing the Avengers, he also created his version of the X-Men! As a businessman, he chose the name due to its public recognition.
Members included Emma Frost and Namor as leaders, Cloak and Dagger, Mimic, Weapon Omega, Daken (pretending to be his father, Wolverine), Dark Beast, and Mystique.
The team was government sanctioned so it had legitimacy and perks. Emma was essentially a mole. Mimic joined with benevolence in mind; while Cloak and Dagger were hoping to clear their records.
Not dissimilar to how the Hunger Games functions, the Upstarts were a villain team sponsored by the Hellfire Club – we’ll talk about them later – which used it as a testing ground for new members.
Governed by Selene and Gamemaster, potential members would be given points depending on how many mutants they could slay – bonus points awarded for the strength of the victims.
Members of this group included Shinobi Shaw, Fabian Cortez, Fenris (Adreas & Andrea), Graydon Creed, and Sienna Blaze. Most of the members are obscure and/or dead, however, Shinobi was featured twice this year; once in his death alongside his fellow Upstarts towards the end of Uncanny X-Men, and again in his rebirth in the Marauders title – via Krakoa’s Resurrection Protocols.
8. Nasty Boys
Best known from their inclusion in the 1990s X-Men Animated TV series the Nasty Boys is the first of two teams controlled by the dastardly Mister Sinister. Their first appearance came around the same era in the second volume of X-Factor in issues #74 and 75.
The team – or better described, ‘band of degenerate mutants’ – consisted of the boisterous Ruckus; the feral Hairbag; the walking tar pit Gorgeous George; the tree-hugging Ramrod; and the musclebound Slab.
In the pantheon of X-Men villain teams, the Nasty Boys are probably the most colorful.
Magneto is as or more charismatic than the X-Men leader Professor X. It’s no wonder that he’s able to gather so many powerful mutants under his banner.
In the early ‘90s when he returned to his more antagonist ways, the uber-powerful mutant named Exodus led a special guard to serve him, the Acolytes. Key members included; Amelia Vought, Frenzy, Unuscione, Colossus, and Rusty.
In many ways the Acolytes were less of a team and more of radial religious sect sworn to serve and further the goals and ambitions of Magneto. Not unlike the Mutant Liberation Front (MLF), the Acolytes weren’t all mustache-twirling baddies. Outside of Fabian Cortez and Frenzy, most weren’t villainous at all. They believed in what they were doing, which made them more formidable.
6. Mutant Liberation Front
The Mutant Liberation Front – or MLF for short – by leaps and bounds has the largest roster history on this list. Some notable members to take into consideration; Forearm, Banshee (undead), Skids, Wildside, Tempo, Feral, Moonstar (spy), Cannonball, and Locus.
Originally, the MLF was less of a team and more of a terrorist group loosely led/organized by Stryfe – Cable’s immensely powerful, evil clone.
They first came into being during the early ‘90s crossover event, X-Cutioner’s Song. There have been up to two different incarnations of the group, with later versions led by Reignfire and most recently, Hope Summers.
Each time they’ve operated in much the same. Organized terrorist groups but unlike other teams, they were more interested in fighting for mutant rights – even if they went about it more violently.
With less than overtly evil intentions, the MLF has been able to draw the allegiance of both classic heroes as well as villains.
5. Dark Riders
The credo of Apocalypse went further than just his four horsemen. The Dark Riders or ‘Riders of the Storm’ were a group of fierce, incredibly violent X-Men villains that would routinely cull mutants that they considered ‘unfit,’ or ‘weak.’ So much so, they actively hunt and kill mutant healers such as Elixir.
Because of their Darwin-like stances, they’d often play for keeps when in battle, forcing anyone combating them to do the same. This led to a higher than average turnover rate. Members of the Riders included: Gauntlet, Spyne, Hurricane, Foxbat, Tusk, Barrage, Hard Drive, Psynapse, and Lifeforce. Gauntlet often led the group, but they were also led by Genesis, Cable’s son from the future.
Unlike the rest of the picks on this list, the Marauders aren’t a team any force of good would randomly bump into robbing a bank. They are typically assembled, as needed, by Mister Sinister. The first time they were brought together, under Sinister’s orders, they decimated the subterranean group of disfigured mutants, the Morlocks.
When they clashed with the X-Men during what became known as the Mutant Massacre, they mauled several members including Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Angel. Angel ultimately lost his wings which paved the way to becoming Archangel, the horseman of death.
Original members of the Marauders include: Arclight, Malice, Scrambler, Prism, Riptide, Scalphunter, Harpoon, Blockbuster, and Sabretooth.
3. The Horsemen of Apocalypse
What’s more deadly than a team of fanatics? A team of brainwashed fanatics under the control of an ancient despot set on cleansing the world of the unfit. The Horsemen of Apocalypse are Famine, War, Pestilence, and of course, Death. Each designation has been held by numerous characters – many of which have been X-Men.
Becoming a Horsemen has varied over the years, but normally involved extensive psychological reconditioning and physical augmentation. Horsemen regularly display new techniques or altogether completely revamped powers such as Archangel’s techno-organic wings or Gambit’s poisonous gas. The process includes exposure to Celestial-based technology which changes the subjects at the most fundamental levels. Sometimes the results are impossible to be reversed.
2. The Hellfire Club
One of the first mutant organizations to rival the X-Men in any meaningful way is the Hellfire Club. What makes a group of aristocrats deadly? Greed. Most of their endeavors are rooted in the intention to increase their already insultingly large bank accounts. Murder, sex, and blackmail – it’s all the same to them while pursuing wealth.
However, money is not all they are interested in. Power and influence are as intoxicating as drugs. It’s what ultimately led them to play a part in the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga. The corruption of the cosmic force may not all have been their doing – it was well on its way to that – but they did accelerate the process, putting the entire galaxy at risk.
1. The Brotherhood of Mutants
The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is the inspiration for villain teams like the MLF and Acolytes. The original anti-X-Men team, the Brotherhood was Magneto’s answer to his former friend’s band of mutants.
The original team consisted of his two children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Toad, and Mastermind. Later, classic members in Sabretooth, Blob, Avalanche, and Pyro would be added to their ranks.
A product of their time, they were simply the antithesis of the X-Men out to support whatever plan Magneto had for world domination. Later incarnations would drop the “Evil” from the name and become more grounded and radical. Instead of trying to take over the world, they’d be trying to destroy a dame.
For instance, Mystique’s take on the group was far more concerned with freedom-fighting via terrorism. She’s responsible for four iterations of the group all by herself. There have been far more versions of the Brotherhood than any other team on this list (more than 12!).
Like Acolytes – and some MLF members – the Brotherhood attracts more than the garden variety psychopaths, but people interested in affecting change. That can be something worth dying for.