The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans special set both titular teams against a cosmic menace so huge, that it took both groups to take them down — the union of DC Comics’ Darkseid and Marvel’s Dark Phoenix. This comic was a true event, and came out a few years before either Marvel or DC produced Secret Wars or Crisis on Infinite Earths. This team-up only happened once, making it seem even more special today. It’s been over forty years now since it came out. Yet the ripples of this single issue are still felt in modern comics.
Many have called the MCU’s Infinity Saga “the greatest crossover event in history.” That statement takes me back to a time when the true “greatest crossover event” wasn’t a big-budget movie. It was this special one-shot comic book that blew my eight-year-old mind. In 1982, Marvel and DC, comics’ two biggest rivals, teamed up to bring together the two biggest hit titles at the time, The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans. The publishers united their respective teams for a single issue, written by X-Men scribe Chris Claremont and illustrated by Thor’s Walter Simonson. Here are five ways that Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans special is still important, and still an awesome read, even today.
The Return of Dark Phoenix
Even after 40 years, fans still view Marvel’s Dark Phoenix Saga as THE seminal X-Men tale. The story depicts the slow mental degradation of mutant telepath Jean Grey, now the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix, into the malevolent Dark Phoenix. Completely going against comic book norms of the time, Jean died at the end of the story. She sacrificed herself for the good of the universe. This storyline is so beloved it has been adapted for film not once, but twice.
Although Jean would eventually come back, the Dark Phoenix aspect of her would never truly return. Well, except for brief hints, teases, and misdirects here and there. However, the only time Dark Phoenix returned as a true threat to the universe was in this crossover, when Darkseid resurrected her himself. True, this story is technically out of continuity with the main Marvel titles. Yet it’s still Dark Phoenix unleashing holy hell on her teammates and family. Not to mention, she’s written by the man who created her, Chris Claremont. So I say it counts. This alone made this comic worth the cover price.
The Best Rosters of Both X-Men and Teen Titans Teams
Both the X-Men and the Titans have had several roster changes over the years, but this comic came out at the peak of the popularity of both series. It showcased what many fans consider to be both team’s best line-ups. Aside from Rogue (who had yet to join the team) and a handful of other X-Men, the roster here continues to be the X-Men’s most beloved by fans. As for the Titans, they have never had a better team lineup than the one depicted here. Eventually, it was the basis for the classic animated show, and later, their live-action series. If you want an epic tale with the best versions of both supergroups, this is still the story to read.
Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans Solidified Darkseid as the DC Universe’s Biggest Villain
At the time of this comic book’s publication, Darkseid had only existed for about twelve years at DC Comics. Most of his appearances were limited to Jack Kirby’s New Gods titles, as well as a handful of appearances in series like Justice League of America. But when Claremont and Simonson made him the “Big Bad” of the crossover special? This truly solidified Darkseid as the #1 threat in the DC Universe. Not long after, Darkseid began making his presence known in DC titles like Legion of Super-Heroes and others. Darkseid’s creator Jack Kirby drew quite a formidable version of him of course. But I’d argue Walter Simonson made him even more terrifying here. He set the template for how DC portrayed Darkseid for decades to come.
Welcome to the Source Wall
When Jack Kirby created the New Gods mythology for DC, one of its founding principles was the idea of “The Source. ” This was the energy and living consciousness of the universe. In his original stories, he referred to a barrier at the end of the universe where the Source ends. Kirby never visualized this, but Claremont and Simonson did for this crossover special. This was the first comic to ever show readers what the legendary Source Wall looked like. Today, the Source Wall is a staple of DC mythos. A few years ago, it played a huge part in the Justice League: No Justice mini-series.
Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans Elevated Deathstroke to Superstar Levels
At the time that this issue hit, the character of Deathstroke had only made a handful of appearances in the pages of The New Teen Titans. However, writer Chris Claremont knew a good character when he saw one, and utilized mercenary Slade Wilson in several tremendous action scenes throughout the issue, showcasing what a badass character he was. (He takes out Colossus like he was a rag doll!) That Deathstroke’s popularity took off big time after this comic hit the stands is certainly not a coincidence. Rob Liefeld created Deadpool as an homage to Deathstroke. Even Deadpool’s real name, Wade Wilson, is a riff on Deathstroke’s name Slade Wilson. Maybe watching Slade take on mutants inspired Liefeld to create Deadpool? All of which makes this issue even more impactful in comics history.
We can only hope one day, DC and Marvel give the fans what they want and reprint not just this comic book, but all their other crossovers. It’s a great story that deserves to be discovered by a new generation.
Originally published on May 24, 2018.