It may be hard to believe but there was a time when the two largest comic companies got together and let their respective characters play in the same sandbox for a while. Maybe things were a little more fun and a lot less corporate (at least to the casual fan) back in 1982 but it resulted in one of the best team-up/crossover books in comic’s history! Sure that might just be my opinion but Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans will always stand out as a classic that brought the best from both companies at the time and gave the fans something to be excited about.
Written by the legendary Chris Claremont with art by Walt Simonson and Terry Austin, Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans did not read like your average crossover. This story left the tried and overused team-up formula behind in favor of a more developed and focused story. Nor did it fall back on the one universe invading another trope either. What we do get is a shared universe in which two of the most powerful galactic threats from each coming together and the heroes who join to stop them.
The issue begins with a conversation between Darkseid and Metron where through some manipulation it seems as if Darkseid is free to begin his plan. From here we meet the X-Men who are going through some training in the Danger Room. Claremont uses this sequence to introduce anyone unfamiliar with the characters in and then puts the plan into action. Darkseid is draining their memories of the recently deceased Jean Grey also known as Phoenix. During the process he accidently awakens Kitty whose screams alerts her teammates. When they realize they were all having nightmares about Jean there’s a knock at the door and a ghost like image appears to Scott asking for help!
Over at Titans Tower, which was in New York at the time, Raven has a nightmare of her soulself being consumed by the Phoenix. Her screams bring along Starfire and Changeling (Beast Boy) who begins to take the form of the Phoenix bird as Raven describes what happened in her dream. Seeing the creature causes Starfire to attack him but she quickly comes to her senses and alerts the rest of the team. This is where those Marvel fans new to the Titans get introduced to Kid Flash, Cyborg, and Wonder Girl. The only member who doesn’t respond to the call is Robin who ran into Deathstroke and some of Darkseid’s parademons earlier that night and was knocked unconscious. When everyone is finally together Starfire explains her reasons for hating the Phoenix that ties in the Shi’ar and the moment the cosmic entity killed five billion when feeding on a star.
After some investigation, Proffesor X sees the pattern in the attacks on his students and attempts to intercept their mysterious enemies. This leads to quite the exciting battle but in the end the X-Men are defeated and captured. Much like the Titans who were taken down as well while they were attacking the X Mansion and mistaken for the mutants by a group of Parademons. Both teams are brought together and Darkseid is able to move his plan ahead by siphoning the rest of the energies needed to bring about the second coming of Dark Phoenix! However, this is just part of his plan as Earth is on the agenda to become the new Apokolips!
Claremont does a masterful job merging the Marvel and DC characters without sacrificing any part of who they are. Fans of each will be pleased with how their favorite characters are represented here as it doesn’t seem like one was favored over the other. When the teams actually do meet it’s a peaceful moment that results in introductions and handshakes because they actually TALK first. They save their aggression and fighting for the bad guys which makes sense and gives the story more credibility than most. The actual fight against the bad guys is a great show of abilities and powers but Claremont also shows how much of an emotional fight it is for the X-Men. Especially for Cyclops.
The artwork from Simonson and Austin just leaps off of the page and helps make this one of the visually best stories around. There are several panels that really stand out for various reasons starting with the very first page. The perspective of the Source Wall only hints at it’s size but both Darkseid and Metron look like ants. It’s an imposing shot that really sets up the scale of this place. There’s also a panel where Scott screams for Jean and the entire panel is colored red as you can see his ruby quartz glasses barely holding back the blasts. As great as these two are the visual story really shines as they allow the influence of Jack Kirby to be seen throughout much of the book. From the infamous crackle to the characters that Kirby created, Austin and Simonson kept the essence of all of that while maintaining their own styles as well.
My final thoughts about Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans is that this book exceeds most if not all team-up/crossover books. This title actually holds the first five spots in my top ten comic team-ups and deservedly so. The creative team delivered what fans had actually been begging for without the cliché battle between the good guys. A story that seemed more natural and organic than most crossovers. And neither side seemed concerned with outdoing the other but just telling a good story for the fans. This was Claremont in his prime and any character he wrote made you want to know more about them. So whether you were a Marvel fan or a DC fan at the time he made you want to know exactly who the Teen Titans or X-Men were after reading this. It’s a shame that we didn’t get any more due to conflict between the two companies that developed during that time. It would have been awesome to see what would become of the second issue but at least we’ll always have this one.
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