1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1 was a seminal moment for the team of mutant heroes. The issue passed the torch from the original team of X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, and Angel) to a brand-new team. Rather than killing off or retiring the original team, the New X-Men team became integrated into the X family, helping bring a much-needed sense of fresh diversity to the team.

The New X-Men were a smash hit, with many characters becoming some of the most famous and popular characters of all time for the team of mutants, such as Wolverine and Storm. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the New X-Men team, Marvel brought back classic X-Men writer Chris Claremont to tell a tale that brought both teams face to face with a classic foe. Never before had the mutant heroes faced such tremendous odds and suffered such crushing defeats.

An X-Men Leader is Getting too Close to One of Wolverine's Greatest Enemies

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2000’s X-Men: Black Sun (by Chris Claremont and Thomas Derenick) begins with Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Shadowcat, training in the Danger Room, the X-Men’s sophisticated training room. Kitty fights a replica of an N’Garai, a beast from another dimension. Finishing her training, Kitty heads back to her room at the X-Mansion and falls asleep. What she awakes to is a living nightmare beyond anything she could ever have imagined.Mountains of skulls reach into the sky as hordes of N’Garai pour forth from dimensional rifts. Other X-Men arrive to save Kitty; the heroes fight to the best of their abilities, but to no avail.

Beaten back, the X-Men are greeted by Belasco, an immortal sorcerer and conqueror from an extraplanar dimension. Their old foe tricks Kitty into defeating the members of the New X-Men team and injects their physical bodies with N’Garai demons, their souls absorbed into the petrified bodies of the N’Garai beasts. What ensues throughout the five-issue mini-series is a race across the planet as Kitty, now only a soul contained within Magick’s Soulsword, attempts to save the members of the original X-Men team from the N’Garai possessed bodies of the New X-Men team. Storm attacks Angel and Psyclocke, defeating them both; Banshee and Sunfire defeat Polaris even as Wolverine and Iceman fight to protect her; and Colossus and Nightcrawler attack Beast and Jean Grey, but fail to defeat them when Magick appears and warps them to safety.

The final issue of the mini-series culminates within the realm of Limbo. Jean amplifies Thunderbird and Wolverine’s physical abilities so that they can fend of the endless ranks of the N’Garai incursion while Magick and Kitty team up to defeat Belasco. As the X-Men are freed from Belasco’s grasp and the battle against the N’Garai comes to a pitch, Beast formulates a plan to destroy not only Belasco’s palace but the entire spell that maintain’s his ability to control the N’Garai cairns all across the world. A joint attack by Iceman and Polaris destroys the castle, bringing the battle to a close.

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X-Men: Black Sun is an action-packed epic that brings all the classic X-Men heroes together in a battle not just for the world, but for their very souls. It’s wild to think that the X-Men literally died in the story, with Angel even asking Magick outright if they were even alive at one point. Regardless of their ability to exist and fight within Limbo, the X-Men did in fact die on Earth and had their souls captured. There can’t really be any worse defeat than that.

But the crux of X-Men: Black Sun wasn’t the shock of watching the X-Men fall, it was the excitement in watching the two teams join forces against impossible odds and come out as victors. It was through their teamwork, coordination, and trust for one another that allowed them to overcome Belasco and save countless realms of existence. Having Claremont return to pen the tale was also a shrewd move. In the end, the X-Men proved once again they are heroes that can overcome an obstacle, no matter the odds.