The Avengers and X-Men have a long history, but given the Avengers’ past actions, it’s a wonder the X-Men ever trusted them.
The Avengers and the X-Men have a long and storied mutual history as two of Marvel Comics’ most iconic superhero teams. Unfortunately, that history is not entirely positive. And the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have clashed with Marvel’s Merry Mutants on multiple occasions. Despite their many victories, the Avengers’ record on mutant oppression is less than stellar. Given this, it’s not surprising that the two teams don’t always get along. And it’s a wonder that the X-Men ever worked with Marvel’s top superhero team again after the actions of fan-favorite Avenger War Machine following the events of the Decimation.
The X-Men officially become the figureheads of an endangered species after the events of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel reduced the world’s mutant population to a dwindling 198. As a result, Valerie Cooper’s Office of National Emergency works to “protect” the world’s remaining mutants by confining them in the Xavier Institute. But, with some of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe residing in that mansion, the standing guard isn’t a job for your average S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. As a result, that position is filled by the Sentinel Squad O.N.E., a group known for keeping a close eye on mutants.
These metallic golems, unlike previous Sentinels, first appear in Decimation: House of M – The Day After #1 by Chris Claremont, Randy Green, and Aaron Lopresti as manned vessels transformed into oversized Iron Man armors by none other than Col. James Rhodes himself – much to the chagrin of every mutant in the Institute. Whether Rhodey tries to justify his actions as being for the benefit of the remaining mutant population doesn’t change how grotesque his role in this affair is. Sentinels are literal monoliths of mutant oppression, and having them stand guard over the world’s few remaining mutants effectively transforms the Xavier Institute into a reservation rather than a sanctuary. In the pages of Messiah Complex by Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, and others, the X-fears Men are validated when the traitor Bishop finally weaponizes the automated Sentinels against his old teammates. This ultimately vindicates the mutants’ concerns while making War Machine and the Office of National Emergency appear even more inept and tone-deaf as they cause more harm than good to the endangered species.
While Rhodey acts in this capacity independently of the traditional Avengers apparatus, his actions reflect a pattern of negligence shared by the majority of his fellow Avengers. They rarely get involved in mutant affairs due to more traditional superhero concerns—even when the species is on the verge of extinction—and they actively turn a blind eye to the mutants’ suffering even when confronted with the reality of their situation. During the Civil War, multiple pro-Registration Avengers, including Iron Man and Carol Danvers – the future Captain Marvel – come to the Sentinel-patrolled Xavier Mansion, pleading with the remaining Decimated X-Men to help them fight while ignoring the S.R.A.’s uncanny resemblance to the Mutant Registration Act of old.
Finally, while the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, they are not the most politically conscious or forthright. And, if Rhodey’s actions indicate, they should all reconsider their position on mutant rights. It’s a wonder the X-Men ever trusted Marvel Comics’ Avengers after everything Earth’s Mightiest have done – or rather, everything they haven’t done.