Hey! Hallie here!
The Marvel fandom has often debated which Marvel team is better considering the success of both the X-Men and Avengers movie universes. There are other major teams in Marvel, like the Fantastic Four, but none have made anywhere near as big of an impression as these two did. And with the biggest MCU plotline now closed, a lot of people are looking back on both series to compare them. I’m not going to compare the entire series because that is a lot to unpack. Especially when it comes to the many, many, movies in the MCU. However, I will compare some of the characters and their development. This is going to be a series because there are too many characters I want to tackle and because my schedule prevents me from making this post as long as I want it to be. For this post I’m going to take the most popular characters from each team and put them against each other based off of their characteristics. The character with the best writing wins. Let’s go!
Wolverine vs. Iron Man: I paired these two together because they technically both hold the main character status. They both started out their franchises with their story, both with personalities that made it difficult to initially work well with a team, and both end the series with their death. Essentially their respective cinematic universes gave each of them the fullest character arc.
First let’s look at Tony Stark. Tony Stark begins the series as a conceited, rich, playboy without much compassion. Throughout the first movie he drops only one of these things. He develops compassion through the guilt he feels over hurting others, and through his growing feelings for Pepper. But even then he is still known for hitting on other women, Natasha Romanoff being a prime example, and for being extremely self-absorbed. He thinks he knows best, which is proved when he creates Ultron. Even after Ultron is destroyed Tony seems to believe he knows the best way to atone for his mistakes rather than realizing that he should listen to others. By the time he dies he’s still rich and privileged. He’s still conceited. The major difference is that his experiences with Peter Parker and his own kid, as well as the brief time he spent living quiet life with Pepper, has made him realize there are other people in his life who are both probably better than he is and worth protecting.
Logan is a different kind of unapproachable at the beginning of X-Men. He doesn’t really like or trust anyone and because of that he’s really only looking out for himself. And can you blame him after he spent years being tortured and experimented on? However, Logan has the benefit of this changing for him right at the beginning of the first movie. He meets Rogue, a young girl who’s very alone and very afraid, and ends up worrying about her well-being. His near-immediate interest in her situation is almost parent-like, and he ends up joining the X-Men as a means of protecting her. As the series goes on he becomes involved in the well being of all of the students, to the point that he acknowledges that they have become his purpose in life. He treats the entire X-Men like family, learns to look after many more people than just himself, and ends up using his abilities to look after Charles Xavier well into the future. He dies having embraced another orphaned girl like a daughter and having devoted the majority of his life to family.
Winner: The clear winner between these two is Logan. Logan is not self-centered and feels like he grew much more than Tony. In fact, Tony could have done with some more character growth, and he had more movies.
Captain America vs. Professor X: This might be a weird mash-up, but hear me out. I put these two together because, despite not holding the main character status, they both hold the leader status. They also serve as the moral compass of their team and hit some surprisingly similar character beats.
Once again I’m going to start out with the MCU character, Steve Rogers. Steve is a pretty good guy when we first meet him. He’s pretty scrawny and weak but he has the immense desire to protect people who have been badly treated, much like he has. This determination ends up putting him in the position of Captain America, where he gets to discover how difficult the line of work he’s been hoping to join truly is. He becomes partly dependent on his relationships with Bucky and Peggy in order to keep himself level headed and his motivations clear. And then he loses both of them. Afterwards his character arc becomes about his reluctance to trust those from a time period he knows nothing about. On top of that, he has to grapple with his entire belief system being torn down when he realizes Hydra is behind the government operations he’s believed are his best path to helping people. He quickly shifts his mistrust into a general mistrust of anything that is not his own, often correct, sense of right and wrong. When Bucky comes along his trust in others extends to himself, Bucky, and Sam Wilson. By the end of the series he cares for the other people in his team, but he decides to return to Peggy. The only people he trusts to continue his legacy are Bucky and Sam, whom he has seen prove time and time again to have a strong sense of right and wrong.
Charles Xavier is another character who starts out with a pretty strong moral compass. He also has an extreme desire to help mutants overcome their oppressors, which is something that remains true for the entire series. This desire is one of the major things that brings him very close to Erik Lehnsherr, because it’s something the both of them have in common. He eventually begins to view Erik as an essential piece to achieving his goals. Except he realizes too late that Erik’s moral compass is much more twisted than his own. By the end of it he loses his ability to walk. He loses faith in his belief that he can make any sort of difference once he becomes disabled. He abandons the school he barely started and sacrifices his mutant abilities in order to regain the ability to walk. He also becomes a raging alcoholic. However, his faith is slowly restored when tragedy causes him to become essential in the protection of mutants. His compassion for both mutants and humans makes him realize that while he cares for Erik, he can’t depend on him. However, his love of helping mutants inspires him to teach well into his later years, acting as a father figure for the majority of mutants who come through his school. In his final years his health issues cause him to be dangerous to everyone but Logan, who watches over him like a son until Xavier’s tragically killed.
Winner: This one is actually a tie for me. Both characters hit similar beats in their stories. They have honorable goals they tie to specific loved ones, only to end up losing their loved ones in one way or another. They each have a major moment where they lose their faith and have to rearrange their beliefs. Steve ends up finding that Bucky is one of the only people he can trust while Xavier realizes Erik is one of the only people he believes doesn’t deserve his trust. It’s certainly an interesting parallel, and the part of me that likes happy endings appreciates Xavier’s ability to open himself up more after his trust is broken. But Steve is often right when he decides to air on the side of caution, and it’s no wonder he decides to go off on his own by the end of it all.
For this post I’m calling it for the X-Men. I didn’t realize how much there was to unpack with Charles and Steve, but both are really excellent characters that explore what happens when a good man has his belief system challenged. However, Logan and Tony’s storylines can be summed up with much simpler ideas. Both are unapproachable and self-obsessed when the audience meets them. Tony, however, never realizes that he isn’t the most important person in the room 100% of the time, despite the fact that he does learn to care for people. The point of X-Men is found family. Logan learns that he can’t view himself as the only important person in a familial environment early on in the series, and he becomes a better character for it. The family dynamic of the X-Men simply proves to be a better character motivator than the colleague-to-colleague relationships the Avengers have.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!