The “Fastball Special” is arguably the best and most iconic of the superheroic tag-team moves. The basic premise of a larger, stronger character picking up a smaller one and hurling them at the enemy may not seem like the most complex of tactics, but comics have been using it for years, and it is still a popular move in the repertoire of many heroes. The first documented comic book fastball appeared in Adventure Comics #253 back in 1958, where Superboy throws Robin like a javelin at a crook. However, it was the X-Men‘s Wolverine and Colossus that popularized it, and the move soon became synonymous with the duo.
The technique has been used so often that we could make several lists out of all its appearances, but we’ve chosen to concentrate on the Claws and Tinman specials and pick out the best and most interesting of the bunch. Before we get into the actual list, an honorable mention must go to the Lego Marvel Super Heroes video game which has a special achievement/trophy namechecking the move, unlocked by playing as the “Big Fig” Colossus and throwing the tiny Wolverine. It’s adorable. Anyway, here are Wolverine and Colossus’ 15 Best Fastball Specials.
15. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
There’s been a lot of renewed hate for the third entry of the X-Men movie franchise recently. Last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse featured a sly dig at it, and it’s received a kicking when it came to people ranking their favorite X-Flicks after Logan‘s critical and commercial success. We’re not saying it doesn’t deserve it, but it does have a few good points going for it. Like making a perfect list entry point, for one.
The Last Stand is the only X-Men movie to date to feature the Fastball maneuver and it appears twice, once in the opening scene and once during the final battle against Magneto’s Brotherhood. The movie’s opener is a fake-out, and the desperate war the X-Men are fighting turns out to be a simulation in the Danger Room. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine grows impatient with the students and co-opts Colossus into pitching him at a Sentinel, allowing him to decapitate it solo and abruptly end the lesson. Storm (Halle Berry) then chastises him for his lone wolf tactics. This is called back to later in the film, when Wolverine’s thrown at Magneto. He appears to have not learned his lesson, but he works as a distraction for Beast to leap in from behind and stab the Master of Magnetism with the mutant cure, turning him into plain old Eric Lehnsherr again. Not only this a neat bit of fan service, but it’s actually used to show character growth too. It’s a shame that level of attention didn’t go to the rest of the movie.
14. Uncanny X-Men #500 (2008)
The X-Men ended up scattered after the events of Divided We Stand, where the team disbanded after their school is destroyed and Professor X winds up missing and presumed dead. With mutant numbers falling, the remaining X-Men take up residence in San Francisco and build a new base there. They soon hear of controversial shock artist Guy DeMondue and his exhibition showcasing artifacts from the mutant war, including two decommissioned Sentinels. Our heroes are understandably appalled, but tag along with the Mayor to check it out.
The art show turns out to be a trap, as Magneto crashes the party and reactivates the Sentinels, sending them on a mutant kill-crazy rampage. One takes to the skies after Angel, while Emma Frost and Cyclops struggle to keep the last one at bay before Logan and his metal buddy Piotr Rasputin swoop in with an effective bit of teamwork. Wolverine is Fastballed from a rooftop onto the purple titan and savages its neck before deftly dodging a heftily-thrown hybrid car aimed at the back of the bot’s head, turning it into several tons of flaming scrap. In this case, the move is simple and effective, but not nearly as interesting as some of the other contenders on this list. It’s still a cool image, though.
13. X-Men #114 (1978)
After a devastating volcanic explosion at Magneto’s secret Antarctic base (talking about comics is worth it purely for the opportunity to write lines like that), Beast and Jean Grey are the only apparent survivors, stranded in the frozen tundra. Beast mistakenly believes the rest of the team to be dead, but they actually accidentally ended up in the Savage Land, a tropical world hidden deep within the ice and snow. If that wasn’t strange enough, primitive man-beasts and straight-up dinosaurs stalk the prehistoric oasis, making it an incredibly hostile place.
Finally reaching daylight after spending days underground, Storm and Banshee immediately take to the air to stretch and scout ahead. All of a sudden, Banshee is grabbed by a gigantic Pteranodon and held in its vice-like talons. This prompts Colossus to launch Wolverine at the creature, who drops the Irish X-Man once Logan starts hacking at its neck. The beast and its angry Canadian cargo tumble through the sky and crash land in a nearby jungle. When the group catches up with Wolverine, they find him triumphantly sitting on the body of the dead dino. Despite the Pterosaur starting trouble, you’ve got to love that Wolverine’s first reaction to a supposedly extinct creature is to not only stab the living daylights out of it, but to be proud as hell of his accomplishment.
12. Uncanny X-Men #325 (1995)
Okay, this one’s a little bit of a cheat because Wolverine isn’t actually thrown, but it’s still a good character moment worthy of inclusion. Colossus had gone bad for a while, choosing to hang with Magneto’s crew. He later reappears out of desperation, asking for the X-Men’s help to stop an imminent Morlock terrorist attack, led by Marrow, the mutant with the gross power to pull sharpened bones from her body and use them as weapons. Logan is reluctant to trust a “turncoat” like Petey, but he and the team are given no choice.
After several twists and turns, the story culminates in an all-or-nothing combat trial knife fight between Storm and Marrow (who has a bomb in her chest). The two tangle, but Marrow cheats and draws a second blade from her body. Ever the one for fair play, Colossus is shocked at Marrow’s underhanded tactics, but Wolverine brushes it off. Morlock Gene Nation member Reverb appears on the pipes above and hits Storm with a psionic blast. Logan and Piotr wind up for the special to even the odds, but Marrow casually kills Reverb with several flung bone daggers. Storm seems beaten and Marrow grabs her so they can die together when the device detonates in a matter of seconds. Ororo summons all her strength and goes all Temple of Doom on Marrow, plunging her hand into Marrow’s chest cavity and ripping out her heart, deactivating the bomb. Marrow was fine by the way, she had a spare. Perhaps she’s a Time-Lord?
11. X-Men #100 (1976)
As this is the first appearance of the X-Men Fastball Special ever, you’d rightly expect it to be accounted for. It’s a landmark moment, but it doesn’t quite hit the top ten by comparison. The basic story leading up to all this is that the new team of X-Men must battle the old members of Xavier’s mutant menagerie in a giant battle aboard a space station in orbit. The newer, leaner team (Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Banshee) must fight the classic line-up, including Cyclops, Beast, and Iceman, as they originally appeared in the 1960s.
The two teams finally duke it out in issue #100, and readers were introduced to what would become Colossus and Wolverine’s signature special attack. Before Wolverine is launched at Angel, it transpires that the pair had practiced the move in the Danger Room beforehand. It’s a nice moment of teamwork, but we never actually see if Logan lands it. It’s just a dynamic panel in a chaotic fight. Angel is forgotten about until the battle’s over, and Wolverine ends up being sucker punched by a suddenly-able-to-walk Xavier. In case you were curious as to why the classic team goes rogue – they were all robots, including the Professor. Isn’t that always the way? It’s either clones or robots.
10. X-Men Annual #4 (1980)
The 1980 X-Men annual eschews any kind of festive story and instead tells a cheery tale where Nightcrawler dies and the X-Men and Doctor Strange end up trapped in Hell looking for his stolen soul. The issue opens with Nightcrawler’s birthday. After the team exchange gifts and pleasantries, Kurt opens a mysterious black present containing a crystal figure of himself. The figurine explodes in his face, ostensibly killing him. The X-Team call in Stephen Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts, and he detects dark magic at work. A horned female spirit known as Margali suddenly appears, introducing herself before summoning a gigantic tentacle monster to drag them all into a dark realm, modeled after Dante’s Inferno.
The X-Men and Strange are reunited with their blue pal, and they slowly fight their way through the various circles with their own unique challenges. The first has them attacked by winged harpies, whereas another has them facing off against Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound. Their progress is ground to a halt when they reach a flaming wall with an army of demons at the top. Kurt can teleport and Strange can fly, but Wolverine must rely on Russian muscle to fling him over the wall onto the waiting demon warriors. It’s a fruitless attack, but this Fastball Special gains some points for the awesome spectacle of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Dr. Strange diving headlong into a demon horde before being unceremoniously dumped from the top of the wall moments later.
9. The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans (1982)
As you may have guessed from the informative title of this one-off company team-up, Marvel’s X-Men met DC’s Teen Titans in an epic crossover called Apokolips…Now! In the story, Darkseid resurrects Dark Phoenix and attempts to use her cosmic powers to turn Earth into a new Apokolips. The two teams must sort out their differences and work together in order to save the planet. The usual superhero thing.
Before the whole thing kicks off, we open with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus training late in the Danger Room. Colossus and Wolverine execute the Fastball Special to impress the Professor, and Nightcrawler adds a third link to the chain, teleporting into Wolverine’s path and spinning him around for extra momentum. Kurt proudly calls this the “Allez-Oop”. Not only that, but Walt Simonson’s art gives us a unique perspective on the move, with Logan being pitched like a snarling baseball directly at the reader. It’s a shame this maneuver doesn’t appear again in the issue, but it’s a cool twist on the formula nonetheless.
8. Uncanny X-Men #159 (1982)
In Chris Claremont’s Night Screams, Ororo Munroe aka Storm is the victim of an unusual mugging attempt, leaving her with a superficial slash to the throat. Ororo begins acting strangely, and soon the X-Men twig that a vampire is behind it. Not just any vampire, though – the actual Prince of Darkness himself, Count Dracula. Dracula intends to make Storm his vampire queen and takes her to Belvedere Castle in Central Park. The X-Team follow and confront the vampire lord.
Wolverine and Colossus immediately go on the attack and line up a quick Fastball to finish the fight early. However, Dracula turns himself into an intangible mist, causing Logan to hit nothing but air and faceplant on the ground. Whilst the maneuver isn’t successful, the sheer fact that Dracula is the target of this move makes it interesting enough to be discussed here. It’s a handy way to show that the X-Men’s usual tactics aren’t enough to deal with Vlad and their need to think their way out of the situation. After she gets her fangs, Storm breaks the hold Drac had over her and rejects his offer of undead marriage. Storm defeats his giant bat form in a dizzying aerial battle, and the Count finally relents, admitting he could never control someone as strong-willed as Ororo. He flaps off into the night, and the X-Men get some brief downtime before Moira MacTaggart calls up with the next crisis. Being a superhero must be exhausting.
7. X-Men #103 (1976)
Many comic wiki entries for the Fastball Special state that both participants must be willing in order for it to be properly counted. It’s easy to see why. If you’re the designated heavy hitter of the team and you pick up a smaller teammate and lob them at the enemy without prior warning, you’re not executing a brilliant move, you’re just a jerk. Whether or not this particular instance in X-Men #103 counts as a “proper” Fastball is up for debate, but it’s an amusing entry in the history of the tag-team special anyway, and a great example the occasional friction that exists between the two characters.
In issue #102, the X-Men find themselves up against the unstoppable Juggernaut. He tears through the X-Men, and Wolverine gets frustrated when Colossus stops fighting to check on the distressed Storm. He calls him a “tin dummy” and Piotr warns him about his disrespectful tone. Logan grabs Colossus’s arm in response and swings him into Juggernaut, flooring both giants whilst sarcastically quipping “Way to go, Russkie!”, proving that Wolverine can be a real dick at times. This continues in #103, where the X-Men track Juggernaut to Cassidy Keep, an ancient tower in Ireland. Storm flies over the keep’s sheer walls and Wolverine calls her a “broad” despite being previously warned about it by Mr. Rasputin. Giving Logan no time to react, the big Russian flings him over the walls, probably putting in more oomph than usual to make his point clear. It’s a great moment, and a solid illustration of the duo’s wildly different personalities.
6. Astonishing X-Men #12 (2005)
In part six of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Dangerous arc, the X-Men find themselves battling Danger, the sentient Danger Room program that went all Ultron and turned against her “father”, Charles Xavier. She’s a powerful physical manifestation of the training program, and as such, can transform herself into basically anything.
After Shadowcat saves the team from a massive energy blast that levels buildings, Danger switches up her tactics and engages swarm mode – summoning a plague’s worth of angry robot insects that pour out of a central hub suspended in the air. Wolverine takes one look at the oncoming swarm and requests a boost from Colossus, who flings him into the middle of the metal beasties. It’s a cool moment. This is followed by another Fastball a few panels later, when Piotr reluctantly throws Kitty Pryde, who admits that the maneuver has given her a “serious wedgie”. We never really thought about that as a potential downside to the move, but there you have it.
5. Iron Fist #15 (1977)
In a final effort to boost sales of Iron Fist‘s first run (spoiler: it didn’t work), he battled the much more popular X-Men in a classic case of crossed wires and mistaken identity. Danny Rand easily beats some bank robbers, but is ambushed by the superpowered Steel Serpent and drained of his Chi. He stumbles to Misty Knight’s apartment only to remember she’s on vacation. Meanwhile, Logan is being not-at-all creepy and maintaining a solitary vigil over Jean Grey and Misty Knight’s shared space, tearing Scott Summers out of photographs of the couple. He sees movement on the roof and leaps into action to confront the burglar.
Iron Fist and Wolverine duke it out and Rand accidentally throws Logan out of the window. Danny believes he’s killed the man, but Nightcrawler catches him. Leaving no time to explain, Wolverine demands a Fastball back up to the window and, perhaps due to muscle memory, Colossus immediately complies, hurling Wolverine back into the fight. Nightcrawler makes a good point about Wolverine’s temper and how his opponent could be anyone, and Colossus earnestly apologizes for the temporary leave of his senses as a panicked Kurt Wagner blinks away to try to help.
4. Wolverine #176 (2002)
Wolverine isn’t usually one for introspection and feelings, but he gets a big dose of both once he dies and visits some kind of limbo afterlife, guided by a mysterious redhead whom Logan assumes is Jean Grey (another spoiler: she isn’t). The redhead acts like the Ghost of Christmas Past, taking Wolverine through key moments of his life and commenting on his behavior, especially when it comes to expressing his inner turmoil. The guide remarks that Logan is always either lashing out or withdrawing, neither of which is particularly healthy.
The redhead opens a gate to a rolling meadow with the promise of answers just over the hill. However, several dead villains from his past show up to cause trouble, and instead of ignoring them, Wolverine snikts out his claws. They’re joined by the also meant-to-be-dead Colossus, who has Logan’s back, even in death. The pair team up for old time’s sake. As this is a weird dream world, Wolverine has the strength to “improvise” by pitching Shiny Pete at the motley crew of misfits, causing them to all disappear. The redhead scolds Wolverine for missing his shot to make peace with himself, and Logan wakes up in the real world once again, ready to make amends with his foster daughter.
3. X-Men #142 (1981)
A mere four issues after closing out the Dark Phoenix Saga, Chris Claremont and John Byrne launched into another soon-to-be iconic storyline, the Days of Future Past arc. As we’re sure you’re aware, the story is made up of two timelines, one in 1980 and one in the far-off space year of 2013.
X-Men #142 (the last in the series not to be officially called “Uncanny X-Men”) was the second and final part of the arc. The cover boasted the bold promise that “everybody dies!”, and they weren’t kidding. The 2013 timeline becomes a bloodbath as the remnants of the X-Men get taken out one by one. Wolverine, Colossus, and Storm end up getting the drop on a Sentinel, and Logan and Peter (Piotr in later comics) execute the Special to take it by surprise. However, the Sentinel spins round and hits Wolverine with a huge laser blast, leaving nothing but a charred Adamantium skeleton that probably smelled as bad at it looks. Whilst the maneuver does result in Wolvie’s death, it’s a striking image that made an excellent and now super-famous front cover for this issue.
2. X-Men #137 (1980)
In terms of landmark comics, X-Men #137 is a significant one. It concludes the famous Dark Phoenix Saga and was the issue where writers Chris Claremont and John Byrne killed off Jean Grey in a dramatic fashion. This marked the first time a major Marvel superhero had been killed on-panel, and it was a big deal at the time. Jean would stay dead for six years before being brought back, where her ties to the possessive Phoenix Force were retconned and expanded on.
Not only did the story feature the passing of Cyclops’ lady love, but it also has probably the best reverse Fastball Special to date because it shows so much of the two men’s respective characters. Thanks to the lunar gravity, Wolverine has the strength to pitch Colossus at the raging Phoenix. He does this because while he realizes that Phoenix must die, he knows that he’s emotionally compromised, unsure if he can hit the killing blow when it came down to it. He pitches Colossus, who can’t bring himself to hit Phoenix full force either, because he’s against killing and knew Jean as a friend. Although the punch isn’t fatal, it seems to knock some sense into her, and Jean gets a few final moments with Scott before sacrificing herself for the greater good. Even after the decades of stories since, it’s still a fantastic and genuinely touching ending.
1. Astonishing X-Men #6 (2004)
When looking at the best Fastball Specials, any number of things can make one great, but it’s usually a combination of the story context and the art. In Astonishing X-Men #6‘s case, it’s both and more. The basic story leading up to the moment in question concerns Kavita Rao, a top geneticist behind the Hope Serum – the cure for mutations. She goes public with her findings, with young mutant Tildie Soames serving as her guinea pig. The X-Men get involved and it all starts to go sideways, with an ethical war breaking out over what should be done with Rao’s research.
After his instrumental role in the whole debacle, alien psychic Ord attempts to flee S.H.I.E.L.D. forces and the X-Men by stealing a jet and taking poor Tildie hostage. The X-Men have only seconds before Ord flies out of range, so Wolverine turns to Colossus and asks if he’s feeling rested. When Petey answers in the affirmative, Logan says he’s got two words for him. Judging by the huge splash page depicting Wolverine majestically sailing through the air, we can all guess what those magical words were. Ol’ Canucklehead lands on the jet, breaks the glass, and shoves his fist into Ord’s mouth, threatening to pop his claws unless he sets the aircraft down safely. It’s a badass moment for Wolverine and a great use of the Fastball, one that’s easily worthy of the top spot on our list.
What’s your favorite fastball special of all time? How badly do we need to see a true depiction of the maneuver on the big screen? Let us know in the commens.
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