This list is a mixture of full creative runs, specific story arcs, and isolated graphic novels. In general, we ignored solo and character-specific books, as well as spinoff franchises like Alpha Flight, in favor of projects that showcase the X-Men as a whole.
Chris Claremont's New Mutants run received an unexpected shakeup when Bill Sienkiewicz became the regular artist on the series. The series grew darker with Sienkiewicz on board as Chris Claremont introduced new characters like Charles Xavier's crazed son, Legion.
At times the two creators seemed to struggle to find a unified voice, with Claremont's verbose writing style clashing against Sienkiewicz's evocative imagery. But if never perfectly united, the duo delivered some memorable adventures starring a younger generation of mutant heroes.
Anyone complaining that the X-Men never interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe got their wish with House of M. One of the first major event books of the modern era, this crossover teamed the X-Men and the Avengers as they struggled to deal with an out-of-control Scarlet Witch and her less than helpful family members. Their efforts led to an alternate reality where mutants were the dominant race and Magneto's family reigned supreme.
But just as quickly as it began, this world started to crumble, and the end result was one of the most devastating days in the history of the mutant race. House of M also deserves credit for elevating Olivier Compel's name and paving the way for his work on Thor and Siege.
Scott Lob dell was one of the writers tasked with the thankless role of steering the X-Men franchise after the departure of Chris Claremont. Shortly after their marriage in X-Men #30, Cyclops and Jean Grey were whisked away to the future by Mother Assani in order to raise baby Nathan Day spring (better known to most X-fans as Cable).
This mini-series also features some all too rare superhero art by Gene Ha, which alone makes it worth the price of admission. Mutant Massacre is one of the more violent X-Men tales, with plenty of innocents falling victim to Sinister's Warlocks and even an X-Men being maimed in battle.
Mike Carey placed Xavier at the forefront of the book as the former head of the X-Men sought to rebuild his shattered memories and atone for the many questionable deeds he committed. The series also made excellent use of X-Men history, providing numerous flashbacks rendered by a variety of top artists.
Yesterday's X-Men, the first volume of Brian Michael Bends and Stuart Immune's All New X-Men, is the starting point for the current status quo of the monthly X-Men comics. The story starts in the aftermath of Charles Xavier's death at the hands of his star student Cyclops, who is now leading a “mutant revolution” alongside Emma Frost and Magneto.
Uncanny X-Force is collected in many forms, including a giant omnibus featuring the entire 35-issue epic, but make sure you start at the beginning with the “Apocalypse Solution” storyline. Marvel Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKenzie's self-contained graphic novel X-Men : Season One puts a modern spin on the early days of the original X-Men from the 1960s.
Marvel Schism, a miniseries written by Jason Aaron, set up the current dynamic of the X-Men comics, in which Wolverine and Cyclops lead rival factions of X-Men with very different goals. Aaron's story, which is set up as an easy jumping-on point for new readers, shows us how this philosophical rift happens, and more importantly, features a lot of pages of Wolverine and Cyclops beating each other up.
Marvel Cullen Burn and Gabriel Hernandez Malta's new Magneto ongoing series only recently began and won't be collected until the fall, but it's really the best thing you could pick up if you're fascinated by Michael Fassbinder's version of the character from the X-Men : First Class movie. The Internet has brought with it the possibility of previously near-impossible completion, and with it, the overwhelming implicit weight of years of continuity and the necessity of “catching up” before you dive in.
If you like long, intricate stories, try In the fast-moving world of shared-universe superhero comics, Chris Claremont has spent a staggering 17 years shaping the X-Men. While his run technically starts a few issues after this, Giant-Size X-Men #1 lays the foundation for a decade and a half of intricate long-form storytelling, interwoven plot lines, and the kind of slow-burn soap opera for which the X-Men are famous.
Excalibur has plenty of X-Men -style soap opera, but the long-game storytelling here veers further into the realm of the weird; and Davis’s run deftly weaves Claremont’s spiraling plot threads into surprisingly poignant tapestry. Ask any fan to pinpoint the classic, iconic X-Men story, and most will send you straight to Uncanny X-Men #129-138: the issues that chronicle the corruption and fall of the cosmically empowered Jean Grey.
All of that is because The Dark Phoenix Saga is the X-Men at their best : fighting as and for their found family and the fate of the world, backs to the wall, in the face of impossible odds. If you’ve watched the eponymous 2014 feature film or the 1993 arc from the animated series, you’ll recognize a lot of the motifs in X-Men #141-142, which have been adapted almost as often as The Dark Phoenix Saga.
Next, try The dystopian timeline of Earth-811 plays a cameo role in Days of Future Past, but one of its residents would go on to become a refugee in the main Marvel Universe. Rachel Summers, the daughter of Earth-811’s Cyclops and Jean Grey, served first on the X-Men, and then on the British superhero team Excalibur.
If you want to read a book that examines just about all the main themes of X-Men, you’re not going to find a more on-brand option than God Loves, Man Kills. Published in 1982 as the fifth installment of Marvel’s fledgling graphic novel line, God Loves, Man Kills takes on anti-mutant sentiment through the lens of bigotry in an evangelical megachurch, juxtaposing the “monstrous” mutant X-Men with the inhumane doctrine of a man perceived as a moral force.
Over the more than half a century he’s been appearing in comics, Magneto has gone from a one-dimensional super villain to a strikingly nuanced and sympathetic figure who more than once has put aside ideological differences to aid X-Men in need. Cullen Burn, Gabriel Hernandez Malta, and Jodie Bella ire’s 2014 serial adds even more depth to Magneto’s complex legacy as a Holocaust survivor, mutant activist, and first and closest friend of X-Men founder Charles Xavier.
There have been a lot of reality-hopping X- books over the years, but few so substantial and deft as this series, which spun off from writer Greg PAK’s single arc on Astonishing X-Men. Instead of shifting the main status quo, PAK and a series of spectacular artists reimagine the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel universe over and over, building a fascinating and unlikely cast of heroes in the process.
Husband-and-wife writer team Walter and Louise Simon son’s surreal, noir-tinged story of Cold War paranoia, and artists Jon J. Much and Kent Williams’s lush painted art, combine into a strange, elegant, and intricately built series that spotlights both one of the more rarely explored dynamics between X-Men team members and the breathtaking potential of comics as a narrative medium. Kent Williams returned to the X-line with Wolverine: Killing, a one-shot comic that’s even harder to track down than Meltdown : it’s never been collected, and it’s not available digitally.
Williams and writer John Na Racer craft a work that falls somewhere between traditional comic and visual tone poem, and a lyrical exploration of some quieter parts of Wolverine’s story. With appealing art by Gurihiru, the Power Pack crossover series are generally great kid-friendly introductions to Marvel’s adult superheroes.
It’s silly and fun enough to hold the attention of even fairly young kids; and seeded with enough layered humor and continuity gags to keep adults engaged at the same time. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)While it often seems like the X-Men during legendary writer Chris Claremont's run are big enough to sustain a universe of their own, the writer's dalliances with other corners of the Marvel Universe always provide fun distractions from the sometimes suffocating soap operatic of his main story.
'Agrarian Wars' is one of those fun little breaks that sees Claremont dip his toes into Walt Simon son's world of might and magic. Arthur Adams' art is some of the best of his career, creating a clear inspiration for artists like Marc Silver and Jim Lee to gain popularity in the decades to come.
With three simple words, Scarlet Witch put mutants close to extinction, but it made their struggle for survival even more desperate and compelling. The crossover as a whole is a little uneven as it's told over the course of 13 issues by five different writers who were all writing books that were fairly different in tone at the time, but they still get the job done.
In a weird way, the X-Men prevailing in this storyline is one of the most significant events in X-Men history because the baby turns out to be Hope Summers, and she is crucial to the resurrection process in place in the current 'Dawn of X' X-Men line. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)Depending on how you feel about crossover events, 'Mutant Massacre' will either draw your ire or your praise.
(To the point that continuity from 'Age of Apocalypse' would actually loop back around to make Dark Beast some impetus for Sinister's attack on the Warlocks in the first place. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)While 'Fall of the Mutants' is probably most remembered for leading into the Outback era of the X-Men, it's the smaller moments in this crossover that really deserve to be highlighted.
Though the main conflict with the Adversary and Freedom Force doesn't have the same impact as the team's face offs with other villains, writer Chris Claremont took the time to show us the world around the X-Men and how it was affected by them even if they didn't notice. For instance, Colossus tours the site of a battle with Juggernaut and recognizes that their adventures do have repercussions for the people who live in these places.
'Fall of the Mutants' is an odd crossover as the three titles never involved actually cross over, but the story allowed Claremont to toy with some ideas to help freshen up the X-Men's perpetual second act. Of course, the charges against him are dismissed, but since he's turned over a new leaf, this leads directly to him taking over as headmaster of the Xavier school and training the New Mutants.
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)Following up Grant Morrison is no easy feat, but famed writer/director Joss When was up to the task. 'Gifted,' the opening salvo of When's Astonishing X-Men run, brought Colossus back, helped redefine Cyclops, and introduced a mutant cure (providing part of the plot for X3: The Last Stand).
'Wounded Wolf' features a face-off between Logan, Lady Death strike, and her Readers that humanizes the of' Knucklehead in ways that speak to the heart of the character. Claremont's penchant for occasional solo adventures with his characters showed us how he was able to juggle them all without letting them feel flat or underserved.
Wolverine's concern for young Katie Power and his decision to leave Death strike alive are crucial to understanding who Logan is. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)In a move that can't exactly be replicated these days considering the way that everything is so entwined with the Internet now, X-Men fans in the '90s had everything they were reading replaced by all-new titles in an all-new dimension.
The '90s get a bad reputation for indulging the worst parts of the comic book art form, but this remains one of the best stories of the decade for its sheer boldness. The characters we had come to know and love were forced into fairly different roles in the 'AOA' timeline, and seeing how they changed (or stayed the same) is interesting to say the least, and probably couldn't work as well with any other superhero team.
And with artists like Joe Madeira, Chris Bachelor, Steve Eating, Andy Hubert, and more onboard, 'Age of Apocalypse' still exists solidly in the golden age of X-Men art. A spiritual sequel, 'Age of X-Man,' copied the concept of transporting the characters to an alternate world, but it didn't quite have the same level of surprise and novelty the first time pulling the trick carried.
Though Chris Claremont's storied X-Men run ended somewhat unceremoniously with this short arc as Marvel shifted the power balance from writers and editors to artists, all it takes is one look at the characters as imagined by Jim Lee, and anyone on the planet can tell you who they are. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)Strong women have been a mainstay since the beginning of Chris Claremont's run and Storm is without a doubt one of the greatest.
From her humble origins as a street thief to her evolution into a leader and a goddess, Promo Monroe has never proven an easy hero to break. Claremont's scripts deal with loss, forgiveness, coping, and surviving in the face of trauma, and Storm learns that there is more than one way to have power.
It would be seven issues of buildup before the Brood became a real threat to the X-Men, capturing and infecting them in Uncanny X-Men #162 leading the team to have to face their mortality. Wolverine takes center stage as the only one who can seemingly survive the infection, but that allows Claremont to use him to ground the story a little as we see the rest of the X-Men struggle with their situation.
With the humanity and clean lifework of McKenzie on display, Hopeless takes readers through some of those early years interactions between the Original Five X-Men and refocuses them for modern audiences. By injecting some truly Claremont-ian melodrama, Hopeless gives a fuller picture of the X-Men’s Silver Age adventures and the people who would become the X-Men we know and love.
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)Anyone who claims the X-Men aren't a metaphor for marginalized people in modern times probably hasn't read X-Men : God Loves, Man Kills. Chris Claremont introduces William Stryker, a reverend with a big, bigoted bone to pick with mutant kind.
The charismatic leader convinces his followers to take humanity into their own hands and the X-Men have to team up with Magneto to stop him. There's an unnerving darkness to the proceedings that fits the more mature tone, and Xavier's nightmarish visions are rendered with staggering intensity.
Over time, the cast grew and the soap-operatic adventures filtered through Morrison's brand of new psychedelia, allowing him to comment on the legacy of superhero comic books greatest team with his work. Hickman's knack for heady sci-fi gave the characters a direction for the first time in years, ending an era of stops and starts that failed to capitalize on the fact that at one point the X-Men ruled Marvel's publishing line.
In a way, Hickman throws the gauntlet down to the rest of the Marvel Universe, creators, fans and characters alike, with a single line from Magneto: “You have new gods now.” So while the artist admits that the plot is slightly borrowed from an episode of Doctor Who, 'Days of Future Past' still stands as two men at the height of the creative prowess finding opportunity and potential in these now timeless characters.