Here I have assembled for you, in roughly chronological order, a round number of X-Men eras and stories that should make things a little less intimidating should you choose to further introduce yourself to Marvel's merry mutants. Their combined twenty fingerprints, together or separately, are all over such timeless characters as the Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, Ravage 2099, and Stripperella.
True story: the only reason the X-Men are a phenomenon today and not a footnote of Silver Age comic history is due to the relaunch of the title in the mid-'70s by Len Wan and Dave Cock rum starting with Giant Sized X-Men #1. It is one of the most well known pieces of comics trivia that the X-Men comic had been reduced to running reprints by the time of this unprecedented revamp of the series in which the team was introduced to a new generation by adding a 1970s white person's idea of international flavor and, once Chris Claremont takes over the title from Wan, the purple-prosed soap operatic the title is famous for today.
This is the run that brings to the team fan favorite characters such as Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and some scrub called Wolverine. This volume contains such classic stories as the introduction of the Phoenix, the Proteus saga (this was actually drawn by John Byrne; see the next entry in this list), and the time the X-Men fought leprechauns.
If you were to ask an X-Men fan to list the best X-stories of all time, odds are pretty good their answers would come from this era: The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, Wolverine versus the Hellfire Club, the introduction of Kitty Pride, that time Arcade brainwashed Colossus into thinking overalls were a good fashion choice, etc. But if you don't want to drop three figures on two doorstop omnibus editions, you can skip to the highlights with these individual volumes for the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past.
A standalone graphic novel with art by Bret Anderson, God Loves, Man Kills is considered by many to be the quintessential X-Men story, one which really brings the civil rights metaphor that had been more or less subtext up until this point to the foreground. If you want to see the X-Men at peak '80s, with Mohawk Storm and brown costume Wolverine, you could do worse than this collection of Mutant Massacre, which has art by such luminaries as John Romina Jr, Rick Leonard, Barry Windsor-Smith and Alan Davis, as well as including tie-in stories from X-Factor, Power Pack, Daredevil and Thor, by Walt Simon son, Louise Simon son, et al.
But if you really just want to see a bunch of X-Men stories that look like slightly better rendered versions of the early '90s cartoon, you could get this Claremont/Jim Lee Omnibus. When Joe Nevada looked to revitalize Marvel in the early years of the 2000s, one of the best moves he made was to assign writer Grant Morrison to make the X-Men viable for a whole new century.
Plus, Morrison puts great emphasis on the school setting, making Xavier's feel like mutant Hogwarts really for the first time. While this New X-Men Omnibus would be a great place to start your X-Men collection, please note that like much of Morrison's superhero work, it builds heavily on traditions of the past, and some elements of the story will have more resonance if you've read some Claremont stuff from the '70s.
After Grant Morrison wrapped up his run on New X-Men, Joss When (yes, that one) and artist John Cassady, for twenty-four issues, told a series of continuity-lite, action-packed X-Men adventures. Whatever your feelings are on the oeuvre of Joss When, it's difficult to deny that this series is fun, accessible, and a solid introduction to the personalities of many of the major members of the team.
The happy exception to this is a series of stories by writer Mike Carey, paired with artists such as Chris Bachelor, Clayton Henry, and many others. Unfortunately, after Supernovas, Carey's X-Men story gets embroiled in super deep-end crossover stuff like Endangered Species and Messiah Complex, but his narrative thread picks back up in X-Men Legacy.
This fallout included an evolution of the ideology and even the mission statement of the X-Men, as they begin to take drastic steps to protect the mutant sub-species. Anyway, the effects of that evolving ideology come to a head in 2011's miniseries Schism, by writer Jason Aaron and artists Carlos Pacheco, Frank CHO, Daniel Lacuna, Alan Davis, and Adam Hubert.
If you want to see what happened with Cyclops and his “Extinction Team,” Uncanny X-Men followed their adventures in stylish stories written by Keaton Gilles with art by Carlos Pacheco and others. This podcast will be a great supplement and aid in getting embroiled in this mutant nonsense, even if we disagree on the coolness of Havoc's hat headgear.
What follows has been a 55-year run of epic heights, featuring some of the most significant artists and storytellers of our time. Brian Michael Bends and Stuart Immune produced this series, where the original X-Men from issue #1 are brought to the future by a melancholy Beast.
In this 1937 version of the X-Men, the students are juvenile delinquents recruited by psychologist Xavier who trains them to hone their criminal instincts. When Jean Grey, a known conwoman, and manipulator, is found dead and covered in distinctive cuts on a nearby beach it’s the catalyst for a twisted and layered story that leaves readers on the edge of their seats.
Cybernetic psychopath Cameron Hodge and his crazed followers plus an amnesiac Havoc, lead an attack on Xavier’s mansion that imprisons Storm and a few members of the New Mutants. The bulk of mutant’s rally to sneak into the prison camps on Kenosha to rescue their friends and family.
Deep in the Latin American jungle Cassandra Nova reopens and begins to operate a Sentinel factory. By the time she is discovered by Cyclops and Wolverine, the mechanical hunters have devastated the island state of Kenosha, which is now home to Earth’s mutant population.
Messiah Complex was written by Ed Breaker and penciled by the fantastic Marc Silver in 2007. Messiah is the first major storyline after House of M, in which mutant kind was wiped from existence, and features the first mutant birth in several years.
Bishop believes the baby to be a catalyst for an earth-shattering event in his timeline and will stop at nothing to kill the child. After the original X-Men decide that going back to their time isn’t an option, they continue with updated looks and stories.
Blue is significant because it started a run of color titled offspring that dominated the direction of the X-universe today. Plus, Hank McCoy is a wizard in training, Jean and Cyclops are psychical linked, Angel has cool flaming wings, and Iceman can form a giant snow beast that rivals the Hulk in size.
The scale of the fighting was so epic that the sister series, ASX, featured sparse parts of the story and concentrated on the battles. The story ends with the death of Charles Xavier at the hands of his first student, Cyclops, who is possessed by the Dark Phoenix entity.
That’s what Scott Summers intended to do when he wound up with Jean Grey’s clone, a woman named Madeline Pryor. Sinister beliefs that the offspring of Cyclops and Marvel Girl would be able to bring down the world’s oldest mutant.
The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix show the origins of cable, how he came to be infected with the technogenic virus, and his trip to the future with Assani. The Astonishing X-Men was released as a limited series back in 1999 but didn’t take off until 2004, when Joss When took over.
His run revitalized the series, which cherry-picked the favorite fan mutants and teamed them up for perilous and thrilling adventures. In the ‘Ghost Box’ storyline, Ellis plants the seeds that lead to rifts so deep the very fabric of the team is altered from this point.
In the House of M series, written by Brian Michael Bends with art by the sublime Oliver Compel, explores an alternate Earth in which the Scarlet Witch has lost her children. Her grief has made driven her insane and her power is only held in check by a strained Charles Xavier.
Alas, the distraught woman is unable to control her powers and creates a separate reality. Claremont’s building of the story takes well over 27 issues, with only the sparse thread of ‘Mutant X’ being sprinkled about.
While in Japan for Wolverine and Mario’s wedding, Rogue earns her keep as an X-man while Storm adopts the Mohawk and leather that would dominate her appearance throughout the John Byrne run as the artist. His lovers Jean, Mario, and Silver Fox all meet an untimely end, simply because they loved Wolverine.
Loki has hatched a plan to make Storm the new god of thunder, but he wasn’t counting on the students and their powers. Touted as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, God Loves, Man Kills teams the X-men with general villain and all around bad guy Magneto.
The sadistic mutant hating preacher Stryker attempts to kill all mutant kind with a cerebra like machine. When the one-eyed hero from the future is believed to have shot Prof X with the techno-organic virus, the X-Men hunt down X-Force and their mysterious leader.
Written by a host of whose who authors, Inferno depicts the corruption of the Jean Grey clone Madelyn Pryor. Inferno has spanned all five mutant titles and centered on Pryor’s attempt to open a portal to limbo in New York City.
Ultimately, when the clone passes away Jean receives its memories and develops a love for young baby Nathan. When the X-Men learn that a vicious group called the Marauders are attacking the Warlocks who live in the sewer systems of New York, both X-Men and X-Factor arrive, and the slaughter is abated.
Angel is nailed to a wall and Colossus is so severely injured that he is unable to change back to his standard form. The work of Claremont with Louise and Walter Simon son crafted an arc that is at once triumphant and depressing.
This causes a break in the timeline, creating a new and separate reality, and Apocalypse attacks the X-Men sooner than intended. When Bishop appears from the future, the group's aid in full force in hopes of restoring the timeline.
How about when the love story turns dark, and one of the partners is infested with a planet-eating entity that is going to destroy the planet. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men in 1963, in the midst of some of the most significant comic creations of all time.
Angel, Beast, Iceman, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Professor X all were introduced in this initial issue, along with their arch-nemesis Magneto. The issues are culturally significant to comic collectors everywhere and fetch one of the highest prices for mint books.
Kitty Pride has her mind sent from a dystopian future where Sentinels, the gigantic robotic mutant hunters, have all but extinguished the mutant kind from Earth. When the movies began production in 2000, there was a buzz that I hadn’t felt since the height of the comics collecting era, before the crash in the early 1990s.
Each of the issues and storylines depicted above is worth checking out as they are prime examples of a thread of comic lore that has influenced the nature of where all mutant featured titles are headed.