This is the very beginning, and you’ll need no previous knowledge to start at this point. This era is different from most because you have multiple options when starting with stories of the original team of X-Men.
These first two dozen issues aren’t very important later on down the line, but they do introduce characters that will be with us for all of X-Men’s history. Between all three volumes it is around 30 issues, but they read a lot faster than the old Silver Age comics.
Similar to First Class, it’s a modern take on early stories of the X-Men. X-Men is put into reprint until 1975 when the title relaunches with a new creative team aka the Claremont era.
While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby invented the X-Men, Chris brought them back from obscurity and perfected them. He is on the book for 17 straight years, and his whole run is basically one very long story.
Some of his characters and plot points still have lasting effects in comics that are being released today. While Chris didn’t write this issue, it is the jumping off point for this era.
Many popular X-Men are introduced included Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus. Chris’ second era on the books begins when Kitty Pride joins the team and Jean Grey had died after becoming Dark Phoenix.
The end of Chris’ era as he abruptly leaves Marvel in 1991. It also includes the storylines Extinction Agenda and The Muir Island Saga.
OPTIONAL: God Loves, Man Kills: This is a standalone graphic novel that was written during this era. Fair warning, those were ended before he could finish up all of his plot threads.
After Chris leaves Marvel in the early 90s, we see a period where the now two main X-Men titles HEAVILY cross over with each other. OPTIONAL: Age of Apocalypse is a self-contained story that takes place in an alternate universe.
It’s collected into to four trade paperbacks, but it’s almost universally accepted that you can skip Vol. Grant Morrison took over X-Men (v2) in 2001, and it was renamed New X-Men for his entire time on the title.
It is what brought X-Men into the modern era of comics and is highly regarded one of the best complete runs on an X-Men title since Claremont left Marvel after X-Men (v2) #3 OPTIONAL: Chris Claremont started a new X-Men comic around this time called Extreme X-Men (v1).
It's not as great as his earlier work, but if you're a fan after reading his first run, then it may be worth checking this out. This is a direct response to Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, and it is just as highly regarded.
Unlike New X-Men, instead of renaming one of the main books, Astonishing is a brand-new book that runs separate from the current X-Books isn’t included in any events or crossover (at least during the When run). OPTIONAL: Warren Ellis takes over creative control of this comic after When leaves and is also a decent read.
NOTE: Most would say that Cable (v2) issues are optional, but I highly recommend them. OPTIONAL: Mike Carey has a great 7-year run on X-Men Legacy (aka X-Men v2) during this time period.
His issues crossover with most of the X-Men events of the time, but for the most part it's easy to follow. OPTIONAL: Uncanny X-Force (v1) by Rick Reminder is one of the most celebrated X-books in recent history.
What you need to know beforehand: Scarlet Witch altered reality by deleting the X-Gene from all but 198 mutants. After running through time for 16 years with Cable to protect her, Hope comes back to the present as a young woman.
Also, during that time, Cyclops and Wolverine split the X-Men into two separate factions. OPTIONAL: After you read “The Trial of Jean Grey”, you can then start on Cyclops (v3) #1.
This is the space adventures of young Cyclops from the past, his space-pirate father Corsair, and his team. For trades, you want the Marvel Masterworks Uncanny X-Men (not X-Men, those are the 60s runs) volumes.
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. But for readers who want a more modern take on the early days of the team, Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKenzie’s graphic novel provides a great self-contained introduction to the original five X-Men, distilling down the first half dozen issues of the often-overwrought Silver Age.
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.
(And once you’ve read the original, you can join me in my annoyance that Fox made a comic centered around two women into a story that managed to be about the same three men twice.) 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.
After the comparative chaos of the mid-to-late 1990s, Morrison swept in and established a brave and world-shaking new status quo, setting the stage for pretty much every X-Men story of the 21st Century. 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.
By right of quality, it should have been an instant classic; instead, it’s frequently forgotten, rarely (if ever) collected, and a royal pain to find in hard copy. 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.
When they first started out in 1963, most of their stories wouldn't last more than a few issues at a time, as Stan and Jack looked to keep readers interested in introducing new villains and arcs every few months or so. With all that past and all that history to look back on, it's time to take a closer peek at what comics made Marvel's most Uncanny team so special, and the ones every fan should read, given the opportunity.