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.
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.
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.
Again, Chris Claremont delivers a series that engross readers and gives them complex storylines. 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.
Professor X uses Cerebra to contact mutants from around the globe, in an attempt to save his young wards. 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.