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.
It is a standalone series from the mid 2000s that follows the original five X-Men in some all-ages adventure. Between all three volumes it is around 30 issues, but they read a lot faster than the old Silver Age comics.
Lastly, your final option would be a graphic novel from 2012 called X-Men : Season One. Similar to First Class, it’s a modern take on early stories of the X-Men.
It retells the first few issues from the Lee/Kirby run through the eyes of Jean Grey. 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.
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.
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. 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. The X-Men have had a lot of ups and downs in their long history, sometimes being one of the top books in the comic industry and other times being on the verge of cancellation.
For years, the team has combined fan-favorite characters with pulse-pounding action and drama, presenting some truly unique comic stories created by some top talents in the industry. X-Men : Schism, by writer Jason Aaron and artists Carlos Pacheco, Frank CHO, Daniel Lacuna, Alan Davis, and Adam Hubert, takes place during the Utopia era of team when the mutant race was at their lowest ebb.
A new Hellfire Club rears its ugly head and forces Cyclops to make some hard choices, one's Wolverine doesn't agree with. Uncanny X-Force: The Apocalypse Solution, by writer Rick Reminder and artist Jerome Open, sees Wolverine form a secret new X-Force team, consisting of Locke, Archangel, Fandom, and Deadpool, after disbanding the old one.
One of the best X-Force tales of all time, it highlights the black ops team of the X-Men and the hard choices they have to face, with the one made in this story having wide-ranging repercussions. Uncanny X-Men : The Brood Saga, by writer Chris Claremont and artists Dave Cock rum, sees a celebration turn sour as the X-Men, celebrating with the Shi'Ar empress Linda, are attacked by her sister Death bird and turned over to the Brood, terrible parasitic aliens.
Melding horror and superhero action, it showcased a fan-favorite team of X-Men going up against a terrible new threat and introduced the Brood to the Marvel Universe. Astonishing X-Men : Epigenetic, by writer Warren Ellis and artist Phil Jimenez, sees the X-Men attacked by an entirely new type of Sentinel, one that uses the dead bodies of mutants as their basis.
X-Men #30, by writer Fabian Nicaea and artist Andy Hubert, subverts the trope of comic book weddings. The Age Of Apocalypse, by more writers and artists than one can shake a stick at, takes place in an alternate timeline that was created when Xavier's son Legion went back in time to kill Magneto but felled his father instead.
Claremont went out with a bang on this one, serving up a fan favorite team in a struggle against Magneto in what is probably the best story featuring the Mutant Master of Magnetism. Morrison brought his trademark style to the X-Men, presenting big ideas and boiling the X-Men down to their essence.
Morrison layered so many little things through the book, linking it all together and giving readers twists and turns they'll never see coming, along with deft characterization and action. While Marvel erased much of what he did immediately after he went back to DC, seemingly out of spite, his work ended up informing the vestrymen stories of the 21st century.
Uncanny X-Men : The Dark Phoenix Saga, by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, is one of the most well-known X-Men stories of all time. The Dark Phoenix Saga introduces so many things to X-Men lore, like the Hellfire Club and Kitty Pride, concepts that would pay dividends over the years.
In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #1 Get acquainted with the original generation of X-Men : Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, and Iceman! In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #125 Chris Claremont-responsible for many classic X-Men stories-pits the X-Men against Proteus, an insane mutant who can jump into anyone's body and alter the very fabric of reality.
In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #129 Jean Grey, the mutant telepath and love of Cyclops' life, is consumed by a destructive cosmic entity and becomes the Dark Phoenix. In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #155 Dave Cock rum was a major force behind the look and feel of X-Men comics in the 70s, co-creating and designing characters like Storm and Colossus.
In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #168 For this issue, Chris Claremont teams with acclaimed X-artist Paul Smith (working with inner Bob Wick) for a Kitty Pryde-centric story. In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #186 Legendary artist Barry Windsor-Smith draws this Chris Claremont-penned story about Storm coming to grip with the loss of her powers and discovering that fellow X-Man Forge is responsible.
In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #205 An injured Wolverine must team up with Katie Power to evade Lady Death strike during Christmas in New York City. Gambit exploded on the scene, aiding Storm, and would go on to become an important part of the Uncanny X-Men for years to come.
Will three mutants teams be enough to defeat the entire island nation of Kenosha, led by the monstrous Cameron Hodge? This issue kicks off the legacy of the Gold Team led by Storm and featuring Jean Grey, Colossus, Archangel and Iceman.
In Uncanny X-Men (1963) #475 The X-Men find themselves in an intergalactic conflict when Vulcan, the mad brother of Cyclops, looks to take over the Shi'Ar Empire. 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, in which the X-Men team up with Magneto to confront a religious crusade against mutants, isn't particularly subtle but is very effective in focusing on the series' core theme of fighting bigotry and oppression. 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.