It could be argued that even though Spider-Man may have introduced the art of lengthy and powerful story lines, X-Men books perfected it with some of the best arcs in comic history. If you don't have the time to read literally infinite comic books, here are the most essential X-Men story lines to get you caught up.
At the height of his powers, writer Chris Claremont cast long-time protagonist Jean Grey as the X-Men's greatest foe when the sheer burden of her powers and a nudge from Mastermind (a villainous mutant with the ability to cast illusions) push her to abandon morality and embrace the world-breaking telekinetic potential of the Phoenix Force. It's a cosmic opera in which Jean kills millions, faces a trial at the hands of the alien Shi'AR race, and ultimately sacrifices herself for the good of the galaxy.
The drama lies not only in Jean's struggle, but in the anguish of her friends and teammates as they watch her descent into madness. The Dark Phoenix Saga is not only one of the greatest X-Men tales, but it is also a frequent nominee for the best comic book storyline of all-time.
“Days of Future Past” is the first alternate timeline storyline in the X-Men books and a short, succinct, and airtight one at that. When the X-Men's lives are threatened by radiation on a trip home from outer space, Jean transforms from her mild-mannered Marvel Girl persona to become the Phoenix, an angry force of nature that manifests a fiery bird to do her telekinetic bidding and that has the potential to destroy planets.
They came back in 1975 with a Giant Size issue that introduced a diverse, multi-national team of new X-Men whose first mission was to save the original X-Men after Professor Xavier had failed them. The original team faded into the background as Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and especially Wolverine took center stage and became fan favorites.
Claremont introduced the depth and complexity of a soap opera, believable romances and fragile interpersonal dynamics to the spandex filled punch-fest that had previously passed for story telling in the comic medium. X-Men Origins: Wolverine started the summer 2009 movie season with an estimated $35 million which ranked it as the 16th highest-grossing opening day ever (22nd when ticket-price inflation is factored).
The film took in a worldwide gross of just over $414,800,000 and earned a mostly positive response from critics and fans, but IMDb users can't agree on this one. X-Men : Apocalypse took the team back to the 1980s and recasting fan favorites, Storm (Alexandra Ships), Nightcrawler (Jodi Smit-McPhee), Havoc (Lucas Till), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Jubilee (Lana Condor) as teenagers and introducing Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) as En Sarah Our, the original mutant, set on destroying the world.
Director Bryan Singer started the franchise with this ambitious introduction into the world of Marvel’s X-Men comics. With acclaimed thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McAllen in the lead roles, X-Men established itself as an adaptation of depth and gravitas.
Hugh Jackman launched himself into superstardom in his breakout role as Wolverine, the main star of the film beside Anna Paquin's Rogue. Additions like Nightcrawler's opening sequence at the White House helped elevate this film in the eyes of fans, giving it a slightly higher rating than its predecessor.
IMDb's users rated it slightly higher than the original, with fans writing message board posts like, Best opening scene of any comic book movie?” Matthew Vaughn stepped in to direct this prequel, casting younger actors to tell the early stories of Charles Xavier (James McEvoy), Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbinder) and Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
Days of Future Past is the Goldilocks film that successfully found a way to combine both the original X-Men and new casts, acting as a sequel to both The Last Stand and First Class. It even earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects, making it the first X-Men film to get an Oscar nod.
Who would've imagined that Ryan Reynolds's relatively small role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine would turn into the highest-grossing R-rated movie worldwide, and the most popular film of this series? This is the third collaboration between Hugh Jackman and James Man gold, having previously worked together on Kate & Leopold (2001) and The Wolverine (2013).
© Provided by GamesRadar cover of Uncanny X-Men #141 There are some truly classic X-Men comic books in their decades-long history, from 'Age of Apocalypse' to 'Days of Future Past.' '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. As Claremont is wont to do, he does get a little too wrapped up in explaining to readers the facts of the world that might be new to those not following Thor at the time.
Because of the size of the cast, penchant for time travel and experimentation and general disregard for the best practices surrounding those things, the X-Men have always been ripe for an alternate reality tale. 'Age of X' would predate Schism (in which the X-Men split into two separate factions) by a couple of months, and present a world in which the X-Men are essentially doomed to suffer.
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.
Mister Sinister emerges as a deadly new villain as well, solidifying this arc as one of the most exciting and memorable in Claremont's run. (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.
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. '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. Windsor-Smith's work here is exciting and inventive as falling snow crowds the pages, but never dulls the artist's intentions.
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.
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.
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. Plus, we see character work that would be expanded upon later: Peter and Kitty's blossoming romance, Cyclops's anger that bubbles under the surface, and even Nightcrawler and Wolverine's frank discussion about religion.
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. 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. There's an unnerving darkness to the proceedings that fits the more mature tone, and Xavier's nightmarish visions are rendered with staggering intensity.
Just as their first film slashed its way into theaters and turned everything we thought about superhero movies on its head, Grant Morrison’s team-up with Marvel's merry mutants a year later provided a similar reinvigoration for the X-Men in comic books. 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.