Essential X-men Reading

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This is my list of what I consider to be the most essential X-men stories.

That's not to say that these are all of my favorites; there's a few stories on here that I'm not even especially into, while some of my own personal favorites simply didn't make the cut.

But these are, to my mind, the stories that have and most likely will stand the test of time as they are most definitive of what the X-men are about.

Feel free to let me know if you think there's anything I've missed.

List items

  • Astonishing X-men #1-6 "Gifted"(2004)

    Astonishing X-men #7-12 "Dangerous"(2005)

    Astonishing X-men #13-18 "Torn"(2006)

    Astonishing X-men #19-24 and Astonishing X-men Giant-Size #1 "Unstoppable"(2007)

    Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men (2004, issues 1-24, or the first four trades, Gifted, Dangerous, Torn, and Unstoppable) are great.

    This run started just a year before the House of M (2005) mini series (which is also still pretty relevant).

    It in part functions as a sequel to Grant Morrison's New X-Men (2001), and between the two of them is what I consider to be the beginning of the contemporary age, yet it also works on the level of being an homage to Claremont's classic 1980-86 run; it does a pretty good job of marrying the two ages.

    Still, just in itself, one of the best X-men runs ever and a great place to start.

  • The X-men #129-138 (1980)

    Though not one of my personal favorites, there's no denying that this was the story that first took the X-men to the next level. As humanly tragic as it is cosmically epic.

  • The Uncanny X-men #141,142 (1981)

    Days of Future Past (1980), is just two issues, but it's sort of the beginning of Claremont's modern age X-men.

    Set after the (also noteworthy) Dark Phoenix Saga, Cyclops has left the X-men, and Storm is put in charge of the team for the first time.

    This story takes place in the future and the present, and uses this to establish a lot of foreshadowing for what would characterize the book for the next few years: Kitty, in her first mission with the team, is foreshadowed to become one of the greatest of them all, Wolverine is foreshadowed to become far more clever and less brutal (a nod to Storm's leadership style), and Magneto is for the first time foreshadowed to be one of the X-men.

    It features the X-men's most classic threats, the Sentinels, as well as the first plot by Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

  • Marvel Graphic Novel #5- X-man: God Loves, Man Kills(1981)

    Just a one off graphic novel in which the X-men, and Magneto, are part of a larger, more complex, and more human story. This one I consider essential reading, even if it is a bit dated.

  • The Uncanny X-men #150 (1981)

    this is a pretty definitive Magneto story, and basically changed the character for the rest of the decade, if not forever.

  • The Uncanny X-men #169-171 (1983)

    Pretty much everything between The Uncanny X-Men #168 - Professor Xavier is a Jerk! to #186 - Lifedeath totally transforms the team in terms of the focus and dynamic of the characters into perhaps the most down to earth version of the team.

    I chose these three issues (as well as the next entry) based on their general relevance to changing dynamic and tone of the team during this period. In these issues the X-men first meet the Morlocks, Storm has her character redefining battle with Calisto, and Xavier admits Rogue into the school.

  • The Uncanny X-men #177-179 (1984)

    These three issues work especially well as a sequel to the "Dancin' in the Dark" story, with the return of both Mystique's Brotherhood and the Morlocks, both of whom have unfinished business with the team.

  • The Uncanny X-men #200 (1985)

    More of a character defining story for Magneto than for the X-men, this story still had a huge impact on the team, creating the first schism within the team as Magneto replaces Xavier as head of the school.

  • The Uncanny X-men #201 (1986)

    In the aftermath of Magneto's trial, it's Cyclops vs. Storm for the leadership of the X-men; definitely an essential, character defining story for both of the X-men's classic field leaders.

  • The Uncanny X-men #210-213 (1986,87)

    From The Uncanny X-Men #200 - The Trial of Magneto to the end of the Mutant Massacre in #213 is basically the epic end of the Classic age.

    ..though I would personally book end it with The Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 - Lost in The Funhouse, a definitive Wolverine-centric story that establishes how both he and the X-men have changed over the duration of the classic age

  • The Uncanny X-men #235-238 (1988)

    Arguably the most relevant and classic X-men story of Claremont's late 80's replacement X-men. Claremont really put the team through the ringer during these years, and there's a lot of fun character work to be enjoyed there, but for me this is still the story that holds up best from that era.

  • X-men #1-3 (1991)

    Claremont's iconic swan-song, and the story that would reintroduce the team for a new generation.

  • The Uncanny X-men #300-304 (1993)

    The issues of Uncanny X-men leading up to the X-men's 30th Anniversary arc, "Fatal Attractions", are as classic and devastating as that story is itself.

  • The Uncanny X-men #304, X-men #25, Wolverine #75 (1993)

    30 years after introducing the characters, Xavier and Magneto finally have their epic final battle.

  • New X-men #114-117 "E is for Extinction"(2001)

    New X-men #118-126 "Imperial"(2001-02)

    New X-men #127-133 "New Worlds"(2002-03)

    New X-men #134-138 "Riot at Xavier's"(2003)

    Grant Morrison's groundbreaking reinvention of the X-men may be one of the most polarizing X-men runs ever. With Xavier taking the X-men public, a totally new status quo, and a host of new threats to contend with, I would at least consider the first half of his run pretty essential. Love it or hate it, this was the beginning of the X-men's contemporary age.