8 Great X-Men ‘Kick Off’ Comics
With Marvel’s famed mutants about to get UNCANNY again, we look at some of the most notable beginnings -- and new beginnings -- the team has had.
There have been many incarnations of the X-Men in the comics, with titles focused on various teams comprised of different lineups. As we get ready for the launch of UNCANNY X-MEN #1 on November 18, we thought it was a good time to look back at some other moments in X-Men history that marked notable changes for the team of mutants.
Looking at the X-Men’s past, it sometimes becomes a bit tricky to narrow down what the best starting points are, so if you’re looking to delve into key periods in the X-Men’s history – whether for the first time or to re-read classic stories you grew up with -- Marvel.com has identified eight ideal starting points for fans, from the earliest X-Men adventures to some of their most famous storylines.
X-MEN #1 (1963)
Sometimes, the best place to start is at the very beginning. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary collaboration yielded yet another classic comic book when they introduced fans to Professor Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and their fascinating enemy, Magneto. This is the foundation of everything that the franchise became in the ensuing years. The first 17 issues cover the length of Lee and Kirby’s time together on the title, but if you stick with the entire initial run of 66 issues, you’ll be rewarded by Roy Thomas’ subsequent stories and the lush artwork of Neal Adams and Jim Steranko.
GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
In 1975, the X-Men needed a fresh start and got one in a big – or dare we say GIANT – way. Thanks to writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, the team was revitalized with the international additions of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, and Banshee, several of whom would become essential ongoing members who it’s now nearly impossible to picture the X-Men without. In the wake of GIANT SIZE X-MEN’s re-launch of the team, writer Chris Claremont joined the ongoing X-MEN series with #94 (which would be officially re-titled UNCANNY X-MEN with issue #114) for his extended and acclaimed stint on the title. Shortly thereafter, John Byrne took over the art duties from Cockrum, collaborating with Claremont on some of the greatest and most memorable X-Men tales ever, including The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. Suffice to say, this was a quintessential time to be reading the X-Men.
UNCANNY X-MEN #210 (1986)
Chris Claremont's incredible run on UNCANNY X-MEN continued for many years, with several big comings and goings for the team, including the popular additions of Kitty Pryde and Rogue. Eventually, it was time for a bigger shake up, and while it happened in stages, UNCANNY X-MEN #210 -- from Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr. -- is a key issue here because it started the Mutant Massacre storyline that led to several longtime members leaving the team to recover physically and emotionally - and beginning the road to the X-Men's temporary relocation to Australia. The Mutant Massacre also began the start of several notable X-Men crossovers with titles like NEW MUTANTS and X-FACTOR, including The Fall of Mutants and Inferno. A long stint by artist Marc Silvestri also helped make these issues another highlight of Claremont’s tenure.
Welcome to the ‘90s! Chris Claremont was winding down his legendary 16-year run by this point, but not before helping to kick off another new era. X-MEN #1 (written by Claremont) and UNCANNY X-MEN #281 (written by Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and John Byrne) boasted tremendous art by Lee and Portacio, respectively, which helped carry the X-Men’s two new Blue and Gold teams to new heights - with X-MEN focusing on the adventures of the Blue Team, and UNCANNY X-MEN focusing on the Gold Team. Lee and Portacio soon left the franchise in great artistic hands with the likes of John Romita Jr., Andy Kubert, Joe Madureira, and more to keep the torch alive. Writers Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell also delivered an epic and impactful tale when they reached the Age of Apocalypse. Nicieza eventually stepped aside for writer Mark Waid, as the Onslaught storyline brought this epoch to a conclusion.
NEW X-MEN #114 (2001)
In 2001, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely shook up the X-Men with a more modernized take on the franchise in the pages of NEW X-MEN (the book previously known as the adjective-less X-MEN series launched in 1991) and a team pared down to just Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, and Emma Frost. Quietly didn’t stay for the full length of the 40 plus issues that followed, but Morrison was joined by a succession of talented artists as he laid out a new future for the X-Men and temporarily took Magneto off the board. Morrison also introduced Cassandra Nova, a frightening villain who struck a deep blow against mutantkind. Morrison worked to further humanize our heroes and gave them conflicts of the heart closer to home, as even Professor X came to question his place in the world.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 (2004)
It was going to take someone with vision to step into Morrison’s shoes and set the tone for the next incarnation of the X-Men. Enter Joss Whedon, the future writer/director of Marvel Studios' first two "Avengers" film, who was already the wildly popular creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” and “Firefly.” Teaming up with artist John Cassaday, Whedon brought Kitty Pryde and Colossus back to the team after lengthy absences (and, for at least one of them, a slight case of death). Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men was a largely self-contained epic told over the pages of 24 issues and a special finale that touched upon new enemies and one extremely ruthless returning villain.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #1 (2012)
You say you want a revolution? Brian Michael Bendis kicked off his stint on the X-Men titles with ALL-NEW X-MEN #1, a series that brought the five young original X-Men from the past into Marvel’s present. To start the story off on a high note, Bendis was joined by superstar artist Stuart Immonen and his stunning renditions of X-Men past and present. Shortly after, Bendis also relaunched UNCANNY X-MEN with a new #1 and a brand new team of young mutants under the guidance of a far more militant Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik. Bendis drew upon all eras of X-Men and brought about several lasting changes.
UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (2018)
While there’s plenty of awesome stories from the past, the X-Men’s exciting next step is right around the corner as well. This November, writers Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson, and Matthew Rosenberg are relaunching UNCANNY X-MEN with a ten-part weekly story that will once again redefine Marvel’s mutant heroes. They’ll be joined by an attention-getting lineup of artists, including Mahmud Asrar, R.B. Silva, Yildiray Cinar, and Pere Pérez.
The initial story is called “X-Men Disassembled,” and it promises to deliver mystery, adventure, and heartache. And it’s all starting in UNCANNY X-MEN #1 on November 14, 2018.
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