Looking for a good guide to get started with everyone's favorite mutant superheroes, the X-Men? Well, the New York Public Library has got a list for you! Explore this annotated list of the X-Men adventures collected in trade paperback format. Sadly, my favorite one-time X-Man Longshot is not featured in any of these stories. Also, join us next month at the Mid-Manhattan Library for Free Comic Book Day!
The Dark Phoenix Saga
Largely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest X-Men stories of all time. The Dark Phoenix saga focuses on original X-Man Jean Grey and her corruption and eventual destruction as the cosmic entity Phoenix. Initially, Jean Grey became the Phoenix to stop the mad tyrant D’Ken from the alien Shi’Ar. After defeating him and ending the crisis, the Phoenix remains with the X-Men... but it finds itself addicted to human feelings and impulses. When Mastermind, an old foe of the X-Men, exposes Phoenix to dark urges... well, things don’t go so great for anybody. This story is adapted in the X-Men Animated Series and less faithfully in X-Men: The Last Stand.
Age of Apocalypse
Not everyone knows that Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men, had a son. His name was David Haller and, for much of the young man’s life, Charles didn’t know of his existence, either. Suffering from a form of dissociative identity disorder, he was institutionalized and medicated for much of his life. Accessing his vast mutant psionic powers, he hatches an insane plot to go back in time to Israel when Charles and his enemy Magneto first became friends. His plan? To kill the Magnus before he can become the X-Men’s greatest enemy. When he kills Xavier accidentally, he plunges the world into an Age of Apocalypse.
God Loves, Man Kills
The X-Men face a very different enemy in this story: Reverend William Stryker. Using anti-mutant sentiment across the country to gain a following, Stryker is able to eventually kidnap Professor Charles Xavier, Cyclops, and Storm in an attempt to eradicate all mutants. This forces the team into a somewhat uneasy alliance with their enemy Magneto, who also seeks to stop Stryker. The story is notable in that the X-Men don’t face off against any costumed super-powered villains and serves to highlight the prejudice and discrimination the team faced just for being born different. The story is adapted loosely in the film X2.
Not so long ago, the Marvel Universe was plunged into a superhero Civil War. The X-Men were not on the front lines of this war, having recently become an endangered species after the Avenger Scarlet Witch had depowered most of the world's mutants. But when rogue members of the X-Men’s defunct sister team X-Force take it upon themselves to liberate mutantkind, Cyclops, Bishop, and the government all attempt to stop them. For other Civil War stories featuring Marvel characters, be sure to check out Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Amazing Spider-Man, and Young Avengers & the Runaways. For background information, visit the Marvel Universe Wiki.
Prelude to Onslaught
Bishop, a time traveling mutant law enforcer from the future, found himself stranded in our time while pursuing a criminal. He’s more than a little starstruck at meeting the mythical X-Men... after all, in his time they are legends. He tells the team a cautionary tale; there was a rumor that the team had been destroyed from the inside out. There was a traitor in their midst. Believing it initially to be Gambit, Bishop begins to change his mind after getting to know him. He admits to not having any idea of who it could be. This story chronicles the revelation of who that traitor is... and why the X-Men never would have seen it coming.
Ever wondered how Chris Claremont’s 17-year run on Uncanny X-Men would have ended? This is the concept behind the series X-Men: Forever. In Picking Up Where We Left Off
, Storm betrays the team and incinerates Wolverine. Subsequent stories follow an expanded roster of the team, including Kitty Pryde sporting an adamantium claw and a de-aged Storm named 'Ro. Check out these additional collections: The Secret History of the Sentinels
, Come to Mother … Russia!
, and Devil in a White Dress
. The story is considered to be in an alternate history of the X-Men where Magneto never returned (and perhaps really died) after the destruction of Asteroid M.
It’s a beautiful day in Central Park. Pop superstar Lila Cheney is holding a benefit concert for peace. Charles Xavier is slated to speak, and he opens with a heartfelt plea for all of humanity to look at mutants like they are people, too. It’s during this speech that Cable, a time travelling ally of the X-Men, appears and shoots Xavier in the chest. He teleports out and the X-Men race to get their mentor stabilized. As a techno-virus threaten to destroy Charles from the inside out, the extended family of the X-Men come together to track down Cable and the archvillain Apocalypse and avenge the man that brought them together.
Sometimes the only place to start is at the beginning. Explore these classic collections of the original issues of Uncanny X-Men reprinted in black & white. Many of these stories, written by either the prolific Stan Lee or Chris Claremont, also feature crossovers with the X-Men’s sister team The New Mutants who were formed around this time. Several stories, such as the United Nations putting Magneto on trial for crimes against humanity, don’t often play out in the ways you might expect. The team also faces memorable antagonists like The Hellfire Club, Proteus, and the evil witch Selene. Also, check out more recent issues of Uncanny X-Men, too.
After Magneto’s daughter Wanda Maximoff depowered most of the world’s mutant population rendering them as nearly an endangered species, the X-Men soon realized that no new children being born were mutants. Hank McCoy tries to find both a scientific or a mystical reason for this but answers are not to be found. So when a young girl with red hair — named Hope, of all things — is finally mutant-born, the X-Men race against Mr. Sinister, the Marauders, the Acolytes, and others so they can protect the child at all costs. What’s even more disturbing? The biggest threat to Hope is in fact a former X-Man no one expected.
After relocating to the west coast, the X-Men eventually settle on the remains of Magneto’s former base Asteroid M. With Cyclops attempting to make the team’s new island home both habitable and sustainable, he also opens his doors to any and all mutants who want to live there. After butting heads with his longtime comrades Hank McCoy and Professor Xavier, he finds support from unlikely individuals such as the Atlantean king Namor and the X-Men’s foe Magneto himself, who offers to help Cyclops embrace his vision as it now coincides with his own. But with the X-Men gathering mutants all in one place, are they just making themselves one big target?
Check out this booklist on BiblioCommons >>