SO YOU WANT TO START READING X-MEN COMICS
It’s a little hard.
But not that hard! And also it’s totally worth it. Every character you love from the movies or cartoons has a rich history in the comics, including tons more that I promise you’ll completely fall for.
1 - HERE’S SOME HISTORY:
X-Men launched in 1963, drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby and written by both Kirby and Stan Lee. It starred five mutants (Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey)) led by Professor Xavier. No Wolverine! No Rogue! No Gambit! Just five teens who happen to have some crazy powers. They went on a ton of amazing adventures, fighting the forces of evil. And, to be completely honest, the series didn’t really sell that well. It was even cancelled at some point!
But eventually, a writer named Chris Claremont picked up the familiar characters, and created one of the most diverse, inclusive teams in all of comic books. The X-Men featured African, Russian, Canadian, Irish, Native American, and Japanese characters! The idea of “mutants,” people who develop amazing powers late in adolescence, became an amazing metaphor for puberty. In addition, the X-Men were outcast; because they’re mutants, the general population hates and fears them.
Even so, the X-Men defend the world. They fight to protect the world, the only home they’ve ever known, even when the world does not want them. Anyone can be a mutant; anyone who has been cast aside, or felt out of place, or isn’t accepted because of sexuality or minority or views or just being who you are, this is your story.
2 - SO WHERE DO I START
That’s a good question!
I’m going to make a big, bold statement right now: YOU DON’T NEED TO READ EVERYTHING. There’s so much crazy stuff in X-Men history that I haven’t read even half of it. And that’s completely okay! Marvel and its writers do their best job to make stories accessible to everyone, so there’s a practically infinite number of jumping-on points.
Where to start really depends on what you like, and what you already know.
- I KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE X-MEN, I JUST WANT TO READ WHAT IS GOING ON NOW: This is simple enough. Start at Uncanny X-Men #500, and read up to the current issue, which I believe is #538. Come, freak out about Utopia and how great Emma Frost is with me!
- I HAVE SEEN THE MOVIES AND CARTOONS BUT HAVEN’T READ THE COMICS: Also pretty easy! My advice would be introducing yourself to how the X-Men work in comics by picking up Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, a classic. Astonishing is mostly a standalone story that doesn’t need a lot of prior knowledge, and has GORGEOUS art by John Cassaday. An excellent, excellent read. Once you read those 25 issues (and have thoroughly fallen in love with Kitty Pryde like the rest of the world), I would suggest reading House of M, a story that tells you the current situation with mutants across the world, and the lead-up to the events of X-Men currently.
- I JUST WANT TO READ THE CLASSIC X-MEN STORIES: Then you’re in luck, because that’s some great material! Look up “DAYS OF FUTURE PAST”, “THE PHOENIX SAGA”, “AGE OF APOCALYPSE”, “GOD LOVES MAN KILLS”, “GIFTED”, “HERE COMES TOMORROW” and countless others.
- I JUST REALLY LIKE (INSERT FAVORITE CHARACTER HERE): That’s completely fine! No use reading a whole ton of comics about characters you aren’t interested in (even though they’re great comics)! This does require some research on your part though. My suggestion would be looking up your favorite character on Wikipedia, finding a storyline you really like, and checking that out! Everything should be pretty easy to jump into, especially if it’s the start of an arc. And there’s a high chance your favorite character will have his or her own miniseries which sheds a lot of light on their background, motivations, and interactions with everyone else.
3 - OKAY WHAT ELSE?
There’s so much amazing content in the X-Universe to explore. The main comic, Uncanny X-Men, is going to tell you more or less everything you would need to know to start reading, but there’s so much more! In particular I’d like to point some great titles out:
- X-FACTOR by Peter David. A bunch of mutants (including Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man) form a detective agency in New York. Easily one of the best written series in years, it’s quick and hilarious and fun and more than a little sexy. Not to mention the art is goddamned gorgeous.
- X-MEN: FIRST CLASS by Jeff Parker. Be warned, it’s nothing like the recent movie - it’s more or less the REAL founding class of the X-Men. The original five mutants having crazy silver-age adventures, fighting bad guys, and growing up together. Comics as a force for fun, distilled in an amazing limited series.
- X-FORCE by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. If you like Wolverine and ultraviolence and blood and sex mixed together, you’ll dig X-Force. The best way I can describe it is if X-Men was re-imagined by Quentin Tarantino.
- S.W.O.R.D. by Kieron Gillen. More or less a spinoff of Astonishing X-Men, these quick six-issues were absolutely amazing space adventures featuring Beast and Agent Brand. Very interesting stuff, by a man who would eventually become writer of the main title Uncanny X-Men.
Hope this helps! If you ever have any questions, you should be able to find answers with a simple Google search or check the Wikipedia entry. Enjoy the children of the atom, those sworn to protect those who hate and fear them: The X-Men.
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