Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Favorite X-Men Stories

August 24, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
X-Men Age of Apocalypse Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed Underutilized Comic Book Characters. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Wool Hat: “I’m going to say Captain Britain. Alan Moore and Chris Claremont showed how much could be done with the character, and of course very few writers could rise to their level. But couldn’t SOMEONE have read some back issues and made use of some of those story threads?”

Camiwaits: “I feel The Fourth World is pretty underused (Apart from Darkseid). I’d love a proper New Gods series.”

El Atomico: “Great article with some excellent choices.
I always wanted to see more of the Serpent Society, I thought they were badass villains, and as long as you could keep coming up with snake names and gimmicks (aren’t there like, more than 1,000 species?) , you could always be adding new members.”

Special Agent Filthy: “DC:
Foreigner – he would make a great villain/foil for Daredevil, Moon Knight or the Punisher
Synapse – cool character from Duggan’s Uncanny Avengers
Karnak – would love something with him on his own away from the Inhumans”

SharkLasers: “While cheesy in many ways, I loved the original Ultraverse. James Robinson’s work on Firearm was particularly good. It wouldn’t surprise me if Quesada is lying (again) and the reason is simply because Marvel is loathe to properly recognize people that create the characters.

Over in the DC Universe, Resurrection Man will always be a favorite of mine. They pigeon-holed themselves at the beginning, saying his new power upon resurrection was directly related to combating whatever previously killed him, but they quickly abandoned that to “here’s a random new power,” which lead to a hilarious page or two of Hitman shooting him over and over saying “What’s your new power? Try again.””

Jeff Clark: “Death’s Head, yes?”

Zemo x2: “Any character who isn’t Batman is underutilised. But if I had to pick one it would be Firestorm. No ongoing, no film and only a handful of appearances on TV. He can rearrange the molecules of non organic matter and absorb radiation. Also the character is comprise of 2 separate minds merged together. He is a cool character and I like to see him get more exposure”

J-man: “Gus, I feel like we are of the same fandom. Dr. Fate and Firestorm are under represented and AWESOME. Nobody ever gives them their due. I’m stoked for Black Adam just to see Fate on screen (although I don’t know if Pierce Brosnan was the way to cast it).”

Thank you to everyone who commented last week!

This week we discuss…

Favorite X-Men Stories
You can always count on the X-Men to deliver. Good or bad. Recently Marvel released a teaser with the letters SOS that got people wondering and it turns out the next big X-story is coming. The latest teaser tells us, “A New World. A New Disaster. Mister Sinister’s plans come to fruition beyond his wildest dreams…AND his darkest nightmares. Can the X-Men survive the experience? Can anyone? Discover how twisted mutantkind becomes when Mister Sinister achieves victory in SINS OF SINISTER, a new crossover coming to the X-Men.” We’re also told that “This Is the Future Sinister Wants.” 

Will it be any good? Time will tell. 
I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the more classic X-Men stories out there that have become our favorites. I’ll be honest up front, I’m just hitting the big ones and leaving plenty of “meat on the bone” for you to pick at in the comments below.

Let’s get the trinity out of the way first. I was a young comic book reader at the time and didn’t appreciate the gems before me. You could look back and seriously consider the 1980-81 prime X-Men period. 1980 gave us the Dark Phoenix Saga in issues 129-138 and in 1981 we got Days of Future Past in issues 141 and 142. On top of that, 1981 also saw X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.

3 stories and 3 defining moments for the mutants that still impact today’s stories. You could place these stories in my Top 3 and have a hard time convincing me otherwise. The good thing about the X-Men is they’ve been involved in a number of great storylines that touch readers in different ways.

Take the Age of Apocalypse. In 1995 this crossover replaced Earth-616 (later to be Earth-295) with a world where Legion, aka David Haller, a psychotic mutant who traveled back in time to kill Magneto before he could commit heinous deeds against humanity. In a twist, Legion accidentally kills his own father, Professor Xavier, flipping the timeline on its head. Because of this, Apocalypse is able to take over and alter things as we know it. It was epic, spanning a number of books like X-Calibre, Gambit and the X-Ternals, Generation Next, Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Weapon X, Factor X, X-Man, and X-Universe. It has aged exceptionally well and deserves its place as one of my favorites.

Probably the first storyline for the X-Men that I really got hooked into was 1986’s Mutant Massacre. I remember following it pretty closely, even if I got confused at the order in which to read the books. ‘Mutant Massacre’ did surprisingly well and led to Marvel doing mutant crossover books annually.

That can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

Lifedeath I & II is one of those fine meals that is best read when you’re a certain age of mindset. It’s completely fine for anyone but you truly appreciate its nuances after certain life experiences. Barry Windsor-Smith’s art gives the story an edge and vibe that is unlike other X-Men stories and pushes this to the next level.

Joss Whedon’s and artist John Cassaday came in and scored with Gifted in the pages of Astonishing X-Men #1-6. It dusted off some X-Men themes, mixed old and new characters in dynamic situations, and brought back Colossus in an instant classic way.

I could go on all day but I think I’ll end with E is for Extinction. The first story from the mind of Grant Morrison was everything you imagined it would be. Morrison turned the X-Men’s world upside down and rattled the mutants to their core.

Ah! As I was writing the above I started thinking about all the stories I missed and didn’t want to leave out House of M. It’s another one that played with the timeline, throwing the X-Men into a situation where things are drastically altered.

If you look at older X-stories, the drama came from within and the themes the mutants operated under. Outsiders who are hunted for being different. As times went on, their very world and reality was constantly in jeopardy. Both have very different angles but each gives us classic tales.

And as I sit here typing my mind is racing with such great stories like Fatal Attractions, The Muir Island Saga, Brood Saga, Inferno, Onslaught…too many to pick from!

Like I mentioned, I picked the low hanging fruit. Which ones did I miss? 

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!