How to use this guide:
Each section will start a new “era” of the X-Men. You can start at any one of these sections and need only the knowledge provided from this guide to get started.
While, this guide was originally intended for new readers to the series, anyone can use this guide to expand their knowledge of the X-Men. The main sections of the guide follow very closely to the main X-Book(s) in that specific time period, but there is also optional reading included to help get you started in the extended X-Universe.
I know a franchise like X-Men can be daunting to jump into, and I hope this entices you get reading.
X-Men Crash Course
If you’re looking for the full X-Men experience, then skip down to the next section to begin the guide. If you’re looking for a list of X-Men stories that will give you a decent view of the teams and a quick way to catch up with the current titles, then this is what you want to read.
Keep in mind, this isn’t the way I’d recommend reading the X-Men. It is a small look at the characters at different points in the timeline, and it is just a glimpse of what these titles have to offer.
Check out this reading list for the fast lane to the current X-Men titles:
- X-Men: Season One
- Giant-Size X-Men #1
- The Dark Phoenix Saga
- God Loves, Man Kills
- Mutant Massacre
- Mutant Genesis
- Age of Apocalypse
- New X-Men: E is for Extinction
- Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
- House of M
- Messiah Complex
- Second Coming
- Avengers vs X-Men
- All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men
- Uncanny X-Men: Revolution
- Battle of the Atom
- Uncanny X-Men #600
- Extraordinary X-Men: X-Haven
The Original X-Men (1963-70) & Modern Interpretations
This is the very beginning, and you’ll need no previous knowledge to start at this point. This era is different than most because you have multiple options when starting with stories of the original team of X-Men.
Option #1: The Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues of X-Men. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men in 1963. Stan Lee wrote the first 19 issues, and Jack Kirby penciled the first 17 issues. It’s the original introduction of characters we still know today: Prof X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, Angel, Magneto, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch. While these issues aren’t necessarily good, they’re important because of the characters and concepts it sets up.
• Uncanny X-Men (v1) #1-19
Option #2: X-Men: First Class, original and modern stories that take place within this Silver Age era. It is a series of standalone volumes from the mid 2000’s that follows the original five X-Men in some all-ages adventure. This series is particularly good to give to younger kids who want to read X-Men. Between all three volumes there are about 30 issues, but they read a lot faster than the old Silver Age comics. You’d probably get through these faster than the original Lee/Kirby run.
• X-Men First Class (v1) #1-8 • X-Men First Class Special #1 • X-Men First Class (v2) #1-16 • Giant Size X-Men FIrst Class #1 • X-Men First Class Finals #1-4
Option #3: A graphic novel from 2012 called X-Men: Season One. If you’re in a hurry, then this is the quickest way to read about the original X-Men. Similar to First Class it follows the original 5 X-Men in their early time at Xavier’s, but in a more modern setting. It retells the first few issues from the Lee/Kirby run through the eyes of Jean Grey.
• X-Men Season One (Graphic Novel)
From here you can move on to the next section or take a look at one or more optional arcs that each section will have. They’re not essential, but they will introduce you to more facets of the X-Men universe.
OPTIONAL: The most celebrated issues of Silver Age X-Men are the Roy Thomas and Neal Adams run. This was the last run of this era of X-Men before it’s put into reprints. Read X-Men #55-66.
OPTIONAL: There was a title published in the late 90’s called X-Men The Hidden Years. This title attempted to “fill in” the gap in between issues #66 and #94 when the X-Men were in reprints. These are the untold stories of the time period.Read X-Men: The Hidden Years #1-22
The Chris Claremont Era (1975-1991)
This is the start of Chris Claremont’s time on the book. While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby invented the X-Men, Chris brought them back from obscurity and perfected them. He is on the book for 16 straight years, and his whole run is basically one very long story. Some of his characters and plot points still have lasting effects in comics that are being released today. It’s best to read it all in order, but I broke it up a bit for those who want to jump around.
Chris Claremont Era #1
The first era of Chris’s run included moments like Jean Grey becoming The Phoenix, the battle against Proteus, the introduction of Dazzler & Kitty Pryde, Jean’s descent into Dark Phoenix, the standoff on the moon, and the dystopian future of Days of Future Past.
• Giant Size X-Men #1 • Uncanny X-Men #94-124 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 • Uncanny X-Men #125-138 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 • Uncanny X-Men #139-143
Chris Claremont Era #2
Chris’ second era on the book sees Kitty Pryde becoming a full member of the team, the introduction of Rogue as a villain and eventual member of the team, the struggle against The Brood in space, introduction of Madelyne Pryor, Rachel Summers traveling from the future, the attack of Nimrod, adventures in Asgard, and the Trial of Magneto.
• Uncanny X-Men #139-150 • Avengers Annual #10 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #5 • Uncanny X-Men #151-160 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 • Uncanny X-Men #161-168 • X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills • Uncanny X-Men #169-175 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 • Uncanny X-Men #176-192 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #8 • X-Men & Alpha Flight #1-2 • Uncanny X-Men #193-198 • New Mutants Special #1 • X-Men Annual #9 • Uncanny X-Men #199-200
Chris Claremont Era #3
The third era of the Chris’ run starts with Magneto taking over the Xavier School after Charles is transported into space with Lilandra and the Starjammers. Longshot, Dazzler, and Psylocke join the team. This is the start of the era of crossover between titles. X-Factor is formed by the original 5 X-Men and the New Mutants become more involved in the X-Men’s big events: Mutant Massacre, The Fall of the Mutants, and Inferno bring in all three teams into these events.
• Uncanny X-Men #199-210 • X-Factor #9 • Uncanny X-Men #211 • X-Factor #10 • New Mutants #46 • Thor #373 • Power Pack #27 • Uncanny X-Men #212 • X-Factor #11 • Uncanny X-Men 213 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 • Uncanny X-Men #214-219 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 • Uncanny X-Men #220-234 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 • Uncanny X-Men #235-241 • X-Factor #36-37 • Uncanny X-Men #242 • X-Factor #38 • Uncanny X-Men #243 • X-Factor #39
Chris Claremont Era #4
This is the end of Chris’ era as he abruptly leaves Marvel in 1991. This section includes the introduction of Gambit and Jubilee. It also includes the storylines X-Tinction Agenda and The Muir Island Saga.
• Uncanny X-Men #244-245 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #13 • Uncanny X-Men #246-267 • Fantastic Four Annual #23 • X-Factor Annual #5 • New Mutants Annual #6 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 • Uncanny X-Men #268-270 • New Mutants #95 • X-Factor #60 • Uncanny X-Men #271 • New Mutants #96 • X-Factor #61 • Uncanny X-Men #272 • New Mutants #97 • X-Factor #62 • Uncanny X-Men #273-277 • New Mutants Annual #7 • New Warriors Annual #1 • Uncanny X-Men Annual #15 • X-Factor Annual #6 • Uncanny X-Men #278-279 • X-Factor #69 • Uncanny X-Men #280 • X-Factor #70 • X-Men (v2) #1-3
OPTIONAL: Wolverine was a popular character almost immediately, and he was one of the first to get his own series.He goes on to have multiple series’, but for the first part of his solo Marvel history check out Wolverine v1 #1-4, Marvel Comics Presents v1 #1-10, and Wolverine v2 #1-16.
OPTIONAL: The popularity of the X-Men caused Marvel editors to want another mutant book. In response to that Chris Claremont created the younger team called New Mutants. Read Chris’ original run on the book: Marvel Graphic Novel#4, New Mutants #1-53
OPTIONAL: X-Factor brought back the original X-Men as a unified team for th efirst time since 1970. It was also a huge deal because Jean Grey had been dead in the comics since the Dark Phoenix saga. Check out X-Factor #1-70
OPTIONAL: Excalibur is another title that spun off from the X-Men and other characters Chris Claremont was writing at the time. It follows the UK based adventures of Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Rachel Summers. I’d recommend Chris’ run on the book which is #1-34.
X-Men in the 90’s (1991-2001)
The X-Men have now reached peak popularity since their inceptions, and there’s a lot going on in the X-Universe at this time. There are multiple main titles and spin-offs. It can be daunting to start in this decade, but we can get you through the 90’s.
The best option is the follow the big event story lines that happen throughout the decade through graphic novels. This is the fastest way through the decade, but you lose a bit of story in the issues in between these trades. Most of these are collected in paperbacks or hardback, but if you’re reading issue-to-issue you can reference the reading order linked in the paragraph above.
• Mutant Genesis • X-Cutioner’s Song • Fatal Attractions • Phalanx Covenant • Age of Apocalypse • Onslaught • Operation: Zero Tolerance • The Twelve • Dream’s End • Eve of Destruction
OPTIONAL: Age of Apocalypse is a self contained story that takes place in an alternate universe. It’s collected into to one omnibus edition that includes all the issues, or into three trade paperbacks: Vol 1: Alpha, Vol 2: Reign, and Vol 3: Omega
OPTIONAL: Peter David’s original run on X-Factor features a brand new team from the original lineup featuring Polaris, Havok, Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, and Valerie Cooper. Read X-Factor #71-89.
OPTIONAL: New Mutants was rebooted by Rob Liefeld in 1991 to be X-Force. It features a lot of the same characters from the original run, but rebranded it into one of the most popular comics in the 90’s. Read New Mutants 98-100 and then X-Force #1-15 for an introduction to the title.
OPTIONAL: Generation X replaced NewMutants as the “school” book that followed the younger generation of mutants. This follows mutants like Jubilee, Monet, Chamber, and Husk with Banshee and Emma Frost serving as leaders of the school. This book also cemented artist Chris Bachalo as a mainstay on X-Books for years to come.Check out writer Scott Lobdell’s run on the book with issues #1-28.
Start of the Modern Era (2001-2004)
Grant Morrison took over X-Men (v2) in 2001 and it was renamed New X-Men for his entire time on the title. X-Men, and Marvel in general, was struggling in the nineties. This title brought X-Men back from the grave. It is what brought X-Men into the modern era of comics and is highly regarded on of the best complete runs on an X-Men title since Claremont left Marvel after X-Men (v2) #3.
• New X-Men #114-154
OPTIONAL: Chris Claremont started anew X-Men comic around this time called X-Treme X-Men v1. If you’re a fan of Claremont after reading his first run,then this may be worth checking this out.
OPTIONAL: The last part of X-Force v1 and X-Statix by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred is one of the zanier parts of the X-Universe. It’s a self contained story that requires no previous knowledge to read.Read: X-Force v1 #116-129 and X-Statix #1-26
OPTIONAL: Ultimate X-Men is a standalone, alternate universe title that was launched to help bring new readers into comics. It’s completely self contained, so it’s very easy to follow. Check out Ultimate X-Men #1-100 and Ultimate Comics X-Men #1-33.
Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men (2004-2008)
This is a direct response to Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, and it is just as highly regarded. Whedon is a huge fan of X-Men, and it really shows with this book. Unlike New X-Men, instead of renaming one of the main books, Astonishing is a brand new book that runs separate from the current X-Books and isn’t included in any events or crossover (at least during the Whedon run).
• Astonishing X-Men #1 – 24 • Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1
OPTIONAL: Warren Ellis and Marjorie Liu have great runs on this series as well. While not as universally liked as Whedon’s run, they’re both definitely worth your time. Read Astonishing X-Men#25-35 for Ellis’ run and #48-59, #62-68 for Liu’s run.
OPTIONAL: Peter David revived X-Factor after being off the stand for a few years.This iteration stars Jamie Madrox and his detective agency X-Factor Investigations.Read Madrox #1-5 and X-Factor v3 #1-50 & 200-262
OPTIONAL: Chris Claremont has a great run on Uncanny X-Men during era. He assembles a very classic team of X-Men and includes the fan favorite End of Grey’s storyline. Read Uncanny X-Men #444-474
The House of M, M-Day, and the Mutant Messiah (2005-2011)
This section is basically going to be a whole bunch of mini-series and crossovers. They all fit in really well together, and they’re super important in the X-Men and Marvel universe as a whole. The events here set the stage for a huge shift in the X-Universe.
• House of M #1-8 • X-Men: Messiah Complex #1 • Uncanny X-Men #492 • X-Factor #25 • New X-Men #44 • X-Men #205 • Uncanny X-Men #493 • X-Factor #26 • New X-Men #45 • X-Men #206 • Uncanny X-Men #494 • X-Factor #27 • New X-Men #46 • X-Men #207 • X-Men: Second Coming #1 • Uncanny X-Men #523 • New Mutants #12 • X-Men: Legacy #235 • X-Force #26 • Uncanny X-Men #524 • New Mutants #13 • X-Men: Legacy #236 • X-Force #27 • Uncanny X-Men #525 • New Mutants #14 • X-Men: Legacy #237 • X-Force #28 • X-Men: Second Coming #2 • Schism #1-5 • Uncanny X-Men (v2) #1-10 • Avengers vs. X-Men #0-12 • Uncanny X-Men (v2) #11-20
NOTE: If you want more information about Hope, Cable, and what’s going on in between Messiah Complex and Second Coming, add this to the reading order after X-Men #207: Cable v2 #1-12, X-Force v3 #1-13, The Lives and Times of Lucas Bishop #1-3, X-Force/Cable:Messiah War #1, Cable #13, X-Force #14, Cable #14, X-Force #15, Cable #15, X-Force #16, Cable #16-24, and X-Force #17-25.
OPTIONAL: Mike Carey has a great 7 year run on X-Men v2 & X-Men Legacy during this time period. His issues crossover with most of the X-Men events of the time,but for the most part it’s easy to follow. Read in this order: X-Men v2 #188-204,X-Men Legacy #208-216, X-Men Original Sin crossover, X-Men Legacy #219-225,#238-248, Age of X crossover, and X-Men Legacy #249-260
OPTIONAL: Uncanny X-Force v1 by Rick Remender is one of the most celebrated X-books in recent history. Wolverine, Deadpool, Archangel, Psylocke, and Fantomex form a covert mutant team. It’s largely self-contained, check out #1-35.
OPTIONAL: Wolverine and the X-Men v1 by Jason Aaron is a book that focuses on the students of the Jean Grey school that Wolverine opens after the Schism mini-series. Keep in mind that Avengers vs. X-Men and Battle of the Atom intersect with this series, so you may want to read the events as you get to those tie-in issues. Read Wolverine and the X-Men v1#1-42.
Avengers Vs. X-Men and Marvel NOW Relaunch (2012-2015)
Avengers Vs. X-Men isn’t apart of the Marvel NOW relaunch, but it’s a very important plot element that directly affects the X-Men Marvel NOW titles.
What you need to know beforehand: Scarlet Witch altered reality by deleting the X-Gene from all but 198 mutants. After a while the first mutant, Hope, was finally born. After running through time for 16 years with Cable to protect her, Hope comes back to the present as a young woman. She is now believed to be the new host for the Phoenix. Also during that time, Cyclops and Wolverine split the X-Men into two separate factions due to differences on how to train the next generation of mutants.
• Avengers Vs. X-Men • All-New X-Men #1-15 • Uncanny X-Men (v3) #1-11 • X-Men Battle of the Atom #1 • All-New X-Men #16 • X-Men (v4) #5 • Uncanny X-Men (v3) #12 • Wolverine and the X-Men #36 • All-New X-Men #17 • X-Men (v4) #6 • Uncanny X-Men (v3) #13 • Wolverine and the X-Men #37 • X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 • All New X-Men #18-22 • Guardians of the Galaxy (v3) #11 • All-New X-Men #23 • Guardians of the Galaxy (v3) #12 • All-New X-Men #24 • Guardians of the Galaxy (v3) #13 • All New X-Men #25-37 • Uncanny X-Men #14 – 35 • All-New X-Men #40 – 41 • Uncanny X-Men #600
NOTE: I didn’t include the Black Vortex crossover that included All-New X-Men#38-39, but it is not necessary to read.The only thing you need to know is that young Angel was cosmically empowered by the Black Vortex and it altered his appearance and powers a bit. Also,Cyclops returns from his space adventures to rejoin the team.
OPTIONAL: After you read The Trial of Jean Grey, you can then start on the solo series for the young Cyclops. This is the space adventures of young Cyke, his space-pirate father Corsair, and his team. Read Cyclops #1-11.
OPTIONAL: During this time Greg Pak had a Storm series that is self contained and a great look at the character. While they talk about Storm’s past, you’re given context for everything that happens. Check out Storm #1-11.
OPTIONAL: Magneto by Cullen Bunn was probably the best solo X-Men book during this time. Because of it’s popularity, it crosses over with the AXIS and Secret Wars events. Neither are necessary to read this title, but they help out with the context of the crossover issues. Read Magneto #1-21
OPTIONAL: Si Spurrier writes some of the stranger X-Books out there, but his work is highly celebrated. For his work in the X-Men read his runs on the X-Club mini-series, X-Men Legacy, and X-Force.
The X-Men in Limbo & the Inhuman Conflict (2015-present)
Secret Wars ended the Marvel Universe, but now it has been rebuilt. The Inhuman Terrigen Mists have been released are traveling the world. The mist is dangerous, potentially deadly, and have made mutants infertile. The X-Men are split between two teams with different ideologies: Storm’s team saving mutants and protecting them in Limbo (while trying to stay on good terms with the Inhumans), and Magneto’s team looking to proactively keep mutants from extinction by whatever means necessary.
• Extraordinary X-Men #1-7 • Uncanny X-Men #1-5 • Extraordinary X-Men #8-12 • Uncanny X-Men #6-10 • Civil War II: X-Men #1-4 • Extraordinary Annual #1 • Extraordinary X-Men #13-Current • Uncanny X-Men (v4) #11-Current
OPTIONAL: X-Men: Worst X-Men Ever by Max Bemis is a mini-series set outside of continuity that follows a mutant named Bailey. Bailey has the worst power you can get: to explode once and then die. It follows his time at the Xavier school and his path to becoming the type of hero that he admires. Read X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever #1-5.
OPTIONAL: All-New Wolverine stars Laura Kinney, the former X-23, as the brand new Wolverine. She takes up Logan’s former code name and costume after his death, and this book follows her solo adventures. Read All-New Wolverine #1-Current.
OPTIONAL: The main-universe Wolverine is dead, but after Secret Wars a older, alt-universe version of Logan finds himself in a world that is much different that what he remembers. Read Old Man Logan v1 #1-5 & Old Man Logan v2 #1-Current. Another optional thing to read before these, would be Mark Millar’s original Old Man Logan story line.
Congratulations, if you’ve read everything on the list, you are now a X-Men X-pert!
This guide was written by friend of the site Thomas Cummins. Follow him on twitter @thmscmns to see all his thoughts on X-Men and pictures of his cat.