Desperately Seeking the X-Men – Part 1

Earlier this week Jimski talked about his own personal X-Men. Now it's my turn to dig through a giant stack of comics and find my own uncanny team of mutants. Like I did with Thor last month, this month I'm searching for my perfect X-Men. (For the record, Cyclops is totally "My Boyfriend X-Man").

I'm not going to lie, the X-Men have always kind of scared me. Their continuity is vast and their line-ups varied. And while I know my X-Force from X-Factor, things still get a bit dicey for me when you throw in the New Mutants. So to keep things simple, I'm sticking with regular X-men-X-men for this. 


X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz
Team: Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Marvel Girl, Professor X

As we've mentioned before, X-Men: First Class the comic and X-Men: First Class the movie really only share a title. The book focuses on the original line up of the X-Men. Scott Summers, Hank McCoy, Warren Worthington, Bobby Drake, and Jean Grey are the first group of students at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Right out of the gate, this is my kind of comic book. Full of fun, one-and-done stories, Jeff Parker really nails it with the X-Men as early college students.

What's fantastic about this book is it manages to get out from under the sprawling X-Men melodrama that's built up over the years and bring things back to a simplier, more innocent time without being even the slightest bit hokey. These are five kids, thrown together by circumstances outside of their control, working together to help make the world a better place. Another thing that stands out about this book is Xavier really feels like he's part of the X-Men. Normally he kind of lords over them  ("To me, my X-Men!" Seriously? Professor Xavier is a jerk!) but in First Class he's really part of the team dynamic.

This is definitely a book I'd like to read more of. I'd put First Class, and this team, on the same level as something like Ultimate Spider-Man. It's really enjoyable, but I'm not sure it's my definitive version of the X-Men. 


X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Team: Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus 

I freaking love The Dark Phoenix Saga

This run is full of first appearances: Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, evil Emma Frost. And while they’re not on the core team of this book per se, Angel and Beast play important roles in the story. (Come to think of it, where the hell is Bobby in all this? Hank and Warren come out to help their Jean in her hour of need, and Bobby’s… what? Off doing taxes? Some friend!). While normally I don’t really like larger teams, the way Claremont weaves the extra characters in at out of the larger story really works. He keeps the main focus on Jean and her immediate team members, so it has a close-knit feel to it.

At its core, Dark Phoenix is a story about friendship and loyalty. During her downward spiral into cosmic madness, the X-Men have ample opportunity to turn their backs on Jean, and you wouldn’t blame them if they did. But they all stand by their friend and try every way possible to save her from what they have to know is her inevitable fate. You really get to see the X-Men as a family in this book, not just a superhero team. It’s the main reason I love the book so much and why this X-Men line-up will be the team to beat in this little project.

Also, I love Scott (and his hair) in this. 


X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson
Team: Magneto, Wolverine, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Storm 

This has been on my To-Read list for quite a while now. And I did debate including it because it seemed a bit redundant – it’s by Claremont, the team is very similar to The Dark Phoenix Saga – but I thought the addition of Magneto as a team member was something worth exploring. Plus Cyclops and Storm are sidelined for a majority of the book so it does change he dynamic quite a bit.

God Loves, Man Kills is a very powerful story. It’s a fantastic allegory for civil rights, and in a more modern context gay rights, without being preachy. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it’s moral messages, it’s just a damn fine story. But I’m here to talk about the characters, not the story.

With Professor X being used as a weapon against the mutants, and with Cyclops and Storm incapacitated, Magneto joins forces with the remaining X-Men to take down Stryker. But no one is really leading the team. They all work together when they can, but there’s no clear plan of attack and things go wrong pretty often. Kitty has a lot of fantastic character moments, but the X-Men just don’t feel like a team in this book. At least not until the very end when Scott kind of rallies the troops and prevents Xavier from following Magneto back to the Brotherhood. Scott truly is the backbone of the team, and this book solidified it for me. It doesn’t feel like the X-Men without him.

However, he has pretty bad hair in this book.


X-Men (The Animated Series)
Team: Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, Professor X

If you grew up in the late 80s like I did, dollars to donuts you’re first introduction to the X-Men was the Saturday morning cartoon on FOX. Personally, I remember playing the arcade game before getting into the cartoon, but it’s pretty much the same thing. There was a bowling alley that had it in the arcade and I loved it! I played as Storm every single time – couldn’t tell you why, I just thought she was the coolest and I liked smashing buttons. Anyway. This is the team that first came to mind when Jimski was talking about his personal X-men. I may not have watched the show religiously, but it’s the reason I knew who the X-Men were.

Since Marvel has all of the episodes streaming on their site, I decided to take a walk down memory lane and watch a few episodes (you should totally go check them out). The good news is, they really hold up and I had a lot of fun watching them again. Rogue is actually a lot more awesome than I remember her being. While I wouldn’t put it quite on the same level as Bruce Timm’s Justice League, X-Men is a great cartoon with some solid storytelling.

That said, I’m not sure I love this team. I like a lot of the characters and I like how most of them click together. But there are too many of them – especially when they start rotating in other X-characters like Colossus and Nightcrawler. They do a good job at highlighting certain members in certain episodes, but in the same way I prefer the Justice League to Justice League Unlimited, I like when the focus is set on a smaller group of five or six.

Also, Cyclops’ hair is pretty fantastic in the cartoon but Gambit’s is way cooler.

I feel like I've just seen the tip of the iceberg with the X-Men. In the next round I’ll be tackling the more modern classics: Grant Morisson and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men and Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men, as well as the current Uncanny X-Men title by Keiron Gillen.

Got a suggestion on what I’m missing? Let me know and I’ll see if I can squeeze in another book.


Ali Colluccio can summon the elevators in her building using only her mind. It’s probably a coincidence, but she likes to pretend it’s the onset of telekinesis.


  1. When Marvel put the Animated TV show up on their website I think I lost a whole day to it.  I loved that show growing up and you are right that it holds up pretty well.  I still don’t think it’s as good as Batman TAS but hey what is?

  2. Those are some great X-men stories.  God Loves was one of the first books I read after hearing about it here, and I was blown away by it.  I also had a tattered early trade of dark pheonix that I read many times in Middle/High School, that has since (sadly) disappeared.  It never had covers on it (which probably sealed its fate), but I loved that story.

    Also, X-men theme is now stuck in my head (not complaining).

  3. The Australia crew is a seriously underrated cast. Those were awesome comics. Plus Leonardi and Silvestri rotating on art duties.

  4. Sheldom of the Big Bang Theory has his own team…the C-Men!

  5. I love the “New” X-Men. Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Wolverine. Good times.

  6. Like you, God Love, Man Kills was on my to-read list for quite sometime, and I’m glad that I have finally gotten around to it. I think the story was so powerful because the threat was so relatable. It wasn’t a cosmic hubbub or some sort of fantastical type of struggle. They were trying to straight up murder the X-Men. With bullets and bombs. 

    And folks say alot about Claremont’s exposition heavy style of writing and claim that it can be silly at times, but in this case, the type of story that Claremont was trying to tell REALLY benefited for this style.

    And oh yeah, I’d argue that Cyclops’ hair was shit in that story because of that sensory deprivation helmet that covered his head through the majority. I can imagine that’s like hat hair times a billion. 

  7. It’s funny — I remember Cyclops & Storm being more central to GL/MK (though it is Magneto & Kitty who I remember most).  This is probably a function of remembering what I want to remember.  I also do think it’s worth noting both the Claremont of Dark Phoenix & the Claremont of GL/MK, not just b/c of the lineup differences but b/c his style is more streamlined in GL, which was released as a graphic novel.  Claremont writing in issues always has weird loose ends (I think that’s one of the things Jimski’s article pointed out — did they ever get back to that?  no???)

    Anyway, great summation (esp the attention to Cyke’s hair!)  And special thanks for the First Class shout out; that book had as much to do as anything with getting me into comics. 

  8. I already advised you of this, but I strongly recommend “From The Ashes” – some of the finest, most personal stories of the X-Men’s history and some amazing art from Paul Smith.

  9. Similar to the animated series line-up, the “Bue Team/Gold Team” era is worth mentioning.  It was a good way of splitting the roster between the 2 books: Uncanny X-Men and the then new  adjectiveless X-Men.

    Let’s see if I can remember the rosters:

    Blue Team:                                            Gold Team:
    Cyclops                                                  Storm
    Psylocke                                                 Jean Grey
    Beast                                                     Colossus
    Wolverine                                               Archangel
    Rogue                                                    Iceman
    Gambit                                                   Bishop

    Am I missing any?

  10. @ron  Paul Smith’s X-men run started my love of all things X-men.His version of Colossus is my ALL-time fav. take on the character.Also, that trade put a nice bow (back then) on the Dark Phoenix ending and gave Madeline Pryor a nice foundation for future stories.

  11. The cartoon, along with my cousin’s X-Men trading card collection, were my first forays into the X-Men. We had a store in town but it was dark and scary and the guy talked a lot so I never bought the comics but the cartoons and trading cards sustained me all through my teen years.

    It was the combination of having money, the movies, and Joss Whedon that finally got me into the comics.

    On that note, you should try and include the movie line up if you can. 

  12. Australia line-up needs love.

    Havok, Longshot, Dazzler, Storm, Psyloche (original body), Collossus, Wolverine, Rouge, and lets not forget Madeline Pryor