There’s very few series as convoluted and winding as the X-Men, featuring over two dozen main titles since it’s creation in 1963. This week’s Point of Entry will try to unravel the main storyline through the X-Men universe, focusing on six key jumping on points. The X-Men have been many things over the years, mostly a reflection for the world, pointing out prejudice and racism. Many of their enemies are relegious zealots or groups that would try to “heal” their mutant condition. Some of the biggest stories in the Marvel Universe originate from mutants and their natural abilities, Like Avengers Vs. X-Men, House of M, and AXIS. Despite their now small number, at one time the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe was over 30 million. The X-Men could be their own comic book world unto themselves, with a massive cast and over a dozen different series over the years. We’ll start, as always, at the beginning.
Stan Lee wanted to create a team of heroes without creating a unique background for every person, so he decided to make the team have natural mutations that were part of who they were from birth. Starting with stories of simple good vs. evil, the X-Men eventually were vilified as a sub-human race, creating a way for Marvel to illustrate how absurd racism is. Co-creator Jack Kirby said, “I felt that if we train the mutants our way, they’ll help us – and not only help us, but achieve a measure of growth in their own sense. And so, we could all live together.” Sadly, this isn’t yet a reality for the ever persecuted X-Men, who can’t seem to catch a break. The Original Point of Entry starts at the beginning, when Professor X is training his first class of X-Men, only to find his rival, Magneto has collected his own group of mutants to show the superiority of mutant kind. Like with most Marvel series, there are many different collections of early works, for classic X-Men, there’s the Essential line, which is black and white and cheaper, or the new Epic Collection, which is full color and utilizes newer printing methods.
The original series, written first by Stan Lee, later by others, didn’t sell well at all during the late 60s and early 70s, leaving the book to stagnation and obscurity. The title got so low that issues 67 through 93 were reprints, but in 1975, that all changed when writer Chris Claremont got his hands on the series. Every major story that shaped the X-Men’s world and built a stage for later stories were all created by Claremont. He came up with now fan favorites The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, and Inferno during his run which lasted until 1991. What was once a non note worthy series was thrust into the spotlight, with hard and heavy stories taking center stage. Once again, X-Men sought to hold a mirror to the real world’s face and see what damage we were causing with prejudice. For the first time, the X-Men thrived, with new mutants popping up almost every issue. The entirety of Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men is collected in the black and white Essentials collection, or by major storyline in color paperbacks. In addition to the stories mentioned above, Mutant Massacre and X-Tinction Agenda are must read storylines.
Jumping a bit of time here, to 2001, when Grant Morrison was given the reins of the X-Men. The series had been growing stale after the 90s, and Marvel decided it was time for a shake up. Who better the shake things up than Grant Morrison? He started his X-Men run with genocide, murdering sixteen million mutants in one issue. He introduced secondary mutations into the series, showing that some mutants have the possibility to either gain a new power or their current power would be augmented in some way. Morrison’s run lasted for 41 issues over eight volumes, titled New X-Men. None of his storylines can be skipped to get the whole story, but that’s not a bad thing as his run is amongst the best of any series. Joss Whedon continued the plot-threads left by Morrison on a new series, Astonishing X-Men for 25 issues, again, which cannot be skipped. The Astonishing Point of Entry truly earns it’s title, as it’s one of the best ways to enter into current X-Men stories. Some consequences from this time frame are still causing ripples in the X titles.
After Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men, Mutant Avenger Scarlet Witch had her mind controlled and eventually snap, sending the Avengers into a tailspin, eventually splitting up. Unable to put the pieces of her past together, and due to her magical ability to shape reality at will, Scarlet Witch accidentally created a completely different timeline called House of M. During this timeline, mutants were the dominant species, ruling over humans, and only Wolverine knew the old world existed. War broke out, with Scarlet Witch, broken and weeping, uttering a phrase which shattered the X-Men universe, “No more mutants”. This caused the depowering of the remaining 99% of mutants around the globe, thus decimating the mutant population. X-Men stories from around this time frame have a heavy religious tilt to them, as many in-universe hate groups saw M-Day as God’s reckoning against the mutants, drawing parallels to the Klu Klux Klan and other hate groups. Despite all the dour grimness at the time, there was a beacon of hope, named Hope. The first mutant born after M-Day, Hope had a very important role to play in the coming years. Other notable stories from this time include, Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire, The Extremists, Messiah Complex, and Divided We Stand.
After the X Mansion was destroyed from a terrorist attack, the X-Men moved to San Francisco, one of the most open and inviting cities around. Their time there might have been a little too open and welcoming, as it lowered their defenses, opening them to attacks. Barely twelve issues later, the X-Men relocate to an asteroid in the bay of San Francisco called Utopia. They make Utopia a nation unto itself, creating a haven for mutant-kind. While on Utopia, the X-Men experience the return of Hope, the first mutant born after M-Day, who has been traveling through time with Cyclops’ future son Cable. With her, the X-Men place all their aspirations for the future. Heralding her as the start of a new generation of mutant, the X-Men, having been led by Cyclops, turn to the United Nations in an attempt to dismantle every mutant sentinel (death robots focused on killing mutants) program. While there, they fall under attack from the new Hellfire club, eventually retreating to Utopia and coming under attack by a super sentinel. During the fight, Cyclops and Wolverine clash with their ideals on how they should fight, and the fact that cyclops has no issues with children fighting, leading to a split in the X-Men. Almost immediately after, the Phoenix Force, which Jean Grey once controlled, was on a dead course for Utopia, causing many to fear for the planet’s safety. The Avengers intervened, thinking the Phoenix would go to Hope, but instead, it went into five different X-Men including Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik. The Phoenix Five tried to help the world, but eventually succumbed to the Phoenix Force’s powers, leading to the death of a long time character. All this is contained within Utopia, Nation X, Second Coming, and Avengers Vs. X-Men, ending several plot threads first introduced in House of M, and ending the Utopian Point of Entry.
With the X-Men split into two very different groups, there were Three main books being published, All New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and Wolverine and the X-Men. New X-Men followed Cyclops’ new mutant revolutionary force, training in secret. Wolverine and the X-Men saw the resurrection of the X Mansion as the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, with Wolverine as the headmaster. Uncanny X-Men showed stories from both sides of the X-Men during the Revolutionary Way. Cyclops, a convict on the run, promised to the world that a mutant revolution was coming. The final issue of Uncanny X-Men before the Secret Wars event began saw what he meant, a far more harmonious and less threatening show of solidarity of mutant-kind. Not all Revolutions need to be violent, and not all mutants want to fight. In the end, Cyclops was right (in joke for those that have read the Revolutionary Way).
Currently, following Secret Wars, the X-Men are in a new Apocalypse War, having started almost immediately after the mega crossover. Due to the nature of the current issues, I don’t have them listed as a Point of Entry, because they’re not solidified or a good jumping on point.
Have any suggestions for Point of Entry? Want to start a discussion? Leave a comment below.
Point of Entry will be taking a break next week as I’ll be out of town, but be here in two week for another delve into a series!