One of the most frequent questions I get at the shop is “where’s a good place to start with ________?” So, since there’s a little movie called X-Men: Days of Future Past coming out this weekend, I thought why not throw a few X-Books out there for those who might be inclined to get into Marvel’s Merry Mutants.
X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont & John Byrne
So Days of Future Past has your interest piqued in X-Men comics? Well why not start at the logical place with the book that the flick will be (loosely) based on? It’s a classic tale of time travel and alternate futures and has held up over the years as one of the tentpole X-Men books. Chris Claremont is largely regarded as an X-Defining writer and John Byrne, well, you can’t go wrong there. This is a shorter story than the scale of the movie might lead you to believe, but it’s stood the test of time and there is actually a really nice hardcover edition that’s been released to coincide with the movie.
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse By a Metric Ton of amazing Writers and Artists.
So what comes after Days of Future Past? According to Fox, X-Men: Apocalypse. Now, how much of that will come from the massive crossover event Age of Apocalypse remains to be seen, but until then this massive tome contains all the pieces to one of the best crossovers not just in X-History, but arguably in comics as well. To quote the omnibus’ back:
Charles Xavier is dead – killed twenty years in the past during a freak time-travel accident – and the world that has arisen in his absence is dark and dangerous indeed. The Darwinian conqueror Apocalypse rules with an iron fist, ruthlessly enforcing his dictum that only the strong shall survive – and in Apocalypse’s long shadow, hidden among a downtrodden humankind, are a group of ragtag freedom fighters led by Xavier’s oldest friend, Magneto: the Amazing X-Men! When Bishop, last survivor of the true Marvel Universe, locates the X-Men and explains how the world went wrong, these embittered mutants and their tenuous allies must risk everything – and undertake a dangerous and multi-pronged quest – to put things right!
It’s a beast of a book, but it’s one that you can re-read over and over to pick up on a lot of interesting stuff that you might not have gotten the first time around.
All-New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen
“Hey man, that’s all cool, but what’s going on with the X-Men right now?” Well, (and you may be picking up on a theme here), time travel is playing a bit of havoc with the X-Men in the present as well. What happens when the “original X-Men” are pulled forward in time to meet their adult counterparts? What sounds like a story that would break all time is actually a very grounded book that capitalizes on Stuart Immonen’s amazing art as well as Briand Bendis’ knack for characterization and conversation. Bendis also writes the current Uncanny X-Men series, which is pretty good as well, but All New might be an easier jumping-on story to get to know the current state of the X-Verse.
New X-Men by Grant Morrison & Several Artists including Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Schiver, Lenil Francis Yu and more!
Grant Morrison. It’s a name that strikes both confusion and excitement in the hearts of readers. New X-Men is a book that is pretty linear for Morrison, but also is one of the most cerebral takes on the X-Men that really exploits the straight-up wierdness that Mutants must face. There are three “Ultimate Collection” volumes available and working through these books isn’t a light read, but it’s a great read. New X-Men turns everything about the X-Men on it’s head, replacing colorful tights with more “functional” leather outfits and one of the most massive events in Mutant history. Definietly a new age for the X-Men and one that’s more than worth the read.
Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
Now, I’ll say up front: these 25 issues are probably my favourite X-Men comics of all time. Where New X-Men looked to flip the X-Universe on it’s ear, Astonishing looks to take it back to the core of what makes the X-Men great. It’s a book that grounds the X-Men (even when they are in space) and focuses on character and story above all else. There are more than a few “OH MY GOD!” moments in this series and it blends Whedon’s usual humor and gravitas seamlessly. John Cassaday’s art never falters once in this book and it’s a series that I have read over and over again just for the sheer enjoyment of the adventure. For my dollar this is the best book to jump into the X-Universe with becasue it does a good job of explaining a few things about the back story, as well as setting up a good chunk of what the X-Men are like today.
I will end this post where I always start when answering the question of what to read. First, these are just my opinions. Excluding your favourite book is in no way a slight on you or some kind of indication I don’t know what I’m talking about. Second, as with all comics if you are looking for a place to start, start with what looks interesting to you. Comics storytelling isn’t a straight line between Issue #1 and Issue # 701. There’s lots of ebbs and flows and so filling in questions and missing pieces is easy, especially today.
So, all that being said, please sound off in the comments as to you favourite X-Books!