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Comics and Graphic Novels can be a bit overwhelming

Getting Started in Comics: X-men Edition

As of February 18th 2015 there have been 575 issues of Uncanny X-Men, the flagship X-Men title that started in 1963 and continues to this day.  In addition to that there have been countless secondary X-Men titles, solo series (a comic book that focuses on a single character as opposed to a group) and two distinct multi-run spinoffs, X-Factor and X-Force.  If you want to start reading X-Men comics you might see this giant list of back-issues and run away screaming, I almost did.  There is very good news for you though, you most definitely don’t have to start with 1963’s Uncanny X-men number 1, in fact, you probably shouldn’t.

Comic books in the 1960s had a lot of issues, only some of which you will find today.  In early comic books, women were viewed as worth decidedly less than their male heroic counterparts.  In addition minorities and non-objectified women were rarely found on the pages of comics, and were even more rarely found behind the pen creating the comics.  While sexism and racism are both problems in today’s comic industry, they are much improved from the comics of the Silver Age (1956-1970).  In addition the quality of the writing and art have also advanced, and in the case of the writing decidedly improved, since those earlier comics.

Which book do you start with?  Here are the X-Men titles currently ongoing and recently ended, along with some background for those getting started in the title, each of which would be a good place to start.  Be warned from here onward be OLD SPOILERS.

All-New X-Men

This series is based around space travel, dimension hopping, time travel and adventure.  The premise of this series is that modern day Beast (who is a blue furry cat-creature) goes back in time and retrieves the original 4 young X-Men (including his younger self) to come to the future and stop the older Cyclops from initiating a genocide.  This series focuses on the young X-Men coming to grips with the adults they see themselves becoming, while dealing with both the repercussions of those actions and interpersonal strife among the group.  I would not recommend this series as a jumping on place to the X-Men franchise, as the time travel and back history can become very confusing.

Amazing X-Men

These X-Men stories are action-adventure themed.  The first story arc involves pirates, demons, and a war in heaven.  The key players on this team are Beast, Colossus, Firestar, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Northstar, Storm, and Wolverine, but many other characters cycle through the roster as well.  As for important knowledge going into this series you should know that Nightcrawler died in 2010 in the “Second Coming” X-Men event, also at the start of the series Professor X is dead as well, though he has died and come back many times.  In spite of relying a bit on history, this comic is a pretty good place to get aboard the mutant bandwagon.


The Cyclops from All-New Avengers finds out that the father he thought was dead is actually Corsair, the leader of a band of space pirates known as the Starjammers.  He chooses to leave the All-New X-Men to go on adventures with his newfound father.  These are space (refered to as Cosmic in the Marvel Universe) adventures, which in spite of their characters exist outside the focus of the on Earth X-Men.


These comics are tangentially related to the mutants, due to Deadpool being a mutant and associate of Wolverine. While this series doesn’t deal with the X-Men directly, it can be a very fun read.  Deadpool’s actual name is Wade Wilson, and he has ultimately become a parody of the violence and silliness of nineties comicbooks.  The place to start on this series would probably be Dead Presidents, in which Deadpool is hired to hunt down zombie presidents that have accidently been summoned from their graves.  It is silly and a great deal of fun.  Is a good side read on a mutant who has gone off on his own.  Best read for its own merits, it doesn’t require any real backstory to understand, other than that Wade Wilson loves chimichangas (who doesn’t.)  I would recommend this book for more mature readers. (10th grade and up)


The longtime villain sometime ally of the X-Men Magneto got his own series in which he separates from the Uncanny X-Men team and seeks to aid mutants in his own way.  This series is dark, pulls heavily from history, most especially from Magneto’s experiences as a young Jewish boy fighting to survive the bigotry and hatred of WWII Europe.  His story is intricately involved with ongoing story arcs, especially those in Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Uncanny Avengers, but you can follow it without following the others.  As with anything involving a character with such an in depth history, you will gain more from this series if it is not your first encounter with Magneto. (10th grade and up)


No longer among the dead, Nightcrawler deals with familial issues between Nightcrawler and his mother Mystique(the blue skinned shapechanger from the recent movies) and his father Azazel (a demonic warlord).  This series is notable in that it was created by Chris Claremont, who wrote hundreds of X-Men stories in the eighties and nineties.

Spiderman and the X-Men

This series, not yet out in trade paperback form, follows our favorite web-slinging superhero as he joins the faculty at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning to uncover a spy.

Squirrel Girl

This series, which is also not yet out in trade, follows the mutant Squirrel Girl (superpowers include strength, talking to squirrels, and a snazzy tail) as she and her small furry friend Tippy Toe embark on one of the most dangerous adventures ever, college.  The series takes a look at her life as she battles hugely powerful villains, and an uncertain dating scene.  This book is a good stand alone read, and while it won’t give you much of use in the other mutant series, you also don’t need a great deal of backstory to understand it, making it a good place to get started.


This is another character driven solo title.  It follows Storm as she tries to do good in the world, in spite of politics both mutant and human.  While it does reference past events in the Marvel Universe, it does not rely on knowledge of past events.  It is primarily a drama/human interaction focused book.

Wolverine and the X-Men

This series follows Wolverine as he takes the role of Headmaster at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.  This series is heavy in comedy, with a focus on the school and events surrounding it.  The series also features a large number of the newer, less famous X-Men, so you can see what the not so exceptional mutants are like.  All in all a good place to start if you want to start with a group book.

The Wolverines

This recent release is a weekly comic not yet out in trade form.  It follows the people whose lives have been touched by Wolverine, including those who happen to share his DNA due to cloning, family, and arch-enemies, as they attempt to recover his body.  This title is very dependent upon understanding the backstory, and is not a good place to start reading the X-Men.


This book follows the titular Wolverine on his solo focused adventures.  These titles often go deep into history, as Logan (Wolverine) is over 100 years old.  This is a very action driven series, and is not dependent upon understanding the in-depth history of the X-Men.  All you need to know to get started is that Logan is grumpy, gruff, and nigh unkillable.

All New X-Factor

This recently ended series follows a group of mutants as they join forces with a megacorp named Serval and work as troubleshooters for the corporation.  Its focus is on corporate espionage and hijinx, with betrayals at every corner.


This title in its current and many incarnations, focuses on a special ops branch of the X-Men.  Often more brutal and violent than the other X-Series, these mutants take on problems head on.  This title falls under the action/espionage genre.  If you pick it up at one its several starting points it is a series that can be followed without much previous knowledge of the X-Men.


This comic features an all female team of X-Men as they defend the world from threats from both Earth and space.  If you like stories with strong female protagonists this one is for you.  This is another series that is an acceptable starting point for reading about X-Men, as its story arcs are mostly internally contained.

If you do want to start on Uncanny X-Men you have a couple of places to start.  As far as what the library has collected you would start with Volume 3.  This run is written by Brian Michael Bendis and will give you a pretty good start in the X-Men universe, though it is helpful if you have some background in the characters.  Be warned however, BMB runs are known to be very long and character driven, so if this isn’t what you are looking for you should probably steer clear.

There are two other volumes of Uncanny X-Men.  The first is the origional run that ran for over 40 years.  This run includes the introductions of Magneto, all of the major X-Men (except Wolverine), the Sentinels, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, and much more. If you do decide to start here be warned, while mostly the same number of pages, comic books in the previous century were a great deal more dense.  The second volume lasted less than a year between the two, and would not be a good stepping on point.

I hope this was somewhat helpful in decided just where you want to start with the X-Men.  If the histories, characters, and mythology are of interest to you I would recommend taking a look at  If you do get interested in reading the older Marvel comics Marvel does have the Marvel Unlimited Subscription at 9.99, note that this is pricey however, and you only start saving after reading 4-5 comics a month.  Comixology also offers digitized older comics at a per comic price of around 2 dollars, which would be a good option if you are looking to read older comics from other publishers as well.  

Coming up: I want to watch the upcoming Avengers movie, should I read the Age of Ultron Comic?  Short answer, no.

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