First I just want to say if you’re here, congratulations. Seeing this headline and deciding to make that jump anyway is brave. The X-Men are ridiculous and I mean that in the best way possible. More than that, finding a way into X-Men comics is ridiculously, and notoriously, difficult.
Like many comic book characters, the X-Men have been around for quite a while. Debuting in 1963 they’re nearing their 60th anniversary, and in those almost 60 years, their books have had few well-known jumping on points. On top of the length of time these characters have been around is the sheer number of books that have been published across the X-line at Marvel over the years. X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur, Amazing X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Extraordinary X-Men, New X-Men, the list goes on and on, and that’s not even thinking about any solo titles!
So how does one even begin to approach reading X-Men comics? Well, luckily, I’ve got a few paths for you. This guide from Crushing Krisis is probably the best reading guide I’ve ever seen, and it’s specifically for the X-Men. It’s a guide that goes the extra mile and adds some context and direction beyond being a huge list of book titles. There’s a ton of thought and care put into it and trust me, it’s amazing. It’s what I’m currently using to go through the X-Men’s history.
Alright so we’ve got an incredibly comprehensive reading guide, now what? Just start at the beginning? I know a lot of people (myself included) love doing full read-throughs of things. If I’m going to dive into something, I’m diving all the way in. I also know that isn’t for everybody. So you can start with the beginning if you wanted to, but those first 66 issues are… definitely from the 1960s. There’s some great camp to be had and it’s cool to see their earliest appearances but it’s honestly not the starting point I would recommend to most people.
Here’s something I found out recently: The original X-Men title was canceled with issue 66 in 1970. Giant-Size X-Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum brought the title back to life. This issue introduced many now fan favorites such as Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus. The mission of the X office at the time was to bring some diversity to the team, and this diversity reinvigorated the X-Men. After Giant-Size X-Men #1 writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne took the reigns with issue #94 of the flagship title, Uncanny X-Men. The pair revitalized the line and turned the X-Men into the characters that pervade pop culture today. All that to say that Giant-Size X-Men #1 and then going right into Chris Claremont’s work is another fantastic way to start reading the X-Men. Claremont would go on to write the X-Men for 16 years, in one of the longest and most acclaimed runs in comic history.
Here’s where I should mention one of the weird things about X-Men comics. Since there are so few natural entry points to the franchise, it almost makes any point a viable entry point. Unless you’ve read everything there’s going to be something in the pages of one of these stories that you read and scratch your head wondering what in the world the characters are referencing, and if you want my honest opinion, I think that’s a wonderful thing. Comics can be so ridiculous and the X-Men are a perfect example of that. Everyone has died like 10 times, I don’t know how many alternate dimensions and timelines and time displacements and clones there have been in their stories, but honestly it’s not enough. It’s fun and it makes it to where you can pick a story that sounds interesting, read it, see a character mentioning something that sounds cool, and then go find that story and read it.
That goes into one of my other suggestions for getting into the X-Men, just pick a title or character or story description that sounds intriguing to you and jump in. This is an article-worthy side-tangent in itself, but continuity is there to serve the story, not constrain it, so don’t worry about all the when’s and where’s and what’s and who’s are they talking about, and did they just say Jean Grey ate a star? The overlapping patchwork of the X-Men’s history will start to take shape the more you get into it. More than half of them are walking retcons anyway, so don’t worry about it too much.
Another invaluable resource I’ve found on my leap into the X-Men is this podcast, Cerebro. Going on a character-per-episode basis it’s hilarious, informative, and insightful. I recommend starting from the beginning, but if you have a character you’re already interested in and see an episode then diving in there is just as good. You’ll get a thorough understanding of the character as well as reading recommendations. If you listen to enough episodes you’ll start to get a firmer grasp on the timeline and world of the X-Men given the nature of overlap between characters' stories.
My last main suggestion for getting into X-Men comics is something we’re lucky to have now: The Krakoan Era. I should note that I’m not sure that’s what this entire era is officially called, but I think it fits best as an overall title. In 2019 writer Jonathan Hickman arrived with a bold new vision for the X-Men line. Kicking off with a 12-issue, 2-series event, House of X & Powers of X, the event redefined the X-Men and rocketed them into a new status quo.
This relaunch, dubbed Dawn of X after HoX/PoX ended, is a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. While it builds on all of what came before you don’t need to know any of it to enjoy these stories. The beauty of it is that you can jump in here, find stories and characters you love, and then backtrack to read prior events, which will then give new meaning to the current books. This guide from Douglas Wolk is a fantastic overview of the X-Men books from HoX/PoX until now.
And just like that, you’re ready to dive into the world of X-Men! I’d like to note that I am by no means an expert on the X-Men. I jumped on with the relaunch in 2019 but fell off for a year and only just started getting caught back up and also fully diving into their history. I’m writing this from only slightly ahead of your position… assuming that you, the person reading this, are not well-versed in X-Men comics. If you are well-versed in the X-Men and you’ve read through all of this, well thank you, and also feel free to correct me on any points.
Jokes aside, I wanted to mention that to say I know trying to get into X-Men comics can be intimidating, but it’s achievable, and believe me it is so unbelievably fun. I hope I’ve convinced you to join the X-Men train, pitch a tent on Krakoa, and enjoy the crazy ride.
Alex Batts is a writer with a lifelong passion for comics and storytelling. If he’s not writing about comics, he’s likely writing or reading them. You can follow him on Twitter @apbattman.