Countdown to X-Men: First Class: Andy Burns On 5 Classic X-Men Storylines

In preparation for the latest film in the X-Men film franchise, this week at Biff Bam Pop we’re counting down to the Friday release of X-Men: First Class with a series of x-focused articles.

I remember the very first issue of Uncanny X-Men I ever bought. It was #196, titled “What Was That?!“, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Romita Jr. and the only reason I bought it on my weekly comic book run was because it was a Secret Wars II tie-in issue. In those 31 pages you can find all the stuff I love about Marvel’s merry band of mutants – inter-team conflict, the idea of forgiveness, and the dynamic relationship between Canuk mystery man Wolverine and his young protege, Kitty Pryde (and what young male reader didn’t fall in love with Ms. Pryde?). It was an awesome introduction to the world that I would go on to read over the next 25 years. Over hundreds of issues, there have been countless stories told; some great, some not. On that note, here, in no particular order, are 5 of my favourite X-Men storylines:

1) Age of Apocalypse – after a few years away from the X-universe, in 1995 I was brought back into it hard with the Age of Apocalypse crossover series. With the death of Professor Xavier in the regular timeline (accidentally killed by his son Legion), the world went to hell in a hand basket. Apocalypse ruled, Magneto was leading the X-Men, heroes were villains and vice versa, and the only one who knew how the world was supposed to actually be was the time-travelling Bishop. While things would eventually correct themselves, a few characters from the Age of Apocalypse would find their way into regular continuity, including the maniacal Dark Beast. This was one of the darkest stories in the history of the X-universe, and remains a fan favourite to this day.

2) Fall of the Mutants – if you know your x-lore, you’re well aware that the X-Men are often reviled and feared by the world around them. However, the events that transpire in the Fall of the Mutants, where the then current team of Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Longshot and Madelyne Pryor sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity, leaves them as heroes in the eyes of the world. The X-Men don’t die, of course, even though that’s how it appears to everyone, including the teammates they leave behind – they just relocate to the Australian outback for a few years.

3) The Trial of Magneto – Issue #200 of The Uncanny X-Men found the team’s most hated nemesis voluntarily standing trial for crimes against humanity. Of course, just like everything else when it comes to Charlie’s Mutants, the trial is far from easy, thanks to the arrival of the brother/sister tandem of Fenris. The double-sized issue had some great action scenes while also asking the team, the world and the reader if a redemption-seeking Magneto should be forgiven for all of the destruction he’s left in his wake.

4) The Dark Phoenix Saga – this may be considered obvious, but that’s only because of just how influential and memorable Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s work has become. While versions of it have appeared in both the X-Men films and animated series, none are as classic as the comics themselves. It’s amazing how much this storyline manages to incorporate in 10 issues. From the introduction of future mainstay Kitty Pryde to battles both Earthly (the Hellfire Club) and in space (the Imperial Guard) to Jean Grey’s ultimate sacrifice, The Dark Phoenix Saga remains an essential piece of X-Men mythology, regardless of how many times Jean has died and come back since.

5) Fatal Attractions – the only storyline on my list not written by Chris Claremont, which makes it apparent how legendary Claremont’s run with the mutants was. However, writers Fabien Nicieza and Scott Lobdell managed to leave their own mark with this storyline that brings Magneto back to his villainous roots in a large way. The most momentous moment occurs when, after being attacked and nearly killed by Wolverine, Magneto rips the adamantium straight off of Logan’s bones. It’s hard to shock comic books readers, but I remember being absolutely blown away by this scene, thinking “why didn’t this happens before?” The repercussions of these actions would be felt for years to come.

Now that you’ve read about a few of mine, tell me, what’s your favourite X-Men storyline?

One Reply to “Countdown to X-Men: First Class: Andy Burns On 5 Classic X-Men Storylines”

  1. Your #1 wasn’t written by Claremont, either.

    My favorites that you didn’t mention include

    Wolverine’s first mini-series in Japan and the couple of issues following it in X-Men

    early New Mutants (not really a storyline, per se, but pretty much from the Magik mini-series thru the end of the Sienkiewicz/Claremont collaboration)

    Wolverine 75-82 or so, when he’s dealing with not having the adamantium anymore. Beautifully told, beautifully drawn. He visits old friends (Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, Heather Hudson), is hunted down one after another by Lady Deathstrike (who takes pity on him), Cyber (who does not) and the energy vampires Scylla and Bloodscream, before returning to Japan for a visit to take care of his ward. Great, great stuff.

    the Paul Smith run on Uncanny, which includes most of the Brood storyline, the Morlocks, etc

    Mutant Massacre, plus the Angel fallout (which is part of Fall of the Mutants I think)

Leave a Reply