I Just Want to Hit the Highlights

September 24, 2011 at 2:14 am (Comics, How to Read X-Men) (, , )

Please head over to 4geekreviews.com for the updated list!

I’ll warn you ahead of time, anytime you skip around in X-Men, there is a bit of a learning curve. So just roll with it, ask questions, and give it a little time to sink in. Here is my personal reccomendation of how to read the past decade of X-Men only ‘hitting the highlights’ and essential (so, maybe not that good, but necessary) reading. This does include some *light* spoilers to give folks essential knowledge for between book stuff. Click through the links to read the Amazon synopsis if you are on the fence. If you just want a straight list, click here. The following are overviews of the books:

Start with…New X-Men (previously titled X-Men) by Grant Morrison

This. Was. Great. It’s a clean start for new readers, even if you may need to learn who some of the characters are. However, Morrison’s run sort of exists in a bubble, it’s pretty different (story, concept, characters, characterization) than anything that came before or after. That has some benefits and drawbacks. It’s also Morrison. If you don’t know what that means, you will. Finally, this may be the most controversial run ever. Mentioning ‘Planet X’ on an x-forum may be tantamount to yelling ‘fire!’ in a crowded movie theater.

What you need to know: X-Men are being X-Men. Genosha is an island nation homeland for mutants ruled by king Magneto. The X-Men just got done preventing him from trying to take over the world (sort of) but overall, everyone seems on fair terms. It was weird. In the issue right before this, Wolverine darn near kills Magneto, Xavier pleads with the citizens of Gensha not to build thier new country on blood, and then it stops. the very next issue is Morrison and off we go.

Prime Roster: Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Cyclops, Professor X, Beast, Wolverine

Morrison also introduces several new characters in this run, however most don’t stick around. Check back when we get the detailed ‘where to start’ pages up and running for full list of first appearances of x-characters by era.

Buy the Ultimate Collections-great price, easy to find: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3

This is the series previously called X-Men (1991) and keeps the original numbering. These three volumes cover issues #114-154

Skip ahead to:

Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon

This was even better than Morrison, the perfect one-two. Morrison breaks the X-Men down, Whedon puts them back together again. Warning on this. This is totally subjective, but after Morrison and Whedon, you’ll be kind of ruined. There has been some good stuff since, but personally, I think these runs were the best.

Roster: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, Armor. *spoiler*-read to find out who, it’s a pretty awesome reveal if you can keep from being spoiled

Just get the omni

or you can pick up the trades pretty cheap:

Vol. 1                   Vol. 2

**there is a slight moment here that may require you being aware of what Excalibur vol. 3 is about. However, if you are not a detail freak, you won’t care. Note, I said you don’t have to READ Excalibur vol. 3, just know what it is about.

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3

House of M technically goes here, but I think you can suss it out if you read Astonishing X-Men all the way through first, then HoM

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4

Okay, so you’ve just finished the most awesome X-Men ever. What are you going to do now?

…actually you are going to read some Avengers. It’s really hard to understand House of M (which is good, and important) without reading:

Avengers Disassembled""

It’s good, even if you don’t care for the Avengers, it’s well done, and makes reading House of M much easier.

*again, you may want to look into what Excalibur vol 3 was all about (don’t click that link until you’ve read everything above unless you want to be spoiled…don’t you do it!). Or, just enjoy the crazy turn at the end of Avengers Disassembled. That acutally may be the way to go. At some point, you are going to have to figure out what happens in Excalibur vol. 3 book to understand what on earth is going on in the first few pages of House of M.

Now, you are ready for:

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis

Good stuff. Also sets the stage for the next several years of X-Men (even though it is Avengers centric). You don’t, I repeat DONT need to read any of the tie-in stuff. Not that it was bad, just not needed. If you don’t know what happens at the end of this book, lock yourself in a cubbard and stay away from the internet until you read it. However, I will pimp the hell out of Son of M (MCS link), because it was good. Then follow it up with Silent War. But i digress…



Wow, that was incredible. What will the X-Men follow that up with?

Well, nothing that great in the flagship books, but we get some FANTASTIC ancillary books out of it. At this point, you’ll want to start reading:


Q-“Do I need to read X-Factor? I don’t like X-Factor, I read it back in the 90s”

A-Yes, you do like X-Factor, this is not the same book in any way as the 90s, although those fans like it too. Just pick up the first trade and give it a go. You can read it independently for almost all of it. It rarely ties in with the other x-books, and it is seriously one of the best Marvel is putting out, and has been for years Get it all. If you can find the Madrox mini that kicked it off, get that too. It’s MUCH cheaper in single issue than trade (which is OOP-out of print).

Roster: Multiple Man, Siryn, Strong Guy, Rahne, M, +1 spoiler character.

You’ll also start up with:

New X-Men

Q-“But, didn’t I just read New X-Men?”

A-No, this is new-NEW X-Men. It’s written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and deals with the teen x-group

Q-“Oh, so it’s a new book, and starts with issue #1”

A-…no. You actually want to start with the Kyle/Yost run that starts at issue #20, but the trades are printed as ‘vol. 1’ confused yet? Here’s the skinny, the easiest way to look for this run is to call it New-X-Men: Childhood’s End by Kyle and Yost. Now, the trades are stupid expensive. Shockingly, stupid expensive. Grab the single issues, or wait for them to be re-printed.

Roster-buncha x-kids: X-23 (get her mini too), Hellion, Anole, Dust, Pixie others

I’ll be honest, you can live without New X-Men Childhood’s End, but a lot of people LOVED it, and when we get to the next big crossover (Messiah Complex), it will help a ton to know who these characters are. Same disclaimer for X-Factor. X-Factor had a fantastic role in Messiah Complex that you will totally not be connected to if you don’t read X-Factor. I put all this time and effort into getting this list and all these links together for you, the least you could do is check out X-Factor. Just don’t read vol. 2 until after Deadly Genesis (if you are picking up DG)

During X-Factor, and New-Men: Childhood’s End (by Kyle and Yost) X-Men (previously, New X-Men, which was previously X-Men) as well as Uncany X-Men had some rather forgetable stories. However, the closer we get to Messiah Complex, things get kind of important, and pretty good.

Deadly Genesis:

You don’t need to read this. Despite the cover, it is sadly devoid of zombies. However, if you are going to go on and read Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire (which you only need to read if you really like x-men in space stories, Havok and the rest of the cast of that book) then you do need to read Deadly Genesis. Also, someone dies. So if you are a ‘I need to read when someone dies’ person, here’s what you do:

Deadly Genesis

Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire

DG and RaFotSE also intro some new charcters, among them Vulcan and Darwin. One becomes important in Marvel space books, the other shows up again down the road. Honestly? I’d get them. They weren’t great, but had enough important things happen to justify a read, and they weren’t terrible. If you skip DG, you’ll be scratching your head as to why a certain someone is back, and why everyone is so angry at said someone.

While Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire is going on in Uncanny X-Men, Supernovas is going on in X-Men (previously titled New X-Men, previously X-Men)


 A HUGE fan favorite, and is where Mike Carey jumps on as writer. There is a character here and there that you may not be familiar with, but roll with it. You’ll figure it out. Or, hit the internet and ask. It’s tough spot to jump on with, but probably worth the work. There is always someone ready to talk about Supernovas

Roster: Rogue, Cannonball, Northstar, Iceman, and a few characters that are a bit spoilery to mention.

This is about where Civil War"" happens, it’s not really pertinent to X-Men, but it was pretty good, and had a massive effect on the Marvel Universe. There are two issues of X-Factor that are not in the X-Factor trades. You can grab the single isses or the Civil War X-Men trade they are in.

You can also read X-Factor vol. 2, vol. 3 and vol. 4 .

There is one more trade that I would grab to prep you for Messiah Complex

Blinded by the Light (X-Men)-hard to find, pay too much at Amazon, or put it on a MCS wishlist. Just get the single issues.

By the time you’ve got those read, you are ready, and frothing at the mouth for:

Messiah Complex

If it’s in you, read Endangered Species first-Beast treks all over to try and fix M-Day.-not overly essential, but not bad either.

Messiah Complex was a  crossover had all the x-books, and New X-Men Childhood’s End ends in the crossover. So, you’ll be done with it here.

“Oh good, because reading all those books at once was hard to keep track of”

After Messiah Complex, you have two more x-books to check out.


1 is required reading the other really depends on your taste.

Post-Messiah Complex we get Cable and X-Force.

If you like Cable, get Cable-you can read vol. 1, & vol. 2 before Messiah War

Get X-Force

“But, I read X-Force in the 90s, I don’t really like…”

JUST GET X-FORCE!!!! Didn’t you learn anything from the X-Factor lesson?

“But it’s just another Wolverine over saturization book”

…don’t be that guy.

X-Force is basically X-Men black ops. It’s enjoyable for new readers, and really something special for old-school fans.

Read X-Force Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 before you read Messiah War.

If you are reading Cable also, make sure you have read vol. 1 & 2 of Cable before you get to Messiah War

So, while all that is going on in Cable and X-Force, what is happening in the x-titles proper? Here’s the trade breakdown:

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand-good stuff, the end of Brubaker’s x-run, and probably his best work with it. Awesome Wolverine/Nightcrawler buddy story. Be careful,there are two,(the other one is an anthology collection)

X-Men Legacy (previously X-Men, previously New X-Men etc.): X-Men Legacy: Divided He Stands-. This begins the era of Xavier. The next few Legacy trades are all about him. These stories had some good moments, but it’s a lot of Xavier.

Of the Xavier centric stuff, this is probably my favorite. I personally started to get a little tired of it in Sins of the Father, but if you’re an Xavier fan, you’ll dig this.



Uncanny X-Men: Manifest Destiny (again there are two, the other is an anthology)-meh. Might as well. It moves the X-Men. Nothing stellar, but an important moment or two. This kicks the Fraction run into full gear. If you ask ‘the internet’ you are likely to get a lot of negative feedback. Fraction’s run had it’s share of negafans. Personally I think it’s a bit exagerated, even if I’m not a massive fan of his x-contributions. These stories were enjoyable for the most part, and a lot happens in the trade. If you skip it, you’ll need to do some research to figure out what’s going on. 



If you are still reading the Astonishing X-Men series, here is where you can pick up with Warren Ellis’ run. I takes place after Manifest Destiny. Now, AXM is really more of a series of minis than one on-going continuous story, and the switch from Whedon to Ellis is abrupt. Ellis does not pick up any of Whedon’s threads, or answer any questions you may have regarding the end of Whedon’s run. However, Ellis’ first arc Ghost Box is pretty great. Also, check how Amazon has it listed. I have a feeing this link is wrong, but they might honor the price. This is probably the right book (although paperback).-UPDATE-they do indeed honor the price. I just got my HC of Ghost Box for $1.98.

X-Men: Legacy-Sins of the Father-more Xavier





X-Men Legacy: Original Sin-More Xavier, and some Wolverine

Uncanny X-Men: Lovelorn-skipable-I love character centric stories, and Dodson, but this is in no way required reading.

X-Men Legacy: Salvage-get this. We move from Xavier to Rogue.





Technically Messiah War goes here, but since the whole thing is pretty seperate from the others, the order is flexible.

I only recently realized how expensive this got. Again, I’ll be honest, you won’t feel like a peice of your soul is missing if you don’t read it, but it’s part 2 of the Messiah Trilogy, so you should probably grab it if you can. It’s a Cable/X-Force crossover. You can read Cable  vol. 3 after Messiah War.

Uncanny X-Men: Sisterhood-VERY skipable, but it’s so reviled, you may want to get it to see what everyone is talking about.

Somehow, somewhere go get Uncanny X-Men #512. It’s in the Sisterhood trade, but it’s a really great stand alone story.

About this time Secret Invasion happens. Pick it up, you’ll either love it or hate it. X-Men Secret Invasion was pretty good. Also, the Avengers prelude to Secret Invasion was really good, like a top 10. Pick up Illuminati even if you don’t know anything about them, it was a great intro. Even if you don’t read Secret Invasion, go find out what happens at the end, it’s important for:

 Dark Avengers/X-Men Utopia-This was not very well accepted by fans, personally it gets more hate than it deserves. Pick it up, the end result shifts the X-Men pretty signifigantly.

Your still reading X-Factor right? Read through vol 5, then get vol. 6 after Secret Invasion.

X-Men Legacy: Emplate-This was solidly solid. Good creepy fun.

Uncanny X-Men: Nation X-The X-Men pick up a new stray that will make a presence in Necrosha, we meet some new baddies, and it explains the X-Men new neighbors. Also…well, just read it and see if you can avoid being spoiled. This wasn’t particularly well written, or drawn, but it is important enough to grab.

Make sure you are caught up on X-Force (through vol. 3) and if you are going to start New Mutants, do it here.

X-Necrosha-New Mutants, X-Men-Legacy and X-Force crossover. The Legacy issues feature CLAY MANNNNNNNNNNN on x-Men, which makes it all amazing. I’ll be honest though, nothing that happens here really gets brought up again anywhere else. So, I can’t call it essential reading. Decent though.

New Mutants vol. 2-kinda sucks since you already bought 6-8, but to get 9-11, you need the single issues or this trade.

X-Factor vol. 7, vol. 8, vol 9-avoid the hell out of the internet. Great twist/story going on.

Now you are ready for:

X-Men Second Coming

Make sure you are all caught up on Cable(through vol. 4) if you are reading it. The last volume of Cable ends at the beginning of Second Coming

I enjoyed Second Coming a lot, and it is essential reading. You can skip Second Coming Revelations

Now there is a bit of a change up. We get another X-Men title (Just called X-Men) that is a little silly, but kind of fun. It crosses over with the larger Marvel U, and read them kinda on thier own. Head over to Where to Start with X-Men…right now? to get more info.

Go ahead with X-Factor vol. 10

Get the mini X-Force Sex and Violence-just cuz it’s good

The next story in the main X-books is:

Uncanny X-Men: Birth of Generation Hope-deals with the Second Coming Aftermath, and kicks off the new series Generation Hope

Now you can start:

Uncanny X-Force (you can read vol. 1-4) vol. 1, vol. 2, vol.3 (pre-order), vol. 4(pre-order)-seriously, really good. This replaces X-Force with a new roster that is revealed in Second Coming.

X-Men Legacy: Collision-Rogue’s band of mutants heads to India for a cool little tale.

New Mutants Fall of the New Mutants-if you are reading it

Uncanny X-Men: Quarantine-finishes a few things that started in Nation X

X-Factor vol. 11

Age of X-Crossover with X-Men Legacy and New Mutants.-If you are an alt-u fan, grab it.

Uncanny X-Men:  Breaking Point-new writer (Kieron Gillen, give him a shot)-a wink back to Whedon’s run.

X-Factor vol. 12

X-Men Legacy: Age of X Aftermathpost Age of X fallout stuff

Now we are in pre-order territory (or you can hit up your local shop for the single issues)

X-Factor vol. 13

X-Men Legacy: Lost Legions-Well done little tale that deals with more fallout from Age of X

Uncanny X-Men: Fear Itself-event tie-in. You don’t have to read Fear Itself proper to get this. Gillen does a good job telling you what you need on the front page.

New Mutants vol. 4: Unfinished Business-oooooooooo somebody is back! New creative time including Dan Abbnet and Andy Lanning

X-Men Legacy: 5 Miles South of the Universe– A few characters that have been in character limbo return.


You are now caught up. Head over to:

Where do I start with X-Men…right now? –and figure out what books you are going to keep up with

Fellow x-fans, if you spot better deals, or any issues with this listling, please let me know, and I’ll adjust accordingly.

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