When it comes to the X-Men, sometimes it’s necessary to shake things up!
Selling comics has never been an exact science, and it’s definitely harder for some than others. Except, that is, for a short period of time during the mid-90s which ultimately led to a collapse that nearly spelled the end of the entire industry, mind you.
But typically once you find something that resonates with fans, you tend not to mess with things too much. A character switch here; a change in leadership there; but nothing too drastic. Evidently, the people in charge of the X-Men never got that memo. The X-Men seem to go through heavy changes every handful of years so, but almost always seem to find or rediscover their core audience. Here are the top 10 X-Men teams in Marvel Comics history!
10. Age of Apocalypse
The Age of Apocalypse isn’t great because of its graphic, Image Comics-like brand of storytelling. It’s more due to its implications. Modern writers can crap on Xavier’s memory all they want. His importance to the X-Men and the Marvel Universe in and outside of the books cannot be denied. It was shown to us clearly in the Age of Apocalypse story. Without his leadership and mentorship, yes, the X-Men were still formed, but they were ultimately flawed under Magneto’s tutelage. Often several steps behind the proverbial ball, they failed to stop Apocalypse from turning the world upside down and lost several key members to the mad despot.
They weren’t short of heavy-hitters either. Split into two squads, the members included: Magneto, Rogue, Iceman, Storm, Quicksilver, Exodus, Banshee, Dazzler, Sabretooth, Blink, Sunfire, and Morph. Even with powerhouses like Rogue and Exodus present, these versions of the X-Men were pale imitations of their 616 counterparts. They would routinely have their heads handed to them in battles, completely fail to accomplish their missions, and lose teammates at the hands of their foes. This team is one to remember merely to see how impactful the world they lived was on the main universe, even to this very day.Get your copy of Age of Apocalypse.
9. The Astonishing X-Men
When word spread that Buffy-verse writer/creator, Joss Whedon, was going to write an X-Men book, no one knew exactly what to expect. What we got was a quirky, yet enjoyable return to a small team format we hadn’t seen for a while.
The Astonishing X-Men were Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, Beast , and a resurrected Colossus later joining the roster. The group was well balanced and in a strange way, they were a twist on the OG X-Men team of the 60s, except they had a murderous ball of metal and hair on the team in Wolverine.
Cyclops, Wolverine, Kitty, and Emma played foil to each other while Beast tried to maintain the peace. In true Whedon fashion, the series had a lot of goofy one-liners but the stories often went dark with incidents such as the murder of the mutant child, Wing. Kitty ultimately ending up trapped inside of a giant bullet hurling through space. She got out eventually, but dang.
8. New X-Men
Hot off the heels of the first live-action X-Men film, Marvel tapped Grant Morrison to helm an era of leather, sex, weirdness, and textbooks. The New X-Men book’s main team consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Jean Grey, and newcomer, Xorn. This line-up was chock full of messy angst, the likes of which we’d never seen before in an X-Men book.
Take this into account; Cyclops and Jean were married, however, Jean caught Cyclops and Emma having a telepathic affair (with Emma dressed up as Jean BTW). In the meantime, Jean and Wolverine have an intense make-out session and Xorn turns out to be a “clone” of Magneto who murders thousands of people and creates a situation where Wolverine has to mercy-kill Jean. Oh, yeah, Beast was there too.
7. Extinction Team
After being decimated by the Scarlet Witch in the “House of M,” traumatized by Selene during “Necrosha-X,” pushed to their limits in both “Messiah Complex” and “Second Coming” and dismantled in the “Age of X”; the X-Men were again rocked by internal struggles. X-Men leaders, Cyclops and Wolverine, had come to bloody blows over an irreconcilable difference of opinion for how the next generation of mutants should be raised. The event was dubbed “Schism” and after the dust had settled the X-Men were split down the middle. The faction that stayed under Cyclops’ leadership remained on Utopia. To proactively protect his people from whatever came, Cyclops created a team of the most powerful X-Men at his disposal including; Emma Frost, Danger, Magneto, Storm, Colossus (as the Juggernaut), Magik, Hope, and Namor. Overkill, much?
6. X-Treme X-Men
During the late ’90s, prolific X-Men writer, Chris Claremont returned to writing Marvel’s Merry band of Mutants full-time. Using the very 90’s adjective of “X-Treme”, Claremont launched a new team book alongside artist Salvador Larocca. This team consisted of Beast, Psylocke, Bishop, Sage, Gambit, with new creations, Thunderbird (III), Lifeguard, Slipstream and featured Rogue as the leader. At first, their mission was to track down Destiny’s future predicting diaries, but that was quickly detoured as other threats were presented in the forms of the murderous Vargas, the universal conqueror, Khan, and the evil, mind-controlling mutant, Elias Bogan.
Get your copy of X-Treme X-Men.
5. Gold Team
Functioning under the Uncanny X-Men book, this team is widely known as the other X-Men book of the ’90s. This team consisted of Storm, Jean, Iceman, Colossus, Archangel, and Bishop. What they lacked in page appeal they made up for in ability. In terms of raw power, this team casts a large shadow over its Blue counterpart. Storm, Iceman, and Jean alone could end the world as we knew at any given moment! Though the book was originally helmed by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee (same as “X-Men” with the Blue team), writing responsibilities were eventually taken over by Scott Lobdell.
4. The Outback
Often considered one of the best X-Men lineups of all time, the team that was based out of the Australian Outback consisted of Storm, Colossus, Havok, Wolverine, Dazzler, Longshot, Rogue and Psylocke. After being resurrected by Roma, the X-Men, led by Storm, are dropped in the abandoned town of Cooterman’s Creek where they faced off against Cybernetic super-villains, the Reavers. After dispatching the partially mechanical desperados, the X-Men took over the settlement and used it as their new base of operations.
They moved about the globe by way of the Aborigine mutant Gateway, and utilized the remaining Reaver technology to make their stay in the desert more comfortable. Being thought dead, coupled with their extremely remote home base, the X-Men were allowed to strike at their foes with impunity. It wasn’t a perfect home. The X-Men faced their fair share of challenges in the desert. Key among them was the evil computer they inherited, the Brood, and eventually the return of the Reavers themselves.
Get your copy of Essential X-Men!
3. Giant-Sized X-Men 1975
Definitely a change in guard, 1975 brought us Chirs Claremont and the start of what became an avalanche of new characters. The original X-Men (sans Beast) alongside newcomers, Havok and Polaris, had been captured on the living isle of Krakoa. Led by Cyclops, a new team had been gathered to rescue them. Joining previously featured characters Banshee and Sunfire, the international roster included Thunderbird, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus. Under Claremont’s pen, the X-Men moved into more interpersonal led stories and this team was a key indicator of that. Unlike the harmonious original five X-Men, in the beginning, these new members clashed to the point of dysfunction.
Obviously, they pulled it together enough to save the X-Men from their captivity, but this new squad headlined the franchise for years to come, all becoming fan favorites. While Thunderbird was killed off fairly soon after his debut, his name was passed down to two characters, including his brother James, better known by his codename, Warpath. Wolverine grew to become arguably the most well-received X-Man in history, and Storm is so highly regarded, she’s the only one among this new team that has never died. Not even once, you guys!
Get your copy of Giant Size X-Men!
2. The Original X-Men
There isn’t much more that can be said about the original mutants of the Marvel Universe (excluding Namor) that you probably haven’t already heard. Without them, there is no X-Men. Despite what the movies would have new fans believe; Cyclops, Jean, Beast, Angel, and Iceman were the first students to attend the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Individually sought out by Professor Charles Xavier, the small group of teens was personally trained to use their powers to protect those that couldn’t fight for themselves. The team often faced-off against the popular villain, sometimes antihero, Magneto, and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Later, they would become the first targets of the original iteration of the giant mutant-hunting automatons, the Sentinels.
As time went on, the team would grow and change. Unlike most comic book characters, the five X-Men were allowed to age and even adopt permanent physical alterations. Iceman ditched his more ‘snowman’ look, Beast, grew a layer of blue fur and gained a more… beastly look, and in the ’80s, Angel’s feathers were replaced with metal blades when he became the Horseman of Death. After the return of Jean following the Dark Phoenix Saga, the original five X-Men reformed as X-Factor before finally returning to the main X-Men title books in time for the 90’s era of stories.
1. Blue Team
The team that inspired so much of what the 90s X-Men Animated Series came to be, this squad of mutants consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Gambit, Psylocke, Rogue and, of course, Jubilee. Unlike their golden counterparts, this team was built to handle more street-level threats that required more fist-to-face action. Having the likes of Gambit (a master thief), Psylocke (a ninja) and Wolverine (a trained assassin) on the roster gave the team ample opportunities for sneaking about and infiltration.
Cyclops did what he does best, lead, though he’d often clash with Wolverine. Luckily, during this era, they rarely came to blows. Beast acted as the resident technical super-genius, while Rogue was the unchallenged muscle and sass-master. Jubilee, being the chili fry-eating, mall rat that she was (is?), rightfully functioned as a foil/ comic relief/ attempt at drawing in the extreme cool kids. This roster was special simply because every character on it (except for perhaps, Beast) had a fairly large fan-following. They were visually appealing and fun, even if it wasn’t the most diverse cast in history. Somehow that didn’t matter, funny how far a sound concept, good art, and great storytelling will take you. It’s a shame that 20th Century Fox never attempted to capitalize on this lineup’s appeal with any of their movies while they owned the property.
There they are, the ten most important X-Men teams in Marvel History. Each has had their own unique role to play in the greater X-Men mythos; introducing key characters, ushering in universe-altering events, or causing drastic changes to the status quo. What’s your favorite? Let us know below!