Teamwork is essential to being an X-Man, but these 10 comic covers let individuals take center stage!
Comic book cover art is meant to catch the eye of a potential reader. In many ways, it’s the first line of marketing for a title. If it doesn’t look good on the rack, chances are it won’t sell well to new readers. Often, the cover is an exaggeration of what’s going on inside the book. Other times it has absolutely nothing to do with the story. Some might call that false advertising. Or variants. The best covers are the ones that manage to do both. Sell the book by accentuating its contents, but still give the reader a proper idea of what to expect. Today, we’ll be looking at ten of the best X-Men covers that highlight individual characters from the franchise. The characters do not have to be alone on the cover to qualify, nor does it have to be from a solo title. They just need to be the center of attention. Let’s jump in.
10. X-Men Black: Emma Frost (Variant Edition) – Emma Frost
Can I say that Emma Frost is one of the sexiest comic-book characters ever to be drawn without the pitchfork and torch folk coming after me? X-Men Black was the last color-coded X-Men title to come out before Marvel started rebooting the line with Disassembled. It was more of an anthology series than anything else. Instead of telling X-Men team stories, its function was to re-establish status quos of several classic villains. The Juggernaut, Mojo, Mystique, and of course, Emma Frost.
This cover by Salvador Larroca was all over Twitter when it debuted, funny enough it wasn’t Marvel’s first choice. It’s a variant of art you’d find inside on the credits page. Emma Frost holding up a jail booking plate and smirking in a defiantly sexy manner. A version of the art with the numbers erased was created and fans were able to share their own takes. It’s a simple, but a very cool cover. So very Emma Frost.
9. X-Men Legacy Vol. 2 #262 – Rogue
If her husband is the premier thief and ladies’ man of the X-Men, then Rogue is the franchise’s quintessential ‘tough chick.’ Often referred to as the Southern Brawler due to her ballroom brawling combat style of fighting- seeing her get down and dirty became commonplace over the decades. And I’m not even talking about her choice in spouses. Thanks to her super strength and near invulnerability, she became one of the X-Men’s best brawlers. That style of fighting hasn’t changed since her debut, not even when she lost that particular powerset. She was just as rugged and fearless while not being tank-proof. I believe this gorgeous cover by Mark Brooks tells the reader everything to expect from Mrs. Lebeau, bloody knuckles and all.
8. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4 #2 (Variant Edition) – Mystique
When Marvel announced and premiered the cover for the 4th volume of Astonishing X-Men there was a collective cheer that could be heard reverberating across the country. The roster seemed to be a sign that the X-Men would be returning attention to characters fans cared about. What Charles Soule’s book turned into wasn’t what some thought. It was ok, at best. However, it did give us this awesome variant by Elizabeth Torque for the title’s second issue. Thanks to her constant use in the last 4 or so X-Men movies, Mystique has made a pretty comfortable place for herself within the franchise.
If you look closely, you’ll notice Torque even included the scales they used in the movies. Annoyingly, depending on how much you enjoy the character, she was also a big part of this book. So much so, it warranted her own cover. The quality of the book aside, this is just a slick cover. Mystique apes a portion of each of her teammates in one shot. Characters depicted here are Rogue, Gambit, Fantomex, Archangel, and Old Man Logan.
7. Gambit Vol. 4 #15 – Gambit
It’s no coincidence that Gambit was one of the 3 most utilized characters tapped to sell comics in the 90s. Despite naysayers and haters, the man oozes charisma and coolness. His image inspires people to take home the book he’s gracing the cover of. The 2012 James Asmus’ Gambit series was treated as a new beginning of the character following several years of less than fair shakes.
With him, came artist Clay Mann who’d previously worked with the X-Men franchise during Mike Carey’s Age of X crossover event. For the most part, barring a handful of issues and covers, Mann was responsible for the title’s art. His pieces were less akin to comic book covers and more 1970-era movie posters throughout the title’s 17-issue run. Of them, #15 was the most dynamic and impressive, though the rest weren’t slouches either. They were all dope, but this is Gambit.
6. Uncanny X-Men Vol.1 #290 – Storm
This may be the first time a younger reader has ever seen this cover by Whilce Portacio in its original form. I say this because it’s been reused, reinterpreted, recreated, and used for inspiration for other covers and trading cards several times over the years. Especially in her short-lived solo series. A cover of Storm being drenched in a downpour has become a bi-annual event it seems. It’s both beautiful and fitting for the character as it illustrates how subtle her awesome powers can be, and at the same time puts her personality on display. Storm appreciates nature as only a few can. This simple depiction speaks volumes of the character.
5. Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3 #62 and #63 – Iceman
The only character on this list to have two covers entered is none other than the king of chill himself, Iceman. During his tenure with the Astonishing X-Men, Iceman was infected with a Celestial Death Seed from an alternate reality similar to that of the Age of Apocalypse. Slowly but surely the seed corrupted Drake. Before the end of the arc, he’d begun to throw the planet into a second ice age. Feeling himself quite a bit, he battled and defeated Thor and even stepped on Wolverine after growing a couple of dozen stories tall. (Related: 10 Most Unkillable X-Men Characters)
It wasn’t an immediate change. It was more like Dr. Jeckle and Mister Hyde. The darkness within Iceman grew and festered like an illness. It brought out a side of him which readers had never seen before. He was emotionally detached, brutally honest, and quite cruel. It also drove him to subconsciously stalk and abduct his past love interests including Mystique, Kitty Pryde, and Polaris. The cover art for #62 and #63 by Phil Noto are the best ways to describe Iceman’s descent into madness.
4. Cable and X-Force #7 – Cyclops
Quite possibly the only comic book cover ever drawn where I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that Cyclops looks gangsta. And it’s not even a flagship X-Men title. After returning from the dead, Cable reassembled X-Force. Perhaps ‘reassembled’ isn’t saying enough. Only one or two characters on his roster had previously been part of older iterations of the team. This was a brand-new configuration. (Related: X-Men Spotlight: Cyclops)
Why’s Cyclops on the cover you ask? During this era, Cyclops was an outlaw on the run from both the X-Men and the Avengers. Much like Cable and his group. This issue is widely known for having the words “Daddy’s Home” plastered across it. It’s about Cyclops tracking down his wayward son and having something of a heart to heart. The issue was ok, but I think this badass cover by Salvador Larroca dripping in ruby quartz red, did most of the talking.
3. X-Men Legacy Vol. 3 #1 – Legion
There are two awesome things to take away from Si Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy run. Well, way more than just two. Other than being the definitive interpretation of the prince of the House of X, David Haller, best known as Legion, the series also gave us works of art with each issue. While the interior art was done by Tan Eng Huat and, in my opinion, was the worst aspect of the series, each cover was done by Mike Del Mundo.
Each was an abstract masterpiece that fit in with the tone of the series and its splintered focus perfectly. It’s no wonder that this is the series that inspired the FX television show. I found it hard to choose just one, so I went with the first issue. In my humble opinion, it said the most about what Legion had to deal with. And it just looks wicked cool.
2. Wolverine Vol. 1 #1 – Wolverine
Wolverine #1 wasn’t the first appearance of the character. Not by a longshot. He’d first been utilized in the Incredible Hulk title and then later repurposed for 1975’s X-Men reboot. At this point, there’s not much to say about Logan that hasn’t been said already. He’s the most recognizable face from the X-Men franchise whose popularity transcends any medium you can think of. But there is something about this cover. His menacing smile and “come hither” gesturing while his claws are popped say a lot without the use any dialogue. We know he’s a good guy, but he walks a fine line between murderous psychopath and anti-hero. In other words the perfect Wolverine cover by legendary artist Frank Miller. (Related: Top 8 Wolverine-Based Characters Still Alive and Swinging in the Marvel Universe)
1. X-Men Vol. 1 #101 – Phoenix/ Jean Grey
I mean, could they have chosen a better issue number for this book? It’s like Chris Claremont decided to teach future generations how to properly plot out a comic book story arc. Some may think that the Phoenix Saga was told over a handful of issues similar to how it was done in the animated series, but they’re wrong. I believe the entire story played out over 5-years worth of monthlies. (Related: 24 Drop-Dead Gorgeous Jean Grey Cosplays!)
However, the cover for X-Men #101 by Dave Cockrum can easily be the cover of any Phoenix Saga omnibus or video thumbnail. Jean Grey (or the Phoenix aping her appearance) is front and center, triumphantly flying out of Jamaica Bay following the X-Men’s contentious descent back to earth. There is no other Jean Grey cover in existence that is more definitive of the character, than this.
Which cover was your favorite? Got some of your own? Let us know below!