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50 Greatest X-Men Stories: 25-21

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the X-Men, we’re doing a poll of the greatest X-Men stories of all-time! You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest X-Men Stories!

We’ll do five each day from here on out (until we get towards the end, when it’ll probably get down to 3 a day). Here is a master list of every story featured so far. Here are #25-21.

Enjoy!

25. “Mutant Genesis” X-Men #1-3

This storyline, which was the end of Chris Claremont’s initial tenure on the X-Men titles, reads like the ultimate X-Men movie screenplay, if budget was no object. After first introducing the newly reformed X-Men (having merged X-Factor and the X-Men into one massive team), the X-Men are forced into conflict against Magneto, who now has his own group of followers called the Acolytes. Magneto manages to capture the first team of X-Men sent after him and also brainwash them into becoming his followers. This leads to the remaining X-Men (the “Gold” team, because the “Less cool characters” team sounded less appealing) having to both take down their comrades while still managing to save them. This storyline also comes with a major revelation about Moira MacTaggert that lands her squarely in the realm of the “Charles Xavier school of messed up stuff that I didn’t want to tell you I did because it was so messed up.” Besides drawing a series of impressive and imaginative battles, artist Jim Lee also re-designed most of the X-Men’s costumes which were all adapted by the X-Men: Animated Series, so soon became the definitive look for a number of the X-Men, including Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Rogue. Scott Williams inked Lee on the book.

24. “Dancin’ in the Dark” Uncanny X-Men #169-170

The Morlocks, a group of mutants who live in the sewers because they are too ugly to pass as humans, kidnap Warren Worthington, the X-Men known as Angel. The X-Men come to free him and it comes down to Storm challenging the leader of the Morlocks, Callisto, to a knife fight. It is all extremely bad ass. Chris Claremont wrote it and Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek drew it.

23. “Demon” Uncanny X-Men #143

The last issue of X-Men that John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Terry Austin ever did together, this one-off where Kitty Pryde is alone at the X-Mansion on Christmas Eve when a demon attacks might be the greatest final issue from an acclaimed creative team EVER, as Kitty remarkably does whatever she can to stop the demon solo. It is a tremendous issue and really solidified Kitty as a bad ass.

22. “Magneto Triumphant!” X-Men #112-113

While last page Magneto reveals had long been an X-Men staple before the end of X-Men #111, it was still quite a shock to see Magneto show up after the X-Men battled against their old foe Mesmero (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin did a great job capturing the sort of “Oh crap, we have no way of beating this guy” attitude that the X-Men dealt with in this battle, where Magneto punishes the X-Men for him being reverted to a baby years earlier (which the X-Men didn’t actually DO, but whatever). The X-Men, of course, are well known for their ability to beat long odds, and they manage it here, too, as they escape…but in their escape, it seems like most of the team die in Magneto’s underground volcanic base. This leads to the World Tour storyline starting the next issue, the first of a few times that Claremont had the rest of the world believing that the X-Men were dead.

21. “LifeDeath” Uncanny X-Men #186, 198

An issue after losing her powers to Forge’s “make mutant powers go away” gun, Storm has to come to grips with what is pretty much the worst day of her adult life. Forge (who she doesn’t know actually invented the gun) takes Storm in and the two spend some deep, personal time together at his apartment getting to know each other as she deals with her great loss. When it seems like the two are ready to take things to another level, Storm learns of Forge’s involvement in her power loss. It would be almost forty issues before they somewhat reconcile. This story was written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith and Terry Austin. It is hard to properly realize how out of nowhere having a special Barry Windsor-Smith drawn issue of X-Men was at the time, but trust me, it was a big deal. Twelve issues later, Claremont and Windsor-Smith (no Austin this time around) continued Storm’s journey by having her travel to Africa to deal some more with her power loss. She encounters a young pregnant woman and Storm valiantly helps save the woman and deliver the baby (and then revive the baby when it is seemingly stillborn). The happiness of the moment is quickly overshadowed by the fact that the village elder now has to kill himself in a tradition where an elder sacrifices themself every time a new baby is born to the village. Storm spends time with him leading up to his death, trying to make heads or tails of his sacrifice. It clearly deeply affects her.

38 Comments

Demon was my number one. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Dancin’ in the Dark was up there. Number four or five maybe? It placed, anyway. The definitive Storm story by any metric.

5/10 if I count both my World tour picks. I included #111 in my Magneto Triumphant, which makes me wonder, were there a lot of people start/stopping stories differently than Brian.

Stephen Conway

July 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

While I didn’t vote for any of these, they are all fantastic stories. I actually expected Mutant Genesis and Dancin in the Dark to finish in the Top 10, so I’m surprised to see them this far back.

Still just 2/10 for me. I’m starting to think my Kieron Gillen pick has no chance of showing up, but the other 7 are fairly safe popular bets.

Now these are 5 great stories, two from my list and three more I would have happily voted for if that cruel taskmaster Brian had given me as many spots as I wanted.

It’s pretty obvious to me that a lot of my picks won’t be showing up on the list, because there’s no way they’d rank higher than these. But I’d be happy to be surprised, of course. (I think I’m still 2/10.)

Demon was one of the last ones I cut from my list. The only reason I didn’t include it was that it placed so high on the Kitty Pryde list.

Mutant Genesis was, as I suspect for many people since it sold so well, my very first comic, so I have of nostalgia for it. Re-reading it, it’s a bit more flawed than I recall(for Jim Lee X-Men stories, I definitely prefer the Lady Mandarin trilogy or Crossroads), but it’s a fine story regardless, with some mostly great Jim Lee artwork, with a classical X-men vs Magneto battle that seems both a fitting beginning to this X-men book and a fitting thematic conclusion to Claremont’s run on the title.

Dancin’ in the Dark is classic, and contains my all-time favorite Storm moment, where she straight up stabs Calisto in the heart and walks off without turning back. I always thought Storm was stuck up and holier than thou, but losing her powers made her such a badass. That “heel turn” of sorts into Mohawk Storm throughout the rest of the 80s would propel her into my top 3 favorite X-men characters, alongside Wolverine and Cyclops.

Don’t like Demon/Magneto Trimiputant, as I don’t much care for Claremont/Byrne’s run still. I know, blasphemous, but of all the artist who had a sustained run with Claremont(Cockrum, Byrne, Smith, Romita Jr, Silvestri, and Jim Lee), Byrne is my least favorite penciller, and his obvious overwrought plotting did not help with Claremont’s purple prose. I think Claremont’s storytelling grows and matures after Byrne leaves by leaps and bounds, so I share no love for this and the inevitable Dark Phoenix Saga/Days of Future Past/etc Byrne stories that show up later.

I’m not sure about the second Lifedeath issue, but the first one is great, no doubt. BWS has some fantastic body language here, and although Claremont isn’t quite on his level, he does a very fine job of selling the romance between these two and the genuinely tragic conclusion of these two complex individuals.

My first pick has finally shown up. I knew from the beginning that one of my votes would never make the list, 3 are good bets for the top 5, 1 more is sure to place, 1 has a good chance, 1 has a slim chance, 1 has no chance at the top 20. I thought my final choice would make the list, but one of Brian’s story summaries suggests it won’t.

I think Magneto, Triumphant was in my top 3, it’s just classic Bronze Age brawling at its best (like Avengers’ Nefaria arc that came out a bit prior to this, another Byrne classic).

I actually love all of these (except LIfedeath, which was okay, certainly a change of pace, but not as fun as these others).

I’m sti waiting for the rest of Whedon’s run (three arcs), Age of Apocalypse, and the rest of the Messiah trilogy

4/10

6. Supernovas
8. Crossroads
9. Dancer in the Dark
10. Earthfall

This is turning out to be an excellent list. Goes to show why the X-Men are some of the most popular characters, fantastic stories for the last 50 years.

I respect what the Lifedeath stories did for Storm’s character development, but for whatever reason I just never really got into them. They’d never come close to appearing on a list of my favorite X-Men stories, and they’re not even among my favorite BWS X-Men stories (Weapon X would be tops followed by Wounded Wolf). It’s been awhile since I’ve read them, and I read them as part of a marathon of old X-Men stories, so perhaps I should revisit them as their own piece.

That first Morlock story is indeed a truly badass moment for Storm, and is a pretty great story. Nothing that I’d consider for a list of favorites though.

Demon’s another great issue and did a lot to start making Kitty Pryde interesting. While #139 may technically be the first “Welcome to the X-Men, . Hope you survive the experience!” issue, the title would have been a better fit here. It didn’t make my list, and wasn’t even in contention, but I’m certainly not worried about seeing it on here.

Magneto Triumphant! was the second entry on my list, but I included #111 with it. I just cannot read that story without also reading that issue and was very surprised to see it omitted from the listing. I always liked that little trek Beast took through the mansion as he tried to figure out what happened. You’re given enough detail to figure out how the X-Men were captured, but the vast majority of that story is untold and left to the reader’s imagination. Some very nice writing there. The last page Magneto reveal came out of nowhere and was truly an “oh crap, the X-Men are screwed!” moment. They’d already been defeated and captured, but Claremont still managed to make the situation seem even worse. And that full page drawing of Magneto is still one of my absolute favorites of him. No one drew him as well as Byrne did until Jim Lee came around.

A year ago Mutant Genesis almost definitely would have won a spot on my list, but I’m not sure it’d even be top 20 material now. Everything about that story is so over the top and goofy, but in an endearing way. Lee was in full-on pin-up mode with that series, but his art matched the energy and bombast of Claremont’s script every panel of the way. The Acolytes were a good idea; but, Amelia Voght aside, they were never really handled very well by later writers. The mind manipulation stuff done to Magneto was nonsense. I’ve tried to figure out why Claremont included it and none of the explanations I’ve come to are satisfactory. I’ve chosen to treat it as some sort of half-assed MacGuffin and ignore it. None of those three issues was my first X-Men comic (#299 was, and might have actually been my very first comic period), but for better or worse Lee’s X-Men will always be MY X-Men. I broke away from TMNT and got into X-Men by a mix of the animated series (we didn’t get Fox at the time, so I relied on a friend of mine to tape it for me. And I cherished every precious episode.), the comics, trading cards, and the Toy Biz action figures. Lee’s designs are permanently imprinted onto my mind as the default costumes. I’ve come to realize how ridiculous a lot of them are, but damnit if a small smile doesn’t creep across my face whenever I see them. It’s a perfect example of nostalgia overriding every other sense.

I really liked the first Lifedeath, but hated the second. The idea of killing off an elder for every baby born makes no sense for any population in which other causes of death exist, and for an isolated village of subsistence farmers it would decimate the population in a fairly short time. The stupidity of it kind of ruins the whole story.

4/10

– Crossroads
– Magneto Triumphant
– Mutant Genesis
– Here Comes Tomorrow

¡There is so much diversity in X-Men stories!

I did not vote for any of these, but I do agree that they are all good stories.

It was interesting to see “Magneto Triumphant” from X-Men #112-113 rank so well here. I know a lot of old school X-Men fans often complain about the post-Claremont depictions of Magneto as a ranting, evil monster. But the thing is, in these two issues, we see that Claremont himself originally wrote Magneto as a fiendishly sadistic SOB. I think this is probably the major reason why later on, first in Classic X-Men, and then in X-Men vol 2 #1-3, Claremont stated that Magneto’s powers cause him to experience extreme psychological unbalance & personality shifts. It’s the only way to reconcile the fact that the character is a complete & total bastard in “Magneto Triumphant” but a few years later from “I, Magneto” onwards he’s this driven, fanatical yet well-meaning Holocaust survivor attempting to prevent history from repeating itself.

Demon was my #3. Kitty’s long been a favourite character of mine (I think mostly from Excalibur, since I was too young for most of the Claremont years, and she wasn’t even in the ’90s animated series, a truly horrible omission!), and that’s just a fantastic Kitty issue, showing her as resourceful, brave, determined, and just really great.

The others here are good. Just not personal favourites of mine. Magneto Triumphant’s definitely an awesome one, though.

6/10 – Both “Mutant Genesis” and “Magneto Triumphant” made my list. Like Jeremy said, “Mutant Genesis” is pretty much a case of right place/right time. My first issue of any X-Men comics was X-Men (vol. 2) #8, and going back and reading back issues, “Mutant Genesis” really felt like the beginning of “my” X-Men. Even to do this day, I have a lot of fun reading it, despite its flaws. The X-Men vs. X-Men fight is great, and the whole story serves as a great little denouement for Claremont’s Magneto. As his work on that character is perhaps the most impressive part of his lengthy run, it’s appropriate that Claremont goes out writing Magneto.

“Magneto Triumphant” then is at the other end of that spectrum, the last real appearance of Silver Age Magneto. It’s also a great example of superhero action and one of the most old-fashionedly-fun stories of the Claremont/Byrne run.

I certainly can’t quibble with “Dancin’ in the Dark”, there’s simply other Paul Smith stories I enjoy more. Though the fight scene between Storm and Callisto is one of several masterclasses on depicting action in comics that Smith put on during his run.

“Demon” has always left me cold: a one-off that barely features the team beyond Kitty doesn’t seem like the right kind of sendoff for the book’s most significant creative run. And while I often leap to Claremont’s defense when the “overly wordy” critics comes out, #143 is probably the best example those critics could point to, as its covered in words.

Similarly, “LifeDeath” has always left me colder than most people. I appreciate its art objectively, but personally, it’s never done much for me.

“against their old foe Mesmero (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)”
Was it ever stated that it was not the real Mesmero? The only stories I’ve read with this lameass villain are this and a random issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

Mutant Genesis is my #2. It might not be the best but it’s the story that introduced me to modern -at the time- X-Men after a few years of having no access to new comics and it blew me away when I first read it.
Demon was a runner-up for a while but didn’t get a spot on my list.

Haven’t read the other two.

Forgot to point out that Magneto Triumphant was my #10, and that I voted it as #111-113.

2 questions that have been bugging me for years about Mutant Gensis:

1. Who is Magneto facing/why is his back to the X-Men? Is he supposed to be facing the reader? That layout has always left me puzzled.

2. Who was Delgado intended to be? A mutant S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who switched sides, an Acolyte with the same last name as the S.H.I.E.L.D agent, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent given powers and brainwashed, a red herring, or bad writing?

Was it ever stated that it was not the real Mesmero?

Sorry, more of a joke about how different Mesmero was from his previous appearance at the time.

Still 3/10 for me.

Mutant Genesis was probably my favorite comics story as a kid. I don’t remember exactly what my first X-Men issue was, but I’m certain it was either a single digit issue of adjectiveless or one of the Uncanny issues that was on sale at the same time. I was hooked immediately and was enthusiastic about everything X-Men, so finding X-Men #1-3 in one of those plastic wrapped comics three packs that you used to be able to get at places like Toys R Us was a big deal for me. Nostalgia aside, I still like the story. I can understand, and even sympathize with some of the criticisms, but it really is a good epilogue to Claremont’s character arc for Magneto that began back in Uncanny #150 and concluded in #275.

While I enjoy #175 (the Cyclops/Mastermind issue; #6 on my list) and #172-173 (the Wolverine/Japan issues) more than Dancin’ in the Dark, all of the Paul Smith issues are really well done. The panel of Storm catching the knife from Callisto and Callisto’s expression in the next panel are two of my all-time favorites.

I probably don’t enjoy #143 as much as most people as I’m not a huge fan of Kitty, but I still think it’s a well done issue. If for nothing else, I can enjoy it for the obvious Alien influence.

I can’t argue with #112-113. As much as I prefer the reformed Magneto of later issues, Claremont & Byrne do a really good job selling Magneto as an extremely powerful menace here. Byrne’s fight scenes in these issues are also quite good.

Barry Windsor Smith’s art doesn’t do as much for me as it seems to for most others, so I’ve never been that blown away by the LifeDeath issues. It’s not that they’re bad by any means, it’s just that they seem like pretty standard quality Claremont “quiet” issues to me.

“Sorry, more of a joke about how different Mesmero was from his previous appearance at the time.”

Ah, ok.
My bad then for not knowing enough about the character to get it.

Like a few others, I got into the XMen in the era of the cartoon and the Jim Lee series. (I actually got a few videotapes of the cartoon at a library book sale for 50 cents a pop recently, but haven’t gotten a chance to watch any yet. Ah, cheap nostalgia!) But I’ve read some others on the list, and so far it looks pretty good. I think I read a part of Lifedeath in an Essential volume, which seems a good place to read BWS art. And I recently read the trade with the Kitty story here. (Days of Future Past is the trade, I suppose) I was impressed that whether or not you think Claremont is wordy, he certainly packed a lot stuff into each issue. And juggled it all very well, too.

But mainly my post here is to find out how Ariel Justel got the upside down exclamation mark in that comment! How do you do that, he says, knowing full well he will abuse it. Oh yes, he will abuse it. !Ay!

These are all good stories; guess we’re getting to the top quality now.

Yes! 5/10 from my picks so far. I’m wondering how voters chose to breakdown their picks because I limited myself to 1-2 Magneto stories, 1 Kitty solo story, 1 Wolvie, 1 Storm etc.. Even then it was difficult;

Magneto Triumphant beats out the trial on the list and my picks.
Kitty Demon christmas beats out Professor X is a Jerk! on the list and my picks.

I’m still hoping Wolverine/Rogue in Japan makes the top 20. Very happy so far. It’ll be interesting to see how the list breaks down in terms of total numbers for v.1 Claremont, Whedon and Other X-book writers.

Yeah, these are great stories! All richly deserve their places!

“Mutant Genesis” in particular. Sometimes that story just doesn’t get its fair due (and I’ve even seen it called a “gimmick” on some prominent site…). Yes, it has some excesses from the pre-Image ear, but Claremont did pull out all the stops and went out on a bang. It’s a very fulfilling story that can simultaneously work as a reader’s first X-Men story, while also working as the culmination of a near-20-year saga. It isn’t perfect. It doesn’t meet every criterion to the fullest, but it meets a LOT of them damn well.

Barry Windsor-Smith also published a book in the 1990s called Adastra in Africa, where he took the original unpublished version of the storm story (the follow up mentioned in the article) and adapted it to the character he created while at Dark Horse.

“But mainly my post here is to find out how Ariel Justel got the upside down exclamation mark in that comment! How do you do that, he says, knowing full well he will abuse it. Oh yes, he will abuse it. !Ay!”

Hi! I am from Argentina and in the Spanish language we use the opening and ending exclamation and interrogation signs!

We use “¡ xxxxxxx !” and “¿ xxxxxxx ?”. You use “xxxxxxx !” and “xxxxxxx ?”

I was trying to write good English and I forgot you don’t use the “¡” sign!

Regards!

OMG, the font on that LifeDeath cover looks so incredibly ’80s. LIke Marvel stripped it right off a cheesy Fabio-adorned romance novel.

nice was wonder when the story line where storm wound up showing calisto how bad ass she realy is and taking leader ship of the morlocks would show on this list. even though they went into the tunnels to save angel. mutant genis moira messed up is being nice given not only did she turn magneto into a baby but created the brain washing program magenetoe used on the x-men as he put it playing god. and citing it was all to try and save her kid proteus. life death nice given how it begun the storm and forge love affair even though forge was the one who caused storm to lose her powers.

No, Ariel, it’s awesome, that’s what I was saying. What I wanted to know was how to make it show up in the comment, that is, what’s the html code to use to get the opening upside down marks?

I was saying that once I know HOW to do it, I myself will do it in EVERY comment I make here. Because I’m like that!

And your English is just fine. I just want to make my comments look cool with the upside down marks!

Pete Woodhouse

July 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

Love how that #186 cover is full of the trademark BWS reds, blues and purples! BWS: the man who put the ‘M’ in CMYK!

Y’know, like many of the other commenters, Jim Lee’s costume redesigns are “the” X-Men costumes to me. And yet, I almost uniformly hate his New 52 redesigns. Makes me wonder if it’s 100% nostalgia on my part, or if Lee’s design style has changed that much.

There’s also the fact that many of those DC costumes are SO iconic, I suppose.

Imraith Nimphais

July 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Lifedeath I and II were in my top ten…
Dancing in the Dark was a top-twenty.

I wish I had voted for “Demon” (Uncanny X-Men #143). It’s definitely one of my ten favorite X-Men stories, but I had been thinking in terms of multi-issue stories, so that one didn’t even occur to me.

Mutant Genesis was my #10, primarily for how Claremont brought his Magneto story full circle. This to me is the perfect “villain Magneto” story. He is ruthless, but still noble. If he had never shown up again this would have been the perfect tragic send-off.
The rest of the list are stories I loved but were never really in contention for a top 10 for me.

some good stories ..mostly in my long list of 46 favourites..trimming it down meant tough decisions and I decided to cut out solo stories so bid a sad farewell to Lifedeath and “Whatever happened to Nightcrawler?” from my list of possibilities

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