Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 #20-16.
20. “Planet X” New X-Men #146-150
The penultimate story in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, this story begins with one of the more dramatic reveals in X-Men history, as the seemingly pacifistic new X-Men Xorn is revealed to secretly be none other than Magneto! Magneto then proceeds to essentially tear the X-Men apart. This being the X-Men, though, they do some of their best work when the odds are the longest so they are able to fight back against Magneto’s tyrannical approach (we later learn that Magneto has been manipulated by the evil sentient bacteria Sublime, which is why Magneto is so especially sadistic in this story). In the end, a pair of major characters end up dead and the X-Men are almost in a state of ruin. Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning drew the story.
19. “The Sentinels Live!” X-Men #54-59
This is an odd one, since the story is best known for Roy Thomas, Neal Adams and Tom Palmer’s re-introduction of the Sentinels, but the story really begins a few issues earlier when previous X-Men writer Arnold Drake introduces Alex, the brother of Cyclops. Similarly, Don Heck is the original artist on this story. The Alex storyline, though, soon dovetails into the re-introduction of the Sentinels by Thomas and Adams, as Thomas reveals why the villainous Living Pharaoh is so obsessed with Alex. Alex also becomes Havok during this stint, as the X-Men fight against the Sentinels, who have returned under the command of Larry Trask. However, is Trask hiding a secret that could turn the whole thing on its ear? Why yes, yes he is. Reading this story as a whole just shows off how dramatic the change was to Thomas and Adams – it is like a jolt of energy entered the book with Adams’ dynamic artwork and Thomas’ clever stories.
18. “Second Genesis” Giant-Size X-Men #1
Not really much more needs to be said about this story, does it? It is only one of the most successful reboots of a comic book series ever as Len Wein and Dave Cockrum combine to introduce an All-New, All-Different team of X-Men to replace the original X-Men (whose title had gone to all-reprint status a few years earlier). Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird all debut in this issue, which also adds formerly established characters Wolverine, Banshee and Sunfire to the mix as this new X-Men team is an international affair. The X-Men were captured by a sentient island. Only Cyclops was freed. He now leads the new X-Men back to the island to rescue his friends. Once freed, the old X-Men and the new X-Men work together to defeat the island and a new era in X-Men history has begun!
17. “Riot at Xavier’s” New X-Men #134-138
After first establishing the new status quo for mutants in the world in the beginning of his run, Grant Morrison slowly tried to tear away at this status quo with this powerful storyline where the X-Men have to deal with the fact that not all of their students necessarily buy into what Charles Xavier is selling them. At the head of this rebellion is Quentin Quire, a powerful telepath who feels that Magneto’s teachings were the way to go all along (Morrison’s Che Gueverra-influenced “Magneto Was Right” posters became such a potent image that they’re still being used today in Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men series as “Cyclops Was Right”). The charismatic Quire convinces a number of students to follow him and when they all get high on the mutant power enhancing drug “Kick,” they take their fight directly to the Xavier School is a violent riot that shocks the foundation of the X-Men (and Xavier’s soul). This story arc was the last New X-Men arc to have artwork by Frank Quitely, who began New X-Men with Morrison.
16. “The Brood Saga” Uncanny X-Men #156-157, 162-167
This is one of those Claremont storylines that is really hard to pinpoint which issues exactly take place in the story proper, since until the X-Men are actually taken by the Brood at the end of #161, the stories all sort of mix together. To wit, #154-155 have Corsair and the Starjammers show up on Earth looking for help from the X-Men. It is not until #156 that the Brood actually get involved in the story. #158 is mostly a story of the X-Men fighting Rogue, but it also deals with the coma Xavier was put into by Brood nightmares. #159 and #160 are pretty much unrelated stories. #161 is the famous flashback issue where we see how Magneto and Xavier used to be pals who fought the good fight together but at the end of that issue the X-Men are captured by the Brood. So which issues you count as “The Brood Saga” is really up to you (for their part, when Marvel actually reprinted “The Brood Saga,” they began with #162). In any event, the main gist of the story is that the evil Brood capture the X-Men. The Brood try to conquer their universe by converting other species INTO the Brood, basically a hostile takeover of other species’ bodies. The X-Men are all infected, but at first only Wolverine knows what the deal is because of his healing factor. He fights off the infestation and must then let his teammates know that they are all infected, as well. This leads to some powerful character-driven stuff, as Claremont shows how each of the various members of the team (as well as Carol Danvers, who was along for the ride) deal with learning that they are infected and unlike Wolverine likely have no way of preventing the alien from taking over their body and killing them. While they deal with their impending doom in various ways, Wolverine also has some soul-searching to do about if/when he should kill his friends if they’re going to turn into Brood creatures. Naturally, this being comics, there is a miraculous twist where they all are able to be saved. In the meantime, Claremont also finally finished his long-running attempt to redeem Carol Danvers after the end of the Ms. Marvel series and the infamous Avengers #200 “sort of rape” she dealt with. He turns her into Binary. Finally, the X-Men return to Earth with the knowledge that Professor X has been taken over by a Brood and unlike them, it is too late to cure him (of course, they then just clone his body and transfer his mind, but still). Dave Cockrum finished his second run on the X-Men with this storyline and Paul Smith began his run at the end of the arc. Bob Wiacek inked them both.
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