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Month of Avengers/X-Men Top Fives – Top Five John Byrne X-Men Covers

All month-long we’ll be featuring top five lists about either the Avengers or the X-Men. Here is an archive of all the past top five lists!

In this installment, we’ll look at the top five covers by legendary X-Men artist John Byrne!


NOTE: No offense to X-Men: Hidden Years, but I’m only going with covers Byrne drew during his initial run on X-Men.


This is such a memorable ISSUE that the cover has gained a lot of noteriety, as well. Enough that I figure it only fair to toss it on here as an honorable mention…

This cover is perhaps more well known as the cover that possibly subconsciously influenced George Perez’s Crisis #7 cover (Perez has specifically noted that he was inspired by Jack Kirby’s cover for Thor #127 for Crisis #7 and I see no reason for him to lie about which cover he was inspired by, ya know?)…

What a striking use of light and shadow…

5. X-Men #139

The introduction of a classic X-Men cover…

4. X-Men #114

What a powerful image…

3. X-Men #138

Another classic X-Men cover that has been homaged many times over the years…

2. X-Men #135

What’s so amazing about this is that it is itself an homage and yet it still manages to be a classic cover in its own right (much like Perez on Crisis #7)…

1. X-Men #141

I mean, come on now, right?

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Once again, excellent choices all, Brian.

Issue #138’s cover is especially poignant given that it lets the casual reader know that the Phoenix Saga did not end well for Scott, (or Jean for that matter) as we watch Cyclops leave his equally heartbroken “family” behind.

The background collage of older covers from the series’ early years add an even greater sense of melancholy because they stand as a reminder that with Jean dead, those days are now truly gone forever.

A classic.

Four words: “This issue: Everybody Dies!”

I love 141’s cover so much! It had to be number one.

I’ve hated the over of 139, and would have preferred 137 take its spot.

Fox needs to make the cover of 141 into a poster for the movie.

I wonder who won the Toys R Us shopping spree.

133? I’ve loved it since it was given away as a poster with a UK Special years ago

I think 134 is the best one. That black and yellow must have stood out on the stands, and as mentioned, it is a striking use of light and shadow.

In addition, it has every thing a boy could want on a cover, fire, superheroes and boobs.

While I am here, it was nice to see The Hidden Years get a mention in the X-Men supporting characters column, despite Mr Cronin’s campaign to exclude that series. Maybe it could get its own column?

I guess I automatically tune out anything that spotlights Wolverine.

As for #135’s cover, what is it homaging?

I love everything about the cover of #138 except the color of the background. What a strange choice.

the X-Men Classic covers of these covers by Art Adams and Steve Lightle are also spectacular.

The coolest thing for me is that those covers all tell part of a story. They’re intriguing; they make me want to read the issue. Brilliant stuff.

(Contrast them with the Liefeld early 90s covers, where the characters just stand in “cool” poses.)

@Luis Dantas:

That cover is homaging Wonder Man 18.

I’d definitely have replaced 139 with 136, but that’s a solid list.


X-Men 56 http://www.atomicavenue.com/atomic/IssueDetail.aspx?ID=176068

@ Tuomas

You can contrast them against a lot (to many) of Marvels current covers too, or the early Quesada years; JMS Amazing Spider-Man, Bendis New Avengers, Morrison era X-Men…

I really resent the ads on 137 & 138. They ruin the covers. Although I have to wonder how much issues if X-men 137 are actually worth these days. They probably weren’t talking about the collector value, but it has to be substantial, at least $2500 or more.

I can’t get enough of the mad Dark Phoenix. That’s a great cover, and it always catches my eye.

Sorry, but I really, really think that both #136 and #137 are much better covers than #139.

Great choices. I’m sure if I looked at my collection I might choose a couple of different ones, but let’s face it, Byrne did a lot of great covers. So there’s not much to argue about.

> I’d definitely have replaced 139 with 136

Yeah, I’d have 136 as #1 or #2. It’s the first cover I thought of when I read the headline. It’s really striking and some of the other covers look kind of stiff in comparison.

No love for #143, with its horror-film overtones?

Almost all of Byrne’s covers during his X-Men run were awesome and iconic.

I think Perez ripped off Byrne and not Kirby. Thor #127 is a quiet moment, where Odin is accepting Thor’s death, while holding Thor in reverance and respect possibly prior to burying Thor or placing him on a pyre. Conversely, X-Men #136 and Crisis #7 are a loud and emotional scene, where Superman like Cyclop is in great distraught and crying despair…

Perez would never admit this, probably out of pride, because both he and Byrne were peers at the time. Furthermore, he and Wolfman were blatantly ripping off of Byrne/Cockrum/Claremont X-men with their New Titans.

Byrne was probably inspired by Kirby and put his own spin on it. But Perez’s cover is identical with Byrne’s. Byrne might have been an eccentric highly opinionated jerk, but lets give credit, where credit is due.

I always like to bring up “Robin Dies at Dawn” in these discussions:


Batman #156, 1963.

nice picks for was hoping when i saw the topic that if not the few of the covers john did including the one george perez later used for crisis seven did not make the cut at least the classic one uncanny x-men 141 the first part of the classic days of future past surely had to be on the list.

Um, y’all realize that the image that Kirby, Byrne and Perez is a lot older than comics themselves, right?

I agree that the honorable mentions are better than #139. It’s too busy and the kaleidoscope of green and purple isn’t attractive.

I’d go with D here… ummm Michelangelo’s Pieta anyone?

Although I agree it’s likely Kirby homaged Michaelangelo, Byrne homaged Kirby, and Perex homaged Byrne despite protests to the contrary…

Ooh, I caught Omar on something, so I’m-a gonna rub it in his face!

143 is a solo Terry Austin cover!

I know! I only noticed myself when I read the Days of Future Past trade recently. He also solos on the classic 142 cover as well.

I feel weird knowing something that Omar didn’t. My world’s a-tilt. Askew, even. I think I’m freaking out!

Yeah, Travis, I knew that too about #143 being an Austin joint – I mentioned it over in the Perez cover comments section. Just sayin’! :)

I think any one of the honorable mentions would have made a better choice for #5 than the one that was selected. Issue 139 is noteworthy for being Kitty’s first appearance but the cover, as an actual piece of art, isn’t particularity visually interesting or effective on its own merits.

Hey, Travis! Glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who remembered that the covers of Uncanny X-Men #s 142 & 143 were both penciled and inked by Terry Austin. I really love his work. Yes, Byrne did amazing pencils, and obviously he also had the key role of co-plotting the book. But I think that Austin does not get enough credit for contributing to just how amazing and successful those classic issues were.

As for X-Men: The Hidden Years, I liked it. Yes, I had some problems with it. Byrne spent too much time in the Savage Land. And I felt that he was trying just a bit too hard to perfectly shoehorn his stories into the continuity of the time, to the point where it became distracting. But there was some interesting stuff, as well. I loved the team-up with the Fantastic Four against the Z’Nox, and the death of Angel’s mother was a tragic, moving story. Tom Palmer did an excellent job inking Byrne’s pencils. So, while certainly not a perfect series, I probably like Hidden Years more than much of the books published by Marvel in the last decade.

Great selections, and I’m happy to once again say I’ve got two of them autographed (okay, by Claremont, not Byrne, but still glad I got my #137 and #139 signed).

I really love the collage of covers on 138, but agree the colour makes it hard to enjoy the covers. Plus, it’s always driven me crazy which issue number is being blocked by Nightcrawler’s foot.

I think what scores 139 some attention is it’s the debut of the classic “Welcome to the X-Men” cover motif that’s been riffed on many many times since.

#138 was my first exposure to the X-Men (bought it off a spinner rack at the pharmacy across the street from my house). Talk about the best possible place to jump on board – instant history lesson!

I agree with others that 139 doesn’t belong on this list. In addition to it simply being a weaker cover than 136, 137, or others, I would argue that the most memorable part of it (the words “Welcome to the X-Men, hope you survive the experience!”) wasn’t even Byrne’s doing, but more likely Claremont’s or an editor’s suggestion. (Though if anyone knows for sure, chime in.)

As for the different-events-happening-around-a-central-image cover design, I think 125 is a much better, and earlier, example than 139.

I really think 133 should have at least been honorable mention, and arguably in the top 5. On top of being a striking design, It’s the first-ever Wolverine solo cover, which makes it pretty significant as well.

Lastly, I do love the cover to 134, and as is it definitely belongs to be an honorable mention. But, I think what makes it such a great cover is more likely the contribution of the colorist than Byrne’s design/pencil art. Unless Byrne was choosing the colors. But if all of the figures on the two sides are fully colored instead of just in red silhouette, the cover isn’t nearly as powerful

But those disagreements aside, I agree completely with the top 3 choices.

139 is cool. Nightcrawler and Wolverine are fighting a polar bear. And Storm’s getting tentacle raped. How can you not love that cover? ;)

Another reason I remembered about the Austin covers is that I just recently was reading my Howard Chaykin stuff, and in Marvel Premiere 56, with Dominic Fortune, Chaykin did layouts while Austin did the finished art. Looks good. Austin really did shape the art, and Byrne himself has noted that if you don’t like some of Byrne’s later stuff, you’re probably more a Terry Austin fan than a Byrne fan.

For me 141 is the greatest cover of all time for any title! Sure it helps that I am a mad X-Men fan but when I started collecting in the late 80’s every time I saw this cover I just wanted to read the issue so badly!!
When I finally got a reprint version of Days of Future Past the issue lived up to the cover, and now that I am a much older man I’ve finally got a CGC version hanging on my wall.
The ONLY choice for number 1 and Brian nailed it.

143 is a solo Terry Austin cover!

Oh man, is my face red. Austin is a heck of a penciller in his own right, as Ben Herman notes, and his inks really do make a huge difference on Byrne’s pencils in earlier issues. Austin also did some fine work over Steve Ditko in aMarvel Comics Presents story featuring Captain America; he has a fine, clean inkline that brings out the very best in the more illustrative or “clean line” sorts of pencillers.

I get a kick out of the logo on 136 still having cracks from Dark Phoenix’s manhandling of it on the cover of 135 – now there’s some continuity!

I’m surprised not to see #140 on the list. WEN-DI-GO!! Fierce enemy, great layout, victims all around, one crawling away in the foreground and one of the few times where it looks like Wolvie is actually getting hurt!

I don’t agree with all your choices. My favorites include 137 and 141 (which made the cut) and a couple that did not:

X-Men 115

X-Men 133

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