Want More Great Mutant Stories After X-Men ’97? Read These Comics

Want More Great Mutant Stories After X-Men ’97? Read These Comics

The first season of X-Men ‘97, the animated series on Disney+, is over. The show was a stunning continuation of the classic ‘90s cartoon that managed to blend nostalgic appeal with sharp storytelling that masterfully applied the mutant metaphor to modern-day issues. There is already a season two on the way, but if you are itching for more great X-Men tales, there is another option. Comics!

I know that comics can be intimidating, especially when you’re trying to figure out where to start with something that’s been around for as long as the X-Men, but I promise there is something for you in these pages! Here are ten great X-Men comics to try out if you loved X-Men ‘97.

The crash course: Grand Design

Is X-Men ‘97 your first foray into the world of Marvel’s Mutants? Are you looking to learn more about the decades of history behind the characters? Well, then X-Men: Grand Design is for you. The six-issue series from creator Ed Piskor is made precisely to act as a crash course in the X-Men. Beginning in the ‘60s and going all the way into the ‘90s, Grand Design is a streamlined greatest-hits story chronicling the entire history of the X-Men. Instead of reading hundreds of issues, you can read just six and get a pretty good idea of who the major players in the world are and what their deal is. From there you can pick out specific eras you want to go back and dive deeper into.

Image: Marvel Comics

The beginning (but better): First Class and Season One

Now if you want to get acquainted with the X-Men starting from the very beginning in a more in-depth manner than Grand Design, you have a couple of options. Yes, you could read the original run of X-Men but it isn’t very good. What you can do instead is read either X-Men: First Class or X-Men: Season One. Both are modern retellings of the adventures of the original five team members in their teenage years. I personally lean toward Season One as I think it still captures some of the retro campiness of the original while modernizing the story and art for current readers. If you want, though, you can read both; there is some narrative overlapping but they’re different enough to keep you interested.

More of the same: X-Men ‘92

Maybe you don’t care enough about the origins and history of the X-Men to fully fling yourself into the wild world of the comics, and you really just want more stories featuring the animated series’ cast while you wait for season 2. That’s fair. In that case, I recommend trying out X-Men ‘92. This limited series takes place in the universe of the animated series and tells an interesting meta-story about censorship using the villain Cassandra Nova. It’s a fun read that isn’t bogged down too hard with decades of stories before it. Also, it might be an inspiration for the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine, so that’s two birds with one stone for you.

Reading ahead: Onslaught and Age of Apocalypse

Season one of X-Men ‘97 ended on a pretty big cliffhanger that teased some major storylines for next season. You could wait for the show to get around to those, or you could just read ahead! Based on the season finale, which saw the team separated across time and space and encountering a certain big blue baddie, it seems clear that the seminal Age of Apocalypse will have a major influence. The classic story saw an alternate future ruled by the villain Apocalypse and an X-Men team led by Magneto. You could also read Onslaught, which precedes Age of Apocalypse and deals with the relationship between Charles and Magneto. Season one drew on many iconic storylines, like the Trial of Magneto, but tweaked them in interesting ways, so if you do read these two comics, don’t expect season two to exactly follow the blueprint they lay out, either.

Image: Marvel Comics

A self-contained oddball: Worst X-Man Ever

Not every mutant is created equal. That’s the premise of the wonderfully absurd Worst X-Man Ever. While most of Marvel’s mutants are beefcakes with cool powers, protagonist Bailey Hoskins is a wimpy kid who has the ability to blow his entire body up…. once. He doesn’t have regenerative powers or immortality, so he would just… die. The book takes that premise and runs with it for five incredible issues that become an interesting investigation of what it means to be a mutant and a hero in the Marvel Comics universe. If you want an X-Men book unlike any other, this is the one for you.

Magneto was right: Magneto (2014)

The star of X-Men ‘97’s first season was undoubtedly Magneto. By putting him in charge of the team at the beginning of the season and unraveling a dialogue about mutant philosophy and the unending struggle for survival, the show pulled on the best comic depictions of the character as an altruistic anti-hero whose number one concern is his people. If you left the show thinking, “Wow, Magneto is cool as hell!” then pick up his 2014 solo series. In it, Magneto essentially goes on a revenge tour, and it’s a thrilling showcase for the character.

Just give me what’s new (but good): Ultimate X-Men

I’ll be the first to admit that reading traditional superhero comics… kind of sucks. It never feels like a good time to jump on, and with constant reboots and crossovers a lot of storylines never get the time they need. But if you just want to dive into the current X-Men with as little bullshit as possible, there is an option for you. Don’t read any of the main 616 universe comics; instead, read Ultimate X-Men. Currently, only three issues in, the new series from Peach Momoko is a completely fresh take on the X-Men that requires no prior knowledge. It strips X-Men down to its most basic building blocks and is slowly building it back up in the form of something better. It might not be X-Men as you expect it, but you’ll be glad you picked it up. Trust me.

Image: Marvel Comics

The best there is at what they do: New X-Men

Finally, if you just want to cut to the chase and read X-Men at its peak, then you want Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. The seminal run quite literally brought the X-Men into the 21st century in the form of a major reinvention that placed a new focus on the school aspect of the series as well as the overarching use of the characters as a metaphor for marginalized communities. Mixing classic characters and new creations, Morrison drew on their clear knowledge of the series to strike out on a new path. While Marvel has in many ways erased the impact the run had, it remains the pinnacle of X-Men storytelling.

Of course, this reading list is meant as a guide to help you dip your toes into the X-Men. It is by no means exhaustive! If you want more X-Men, then there is plenty out there to find.

If you’re after more mutant goodness, you can tune in to Marvel Anime: X-Men now on PEDESTRIAN TELEVISION, which is streaming on 9Now (channels which, I should add, our parent company, and our parent company’s parent company, own).

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