Chris Claremont turned a failing comic about mutants into one of the most successful comic book franchises of all time. Though, often criticized for being too wordy or having wooden dialogue, Claremont helped create a more literary medium bringing comics into the modern era. Claremont wrote X-men comics for 16 years! Those 16 years form one of the greatest epics ever created. All modern X-men comics use Claremont’s run as a foundation. You won’t be able to truly understand X-Men: Messiah Complex without reading these books first. The good news is a lot of these comics hold up pretty well. In this guide I’ll try to differentiate the *required reading* from the *just for fun*.
I) The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Saga
II) Days of Future Past through the Brood Saga
III) Enter the New Mutants and X-Factor
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IV) Mutant Massacre
VIII) X-Tinction Agenda
IX) Muir Island Saga
Before Claremont: Claremont took over in August of 1975 with Uncanny X-men (UXM) No. 94. Before jumping right into that issue you should read some origin stories….
Recaps some of the early Lee/Kirby issues. Read this for a fun look back at the original Uncanny X-men issues.
Not required reading, but lots of fun. Just fun adventures before the world of mutants gets super serious. I just linked to the first volume, but there’s more on Amazon.
Magneto: Testament: Not required reading, but great insight into the super-villain as a young man. Not much of a super-hero book, more of a World War 2 holocaust survivor’s diary.
Giant-Size X-Men #1: The one that started it all! You must read this. Out with the old X-Men & in with the new. Claremont did not write this, but Claremont’s epic really starts with this issue.
16 Years of Claremont: And so the epic begins….
The relevant series include…
Uncanny X-Men (UXM): The X-Men flagship titile. Claremont writes all of these. Every issue is a must read.
The New Mutants (NM): Claremont wrote issues 1-54. These are all must reads. Louise Simonson takes over with issue 55. At that point I would stick to the issue involved in the cross-over events.
X-Factor (XF). Louise Simonson starts this one and continues the writing chores for the first 69 issues. Not my favorite until the great Peter David takes over with issue 70. Extremely relevant to X-Men continuity, though. The first appearance of Apocalypse is here and much more I won’t reveal to avoid spoilers.
Excalibur: Claremont wrote the first 34 issues. With art from the great Alan Davis!
Wolverine: The original ongoing series by Claremont.
Relevant podcasts: Check out My Marvelous Year! We cover all the essential X-Men comics (and the Marvel Universe at large!) throughout Marvel history.
I. The Phoenix / Dark Phoenix Saga
Before the Phoenix Saga: UXM 94-100: If you can find them, the way to read these is to find Classic X-Men #’s 1-44. These re-print Giant-Size X-Men #1 through UXM #138. The first 44 issues of Classic X-Men contain an extra 12 page story by Claremont. These stories are great! They are often more personal stories then you get in the main comic and help to fill in character details. They are also written by a much more seasoned writer (an older Claremont). I can’t recommend these enough. Alternatively you can buy the Essential X-Men volumes. These are the most affordable options typically, in black and white, and don’t contain the 12 page vignettes. The first volume collects Giant-Size X-Men #1 and UXM 94-119.
The Phoenix Saga: UXM 101-108. This is the first part of a two part epic. This may actually be the greatest story arc in super-hero comics. Certainly one of the best. John Byrne joins the team with issue 108.
UXM 109-122, UXM Annual 3, UXM 123-128. Issues 127 and 128 are the Proteus saga, a fan favorite.
The Dark Phoenix Saga: UXM 129-138. Part 2 in our two part epic.
II. Days of Future Past / Brood Saga
Days of Future Past. UXM 141 and 142. Fan favorite. One of my favorites. They really don’t make comics like this anymore.
UXM 143-150. Issue 143 is Byrne’s last issue, also a great Kitty Pryde adventure. Issue 150 is a great Magneto issue.
Avenger’s Annual 10. Rogues first appearance. This is a must-read. You will never understand Rogue if you don’t read this. Seriously.
Magik limited series. Another favorite. The Inferno cross-over event really begins here. Even modern continuity owes a lot to this series. Find out why Illyana Rasputin (AKA Magik) is so weird.
The Brood Saga. UXM 161-166. My personal favorite X-men arc. The Brood will never be this scary again.
UXM Annual 6. More Storm and Dracula.
III. Enter the New Mutants & X-Factor
Marvel Graphic Novel 4: The New Mutants. The beginning of a legend.
Marvel Graphic Novel 5: God Loves Man kills. Technically this story occurs between UXM 167 and 168. A fan favorite. Read this for a better understanding of the Messiah War cross-over event.
NM 1-7. Ya baby! The first UXM spin off. Jim Shooter commanded it, Claremont wrote it. You should read these also. Starts kind of slow, but by issue 18 (when Bill Sienkiewicz takes over art chores) become legendary. The early cross-overs include these guys so you should get to know them. Many of the NMs stay very relevant to modern continuity, especially Cannonball.
UXM 167-171. Rogue joins the X-Men in 171.
Wolverine limited series. Chris Claremont and Frank Miller! Reads like classic Frank Miller, though Claremont is credited for the script. You really should read this.
UXM 172-175, UXM Annual 7, UXM 176-179.
UXM 180 and NM 15. A Hellfire club arc.
Secret Wars. Jim shooter wrote this. The first big cross-over event. I’m not a fan, but pretty relevant to X-men continuity (Dave’s Ed Note: I love Secret Wars! I’m not ashamed!). Lockheed is
introduced here. Also relevant to the Colossus / Kitty relationship.
UXM 181-183. Issue 183 includes the famous Colossus and Juggernaut bar fight.
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine limited Series. I’ve heard this called Claremont’s first mis-step. I liked it, though. Really expensive on Amazon.
The Demon Bear Saga. NM 18-20. Another classic arc. Who knew Claremont and Sienkiewicz could work so well together. Issue 18 features the arrival of
Rachel Summers from the future. Yes, that was her in Days of Future Past. Very important to 90s continuity, if you like that sort of thing.
UXM 184, UXM Annual 8, UXM 185-194, Alpha flight / x-men limited series
NM 21, NM Annual 1, NM 22-25. Warlock joins and Cannonball goes punk and falls for Lila Cheney.
Nightcrawler limited series (1985). Dave Cockrum returns to write and draw this limited series. Mostly just for fun; not a must-read.
Secret Wars II. Not my cup of tea. Hard to understand the main NM continuity without reading this, *sigh*.
Longshot limited series. Longshot was created by Ann Nocenti and Art Adams. Not my favorite character. Is he supposed to be Ziggy Stardust? Anyway, the art is great. He joins the X-Men for awhile. This series is actually pretty important to X-Men continuity.
NM Special Edition 1, UXM Annual 9. More awesome art by Art Adams! Watch Danielle Moonstar become a Valkyrie!
Avengers 263 / Fantastic Four 286 . *spoiler*: She’s back! Claremont hated this idea. But… what the heck…. comics!
XF 1-8. The original X-men are back! Involves no time-travel, but just a dash of ret-con. Claremont didn’t write these, though XF is involved heavily in X-men cross-over events.
IV. Mutant Massacre
Mutant Massacre. The first mutant cross-over event! For the full event, check out Comic Book Herald’s Mutant Massacre reading order.
Mutant Massacre Reading Order:
- Uncanny X-Men #210
- X-Factor #9
- Uncanny X-Men #211
- New Mutants #46
- X-Factor #10
- Thor #373
- Thor #374
- Power Pack #27 to #28
- X-Factor #11
- Uncanny X-Men #212
- Daredevil #238
- Uncanny X-Men #213
UXM 214-220, UXM Annual 11, UXM 221-224
– You could plausibly place these relatively inconsequential cross-team capers after Uncanny X-Men #219.
NM 47, NM 48-51, NM ANNUAL 3, NM 52-54
Fallen Angels limited series. Joe Duffy provides the story and script. Not required reading.
NM 55-58. Marvel has only collected up NM 54 in the Classic New Mutants volumes 1-7. You can buy the individual issues on Amazon. Not sure if these are included in Marvel Unlimited.
V. Fall of The Mutants
Fall of the mutants. More cross-over fun! X-Factor #24 to #25, Power Pack #35, Captain America #339, X-Factor #26, Uncanny X-Men #225 to #226, Incredible Hulk #340, Uncanny X-Men #227, New Mutants #59 to #61 – Daredevil 252, Fantastic Four #312
Excalibur Special Edition 1: The sword is drawn, Excalibur 1-5: Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Lockheed leave UXM and join Captain Britain and Meggan to form Excalibur in England. Alan Davis provides great art.
Marvel Comics Presents 1-10: Contains a Wolverine story by Claremont.
Wolverine V. 2 1-10: The first ten issues of this series are by Claremont. This is the first ongoing series featuring Wolverine. Just to make things confusing this is referred to as v. 2, as v. 1 is considered to be the great mini-series by Claremont and Miller.
New Mutants #62 to #70
XF Annual 3, New Mutants Annual #4, UXM Annual 12
The above are all Evolutionary War tie-ins, a non essential event for the X-Men.
Inferno: XF 33-40, X-Terminators #1-4, UXM 239-243, NM 71-73, and XF Annual #4. Excalibur 6 and 7 are also part of this event, but across the pond. Excalibur is fun, but not really essential reading.
X-Men Inferno Reading Order
Check out the full CBH guide to Inferno right here!
Uncanny X-Men #239
X-Factor #33 to #35
X-Terminators #1 to #3
New Mutants #71
Uncanny X-Men #240
New Mutants #72
Uncanny X-Men #241
New Mutants #73
Uncanny X-Men #242
Uncanny X-Men #243
X-Factor Annual #4
Excalibur 8-11: Final Excal issues before Cross Time Caper takes over everything.
UXM 244-246. UXM Annual 13, 247: UXM goes bimonthly! Lots of issue between events here.
X-Factor #41 to #48
Wolverine #17 to #23 (includes Acts of Vengeance tie-ins below), Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure
Collects: Wolverine (1988) #19-20; Alpha Flight (1983) #79-80; New Mutants (1983) #84 to #86; Uncanny X-Men (1981) #256-258; material from X-Factor (1986) #49, #50
Excalibur #12 to #30: The Cross Time Caper
Uncanny X-Men #259 – #269: The quality starts to drop a bit, but Jim Lee (that’s right, now co-publisher at DC Comics) steps in with UXM 268 and the quality shoots right up. These are some of my favorite X-men. I wish we could of had more from Claremont/Lee. *Sigh.* 268 is a great blast from the past issue starring Captain America, Black Widow and Wolverine in a World War II adventure.
New Mutants 87 to 92, NM Annual 4, NM Annual 5, NM 93-94: The Marvel debut of Cable from Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld.
VII. Days of Future Present
Days of Future Present: A future Franklin Richards is at the center of this cross-over event. UXM Annual 14, Fantastic Four Annual 23, XF Annual 5, NM Annual 6.
NM Summer Special 1: Ann Nocenti wrote this. Not essential.
VIII. Xtinction Agenda
Xtinction Agenda: Awesome art by Jim Lee. The trade paper-back includes some earlier UXM issues that set the stage for this cross-over event concerning the fate of Genosha. UXM 270, XF 60, NM 95, UXM 271, XF 61, NM 96, UXM 272, XF 62, NM 97.
New Mutants #98 to #100: End of the title (for now), and the debut of Deadpool.
IX. Muir Island Saga
Muir Island Saga: UXM 278-279, XF 69, UXM 280, XF 70. This is it! The conclusion to Claremont’s epic. Claremont actually stopped writing by UXM 280.
X-Factor #71 to #75: Peter David’s time writing X-Factor begins, with an all-new all-different lineup of Madrox the Multiple Man, Strong Guy (Guido), Quicksilver, Havok, Wolfsbane, and Lorna Dane!
X-Men 1-3 (Claremont and Lee): According to Wikipedia this is (as of this writing) the greatest selling comic of all time, with pre-orders at 8.1 million copies.
X-Force #1 to #15: All new series launch with Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza at the helm.
X. X-Cutioner’s Song
We’re now officially in the post-Claremont era of the 1990’s. The guide will focus on recommended reads and events from here on out!
X-Factor #76 to #83: Introduces Mr. Sinister’s Nasty Boys.
X-Men: Bishop’s Crossing: Jim Lee’s plotting and art continue across Uncanny X-Men and X-Men, here collecting Uncanny X-Men #281 to #293 and X-Men #8. Uncollected, but you can also read X-Men #9 to #13 prior to X-Cuctioner’s Song.
X-Cutioner’s Song Reading Order:
Cable: Blood & Metal #1 to #2
Uncanny X-Men #294
Uncanny X-Men #295
Uncanny X-Men #296
Uncanny X-Men #297
Next: 90’s X-Men
Cam Moore says
PSA: Anyone looking to read the Lee/Kirby series before this can read the omnibusses that recently came out for it. It’s across two different volumes, both at about £60.
The ordering right before Inferno is all kinds of wrong. NM Annual 4 should be right after X-Factor Annual 2 and right before UXM Annual 12, since they’re all part of the same event, “The Evolutionary War”.
This is a very good guide up to around Inferno. Then it starts misordering the cross overs between the series. Thats not so bad since the covers will tell you the order. Just cue up what the guide says, ignore recommended reading order and then read in cover order. Same problem/Solution for Days of Future Present and Xtinction Agenda.
!After Xtinction Agenda! This guide is no good. For example it leaves out the last few issues of New Mutants leading into X-Factor. It leaps directly into Rouge in the Savage lands without mentioning the need to read Avengers #257 and X-men Annual #12.
Still deepy appreciative to the exhausting attempt at trying to map out Xmen cannon. Thank you very much to the writer.
Cory Webber says
I’m confused about New Mutants Graphic Novel and NM 1-7. The Amazon link for the GN has the same cover as NM #1. Are they the same thing?
Cory Webber says
Never mind. I figured it out. MU does not have the Graphic Novel. However, I was able to snag it for $4 on ComiXology.
Graphic Novel 4 actually is available on Marvel Unlimited, here https://www.marvel.com/comics/collection/15788/new_mutants_graphic_novel_trade_paperback
It says on the website that it is but it isn’t, I double checked
Strange. I’m able to read it via Marvel Unlimited without issue.
In section III you have “NM 21, NM Annual 1, NM 22-25. Warlock joins…” after UXM 185-194, but Warlock plays a huge roll in the resolution of the Kulan Gath story line in UXM 190 & 191. If I hadn’t read ahead in NM I would have had no idea what was going on in that (awesome) story line. Just thought I’d point that out, hope it helps. Thanks for this awesome guide!!
I know that this post hasn’t been updated for a few years, but there was a trade released last year collects all of the books under Muir Island Saga called X-Men Epic Collection: Mutant Genesis.
Here’s an Amazon link for the trade:
First and foremost I have to give you a great big thanks, before I start off with issue 94, I’m going to read 1-93 first, because I’ve read X-Men Season One in the library and I didn’t really like using that as backstory because after the first story it shows another unrelated story afterwards, which as far as i’m aware doesn’t show the origins of the X-Men. I haven’t read all of these yet obviously, but i wanted to know where do we go from after Uncanny X-Men #297. Do we read 298-318 and then start age of Apocalypse? Please reply when you get the chance.
Mark Kausch says
You don’t have to read quite that many issues. Unless, like me, you have a short memory span. X-Men (Vol 1) stopped publishing original material. Issues #67-93 were all reprints. But read Giant Size X-Men #1 right before #94.
You are quite right 67-93 are reprints, but I still would like to know about after Uncanny X-Men #297. Because Age of Apocalypse picks up at X-men #38 and Uncanny X-Men #319, what happens to issues 298-318 in the Uncanny X-Men series?
Thank you for reading and please reply when you get the chance.
Great guide. Quick question. After Wolverine v2 1-10 there isn’t any more. Are these just filler?
Robin Gustafsson says
Do you think this is a good starting point for someone who is brand new to Marvel comics?
Yeah, it’s a great read and cements a love of Marvel comics in a lot of new readers.
Just know that this era of X-Men starts in 1975, so you have a ways to go before you’re up to present day 🙂
So my city library has a great selection of comics. It has the essential x-men volumes and collections of a few of the stories like DoFP. Should I just get the essential volumes or should I get the smaller collections?
I got into comics through Essentials, so I’m always supportive of them – the main downside is they’re typically black-and-white. But if you’re looking to do the Claremont run in print, and I did it through Essentials at first, and it worked great for me!
The initial ordering of New Mutants and Uncanny X-Men could do with a bit of a tweak. New Mutants #3 is immediately followed by Uncanny #167 (“in a matter of minutes, their predecessors – the uncanny X-Men – are about to make a spectacular return home”), and New Mutants #4 makes direct reference to the events in UXM #167, so should definitely not be read until afterwards.
God Loves, Man Kills and X-Men Annual #6 should definitely not go between UXM #166 and #167 since that’s unbroken action in the Brood storyline. Maybe put Annual #6 after the Magik limited series, before UXM #161, and move GLMK to its “technical” location after UXM #167.
New Mutants #5 to #12 is also fairly unbroken action.
So my suggested order for the end of section II is:
Magik limited series
UXM Annual 6
The Brood Saga UXM 161-166
And my suggested order for the start of section III is:
Marvel Graphic Novel 4: The New Mutants
Marvel Graphic Novel 5: God Loves Man Kills
Wolverine limited series
UXM 172-175, UXM Annual 7, UXM 176-179
Just curious why you have The Magik Mini-Series so early? Shouldn’t be around UXM #176?
The Magik limited series is placed where it fits into continuity, even though it was published somewhat later. The actual events of the limited series take place in between two pages of UXM #160 (page 21 Belasco pulls child Illyana into Limbo, page 22 teenage Illyana is pulled back out).
Vatsal Randhar says
Hi.. Wanted to ask if x force is necessary or like excalibur and not mandatory for main storyline?
Mark Kausch says
Hey, Dave! I’m currently reading X-tinction Agenda (Pt VIII above) and the X-Factor and New Mutant issues seem to be flip-flopped. Should be UXM, NM, X-F, UXM, NM, etc.
Vatsal Randhar says
Thnx for the list.. I am near the end of it,, reading xmen would not have been possible without you.. Thnx again man
Glad you’ve enjoyed! I’ve recently updated through X-Cutioner’s Song so there may be some more for you to read as well 🙂
Vatsal Randhar says
Looking forward to your updates.. You are giving what comic fans want.. You are awsm..
Any thoughts as to where the X-men and the Micronauts mini might sit (in terms of chronology)?
James Abele says
and obnoxio the clown. and the iceman mini series. and other …greats.
Jamie Crowther says
Thanks for this guide, just started working my way through it last week on Marvel Unlimited, and up to UXM Annual 4. Looking forward, it’s a bit of a bummer that the coverage of X-Factor on both MU and Comixology is so spotty; guess I’ll have to track down second hand copies of the Essential volumes…
I always assumed the Muir Island Saga took place before X-Men 1-3. Story wise, X-Men 1-3 features a united team, while the Muir Island Saga just has a bunch of teams meeting up for the first time. I could be wrong, but wouldn’t Muir Island Saga make more sense before X-Men 1-3?
I cant seem to find xmen season one on marvel unlimited. Was this guide made for marvel unlimited or… Btw I love the site, it really helped me when I started reading marvel comics
Hey Dave, thanks for making this site. Really appreciate it!
One quick note: X-Men Annual #3 comes after UXM #124, not #122. It says so on the sixth page of the annual.
Minor, but thought I should mention it.
Hi very nice guide but is there a reason why there’s X-Factor from 1991 starting in the guide at the same time as UXM Annual 10 when they are not released in the same time period ?
Nevermind i get it now my bad, thanks again i just started x-men comics and i’m loving it
I would suggest adding X-Men Forever, New Mutants Forever, and X-Factor Forever, as those series were Claremont and Louise Simonson continuing their arcs from 20 years earlier.
Claremont’s X-Men: The End and GeNext are also excellent, but I would add them to the modern list as they are really a finale for Morrison’s run.
Thanks, this is awesome!
Small note, however. Lockheed was introduced in The Brood Saga, not Secret Wars.
Hey Dave, your site is the best! Thx for it!
This guide is good, but it seems to be missing UXM 178-179, is it because they are irrelevant? When is it right to read them?
NM 16-17, are missing too
Glad you enjoy CBH!
Not irrelevant, must have just overlooked those issues. Plopping them in sequence around that spot on the guide. Give me a holler if that seems off as you read through!
Would X-Men Hidden years overlap somewhat with First Class or does it fit in after First Class if I wanted to read those issues as well before I fully got into Claremont’s run?
They may overlap somewhat, though “First Class” should come first. “First Class” is meant to overlap with the original Lee / Kirby and Thomas / Adams issues. “Hidden Years” occurs after all of that, but before Giant Size X-men #1 rebooted the franchise.
Yes! Awesome! I’ve been wanting this for a while.
Thanks Dave, you are the best!
Thank you 🙂
Enjoy the comics!
Where is the rest of it ?!?! the events after the Fall of The Mutants ?
Sorry. On the way.