You don't have to be a mutant to understand the X-Men comic book universe!
The X-Men universe is vast, spanning over 50 years in comics, and over 100 various series and spinoffs. So, needless to say, it's hard to keep track of exactly what's really went down in the X-Men universe. Even if you read every X-Men comic in order of release, it won't help, as many of the series jump back to previous series timelines, and vice versa. In fact, in the comics, the X-Men regularly crossed over with other Marvel series The Avengers and [The Fantastic Four](tag:34667), however we won't be seeing this anytime soon in the films, sadly.
So, where is one to start? Not the films! The X-Men movies, while widely entertaining, have for the most part cherry picked story arcs and characters from their respective comics timeline, and inserted them into the films as they please. First Class and [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](tag:203942) essentially erased the happenings of The Last Stand and its predecessors, so there is no way to really tell where we are at in respect to the original comics than to dig in! For many die hard X-Men comic fans, this was hard to digest, but have no fear, a (mostly) accurate timeline of important X-Men comic events is here!
Below are summarized major events from the comics that shifted the X-Men timelines among the various series. You may find some of the more famous X-Men from the films rarely mentioned, while some unfamiliar ones play huge roles. It's very interesting how the films adapted many of the stories, and what characters they replaced with others to fit their cinematic agenda, and with X-Men: Apocalypse coming out this year, consider this your crash course, like reading the book before the film comes out, and then discussing the differences!
*Series summarized below include events from Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants, X-Force, All-New-X-Men, Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Cable, and more.
The X-Men Assemble
Professor Charles Xavier, a mutant with telepathic abilities, opens Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, assembling the first five X-Men: Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Angel, Beast, and Iceman. The X-Men must defend the humans who outcast them against a fellow mutant named Magneto, who feels mutants are superior to humans.
This is where two timelines intersect, Uncanny X-Men (1963) and All New X-Men (2012) run parallel. In All-New X-Men, the original 5 X-Men are recruited by future Beast when he travels to the past (during The Uncanny X-Men #8 ) to bring them to meet their future selves and stop future Cyclops from committing genocide against mutants alongside Magneto (during All-New X-Men). Notable events, such as a relationship between Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), and Cyclops form.
During one of the X-men's many mission, they are believed to be killed. This introduces Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Sunfire, NIghtcrawler, and Thunderbird. Xavier and Cyclops use cerebro to locate and recruit new X-Men (listed above) to help find and save the others.
The Dark Phoenix Saga
One of the most widely known comic events, the Dark Phoenix saga, sees Jean Grey succumb to the Phoenix Force, and sacrifice herself to save the X-Men in a shuttle accident. Her sacrifice pushes her telekinetic abilities to its fullest potential, and causes her to rise back to life in a new form, calling herself Phoenix. This is the first major X-Men character to die. While as Phoenix, her powers are tripled, her personality is severely distorted. Phoenix, in essence, takes over Jean Grey's body, and reeks havoc throughout the universe. Eventually, in a brief moment when Jean is able to gain control of her mind again over Dark Phoenix, she commits suicide to save the world from any further atrocities Dark Phoenix would commit. This leads to Cyclops exit from the team.
Days of Future Past
Kitty Pryde, a new X-Men member, becomes possessed by her future self. Her future self calls herself Kate, and has come into the past to prevent events stemming from anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly's assassination that will lead to mutant extinction about 30 years in the future. Film differences: In the movie Days of Future Past, Wolverine is the one sent into the past by Kitty Pryde, not Kitty herself.
The New Mutants
The X-Men are, again, assumed dead after a battle with the Brood, so professor Xavier must find new mutants. New Mutants introduces Cannonball, Mirage, Karma, Wolfsbane, and Sunspot, all young mutants with more exotic abilities than the previous X-Men. Side note, a New Mutants film is currently in production. Simultaneously as New Mutants launches, back in Uncanny X-Men, Rogue is introduced, and Storm takes lead over a group of deformed mutants living underground in NYC called the Morlocks. You may remember, the Morlocks appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand, but were lead by Magneto and The Dark Phoenix.
X-Factor, Jean Grey Is Alive, and Apocalypse
Continuing in Uncanny X-Men, Xavier sustains life threatening injuries and relinquishes his school to Magneto, who is now on his side. Also, Storm takes over the X-Men for Cyclops as he has left to have a life outside the X-Men, marries Madelyne Pryor, and has a son. This is about where another infamous X-Men, Rogue, joins the team. Soon, Jean Grey is discovered alive.The Phoenix Force had replaced her body during her supposed death, and the real Jean Grey has been kept safe and healing until now. The Avengers and Fantastic Four recover her. The original five X-Men form X-Factor, Cyclops included when he learns that Jean Grey is alive.
X-Factor , New Mutants, and Uncanny X-Men are running in the same timeline.
Shortly into X-Factor, Storm's Morlocks are murdered by Sinister's men. Many X-Men are injured, including Kitty and Nightcrawler, who leave to heal. This is the Fall of the Mutants. Apocalypse, the first mutant, turns Angel into the villanous Archangel. The fall of the mutants leads the remaining X-Men, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Dazzler, Longshot, Psylocke and Havok to fake their death and to start new at a new base.
Back in New Mutants, Cable, an X-Man from the future, arrives with a mission to kill Apocalypse, and takes the lead over New Mutants as Magneto reverts to his old ways.
The X-Men are disassembled after entering the Siege Perilous portal after they concede defeat against a powerful enemy. This is a portal to a parallel world given to the X-Men in case they need to start anew. It's a mess, with Rogue sent to the Savage and, Storm meeting Gambit, and Wolverine finding new mutant, Jubilee, while trying to reassemble the X-Men. Psylocke becomes an assassin, and Dazzler a movie star in their parallel worlds.
The X-Teams and the M-Saga
This X-Men event brings all the coinciding series together, and alters them. During the “Muir Island Saga”, the Shadow King takes over the minds of everyone at the Muir Island facility. Xavier comes back from healing (he had left his school to Magneto at the time) brings X-Factor, the New Mutants, and the X-Men together to battle the Shadow King. The original five return to the X-Men and make teams, the Gold team and Blue team. Other X-Men form the new government backed X-Factor, lead by Havok and includes Polaris, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, Madrox and Quicksilver. Cable turns the New Mutants into a strike force called X-Force.
Soon, Bishop, a mutant from an alternate future pops up. This future is where mutants rule and are policed by the Xavier Security Enforcers (X.S.E.). He is chasing a traitor mutant from his future. Bishop joins forces as an X-Men, but believes that fellow new X-Man, Gambit, is the future mutant traitor.
The X-Men soon find themselves battling Magneto again, and Colossus along with him, and Professor Xavier is forced to wipe Magneto's brain after Magneto pulls all the adamantium from Wolverine's body. We also learn that Cable is Cyclops son, Nathan, who he had birthed with Madelyne, aka Goblin Queen. We are now in the series X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, Cable, and X-Force.
A race of techno-organic beings, called the Phalanx, kidnap a group of next generation mutants, as well as the X-Men. Banshee, Sabretooth and Emma Frost save them, leading Frost and Banshee to become headmasters of the new School for Gifted Youngsters, and name the new team name “Generation X”. This is a new series.
“Age of Apocalypse”
Xavier’s son, Legion, goes back in time to kill Magneto, but kills his own father, creating a new future timeline where mutants rule under the dictatorship of Apocalypse. Bishop, being from the future already, remains unchanged in this timeline, helping the new X-Men to revert Legion's new timeline. Some manage to get back to the original timeline, such as Cable, a bad Beast, and new villains.
A new villain that soon appears is Onslaught, Magneto and Xavier combined, attacks the X-Men and threatens the world. Rogue comes back to the X-men after time away when she pulls Gambit's memories, and has a younger Magneto with her.The Fantastic Four and Avengers are killed defeating Onslaught. Xavier is placed in prison following his return to form.
Apocalypse gathers the twelve most powerful mutants to siphon their powers. Cyclops, one of those mutants, sacrifices himself to stop Apocalypse. Cyclops is eventually found alive.
Rogue, Bishop, Gambit, and more assist in defeating Colossus and Apocalypse, as Magneto eventually tears Apocalypse in half and ends the Age of Apocalypse.
Post Apocalypse Hope
After the end of the Age of Apocalypse, we are now in the 2000', and the X-Men face many more trials. The Scarlet Witch reduces the mutant population to just 198 when she is betrayed by her brother, Quicksilver, and made to create an alternate universe where mutants are in charge. She then causes most of the mutants in the world to lose their powers.
After this, the first new mutant to be born is named Hope, and everyone wants to get their hands on her. Unfortunately Cable, aka Cyclops' son, does first and he takes her to the future, very similar to what happened to him as a child. Hope will later be revealed as the new host of the Phoenix Force that destroyed/saved jean Grey. In fact, Hope even awakens X-Man Rogue from a coma after Mystique allows the child to touch her.
With the remaining mutants after The Scarlet Witch's actions, Cyclops and the X-Men create a refuge for mutants, Utopia, and Magneto himself joins them. Hope and Cable eventually come back from the future, and more new mutants begins to appear around the world, which is back to it's anti-mutant ways.
The X-men divide into two teams, one lead by Cyclops in Utopia, and the other by Wolverine at a new Jean Grey school for Mutants. Wolverine and Cyclops disagreed about using mutant children in battle situations.
Is your head spinning? Mine is, and that's not even the half of it! There's so much more! It's pretty insane to look at the actual order of events in the X-Men comics in comparison to the cinematic. SO many swapped characters into different timelines, so many main comic book characters sidelined. I can't decide which I like best, especially growing up reading the comics, but loving the movies in their own right.
The next X-Men film to hit theaters will be X-Men: Apocalypse, arriving this year. Apocalypse will introduce, well, Apocalypse of course, along with Psylocke, a young Jean Grey and Cyclops, Jubilee, and Nightcrawler.
X-Men: Apocalypse Hits Theaters May 27th, 2016!