When the alien Skrull army attacks San Francisco, they do not expect the X-Men to realiate, but the Skrulls counter with a devious attack, and the X-Men must decide whether to save thousands or condone a genocide.
The “Dark Phoenix Saga” in 1980 led to a change in the line-up of the team, with the death of Phoenix (Jean Grey), and Cyclops leaving the team to mourn for her. Comics writers and historians Roy Thomas and Peter Sanderson observed that “‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ is to Claremont and Byrne what ‘the Galactus Trilogy‘ is to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It is a landmark in Marvel history, showcasing its creators’ work at the height of their abilities.” The storyline also saw the introduction of recurring antagonists the Hellfire Club, and its Inner Circle consisting of Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Harry Leland, Donald Pierce, along with Mastermind, previously a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood. The new teenage mutant Kitty Pryde was introduced in #129 (Jan. 1980) and joined the X-Men in #139. The Dazzler, a disco-singing, roller-skating mutant, was introduced in #130 (Feb. 1980), but did not join the team, instead headlining her own solo title.
A new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by Mystique, was introduced in the “Days of Future Past” storyline (#141-#142, Jan–Feb 1981) in which a time-travelling Kitty Pryde tried to avert a dystopian future caused by the Brotherhood assassinating Presidential candidate Senator Robert Kelly. Byrne plotted the story wanting to depict the Sentinels as a genuine threat to the existence of the mutant race. He then left the series after #143, being replaced by a returning Cockrum, who in turn was succeeded by Paul Smith and John Romita Jr.
X-Men: Alpha was published in January, 1995, and launched the “Age of Apocalypse” crossover story. It briefly shows readers how many popular X-Men characters have changed in this new world. Bishop is reunited with Magneto while retaining fragmented memories of the true timeline. Magneto then assigns his X-Men and their allies with different missions. Some are to gather the forces needed to change history; while others will continue resisting Apocalypse. The story continues in eight interlocking miniseries, each focusing on a different team of X-Men or other mutant forces. Each miniseries temporarily replaced one of the monthly X-Men titles being published at the time.
The final part of the event, X-Men Omega, begins with Magneto battling Apocalypse. The remaining X-Men invade Apocalypse’s stronghold using Blink’s teleportation and capture the Beast. Meanwhile, the Angel, no longer trusted by Apocalypse, decides to switch sides and, after fighting off the Infinites, sacrifices himself by flying into Apocalypse’s force field generator and destroying it. This allows Nate Grey to enter Apocalypse’s citadel. As the nuclear attack wipes out half of Apocalypse’s western kingdom, he decides to kill Magneto. However Nate arrives and, along with Magneto, prepares to battle Apocalypse and Holocaust.
Early X-Men issues introduced the original team composed of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman among a few others, their archenemy Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants featuring Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad. The comic focused on a common human theme of good versus evil and later included storylines and themes about prejudice and racism, all of which have persisted throughout the series in one form or another. The evil side in the fight was shown in human form and under some sympathetic beginnings via Magneto, a character who was later revealed to have survived Nazi concentration camps only to pursue a hatred for normal humanity. His key followers, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, were Romani. Only one new member of the X-Men was added, Mimic/Calvin Rankin, but soon left due to his temporary loss of power.
The title lagged in sales behind Marvel’s other comic franchises. In 1969, writer Roy Thomas and illustrator Neal Adams rejuvenated the comic book and gave regular roles to two recently introduced characters: Havok/Alex Summers (who had been introduced by Roy Thomas before Adams began work on the comic) and Lorna Dane, later called Polaris (created by Arnold Drake and Jim Steranko). However, these later X-Men issues failed to attract sales and Marvel stopped producing new stories with issue #66, later reprinting a number of the older comics as issues #67–93.
X-Factor launched in 1986 featuring an eponymous team composed of the five original X-Men that debuted in X-Men #1 (1963):
- Angel – A millionaire heir, capable of flight by means of two feathery wings extending from his back.
- Beast – A brilliant scientist possessing bestial strength and agility.
- Cyclops – Former X-Men team leader, with the ability to emit powerful “optic blasts” from his eyes.
- Jean Grey (Marvel Girl) – The long-time love of Cyclops, possessing telekinetic abilities.
- Iceman – A brash jokester, gifted with cryokinetic abilities.
The founding of X-Factor hinged upon the reunion of the original X-Men, an event complicated by the extensive histories of the characters following the initiation of a new team of X-Men in 1975.
Sales of The New Mutants had slumped for several years in the late 80’s, but took a sharp upturn after Rob Liefeld took over the penciling and co-plotting chores at the end of 1989. A new mentor for the group, the mysterious mercenary Cable, was introduced, further helping sales. Over the next year, several longtime team members were written out or killed off. However, the relationship between Liefeld and Simonson was fraught with tension, and Simonson claims that Harras dealt with the situation by rewriting her plots and dialogue so that the characterizations did not make sense: “Although I wasn’t being fired, I think I was being shoved out the door with both hands by Bob Harras. Bob was only doing what he had to do, I expect, which was make Rob Liefeld happy.” Simonson eventually gave in, leaving after issue #97. When Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, who wrote dialogue based on Liefeld’s plots, took over as writers of the final three issues of the series, they included several harder-edged characters.
The New Mutants was cancelled in 1991 with issue #100, but the new platoon-like team formed by Cable continued in X-Force, a successful series (whose first issue sold approximately one million copies) that would continue until 2002, and feature a variety of the former New Mutants cast.
Chris Claremont made a brief return from #381 (June 2000) to #389, at which point he transferred to the new X-Treme X-Men title, as Grant Morrison took over the X-Men vol. 2 and that became the flagship X-Men title. From 2001 Lobdell made a short return, and then Joe Casey and Chuck Austen wrote runs into 2004. The title became bimonthly from 2003 to 2004.
The X-Men: Reload reshuffle of titles in 2004 led to Claremont returning to Uncanny with issue #444. The stories addressed the new status quo established by Morrison, with Jean Grey having died again, and Cyclops in a relationship with Emma Frost. Claremont remained until #473. His final story was the “Death of the Greys” in 2006, as part of the “Decimation” storyline, where the vast majority of mutants had lost their powers. He was replaced by Ed Brubaker, who wrote a 12-part epic space opera story “The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire”, as a follow-up to his miniseries X-Men: Deadly Genesis. After this the title led into the “Messiah Complex” crossover event, dealing with the first mutant birth since the Decimation.
This title allowed new and lesser-known writers and artists to write and draw X-Men comics. The comics were also usually self-contained stories; with the exception of a tie-in to the Onslaught crossover. This was particularly unique during the late 1990s when most X-Men titles frequently had story arcs that were several issues long. It ran as a quarterly feature releasing four issues per year until late 2002 when it converted into a monthly title.
New X-Men: Academy X was launched during the X-Men ReLoad event. The Academy X subtitle was dropped from the title when the new creative team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost took over the series with issue #20.
Whereas the other X-Men comics mostly deal with established adult mutants, this series concentrates on the lives of young students residing at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning as they learn to control their powers.
After the 2007 crossover X-Men: Messiah Complex, the New X-Men title was canceled and briefly relaunched as Young X-Men for 12 issues. The series was written by Marc Guggenheim. After the first arc of Young X-Men, the characters began appearing in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. With the cancellation of Young X-Men the characters were folded onto the main X-Men books, appearing most prominently in the pages of X-Men: Legacy, Wolverine and the X-Men, and most recently, in X-Men.
Marvel Comics announced Uncanny Avengers by the creative team of Rick Remender and John Cassaday in August 2012. Uncanny Avengers is a new team of Avengers that features a line-up of both classic Avengers and X-Men including Captain America (Steve Rogers), Havok, Rogue, the Scarlet Witch, Thor and Wolverine. The team is formed in response to the events of Avengers vs. X-Men.
Remender said, “There’s something that Cyclops said to (Captain America) on Utopia that’s ringing in his head. He didn’t do enough to help. And Steve (Captain America) is taking that to heart. Coming out of AvX with the landscape shifted and changed as much as it is, there are events that lead Steve to recognizing that he needs to do more”.