The X-Men were Marvel’s top-selling superheroes for decades. No one actually expected this, as they were easily the least popular Lee/Kirby creation of the Silver Age. X-Men was a reprint book until Giant-Size X-Men #1, by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, came along. When writer Chris Claremont joined X-Men and the book became Uncanny X-Men, it was off to the races.
The X-Men’s dominance of Marvel throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s was unquestioned and the current Krakoa Era has brought them back to the top. However, mistakes have been made, many of which still have an adverse effect on the X-Men.
10 X Of Swords
X of Swords is a bloated mess, and what’s worse it was the first major event of the Krakoa Era. The twenty-two part story put everything on hold for a story that was too slow in the first half, and two fast in the second. It was the first sign of weakness in the again resurgent X-Men line, which had been going full speed ahead since House of X/Powers of X.
While it did birth some cool stuff down the line, like the terraforming of Mars so the mutants of Arakko would have a home, the story itself has a very mixed reception among X-Men fans. Its most egregious crime was retconning Apocalypse’s origin to make him sympathetic. This may seem innocuous, but it retroactively ruined every Apocalypse story that came before it.
9 Brian Michael Bendis’s All-New X-Men And Uncanny X-Men
In the 2000s, writer Brian Michael Bendis was Marvel’s main writer. He wrote multiple event books, helmed the flagship titles of the Avengers and the Ultimate line, and had an amazing run on Daredevil with artist Alex Maleev. However, by the 2010s, the luster had faded on Bendis, which is why it was so mystifying that he was given the helm of the X-Men books.
Writing the two X-Men flagships books that were launched for his run – All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men – things started out pretty good, but it felt like he lost interest. Stories just sort of went on with no climax, and fans were long tired of his books. It was a misstep at a time when the X-Men truly needed a shot in the arm.
8 X-Men: Gold
X-Men: Gold was part of an X-Men reboot after the failed Inhumans push, but it was more of Marvel burying the mutants while pretending to care. Writer Marc Guggenheim wasn’t a fan-favorite, but X-Men fans wanted something, so they picked up X-Men: Gold #1, which was drawn by Ardian Sayif. Sayif hid several anti-Jewish messages in the artwork of that issue.
Fans were already not super happy with X-Men: Gold, but Marvel editorial missing some rather overt anti-Semitic messages didn’t help matters. It wouldn’t be the last time Marvel made this exact mistake, but doing so in the book about heroes who are anti-racist is mind-numbing. It hurt a book that was already teetering.
7 Image Founders Wrote The Books
The early 90s were an amazing time for the X-Men. Artists Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, and Whilce Potracio were superstars and pushing sales to insane levels. X-Men #1 launched to the tune of eight million copies sold, blasting the record recently set by X-Force #1. Marvel decided that the best thing to do was to let these artists have full control of the X-Men, helped out by writers like Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, and John Byrne.
The early 90s X-Men books still sold well, but the writing wasn’t great. The writing of the X-Men books got a bad reputation because of this move. It also didn’t make the artists themselves happy, as they would go on to become the founders of Image Comics, leaving Marvel and the X-Men with a massive talent vacuum.
6 Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men/X-Men
X-Men history isn’t always illustrious. In the early 2000s, it was still Marvel’s top-selling non-Ultimate Universe book, and boasted writer Grant Morrison, considered by many to be the best superhero writer ever, on the flagship book New X-Men. However, Uncanny X-Men wasn’t so lucky, as Chuck Austen became writer of the book after Joe Casey left.
Austen’s run writing Uncanny, and later X-Men after Morrison left Marvel because of editorial meddling, is widely considered to be terrible. Austen had several hits before UXM, but he wasn’t up to the task of the X-Men. However, sales didn’t suffer despite everyone complaining, showing how little Marvel cared about reviews or readers as long as sales were good.
5 X-Men: Schism
The X-Men aren’t always the best allies, but they usually look out for each other. X-Men: Schism, by writer Jason Aaron and artists Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuña, Alan Davis, and Adam Kubert, showed that wasn’t always the case. Wolverine and Cyclops had a violent falling out, which led to the mutant race splitting in half.
The resulting flagship books – Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men – were good, but splitting the X-Men into two squabbling factions just didn’t feel right. It weakened the brand at a time when it didn’t need that. It hurt the relationships between characters for years to come.
4 The Return Of The Original Five X-Men
The X-Men and time travel have long gone together, but things went too far during Bendis’s run. All-New X-Men opened with Beast bringing the past versions of the original five X-Men to the present in order to mend relations between the teams after X-Men: Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it just went on and on.
Fans were exhausted with the story as nothing really happened. There was no way that changes were going to be made, but sales weren’t terrible. Marvel just stretched it out long past it should have ended, angering fans as time went on.
3 Jonathan Hickman Leaving The X-Men Books
Writer Jonathan Hickman revitalized the X-Men line with House of X/Powers of X, bringing the team and its related character back to prominence. He went from the two books that were one into X-Men, and guided the line for almost two years. However, sales were good, and the other writers wanted to spend more time in the sandbox Hickman created.
Hickman ended up leaving the books, fast-forwarding many of plot lines so his story got some kind of closure. This was a disaster in a lot of ways; the line felt rudderless. It had one rather large failure – X-Corp – and X-Men’s quality fell when writer Gerry Duggan took over the book. Since then, reactions to the line have been more mixed.
2 Avengers Vs. X-Men
Avengers vs. X-Men changed things for the worst. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Jason Aaron with art by John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel, and Adam Kubert, the event book pit the Avengers against the X-Men over the power of the Phoenix Force. While the story ended by undoing House of X’s depowering of mutants, it didn’t actually do the X-Men any favors.
It split the X-Men line even more than before and found a way to marginalize them further. This is basically the opposite of what should have happened. Making the X-Men the villains if the story didn’t help, and it often felt like an X-Men hit job.
1 The Inhumans Push
Marvel has made disastrous decisions, and one was meant to destroy the X-Men in every way that counted. Because Marvel didn’t own the film rights to the X-Men, they decided to push the Inhumans to replace them. The Inhumans suddenly became the new mutants, down to humanity’s racism against them.
Stealing X-Men storylines wasn’t the end though, as the Terrigen Mists were revealed to be fatal to mutants. Marvel then positioned the X-Men as the bad guys in the whole thing every chance they got. Fans didn’t fall for it and loudly rebelled against the Inhumans. It was a massive failure, and hurt Marvel’s place in the eyes of X-Men fans.
NEXT: 10 X-Men Fights Where The Wrong Character Won
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