“Jonathan, why a list of only the top 5 comics,” you ask? First—I don’t like your tone. Second, I had absolutely no plans to do a list until the end of last week. I thought that it would be impossible for me to rank my 10 favorite X-Men comics of the year, and honestly, it was an intimidating thought. But after only a few minutes, five X-Men comics jumped into my mind, so I knew I had something for the end of 2019. Although I still don’t know what comics would rank 6-10, here are my top 5 X-Men comics of 2019!
5. Marauders #1
The entirety of mutantkind has united, can resurrect their dead, have developed a nation, and are flourishing. But Kitty Pryde cannot do one thing that every mutant can—pass through a Krakoan gate. For reasons we still do not know, Kitty is different. What follows in this issue is Kitty dealing with this inability by acting out—stealing a boat, getting drunk, getting extremely violent, and deciding that she wants to be called Kate. Some say this is all uncharacteristic, but I see very believable reactions. How would it feel to be part of a certain group for so much of your life and in an instant that identity is in question? Suddenly, you are different from your peers, your family—suddenly, you may not belong. What Kate is experiencing is a crisis of that identity and her seemingly extreme actions are in response to her pain and insecurity. Sure, it’s written with levity at times, but I find myself able to look past many of her funny or violent actions in this issue and truly empathize. Kate is in pain. I’ve been fascinated by her behavior since this fantastic setup.
Furthermore, Emma looks gorgeous. Finally, let’s be real—Pyro is featured in an ongoing and he looks beautiful so of fucking course this issue was going to make this list.
4. X-Tremists #5
An X-Men team acting similarly to Nazis may sound ridiculous, but this miniseries sold that very uncomfortable premise. Department X is a team of mostly beloved characters enforcing laws which end with people imprisoned for acting upon love. That punishment was quickly illustrated when the team chained a pregnant mutant in a basement in the second issue. But the members of this team do what they’re told because they have no memories of the life before “Age of X-Man,” until the end of the miniseries when members of Department X begin to remember. After they wonder aloud how they can live with themselves after enforcing a lie that has hurt so many people, their reactions are gloriously destructive. Jubilee, Iceman, Northstar, and Rictor topple a monument and destroy cars in the street. Jubilee robs three banks and steals car keys off of a dead body. Even the Blob, who was soft-spoken, gentle, and caring throughout this miniseries, threatens a group of mutants who turn on him. The oppressive state of “Age of X-Man” was finite right from the beginning, but this issue perfectly captured a group of brainwashed domestic terrorists regain their faculties and eradicate the paper-thin veil of “normalcy” which harbored the oppression of fascism underneath. And it was full of beautiful fireworks and a big, gay, apocalypse.
3. House of X #4
The mission sounds very simple: destroy a Mother Mold, capable of creating an army of Master Molds, before the group of humans, ORCHIS, brings it online. Of course the mission does not go smoothly, but that is where this issue excels. Every death in House of X #4 is painful to witness but is written so believably and drawn with so much emotion—these deaths mean something. After Mystique is killed, Xavier all but announces it has become a suicide mission, so Kurt and Logan have an extremely heartfelt, personal moment just before they sacrifice their lives to save mutantkind. In the face of impossible odds, Cyclops promises to get Marvel Girl home, but is caught off guard, tells her he won’t make it, and is then killed. Although Jean is uncharacteristically frightened this entire issue, it does not take away from the painful moment a Sentinel enters her escape pod, nor does it remove from my memory the terrified look on her face knowing that she is about to die. The reader knows that somehow these X-Men must return to life, but that faith does not eliminate the painful impact of each death. House of X #4 even opens with statistics of mutant deaths at the hands of humanity. Jonathan Hickman perfectly captured the essence of everything that the X-Men have fought for and faced for over five decades and wrote it in a single comic book. House of X #4 destroys the X-Men and it is a masterful statement.
2. House of X #5
I struggled with which issue of House of X should rank higher on my list, but I ultimately decided on House of X #5 for the number two spot. As much as issue 4 emotionally impacted me in ways that issue 5 didn’t, this issue showed something completely different for the X-Men – global success. Death was never permanent for the X-Men (or comic book characters in general) but House of X #5 explicitly shows that, as long as certain protocols are followed, mutants cannot die. Five mutants working together can bring any mutant back to life. The UN Security Council has officially recognized Krakoa as a legitimate nation. Mutant villains pour through a Krakoan gate as Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine welcome them. Selene, Emplate, Exodus, Mesmero, Sebastian Shaw, and even fucking Apocalypse are welcome on Krakoa and Apocalypse shakes Xavier’s hand. This is a monumental moment in mutant history and sees not just the X-Men, but the entirety of mutantkind united as one people of one nation. Of course this doesn’t mean that life will be easy for mutants (as we have already seen since) but this single issue brought such hope, positivity, and success into the world of the X-Men and managed to earn this success in a scant few issues. Still an amazing comic, everything in House of X #4 had been done before, but nothing in House of X #5 had been done before on such a large scale.
1. Uncanny X-Men #11
I love dark stories, but more than that, I love stories that are impactful and leave lasting impressions. I remember the literal sense of shock and awe that I felt after reading X-Men Omega and Wolverine vol. 4 #14 for the first time—two of my favorite X-Men comics. I felt the same way after finishing Uncanny X-Men vol. 5 #11.
At the time, readers knew Age of X-Man would happen so the characters who were just turned into “Infinty War dust™” weren’t exactly dead…probably. But what about the mutants who didn’t fight Nate Grey in Uncanny X-Men #10? The world had quickly become a terrible place for mutants, more so than normal. All of the major X-Men were gone, Nate and his Horsemen had literally imposed their will on the world and now, with fear and hatred at a fever pitch, humanity had an anti-mutant vaccine and were forcing it on children.
But two of the most iconic X-Men in franchise history had just returned.
Back to my point about death not being permanent in comics, Wolverine died in 2014 and Cyclops in 2015…ish. Every reader knew they’d be back at some point, but the two had just returned within weeks of this issue’s release. Uncanny X-Men #11 shows both of them, and the reader, the new status quo in the world – and it is terrifying for mutants. But Scott refuses to allow the remaining mutants to live in fear, and Logan refuses to let Scott fight alone. I feel the hatred when Scott goes to a rally for a senate candidate who spews anti-mutant sentiment. I feel Scott’s anger and frustration when Captain America confronts him. I feel Scott’s hopelessness when he sits on a rooftop drinking alone. He believes he has no one to help him fight for mutants anymore and when he calls any remaining X-Men in the world to action, it seems as though no one will come—but Logan does. So as dismal as the world seems, there is a beacon of hope, beautifully illustrated in one page where Cyclops and Wolverine stand side-by-side over a pile of defeated villains, ready to help other mutants.
At the center of this story is Blindfold, whose mutant power is precognition. Unfortunately, Blindfold sees nothing but death in the future, which sadly sounds like something that a person struggling with depression and suicidal ideation may see. She knows Scott will put a team together and that it will end in tragedy, but instead of Scott’s soon-to-be teammates, she sees herself dying over and over again. Blindfold voices her serious concerns to all of those around her but the visions do not stop and she commits suicide.
I know that Rosenberg’s run is divisive and although I came to appreciate it much more after it actually concluded, this issue is powerful. For mutants, the present was awful, and according to Blindfold, the future would be worse. But Cyclops and Wolverine refused to accept the present and would not allow such a dark future to occur without a fight. That is what the X-Men do—fight for hope no matter what.
So there are my top 5 X-men comics of 2019! Do you agree with any of my choices? Do you have your own top 5, or even a top 10? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram at Mutant_Musings_Podcast, and on Twitter at @MutantMusings. Whether you agree or disagree with any of my choices, let’s all look forward to a 2020 full of more great X-Men comics.