Confused as to why the banner reads “Top Ten” when the title reads “Top 5?” I asked Geekade.com for a tub full of peanut butter for Christmas (You didn’t specify how large – ED) and all I got was a lousy pair of socks. So until I get rid of these lice-infested socks and get into a peanut-buttery bath (Oh – ED), you’re going to get a Top 5 and you’ll like it! At least, I hope you do (please like it). The real reason is far less humorous. (This was humorous?)
2020 has been quite a hell of a decade, but there were certainly some great X-Men comics. Since I put together a list of Top 5 X-Men Comics of 2019, I decided to stick with only 5 for 2020. However, before the official list of 5, I need to make one thing clear.
Honorable Mention: X of Swords: Destruction #1
by Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles
“X of Swords” certainly subverted expectations as an event, but was a lot of fun and has left at least some lasting impact. I enjoyed the story, but the story has little to do with the reason this comic makes the list.
Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia are great at what they do, but X of Swords: Destruction #1 shows the two talented men take their craft to new heights. The amount of time and effort put into some of these grand, detailed images is something that I, as a person who cannot art, can barely comprehend. The action, the angles, the detail, the emotion, the ability to convey such feeling through images that I wanted to stand and cheer – there is artwork in this comic that could hang in museums. Larraz and Gracia are superstars in my opinion and I could not write this article without mentioning their work on this issue in particular.
5. Marauders #12
by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, Edgar Delgado and Cory Petit
Kate Pryde was murdered by Sebastian Shaw in Marauders #6 and resurrected near the end of Marauders #11. Before Kate’s vengeance on Shaw took place, Marauders #12 celebrated her return to life. More than just joyous interactions with Storm, Emma, and Kurt, this comic briefly relishes in the subtext of Kate’s relationships with Rachel Grey and Illyana Rasputin – the decades-old hints that Kate has shared more than just friendly feelings with those women. Rachel greets Kate while she stands in front of a doorway that looks similar to a vagina, and Illyana teleports herself and a Mariachi band into the celebration as she playfully tackles Kate while the band plays an actual romantic song. There is much more than subtext, however, when Kate kisses a female tattoo artist, confirming that Katherine Pryde is, indeed, bisexual. A welcoming fact, the X-Men, who have reflected non-fictional minority groups for decades, absolutely need more LGBTQIA+ representation.
Her curly hair, the Star of David necklace, the kiss – this issue is not just an in-comic celebration for Kate, it is a celebration of Kate Pryde’s character, and it was a beautiful, heartfelt comic.
4. Hellions #1
by Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, David Curiel and Cory Petit
Zeb Wells created a fantastic framework for this unconventional team comprised of mostly misfits. Sure, Krakoa welcomes all mutants, but not all mutants seem eager to behave. Hellions #1 not only masterfully, and hilariously, introduces a perfect premise for mutants who revel in mayhem, but adds complexity to two characters in particular.
Even if a reader knows nothing of his past with the original Hellions, Empath is introduced taking smug joy by causing his teammates to fight simply for his entertainment. Shortly after, a mere few paragraphs explain exactly why Empath is the way he is. Proving himself to be a unique case of “nature vs nurture,” Due to his nature and his mutant ability to control others, Manny caused only positive feedback from those around him throughout his life, thus controlling the “nurture” through his “nature.” The young man never had any negative reinforcement, and therefore never had the opportunity to learn lessons from mistakes or change his behavior. I still hate Empath, but this one page contains fascinating psychological implications.
One of the greatest tragedies in mutant-kind’s history was the Morlock massacre, and John Greycrow helped lead the slaughter of so many mutants. This tragedy was not the only example of Greycrow’s ruthless and violent tendencies, making it certainly surprising to see him on Krakoa, but it wasn’t a surprise to see some of the Morlocks confront and attack the man. This battle, however, is not shown in detail, but the battle is not the point. When brought in front of the Quiet Council, its members are under the impression that Greycrow attacked this group of Morlocks and he does not correct them. At no point does John Greycrow even attempt to convince the Council that he was attacked, when even a quick telepathic scan of his mind would have revealed the truth. This is very deliberate of John – he knows the Morlocks have the absolute right to hate him and seek vengeance, and he allows them to appear blameless in the eyes of authority. The man has done so much wrong in his past, and this is a baby step toward atonement.
3. X-Men #10
by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Sunny Gho and Clayton Cowles
Petra and Sway are two young women who have experienced nearly identical tragedies. Petra’s family was killed during a rock slide, yet she escaped without harm. Sway’s family was killed in gang-related crossfire while the bullets completely missed the woman. Petra and Sway were recruited by Moira and tasked by Xavier, alongside Vulcan and Darwin, to save the original X-Men from Krakoa, but both were killed. Sway was cut in half as she slowed time around her teammates, and Petra was burned alive as she opened the ground under her teammates so Vulcan and Darwin could hopefully survive. Although Xavier and Vulcan were confident that the small team could rescue the original X-Men, they were tragically wrong, and the two women paid the ultimate price, quite gruesomely. Neither was seen in continuity for over a decade.
Vulcan is currently clearly wrestling with something that I’m certain will be explored in the future, but his old friends have been getting drunk while living on the moon. After a terrible dream, Gabriel awakens to find Petra and Sway making margaritas, discussing the fact that all the X-Men have left, so they plan on getting wasted. Before Vulcan can properly protest, Petra says, “…there are a lot of medium-powered mutants on the island that would love to get down at the Summer House.”
Petra and Sway seem only interested in drinking and do not even call Krakoa by its name. Although both have allegedly been to Krakoa before this issue and Petra trained on Krakoa recently, I find X-Men #10 fascinating because it shows how the women are coping with trauma: The loss of their families, their tragic deaths and subsequent resurrections into a world where years have passed, where mutants, almost none of whom they know, are thriving. I cannot imagine the pain they feel as they do not recognize this world, but the two seem to cope with these feelings by drinking.
I’m certain that many mutants suffer from PTSD, but X-Men #10 made it quite clear to me that Petra and Sway are choosing to cope with trauma by anesthetizing themselves. I would love to see them receive counseling and deal with their emotions; I would love for their trauma to be addressed. For two characters who were never given deep, unique personalities, this would not only be a great opportunity to dive into some characterization, but to show them begin to heal. X-Men #10 gave the reader very little regarding these two characters, but to me, this comic spoke volumes.
2. X-Factor #5
by Leah Williams, David Baldeón, Israel Silva and Joe Caramagna
Sofia Mantegna was a member of Danielle Moonstar’s New Mutants Squad at the Xavier Institute, then later joined the New Warriors when she was depowered. A character seemingly left in comic book limbo for years, the young woman recently appeared in X-Factor as a captive in Mojoworld and was killed. With proof of her death, The Five could resurrect Wind Dancer.
Santo Vaccaro was a member of Emma Frost’s Hellions Squad at the Xavier Institute and has been a staple in X-Men comics for more than a decade. Recently, however, Rockslide was killed in Otherworld and his resurrection disrupted – neither his body nor his mind are the Santo readers once knew.
Borne out of these two plot points and reinforced by a touching moment between Emma and Dani, X-Factor #5 is a love letter to the title in which Wind Dancer and Rockslide were regular cast members – New X-Men volume 2. Sofia is greeted by many of her friends from the mid-2000s era, some of whom were killed long ago but have also been resurrected. Although Santo is no longer the young man mutants once knew, Eye-Boy gives him a big hug and tells him they all love him. There is even a beautiful kiss between Mercury and Bling!
Elixir, Rockslide, Wind Dancer, Hellion, Indra, Wallflower, Loa, Surge, Pixie, Tag, Dust, Icarus, Aero, Prodigy, Anole, Mercury, Bling!, Onyxx, DJ, all conspicuously appear in this comic, and according to Leah Williams, Wither, Rubbermaid and Quill are present as well.
Many fans, including myself, have been clamoring for these students to be featured in a title again for years, and this one issue was an absolute gift to us. X-Factor #5 both begins and ends with tragedy, but for the rest of this issue, I had an enormous smile on face, joyously anticipating which student would appear next. The Academy-X students endured so much pain during their tenor at the Institute, that the smiles and hugs they gave each other in X-Factor #5 were not only catharsis for them as characters, but for those of us who fell in love with them years ago.
1. X-Men #7
by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Sunny Gho and Clayton Cowles
As I stated with 2019’s choice of favorite X-Men book, I feel the strongest connection to comics that elicit deep emotions. I also have an intense love for D-List characters. X-Men #7 combines those two sentiments in ways that no other comic has this year.
To be clear, X-Men #7 makes this list because of roughly half of the comic, although that half is the primary plot. Scott and Logan have some silly and fun dialogue, Warlock surprisingly appears on Krakoa for the first time, Exodus scares some children, Kurt talks about religion – none of these things are why this comic makes this list – it is all because of Melody Guthrie and Crucible.
I wrote an extensive article detailing Melody Guthrie’s past and highlighting her experience with Crucible before articulating exactly how I read her experience in this comic and how it relates to very real issues. I won’t rehash all of those sentiments, so if you’d like, you can read more about her and how I view her experience right here. Through X-Men #7, Melody’s experience had a deep and profound impact on me, which still has the same effect 10 months later.
Not many mutants, including X-Men, have shown the same bravery as Melody Guthrie did between M-Day and Crucible. Her scarce appearances when depowered showed a young woman struggling to cope with feeling incomplete, yet trying to make the best of her life. Melody’s day at Crucible showed a dedication and bravery in such an incredible manner, particularly articulated by the artists, that this comic fills me with awe simply by thinking of it. Melody would do anything, no matter the cost, to become whole again, and she did so in a handful of devastatingly breathtaking pages. That is why X-Men #7 is, by far, my favorite X-Men comic of 2020.
So there are my top 5 X-Men comics of 2020! Let me know what you think in a comment below! Whether you agree or disagree with any of my choices, let’s all look forward to a 2021 full of even more great X-Men comics!