The X-Men didn’t have the best decade in the 1990s, but there were a few great comics for Marvel fans to collect in that 10-year time frame.
The X-Men changed drastically in the 1990s. After the 1980s came to a close, with some of the X-Men’s most iconic storylines, the 90s opened with the team broken up and spread out. However, soon the mutants reformed with new creative teams and a new look. There were also several new books created to tell the stories.
Along with the new books came several diverse teams, including X-Force, X-Factor, and even different X-Men teams with multiple leaders and various missions. However, the 1990s didn’t have the groundbreaking storylines of the previous decade and things began to fizzle out again in the last few years of the decade, with most of the best comics arriving in the first half of the 1990s.
The best-selling comic in history was 1991’s X-Men #1. If anything, this proved that the mutant team was one of the most popular superhero comics and the backbone of the Marvel Universe. That alone made this an important book as it relaunched the X-Men back to public prominence.
This brought all the X-Men back together after they broke up in some of the best late 1980s X-Men comics. It even split them into two teams, the Blue team with Cyclops and the Gold team with Storm. Most importantly, X-Men #1 was the beginning of longtime writer Chris Claremont’s final story for the franchise he helped define and popularize in the ’70s and ’80s.
After splitting up the team in the Blue and Gold teams, it was the Gold team that remained in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, with Storm as this team’s X-Men leader. This team then immediately had one of the first big X-Men storylines of the early 1990s with Bishop’s Crossing.
Bishop made his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #282 and in the next issue, changed X-Men history forever. Bishop came to the X-Men’s timeline from an apocalyptic future where the Sentinels ruled the world and hinted at what would come a few years later with the Age of Apocalypse storyline. This issue not only firmly established Bishop as a key X-men figure, but also strengthened the threat of alternate future timelines where mutantkind was eradicated.
One of the most important Marvel comic books of the 1990s, X-Men or otherwise, arrived in 1993 with X-Men #25. This one issue changed one of the X-Men’s most popular characters for years to come and set up the end of the Marvel Universe as fans knew it.
This was the final battle with Magneto and part 4 of the Fatal Attractions storyline. In this issue, the X-Men attacked Magneto at his space station and it ended with Magneto ripping out Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton and Professor X shutting down Magneto’s mind. Wolverine was never the same for years and Xavier’s actions created Onslaught, a powerful being so strong that it killed the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
X-Men #30 was a great 1990s X-Men comic for a different reason. This was where longtime lovers Cyclops and Jean Grey finally got married. These two original X-Men members had a long and eventful relationship that included Jean becoming the Phoenix in one of the X-Men’s best comic issues in the 1970s.
They seemed almost fated to marry and in this issue, it finally happened. It was a rare happy moment for the X-Men. And there wasn’t a villain to fight to be found. The issue also had a touching cameo from an adamantium-less and weakened Wolverine, who warned an imprisoned Sabretooth not to ruin the peaceful nuptials.
Uncanny X-Men #316 saw the start of the Phalanx Covenant storyline. This event began when Stephen Lang and Cameron Hodge brought in the Phalanx, a techno-organic enemy that began to attack mutants. The problem is that the Phalanx didn’t stop at mutants and wanted to enslave the entire Earth’s population.
The war began in this issue when Sabretooth returned to the X-Mansion and saw lots of mutants there. However, something was wrong and he soon realized these were not the X-Men, but the shape-changing Phalanx, causing the former villain to help a ragtag team of X-Men that included Banshee, Jubilee, and Emma Frost defeat the techno-organic villains.
X-Men #41 was a familiar moment because, once again, an issue of the X-Men changed the entire world. This was the last issue of the Legion Quest storyline, which saw Professor X’s son Legion decide he needed to fix the world.
Legion went back in time and decided if he killed Magneto before he became a villain, the world would be a safer place. What he didn’t expect was for Professor X to sacrifice his life to save Magneto. With Xavier dead, Legion never existed and the world changed from this point on. This issue not only set up the forthcoming Age of Apocalypse storyline but fundamentally shook up the X-Men readership. For the first time ever, all X-titles were canceled and were replaced with a plethora of mini-series that depicted the alternate reality Legion had inadvertently created.
The first issue after Legion Quest ended shocked Marvel Comics’ readers in the 1990s. In X-Men: Alpha #1, everything was different and no one knew what to expect. With Professor X dying, Magneto became a hero fighting for good but the world was never safe again.
This issue began the Age of Apocalypse, one of the most famous X-Men alternate history storylines ever created. Apocalypse ruled this world, which had been transformed into an apocalyptic wasteland. This event also brought some new characters to the mainstream Marvel Universe when it ended, including X-Man (Nate Grey), Dark Beast (who was later revealed to be the mastermind behind the Morlock Mutant Massacre event in the 1980s), and Sugar Man.
The moment that Professor X shut down Magneto’s mind in 1993’s X-Men #25, the story was set up for this pivotal issue. Three years later, Xavier paid the price for his rash decision as did the rest of the Marvel Universe.
A Marvel crossover event series began here with Onslaught, which saw a being that consisted of Professor X and Magneto’s minds set out to destroy the world. This issue saw Juggernaut show up, knowing that something bad was coming, and he took out any X-Men that got in his way until someone listened to him.
Uncanny X-Men #340 was a personal issue that showed how being a mutant really hurts these characters. One of the biggest running story arcs in X-Men comics is that these heroes are born with their powers and have no control over whether they want to be a mutant or not.
In this book, Graydon Creed was running for President of the United States on an anti-mutant campaign. When Iceman’s dad had a change of heart and proudly revealed his son was a mutant, an anti-mutant hate group led by Creed attacked and almost killed him. The book deals with the outcome of this traumatic event and the often strained relationships between parents and their mutant children.
After Onslaught destroyed the Marvel Universe and reset things with two different Earths, the mutants in the X-Men began to change. This happened drastically in X-Men #70 where newer, younger mutants took roles on the main team.
Dr. Cecilia Reyes, Maggott, and Marrow all joined the X-Men and were rebellious and completely out of control. It was Marvel’s way to shake up the status quo, and while this comic was a great start, the company struggled to keep things interesting for the rest of the decade, as the X-Men began to decline in popularity until the Fox movie arrived in 2000.
NEXT: 10 Best X-Men Comic Issues of the 2000s
Shawn S. Lealos is a senior writer on ScreenRant who fell in love with movies in 1989 after going to the theater to see Tim Burton’s Batman as his first big screen experience.
Shawn received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma with a minor in Film Studies. He has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, first in the world of print journalism before moving to online media as the world changed. Shawn is a former member of the Society of Professional Journalists and current member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. He has work published in newspapers such as Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma Gazette and magazines such as Vox Magazine, Loud Magazine, and Inside Sports Magazine. His work on the Internet has been featured on websites like The Huffington Post, Yahoo Movies, Chud, Renegade Cinema, 411mania, and Sporting News.
Shawn is also a published author, with a non-fiction book about the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers and has begun work on a new fiction series as well. Visit Shawn Lealos’ website to learn more about his novel writing and follow him on Twitter @sslealos.