Legion returns to our screens, bringing the popular X-Men series back for a second season. Telling the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens), the son of X-Men founder professor Xavier, and a troubled young man diagnosed with schizophrenia but possessing mutant powers with a number of psychic abilities, Legion proved to be an engaging and interesting look at the X-Men universe.
With several X-Men films, Deadpool, Legion, and The Gifted, there’s a lot of film and television for fans to choose from. Whilst it may be easy to pick out a film to watch where do you start if you want to read some of the source material? Well, here’s a list of great X-Men comics to check out if you enjoyed Legion.
Days of Future Past
The basis for the popular film of the same name ‘Days of Future Past’ tells the story of a future world where the Sentinels have taken over, killing thousands of mutants and herding others into internment camps. The few surviving members of the X-Men form a plan to send the mind of Kitty Pryde back into her younger body in order to stop a mutant from assassinating a US Senator, thereby preventing the rise of the Sentinels.
Though a short story, originally published across just two issues, ‘Days of Future Past’ is widely considered a classic, and has been adapted across many different incarnations including the live action film, the 90’s animated series, Wolverine and the X-Men, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Ultimate Spider-Man.
The Dark Phoenix Saga
Another classic story from legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont, ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ is another story that has been used across multiple X-Men media, and is the basis for the upcoming new film.
Returning from a mission to space, Jean Grey is exposed to deadly radiation and transforms into the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. Unfortunately, this makes her a target for the Hellfire Club, a group of evil mutants, who manage to manipulate her mind, corrupting Jean into becoming the Dark Phoenix. Travelling into space, Dark Phoenix commits acts of planetary genocide, forcing the X-Men into a confrontation for not only Jeans soul, but her very life.
Though there would be some revisions of this story over the ensuing decades, with some ret-conning being made in order to change the Phoenix into a separate entity in order to absolve Jean of genocide, it remains a monumentally important story in X-Men lore, not only inspiring adaptations and imitations, but a number of follow-up adventures.
House of M
Though not strictly an X-Men story as it encompassed the whole of the Marvel Universe, the heavy involvement of X-Men characters and the effect it would have on all X-Men titles for years makes this a hugely important book for those wanting to read more about them.
Following the mental breakdown of the mutant Avenger Scarlet Witch, which resulted in the deaths of several heroes, the X-Men and the Avengers meet to discuss what should be done with her. When the option of killing her is put on the table her brother, Quicksilver, convinces her to alter reality, making them and their father, Magneto, the rulers of mutant led world.
Whilst everyone else in this world has no memories of the real timeline, Wolverine not only remembers, but recovers all of his lost memories. Determined to put things right, Logan recruits a group of heroes and unlocks their real memories in order to fight against Scarlet Witch and restore reality. While they do succeed in this, there are disastrous consequences as Scarlet Witch utters the words ‘no more mutants’, de-powering most of the mutant population, leaving barely more than 200 mutants left in the entire world.
The loss of most of the mutant population changed the landscape of Marvel for years, and changed the X-Men from a group of superheroes fighting for acceptance, to an endangered species fighting against extinction as their enemies closed in around them. A hugely important story in the X-Men story.
Written by Joss Whedon, ‘Astonishing X-Men’ was an ongoing series that told a number of important stories. It dealt with the fallout of the death of Jean Grey (which would remain in place for many years, the character only recently having returned to life), the blossoming romance between Cyclops and Emma Frost, and the return of Colossus after his death years before.
The Whedon run introduced a number of characters that would go on to remain a part of the X-Men universe, such as Blindfold, Danger, Armour, and Dr Kavita Rao. The first story arc, dealing with a potential cure for mutants, not only won the 2006 Will Eisner Award, but was also part of the basis of X-Men: The Last Stand cure subplot.
God Loves, Man Kills
When investigating into the deaths of two murdered mutant children it is revealed that Reverend William Stryker is responsible, an extremist who not only murdered his own wife and son when his mutant son was born, but wants to exterminate all mutants. Kidnapping Professor Xavier and hooking him up to a machine that will use his mental abilities to kill every mutant, the X-Men have to team up with Magneto to stop their extinction and save their mentor.
The basis for the second X-Men film, ‘God Loves, Man Kills’ showed a much darker side to the X-Men universe, one where people are willing to go to extremes to not only kill the X-Men, but an entire race. It inspired a number of stories over the years that painted the X-Men as a group of not just superheroes, but people fighting for the very right to exist against overwhelming hate.
Following the events of ‘House of M’, ‘Messiah Complex’ deals with the first new mutant since Scarlet Witch decimated the race. When a new mutant signature is detected the X-Men enter a race against time to locate and protect the mutant before the various factions intent on their destruction find them and kill them.
Encompassing a number of X-books, the story brought together several teams as they worked together to find a way to save their own future. It showed the lengths that their villains were willing to go to destroy the mutant race, including wiping out an entire town of civilians, and introduced Hope, a character that would have a major impact upon the X-Men books for years to come.
Age of Apocalypse
A series of books taking place within an alternate timeline, ‘Age of Apocalypse’ became an incredibly popular event, and would be revisited numerous times over the years. When David Haller, Legion, travelled back in time to kill Magneto he accidentally creates an alternate timeline when he kills Professor Xavier by mistake.
The ancient mutant Apocalypse ends up attacking the world 10 years sooner than he should have, leading to his victory. Apocalypse rules the entire Earth with an iron grip, and has a number of corrupted heroes working for him and his mutant empire. A number of mutant factions, including a team of X-Men led by Magneto, fight against him and try to undo the events that led to the death of Professor X.
Despite being a limited time event, ‘Age of Apocalypse’ proved so popular that it would return a number of times, and even some characters from that timeline would become permanent residents in the regular Marvel Universe.
Written by Grant Morrison, ‘New X-Men’ ran for a number of years and encompassed several story arcs. Shifting the focus away from the X-Men as a superhero group, and instead taking a look at the running of the Xaviers School, the series would introduce a number of characters that would remain part of the X-Men series for years, including Cassandra Nova, Beak, Quentin Quire, and Fantomex.
The series would deal with a number of story lines, including the outing of Professor Xavier as a mutant, the destruction of Genosha, Emma Frost joining the team, and the return of Magneto.
The X-Men would become used to death and disaster over the course of their run, probably more than any other Marvel book. ‘Mutant Massacre’ is a prime example of a story where even when the heroes stop the villains, they don’t really win.
When the villainous Marauders attack the mutant community of the Morlocks the X-Men and X-Factor teams rush to their aid. Whilst they manage to stop the Marauders many Morlocks are killed, a a number of heroes severely wounded as a result; Colossus is left as a quadriplegic, Kitty Pryde is trapped in her phased form which almost kills her, Nightcralwer was put into a coma, and Angel was literally crucified, which eventually led to him losing his wings to gangrene.
A dark and sobering look at the X-Men universe, and one that would play into a lot of future stories.
A follow-up to ‘Messiah Complex’, ‘Second Coming’ tells the story of the return of Hope Summers and her adoptive father Cable, following their previous escape to the future. The return of the first new mutant acted as a beacon for the various X-Men factions to rally behind, whilst becoming a target of their enemies.
Hope’s return brings a number of villains out of hiding, including Bastion, the Purifiers, William Stryker, and Bolivar Trask to name but a few. Every mutant must come together and fight to the death in order to secure their future in this event that involved every X-book. Whilst they do manage to defeat their enemies, several heroes are injured, and even killed doing so.