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Better Luck X-Time: The 15 Best X-Men Time Travel Tales

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Better Luck X-Time: The 15 Best X-Men Time Travel Tales

With “Logan” — the last Wolverine movie — coming out on March 3rd, you may be nostalgic, wanting to revisit the X-Men’s earlier adventures. You know what’s even better than revisiting old X-Men stories? The X-Men literally revisiting old, future or alternative future stories! These 15 tales feature at least one or more X-Men being involved in time travel, or time based shenanigans. Seriously, the X-Men is about mutants first, time travel second and Jean Grey/Magneto dying, third.

RELATED: The 15 Best Comic Book Retcons of All-Time

To qualify for this list, an X-Man or team of X-Men need to be involved with traveling through time or messing with the timeline in one way or another. Stories merely set in a dystopian future don’t qualify, unless someone jumped into a time machine to get there — making “Age of X” and “Old Man Logan” ineligible.

15. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Days of Future Past

In the X-Men’s first foray into time travel, “Days of Future Past,” by Chris Claremont and John Bryne, Kitty Pryde’s consciousness is sent back back in time to 1980 to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly. Kelly is a presidential candidate who raises reasonable concerns about the rise of mutants, when Mystique’s Brotherhood of Mutants murder him, immediately legitimizing his concerns. The Mutant Eradication Act of 1988 is passed and Sentinels are created, who rise up and kill every superpowered being before overthrowing humanity. In the dystopian future of 2013, the last remnants of the X-Men must protect Kitty and Rachel Summers’ psychic time machine from Sentinel patrols, producing some glorious narration-heavy death-panels.

“DoFP” is as basic a time travel plot as these stories get. Future-Kitty explains her entire mission in the length of a page, and the climax of the story has her saving Senator Kelly by nudging Destiny’s arm, causing her to miss with her crossbow. Still, DoFP paved the way for future X-Men time travel stories, establishing some time travel rules: consciousness can be sent back psionically, and Wolverine’s nose is an efficient means to confirm a time-traveler’s identity.

14. BISHOP: THE LAST X-MAN

Bishop The Last XMan Resized

Bishop is brought forward in time by his arch nemesis Fitzroy, who has since named himself The Chronomancer in this new desolate future where he is king. The bulk of this 16-issue series focuses on Bishop building up a new army of X-Men to assault The Chronomancer’s fortress. The Chronomancer has the mutant power to make time bubbles as large or as small as he wants, yet primarily uses it to just rip his opponents apart. The problem is that despite having an antagonist with easy access to time bubbles, the actual “Chronowar” — the fight the entire series had been building up to — feels like a standard-issue sci-fi fight.

That being said, “Bishop: The Last X-Man” by Joseph Harris and Georges Jeanty has a stand-out story in issue #8, where Bishop comes across a hologram message saved in an ancient Sentinel. This hologram message has Wolverine and Storm detailing their final days as the last remnants of the X-Men, living out in a cave as Sentinels hunt them down. It’s a bittersweet gem hidden in this short-lived series.

13. AVENGERS: X-SANCTION

X-Sanction

In “Avengers: X-Sanction” by Jeph Loeb, Cable is ripped from time moments before sacrificing his life for the rest of the 616 universe. In the desolate future, Cable’s savior Blaquesmith informs him that the world will end because his adopted daughter Hope wasn’t there to protect it. Likewise, Cable’s techno organic virus has spread, giving him a day to live, tops. Raiding a ruined Avengers mansion for future tech, including Dr. Doom’s time machine, Cable has one day to travel back in time to save his daughter from the Avengers.

Give a man with no time a time machine, and he will do wonderful things. With time running out, Cable pulls out every tactical trick from the future to outmaneuver each Avenger. How do you beat Tony Stark’s technology? With Tony Stark’s Sentinel oriented technology from the future. Between these predestined fights we are shown Cable raising Hope, and why he is so eager to go on a suicide timeslide just to keep her safe. It’s basically “Taken” plus “Crank” plus “The Terminator” encapsulated in a short, four-issue limited series that’s quick to pick up and hard to put down.

12. X-FORCE: NOWHERE MAN

X Force Nowhere Man

For this entry, we focus on a mutant with the power to rewrite history whether he likes it or not. Spinning off from “ForgetMeNot” from “X-Men Legacy” #300 by Simon Spurrier, Mike Carev and Christos Gage, ForgetMeNot is a mutant with the power of being extremely forgettable. Seriously, look away from ForgetMeNot for even a second and you’ll lose all memories of him. In fact, history will rewrite itself on a quantum level to make it look as if ForgetMeNot wasn’t involved, even when he’s saving the day. Moments of Deus Ex Machina in the X-Men’s history are actually ForgetMeNot’s actions being overwritten. This makes ForgetMeNot a better observer of X-Men history than the Watcher.

In “X-Force” #10 by Simon Spurrier, the team is tasked with catching ForgetMeNot, who is hiding in X-Force HQ. Every time ForgetMeNot breaks out of their line of sight however, X-Force totally forgets what they were supposed to be doing, prompting a coffee break. On the expresso machine, however, Dr. Nemesis inscribed a note to watch a video reminding them to capture ForgetMeNot, starting the time loop all over again.

11. THE ADVENTURES OF CYCLOPS & PHOENIX

Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix

In this limited series by Scott Lobdell and Gene Ha, Scott and Jean Summers’ honeymoon is ruined when their consciousnesses are pulled forward 2000 years into the future and placed into clone bodies by Rachel Summers. Rachel explains that Scott and Jean currently have the best chance for raising their son Nathan in the future. Also, they made a clone baby of Nathan while they were at it, who doesn’t have Apocalypse’s techno organic virus. Naming their clones Slym and Redd Dayspring, we are privy to 12 years of the couple raising the mutant who would be Cable, shown in combination with the tending of Stryfe by Apocalypse, Cable’s clone and Apocalypse’s heir.

It may have been tragic for fans when Scott and Jean’s baby was snatched away to the future initially, but this miniseries gave us that bit of character growth that had been previously denied us, establishing Cable’s formative years. In fact, its events will later be mentioned in “Legion Quest,” as Scott and Jean felt it was best to keep their identities as “Slym” and “Redd” — the worst secret identity names ever — a secret.

10. LEGION QUEST

Legion Quest

“Legion Quest” is marketed today as “The Age of Apocalypse Prelude,” which doesn’t do Legion justice. Legion, the autistic/acute schizophrenic mutant son of Charles Xavier (who now has his own show), has awoken from a coma with his mind somewhat intact and psionic powers stronger than ever before. Legion believes that his father’s dream of mutant coexistence would’ve been achieved had it not been for Magneto’s interference. So, he travels 20 years back in time to kill Magneto, when he and Charles were working together in Israel. Four X-Men are dragged along — Bishop, Iceman, Psylocke, and Storm — whose mission is to stop Legion from changing the past, or else the M’Kraan Crystal will shatter in the present, destroying the universe.

“Legion Quest” is full of engagingly sharp dialogue and great splash pages, exploring the nature of Magneto and Charles’ friendship and how, even as foes, the two pushed one another to the best of their abilities. In fact, Charles wouldn’t have been as powerful a telepath had it not been for Eric crippling him, forcing Charles to compensate. That being said, its super weird that Charles believes an Asian woman with a British accent is as bizarre as a man made out of ice.

9. X-FACTOR: MESSIAH COMPLEX

X-Factor Messiah War

Cyclops wanted to see how things would turn out in “X-Men: Messiah Complex,” so he sends two of Multiple Man’s clones (dupes) to scout out two alternate futures. The plan is for the dupes to then kill themselves when they’ve gained enough information, which will be automatically added to Jamie Madrox prime’s memories in the present. One dupe and Layla Miller find themselves in a dystopian future, Bishop’s future specifically. The dupe and Miller are thrown into mutant internment camps, disappearing for several issues. When Layla Miller does return, however, she pulls current Madrox prime into the future of the Summers Rebellion, where mutants rise up against humans and Sentinels. The rebellion is led by the daughter of Emma Frost and Cyclops, a Cyborg Cyclops and Layla.

The really cool thing about this time-travel tale is that it is inherently tied to the entire history of the “X-Factor” comic up to this point in time. Likewise, the senile Dr. Doom is as intimidating as ever, despite being hooked up to an oxygen tank. Not only is the cliffhanger from “Messiah Complex” triumphantly resolved, but we also finally learn how Layla “knows things” in the first place.

8. X-FORCE/CABLE: MESSIAH WAR

Serving as the second act of The X-Men Messiah Trilogy, “Messiah War” is two stories: Cable and Hope hopping through time on a one-way time machine, trying to evade Bishop, whose main mission has been changed to kill Hope. Meanwhile, Cyclops’ mutant wetworks team, X-Force, has been giving time machine wrist bands to track down Cable. X-Force is pulled into The Age of Stryfe, Cable’s evil clone, who took advantage of the power vacuum while Apocalypse was gaining power. Stryfe and Bishop have erected a temporal trap, so that Styfe can ambush Cable and prove that he isn’t the clone, while Bishop will just off whomever is left standing. Serving as our guide to this dystopian future is Deadpool, who got to the end of time the slow way, trapped in an industrial-sized freezer.

Part of the appeal of “Messiah War” is the pacing in which it is told. Every major player is given their own issue to explain their motivations, with characters double-crossing one another power shifting with nearly every panel. Likewise, “Messiah War” is filled with some of the most beautiful artwork and touching moments on this list.

7. DEADPOOL VS. X-FORCE

Deadpool vs X-Force Time

Taking place before Deadpool initially met his best buddy Cable and X-Force in “New Mutants” #98, “Deadpool vs. X-Force” has Deadpool stealing a time machine and shifting the tide of battle in key points of American history in order to fulfill a contract. This not only makes each subsequent battle Deadpool hops into more intense and steampunky, but also requires X-Force to undo Wade’s actions throughout time, at one point forcing Boom Boom and Cannonball to ensure that the Americans lose. The best part is issue #4, where Deadpool has to protect teenage Adolf Hitler from every time traveling assassin, ever. To be clear: Deadpool is not a Nazi, but he is trying to preserve the timeline, albeit in a Nazi-pool uniform.

“Deadpool vs. X-Force” is not only fun and gorgeous, but has Cable and Deadpool reuniting, paying tribute to their history, despite taking place before they even met. It’s four issues long, has Panzer Sentinels, and the recap pages that take place at the end of every issue — which are recaps for the issue you just read, as well as explanations of the concept of “nowness” in time-travel — are a bonus delight.

6. AGE OF ULTRON

Wolverine Age of Ultron

In Brian Michael Bendis’ “Age of Ultron,” Hank Pym’s robot child Ultron has finally taken over the world, reducing it to what is basically a zombie apocalypse, but with Ultrons instead of the undead. Knowing they have no hope of destroying Ultron in the present, the last group of superheroes have one last crazy (yet simple) plan to strike Ultron in the future using Doctor Doom’s time platform. Wolverine, however, has little qualms about messing with the time stream, breaking protocol and going back in time to kill Hank Pym.

“Age of Ultron” ranks so highly because it shows the Marvel heroes in a rare, desperate light. There’s a single silent page devoted to a Captain America who has reached his wits end, willing to intentionally alter decades of history for one last shot at freedom. As you may have guessed, messing with the timeline results in multiple alternate realities, and with it, Logan messing with the timeline even further. This messing with the timeline finally catches up with the X-Man, as we are treated to Logan fighting Logan, and greater repercussions for the multiverse.

5. X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM

Xorn Battle of The Atom

In “X-Men: Battle of The Atom,” the X-Men’s past present and future all come to a trifecta of mutant mayhem. Present-day Beast wanted to inspire the X-Men of the past, so he brought original beast and the first class of X-Men briefly to the present. The OG X-team decide to stay, however, prompting a future team of X-Men to time travel in to tell them to stop messing with the timeline already. This quickly turns into a debate on whether or not the original team should go back home, despite the fact that Cyclops almost blinked out of existence when his 16-year old self almost died in a Sentinel fight.

The future team, composed of Old Beast, a middle aged Kitty pride, a new Xorn, Molly Hayes, Ice Hulk, and Old Man Deadpool, are some great twists on classic characters, and prove to be some of the greatest new additions to the Marvel Timeline. Oh, and Deadpool totally geeks out over meeting Goldballs. Also, Old Deadpool (Oldpool) came from a future where apparently things got desperate enough to make Deadpool an X-Man.

4. DEADPOOL #11

Deadpool 11

In Joe Kelly and Pete Woods’ “Deadpool” #11, the Merc with a Mouth finally embraces the Spider-Man comparisons when he travels back in time to the events in “Amazing Spider-Man” #47. After Deadpool’s teleporter interacts with Doorman, the D-list teleporter from The Great Lakes Avengers, Deadpool finds himself flung into the past with Blind Al. Stuck in Peter’s high school years of 1967, Blind Al poses as Aunt May while Deadpool uses his image projector to pose as Peter, seeking out Weasel to figure out a way to get back to the present.

This issue is basically “Back to The Future” plus “Mystery Science Theatre 300” plus Deadpool, and it’s one of the best time travel and Deadpool comics because of it. The art and dialogue from John Romita and Stan Lee’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #47 is lovingly reproduced for the sole purpose of Deadpool’s ridicule. If anything, this is the one time-travel story where you want characters to keep history as unaltered as possible, from Kraven’s laser nipples to Mary Jane’s groovy time-appropriate lingo. Special shoutout goes to Deadpool’s “OMIGOD” upon discovering that both Harry and Norman Osborn have the same ridiculous cornrows/corduroy patches of hair.

3. NEW X-MEN: HERE COMES TOMORROW

Here Comes Tomorrow resized

“Here Comes Tomorrow” serves as a curtain call for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s “New X-Men” team, made in tribute to “Days of Future Past.” The last hope for the remnants of the mutant population against the genetically-altered mutant hordes of The Dark Beast is the Phoenix Egg, the next manifestation of the Phoenix force. “Here Comes Tomorrow” even starts with another Jean Grey funeral, just like the original, and hinges on just a simple idea being passed back through time. Incidentally, Rover, a reprogrammed Sentinel, serves as one of the greatest additions to the X-Men mythology.

“Here Comes Tomorrow” is not just a great time travel story, but a great end to one of the most beloved X-Men series. Characters you’ve invested time in through Morrison’s series prove themselves to be heroes, villains, or in the case of No-Girl, actually alive. “Here Comes Tomorrow” is the last stand of the last bits of the X-Men, tying in every element of the “New X-Men” series in one of the finest dystopian futures ever.

2. ALL-NEW X-MEN: ONE DOWN

All New X Men One Down

Spinning off of “Battle of The Atom,” “One Down” (“All-New X-Men” #25 – 30) focuses on The Future Brotherhood of Mutants’ origins, as we see them come up with the idea to time travel, as well as the beauty behind every time travel plot that no other villain ever realizes. You see, whenever the Future Brotherhood fails a mission or dies in the past, a surviving member sends a letter to The Brotherhood right before they go back in time, detailing how to avoid failure and adapt accordingly.

This story arc by Brian Michael Bendis stands out for having actually intelligent super-villains with access to a time machine. The second we see Raze, the son of Wolverine and Mystique, and Charles Xavier’s son (not Legion) come up with the basic rules for time-travel, they get a letter detailing their plan for “Battle of The Atom,” why they fail, and how to go about it again. Likewise, in direct reaction to “Legion Quest,” Raze points out that they cannot attack the X-Men at a point in time earlier than when they were born, lest they accidentally undo their own existence.

1. ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN AND WOLVERINE

Astonishing SpiderMan and Wolverine

In this miniseries by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert, Spider-Man and Wolverine are tripping through time after foiling The Orb’s time-diamond heist. Starting out in prehistoric times, Spider-Man goes all Doc Brown in trying to preserve the timeline, while Wolverine protects a pack of protohumans known as the Small Folk. The true stars of the show, however, are Czar and Big Murder, two gangbangers traveling through time to gain its best weapons, and mess with Genghis Khan, Crusader knights and our heroes just because they can.

At one point, Wolverine suggests that a future version of Czar should go back in time to warn him about the beatdown he’s about to get, and a future version of Czar immediately shows up. Their weapon of choice is the Stick — a time-diamond encrusted baseball bat that can knock you back into kindergarten. The best part, however, is that, given the fact that he helped the Small Folk at the bookends of civilization, Wolverine is hailed as a messiah. To praise Him, the Small Folk have prepared the sacred liquid, just as Wolverine taught them at the beginning of time. Wolverine: soldier, Avenger, and inventor of beer.

Did we leave out your favorite tale of X-Men mutating the timeline? Let us know in the comments!

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