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The 15 Best X-Men Comics Of The '90s

X-Men Comics In The '90s

The '90s were a wild time for comics. Variants, new #1 issues and major events drew in a new generation of readers (as well as plenty of spectators). Some dismiss the decade because of this excess, when comics sold by the millions based almost entirely on cool covers, cool creators, cool gimmicks or some combo of the three. While there's some truth to that sentiment, there are a lot of diamonds in the radical rough.

RELATED: 15 Forgotten Marvel Comics Gems From The '90s You Need To Read

The X-Men definitely dove into the '90s headfirst, with new #1s, inventive variants and annual events designed to grab attention. But if you excise the excess, there are plenty of great issues that stand the test of time and are worth revisiting. Here, then, are the 15 best X-Men comics of the '90s.

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15X-MEN #25

X-Men 25

  • "Dreams Fade" (October 1993)
  • Writer: Fabian Nicieza
  • Penciler: Andy Kubert
  • Inker: Matt Ryan
  • Colorist: Joe Rosas
  • Letterer: Bill Oakley
  • Editor: Bob Harras

To celebrate the line's 30th anniversary, the X-books all crossed over in an event called "Fatal Attractions," which saw the team's first villain -- Magneto, the Master of Magnetism -- return with a vengeance. He secured his own hunk of land just outside Earth's atmosphere, crashing a kid's funeral and nearly killing X-Force's leader Cable in the process, and opened it up to any mutant who might be seeking sanctuary.

Led by Professor X, a strike team designed to take on Magneto head to head infiltrate the villain's space station. However, things don't end so well for either side. This action-packed issue, fraught with drama as the X-Men try to decide on the right course of action, ends with two momentous events that would play out for years to come: Magneto rips the adamantium right off of Wolverine's bones, and Xavier retaliates by wiping clean Magneto's mind. A good chunk of the decade would be defined by these two actions.

14X-MEN: ALPHA #1

X-Men Alpha 1

  • "Beginnings..." (February 1995)
  • Writer: Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid
  • Penciler: Roger Cruz and Steve Epting
  • Inker: Tim Townsend and Dan Panosian
  • Colorist: Steve Buccellato
  • Letterer: Richard Starkings
  • Editor: Bob Harras

As the best-selling comic of the decade, the X-Men line knew it could take unheard of risks. That's just what the X-Books did for their 1995 event, "Age of Apocalypse." The entire line was seemingly canceled, replaced by new series set in a new timeline defined by the fact that Professor X was murdered decades before he could form the X-Men. Without the X-Men to protect the world and the events of Xavier's death alerting the world to the existence of mutants ahead of schedule, Apocalypse awoke earlier than anticipated and easily conquered humanity.

Without the Internet, not much was known about this new status quo prior to the arrival of "X-Men Alpha" #1 and X-fans had no reason to think this wasn't the new reality. This double-sized issue acts as an overture for the massive, four-month-long event, introducing readers to an even more powerful Apocalypse and Magneto's darkly heroic team of X-Men. As far as opening issues go, "X-Men: Alpha" is an ambitious start to the decade's most ambitious event.

13UNCANNY X-MEN #334

Uncanny X-Men 334

  • "Dark Horizon" (July 1996)
  • Writer: Scott Lobdell
  • Penciler: Joe Madureira
  • Inker: Tim Townsend
  • Colorist: Steve Buccellato
  • Letterer: Richard Starkings
  • Editor: Bob Harras

Following the departure of Chris Claremont and Jim Lee a few years earlier, the partnership of Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira became a new high water mark for the franchise. Lobdell's character-driven stories paired well with Madureira's energetic, manga-influenced artwork. Both of those qualities combined for this issue, a prelude to the "Onslaught" event.

Possessing the secret of Onslaught's identity in his head, the Juggernaut arrives at the X-Men seeking aide. However, Gambit and Bishop attack him, since they only see one of the X-Men's most powerful villains striding towards their home. The rest of the issue unfolds in Lobdell's often-used vignette structure, as Cannonball has a tense conversation with a dismissive Xavier and Jean relays a terrifying encounter with the mysterious Onslaught to Cyclops. Madureira's art is topnotch here, as he moves deftly from kinetic action to moody atmosphere. A wave of dread washes over the X-Men, culminating in Jean Grey agreeing to assist Juggernaut, just before things get really dark.

12GENERATION NEXT #4

Generation Next 4

  • "Bye" (June 1995)
  • Writer: Scott Lobdell
  • Penciler: Chris Bachalo
  • Inker: Mark Buckingham
  • Colorist: Steve Buccellato
  • Letterer: Richard Starkings
  • Editor: Bob Harras

"Age of Apocalypse" used its dark setting to reimagine plenty of X-Men, including the usually optimistic Kitty Pryde and Colossus. "Generation Next" put them, now battle-hardened and morally gray freedom fighters, in charge of training the next generation of X-Men. The team was tasked with picking up a component necessary to resetting the timeline and defeating Apocalypse: Colossus' sister Magik. Unfortunately for the teen squad, they had to dive right into the heart of an Apocalypse-controlled labor camp to liberate the teleporting mutant.

This issue, "Generation Next's" finale, pulls zero punches. The alternate timeline gave Lobdell and Chris Bachalo a reason to go for broke and they did. The team manages to rescue Illyana just as their cover is blown, but they aren't all fast enough to escape. The issue has the kind of gut-wrenching finality to it that you don't see all that often. When you remember that these heroes are all teenagers ostensibly on their first mission, it hits you even harder.

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