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The Best X-Men Stories for New Fans (And Where to Find Them)

X-Men The Animated Series

To put it mildly, the X-Men can be a little bit intimidating. With so many alternate realities, body swaps, spin-off teams and time-travelers, the X-Men exist in one of the most notoriously confusing and convoluted corners of the Marvel Universe. Despite that, the team still has some of Marvel's most beloved heroes and stars in some of the most iconic Marvel epics of all time.

While House of X and Powers of X are in middle of an ambitious overhaul of the X-Men's world, the team's history is filled with solid starting points for fans. Whether you have distant memories of X-Men cartoons and action figures or want to get familiar with the X-Men before they join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here are some of the best places to start reading about Marvel's mutants.

RELATED: The Best Wolverine Comics for New Fans (and Where to Find Them)

X-Men: Second Genesis

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Even though the X-Men were created in the 1960s, the team didn't really feel fully formed until characters like Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler joined original X-Men like Cyclops and Jean Grey in the 1970s.

The massive X-Men Epic Collection: Second Genesis collects the beginning of the X-Men's most celebrated era. From finding out what happened to the original X-Men team to this new team's first encounter with Magneto, Alpha Flight and the Phoenix Force, this is the beginning of modern X-Men history. Along with work from comics legends like Dave Cockrum, Len Wein and John Byrne, this volume also contains the start of writer Chris Claremont's 17 year-long stint as the X-Men's chief architect.

X-Men: Season One

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Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's earliest X-Men tales are an essential part of the history of the Marvel Universe. While they introduced icons like Magneto, Cyclops, and Professor X, they can be a little bit unapproachable for modern readers.

However, X-Men: Season One, by Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and Jamie McKelvie, looks back at the original X-Men with a distinctly modern sensibility. With vibrant art, this graphic novel focuses on a teenage Jean Grey as she and her fellow X-Men begin forge relationships, learn what it means to be a mutant in the Marvel Universe and meet some of their greatest foes for the first time.

New X-Men: E is for Extinction

New X-Men Frank Quitely

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After protecting a world that hated and feared them as traditional superheroes for years, the X-Men evolved into something different in the early 2000s. Shortly after the X-Men made their cinematic debut, acclaimed comics writer Grant Morrison and a roster of solid artists led by Frank Quitely pushed the X-Men into a new era with a sophisticated, totally unique spin on classic X-Men tales.

New X-Men: E is for Extinction collects the beginning of Morrison and Quitely's run, which pushes the team past simple superheroics. As mutants become overnight celebrities and Xavier's school opens its doors wider than ever before, the X-Men face off against Cassandra Nova, a powerful villain with a mysterious connection to Professor X.

Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

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After creating cult-favorite shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, Joss Whedon jumped into the world of the X-Men in the mid-2000s. Along with critically-acclaimed artist John Cassaday, Whedon took the X-Men back to their superhero roots with the humor and jaw-dropping reveals that his shows made famous.

In the aptly-named Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday Ultimate Collection, the X-Men reintroduce themselves to the world as true blue superheroes. As the team deals with the fallout of a "cure" that can remove mutant powers, the X-Men face new threats and reunite with some old friends in truly shocking moments.

X-Men: Mutant Genesis

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Between X-Men: The Animated Series, hundreds of action figures and video games like Marvel vs. Capcom, the X-Men were an unbeatable pop culture force in the 1990s, and X-Men: Mutant Genesis laid the groundwork for a lot of that success.

Collecting the beginning of an immensely successful relaunch from departing X-Men mastermind Chris Claremont and superstar artist Jim Lee, this collection sees a massive cast of X-Men deal with threats like Magneto and Omega Red in stories that mix drama with high-octane action. While it's a nostalgic thrill for the generation who grew up with X-Men: The Animated Series, Lee's art still looks as dynamic and energetic as it did when it was first published.

X-Men: Grand Design

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In one of the most ambitious X-Men comics ever published, writer/artist Ed Piskor retold the first 30 years of X-Men stories over the course of his recently-completed three volume series, X-Men: Grand Design. Instead of being a simple primer on the X-Men, Piskor weaves disparate storylines together into a streamlined story that offers a gently tweaked version of X-Men history.

The first volume in this trilogy covers everything from the dawn of civilization, Charles Xavier's birth and Wolverine's WWII adventures to the full adventures of the original X-Men team. With Piskor's obsessive attention to detail and idiosyncratic style, these densely-packed story is an ideal crash course on the X-Men for new and old X-Men fans alike.

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