The X-Men are one of the oldest superhero teams around, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1964. We've seen the roster change throughout the years, but one thing always remained the same: the characters treated each other like family. We've seen friendships like Jean Grey and Storm, Dazzler and Psylocke and Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey blossom before our very eyes. Romantic relationships, as well, with the likes of Jean Grey and Cyclops, Storm and Forge, and Kitty and Colossus as some of the fandom's most popular couples. There's also been heartache and the passing of some of our favorite characters (who sometimes feel like family), as with real life. At times Jean, Cyclops, Professor X, Psylocke and Wolverine have all had their lives ended but eventually returned, in some shape or form.
However, not all X-Men are created equally, as we've seen several former villains try and redeem themselves, with varying degrees of success. While they all fight for the same cause, each X-Man did it in their own special way, some more effective than others. Underdogs quickly became fan-favorites and mutants who have been around for ages quietly disappeared into the background. Some of the most popular X-Men aren't necessarily the best, and some that aren't as well known, turned out to be some of the best members of the mutants-only squad. With all of this in mind, CBR takes a look at the rarely celebrated X-Men who gave their all, and a group who could've done way better with what they had.
20 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: BANSHEE
A former Interpol agent and NYPD officer, Banshee was quite a bit older than most of the X-Men when he officially joined in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Possessing a sonic scream he's able to focus into concussive bursts, his powers also enable him to fly. He was a full-time member for only a short time before relocating to Muir Island to be with his longtime love, Dr. Moira MacTaggert.
Although he was only a full-fledged X-Man for a brief period of time, Banshee returned to the spotlight as the mentor of the junior team, Generation X. He perished shortly thereafter, but has recently been resurrected.
19 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: HAVOK
Cyclops's younger brother has never quite lived up to his potential. He would be a mainstay member of the X-Men during the '80s, and when the '90s came around he would be the leader of a new, government-sanctioned, X-Factor. Then, it just kind of went all downhill from there.
From leaving Polaris at the altar to turning evil while under the influence of Emma Frost, Havok has always been... problematic, at best. Although, he has recently formed a new team of X-Men in an attempt to redeem himself, so here's hoping that turns out for the best.
18 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: ROGUE
There have been several villains who have become X-Men, however they usually return to their former ways sooner or later. Rogue would be an exception -- a reformed bad guy who was raised by Mystique and was a member of her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Unable to control her life energy-sucking powers, she sought help from Professor X and became a fan-favorite member of the team.
Rogue became one of the most prominent living examples of Xavier's dream for peace among humans and mutants. Despite being cursed with the ability to literally disable people with a touch, Rogue has managed to find happiness with Gambit.
17 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: GAMBIT
A former friend of Storm's, Gambit gave up his life as a New Orleans thief to be a part of Professor X's team of X-Men. Along the way, he would fall in love with Rogue, who eventually reciprocated his feelings. Then Gambit became a horseman of Apocalypse and was really never the same.
He betrayed the team on quite a few occasions, most notably while working for Mr. Sinister (as well as being part of the infamous "Mutant Massacre"). It's only been recently that Gambit has been back in the good graces of the team. He even tied the knot with Rogue, starring in Mr. and Mrs. X.
16 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: DAZZLER
Originally designed to be a disco singer, complete with roller skates and mirror-ball necklace, Alison Blaire went on to explore other genres of music including rock and adult contemporary. While it's easy to dismiss the singer-turned-X-Man as nothing more than a bad marketing ploy, Alison has used her light transmutation abilities to fight for good as one of the most popular team members to come out of the '80s.
Despite her singing career, she always made time for the X-Men when it counted, becoming particularly close to Psylocke and Northstar over the years. Recent discussions have even suggested Dazzler could be an omega-level mutant.
15 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: EMMA FROST
You would think the destruction of her first class of students would be enough to knock some sense into Emma Frost. Well, for a while, it did. Following the ends of her Hellions, Emma became a mentor to the junior team of X-Men, Generation X. She would eventually become a full-fledged X-Man and even have a romance with Cyclops.
However, Emma has recently reverted back to her evil ways, essentially pushed back to her old ways following the war with the Inhumans. While redemption was almost a certainty for Emma, it turns out she just couldn't be trusted.
14 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: JEAN GREY
Jean Grey was the only female member of the original team of X-Men and her presence was frequently downplayed as the damsel-in-distress during the team's early years. Ironically, Jean wouldn't be taken seriously until she "perished" and became Phoenix, which is just a very long story. When she returned to the fold, she was mostly used to emphasize the rival between Cyclops and Wolverine, as they both had feelings for her.
Following her latest resurrection, Jean has become the leader the X-Men needed in the wake of Cyclops and Professor X's demise. She has a renewed determination to keep Xavier's dream of peaceful co-existence alive.
13 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: MARROW
A former Morlock who joined the team at Callisto's request, Marrow was a brief member of the X-Men even though she felt like she never really fit in. Perhaps that's why she disappeared for a while, only to re-emerge a casualty of the Weapon X program and then eventually a member of X-Force for a short period of time.
While the character herself is complex with a nifty power, she never quite caught on with readers. Writers didn't seem to know what to do with Marrow most of the time, only portraying her as a frequent victim. She deserved better.
12 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: BISHOP
One of several time-displaced mutants in the X-Men's universe, Bishop came from a dystopian future where all the X-Men had been destroyed. He was part of the XSE, a sort of mutant police force that took the place of the X-Men. He traveled back to the present to stop several mutant criminals who had escaped his time but eventually found himself as a member of the team.
Despite his somewhat aggressive tactics, Bishop eventually adjusted to his new surroundings and came to believe in Xavier's dream. He will do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of his species.
11 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: CANNONBALL
Kentucky-bred Sam Guthrie was a founding member of the New Mutants and tried his best to shape himself in the X-Men's image. He ended up being co-leader of the New Mutants and their later incarnation, X-Force, before joining the big leagues and finally becoming a member of the X-Men.
While it was nice to see some actually progression for one or the original members of the New Mutants, once Cannonball joined the X-Men he seemed to just fade into the background with no real storylines. We expected better for a character who had been around for so long.
10 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: CECILIA REYES
A former medical doctor who specialized in trauma cases, Dr. Cecilia Reyes found herself enmeshed in the X-Men's world following Bastion's quest to extinguish the mutant race. She became a reluctant member of the X-Men for a brief time but preferred to stay out of superheroics. However, she stayed on with the team as a supporting member.
Cool under pressure and logical, Cecilia immediately bonded with Beast (in an alternate future they end up married) and has worked with the team on several occasion during medical crisis. She was instrumental in helping Karma regain herself after being possessed by Ms. Hatchi.
9 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: LIFEGUARD
Literally a former lifeguard, Heather Cameron briefly joined the team during their X-Treme X-Men phase. She had the rather vague ability to manifest whatever was necessary to save the life of someone in danger around her, including her own. Despite having this awesome powerset, she didn't see much action in later years and became more of a background player.
There was an intriguing storyline in which it was suspected that Lifeguard and her brother were the children of the Shi'ar warrior Deathbird. However, this arc was dropped following a change in the creative teams behind the scenes. Such a shame.
8 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: M
Originally starting out as the "mean girl" member of the junior X-Men team Generation X, Monet St. Croix eventually grew up to become quite the fighter. Although she never really lost her arrogance, Monet went on to become a member of X-Factor Investigations and then a member of the all-female team of X-Men.
Given her superstrength and flight, it's easy to pass her off as a second-generation Rogue, but Monet grew into her own over the years, becoming a force to be reckoned with. She even managed remain friends with her former Generation X teammates, Jubilee and Husk.
7 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: HUSK
The younger sister of Cannonball, Paige Guthrie wanted nothing more in life than to be just like her brother. She was a founding member of the junior X-Men team, Generation X, and quickly became the team's overachiever. Paige often pushed herself, and her powers, to the limit while on missions just to prove herself.
She eventually got her wish of becoming a full-fledged X-Man, however the writers promptly destroyed the character to many fans by putting her in a weird relationship with a much older Angel. Then, she started to become mentally unstable when using her powers and began a toxic relationship with Toad.
6 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: SAGE
Sage was originally portrayed as the personal assistant to the Hellfire Club's Sebastian Shaw, however, an extended retcon revealed that she was one of the first mutants discovered by Charles Xavier who convinced her to be a double agent. It would be years before she would become a full-fledged member of the team, but she would also join Excalibur and the Exiles at different points.
As if being a Hellfire Club spy for years wasn't cool enough, Sage is essentially a living computer who can also jump-start a mutant's abilities. She became an integral member of the Extreme X-Men iteration of the team.
5 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: HOPE SUMMERS
Following the infamous "House of M" and "Decimation" storylines, Hope was pitched as the new mutant messiah as she was the first one born after M-Day. While she did help gather new mutants across the world and used her mimicry powers to fight various threats as a member of the X-Men, Hope also faded into the background.
Aside from her close emotional tie to Cable, Hope was pretty much used as a secondary character since her debut. She briefly wielded the power of the Phoenix, which make her relevant for a bit, but then the writers dropped her character like a hot potato.
4 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: FIRESTAR
Angelica Jones was originally a member of the White Queen's team of Hellions but eventually came over to the side of good and stayed. She would go on to be a founding member of the New Warriors and then a short stint as a member of the Avengers. Angelica would take a brief absence from being a superhero after being diagnosed with cancer.
It wasn't until the mutant race got dangerously close to being wiped out that Firestar became a full-fledged member of the X-Men. She was essential in traveling with the team to Hell to rescue the soul of the deceased X-Man, Nightcrawler.
3 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: CYCLOPS
Frequently labeled the "boy scout" of the X-Men, Cyclops was a mainstay of the team since its original incarnation. He would eventually become field leader of the team and became one of Charles Xavier's most trusted confidants. However, following the death of his beloved Jean Grey, he changed, and not for the better.
Cyclops full embraced his darker side by delving into an intimate relationship with Emma Frost, which, in turn, started affecting his ability to lead the team effectively. He started making questionable decisions during battles, the culmination being him killing his mentor and friend, Charles Xavier.
2 SURPRISINGLY GOOD: BLINK
Originally an unstable mutant with the ability to teleport, Blink was one of the many mutants captured by the Phalanx during their invasion of Earth. She bonded with other teen mutant captives like Jubilee and Husk, who would go on to form the junior X-Men team, Generation X. However, Blink sacrificed herself in order to save her newfound friends.
A more confident and assertive Blink appeared in the Age of Apocalypse crossover, and as a result of her redefinition and increased exposure, became a fan-favorite character. She would be brought back to lead the time-traveling band of mutants called the Exiles.
1 SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTER: FORGE
Forge has a long and varied history with the X-Men. While he's usually on the side of good, he had previously been manipulated the Adversary into stripping Storm's powers and trying to kill the team. He would eventually become a full-fledged member of a substitute team of X-Men on Muir Island following the supposed deaths of the main team.
He stuck around for a while as essentially the team's mechanic and had a turbulent relationship with Storm along the way. Forge even became the de facto leader of the government-sanctioned X-Factor, which seemed to be his only time to shine.