Children of the Atom: X-Men Universe Guide

The X-Men are a team of mutants who do their best to stop evil mutants from hurting humanity. Unlike some traditional Superheroes, they are not crime fighters. They only show up when enormous danger rears its head. 

I’ve been reading, watching, and keeping up with the X-Men for as long as I can remember. From Wolverine punching Cyclops in the gut after they left Morph behind. To Kitty Pryde saving the entire world by phasing a massive bullet through the planet then floating off into space a martyr, breaking readers’ hearts.

The history and lore of the X-Men are vast and full of flavor. Whoever your favorite character is, they’ve probably had a good story dedicated to them. Whichever character you think is the strongest, they’ve been able to show off their might. 

The villains, the drama, the friendships, and the battles that make up the X-Men lore are what make them my favorite superhero team of all time. Keep in mind almost all of the X-Men started as nothing more than students at Professor Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning.

And there are a lot of students.

The Original X-Men

There were only six X-Men at the beginning: Charles Xavier and his five students. 

The students were outcasts from the world for being different, but they didn’t hate the world for it. They instead trained to defend it from Mutants who did. All the while, they learned to use their power better, grow from teenagers into adults and develop lifelong friendships with one another. 

The original team was none other than: 

Charles Xavier AKA Professor X

  • Powers: Telepathy (The ability to read and control minds).
  • Special Notes: One of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel Universe.

Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops

  • Powers: Powerful blasts of energy that burst from his eyes, known as optic blasts. 
  • Special Notes: It’s proven that Cyclops has rarely used his full power because he is afraid of what it could do. Iron Man once estimated it to be equal to a Nuclear Reactor’s Energy Output. He once knocked the Hammer out of Thor’s hand and even caused pain to the Doctor Strange Enemy, the dark God Dormammu. 

Jean Grey, AKA Marvel Girl

  • Powers: Telekinesis (The power to move or manipulate things with her mind) and minor telepathy.
  • Special Notes: As Marvel Girl, her powers were limited to light shields and floating or helping to calm angry enemies and maybe disarm them. When she later becomes Phoenix, her power rival a Gods. Destruction and creation within her fingertips.

Henry McCoy AKA Beast

  • Powers: Enhanced Strength, Acrobatics, and Reflexes. 
  • Special Notes: Henry is often just called Hank. Hank’s big brain can be a problem for him, finding himself more curious with questions and getting distracted or manipulated. However, his brain means that he brings more than strength into combat. Many of the best X-Men gadgets are because of Henry McCoy.

Bobby Drake AKA Iceman

  • Powers: Creates ice from his body and can control that ice.
  • Special Notes: As he got older, he became less fun and more serious. So, too, did his powers grow. These days Iceman is considered to have one of the strongest powers in the world. Still, he is often defeated due to his hasty nature. 

Warren Worthington the 3rd AKA Angel 

  • Powers: Flight with wings. These wings are also quite powerful.
  • Special Notes: When Angel gets captured by Apocalypse, his powers and looks change significantly. He becomes Archangel and gains dangerous metal wings that can shoot sharp steel feathers, a more durable body, and slightly increased strength. Yet, it seems he loses his charm. 

The Original X-Men’s Story 

Charles Xavier was readying the X-Men initially to face the threats of powerful, evil mutants who he knew wanted to wage war on humanity. First and foremost, his once best friend, Magneto, one of Professor X’s best friends from his life before the X-Men, would be the X-Men’s constant enemy. 

Like Xavier, Magneto took in mutants with his Brotherhood of Mutants over the years. However, he made an army and went to war on humans because of how angry they made him. Luckily for us, Xavier’s students were usually better at their job. 

The original run lasted for around 66 issues. It introduced the Sentinels and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, to name just a few. These humble beginnings snowball into a hundred storylines, the destruction of the X-Men time and time again, and paves the way for some of the most popular Superheroes in Comic Book History. 

Let’s go over a few more of the most infamous X-Men in the team’s history. 

See also: Batman Universe Guide: Welcome to Gotham City

The Best of the Best

Ororo Munroe, AKA Storm

  • Powers: Mentally connected to and able to manipulate the very forces of nature that make up the weather. Winds, lightning, rain, snow, hail, and even keep herself safe from bullets and blasts by maintaining a shield of static energy from the atmosphere around her.
  • Special Notes: Because of her tragic childhood, she fears tight spaces. She is claustrophobic, and it may be her only weakness. In hand-to-hand combat, even powerless, she is a good enough fighter to dethrone the leader of the Morlocks and go toe to toe with the Black Panther.

Logan AKA Wolverine (or James Howlett)

  • Powers: Heightened Senses, Enhanced Strength, Rapid Healing, and Retractable Claws.
  • Special Notes: It was once shown that Wolverine could regenerate from any damage, even if it is melted down to his bones. His soul has become connected to the physical world, and he can ‘will’ his body back from just one atom, but only if he can overcome the pull from the other side. He has also been trained in all fighting styles known to man…or alien. 

Kurt Wagner AKA Nightcrawler

  • Powers: Great Agility, Teleportation.
  • Special Notes: Nightcrawler can teleport between great or short distances, but he must either see where he is jumping or have a good mental image of the location. If not, he could directly teleport himself or someone else into a wall—kind of not living through that. Unlike many X-Men, he is very religious. His belief in God is usually of the positive type, lending him to being kind and forgiving. 

Kitty(Kate) Pride AKA Shadowcat

  • Powers: Can Phase through any physical object, cause electrical malfunctions when doing so, and can cause others to phase as well simply by touch.
  • Special Notes: Kitty becomes an expert at hand-to-hand combat and good enough with her powers to be considered one of the biggest threats in later issues. A touch from her could phase you into the molten core of the Earth, or fuse your body with the wall, be thankful she uses violence as a last resort. She and Colossus have a long history of being in and out of a relationship.

Piotr(Peter) Rasputin AKA Colossus

  • Powers: Can turn his entire skin and organs into a unique, organic steel form. Superhuman Strength.
  • Special Notes: Though it appears impossible to damage him in his metal form, Colossus feels each attack, which is why someone like Wolverine could defeat him. Make no mistake, though; it was a life lesson because Logan wasn’t happy with him breaking little Kitty’s heart. Colossus and Wolverine usually get along quite well and are one of the best pairings in combat. 

Anna Marie AKA Rogue

  • Powers: Drains the energy and life force of anyone she touches. Due to holding onto the original Ms. Marvel for too long as her last act as a villain, she also has flight and superhuman strength. 
  • Special Notes: Gaining memories of those she absorbs powers from can sometimes cause her to go insane, which causes her powers to have limitations. 

Remy LeBeau AKA Gambit

  • Powers: Can charge up small objects with kinetic energy causing them to explode in seconds. He usually does this with playing cards, but he has been shown to blow up more significant things.
  • Special Note: Gambit is always on the border of being a bad guy and repeatedly betrays the X-Men. He falls in love with and eventually marries Rogue, finally staying a hero.

Sean Cassidy AKA Banshee

  • Powers: Powerful sound waves which can also grant him temporary flight.
  • Special Notes: Banshee was often a team leader in small missions and became a key member of Excalibur. He’s credited as a mutant who makes the most use of his otherwise average power.

Elizabeth Braddock AKA Psylocke

  • Powers: Psionic Blades and telepathy.
  • Special Notes: The mind inside Psylocke’s body is from an original British spy whose mutant power transferred her mind into the body of a would-be assassin. That is why she appears Japanese but has a British accent. Her signature purple blade is far more dangerous than most realize. It can cut right into your mind, meaning no shield can stop it. 

Jubilation Lee AKA Jubilee

  • Powers: Shoots energy from her hands that is lightly concussive(like a heavy punch) and resembles fireworks.
  • Special Notes: As a teenager, her powers were often scoffed at, but when pushed, the concussive blasts of these fireworks have been known to blow holes through steel.

Lucas Bishop AKA Bishop

  • Powers: Can absorb most forms of energy that strike him, lessening the damage, and then redistribute it into powerful blasts through his own hands, a weapon he may be wielding or to enhance his strength.
  • Special Notes: Bishop came from the future; he is THEE time traveler when it comes to heroes. He often works alone more so than with the team. His character once had so much continuity that if you saw Bishop in two different Universes or timelines, unlike other characters, he remembered all the events in both comics.

Alison Blaire AKA Dazzler

  • Powers: Can turn sound into damaging light beams.
  • Special Notes: Dazzler is a world-famous singer and recording artist (in the Marvel Universe). Her excellent dancing background made it easy for her to learn hand-to-hand combat; she is good in a fight. Also, her powers are hard to defend against because the sound she turns to energy beams could come from any direction.

Laura Kinney AKA X-23/Wolverine

  • Powers: Retractable claws, heightened senses, and incredible healing.
  • Special Notes: X-23 is technically a clone of Wolverine(his daughter) created to replace his purpose in the Weapon X program and become a killer. However, she is rescued and proves to be a hero over a long time. Still, memories of the bloodshed lead to a real father-daughter-like relationship between her and Logan, who suffers from similar guilt. She eventually takes the title of Wolverine herself when Logan passes on.

Emma Stone AKA White Queen

  • Powers: Can turn the outer layer of her skin into diamond, including shielding over her eyes. A powerful telepath. 
  • Special Notes: You’ll see this last member I decided to list here is often an enemy of the X-Men as part of or even a leader of the Hellfire Club. She eventually becomes a love interest for Cyclops and a good mentor for students who aren’t ‘good’ right away because she understands them.

There are so many more X-Men; in fact, a complete list can be found here, but this group will help lead you into the world of X-Men and some of the biggest story arcs that have shaped their lives. 

It is not only the heroes that make a story worth reading but also the villains. Here are a few of the most essential villains the X-Men have ever faced.

The Best of the Worst

Erik Lehnsherr AKA Magneto (or Max Eisenhardt)

  • Powers: Can manipulate magnetic forces, including metals and, to some extent, gravitational elements in the Earth, asteroids, and even within our bloodstream. 
  • Special Notes: Magneto’s willpower once grew so strong that he could rebuild his destroyed body by manipulating the magnetic forces of the Earth. His helmet protects him from Xaviers Telepathy, the one power he is scared of. Because of their friendship, at one time, Magneto agreed to lead the X-Men and try things Xavier’s way. It went okay for a while…only for a while.

Raven Darkholme AKA Mystique

  • Powers: She can shift her body into any humanoid form but does not gain the full extent of their powers.
  • Special Notes: Mystique is far older than she appears due to how her mutation makes her age. She is good with all weapons and an excellent fighter. However, her true danger is her cunning. She often outsmarts, out-plans, and outmaneuvers both those she is working with and those she is working against.

Cain Marko AKA The Juggernaut

  • Powers: Insane Superhuman Strength and toughness. Practically impenetrable skin. 
  • Special Notes: This is Charles Xavier’s stepbrother. Usually, he is a criminal that even the police and military don’t bother trying to catch. This is because his powers are from a crystal, so not even mutant repression technology can stop him from walking through a nuclear explosion. Also, he isn’t usually a menace, not a good guy for sure, but generally just robbing a bank and moving on. He hates his brother, Professor X, and goes out of his way to take part in any attack on the X-Men. He is weak to telepathy (mind-reading), so he keeps a helmet to protect him from telepaths. 

Nathaniel Essex AKA Mr. Sinister

  • Powers: He can manipulate his molecular structure, has some concussive blasts, enhanced strength, doesn’t age.
  • Special Notes: Mr. Sinister is a scientist that is always trying to breed the “perfect” mutant from the genes of those he meets. He finds the perfect match between the lovers, Jean Grey and Scott Summers(Cyclops). He also finds that Cyclops’s optic blasts can destroy his molecular structure, meaning it’s the only attack that can kill him.

En Sabah Nur AKA Apocalypse

  • Powers: Superhuman Strength, Extremely Tough Skin, Growth(can become giant), Energy Manipulation(can fire energy blasts), Regrowing of damaged limbs, Immortality
  • Special Notes: Apocalypse, although seemingly unbeatable, does have a limit to his abilities. It seems upon taking enough damage and exerting himself for a long enough time, he has to return to his ancient ship to regenerate fully. This can sometimes take many years. He is also one of the few villains who have conquered the world. Often referenced as “The First Mutant.”

Sebastian Shaw

  • Powers: Absorbs damage and builds it up as energy, increasing his strength and durability. Has been known to reach Hulk-level strength.
  • Special Notes: Shaw is an expert at manipulating people and using his brains, but his power does have limits. By overloading his absorption ability with too much energy, the sort of “self-destructs.” Often the leader of the Hellfire Club.

Sentinels

  • Powers: These are usually giant machines with retractable cables with claw-grabbing arms, rocket punching fists, flight, rigid metal bodies, laser eyes, and in the future, even adaptable to the damage they receive.
  • Special Notes: Bolivar Trask was initially made to hunt down and capture renegade mutants. He believed mutants would end people, like himself and his friends and family, something Magneto only helped make seem more real. Through the X-Men, he was shown the evil of this idea and sacrificed himself to destroy the first Sentinel lab.

Amahl Farouk, AKA The Shadow King

  • Powers: Strong Telepathy and the ability to possess others by switching his mind into theirs and sending their conscience into the Astral Plane. He now exists only in the Astral Plane(where the mind goes when it travels out of a body), immortally.
  • Special Notes: Shadow King is not only a constant threat; he is one of the few beings that can spar with Professor X on the Astral Plane. Shadow King once tried to control Storm when she was a child. He wanted to possess her god-like power, only to be thwarted by Xavier and cast into the Astral Plane permanently. 

Cassandra Nova

  • Powers: Mind Control, Immunity to Magic, Telekinesis, Regeneration, Intangibility, and other ridiculous powers. 
  • Special Notes: Cassandra is Charles Xavier’s evil, overpowered twin. Although I’m not the biggest fan of this type of character, she has done some mastermind strategies ruining the X-Men’s lives time and time again, and for that, I must add her in. Cassandra Nova once takes control of Professor X himself. She uses his mind powers to trick the Shi’ar Queen into having her fleet attack the Shi’ar empire, holy goodness.

A Few Important Friends

Morlocks

They are hundreds and, at one point, thousands of mutants that seek refuge from humanity’s judgment underground in a society of their own. They are neither villains nor heroes, often led by Callisto, but the X-Man Storm led them for a time. 

Moira MacTaggert

She is a human. She was recently revealed(2019) to be a mutant that returns to her original birth upon death, which is crazy!? She helps run the largest mutant research center globally on Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland. She and Professor X have a relationship that starts romantic but doesn’t last. She is a constant in the X-Men lore, and her son sadly becomes one of the most dangerous villains Proteus. 

The Shi’ar Empire

It is a vast space empire that rules a great deal of outer space. Generally a good version of the Kree, Professor Xavier develops a romantic connection with their Queen, Lilandra, also a powerful telepath. Professor X is proof you do not need legs to find love. 

It is revealed that their old leaders executed Scott Summer’s (Cyclops’s) mother and why he and Alex were orphans. Maybe the Shi’ar aren’t that good.

The Saga of the X-Men

Let’s get into some of the many stories that shape the X-Men’s history, now that you have a good idea of all the players who will take part in these tales. Let’s begin with the most infamous. 

The Dark Phoenix Saga

This is the arc in which The Hellfire Club slowly tricks Jean Grey into believing she is evil and becoming the Black Queen. Everyone learns the error of this decision. Once accepting the evil, the Phoenix Force sleeping inside Jean breaks free and controls her. She then becomes the Dark Phoenix. 

She becomes a threat to all the Marvel Universe, bringing the Shi’ar empire into the story to try and kill her. The X-Men do their best to bring her down and get Jean back.

A series of failures and conflicts ensue, but Jean gets control of her body again. The Shi’ar don’t care; she is still a threat. A battle for her life goes underway until it is just Cyclops and Jean Grey VS the Shi’ar Empires best.

Cyclops is defeated, and Jean’s sadness allows the Dark Phoenix to return. At last, the X-Men assist in taking down the Dark Phoenix. 

There is sadness, strength, and courage on levels that keep this X-Men saga as one of the highest-rated and most returned to stories in all X-Men lore. In the end, a benevolent Phoenix force returns Jean Grey to the team. It isn’t the last time the Dark Phoenix shows its face, and one day it will destroy her and Cyclops’s relationship and Jean Grey herself. 

The Mutant Massacre

A team was known as The Mauraders tracked down the peaceful Morlocks and kills 100s of them. The X-Men and X-Force show up to help, but they are not enough. Finally, Thor and many other heroes join in the fight pushing the Mauraders back. 

It’s a tragic story in the history of the X-Men, even more so when they learn the details of this attack. Mr. Sinister sent the Mauraders to collect mutant specimens and had their very own X-Man, Gambit, lead The Mauraders to the Morlocks. The guilt and regret aren’t enough to save him when this truth is revealed, and he is forced to leave the team for a long while and loses the love of his life, Rogue.

Fatal Attractions

The most impactful return of Magneto in the long history of the X-Men. He gathers his Acolytes and sends a message to every human and Superhero group on Earth. In anger, he uses the full extent of his powers to control their very bodies through iron in their blood. No hero stands against him, no Avenger, no X-member, all of them helpless to his full strength for the moment. He will wipe out humankind from his Space Station Avalon. Those who support mutant-kind are free to join him.

Colossus willingly decides to become an Acolyte after burying his little sister, losing faith in Xavier and his way of fighting for peace. 

In the last effort to stop Magneto, Professor X asks the help of a small group. Wolverine believes what needs to be done is putting Magneto down for good. 

Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue, Quicksilver, Jean Grey, and Professor X(in an exoskeleton) enter the space station. A virus created by Beast disables the Space Station, and a heated battle ensues in which Wolverine almost successfully kills Magneto. 

Magneto rips the Adamantium from Wolverines skeleton in one of the most intense moments in Comic History. Professor X does something unspeakable next, with Magneto’s helmet off and the others rushing Wolverine back to heal because his regeneration can’t keep up with the constant death from the attack.

Charles Xavier and Magneto have one last showdown. Professor X lobotomizes(makes him brain dead) Magneto. The X-Men’s oldest foe and Charles’s oldest friend are defeated. 

See also: Superman vs Darkseid: Battle of the Gods

Age of Apocalypse

My favorite alternate timeline is when Xavier, instead of Magneto, is accidentally killed in a time-traveling incident—leading to the X-Men not being around to stop Apocalypse. The other mutant groups fail where Xavier succeeded, and Apocalypse gains control of the world.

Wolverine is referred to as Weapon X and marries the secret agent Jean Grey. Those two work with the remaining human government to constantly try and take down Apocalypse and his Horsemen. Magneto is a hero in this timeline. He even marries Rogue and starts a new version of the X-Men with his son, Quicksilver. 

In his coolest iteration, Cyclops is a leader of Apocalypse’s forces. After a fight with Weapon X, he has only one eye, leaving that version of Wolverine with a permanently melted right hand. 

It introduces another of the cooler X-Men, Blink, who I’ll get more into after the sagas and changes the entire landscape of the X-Men Universe during its run. 

Bishop retains his memories as the time-traveling hero. He helps finally reset the world to how it should be, and the Age of Apocalypse becomes nothing more than a dream, for the most part. 

My Reading Suggestions

The First 25 issues of Astonishing X-men have some of my favorite writing.

Watch the 1992 Cartoon. It’s just a great cartoon that handles many comic book stories well.

 All of ‘House of M,’ in which Wanda Maximoff (The Scarlet Witch) changes reality itself.

The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire. That saga almost permanently alienates Professor X from the team, leaving Cyclops in charge.

Avengers VS the X-Men, in which the Dark Phoenix returns but can only complete her mission because Cyclops takes her side! 

Honorable Character Mentions

Illyana Rasputin:

Colossus’s sister and the mutant, Magik. She’s one of the most powerful characters when she isn’t dead(which is often), and she is not heroic. Her brother is often shown willing to sacrifice everyone for her safety.

Pixie:

The only Daughter of the villain Mastermind that becomes a hero. Also, my favorite new X-Man.

Lockheed:

Kitty Pryde’s alien pet dragon. Lockheed is almost always by Kitty’s side and helps her out of tricky situations.

Blink:

Eventually finding her way into this universe after being one of the coolest characters in the Age of Apocalypse timeline. 

Marrow:

Just a fun character design. Spikes can press out of her, and she can use them as weapons and throw them. 

Xorn: 

This poor hero loses his life in one of the later storylines with the newest X-Men. Before his death, he was a friendly mutant with a unique design. 

Morph:

One of the earliest X-Men was called Changeling initially. Sometimes a villain; he was a good friend to Wolverine and Beast in the original Animated Series. He’s a comedian. 

Havok:

Cyclops’s brother is an important character and originally an X-Man. He later is more associated with his team, the X-Factor.

Polaris: 

Magneto’s daughter and love interest of Havok is also a recurring X-Man. Like Havok, she is often more associated with the X-Factor.

Sunfire: 

One of the first Asian superheroes, he doesn’t stick around the team for too long, but you can see him with the Big Hero Six!

Forge:

Master inventor, mechanic, and gadget maker for the X-Men. Helps restore Storm’s mutant powers after her run as Team Leader.

Thunderbird:

One of the first Native American superheroes(an Apache). He is also one of the first X-men to ever die in a comic book.

Trivia

  • They have had many of their video games including the popular Arcade Game: X-Men
  • The well-known mutant Cable is the son of Scott Summers(Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor(Jean Grey’s clone).
  • Storm once defeated Cyclops in fair combat to be appointed leader of the team.
  • The team has the largest diversity of any comic team in current history.
  • Wolverine was not originally intended to be a long-term member of the team.
  • Professor X is part of the Illuminati along with Iron Man.
  • Kitty Pryde marries Star-Lord and leads the Guardians of the Galaxy in later comics.
  • In the Old Man Logan comics, Wolverine was tricked into killing all the X-Men by the Spiderman villain, Mysterio.
  • Rogue faced off against the Avengers as a villain before she became an X-Man.
  • Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse made it into the normal timeline.

FAQ’s

Question: Are the X-Men stronger than the Avengers?

Answer: It depends on who is writing, but overall they have more members, and I lean towards yes, if only because of Professor X being a trump card or a larger variety of powers. The teams have traded wins over the years. 

Question: Was Wolverine always an X-Man?

Answer: No, his first appearance was in an Incredible Hulk comic. He was sent by the Canadian government to kill the green monster. 

Question: Are the X-Men still around?

Answer: Yes, they probably always will be. There are different Marvel “Universes” within the comics. So if you are reading Ultimate X-Men or just X-Men, you may be seeing different stories. 

Question: Who is the strongest X-Man?

Answer: Power-wise…Jean Grey since she becomes the Phoenix. Wolverine can technically kill anyone given enough time, and Professor X is very dangerous. Storm, Iceman, and Rogue are pretty up there in powers, but my opinion? Kitty Pryde. Shadowcat wins against everyone except maybe a telepath, no matter your power or technology; she just phases your heart right out of your chest. Plop.

Question: Who is the strongest X-Men Villain?

Answer: I’d like to say Magneto, but I think it goes to Apocalypse. As we see, without Xavier leading a combined force, Apocalypse defeats every other Superhero team on the planet and wins. That’s pretty big. 

True Believers

Comics, movies, television, the X-Men span every form of entertainment. You can find your favorites, which I may not have even listed here because there are so many of them. So many writers have written about the many different combinations of the team. You will find a saga of the team you enjoy, I’m sure. 

Feel free to check out some great series related to the X-Men. Like the X-Factor, the X-Force, Excalibur, or even the many Wolverine comics. 

There really is something for everyone.

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