Who doesn’t love the mutant filled soap opera that is X-Men? Of course, as with most soaps, the inevitable question of who is best and greatest is bound to pop up. With some many different titles and teams over the years, there are hundreds of different characters to choose from. These are my top 10. I’ll give you a hint, nobody on this list says “Bub” (That means no Wolverine).
10. Emma Frost
Despite her interesting costume choices, Emma is pretty awesome. One time X-Men villain and headmaster of a rival school for mutants, Emma has made an interesting addition to the team over the years. Her past and her sometimes questionable motives make her an interesting and dynamic character that continues to change as time goes on.
The mutant Brood is one of the most likeable characters to come out of Jason Aaron’s run of Wolverine and the X-Men. The Brood are a pretty basic stand in for the Alien Xenomorph, but Broo has tons of personality and is an absolute dork. His relationship with Idie, who is number seven on my list, is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen in comics.
Mutant Demon Sorceress Ruler of Limbo: I don’t think there is much else that competes with that particular title. Illiyana provides a darkness to the teams that is rarely matched. Not only does she have a dark side, she often finds great pleasure in it. The one place she always manages to keep out the darkness is with her brother Colossus. Even when their relationship has been on the rocks, she has a deep love for him and I’ve enjoyed watching them patch things up in recent issues. I can also appreciate that she has had to spend time with Doctor Strange learning to control her magical abilities. Surely that’s something everyone can relate to.
I have a hard time thinking of a comic character that has had so much growth in such a short run. In the 40-something issues of Wolverine and the X-Men, Idie goes through so many different stages of development to finally arrive in All-New X-Men as a much stronger person. As I mentioned before, her relationship with Broo is one of my all-time favorites. Instead of being romantic (though I think Broo has a bit of crush), it is one of deep caring and friendship. In spite of all her misgivings, Idie wants to do the right thing and strives to do it, even when it’s not what she wants. It’s hard not to love someone that selfless.
6. Kitty Pryde
As the first X-Man to join the team after Giant Sized X-Men #1, Kitty gave younger readers someone they could relate to. As she has grown up, she has proven to be a capable leader. Kitty, along with Nightcrawler, is often the heart and moral center of the team. There is almost always a sense of innocence around Kitty, even as she has gotten older and lost her naiveté. Although she is currently out in space playing Star-Lord, I’m still really enjoying her stories.
Now Beast is a man of many looks. Whether it’s the Silver Age, the 90’s cartoon, Grant Morrison’s 2000’s run, or the more recent 2010’s run, Beast changes with the times. I love characters that evolve, and Beast is doing exactly that—literally. Like many of Marvel’s super scientists, Beast often thinks he knows better than everyone else, and frequently acts on this, leading to some spectacular issues. I also love the idea that we now have the teenage Hank around, serving as a great measuring stick. Lately Beast has been the center of many questionable decisions and I’m excited to see how he will yet again evolve.
So long as one ignores the often painful phonetic accent that accompanies Rogue, there is so much to love about her. Rogue is pretty messed up, even by X-Men standards. Being raised by Mystique and having almost no control over her powers is enough to drive anyone to do terrible things. And even though she started out as a minor villain, she has become an integral part of the X-Men. Rogue’s inability to make physical contact with other people without causing them harm can be such a unique story telling device. Finding a way to maintain her humanity when the most basic of human contact is potentially deadly is the central motivator of this complex character.
3. Jean Grey
If I could point to one story from all of X-Men that most encapsulates the best of the book and characters, I would, without hesitation, point to “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” Jean is an honestly tragic figure, and that makes for excellent comics. Yes, she dies on several occasions (not going to split hairs on this one), but that is part of what makes her appealing. The effects of that kind of trauma are visible both in her and those around her. Even though Jean has been dead for many years, now we have young Jean in the mix, who is determined not to become her future self. How does someone not become themselves? It’s interesting, to say the least.
Swashbuckler extraordinaire. There is very little to not love about Kurt Wagner. By being the most outwardly mutant on the team (at the time of his appearance), Kurt is most able to remind the team of their shared humanity. Kurt is hands down the heart and moral compass of the time, even at those times when he himself is having a crisis of conscience. Nightcrawler also provides more than his share of high flying adventure stories, which are always, fun. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want their own Bampf.
Cable is just a bad-ass. In spite of the fact that he is the creation of Rob Liefeld and the subject of one Marvel’s more confusing continuity loops, Cable has come out the other side in one piece. Cable is a particularly nuanced character which allows for writers to use him as they need him. He has been a foil for Professor X, at one time prospective leader of a rebellion, the straight man to Deadpool, and adoptive father to Hope. Each writer has left their mark, but Cable has just become a more interesting character because of it. I can’t wait to see what is in store for him next.