Ahead of the cinema release of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class on Friday 3rd June we thought it would be prudent to introduce and put forward some further reading of the characters that are featured in the film, a lot of them being quite unfamiliar to the general audience. The X-Men have always resonated with the underdog, their trials and tribulations in a world that fears and hates them are echoed in the real world struggles of minorities around the world and I still think the themes within the X-books are as relevant today as they where in their first appearance in 1963. So without further ado it’s time to meet the class:
To be honest if you want to watch the new film you’re probably already familiar with Prof X who is to be played by James McAvoy in First Class. However if you fancy delving into the character on the page we suggest the Mike Carey written X-Men Legacy #208 to #225. Set after the major X-event Messiah Complex Legacy deals with an Xavier who has had his shattered consciousness put back together and is traversing the globe right the wrongs he has done in his life. Steeped in X-lore this isn’t light reading but is extremely enjoyable.
There will be a pattern forming with the first four characters of this article as they have all been in the films at some point, in this incarnation, Magneto is being played by Michael Fassbender. But if you want to read what I consider one of the defining Magneto stories check out Chris Claremont’s three issue arc which spawned a new X-Men title in 1991 simply called X-Men. It has Asteroid M, Magneto threatening earth with nuclear missiles and Jim Lee’s amazing artwork.
One of our favourite mutants, on screen she is the deadly mutant of few words whose allegiance lies with Magneto until his betrayal, Mystique is played by Winter’s Bone star Jennifer Lawrence in First Class. However in Brian K Vaughan’s and Sean Mckeever’s 25 issue series she is hired by Xavier to be his covert agent. A spy thriller that adds layers to the character.
So far we have seen him as the big blue furred guy we all know and love, but the new film is delving into his origins with Nicholas Hoult under the make-up. However for me Beast is at his best when he isn’t a member of X-Men. The late 70s saw Beast join The Avengers and it was in that team that he shone and his bromance with fellow avenger Wonder Man is comic book gold. Seek out those old issues (from Avengers #151 onwards) for some old school superheroics
A brilliant geneticist and former lover of Xavier, a strong willed Scottish lass who never backed down. For me her defining storyline is from Uncanny X-Men (#125 to #128) when her son, the powerful mutant Proteus, went on a rampage to find his biological father. Its a classic storyline that the 90s X-Men cartoon adapted.
From the villainous White Queen of the Hellfire Club to Cyclops’ lover and prominent member of the X-Men, Emma Frost is without a doubt one of the best additions to the X-Men team in the past 10 years. Her formidable telepathic powers and diamond form are matched only by her scintillating wit and revealing costume choices as shown by January Jones, right. It is difficult to choose a specific run of comics, which highlights her strengths of character. Especially since she has been both a prominent villain and a great X-Woman. It’s a hard choice between Grant Morrison’s 2001-2004 New X-Men run which had her join the X-Men or the subsequent Astonishing X-Men run by Joss whedon, both as good as each other and well worth the read.
Cyclop’s younger brother (changed for the film I believe) has always sat in his older brothers heroic shadow. Trying to do the right thing Havok has found himself at odds with both his brother and the X-Men on occasion. However it is Peter David’s run on the title X-Factor (1991-1995), which found Havok in charge of a government sponsored mutant team, that really deepened the character and explored more than his relationship with his brother.
The Irish mutant with a wicked scream. Banshee joined the X-Men with the likes of Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm in the classic Giant-Size X men #1 (1975). However it was his turn as the headmaster in the book Generation X (1994-2001), which also featured Emma Frost as the headmistress, which really took the character to great heights. Not only that but it is my second favourite X-Book of all time so I recommend it on that basis alone
Most memorable as the leader of the Hellfire Club and played by Kevin Bacon in First Class, Mr Shaw is a formidable opponent. However his attire in the comics is ludicrous, a sort of Victorian gentleman with extra ruffles. The only storyline with him in that I actually rate is that of the classic Dark Phoenix Saga, which involves the whole of the Hellfire Club. The story alone should be read for it’s iconic status as well as Shaw’s involvement.
This may anger a few fans of these characters but I am relegating the last four characters as only worth looking into if you are truly a fan of them.
A new addition to X-Men lore Darwin has yet to win me over, however his appearance in Ed Brubaker’s The Rise And Fall Of The Shi’ar Empire is note worthy and the epic 12 issue space-opera is fun, using an unlikely team of X-Men. Darwin’s abilities are interesting nonetheless, indicated by his name he can ‘evolve reactively’, or in other words; instantly evolve to his surroundings i.e. he develops gills after a short time under water.
Grant Morrison’s creation, Ms Salvadore was a prominent figure throughout his New X-Men run. Her mutation was that she had fly physiology as well as human, therefore she had fly wings, could only digest food by being sick on it and lay fly eggs. Very disturbing.
We’re not sure in what capacity he will be used in the film, but in the comics he is stone cold killer and member of the marauders. His most significant appearance was in the classic Mutant Massacre storyline.
The last one to be mention due to the fact that like many fans we did not appreciate what writer Chuck Austen was doing here. Azazel is a demon or an ancient mutant (I try not to remember) who goes around impregnating people to create babies that can teleport for some obscure reason which will give him power. He is Nightcrawler’s dad apparently (I refuse to believe this). But if you do want to read up on him he is in Austen’s The Draco storyline. I warn you it isn’t any good.
So there you have it, the mutants of the first class!!
You can read now read our X-Men First Class Review