By Jon Durmin
As with all our Top 10 Tuesday action, this run-down of the Top 10 X-Men is based on some prescribed criteria. You raucous readers should know me well enough by now (and if not you’ve got some link hopping to do!) to know that if we were just running a list of my favorites you’d be seeing way more Namor, Dazzler and Magneto in this article. Unfortunately, we need some rules for this game! What makes great X-Men? The X-Men are most well-known as 1) Mutant heroes sworn to protect a world that fears and hates them, 2) committed to the dream of founder Charles “Professor X” Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistent between all peoples, and 3) dedicated to training the next generation of to use their abilities for the benefit of the world, and if they choose, pursue a life outside the X-Men. Our members are going to be ranked on their track record across the board.
Honorable Mention: Angel, Iceman, Havok, Colossus, Shadowcat, Magneto,
Psylocke, Cable, Dani “Mirage” Moonstar, Cannonball, Northstar, Magik
Wow! There’s more honorable mentions this time out, than there are spots on our list.
2 out of 3 isn’t bad, but for most of our honorable mentions they fall short in one of our three categories. For example, Angel, Iceman, Havok, Colossus, Psylocke, and Cannonball are all devotees of Xavier’s dream, and devoted heroes, with Havok and Cannonball being counted among Earth’s Mightiest (the Avengers, natch!) in recent years, but none of them has been very committed to teaching younger mutants other than by example. Similarly Mirage and Magneto are among the most devoted mutants to teaching the next generation, but Dani hasn’t devoted much time to heroism (she may not ever have technically been an X-Man actually, but a No-Prize for the reader who comments to correct us!) and Mags has spent as much time as a foe of the X-Men as he has in pursuit of his best friend Charlie’s vision.
Speaking of Magneto’s time as an X-foe, Colossus, Angel, Magik, and even Iceman have gone off the reservation and tread the path of villainy for enough time that they aren’t quite top-ten material. Shadowcat’s never flat out turned against the X-Men, but she’s also walked away quite a bit and been fairly inconsistent over the years in her devotion to heroism and even the goal of peaceful coexistence. Kitty’s BFF, Illyana “Magik” Rasputin, has never been too consistent either, and both of them are fairly fresh in their new-found commitment to teaching new mutants.
As for Cable and Northstar . . . well I actually feel bad having to keep them off the list. In terms of our criteria they both nail all three, and don’t have any major marks against them. The main thing that keeps either of them from scoring a spot on our list is that they haven’t had as lengthy associations with the X-Men as with other teams (hurrah for Alpha Flight!) or as independent operators.
Scott’s been an X-Man longer than almost anybody (see our silver medal recipient). He’s always been there to step up, lead, and protect mutants. He’s endeavored to guide the next generation when he can as well. Unfortunately, the ideal of integration and acceptance for mutantkind has never been as much of a priority for Scott, and he largely abandoned it in recent years, punctuating that falling away by murdering his father-figure and mentor, X-Founder Charles Xavier (yeah, yeah, I know he was possessed by Dark Phoenix at the time, but he hasn’t exhibited a lot of grief over what happened). Given that he followed all that up by appropriating the man’s name and applying it to a school that promoted mutant separatism (rather than human/mutant unity) Cyke gets booted down to the #10 spot.
9. Emma “White Queen” Frost
For somebody who started out as a power hungry nemesis for the team, Emma has carried on the X-Men’s tradition of redemption and is trumped only by Xavier himself in her dedication to teaching. She has grown into a devotion to Xavier’s dream, though is not quite so sold on it as many others on this list. Emma still puts protection of young mutants before bringing mutants and humans together.
8. Rachel “Phoenix”/“Marvel Girl” Summers-Grey
Born in a Sentinel governed holocaust future where most superheroes had been slaughtered and the surviving mutants herded into concentration camps, for Rachel Summers-Grey, Charles Xavier’s dream provided the only hope of survival. Rachel has spent her every waking moment in the “present” endeavoring to further the dream as an active, and unflinching member of the X-Men, even co-founding the Britain-based inheritor team Excalibur. Rachel’s also been driven to teach younger mutants whenever given the opportunity, as we’ve regularly seen in her more recent appearances. Add to her accomplishments that she’s the only wielder of the Phoenix force not to be driven mad by its power and you’ve got one worthy X-Man.
Sean Cassidy once seemed poised to assume leadership of the (original) All New X-Men until an injury sidelined him. He returned in a big way to teach & guide the Generation X kids, and stepped up as an X-Man whenever he was needed. Tragically, his X-career was cut short when Banshee sacrificed himself in a heroic attempt to save a plane full of humans from the villainous Vulcan.
Hank McCoy was the first X-Man to make the leap to graduating from the X-Men to another team (the Avengers, and Hank was even a Defender for a time), but has always been there when the X-Men and mutant-kind have needed him. Hank is also one of the X-Men on this list most devoted to teaching.
James “Logan” Howlett has barely missed a beat (and rarely been absent from an X-Men roster) since he signed up to save the original squad from Krakoa. Long willing to do what he considered the necessary “dirty work” so that the other X-Men could keep a clean conscience, this savage super soldier upped his hero game in recent years when he joined the Avengers. As for teaching, it was Wolverine who carried the torch of Chuck’s dream off of isolation on Cyclops’ “Utopia” helping to found both the Jean Grey School and the Avenger’s Unity Squad.
Rogue has come a LONG way from her humble beginnings. Starting as a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member, to unwelcome defector to the X-Men, to devoted core member of the team, to a leader in her own right, to mentor and teacher of young mutants, Rogue is now living the dream by publicly working with non-mutant heroes as a member and now leader of an Avengers team founded to see Charles Xavier’s dream manifest.
3. Professor X
The man who dreamed The Dream, fought and died for it. How could Professor X not be on this list? Recently a handful of recent stories have been dedicated to validating Kitty Pryde’s declaration on the splash page of Uncanny X-Men (Vol. 1) #168, Charles was the originator of the dream. He defined the characteristics for making this Top 10 list.
Devoted member and, often, leader to the X-Men, Storm has been a steady defender of the dream. Ororo’s proven her ability and longing to bridge the human-mutant gap, as exemplified by her brief stints as an Avenger and fill in Fantastic Four member. Even when Forge’s nullifier weapon stripped her of her powers Storm remained a dedicated X-Man. Storm is also the rare mutant whose mutations don’t mark her as an outsider (as was underscored by her time as honorary head of the Morlocks), and for all her dedication, it often isn’t clear that Ororo entirely understands the feeling of being feared and hated that her fellow mutants live with. This makes sense since she spent years as queen of Wakanda, at least as long literally being worshipped as a goddess in rural Kenya, and generally regarded as an unearthly beauty, but still puts her a step behind an equally good candidates for our top spot . . .
The first recruit of the All New X-Men, Kurt Wagner is a swashbuckling hero with a strong moral core, who holds himself to a higher standard, and has proven willing time and again to sacrifice himself to save the innocent and challenge villainy. When it comes to teaching Kurt was there to mentor a young Kitty Pryde alongside 3 of our other top 5 team members, but he also was regularly referenced as having taught Xavier’s junior class, the New Mutants, more than a handful of tricks as soon as he met them. He’s continued to guide and mentor those in each successive class. Finally to say that Kurt is merely devoted in his loyalty to Professor X and the realization of the team founder’s dream may not do his commitment justice. More precisely, our fuzzy blue elf, has an unflinching faith in it to rival his oft depicted Catholic convictions. It could even be said that with his heroic attitude, his dedication to teaching, and commitment to seeing the dream realized despite an appearance that leads most people to hate and/or fear him on first impressions that Nightcrawler embodies The Dream. Top all this off with the fact that he’s been a frequent leader of various X-Squads (beginning with the team he co-founded with our #8) and we’ve got ourselves a character who has earned the right to be recognized as a gold medal X-Man.