The definitive issue-by-issue comic book collecting guide and trade reading order for the 2000s trade paperback era of Uncanny X-Men comic books from 2001 to 2011 in omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections – including runs by Chuck Austen, Chris Claremont, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, & Kieron Gillen and events like House of M, Messiah Complex, Second Coming, & Fear Itself! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated March 2023 with titles scheduled for release through August 2023.
The X-Men franchise reached a crossroads in 2001 that would forever alter its direction, but also usher in a decade of substantial runs penned by just five authors – all of which was collected upon initial release starting with issue #410!
That’s why I think of this final decade of Uncanny X-Men as “The Trade Paperback Era.” It was the beginning of the idea of X-Men being “written for trade,” with tidy 4-6 issue story arcs rather than bursts of shorter stories and one-shot issues.
The slick, black leather costumes of the first Fox X-Men film existed in the public consciousness in 2001, but X-Men comics of the period were a hard-to-parse mess of neon spandex. Not only that, but Marvel’s newly-launched Ultimate Spider-Man reimagining of Spider-Man for the modern day was proving to be massively popular. An Ultimate X-Men followed at the beginning of 2001 that felt closer in style and tone to the films.
Together, these two changes allowed Marvel to experiment with the core of the X-Men franchise. Writer and actual psychedelic warlock Grant Morrison reimagined X-Men (1991) as the sci-fi, leather-clad, and frequently absurd New X-Men. Meanwhile, X-Force metamorphosed into X-Statix under the guidance of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred.
What’s often forgotten is that Uncanny X-Men also relaunched at the same time. Twice, actually! First, Joe Casey took the reins for a similarly leather-bound and slightly-absurdist take on X-Men. Then, midway through Morrison’s run, Uncanny swapped to author Chuck Austen.
Austen’s run is often reviled for its soap opera elements, as well as for deeply unpopular moments for Nightcrawler and Angel. Despite that, it remains very much in the Claremontian tradition of constantly-churning conflict and romance. It often introducing wild concepts from far outside the X-Men’s typical range of influences.
Chris Claremont himself would return as Austen’s replacement with The New Age in 2004. While opinions remain split on this run, it’s certainly more popular than his prior return on “Revolution.” The New Age finds Claremont intermingling new toys and old favorites, writing a team that includes Storm and Rachel Summers, but also playing with Bishop and X-23. His run crossed the House of M event that would decimate Marvel’s mutant population, though he did not deal with the fallout – instead, choosing to focus more on Rachel and the return of Psylocke.
Ed Brubaker took over from Claremont with an audacious change in direction. Brubaker followed up on his Deadly Genesis mini-series by taking a core of X-Men to space for Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire. The cosmic plot lasted for an entire year of comics and lead into the massive War of Kings event. It eschewed many popular mainstays of the team for a cast of Xavier, Havok, Polaris, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, and Warpath – along with the Starjammers. Afterward, Brubaker refocused on Earth, steering the flagship towards a rebirth from the ashes of Messiah Complex.
Though Brubaker wrote for an arc following Messiah Complex, the following era of the X-Men in San Francisco mostly belongs to Matt Fraction. Fraction reimagines Uncanny X-Men less as a team and more as a society of mutants, with nearly every heroic mutant passing through the background panels of the book at some point in his run. He writes through Dark Reign to the considerable crescendo of Second Coming, a resolution of the remaining threads of House of M.
Finally, Kieron Gillen gradually transitions onto the title over the course of the following year, graduating from Matt Fraction’s secret co-plotter to Fraction’s credited co-writer before finally taking over the reigns with issue #534.1. Gillen slims down Fraction’s massive cast to one foreboding “Extinction Team” lead by the increasingly revolutionary Cyclops and featuring Emma Frost, Wolverine, Magneto, Namor, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, and Hope. His run continues past the punctuation of Schism through to the following run of Uncanny X-Men, Volume 2.
For a complete X-Men reading order for this period, start with The Definitive X-Men Reading Order: New X-Men.