The definitive, chronological, and up-to-date guide on collecting Astonishing X-Men and Amazing X-Men comic books via omnibuses, hardcovers, and trade paperback graphic novels. A part of Crushing Krisis’s Collecting X-Men: A Definitive Guide. Last updated February 2017 with titles scheduled for release through October 2017.
Astonishing X-Men launched under the unprecedented auspices of being an X-Men with the hottest possible creators that you could follow without a tangle of other comics to buy.
Though that concept would be slightly watered-down over the years, the theme of a standalone, fan-pleasing X-Men book focused on relationships as much as heroics would continue to its close and into a second title, Amazing X-Men.
When Astonishing launched in 2004, Grant Morrison’s massively popular run on New X-Men had just come to a somewhat abrupt halt, at least in part due to disputes behind the scenes. That lead to a line-wide re-alignment of X-Men titles, including cancelling Chris Claremont’s sideline title X-Treme X-Men and moving him back to the flagship Uncanny X-Men.
Marvel had unleashed something entirely new with Morrison’s run that Claremont by definition couldn’t replicate despite his popularity with longtime readers – Morrison was an outside voice to the X-line who brought a much-needed injection of fresh ideas and a legion of new fans.
Enter Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly (though they’d all see cancellation by the time Astonishing kicked off). He was geek royalty with a massive fanbase, and despite having only written a handful of Buffy comics to that point, he had grown up with the X-Men. In fact, Buffy was based on Claremont’s archetype of Kitty Pryde (and Dark Willow on Phoenix)!
Marvel contracted Whedon to pen 12 issues, paired with rising superstar artist John Cassaday (who was in-progress on Planetary and just off of a run on Captain America). Rather than hand Whedon and Cassaday an existing title as they had with Morrison, Marvel created an entirely new one for the pair.
It was a prescient move on Marvel’s part, as when Whedon and artist John Cassaday hit delays within the first year of the book, it allowed the rest of the X-Men universe to keep moving while the pair toiled over each new issue. Marvel took the unusual step of treating Astonishing as “continuity-free” – though it acknowledges events like M-Day, it is free of crossovers and was released at a different rate than other X-books. In fact, it took four years for these 25 issues to be released – effectively putting them on a bi-monthly schedule.
Whedon took over the concept of a more academically-minded team from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, with a staff of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, and substituting Shadowcat for the recently departed Jean Grey. Dozens of Xavier Institute students are featured in the background of the early issues.
With Whedon & Cassady’s run on the book over, Marvel continued the trend of using Astonishing‘s crossover-free setting to lure high-profile creators – this time landing Warren Ellis. Creator of the critically acclaimed Planetary, Ellis actually got his start on Excalibur in the mid-90s. Ellis swaps Kitty Pryde and Colossus for Storm and Armor and gives the book a speculative fiction and sci-fi theme. Afterwards the book was handed to Daniel Way and Christos Gage, Greg Pak, and finally novelist Marjorie Lui – who played up the team-as-family theme.
Amazing X-Men began as Jason Aaron’s take on an X-Men away team as his run on Wolverine & The X-Men wound down, but it wound up as a single-shot story of Nightcrawler’s resurrection when he was whisked away to helm Original Sin and then launch Star Wars. Popular X-Men Academy and X-Force writer Christpher Yost wrote the majority of the remaining issues, which maintained a more light-hearted 80s feel to both the team and the stories.
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Note: Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1 (1995) and Amazing X-Men, Vol. 1 (1995) were both four-issue limited series that were part of the Age of Apocalypse alternate timeline. Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 2 was a three-issue limited series that was a precursor to a major Apocalypse storyline.
- Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday (2004 – 2008)
- Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis with Kaare Andrews (2008 – 2011)
- Astonishing X-Men by Daniel Way and Christos Gage (2011)
- Astonishing X-Men by Marjorie Liu with Greg Pak (2011 – 2013)
- Amazing X-Men by Jason Aaron and Christopher Yost (2013 – 2015)
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Begins in July 2004 concurrent with the X-Men Reloaded event -parallel to Uncanny X-Men #444, X-Men #157, and the launches of Excalibur (vol. 3) and New X-Men: Academy X. In the Marvel Universe, House of M occurs sometime after issue #6.
The collection of the first six-issue arc, “Gifted,” is one of the finest X-Men graphic novels you can buy – Whedon’s plotting and writing of the entire team is pitch perfect. After that, the plot across the subsequent three storylines is slightly uneven, but the writing and art continue to be astonishing. The entire run bears an impressive narrative arc.
There are three ways to collect this run, all roughly comparable in price – the way you assemble them is largely up to your reading habits.
As a single, oversized hardcover volume:
#1-24 & Giant-Sized: Astonishing X-Men Omnibus Oversized Hardcover (ISBN 0785138013)
As two volumes – the hardcover versions are oversized:
As individual, softcover trade paperbacks:
#1-6: Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted (ISBN 0785115315)
#7-12: Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 2: Dangerous (ISBN 078511677X)
#13-18: Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 3: Torn (ISBN 0785117598)
#19-24 & Giant-Sized: Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 4: Unstoppable (ISBN 0785122540)
A number mini-series occur in and around this series using the same cast. They are:
Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame
This mini-series can be read between issues #12 and #13.
Begins in September 2008 shortly after the Messiah Complex crossover, parallel to Uncanny X-Men #500 and X-Men Legacy #214, in the midst of the Manifest Destiny arc. It’s easy to track its placement, since it introduces Storm to the San Francisco headquarters.
Warren Ellis’s science-fiction flavored run subtracts Shadowcat and Colossus from the team and adds Storm and newbie Armor (a supporting character in Whedon’s run). Ellis is known for acid-tongued characters and alternate universes, and he brings both to bear on the X-Men – relishing in both Emma’s nastiness and Beast’s know-it-all-ness. SWORD”s Agent Brand appears throughout.
Artist Simone Bianchi’s pencils on the Ghost Box arc are perhaps the most stunning, classically-influenced art to ever appear in an X-Men regular series, while Exogenetic‘s penciler Phil Jimenez is a fan favorite. However, most fans did not enjoy this book at the time of its release.
Astonishing X-Men: Exogenesis (ISBN 0785140336)
This mini-series with artist Kaare Andrews was originally slotted as the follow-up arc to Ghost Box. It’s a subtle adventure that references a plotline from Ellis’s run on Excalibur in the 90s. Also available in hardcover.
This pair of stories begins in April 2011 sometime after the Second Coming crossover, likely placed after Uncanny X-Men #534, and Generation Hope #4, but prior to X-Men Legacy #245, New Mutants #22, and Uncanny X-Force #5.
It starts roughly parallel to X-Factor #215 and Daken #6. It is unclear how this run begins in relation to Wolverine #1-6, X-23 #6, and X-Men, Vol. 3 #8.
In the Marvel Universe, it begins before Fear Itself.
#36-37, 39, 41: Astonishing X-Men: Monstrous (ISBN 078515115X)
A brief, light-weight arc featuring Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, and Armor in a major monster fight in Japan. Also contains a Fin Fang Foom story from Strange Tales #99. Also available in hardcover.
#38, 40, 42-43: Astonishing X-Men: Children of the Brood (ISBN 0785157883)
An X-Men vs. Brood space station battle featuring Storm, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Lockheed, and Agent Brand – and introducing the character Broo. Also collects a fantastic one-shot story of Emma Frost and Danger. Reprints a classic Brood story from Uncanny X-Men #162. Also available in hardcover.
Begins in November 2011, parallel to other Regenesis titles.
The angst of Schism split the Cyclops and Wolverine twosome that typically headlined this title. What to do? An initial arc by Greg Pak followed Cyclops directly out of Schism, while the next arc by Marjorie Liu followed a number of the professors of the Jean Grey School on their less-academic adventures.
Liu continued to helm the title with the same cast through its cancellation, focusing at least one story on each member along the way. Her cast was Wolverine, Celia Reyes, Gambit, Iceman, Karma, Northstar, and Warbird.
#44-47: Astonishing X-Men: Exalted (ISBN 0785161783)
A tale of the Utopia-based Team Cyclops interacting with alternate realities, by Greg Pak and Mike McKone. Also includes material from Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1. Also available in hardcover.
#48-51: Astonishing X-Men, Volume 10: Northstar (ISBN 0785161805)
Marjorie Liu takes over scripting duties and transfers the book to Team Wolverine, with a cast of Wolverine, Gambit, Iceman, Northstar, Karma, and Cecilia Reyes … versus a revamped Maurauders! Available in oversized hardcover.
#52-56 & Annual 1: Astonishing X-Men, Volume 11: Weaponized (ISBN 0785164154)
Story continues directly from prior volume. Astonishing X-Men was no longer released in hardcover as of this volume.
Avengers vs. X-Men: See Marvel Universe Events: Avengers vs. X-Men. Wolverine is a lead character in the story, and Gambit and Iceman play minor, supporting roles.
#57-59 & 62-68: Astonishing X-Men, Volume 12: Unmasked (ISBN 0785166408)
This collection features a significant Iceman arc that has been well-reviewed for its strong characterization.
#60-61: X-Terminated (ISBN 0785184430)
Collects X-Terminated: Alpha and Omega, Age of Apocalypse #13-14, X-Treme X-Men #12-13, Astonishing X-Men #60-61.
After the end of this series: Wolverine continues to appear everywhere; Gambit leaves the core X-Men for All-New X-Factor; Iceman and Northstar are primarily be team members in Amazing X-Men. Celia Reyes next appears in the first few issues of Nightcrawler (2014) and then in X-Men (2013) #18-22. Karma makes a few minor appearances and then for seemingly no reason is one of “The Utopians” in All-New X-Men (2013) #40-41 and Uncanny X-Men #600.
A new series launched in the fall of 2013 featuring Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Northstar, Iceman, and Firestar hunting for their potentially-revived friend Nightcrawler. Throughout its run this title features a very “classic” line-up anchored by Storm and Nightcrawler and stories that are rooted in Claremont-era themes, including Wendigo and Juggernaut.
#7-12: Vol. 2: World War Wendigo
#13-19 & Annual 1: Vol. 3: Once and Future Juggernaut