If all you know about the mutants is the movies, then your brain is probably a healthy one, and you may not want to look at this article because it could give you a nosebleed. If, however, you're like me, and you've been exposed to the exploits of the X-Men over the decades, check this out. Your nose may still bleed from the chaotic rush of information, but you'll nod your head in sympathy as you realize how funny and difficult it is to attempt to explain all this to a newbie.
For what it's worth, I loved the Claremont/Byrne era (Proteus! Hellfire Club! Dark Phoenix! Classic stories all), but by the time we had gotten through the second Claremont/Cockrum run and into Paul Smith's time as artist, I -- like many other fans in the '80s -- was more than ready for Chris Claremont to step away from the typewriter. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and the book became unreadable during the 1990s, at least to me. And I mean that in the literal sense! I couldn't look at an issue without getting angry, both as an editor and as a fan. The history of the book and the ridiculously tangled history of the characters turned every word balloon into a lead one. Back in the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby -- or Len Wein and George Perez during the '70s -- anyone off the street could pick up any issue of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, or yes, Uncanny X-Men and know exactly what was going on. The stories back then weren't simpler; the storytelling was better.
So I stayed away from it until, well, two weeks ago. I picked up the collected volumes of Joss Whedon's recent run on Astonishing X-Men and was, frankly, astonished. It's really good. Yeah, OK, I'm a Whedon fanboy, but I'm a old-time comics fan, too, and I loved how Whedon handled the characters and created an ultimately epic story that respected history but which a new reader could follow. And I'm glad I waited for the four graphic novel collections so I could read them back to back. Highly recommended.
My fandom slightly resurrected (like Colossus), I'm now even looking forward to X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks, starring the poster child for messed-up continuity, Japanese-British-ninja-soulknife Psylocke. I'd have high hopes for it, but Claremont is writing the mini-series, so I'll settle for no nosebleeds.