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Take 10

Take 10: X-Men Leaders

Who have been most impressive mutants to head up the X-Men? The Secret Cabal answers

Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas.

As the X-Men count their casualties following Second Coming, attempt to decipher the nature of Hope and prepare for the Curse of the Mutants, they'll need good leadership in spades to make it through the trials ahead.

Fortunately for Marvel's mutants, they count among their number many man and women who have stepped up in the past and possess the qualities to shepherd the flock once more if called upon.

This week, the Secret Cabal ranks the X-Men's leaders past and present to determine the true alpha mutant.

For each character you get the quick rundown as well as a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.

As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!


First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: While never officially appointed leader of the X-Men, Archangel directed Iceman, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Chamber and others on a series of campaigns.
Why He Makes the List: If you check the record books, Warren Worthington III never really led the X-Men, but he did serve as point man during a period of transition, and his teammates were nice enough to let the high-flying veteran at least think he was in charge. To Archangel's credit, he navigated the team through a difficult standoff with Black Tom Cassidy and managed to facilitate the unlikely recruitment of the Juggernaut into their ranks, turning a powerful enemy into at least a temporary ally.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #437-Archangel takes point on an X-Men outing close to his heart!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More About Her...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: When Magneto captured Professor X and the bulk of the X-Men were off the grid, Jean Grey gathered a group of misfits and rookies ranging from Northstar and Dazzler to Omerta and Wraith in order to mount a rescue effort.
Why She Makes the List: As a founding member of the X-Men, not to mention an immensely powerful mutant and one of the more levelheaded students of Charles Xavier, it's a bit surprising Jean Grey didn't spend more time leading the team, but she did make her brief tenure count. Jean led a team of wildcards and unknown commodities against the X-Men's deadliest enemy in Magneto, and managed to save the life of Professor X plus liberate the country of Genosha with zero casualties. Jean would also later shine, albeit too briefly, as headmistress of the Xavier Institute.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #392-With Professor X a captive of Magneto, Jean Grey recruits her own team of X-Men!

First Appearance: INCREDIBLE HULK #180 (1974)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: Traditionally comfortable as a team member rather than leader, Wolverine did briefly step up at Storm's request when she left the X-Men on a quest to find Forge and regain her powers.
Why He Makes the List: Wolverine's "slash first, ask questions later" way of doing business doesn't really scream leadership potential, but with the X-Men shorthanded and Storm needing to regain her powers in the midst of "Fall of the Mutants," Logan got the call up. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the ol' Canucklehead's sense of honor and straightforward approach proved a good fit for the campaign in question, but he's never been in any rush to get back in the boss' shoes-except with the black ops X-Force crew, of course.
Spotlight Comic: INCREDIBLE HULK #340-The Wolverine-led X-Men go Hulk hunting!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: Forced to leave Earth after suffering tremendous injuries, Professor X appointed his former friend-turned-longtime enemy headmaster of his school and thus mentor to the X-Men as well as New Mutants.
Why He Makes the List: Never did anybody seem a more unlikely candidate to one day lead the X-Men than their oldest and most persistent foe, Magneto, but desperate times call for the most desperate measures, and with Professor X indisposed indefinitely, the Master of Magnetism would indeed take his place on the side of angels during a period of attempted reform. While he never fully earned the trust of the entire team, Magneto persevered for a time, dedicating himself to Xavier's dream, and provided both the X-Men and New Mutants with invaluable guidance; today, the world's most feared mutants once again served with his former foes as an advisor to Cyclops.
Spotlight Comic: SECRET WARS #2-Magneto forms an unlikely alliance with the X-Men!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #54 (1969)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: When the U.S. government took control of the X-Factor team, Havok led the group at the behest of his brother, Cyclops, as well as Professor X. Later on, after returning to the X-Men, he became de facto leader on some missions.
Why He Makes the List: Despite long dwelling in the immense shadow of his older brother Cyclops, Alex Summer has demonstrated himself as a fine leader of the X-Men and other teams many times, perhaps in large part because he feels the need to prove himself. Havok's most impressive accomplishment was no doubt his tenure heading X-Factor under the auspices of the U.S. government, maneuvering through political red tape and daunting public opinion while still making his team a positive force working for better mutant-human relations. Alex's leadership experience proved enough for Nightcrawler, Iceman and others to defer to him on several X-Men outings later on, and he currently heads the space-faring Starjammers.
Spotlight Comic: X-FACTOR #71-Havok takes command of the new government-sponsored X-Factor squad!

First Appearance: GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: When Storm lost her mutant powers, she appointed Nightcrawler to lead the X-Men in her place. He would later enjoy a long stint heading up Excalibur and served as X-Men field leader when situations demanded later on.
Why He Makes the List: One of the most congenial X-Men of all, Nightcrawler seemed a natural choice to lead the group and certainly had no trouble inspiring trust and loyalty from his comrades. Kurt Wagner's finest days in a control position came with Excalibur, however, as removed from his more tenured teammates, he really had the chance to shine guiding a group with a far more relaxed atmosphere and broader mandate fitting his own personality a bit better. There are few X-Men who wouldn't gladly follow Nightcrawler into any hell.
Spotlight Comic: EXCALIBUR #1 (1988)-Nightcrawler hops across the pond to found Excalibur, England's equivalent of the X-Men!

First Appearance: AVENGERS ANNUAL #10 (1981)
Learn More About Her...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: Rogue briefly led an X-Men team during their battles with the Neo then later took a more active role heading a strike force against threats such as the Children of the Vault and Marauders.
Why She Makes the List: When she showed up at the doorstep of Xavier's Mansion begging for help controlling her powers, known villain Rogue seemed like an unlikely candidate to join the X-Men at all, let alone someday lead them. Yet Rogue has made up for her past sins with relish during her tenure amongst the Children of the Atom, and has accumulated faith from Cyclops and others leading to more than one term as a field leader. Rogue's style in command is far more hands on and she has proven willing to take on questionable operatives like Sabretooth and Mystique, making her a dangerous but surprisingly capable leader.
Spotlight Comic: X-MEN #188-Rogue takes the reins of an unorthodox X-Men team for a dangerous new mission!

First Appearance: GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
Learn More About Her...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: Storm assumed leadership of the X-Men when Cyclops took his first ever leave of absence from the team following Phoenix's death; she fought to keep the position upon his return and resumed it many times since.
Why She Makes the List: Ororo Munroe came to the X-Men a sheltered "goddess" uncomfortable living in the real world and harboring a past that included years as a child pickpocket on the streets of Cairo. It didn't take long for Storm to emerge as a powerful and dedicate member of the team who made the most logical choice to replace Cyclops as leader when he departed. When her predecessor returned, Ororo, hardly a wallflower any loner, actively battled her rival for command of the X-Men and succeeded in besting him despite being powerless at the time. In that moment, Storm forever earned Cyclops' respect, something she had already gained from the other X-Men some time before and holds strongly to this day.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #201-Storm duels Cyclops for leadership of the X-Men!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: The founder of the X-Men, Professor X has rarely taken an active leadership role, but has consistently provided guidance and supervision to all of his students and protégés.
Why He Makes the List: Without Charles Xavier, there would be no X-Men; his dream of harmony between all races has fueled the group he founded to overcome near impossible odds and continue to struggle valiantly against a world that hates and fears them. Professor X's role within the his extended "family" has evolved over the years, from strict and detached taskmaster to active operative to father figure and even to something of a pariah as his past sins have come back to roost; through it all, Xavier-or at least the example he strives to set-has been a guiding light as well as a willing ear for those carrying out his dreams.
Spotlight Comic: MYTHOS: X-MEN #1-Professor X gathers his first team of mutant heroes!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More About Him...here
X-Men Leadership Tenure: The first official leader of the X-Men, Cyclops has held the position more than any other over the years, rarely serving on the team in any other capacity during his lengthy tenures.
Why He Makes the List: From his early teenage years, Scott Summers was groomed to lead the X-Men, and has done just that capably and proficiently for longer than anyone else. It's not just Cyclops' quick tactical mind and ability to inspire confidence in others that has made him a good leader, but his undying devotion to Charles Xavier's dream of peace between humans and mutants. Even with his faith in Xavier himself shaken in recent times, Scott has risen above and continued to fight for the dream on his own terms, shepherding mutantkind into a bold new age. Cyclops is also willing to take difficult but necessary risks for the good of the many, even if that means putting his own life as well as friends and family on the line.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #7-Cyclops' first mission as team field leader pits the X-Men against The Blob!


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Nice article though I would have replaced ArcAngel with Emma Frost. She has led so many teams in her time and is a true Co-leader of the X-Men currently. She would have been a better choice then ArcAngel as far as leaders go. Plus she is cool, hot and awesome!!

Righty member

Cyclops is and will always be the greatest X-Men leader. Even though I liked Storm as a leader at one time...I still felt that Cyclops should have led when he came back after Jean's supposed death. The line-up looks just about the way I would have them...although I would have had Rogue probably 9 or 10 on the list. But...to be honest...I personally can't see anybody leading the X-Men other than Cyclops. In my opinion...there should be no list because...SCOTT SUMMERS IS DA MAN...CYCLOPS IS IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN...LOLOL!!! If anything...he should be on a list with Marvel's greatest leaders...and be second on that list behind the great Captain America...NUFF SAID!!!!


these Morons remember they were never leaders and T'Challa is not an X-Men.


For Havok You forgpt the time he led a backup team to free the X-Men's family and loved ones from Arcade. And Jean Grey also led the training of the youth X-Factor picked up. For Storm you didn't mention her time with the X-treme X-Men, but it's ok I try to forget that all the time.


...when he'll be back, I hope Havok will have his own X-title ( 'Astounding ' ? ) alongside Lorna and Rachel...( oh yes, draw by Françis Leinil Yu and written by Ann Nocenti...thank you so much Marvel )


Cyclops Is The Best! Cable never lead X Men, But did do a good job with X Force. T'Challa? He was never even an X Men or Even a Mutant. Magneto I think should of been second with Rogue and NightCrawler third. But a leader does what he must at all cost like Cyclops continues to do. :)


No Emma Frost? After what happened in Dark reign?


But, yeah, Cable should've got an honorable mention or something.


Where the BLEEP is Cable?!? He just gets blown to bits and he's instantly forgotten??