The X-Men has been one of the most popular superhero franchises in comics for more than a generation, and the big screen adaptations helped kick off the current wave of superhero films, including X-Men: Apocalypse, which arrives in North American theaters this weekend.

The world of the X-Men is packed with relatable themes, from the simple school setting to more complex ideas about alienation and persecution. If you love the X-Men and what they stand for, here are five of the best independent comics that reflect the themes and message of Charles Xavier’s gifted students.

  • The Umbrella Academy

    Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba

    Everyone was skeptical when My Chemical Romance’s lead singer Gerard Way wanted to break into comics, but he blew everyone’s socks off with one of the most mature and complex superhero stories of the decade. The Umbrella Academy is about a team of super-powered children who grew up, drifted apart, and now must come back together to save the world.

    The series is absolutely jam-packed with innovative ideas and fresh takes on the genre, with some superpowers you’ve never even dreamed of. Umbrella Academy sits at the meeting point between Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Chris Claremont’s X-Men, and manages to be the perfect synthesis of the two.

  • SuperMutant Magic Academy

    Jillian Tamaki

    SuperMagic Mutant Academy is a whole lot more than the X-Men pastiche its name implies, but dumps a whole bucket of ennui and existentialism on the concept that is often missing from Marvel’s big colorful punch-em-up stories. Here, the students have great abilities, but they’re still struggling with everything regular kids struggle with, from planning for your future career to struggling with your sexuality.

    The collected edition of the webcomic includes a whole host of extra content, including a brand-new forty page story wrapping everything up. Even if you did read SuperMutant Magic Academy serialized, the collected edition is still an essential purchase.

  • G-Man

    Chris Giarrusso

    G-Man is a decidedly more all-ages affair than everything else on this list, but when I say “all-ages” I really do mean that anyone can pick up these comics and enjoy them. G-Man is a kid superhero who goes to a school filled with kid superheroes, occasionally goes on adventures for the local wizard, and has to deal with a bully of a big brother who decides he wants to be a superhero too.

    G-Man is a great entry point for younger readers into the world of four-color heroes, and for die-hard fans of the genre, it’s a fun superhero romp with plenty of gags lampooning more familiar tropes. It’s well worth checking out.

  • Deadly Class

    Rick Remender, Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge

    Deadly Class is a period piece set during the height of Reaganism, and follows a young disillusioned teenager named Marcus Lopez who has lost everything and is living on the street dodging the cops and trying to get by. That is, until he meets a group of ninjas assassin teenagers and winds up enrolled in King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts.

    At the school, Marcus has to deal with the usual high school trappings of jocks, girls, and grades, but everything revolves around the quest to be the next generation of elite assassins, and failing a class can literally be a life or death proposition. Brimming with the sort of teenage angst that’ll make you nostalgic, Deadly Class is high-octane high school drama at its best.

  • Morning Glories

    Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

    The Morning Glory Academy is an exclusive boarding school for only the best and brightest teenagers in the country, and it’s also stacked wall-to-wall with enough mysteries, phenomena, and general weirdness to make your head spin.

    The series has often been compared to Lost in terms of its approach to mystery storytelling and teasing the audience, and odds are if you watched Lost you know immediately if that’s for your or not.

    If you’re looking for a big meaty series to sink your teeth into, Morning Glories is just about to hit its fiftieth issue, and is said to only be halfway done, so there’s plenty to read if this sounds up your street.


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