Meet the Best X-Men Team Leaders
The X-Men have always been a coalition of heroes who accept each other for their differences and work to understand each other’s flaws — which is not easy when you’re surrounded by telepaths, shapeshifters, and exploding teenagers. Their central mission, after all, is to create a safe place in society for mutantkind, which often means saving humankind as well. And with Marvel’s recent announcement that X-Men ’97 will be picking up where the iconic ’90s animated series left off, it’s time to check in with this motley crew.
The world has never been kind to mutants and without the inspiration of exceptional leaders and teachers, the X-Men could have become a force of destruction rather than peace. So let’s take a look at who have been some of the most effective leaders of the X-Men. A couple of these mutants might even astonish you.
Let’s just get this choice out of the way first. Charles Xavier is sort of obligatory to include since, without his original concept, there might never have been a team of mutants to fight for harmony between mutant and humankind.
However, it’s important to note that Charles, in the relentless pursuit of his own ideals, has on many occasions failed his students as both a teacher and a leader. He has manipulated, gaslit, and brainwashed his team endlessly. We won’t even mention Onslaught. Or the Xavier Protocols. Or his twin sister.
As long as we’re discussing obvious choices, Cyclops is the next logical choice when it comes to leaders of the X-Men. He was the team’s first leader back with the original lineup, and since then he has maintained a central importance in most X-Men adventures. Scott Summers believes in the protection of all mutants and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
In his time as leader, Scott has faced devastating sacrifice and loss at the hands of Dark Phoenix. His family has seen more turmoil than anyone should be asked to face, yet somehow Scott still returns to his team. His time-traveling, future-saving son Cable even becomes a leader in his own right. Recently, Scott defied the Avengers and embodied the Phoenix Force, showing his dedication to mutantkind above all else. Though he can be proud and hot-headed (literally), Scott laid the groundwork for what it takes to lead the X-Men.
Now, on to a leader who has truly embodied inspiration for her teammates. Ororo Munroe, AKA Storm, has worn many titles: mutant, goddess, queen, teacher, and leader. Over the years, Storm has developed close relationships with many of her teammates and her presence on the team has always been needed. At one point, she and Scott even battled for leadership and she won — without powers. Storm is an Omega Level Mutant and though she isn’t above the occasional fall from grace, she remains one of the most trustworthy and capable of X-Men team leaders.
Her ability to lead reaches even beyond the X-Men, when she assumed leadership of the Morlocks after battling Callisto, turning former enemies into allies. And long before the Quiet Council on Krakoa, Storm was a monarch of an entire country due to her marriage with King T’Challa of Wakanda. She and the Black Panther oversaw Wakanda and Storm became an international advocate for mutant rights.
Most recently, she was also appointed Regent of Mars and Voice of Sol, a position that makes her the Solar System’s representative in intergalactic relations. You could definitely say Storm is the most capable and accomplished X-Men leader.
Yes, she was a member of the Hellfire Club and she threw some complications into one of the most enduring X-Men couples, but Emma Frost is, at her best, an effective teacher and a brilliant businesswoman. With her villainous background, she never shied away from showing her students the reality of their cruel world and how to unapologetically survive in it. She has been a headmistress of the Xavier School and helped to train many powerful young mutants (shout out to Banshee, who was also headmaster and trained Generation X). Before her time teaching X-Men, she even had her own team of young mutants, the Hellions.
Emma Frost also represents the way the X-Men have always accepted the reformation of their villains and even shared close begrudging relationships with them. When the whole world is against you, it can be a little easier to forgive. Plus, mind control goes a long way.
No, actually. Magneto was in charge of the X-Men, more than once, and as a leader, he certainly has the vision and charisma for the job. In the Age of Apocalypse storyline, Magneto must create the X-Men when Charles Xavier has been killed as a child. This incarnation of Magneto also sees him romantically involved with Rogue (another member of the X-Men who has stepped in to lead when needed).
Magneto also joined the X-Men when Charles was injured and needed to be healed with Shi’ar technology. He helped lead the team of established heroes as well as teach the New Mutants. While his methods are almost entirely extreme and his judgement unyielding, Magneto is undeniably a leader.
Though she is most closely associated with being in charge of the New Mutants, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar, AKA Mirage, is a team leader who combines many of the best qualities of her predecessors. Like Cyclops, Dani initially had very little control over her powers, causing her to withdraw and develop a tough outer shell. However, with time and guidance, she learned how to wield her power and with this background, she is uniquely able to empathize with young mutants coming into their own — an essential quality in a team leader.
Dani also has connections to worlds beyond just the X-Men, much like Storm. While in Asgard, Dani bonded with a winged horse which she named Brightwind, and she was chosen to be a Valkyrie. She also served at Xavier’s School as a teacher, quickly becoming a beloved mentor to many young mutants.
It’s difficult to have any conversation about the X-Men without bringing up Wolverine, and when it comes to leading the team, he’s been a longstanding staple. Beneath his gruff demeanor, Wolverine stops at nothing to protect the people he cares about most, his teammates being at the top of that list.
On the battlefield, Wolverine is the ally you want to have on your side. There’s no stopping his fury. However, there’s a softer side to Wolverine, seen in his close relationship with Nightcrawler and the way he becomes a father figure to many of his younger teammates. Wolverine also naturally assumes a mentor role for many young mutants he works with, such as Kate Pryde and Jubilee, as well as his cloned daughter Laura Kinney, AKA X-23.
The enduring appeal of Kate Pryde is because of the way readers have truly watched her grow up over the years and find herself, having gone through many different roles, teams, and even names. Kate appears human on the outside but contains so many different facets of her personality within, which is something readers easily relate to. She’s probably best known as “Kitty” though her aliases have included Sprite, Ariel, and Shadowcat.
As she has matured, from teenage member of the X-Men to a sea-faring pirate who liberates mutants from hostile countries, Kate represents leadership that is hard earned but well deserved. Alongside Nightcrawler, she helped co-found Excalibur. She has fostered loving relationships with countless teammates and proved her trustworthiness over and over again. Often, she’s associated with her on-again, off-again love Colossus and her other-dimensional companion Lockheed, but recently Kate has been at the helm of the Marauders and she has embraced her queer sexuality. Kate represents a leader’s ability to grow along with her team, matching their needs while staying true to herself.
Many other mutants and heroes have taken up leadership of the X-Men and their affiliated teams, but the figures above represent those who have gone above and beyond for their fellow mutants.
Who is your favorite leader of the X-Men? Is there someone you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!