I actually like comic book events (when they’re done well) because they leverage the strengths of having a large connected universe of characters. Event comics provide context to other books, and I like stories that exist in context.
Post House of M
Ok, so House of M is the launching point, the big event that provides context for what happened next… The thing is not much happened… for basically 2 years. I made a point to complain about Civil War in the intro, and astute readers may notice, Civil War happened after House of M. The main story of the X-Books was some retcon bullshit to make Professor X more of a jerk (Which honestly you just needed to look at what he already did for that, you didn’t need a retcon.) and tie the X-Men up in space bullshit.
Uncanny X-Men ended up being about Havoc taking a team to space to fight his and Cyclops’s space brother (Cyclops didn’t get to go because Cyclops sucks)
The one big setting idea was that there were now Human maned Sentinels stationed outside the Mansion to protect it, since it was basically the last sanctuary for Mutants. It’s almost a story idea, there’s a cleverness to it, but nowhere for it to go. It’s a pretty good visual to symbolize the status quo, but it’s a status quo that sucks that no one moves to do anything about. When the stories about the X-Men should have put them right in the center of the Marvel Universe they were too busy with their own past to be arsed to deal with it.
But there are two books that deal with the fallout of M-Day from jump.
X-Factor (2005) [1-50 then renumbered 200-262]
Written by Peter David, Art Too many to list.
X-Factor launched as a new number 1 directly after the end of House of M but also as a follow up to the 5 issue mini-series Madrox from the year before (also written by Peter David). It establishes that Jamie Madrox, aka The Multiple Man, has been sending his duplicate selves (Dupes) out into the world to try everything and then return to him so that he can absorb that knowledge and experience. Also he’s a private detective, and exactly the kind of mess a private detective classically is.
David had previously written X-Factor as a team of mutants working for the government back in the late 90s (Which was a departure for what the book was originally established as: Just branding for the original 5 X-Men operating as a team again.). So it’s interesting that this new incarnation is quickly established as standing against the government, and specifically against the Super-Human Registration Act. X-Factor is located in Mutant Town in New York and ends up becoming the de facto protectors of the Mutants and former Mutants who live there.
X-Factor does a great job at teasing the reader, introducing lots of breadcrumbs to interest and get you invested. A lot of that is centered around the character of Layla Miller, who was in House of M as a plot device to get the Heroes to remember the real world. Here she just shows up and starts helping, even though no one knows who she is or why she’s there. The important thing is that she knows stuff.
If you wanted to start with just one X-Book and read that through as an anchor for getting context for the rest of the line, X-Factor is the book for you. Though it exists mostly on the sidelines past Messiah CompleX. It ran for over 100 issues, all written by Peter David, and ended in 2013. (The numbering is a little misleading because it jumps from issue 50 to 200, adding back in the original run of X-Factor issues. Also that isn’t even the end of David’s X-Factor work.)
New X-Men (2004) [20-46]
Written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, Art Mark Brooks [20-25], Paco Medina [26-28, 30-31, 33-36], Duncan Rouleau , Mike Norton , Skottie Young [37-43]
Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost’s origin story starts with them collaborating on writing the episode of the television program X-Men: Evolution that introduced the character of X-23, the teenage girl clone of Wolverine. Two years after writing that episode they got to introduce her into comics in the mini-series X-23: Innocence Lost. This is a much bleaker origin story for the character; it doesn’t pull the punches that a cartoon made for kids has to. Actually it goes beyond that; shit is bleak.
And that bleak and depressing tone carries through here. New X-Men: Academy X was at this time a book focusing on the students at the Xavier Institute, starting with Cyclops and Emma Frost taking over the reigns from Professor X. The book up to this point was all about the kids split into separate color coded teams and general high school nonsense. The Academy X branding was dropped when Kyle and Yost took over the book. Instead the rest of the volume is known by the first story arc’s name: Childhood’s End.
This run picks up right as the student body wakes up with most of the students having lost their powers, and all the trauma that comes with that. This is a comic where a student is gleefully punching a wall with bloody fists gleefully shouting “It hurts! It hurts!” because he can now feel pain again; and then another student who has the power of “uncontrollable death touch” excitedly grabs the arm of a girl he likes thinking his powers are gone, only for her hand to shrivel because he has in fact not lost his powers. This is book that has no problem just killing off teens in significant numbers.
What makes it work is that the writing is very strong. This is a book that puts its characters through the ringer, and kills off a bunch. This is a real bad time for these kids, but the ones who stand out and get through it, the ones who can take the worst the world has to throw at them and then stand up and keep going, those are the characters I’ll love forever. But it’s really the tone, that incredible bleakness that I think is so important about this run honestly., because that’s what really informs what comes next.
X-Men: Messiah Complex  Part 1, Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Marc Silvestri
Uncanny X-Men [492-494] Part 2, 6, 10, Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Billy Tan
X-Factor [25-27] Part 3, 7, 11, Writer Peter David, Art Scot Eaton
New X-Men [44-46] Part 4, 8, 12, Writers Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, Art Humberto Ramos
X-Men [205-207] Part 5, 9, 13, Writer Mike Carey, Art Chris Bachalo
Two years after Marvel reduced the population of Mutants in the world from millions to under 200, the first new mutant is born. What ensues is a race to find and secure the child who may be the key to the survival of Mutant Kind. This is a story that matters because of the events that occur, but because it’s split over the regular teams working on each book it can be inconsistent. I think the issues of X-Men and New X-Men are the standouts here because those two books have easily the strongest art here. As great as some of his other work has been, I think the weakest writing here is coming from Ed Brubaker; it’s also worth noting that he’s also the only one of these writers who doesn’t move forward on an X-Book long after this. (Although he does come back for Avengers vs X-Men and his issues are just as good as any of the others.)
This is where things start moving forward. It’s not just about trying to cling to life, now there’s something to fight for.