As anyone who’s read X-Men over the last 15 years can tell you: Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, love it or hate it, is one of the defining modern runs on the franchise. Coming off of the X-Men movie that similarly redefined superhero films, the natural decision to emulate the film with leather costumes was a controversial decision for the time. Though considering the move away from straight superheroics during that run, it made sense, and with a cover as striking as the one for the first issue of New X-Men, you got told everything you needed to know. You have the new team, the new outfits, and a stylish new logo all within the reader’s immediate view.
The story itself within the cover is the beginning of perhaps one of the most defining stories in the X-Men canon. While Morrison’s run was swept away as fast as possible in the aftermath, one thing that has never been erased is the destruction of Genosha. Genosha at the time it was created was a not-so-subtle parallel to apartheid, and then eventually it came to be dominated by mutants led by Magneto. The opening payload for “E is for Extinction” was for Cassandra Nova, the then-new villain, to extinguish the lives of sixteen million mutants and forever altering just what kind of stakes the X-Men were playing for, by both raising and at the same time crushing the mutant population. With a world where an entire species could suffer genocide, a more prioritized world where the X-Men are defined as paramilitary protection for a rapidly declining species makes more sense.
Speaking from personal taste, but for all the flak people lobby at the Bryan Singer leather jackets, they created perhaps one of my favorite looks for the X-Men. While they’re not quite superheroes, they’re still a stylish compromise that both evokes that look at the apex of its popularity, as well as visual links back to the franchise’s past like the yellow and red uniforms, though Wolverine and Emma defy this look in favor of their own visual hooks as they always have. That being said though, all of this comes down to Frank Quitely’s propensity to make something like people walking down towards the reader into the coolest, striking idea possible. As well as the decision to shroud the X-Men in mystery as to where they are at the moment, with the shadows obscuring them contrasting against Brian Haberlin’s colors. There’s a reason this comic has remained one of the most eternally readable comics in the X-Men canon, it won’t have any trouble continuing to do that.