Friday, May 23, 2014

I Reads You Review: UNCANNY X-MEN in Days of Future Past


PLOT: Chris Claremont and John Byrne
STORY: Chris Claremont
PENCILS: John Byrne
INKS: Terry Austin
COLORS: Glynis Oliver
LETTERS: Tom Orzechowski
EDITORS: Louise Simonson (original), Gregory Wright (reprint)
EiC: Tom DeFalco
COVER: Jackson Guice and Scott Williams
ISBN: 0-87135-582-5; paperback (1989)
48pp, Color, $3.95 U.S., $5.00 CAN

One of the most famous stories ever published in an X-Men comic book is known as “Days of Future Past.”  The two-part story was originally published in The X-Men #141 (“Days of Future Past,” cover dated: January 1981) and #142 (“Mind Out of Time!” cover dated: February 1981).  The popularity of “Days of the Future Past” is affirmed in the fact that the story has been continued and retold and has also influenced and inspired other X-Men publications and stories in the decades since its original publication.  This story is also the basis for the shortly to be released film, X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox, 2014).

“Days of Future Past” was the creation of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, who were both credited as the story’s “co-plotters,” with Claremont providing the script and Byrne providing the pencil art.  Their collaborators were Terry Austin (ink art), Glynis Oliver (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters), and Louise Simonson (editor).

I first read the story ages ago.  It simultaneously stunned and thrilled me, so much so that I immediately reread it.  This story had it all:  a dystopian future, an assassination conspiracy, dead X-Men, X-Men in peril, X-Men murdered before my very eyes, Sentinels (which were then new to me), the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and a superhero/super-villain battle.

The X-Men #141 also probably has one of the most famous (if not the most famous) X-Men comic book covers.  Over the years, I made reading “Days of Future Past” an annual event.  One of my repeat readings was courtesy of a 1989 single-issue reprint entitled, The Uncanny X-Men in Days of Future Past.  When I recently discovered that I no longer had a copy of this comic book, I bought one from Mile High Comics, during a sale.  Because of the new X-Men movie, I decided to read and review The Uncanny X-Men in Days of Future Past.

“Days of Future Past” alternates between the (then) present year of 1980, and the (then) future year of 2013.  The X-Men #141 (“Days of Future Past”) opens in the year 2013.  The story introduces a dystopian future North America that is ruled by the mutant-hunting Sentinels.  Mutants are incarcerated in internment camps, and people are classified by their genetics.  The Sentinels not only killed almost all the X-Men, but they also killed many superheroes, including the Fantastic Four.

We meet an adult Kate Pryde.  She is one of the last surviving X-Men, along with Wolverine, Storm, and Colossus.  Kate and the X-Men join Magneto, Franklin Richards (son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four), and his girlfriend, a telepath named Rachel, in a seemingly-impossible plan to travel into the past and change the horrible era in which they live.

On the eve of a feared nuclear holocaust, Kate’s mind travels backward through time to posses the body of her younger self, Kitty Pryde.  There, she convinces the X-Men: Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Angel that they must stop a plot by the newly reassembled Brotherhood of Evil Mutants:  Mystique, Destiny, Avalanche, Pyro, and Blob.  The Brotherhood plans to assassinate United States Senator Robert Kelly, a pivotal event in mutant–human history.

The X-Men #142 (“Mind Out of Time!”) finds the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in a pitched battle in and around the Congressional building.  Meanwhile, in 2013, the few remaining X-Men make their last stand.

Apparently, Marvel Comics has designated that “Days of Future Past” takes place in Earth-811 in the Marvel “multiverse.”  When I first read “Days of Future Past,” I saw it as probably the real future for the X-Men.  I also saw it as the height of the X-Men run by the team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin.  There would be no letdown, however, as this team would produce only one more issue of the X-Men after “Days of Future Past.”  Byrne exited the title to become both a writer and an artist, taking over the Fantastic Four.

As much as I have enjoyed reading the X-Men comic books that came after “Days of Future Past,” only a few have even come close to being as close to this Claremont-Byrne classic.  I think some people consider this Byrne’s best work as an artist.  For a long time, I agreed with that, but, as an artist, Byrne would go on to produce much more polished work, with a stronger sense of composition and design than what is found in his original X-Men run.  As a writer, I won’t compare his collaborative X-Men work with his work as a writer-artist on Fantastic Four and on various Superman titles.  Indeed, he was really good on those, too.

I think of X-Men #1 to #66; #94 to #143 (the final Claremont-Byrne-Austin); and Giant-Sized X-Men #1 to be the core of X-Men “mythology.”  Everything that springs after these issues is not quite fan fiction, but much of it seems like a vain attempt to replicate the Claremont-Byrne blueprint.  I think the reason why “Days of Future Past” means so much to me is because it marked the end of an extended run of what I see as the best and the most important of the X-Men.

From the publication of the first issue of The X-Men to “Days of Future Past,” the title introduced startling new concepts, offered gripping narratives full of drama, melodrama, and soap opera, and sometimes presented visionary graphics, graphical elements, and graphical storytelling.  Pretty much everything since “Days of Future Past” has been a rehash, a copy, or a slavishly inspired remake.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

No comments:

Post a Comment