Why Days of Future Past is Freakin’ Awesome

“A bleak future for mutants and humans alike”

With the next X-Men film fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to visit the comic book inspiration for the film from 1980, also called Days of Future Past (a new collection of the storyline and its tie-ins has just been released, probably to drum up hype for the film). Alongside The Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past (which I will initialise to DoFP from here on) is one of the most renowned and critically acclaimed comic storylines of all time. Countless franchises have used elements similar to, if not directly taken from, the story for decades and it pretty much sets the benchmark for time travel/post-apocalyptic stories. But does it deserve the hype and reverence? You better believe it does!

Our story opens in the year 2013, in a shattered New York. Sentinels (mutant hunting robots) have decimated all of America in their attempt to wipe out mutants. I don’t want to give too much of the story away here, but trust me when I say it does all make sense in the end for how robots took over the US. From here, the story switches between 2013 and 1980 repeatedly, telling the tales of two sets of X-Men’s struggles. While the future set must fight for their lives, the ‘present day’ X-Men must fight to stop the terrible future their older selves are experiencing coming to pass. It’s a fantastic story and is told in a way that is easy to understand and keep up with, despite the heavy science-fiction elements. This is equal parts a time-travel story and a struggle-to-survive-in-a-world-that-wants-to-kill-you story, in both 2013 and 1980.

A walk through a graveyard sets up and explains the story

As the cover of The Uncanny X-Men #141 shows, most mutants have either been captured or killed: the only exception being Wolverine. This is also from the era of X-Men when Wolverine’s healing factor wasn’t insane and it took him time to heal from his injuries, and could even be killed! In fact, death is very heavy in this tale as characters die surprisingly often and simply, with no grand speech or build-up, with some well-loved characters even dying off-panel. Most Marvel characters are actually already dead by the opening of the story in 2013, as the Sentinels viewed anyone with above human abilities to be threats. This included, but was not limited to, Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk and the Fantastic Four. There is a band of remaining mutants who are our main characters in 2013, consisting of Wolverine, Storm, Kate Pryde (an older Kitty Pryde), Franklin Richards (son of Reed Richards and Sue Storm), Colossus and Rachel Summers (daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey); while a couple of other notable characters are involved in some capacity, such as Magneto, these are our main protagonists in the 2013 timeline. The main characters of the 1980 timeline include Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Angel and Kitty Pryde. This 1980 timeline X-Men must face off against Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, while their 2013 counterparts must face off against the Sentinels that have taken over. While this seems like a lot of characters to keep track of, the writing is so perfect you won’t ever feel confused about who’s who and who’s doing what.

Often parodied, but never bettered, the cover of The Uncanny X-Men #141 is awesome

Speaking of the writing, the writer and artist here are Christ Claremont and John Byrne. Yes, that’s right, the same guys that wrote and drew The Dark Phoenix Saga only a few issues prior. Between the two of them they defined the X-Men and continue to do so to this day with the stories they wrote/drew. DoFP is another perfect example of how good X-Men can be, and how good comics can be. The art is classic comic book art and the writing, though it may seem a little over-explanatory nowadays, is pitch-perfect for each character - which is not surprising considering the man writing it defined how each character sounds.

I also feel that, while the main story that I’ve reviewed here actually takes place across two issues of The Uncanny X-Men, there are quite a few tie-in issues which are included in this new collected edition that take place outside of the main storyline. There is the sequel story, Days of Future Present, that takes place across the Fantastic Four Annual #23, New Mutants Annual #6, X-Factor Annual #5 and X-Men Annual #14 and focuses on the Fantastic Four; the prequel story Wolverine: Days of Future Past #1-3 as well as other tie-ins including Excalibur #52 and #66-67, and Hulk: Broken Worlds #2. Each extra story adds more depth to the DoFP world (later designated as Earth-811) and lets us explore other characters in that desolate future.

DoFP is up there as one of the best comic storylines ever written, and its reputation as such is definitely warranted. No matter how bad the mutants may have it, they’ll never have it as bad as they do in the future described in this book.

Final Score: 10/10

‘Til next time, this has been Josh writing for The Awesome Update.

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