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April 29, 2014 / Jett

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

Having been burned not too long ago on X-Men comics that didn’t stand the test of time, I stepped into X-Men: Days of Future Past with caution. It’s reputation as being one of the best X-Men story arcs has bubbled up to the point where it’s the focal point of the next movie, but my time reading other 80s era X-Men omnibus wasn’t all that entertaining due to how much the medium has evolved since then. I could have just left this one be, but knowing that the movie was coming soon and that many herald it as one of the best, I figured I should give the best of the old stuff a shot.

There are many trade paperbacks and omnibuses that contain the two-issue Days of Future Past arc. The 2011 book that I have includes X-Men #138-143 as well as X-Men Annual #4; none of which have anything to do with the primary subject. More recently, another book by the name of Days of Future Past came out with the two main issues and a completely different set of additional issues to round things out.

Having now read the main attraction, it’s clear to see why it’s highly regarded. Chris Claremont devised a great plot supported by interesting story beats and strong characters. In particular, Kitty Pride in her past and future states do a great job of moving the story forward. It still drives me nuts how heavy-handed Claremont’s writing can be, as he doesn’t trust his artists or readers to understand things unless he explains them in great detail, especially when it comes to a person’s powers. I don’t need to be told 100 times how Wolverine’s claws work. Besides, the pictures of him stabbing and slashing things are fairly self-explanatory. Times were different then I guess, and it doesn’t take away from the strong framework that he established.

The additional issues have no real connection to Days of Future Past, but they capture the team at a very interesting point in their careers. Starting with the funeral of Jean Grey, Cyclops recounts almost two decades worth of continuity in one issue. On one hand, it sort of helps set the stage for new readers in regards to what has happened to the team up until then. However, it also reads like one giant info dump rather than a th0ughtful recollection of the past before moving onto other things. Following that is a weird annual issue where the X-Men team up with Dr. Strange to save Nightcrawler from Hell.

Everything after that is surprisingly strong. We get a glimpse of many iconic X-Men characters during their humble beginnings, including Wolverine, Night Crawler, Colossus, Storm and Kitty Pryde. It’s cool to see their relationships build and watch them fumble along as they struggle to build team chemistry. My favourite of the extra issues involves Wolverine and Nightcrawler fighting alongside team Alpha Flight to take down a threat in the Canadian wilderness.

Based on my sour first taste of retro X-Men, Days of Future Past is a much stronger effort that does a better job of withstanding the test of time. The feature event is still a great read and some of the additional content is almost as strong. I can’t speak for all of the different trade paperbacks that contain the two-issue Days of Future Past run, but this particular release is a cheap way of getting your hands on some classic comics.

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  1. Alastair Savage / May 30 2014 5:16 AM

    I think those lengthy expositions were very much of their time. It started to go out of fashion with The Watchmen, which was the first book to dispense with those other boxes that say things like “Later” or “Back at the Bat Cave”,
    I loved The Days of Future Past storyline but you’re right to say that the annual in this collection is poor. That journey into hell is possibly the worst X-Men story I have ever read. I can’t believe it was every published, let alone reprinted.
    Have you read the epic run of Uncanny X-Men 111-113 where the X-Men battle Magneto? (It’s available in the collection Marvel Masterworks 1977-1978. That is their finest hour.

    • Jett / May 30 2014 7:23 AM

      Thanks for the comment!

      You’re right in that lengthy exposition was largely a product of its time. That said, Chris Claremont’s brand of exposition drives me nuts, actually gets worse after DoFP, and still carries on all the way up to the recent X-Men Gold, though that may be intentional. I used to chalk up exposition to age, but something like Kraven’s Last Hunt from 1987 (which I saw you also commented on) runs laps around Claremont’s X-Men run in 1989 (debut of Jubilee/Gambit) in terms of writing and how exposition is handled.

      I have The X-Men (1-10), Uncanny X-Men (93-100) and Dark Phoenix Saga collections on my shelf to read, but not the one you mentioned. I have seen that one though. I’ll track that down then based on your recommendation 🙂

      • Alastair Savage / May 30 2014 8:17 AM

        Oh then get it when you can! The whole run from X-men 108-148 is possibly the finest ever in comics history but I particularly like 112-121. I read them as a kid through Classic X-Men which was out in the mid-eighties.
        I agree with you about Claremont’s clunky dialogue though. I particularly hate it when every character speaks the same way, e.g. “like the proverbial [insert cliché here]”. Agh!

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