Friday, May 30, 2014

1980 - Uncanny X-Men - "Days of Future Past"

Uncanny X-Men #141-142 (1980)
“Days of Future Past”
Writer/Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

After enjoying Bryan Singer's take on this X-Men classic,  I thought I'd have a read over of the original material. Days of Future Past kicks off in the far flung future of the 21st century known as 2013, which might have seen like the future in 1980, but oddly enough, it's now our past.

Kate Pryde travels through a post-apocalyptic New York City. The Sentinel robots have gone well beyond their mandate and have become tyrants over North America. She meets up with Colonel Logan of the Canadian Resistance Army and they set in motion a desperate plan as the world is prepared to nuke North America to prevent the Sentinels from expanding their grasp.

Society has crumbled and taken an almost medieval feel with horses pulling buses and people being divided into classes: M for Mutants, A for Anomalous who have the mutant gene potential, and H for clean humans. In this nightmarish future, the X-Men and other heroes, including the Avengers and Fantastic Four, have fallen before the might of the Sentinels.

This future sequence introduces Rachel (which would later be retconned to Rachel Summers, the daughter of Scott and Jean Grey). Using her telepathic gifts, Rachel sends Kate's consciousness into her past self. To contrast that terrifying future vision, we witness the newest X-Man, Kitty Pryde, as she's put to the test in the Danger Room. To the team’s delight, she phases through all its deadly threats and passes. The consciousness transfer then happens and the X-Men react as the youngest of their team seems hurt.

Kate's consciousness take over Kitty's body and after a brief reunion, she tells them of her future and that the assassination of presidential candidate Kelley will trigger the Mutant Control Act and make that nightmare future come true.

Meanwhile, Mystique has assembled a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Avalanche, Blob, Destiny, and Pyro) to kill Kelly. The X-Men then set out to stop Mystique. After an awkward start without Cyclops’ leadership (who was still on his leave after Jean’s death), the team comes together to defeat Mystique.

But, just when you thought things were getting better, we flip back to the future where the Sentinels have caught up with our rag-tag group of mutants and despite a valiant effort, they are slain, adding more dramatic imperative to what’s occurring in the “present”. There’s a very touching set of panels depicting the surviving Rachel hidden in an alley with the unconscious Kate, and she feels her teammates die. The climax shifts to Kate Pryde who's the one who can stop Destiny from killing Senator Kelly. As she’s a temporal anomaly and beyond Destiny’ precognitive senses, she stops Destiny and rescues Kelly. In the aftermath of this attack, Senator Kelly along with Sebastian Shaw (the mutant Black King of the Hellfire Club) work with Henry Gyrich to establish the anti-mutant program called Project Wideawake.

This story’s really about friendships and loyalty and keeping Professor Xavier’s dream alive, it’s also about compassion. Kitty Pryde is the pivotal character in this story as she’s the newest X-Men, she’s a great character through which to approach this story, it’s also fun to see the contrast between Kitty and Kate and her sudden awareness of the future she will have with the X-Men.

I completely forgot that the Angel was still part of that team at that point, not that he plays a significant part, but it was interesting to see him. Another interesting tidbit is the interaction between Nightcrawler and Mystique that suggested they have an intertwined past.


  1. I just re-read DOFP, too, in anticipation of the movie. (I still haven't gone to see it yet, by the way, but the wife and I are planning a trip into town tomorrow to go see it.) A couple thoughts:

    1. A few random bits of trivia occur around this storyline. I'm pretty sure this is where Wolverine switches to the brown costume. (When I said I re-read this part, I actually read 129-142... aka most of the Byrne run). Also, the middle of this storyline is where the title switches to "Uncanny X-Men" from just "X-Men." So technically, it's X-Men #141 and Uncanny X-Men #142.

    2. Yes, Angel was on the team. The story I've heard is that Byrne really wanted to draw the wings, so Claremont included him... even though Claremont hated Angel (who is, let's face it, far-and-away the most boring of the original 5 - at least before the Archangel stuff).

    3. I love the panel of the X-Men laughing as Kitty successfully crosses the Danger Room. It's fun to see something truly "fun" in an X-Book, which can so often be bogged down in being "serious."

    4. In the graveyard panel, besides seeing the (expected) names of the X-Men, you can also make out Peter Parker (well, "Pe Pa," anyway) and all of the Fantastic Four.

    5. I don't know if I'd somehow never noticed it before, or if I just didn't make the connection, or if I didn't think it through or what, but realizing that Sebastian Shaw is behind Project Wideawake kind of blew my mind. First of all, that the X-Men don't (technically) succeed in stopping this future, since Wideawake comes about anyway, is depressing. The idea that the man BEHIND Wideawake is himself a mutant is disturbing. But most of all, I guess my perceptions have just been so shaped by the animated series that I really kind of forgot what Kelly's coda was. I was JUST outside the target demographic for X-Men (I turned 6 one week after the show debuted), but I was a faithful viewer from the night of the premiere, and I was precocious enough to understand the convoluted-ness that the show tried to convey. But in THEIR version of DOFP, at the end of the story, Kelly is so grateful that he comes to see that mutants can be both good and evil, just like humans, and he ends up championing mutant rights and releasing Hank McCoy from prison. In light of THAT version of the story being so strongly imprinted on my mind, it was actually kind of a shock to see Kelly STILL harbor this anti-mutantcy.

  2. Hey David, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    On #1, the brown costume made its premiere in (Uncanny) X-Men #139.

    On #2, I didn't know that, thanks.

    On #5, if I recall the Shaw angle and Project Wideawake was covered in the early issues of the New Mutants.

  3. If I may interject on #5: the whole Shaw/Sentinels storyline started right in the middle of the Dark Phoenix saga. In Uncanny X-Men I#135, right after the X-Men had invaded the Hellfire Club during a party attended by Robert Kelly, the senator was shocked by having seen how brazen mutants can be. Sebastian Shaw, his own status as a mutant still a secret, approached Kelly and took advantage of Kelly's rattled nature by proposing the government started building Sentinels to deal with the mutant problem.

    In other words, this means the events of Days Of Future Past wouldn't have prevented the rise of government sponsored Sentinels. If Kelly had lived or died, Wideawake was already underway, with Kelly having very little to do with it afterwards (when next we see Wideawake, Henry Gyrich is acting as government liasion to Shaw Industries).



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