Friday, November 30, 2012

1981 - Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past

Uncanny X-Men #141-142
January- February 1981
“Days of Future Past”
Writing: Chris Claremont (plot and script) and John Byrne (plot)
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

While a lot of fans classify the Dark Phoenix Saga as the ultimate X-Men storyline, I’d argue for a two-issue, cross-time story called “Days of Future Past”. Both Claremont and Byrne are at the top of their game, coming off the Dark Phoenix Saga storyline and still telling outstanding stories.

This story introduced an apocalyptic, dystopian future set in 2013 where mutants are confined to concentration camps and marked with the letter M to indicate their mutant status. The post-nuclear holocaust devastation wasn’t limited to mutants as a number of non-mutant super heroes had been killed by Sentinels enforcing Project Wideawake.

Recognizing their dire situation, a ragtag group of mutants (Wolverine, Kate Pryde, Magneto, Colossus, Storm, Franklin Richards, and Rachel Summers) put into motion a desperate plot to prevent this nightmarish future from ever occurring. Claremont and Byrne in those future sequences, really capture that hopelessness and their defeated feeling.

The use this nightmarish future to up the stakes of this story’s initial problem which is to stop Senator Kelly’s assassination at the hands of the new Brotherhood of Mutants under the leadership of Mystique. Kate Pryde’s essence is sent back through to time to temporarily inhabited her past self, long enough to tell the X-Men how it all came about. “We fought. We lost. We d-died. And now... seeing you all alive -- oh God, I didn't think it would hurt so much.”

In the present time sequences, the character interactions are well done, especially capturing the leaderless X-Men (with Cyclops still on leave) and Storm taking the leadership reins.

They also manage to have a bit of levity in a rather dark themed comic book as Kitty Pryde takes on the Danger Room on her own and beats it!

At this point in their relationship, there was a lot of strife between Claremont and Byrne, but that also forced them to be at their best as they challenged each other. Byrne’s last issue would be Uncanny X-Men #143 and they would part on difficult terms. So looking back, it’s an amazing story to view the collaborative talent they had and also to realize that while they may have gone their separate way, they were never quite as good as this run.

And with the early buzz that Bryan Singer is considering this story as source material for the latest X-Men movie, there’s no better time to check out this truly revolutionary 1980s story.

Some other notes:
- The story’s title was apparently inspired by the Moody Blue’s Days of Future Passed
- Uncanny X-Men was the first appearance of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and of Rachel Summers
- Interesting to see Mystique teasing at a shared past with Nightcralwer, but that would be an unresolved plot point that would be left dangling forever.


  1. "Days of Future Past" is one of those stories destined to become a classic, if not already so. And it really makes me appreciate how much Terry Austin added to Byrne's work. The whole story is just a splendid example of good comics reading.

  2. I'm not sure to say if its fair to say neither Byrne nor Claremont were ever as good. Byrnes FF and the direction x-men took until late 86 were maybe better in many ways in my opinion. but yu could be right it's a matter of opinion.

  3. I HOPE the movie does it justice! IT is a great story.

  4. One of the best X-Men stories ever!

  5. I liked the addition of Angel back to the team and Storm taking over leadership reigns from Cyclops while he was on leave. A magnificent crescendo to a comic book symphony by Claremont and Byrne!

  6. I am in my early 30s and had somehow never read "Future Past" until earlier this year (2013). In my mind it was always built up as an insurmountably great story and after finally having read it I have to say that it surpassed my expectations.

    The small details are all so good. Something that really captured my attention was the act of time traveling that Claremont and Byrne depicted. Before reading it, I knew that it was a time travel story, but somehow in my mind I was just expecting a time machine or some other standard sci-fi contrivance. To me, Claremont/Byrne's solution to time travel was just mind blowing and a PERFECT encapsulation of what comics about mutants could and should be about. When you see that kind of creativity, you sort of have to shake your head to think about the way it all devolved into a mindless jamboree of gun-toting Fabios a few years later.

    One other interesting detail that I sort of got hung up on for a while was a seeming throwaway caption describing the way that Storm lets Xavier into her mind. It is described as a sort of uncomfortable violation. You have to figure there are layers there. The two-dimensional idea of Xavier is that he is a benefactor of the innocent and a humanitarian, but when you really think about it, his mutant powers and the ways he uses them are kind of terrifying. Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Nice post!

  7. Thanks! And thanks for sharing. Great to hear that this story still lives up to its billing!

  8. Really good write-up. I recently posted some thoughts about "Days of Future Past" on my WordPress blog:

    It's amazing to now know that Claremont and Byrne were on the verge of parting ways under less-than-amicable circumstances, given what amazing work they did together on these two issues.



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