Sunday, 8 December 2013

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I'd open this with a joke about time travel never going out of fashion but I don't know how to structure it. Just imagine I've done it and chuckle to yourself about how clever an observation it was.

Days of Future Past is not only one of the greatest, if grammatically puzzling, titles for a comic story ever it's also a highlight of X-Men canon. Considering the number of stories that are regarded as classics within said canon that's not something I say lightly. It was written by Chris Claremont during his immense decade-plus run on the X-books. During that time he wrote more stories now considered classics than anyone else no named Stan Lee or Jack Kirby has for any other group or character. Days of Future Past is amongst his best.

The basic premise is that the adult consciousness of Kitty Pryde gets sent back in time, from 2013 eerily enough, to inhabit her teenage body in order to avert impending doom at the hands of an army of Sentinels. After the standard exchanges where she convinces the younger earlier incarnations that she is who she says she is, naturally enough featuring Wolverine’s heightened senses, the gang set about stopping an assassination attempt by Mystique's Brotherhood that proved a pivotal moment in history. It may sound basic now but that's because time travel has become so commonplace in TV, movies, fiction and pop culture in general. This story was ahead of its time and, more importantly is better than the average "timey-wimey" fluff that gets churned out today.

The time shifting shenanigans allow for more impactful moments than the average Marvel book, then or now. Claremont is free to kill off as many future incarnations of characters as he pleases, something he embraces. The death toll ratchets up, demonstrating that the future is indeed incredibly bleak and something the X-Men are right to try and avoid. Claremont also employs one of his favourite tricks, featuring reformed Magneto.

It’s a great piece of world building, a demonstration of Claremont’s skill as a writer of comic books. Using established continuity he creates a bleak world with a compelling history that’s both fleshed out and intriguing enough to make you want to explore it more. Unfortunately some people did just that: in the years since Days of Future Past first appeared Marvel have milked the DOFP continuity dry, coming as close as they can to robbing the original of its appeal. Fox are getting in on the act too, with a film adaption due out next year. Thankfully no matter how much inferior nonsense they pump out the original’s standing can’t be diminished.

Squeezed into just two issues Days of Future Past was and is a triumph, one that changed what an X-Men comic could do. It is one of the highest peaks of Claremont's lengthy X-Men career.

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