Writer Marguerite Bennet offers up a great quality retro adventure that despite taking place in one of the darkest possible X-Men futures is somehow fun and full of hope. There are plenty of nods to the classic story and some effective Claremontian writing, with interesting and exciting new takes on the original plot points. There is also a suitably strong and engaging new lead with the introduction of Chrissie Pryde. This is great as a nostalgia tinged reinterpretation, but it also stands up as a brilliant new story in its own right.
This book offers up a wonderful opportunity; a chance to revisit a much loved X-Men story/world as well as bringing some interesting takes on X-Men characters into the ongoing Secret Wars event. Much like the other event tie-ins this story takes place on an alternate version of the alternate reality in question. In the original 1981 Days of Future Past two-parter the X-Men of the future died trying to infiltrate the Baxter Building. Here they live on as Kitty never psychically travelled back in time to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly. Instead, she and Colossus remain in the internment camp alongside Magneto, Rachel Summers, and a new character in the form of her daughter Chrissie Pryde.
Bennett and artist Mike Norton do some sterling work weaving in elements of the original work through story beats and plenty of fun visual nods. We open with young Chrissie clad in prison overalls and marked “M” (for mutant) making her way through the rubble of Sentinel controlled New York just like her mother did all those years ago. This New York is immediately given a sense of place, time, and background; technology has gone backwards (not withstanding giant killer robots) as vehicles are towed by horses, there are destitute civilians on the streets, gangs on the prowl, overgrown and collapsed buildings, and a complex political environment – might the tide of public opinion finally be moving against mutant oppression and towards integration?
When Chrissie gets into a bind with the local wildlife Logan makes an appearance, still running free and as sassy as ever. The relationship between Chrissie and Wolverine is quickly established and is a neat call back to some of his mentoring relationships of the past like those he developed with Kitty or Jubilee. Chrissie is not the naïve young Kitty of the original, she is strong and independent (with a hint of uninformed youth), but it is nice to see that she can also allow herself to rely on her friends and family too. When Kitty herself arrives to face down a Sentinel (Norton’s Sentinels look as grand and imposing as ever) reference is made to her helping to detain two mutants, we quickly discover the mutants in question are the Blob and Mystique. This is a nice touch, it further mirrors the original story where Mystique was the antagonist in the ‘past’, and allows us to see that same cast of heroes and villains through a new and perhaps more sympathetic lens (they’ve been experimented on for over a decade after all).
Once our heroes have made their escape from the internment camp we learn what the core narrative of this story will be – rather than make a run for freedom the team are going to attempt to foil an assassination attempt, the target being President Kelly. A rogue Sentinel is intending to kill him whilst he gives a speech at the Baxter Building, essentially bringing the past and future stories of the original to the same place and time, one that has dark connotations in this story. There are other arcs in play too: Cameron is a apparently a merciless killer, which may be a necessity in this world but no one else seems so readily violent, Storm is somewhere in the city, and Magneto is slow to help save civilians (it’s not clear yet if that’s due to politics or age).
Even in this dark vision of the future the X-Men are still the X-Men. They are friendly and optimistic and courageous. They are a family. They will put their lives on the line to save a man who hates and oppresses them because that selfless act might change the hearts and minds of their oppressors. This is the very spirit of the X-Men, the idea that they would come together in even the toughest circumstances and try to do the right thing through virtuous deeds. It is a vision of the team that has been sorely lacking in recent years and it is more than welcomed back. Bennett really captures that sense of hope and bravery that pervaded the best of Claremont’s work. This is a great book because it reminds of the classics at the same time as bringing new ideas, new interpretations, and new characters to the page. Let’s hope they survive the experience.
Years of Future Past #1 // Writer – Marguerite Bennett / Artist – Mike Norton / Colourist – FCO Plascencia // Marvel
Notes and Observations:
- I wonder where Franklin Richards is in this version of this reality? I hope we get to see him (and Storm too who was name-checked at least).
- I wonder who Cameron’s mother is!
- Where would Air Force One be flying to/from if the Sentinel Controlled Territories only exist as a part of Battleworld (is it the entirety of this version of the US)?
- The various nods to the overall Secret Wars events were great too with some Doom-related phrases and images making their way into this society’s culture and history.
All art belongs to the copyright holder