Holy freaking crap! The cover! Normally, these retro reviews are heavy on spoilers (the comic is nearly 40 years old after all), but this issue spoils it for you right on the cover, EVERYBODY DIES! Hey, it’s not like I’m reviewing Infinity War here, spoiler alert for that EVERYBODY DIES! I hope and pray that I’m joking, my fragile heart can’t take it. That said, go and read these comics before you read this review, they deserve your undivided, unbiased attention.
This cover is my all-time favorite comic book cover. Although by the time I was reading comics, this was “old” and the follow-up comics were released (Days of Future Present, etc. all the stuff that attempted to diminish the original, but the original is so good, it can’t be diminished). As a kid, I largely read X-Men Classics (or Classic X-Men) because they were cheaper. I could afford 4 issues of that for every one of a new comic. This caught me up on many classic X-Men stories, such as the Dark Phoenix Saga. However, for Days of Future Past, I HAD TO OWN the original. I save my paper route money (yes, I delivered the newspaper door to door) and purchased Uncanny X-Men 142.
My hands trembled as I opened it, now I’d heard of it, but before this I had not yet actually read it. The cover promised my worst possible fear: “In this issue, everybody dies.” Insane. And yes, everybody does in fact die. This comic changed me. Not unlike Kitty Pryde, the young girl / middle aged woman at the center of this story, I grew up in X-Men comics.
The opening panel shows us the heart of this book, Kitty/Kate Pryde, a woman between time, between two worlds, between the child she is and the woman she will become.
The story picks up with the senate hearing battle with some great mutant action. Including Storm, the NEW leader of the team on her FIRST mission, preventing Wolverine from killing Pyro thanks to a handy tornado.
Professor X confirms that Kitty is who she says she is. In the present, 1980, the battle continues, in the future, 2013, the team is on their way to the sentinel nerve center, The Baxter Building. A possible parallel earth is mentioned, meaning, that despite their best efforts this timeline likely remains doomed. Storm wishes for a moon. We have the beautiful conflict between the hope of youth and the bitterness of age.
To prevent things from being too deep, Wolverine has a Batman-like magic belt buckle.
In the present, a foolish army guy with a flamethrower tries to burn Pyro. It doesn’t work on the Englishman, who will soon be Australian. A quick aside on Pyro, I just read an article where John Byrne said he drew him as “gay” as the character was intended to be and he somehow came out English but is really Australian. Look it up, I’m not totally clear on it myself.
Two Nightcrawlers duke it out. One is clearly Mystique, but Wolverine can’t tell them apart. His totally reasonable response? Stab them both to death. Storm again interjects, stopping him. It’s a great moment that both displays the character of Wolverine, and the leadership of Storm, standing strong despite her doubts, a true leader. It’s countered nicely in the future where they are now old friends who trust one another.
Mystique hints at knowing Nightcrawler, oh you blue mutants! The present team comes together to defeat the brotherhood. In the future, the badass to end all badasses, grey haired, leather jacket-wearing Wolverine, is killed instantly.
Sure the cover showed his death, but it was downright shocking for it to be so abrupt. As a kid, I gasped, I gasp again as an adult. I know it’s coming, but you expect Wolverine to go down swinging, yet he doesn’t.
The team got in so easily because the sentinels knew they were coming, they let them come, because they know the X-Men can’t win. The hits just keep on coming as the rest of the team dies in short order as Rachel protects Kate’s body, which has Kitty’s consciousness in it, although Kitty herself is unconscious (a bit confusing, but it makes sense in the comic).
First, Storm dies in the second greatest death in all of comics (maybe a bit of an overstatement).
Then, Colossus, once soft, once gentle, once a poet, once an artist, now great rage and virtually instant death.
Rachel, using her telepathic abilities, feels her friends, her family, her surrogate parents dying one by one. Rachel hunches down with Kate, the last hope, in the past.
In the past, er present, Kat saves Senator Kelly from Destiny. Destiny was unable to sense her due to the timeshift. Then, the consciousnesses swap back. In a profound, sweet and kind of strange moment, the young Kitty feels a motherly kiss on her cheek from the older Kate. As a kid, this moment was weird and silly, now, as a father, I am nearly in tears as I write this.
Kitty remembers nothing, save the feeling of the kiss. The team laments the future, unsure if they changed anything. Angel notes that only time will tell, even pointing out that it’s a cliché, but sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re also true.
In a short epilogue, Gyrich, Shaw, and Kelly conspire with the promise of new sentinels. It might be different, but apparently, it’ll still be bad.
Byrne and Claremont had one more issue after this. A throwaway book with Kitty in the mansion alone. It’s not bad, but after this, nothing can compare. They didn’t always get along, but they always told great stories. With Days of Future Past, they told the greatest comic book story ever. It changed comic storytelling, impacted cinema (Terminator…?), and had a profound impact on my life. It ranks with To Kill a Mockingbird as books that spoke to me as a kid, yet helped me grow up a little as a middle-schooler.
I learned a great deal about story and storytelling by reading X-Men comics as a kid. Every time I revisit that entire run by Claremont, and Cockrum, then Claremont and Byrne, then Claremont and various other artists, I find something new. A new detail, a new way of conveying character through small touches and big ones. These two issues are the best of such storytelling.
Thanks for reading! Again, you can also watch my full review of the entire Days of Future Past. That means, the two issues covered here, plus a whole lot of attempts to cash in on it. Most are only worth reading if you’re mean and you’re insane, however, there is a really fantastic Hulk story buried in there. I also recently found the actual issue at a thrift store for $2, see the video here. See you Friday for the Special Cinematic Edition finale, the unreleased Fantastic Four from 1994, and then again on Monday for Fantastic Four no. 11.
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, who is thankful for X-Men Classics as a kid, they were cheap! (find his collection of short stories here), he’s also a YouTube commentator (where among other things he talks about Days of Future Past).