Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Uncanny X-Men: ‘Days of Future Past'”

Dear Frank,

Whoof! We’ve had a rough two weeks, haven’t we, between cross-dressing weirdos and John Travolta… Wait, no — I’ve had a rough two weeks, because I had to watch the damn movies. You’ve gotten off pretty light.

Which is why I want to take it relatively easy this time, focus on something non-painful, print-based and fun. In short, I wanna read a comic book, and as you’ve never read the classic Uncanny X-Men storyline “Days of Future Past,” well, there we go!

The catch, of course, is that this is a comic written initially in 1980. As you know, Frank, I consider myself a pretty big fan of the comic book medium, but while I enjoy superheroes as much as the next girl, most comics prior to the modern era of writers and artists have always struck me as a bit silly. The trade paperback I found Uncanny X-Men #141-142 in, for example, includes some other issues surrounding the classic storyline, and, look, I don’t want to make too much fun of old-school comics, because I know how many people still have fond memories, but, lemme just show you this…

Totally normal thing that happened to the X-Men. Totally normal.

That image comes from “Elegy” (#138, nerds), a super-long flashback issue in which Scott Summers mopes over the death of Jean Grey while remembering the heaps of bizarre that the X-Men have dealt with. I’m sure it all was very awesome on an issue-by-issue basis, but when you describe the entire history of the comic all at once — YIKES. Some weird shit went down.

But for our purposes, all you need to know for this is that after Jean dies during that whole Phoenix/Dark Phoenix malarky (and, oy, let’s not even get into that), Scott’s quit the X-Men to get in some quality moping time and “young, spunky” Kitty Pride has joined the X-Men. Next!

“Days of Future Past” bears the mark of being an early example of this sort of narrative within the comics world, and it does lack the complexity of other “we must return to the past to save the future!” stories to come. (Technically, James Cameron should have paid off a lot more people after The Terminator.)

However, “Days of Future Past”? Totally bad-ass despite this. We jump right into the fucked-up world of 21st century New York, where Kitty Pride is now in her… I think 40s? She looks pretty good for her 40s, but definitely all grown up, which is why everyone calls her Kate now, and instead of telling her to stay in the mansion and not have adventures, she’s running through the ruins of Manhattan, being careful to dodge the giant robot Sentinels which run the place.

In the process of this, she gets stopped by the kind of punked-out thugs who always seem to inhabit post-apocalyptic wastelands like this one, but fortunately Wolverine’s around, sporting some sexy grey temples and those oh-so-delightful adamantium claws. (Just taught my spell check “adamantium.” Fun times.)

Wolverine saves Kate, then sends her back to the totally charming mutant concentration camp she lives in with the final component for a secret device. What will that secret device do? We don’t get to find out right away, because first we have to find out who’s banging who (Kate and Colossus OMG AWWWW!) and who’s in a wheelchair (Magneto OMG IRONY!). Oh, and we also have to feel sad about the mutants who bravely died for the cause. Poor dead muta– WAIT BEN GRIMM GOT FUCKED UP BY A SONIC FLAIR OR SOMETHING, DIDN’T HE? BUT HE COUNTS AS A MUTANT? I’m totally confused, but also super-behind on this, so sorry Ben Grimm, I gotta move on.

Rest in peace, guys - even the guys who I'm not sure are mutants.

The secret device turns out to be an inhibitor blocking the collars that keep the mutants in the camp from using their powers (sorry about the double negative), which means that as soon as they activate it, Rachel Summers — the daughter of this universe’s Scott and Jean, Wikipedia tells me — can psychically transport Kate into the body of her 13-year-old self, safe and happy in the year 1980. (Well, maybe not so safe; there’s a long interlude in the “present” where Kitty goes through her first session in the Danger Room, but whatever.)

Now, sending 40-something Kate back into 13-ish Kitty’s body might seem like a real waste of powers, as well as the premise of a Zac Efron romantic comedy. (Nope, spell check, I am not teaching you Zac Efron.) But Kate’s not trying to learn a lesson about appreciating the life you’ve led — she’s trying to prevent an assassination!

Yep, Presidential candidate Robert Kelly is about to get killed by a mutant, and that’s what kicks off the no-good-very-bad future where full-on mutants are exterminated and anyone with “anomalous” genes is forbidden to breed. Honestly, that last one is possibly the most disturbing element of this future world, because you start imagining how they might enforce it and… Oh, let’s not go there, Frank, shall we?

So now Kate’s busy convincing the X-Men that they need to believe her and go save Kelly, while in the future, Kate’s buddies from the mutant camp are escaping, dodging Sentinel attacks with her unconscious body in tow. Even 30 years past their prime, Wolverine and Colossus still manage a helluva fastball special. SPOILER ALERT: This move does not always go well for Wolverine.

Oh, and the X-Men have good reason to hurry — Mystique and some duders from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (worst name for a brotherhood ever, by the way — in real life, would anyone really join an organization with “evil” in the name? Nope) have all gathered to plan the assassination; there doesn’t seem to be a lot to the plan beyond “bicker amongst ourselves for two pages and then go attack Kelly,” but whatever, when you can shapeshift or make buildings collapse, I suppose a lot of planning really isn’t necessary.

The Brotherhood duders thus attack mid-Senate hearing, but OMG the X-Men are there to stop them! And that’s the end of the first issue!

Which brings us to the second issue, and a cover I’ll always have fondness for in my heart:

EVERYBODY DIES, FRANK. Big promises. Big robot. Bad news.

So the X-Men fight the Brotherhood mutants for most of this issue, and it’s a pretty good fight in terms of inventive use of powers, but good lord I’ve prattled on too much and need to speed things up. In the future, there’s also a lot of fighting, though it’s mostly just Colossus, Storm and Wolverine trying not to get killed by giant robots, with, um, variable success. (See below.)

The only major thing of note in the 1980 fight is that Storm feels conflicted about her abilities as leader of the X-Men, having taken over the job when Scott left. Gotta say — much respect, Marvel. I mean, it’s 1980 and not only is Professor X’s ex Moira MacTaggert a Nobel-prize winning scientist, but a black woman leads the X-Men? Not too bad.

On the flip side, though: Why does Pyro like to make demons out of his fire? Why doesn’t he, y’know, just SET SHIT ON FIRE? That’s certainly what I’d do.

SERIOUSLY I DO NOT GET IT.

In 1980: Fight fight fight. Boom boom boom. In 2013: Much the same, except remember how the cover said EVERYBODY DIES? Well…

Not looking good for the 2013 home team, Frank.

Hopefully that doesn’t matter, though! Because the X-Men successfully save Senator Kelly, and accordingly, Kate’s psychic presence in Kitty disappears with a kiss. (Literally, Kate gives Kitty a psychic kiss as she vacates to the future.)

Did the future change? We get no answers in these issues; we just get an epilogue in which the President decides to continue his anti-mutant agenda in secret, because blah blah serious threat to the nation. So, y’know, sucks to be an outsider. But that’s what makes the story of the X-Men so universally great, across mediums — because that’s always the case.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on January 24, 2011, in All the Spoilers, Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Manos: Hands of Fate! 🙂

    I actually downloaded and watched about 30 or 40 minutes of it. It is as bad as you would expect, and possibly worse knowing it is bad. Even with MST3K comments.

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