Monday, September 5, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze Age: Days of Future Past


In many of these Bronze Age moments, the story is so powerful that I vividly remember where I was when I read it for the first time as a kid. In the case of this week's post, I was actually in a grocery store called Food World, patiently waiting for my mom to get her groceries while I poured over the spinner rack (remember those?).

The two-issue storyline "Days of Future Past" blew me away as a kid. I realize now that this story probably seems very anti-climatic because of how many times it's been referenced and revisited in various comic book stories. Looking at it for the first time with fresh eyes, however, it's a fairly impressive story for its day.

Basically, we get a glimpse of the future, as in 2013. Mutants and heroes are hated, hunted, and killed. A small band of heroes, including Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Rachel Summers (our first introduction to her), Kitty Pryde, and Franklin Richards, try to stop this horrible future by sending Kitty's consciousness into her past self on Halloween 1980 to stop the assassination of Senator Kelly. His death paves the way for this horrible, mutant-hating world.

We get an introduction to the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (much later Freedom Force) led by Mystique. An epic battle ensues with the X-Men in our present, while in the future the X-Men remaining are killed one by one by Sentinels.

What made this story so special? I guess the thing that got me in the first issue was the dreary future that I was seeing portrayed. My heroes, the X-Men, were not heroes anymore. They were hated by the world. One image in that comic shows a line of headstones with various hero names on it. It was sobering stuff.

I could barely wait for the next month, and I was planted in my same spot reading the follow-up issue, which boldly proclaimed "This issue: Everybody Dies!". And there, on the cover, Wolverine is toasted by a Sentinel!

Again, I can appreciate how reading this today seems boring because, let's be honest, Wolverine has been toasted now probably a dozen times over the years. It seems like everyone who wants to kill him off in some variant or future-based storyline goes for the faithful "burn him alive" routine. However, this was the first time for me.

One by one, my beloved X-Men are killed off in the pages of this comic, even as their present selves fight to stop Kelly's assassination from taking place so the world will not turn out so badly.

In this end, this DOFP world was revisited a number of times in many different ways. The Fantastic Four were a major part in "Days of Future Present", where Franklin Richards came back from that timeline (before he was killed) and tried to recreate things. The four-part storyline was far inferior to the original though.

This storyline was even touched on briefly in the X-Men animated cartoon series of the 1990's, though their truncated version was different in many ways. That just shows how powerfully this particular two-issue venture resonates with the comic world.

2 comments:

William said...

DOFP was really a great story, but it wasn't one of my favorites. I found it to be a little too dark and depressing for my tastes.

The other thing I just can't get past in this story is that we are expected to accept the notion that a bunch of man-made robots (built by a government contractor who was probably the lowest bidder, no less) managed to take out all the super beings on Earth except for a handful of X-Men. That includes the FF, The Avengers, The Defenders, etc.

I really find it hard to believe that some big robots killed the likes of Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Hercules, The Thing, The Hulk, Dr. Strange, Namor, etc. Something that neither Galactus, Thanos, Loki, or any other of a number of incredibly powerful super villains could ever do. But some mindless robots pulled it off and in the process must have also managed to outwit Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Tony Stark and all the other Marvel super geniuses... Not bloody likely.

Also, one note of interest about this one... It was John Byrne who actually came up with the idea for this story, and then realized later (after it was too late) that he'd accidentally ripped off the plot from an old episode of Dr. Who called "Day of the Daleks". That's from JB's website "Byrne Robotics". I always thought that was a pretty interesting factoid.

Reed S. said...

Personally I would've gone with the Dark Phoenix Saga, or maybe the Brood story Arc. That one contained my personal favorite X-Men issue.

I can't recall the # (I read it in a trade) but it's the one where Wolverine is alone on the Brood Planet narrating his activities like he was recounting his past. Great stuff

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