So you’ve seen the X-Men: Days of Future Past, the movie, but have you read the original comic book?
That huge movie event has its origins in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142, just two little old issues from 1980 written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne.
Warning:Spoilers ahead for the comic book; movie spoilers won’t exceed what you see in promotional materials.
Shortly before Days of Future Past, the Claremont/Byrne team made use of another classic storyline, The Dark Phoenix Saga, which resulted in the death of Jean Grey. Cyclops quit the team after that, and leadership duties fell to Storm. In fact, DOFP was her first mission as team leader. The rest of the “present-day” team consisted of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Angel, and 13-year-old newcomer Kitty Pryde, all under the guidance of Professor X. (Hank McCoy/Beast was an Avenger at this time, following an unsuccessful attempt at spinning him off into his own solo adventures.)
The “future” of the comics’ storyline is 2013, and the robotic Sentinels have taken control, similar to what we see in the movie. A new character named Rachel uses her mental powers to send the adult Kate Pryde’s mind back to her teenage body, at a time before she had been trained to shield herself from any mental attacks.
That’s why Kitty is chosen as the time-traveler—she was the novice. In the movie, they need to send someone back to 1973, before Kitty was born, and since Hugh Jackman is the star, so writers took liberties with her phasing powers and added “passing people through time” to her usual skill of “passing through solid objects.”
Unlike the movie, her objective is not to save the life of the Sentinels’ inventor, but to save the life of Senator Kelly, whom moviegoers met in the first X-Men film.
Mystique still plays the role of assassin—or rather, leader of a group of mutants out to kill the senator as a show of mutant strength.
Days of Future Past is Mystique’s first appearance in the X-Men comics. She had debuted a couple of years earlier as a nemesis for Ms. Marvel (a non-mutant super-hero and Avenger who today is experiencing a surge of popularity among comics fans as Captain Marvel).
At this point, the comics’ Mystique has no personal ties to Charles Xavier or Magneto. There are hints that she has a connection to Nightcrawler, and we later learn she’s his biological mother. Additionally, Mystique is the foster mother of Rogue, who is about a year away from her comics introduction.
Jennifer Lawrence gives a great performance as Mystique in DOFP, but hers is a more youthful portrayal, a disillusioned young woman whose path and personality haven’t been set in stone yet. From the beginning, comics Mystique comes across as worldly and set in her ways. However, both incarnations are willing to do whatever they feel is necessary to protect their fellow mutants.
Also of note, Professor X and Magneto didn’t even have any personal history at this point in the comics either. Their past friendship was retroactively inserted into continuity about 20 issues later.
Wolverine is a bit more psychotic than Hugh Jackman’s more mature portrayal. At a couple of points, he’s ready to impale a bad guy with his claws, and Storm goes out of her way to stop him and issue a stern warning that he will not slay anyone on her watch. It’s a nice little mid-battle moment giving us an early glimpse of Storm’s leadership potential and reminding us what a shame it is that Halle Berry’s Storm isn’t more fleshed out.
While the present-day battle is a pretty basic brawl, the future scenes were more groundbreaking at the time, as we see our favorite characters in a world in which they’ve failed and don’t have much else to lose. And we see them die. This is basically The End of the X-Men—a true “last stand.”
It’s pretty dark at a time when comics were regarded as kids’ stuff (and indeed, most of them were).
DOFP packed a lot of story into two issues. Modern comics would expand this into at least a six-issue storyline, if not an 18-part crossover across six different X-Men titles.
The writing style is somewhat dated. Claremont tends to be verbose, with characters often saying exactly what they feel.
Still, these comics are worth reading. That goes for the full Claremont/Byrne run, which ran from #108 to #143. They’re fun and exciting whether you’re 10 or 40—as great comics should be.