In the January and February issues, 1980, of the Uncanny X-Men, Chris Claremont wrote a short storyline about a dystopian future where all mutants were confined to interment camps. They were forced to wear inhibitor collars that neutralized their powers. The United States was patrolled and protected by Sentinels. Giant robots with the power to destroy all in their path. The rest of the world, worried about the power of the Sentinels and what the intentions of the United States truly are, plan a full scale nuclear assault on the United States. The year is 2013. To stop the upcoming war and offer hope for a better future, the few remaining mutants come up with a plan, to change the past.
With the help of Franklin Richard, the last remaining member of the Fantastic Four and Rachel Summers, they send Kitty Pryde’s mind backward through time, to the year 1980, to possess the body of her younger self and somehow convince the X-Men of the present to stop a tragic moment in mutant and human history. The assassination of Senator Robert Kelly by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Mystique. In doing so, Kitty Pryde and her future mutants hope to change the world of 2013.
The assassination is stopped and Kitty is pulled back into the future, leaving her present self of no memory of what happened. The X-Men of 1980 are left to wonder if what they did to help the future Kitty Pryde worked and if the future was truly changed or do interment camps and loss of freedom await all of them.
The future is not showed again in this story arc so, along with the X-Men, we are left to wonder what will come.
Days of Future Past got a huge boost in the mainstream world with the movie adaptation as a sequel X-Men First Class. It has pretty much re-launched the X-Men movie franchise which to be quite honest was seriously beginning to flounder after the poorly executed X-Men III and two sad little Wolverine movies. The movie made changes to the original storyline for obvious marketing purposes and pretty much was on mutant overload. The two issue comic book was definitely not. In fact I don’t believe we see Professor X once in the two issue arc. There is a moment where a man roles up in a wheelchair but that happens to be future Magneto. Also it is Kitty Pryde who goes back in time to inhabit her younger self and not Wolverine. But since Hugh Jackman is a bigger draw than Ellen Page there you are. Also all that noise about Anna Pacquin’s Rogue character being cut out of the movie, never makes an appearance in the comic book. Most likely because Rogue does not make an appearance in the comic book world until August of 1981 in an Avengers book and as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as Mystique’s adopted daughter no less. No Quicksilver either.
So no heavy mutant overload. No Professor X. No Cyclops or Jean Grey. The main character driving the story is Kitty Pryde which in the comic book world is a very much beloved character. A newer younger X-Man at the time. Full of hope for the world to come. That is who Claremont and company decided should tell the tale of Days of Future Past.
“…In North America, in the year 2013, there are three classes of people: “H” for baseline human-clean of mutant genes. Allowed to breed. “A” for anamolous human- a normal person possessing mutant genetic potential…forbidden to breed. “M” for mutant. The bottom of the heap. Made pariahs and outcasts by the mutant control act of 1988. Hunted down-and with a few rare exceptions-killed without mercy. In the quarter century since the acts passage, millions have died. They were the lucky ones…”
These words coming from Kitty Pryde pretty much shook up the Marvel Universe. Claremont had just, in one fell swoop darkened the future of the X-Men franchise. He took it from the Utopia of Charles Xavier’s vision into the the reality of Magneto’s fears. Days of Future Past is mutant holocaust.
Days of Future Past does drop some teasers for the X-Men world. It introduces a telepath called Rachel who we would find out later in the X-Men universe is the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Rachel inherits her mother’s gifts and some fear her curse of the Phoenix. There is the moment when Nightcrawler and Mystique battle and Mystique hints at a possible relation between the two. Of course we find out much later that Mystique is actually Nightcrawler’s biological mother.
But the impact of Days of Future Past is in the idea. The prospect that the future is not one of hope but one of utter despair. A future where the heroes do not win the day but live in prison camps, chained and controlled for no other reason than they were born that way. Marvel fans voted Days of Future Past one of the top 25 best Marvel storylines of all time. It should have been in the top ten on impact alone. It has shaped the X-Men universe more than any other and in turn, Marvel Universe itself.