Looking back over X-Men’s rich history in the comics, there are few storylines that have had as much of an impact as both Age of Apocalypse and Days of Future Past. Each one had the opportunity to do whatever it wanted with the characters – meaning anyone could die – and by having such creative freedom, there were opportunities to not pay too much attention to the intricate history of the mutant legacy that came before.
However, everyone has a favorite, so with that in mind, we look at 5 reasons why Age of Apocalypse was better than Days of Future Past, and 5 why it never will be.
10 Better: A Richer Story
Age of Apocalypse saw every corner of the X-Men universe play a part in its story, with the event taking place in well over 40 issues spanning plenty of different titles.
This gave writers like Jeff Loeb, Howard Mackie, and Scott Lobdell time to explore how Charles Xavier’s death would affect an alternate universe, and how many characters we’ve grown to love over the years would act as part of his passing. Magneto’s character arc was one of redemption, and getting to see him as the leader of the X-Men was one of the story’s best features, along with the journeys that Gambit, Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Cyclops would all make as the Age of Apocalypse reached its epic conclusion.
9 Never Will Be: It Cemented Kitty Pride As A Main Player
Kitty Pryde hadn't had much of an impact in the X-Men comics, but that all changed after Days of Future Past. When we see her in 1980, Pryde is a nervous X-Man, unsure of herself and her powers.
When Kate travels back in time from 2013, she becomes a force to be reckoned with and shows the power and control of abilities she will eventually end in control of. When the story ends, Pryde remembers nothing of the events that transpired within the US Senate, but as Charles Xavier tells her that “Kate Pryde is a delightful and admirable person,” her journey from shy girl to a powerful woman truly begins. Kitty Pryde becomes a big player in the X-Men, and this story was the catalyst for her growth as a character.
8 Better: Character Alliances Were Changed
Some of the most shocking elements of Age of Apocalypse was seeing how certain character’s loyalties had changed to the ones we were used to. Cyclops wasn’t the revered leader of the X-Men anymore, rather an elite soldier working for the story’s main antagonist Apocalypse.
Henry McCoy AKA Beast was also a deranged scientist, creating mutant hybrids akin to Frankenstein. Within the mutant resistance, Magneto was now leader of the X-Men, and after a brief spell as one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen as seen in X-Men: Chronicles #1, Sabretooth ended up fighting alongside the X-Men as they waged their war against the evil mutant despot.
7 Better: A More Satisfying Payoff
Due to the different story arcs seen in X-Man, Gambit and the Externals, Weapon X, X-Calibre, Generation Next, Factor X, Amazing X-Men, and Astonishing X-Men, there was a lot riding on the finale. Every character had their own reasons for taking revenge on Apocalypse and his cohorts, so seeing all of the different threads come to a head in such a well-written way was hugely satisfying.
In X-Men Omega #1, we finally see Apocalypse defeated at the hands of Magneto, but due to the story’s build up over the huge comic event, the final payoff has a greater impact with such an emotionally charged battle, especially as we see so many big characters lose their life as a result.
6 Better: Apocalypse Was A Better Main Antagonist Than Mystique
Although Days of Future Past only took place over two issues of The Uncanny X-Men (#141 and #142), we still got to see how devious the Brotherhood of Mutants leader was. However, Apocalypse was a much superior villain, and the pain and hardship he’d left in his two-decade reign of North America saw much larger ramifications as a result.
His brute strength almost killed Magneto, and the fear he instilled within his own ranks showed how dominant he was. Sure, Mystique was a strong leader, but it was Age of Apocalypse that cemented the main antagonist that was more successful than Mystique was against the X-Men.
5 Never Will Be: The Sentinels Were Better
The Sentinels in Age of Apocalypse caused somewhat of a problem for the X-Men, however, they were soon reprogrammed to help evacuate survivors from the camps of Eurasia to a much safer place. In Days of Future Past, they caused untold deaths to thousands of mutants, as well as humans who possessed superpowers.
Within the first few pages, we’d seen the graves of Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, and Nightcrawler to name a few, and as the story progressed it became clear exactly how powerful these robots were. Even as The Uncanny X-Men #142 reached the end, Wolverine perishes at the hands of these merciless machines.
4 Never Will Be: Almost Everyone Dies
There was plenty of death in Age of Apocalypse, and with each one the need for revenge grew greater within the heroes, but Days of Future Past had already killed off half of the Marvel universe before it’d even started to pick up the pace.
Three-quarters of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Iceman, Cyclops, and Angel had all died due to the Sentinel’s actions, and it only got worse. We witnessed Reed Richards get frazzled and lose his life, plus Wolverine, Colossus, and Storm died right near the end. Thankfully, the actions of Kate Pryde managed to reverse the future that occurred as a result of Senator Kelly’s assassination, but it was still a bleak existence while it lasted.
3 Never Will Be: It Was More Influential
When Days of Future Past hit comic book stands in 1981, it told a tale much darker than comics had done before. Instead of the colorful pages fans were used to, The Uncanny X-Men #141 opened up with an adult Kitty Pryde (now known as Kate) walking through the streets of a war-torn New York, with rubble and destruction surrounding her.
Mutants and superheroes have perished, and the often happy-go-lucky X-Men had been devastated by something big. It changed the way comics were told and allowed Marvel to explore the concept of dystopia – avenues where the good guys didn’t always win – and made Gwen Stacy’s death look like a day at the fair.
2 Better: So Many Mutants Were In It
Quite often in comic events, many different characters make an appearance in one way or another, and Age of Apocalypse was no different, featuring so many mutants that it’s hard not to appreciate how special all their appearances were.
From stalwarts such as Magneto, Cyclops, and Jean Grey to lesser-known mutants like Guido, Sauron, and Vincente Cimetta, new favorites were able to shine, and resonate with fans that may not be too familiar with them. Of course, not all made massive impacts, but it was refreshing to see so many within one event, and it made the story one of the most memorable as a result.
1 Never Will Be: It Had The More Iconic Cover
Of all the artwork featured on the various covers within the Age of Apocalypse series, none were more iconic than that of The Uncanny X-Men #141. Straight away, you’re unsure why Wolverine appears older, and also left wondering exactly what he is protecting the brown-haired woman from.
Not only that, but the posters that hang in the background confirm that some of the biggest X-Men have died, and others have been apprehended. Immediately you’re asking questions about exactly what is going on, and what threat could have potentially caused such devastation. It’s no surprise that John Byrne’s famous cover helped to inspire so many more over the following years.