Welcome to Adventure(s) Time's seventy-first installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. This week, it's the journey of Kitty Pryde... or is it Bishop... maybe Wolverine, to travel back in time to save the future. That's right, we're revisiting the first adaptation ever of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's "Days of Future Past." Then, we'll see how it compares to the original.
Those still new to X-lore had to be in for a shock the morning of March 13, 1993. The latest episode of X-Men debuts, but something's wrong. The show's rather pastel color palette is missing. And in its place, a dark, shadowy look. The opening sequence isn't a fast-paced action scene, or chummy moment between the X-Men at their mansion. No, it's the Statue of Liberty, apparently shedding a tear in the year 2055. Behind her, the bombed out remains of New York.
From there, the audience meets Bishop, a mutant who's quite happy to be hunting his own kind. Opposing him are an older, tired Wolverine and a new crop of X-Men. Bishop is notified by his Sentinel superiors that he's reached his quota, and becomes a target. He aligns with Wolverine and the rebels, and the mutant scientist Forge sends him back in time to circumvent this reality's existence.
Everyone with some familiarity with the X-Men knows this concept. But it had to feel crazy if you're a viewer still discovering this world. The first chapter of the story, written by Julia Lewald, has Bishop arriving in the present day, disoriented. He knows he must stop an assassination in Washington, and a fight with time-travelling mutant-killer Nimrod confirms his story to the X-Men. But who is this assassin? Bishop makes the stunning revelation, right as Gambit and Rogue return from a date. "TRAITOR! Your future ends now!" he growls, taking aim at Gambit.
The second installment, written by Robert N. Skir and Marty Isenberg, opens with the X-Men saving Gambit from Bishop. However, the team isn't entirely convinced of Gambit's innocence, citing his reluctance to truly reveal himself. They debate over who can be trusted, over how anyone can be certain what they're capable of. It's a scene reminiscent of Claremont's writing...even though it never appeared in his comics.
The writers are drawing on the 1990s "X-traitor" plot, which had Bishop trapped in the past, certain Gambit would betray the team one day. (Claremont had departed the titles by then.) Folding these two plots from the comics is pretty clever, taking advantage of Bishop's storyline while still presenting the basics of the "Days" plot.
Following their debate, the team travels to Washington to prevent the assassination of anti-mutant senator Robert Kelly. Mystique, leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, turns out to be the true assassin. (Gambit runs into her just as she's taken his form, hoping to frame the X-Men.) Bishop decides he'd rather shoot both Gambits, just to be sure. Rogue declares she's sick of this and destroys Bishop's temporal transceiver, sending him back to the future.
The assassination is prevented, yet Bishop discovers his future is the same. (Or so he thinks, until next season's sequel.) Forge, overlooking the adamantium skeleton of the recently deceased Wolverine, declares another event must be responsible for their bleak reality.
Back in the present, Senator Kelly disappears from his office. Cyclops asks Xavier why he's certain the Brotherhood isn't responsible. Xavier explains that his watch...has been magnetized. That's always been a favorite cliffhanger, leading into what could be the finest episode of the animated series.
But! That's literally a story for another time. Right now, we're going back to 1980. Back to a time when "Days of Future Past" more likely evoked memories of a Moody Blues album.
Uncanny X-Men #141-142 charged up the fanbase only a few months after the Claremont/Byrne team created a similar furor with "The Dark Phoenix Saga." When people speak of Claremont and Byrne (with inker Terry Austin) as the team on X-Men, even decades later, here's a major reason why.
The premise, which has been homaged, retconned, and adapted a thousand times, has a future team of X-Men (joined by Magneto, now in a wheelchair) attempting to reach the past. They hope to do so through Rachel (no last name given at this point), whose powers enable her to send another's mind through time. Kate Pryde volunteers to enter her teenage body on Halloween 1980, the day Senator Kelly is assassinated.
Here's the recap page from #142...
While the 1980 X-Men attempt to stop Kelly's assassination, the 2013 X-Men face their final battle against the Sentinels.
Today, it's impossible to appreciate the basic premise, given how often it's been recycled. That doesn't mean the two-parter is lacking, however.