Clocking in at thirty pages, "Years of Future Past" #1 spends a lot of time informing readers that the mutants are living in deplorable conditions under the heels of human fascists led by President Robert Kelly. Writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Mike Norton revisit the not-as-far-away-as-it-once-seemed future and check in with the surviving mutants of the internment camps, adding to the cast of the classic "Days of Future Past" storyline and shifting the setting to the patchwork planet of Battleworld under the watchful eye of the self-appointed "God" Doom.
The landscape of the future has shifted enough to restore X-Men to this tale. Wolverine, Magneto, Rachel Grey and Colossus all make appearances, as does Kate Pryde. After all, it is Kate's daughter who serves as the gateway character in "Years of Future Past" #1. Bennett introduces readers to Christina Pryde (or Chrissie as Wolverine -- and only Wolverine -- calls her) and, through her, describes the setting of Battleworld and the rule of Doom. Bennett checks those facts a few times throughout the issue, setting the table, then doubles back to smooth out the wrinkles in the tablecloth and straighten the silverware.
In this setting, with these characters, just enough is familiar to perk up readers' eyes and ears, but the familiar is slightly off. It's either out-of-focus, misremembered or reconstituted. Whatever the case, "Years of Future Past" #1 gives new readers enough to work with, but can either give seasoned comic fans too much change or just enough comfort, depending on attitudes and adjustments the readers make when opening the front cover. Bennett's characters all have distinct personalities, good and bad, rough and engaging. Chrissie makes a strong case to be appreciated, but I would wager the appearances of Colossus and Wolverine in action are the true highlights.
Mike Norton makes those highlights sing. With a style that is equally adept to horror as it is to sci-fi and dystopian futures, Norton gives readers clean story flow and gorgeous, open characters. He packs his pages with detail and carries that into his character work, giving each cast member of "Years of Future Past" #1 a distinct presence in every panel. Despite their relation, Chrissie and Kate are visually distinct, regardless of verbal clues or coloring.
FCO Plascencia brings colors into Norton's strong, bold lines. Plascencia uses a range of techniques and effects, from gradients to hard color multiplying over the page artwork. The colorist does present the classic characters and their costumes in a manner that brings about reminiscences of X-Men work from John Byrne and Paul Smith. Joe Caramagna's lettering, likewise, is both classic and modern. He hits the expected range of styles but adds a signal boost to the Sentinels' speech and seizes the ample opportunities to break words through the constraints of balloons. The regular flow keeps Norton's art clean and guides the reader nicely through "Years of Future Past."
As the stable of "Secret Wars" related titles continues to grow, Marvel continues to revisit concepts with strong followings. In this case, "Days of Future Past" might be one of the most beloved X-Men tales ever, which sets the bar pretty high for this series. Bennett, Norton, Plascencia and Caramagna don't quite clear that bar, but they do deliver one heck of a strong team effort. Battleworld is mentioned throughout this comic, but the creative team makes it quite clear this is an X-Men comic, filled with uneasy predicaments, interpersonal challenges and a cliffhanger that promises to increase the threat level set to arrive in the next issue. "Years of Future Past" #1 packs promise in with a strong premise, and the creative crew of this book certainly makes it worth checking out.