Marguerite Bennett appropriately leads off with the pasts of two characters who epitomize the hope for the future in “Years of Future Past” #2, with a pair of juxtaposed flashbacks to Christina Pryde (Piotr Rasputin and Kate Pryde’s daughter) and Cameron (Logan’s son). The two were among the last mutants to be born in the dystopian, anti-mutant future and have two very different and opposing childhoods because of it, which are convincingly portrayed by Bennett and artist Mike Norton before the action returns to the present as the former X-Men find themselves caught up in a setup orchestrated by anti-mutant crusader and American President Robert Kelly.
The brief opening flashback is well-executed all around, with the narrative superbly paced by Bennett and Norton and enhanced by opposing color schemes from FCO Plascencia, who likewise blends these schemes when the two characters first meet. The next page, a crimson-rich and dynamically designed splash featuring the escaped mutants on the run from a newer model Sentinel, is probably the artistic highlight of the comic but also signals a downturn in the overall plot after a strong first issue. Last issue’s cliffhanger signaled the approach of this more dangerous brand of Sentinel, but its arrival is quickly dispatched as a plot point as the mutants immediately seek shelter underground. The presumed logic of the team’s inability to win a fight against this foe is clear, but to almost completely dodge the encounter is disappointing.
As it turns out, the introduction of this sentinel is little more than a roundabout technique for introducing Storm into the storyline, a return promised in the form of Art Adams and Peter Steigerwald’s attractively bright cover showcasing the classic incarnation of the character. This expansion of the storyline features Rachel Grey engineering a prison break to free Storm and is a welcome supplement to the main Christina plotline, which struggles throughout the remainder of the issue.
Bennett has nearly everyone in the story all-too readily embrace Christina as a savior figure for mutantkind, despite her only recently gaining her freedom and her powers. Bennett tries to explain away this suddenness, but the repeated references to Christina assuming this role, including her own, only make it a notion that’s harder and harder to swallow with each attempt. The heavy-handed approach doesn’t work, because the character isn’t allowed to grow into the role; Bennett’s story requires that she just take it, and it’s a hard sell that doesn’t really succeed.
The hard sell is apparent nowhere more than in the form of an awkward, verbose and preachy lecture to Christina by her father Piotr about the seemingly inconsequential roots of what turns out to be great evil. It’s a lesson that requires no less than an entire page to convey and is done so in a single panel with absolutely no background art; aside from Christina, Piotr and Cameron, the rest of the page is a literal sheet of white covered with word balloons. It’s strange that Norton provides no visual aids for Piotr’s endless anecdotes, which would have diluted what comes across as a cautionary admonishment more so than it does as part of the actual story.
Beyond this point, it’s mostly Norton’s art that carries the issue. Throughout, Norton’s pages have a pleasing, softer style that evokes veteran artist John Byrne, who drew the original version of this grim future. His character expressions are strong for the most part, although often times many of players look puzzled more so than anything else. His simple layouts consistently move Bennett’s story along, save for the aforementioned lecture sheet, and the disembodied head of a classic Sentinel looks just as imposing as it does when it’s attached to a functioning body.
“Years of Future Past” #2 is a nice-looking but disappointing sophomore issue, but some of the story elements established here bode well for the rest of the series.