Page 45 Review by Stephen
A much bigger edition than previously issued, this reprints all the final Claremont & Byrne chapters following immediately on from X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, drawing a line under the title's finest era until Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon then Warren Ellis revitalised the property just a few years ago (NEW X-MEN and ASTONISHING X-MEN, respectively, all reviewed).
As such it kicks off with Jean Grey's funeral on a bleak autumn day, the bitter wind blowing leaves across an empty sky and tugging at the mourners' black trenchcoats. There her lover, Scott Summers, stands silently at the graveside, churning over the events that led them to this awful moment, at the end of which he will say good-bye. However revised since then, it remains a useful synopsis of the X-Men's early history, and when first published acted as a fitting way of letting the severity of what just occurred sink in. No fights, no sub-plots, just a group of friends standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, utterly bereft.
All the original X-Men attend but only the Angel stays on, and finds himself both out of practice and a fish out of water. Things have changed. The days are far darker and there's much worse to come, their one hope lying in their youngest recruit who arrives in a taxi and sits on her suitcases awaiting their return: Kitty Pryde aged 13 ½.
The atmosphere's broken somewhat by the annual illustrated by a John Romita Jr. far from fully formed as yet, and I'd probably skip that if I were you. Go back and read it later after the Wendigo storyline guest-starring Alpha Flight and the final farewell as Kitty Pryde undergoes a rite of passage, alone in the X-Mansion, single-handedly fending off an intruder Alien-stylee.
In between all that we have 'Days Of Future Past' itself, a pivotal X-Men two-parter which will be revisited over and over again but never with the same shocking power. It kicks off abruptly, right out of nowhere, in a future where Kate Pryde (whom we've barely had time to meet) is one of the last surviving members not just of the X-Men but the entire superhero community exterminated alongside most of the mutant species in a cold, methodical pogrom executed by the robotic killing machines known as the Sentinels... initially at the behest of the American government. Now the few mutants left alive subsist in a concentration camp whose endless rows of tombstones pointedly outnumber its inhabitants. She's on her way to meet Logan, now with the Canadian resistance movement, and the New York she navigates is a bleak, bombed-out and perilous pile of ruins barely populated save for punk-like predators. Logan has what she needs: the final component of a mechanism that will block the inhibitor collars worn by Kate's few surviving allies: Storm, Colossus, Franklin Richards and his telepathic wife, Rachel Summers. Oh, and a man in a wheelchair, but not necessarily who you think.
Their plan is two-fold: break out and attack the Baxter Building, the nexus of the Sentinels' genocidal operations before the world retaliates with a nuclear holocaust, and send Kate Pryde back in time to prevent this future from ever happening. Friday October 31st 1980 and Presidential candidate Senator Kelly is about to deliver his address on the Mutant Hearings attended by Moira MacTaggert and Professor Charles Xavier. By the end of the day all three will be dead, murdered by the new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants, so sparking the future we've seen come to pass
unless Kate in young Kitty's body can convince the X-Men to stop it.
Let me tell you: the final few pages are devastating.
It's become second-nature these days to criticise John Byrne for his conservatism (and I think we can all consider that a euphemism by now) and Claremont for his long-winded exposition and interminable sub-plots but here they are both at the top of their games on a title I loved dearly. For corporate superhero comics at the time, it was intricate, innovative, disciplined, and paid off in full.
It looked pretty sexy as well.