Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #1

Before Bryan Singer crapped out a shitty movie version, X-men: Days of Futures Past was Chris Claremont’s silver medal on top of the gold medal he achieved with the Phoenix Saga. In terms of iconic X-men stories, it’s right up there with Wolverine’s, Storm’s hair, and Emma Frost’s boobs as the crown jewel of the X-men mythos. It was a dark story that dealt with the dark consequences of a world that decides minorities are best handled by killer robots. It came at a time when there were asshole racists who probably would’ve loved to use killer robots to enforce segregation. It’s still relevant at a time when a new generation of assholes wish they could use killer robots to protect bakers and florists from having to participate in gay weddings.

In that context, including the world of Days of Futures Past in Secret wars is as big a no-brainer as including Thor’s hammer. This is a world where grim and gritty is still awesome and relevant without being mistaken for a Batman Begins rip-off. Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, and a host of other beleaguered mutants fight to survive in a world that the Terminator would later emulate. And since there’s no Hugh Jackman to appease, nobody has to completely fuck up the premise of the story to appeal to women who want to fuck hot Australian actors. I doubt Singer will read Years of Futures Past #1, but I imagine he’s still too busy swimming in a pile of money with Fox accountants to give a shit.

Those who do read it will be treated to a familiar apocalyptic scenario that seemed so much more likely during the early years of the Reagan Administration. And thanks to the artistic talents of Art Adams, it’s beautifully rendered. Nobody tries to do anything too radical. Nobody tries to make it more like Mad Max or Terminator. It’s looks and feels exactly like the same Days of Futures Past world that Chris Claremont conjured back in the early 80s. And if that’s not enough for certain X-men fans, then they’re just being assholes.

Within this world, humanity has really fucked itself. New York City is in ruin. The infrastructure is only slightly more fucked than it is now. And mutants are still hunted like wounded deer on Ted Nugant’s ranch. There’s some nice exposition for those who were too burned out on blow during the 80s, explaining how fear of mutants caused the authorities to give Hitler’s minority policy a second look. This still doesn’t stop Christina Rasputin, the daughter of Kitty Pryde and Colossus, from venturing out into this shitty wasteland to find medicine. I’ll give Kitty/Starlord fans a moment to stop cringing.

Christina’s reward for doing something wholly altruistic is rewarded with a tiger attack. It’s not as bad as a killer robot, but it’s still top ten. She’s rescued by another old, cantankerous version of Wolverine. And like we saw in Old Man Logan, having gray hair and looking like a guy from a Cialas commercial brings out the best in him. But unlike Old Man Logan, this Wolverine is slightly less embittered and not in a way that makes him a pussy.

After saving Christina, we see that he’s like a lovable older uncle to her and not in the Duggar sort of way. He still finds ways to make the kind of quips that X-men fans have come to love, even in a post-Apocalyptic world. I’m guessing that means the world’s beer supply hasn’t been destroyed. But he’s still temperamental. He makes his hatred of this world’s less-than-compassionate mutant policy clear. However, he’s a burned out old geezer in a world where the X-men and most of the mutant population has been wiped out. He can’t do much about it other than wait until he’s in a position to stab the right people/robots/demigods.

Wolverine helps Christina get back on track so she can return to her mother. Along the way, she passes more of the barren wasteland that that’s full of decrepit buildings, gangs, and roving wild animals. She’s basically walking through Downtown Detroit at three in the morning. It’s not a safe place for a young woman to be to say the least. However, instead of crack-heads and pimps looking to rough her up, she has to worry about killer robots. That’s not something pepper spray and tasers can ward off.

Despite her best efforts, a sentinel locates Christina in the same way a desperate crack dealer would locate her in Detroit. For a moment, she’s pretty fucked. This is a world where Sentinels rule and nobody seems to give a shit when they slaughter innocent teenage girls. That’s when her mother, Kitty “Kate” Pryde steps in and uses a little diplomacy to keep the Sentinel from making mutants even more endangered. Apparently, the authorities do let mutants out of internment camps in some rare circumstances. Is it merciful? Hardly. But this is where we get our first connection with the rest of Battleworld.

Dr. Doom may not care may not care much for mutant welfare, but he does have rules for how these worlds are governed. And these rules aren’t like parking tickets that can be fought at a traffic court. Doom says he allows mutants to leave, but only if they help capture other mutants. That’s about as merciful as a wolf letting a rabbit live just so it can lead him back to a den of bunnies. It’s the kind of shit that would give the ACLU a stroke, but I doubt Doom loses any sleep over it.

Christina returns to the internment camp, which looks less inviting than a cheap Tijuana motel. They return to their bunker where they meet up with more familiar faces, including Colossus, Rachel Grey, and Magneto. Again, Starlord/Kitty Pryde fans might want to look away, but it’s still a sweet moment within an obscenely depressing environment. There’s something oddly fulfilling about it. It’s even more satisfying when Christina reveals that the stuff she stole can be used to disintegrate the annoying power-suppressing collars they’re forced to wear. Overall, I think only those who aren’t killer robots or mutant-hating assholes wouldn’t be more upbeat by this moment.

Case and point, President Kelly shows he has a massive raging hard-on for throwing mutants into internment camps. Even though some of his associates favor the more politically correct form of language that Karl Rove relies on, he’s still dedicated to stroking that hard-on. That means scaring the shit out of the public and convincing them that the most American way to deal with mutants is to use Nazi tactics. It’s a hard sell, but if a government can convince the public that invading another Middle-Eastern country is a good idea, I think they can pull it off.

That doesn’t mean Kitty, Christina, and the rest of the mutants interned at these camps will make it easy for him. They’re not overpaid lobbyists or lawyers for the oil industry. Even while stuck in internment camps, these aged and defeated X-men show that they can kill President Kelly’s rage boner faster than a kick in the balls and a line of blow. Using the chemicals Christina stole, they dissolve the power-suppressing collars and flex their powers. I imagine it feels like a cold beer after being stuck in traffic for four hours on a hot summer day.

And almost immediately after they get their powers back, they decide to don their old X-men uniforms. Because if they’re going to be destroying killer robots, they might as well stick to tradition. Yes, there’s even room for tradition during the apocalypse. It may sound petty, but it makes the moment they start fighting back all the more satisfying.

There’s some nice, but brief robot-fighting action. It’s no Mad Max or Lord of the Rings style epic, but it does feel more meaningful since these are X-men that have been trapped in a mutant internment camp. It finally gets tense when the Sentinel gains the upper hand and shoots Christina. I guess it figured unarmed teenage girls are easier to deal with than a crippled Magneto. It’s not entirely flawed logic, even if it’s the kind of logic Charles Manson probably champions. But it breaks down when the shot activates Christina’s mutant powers.

It’s another moment of hope in a world that’s apocalyptic as fuck. Christina basically becomes a much more lovable version of the T-1000 from Terminator Two. She’s got her father’s metal skin and her mother’s physics-defying physiology. And when she uses this power to decapitate a Sentinel, it feels like 1,000 angels just got their wings. At this point, the satisfying moments are really adding up and I need to change my pants again.

But taking out one killer robot is only going to inconvenience President Kelly. Hell, he could put an intern on that problem without requiring a blowjob. He still needs to find a way to make mutants terrifying enough to warrant concentration camps and killer robots. While most PR firms would tell him he’s fucked and off his meds, this doesn’t stop him. Like every good politician, he’s willing to lie and throw some extra bullshit into the mix.

So he sends a couple of cronies to a base where Mystique and Blob have been in chemically induced comas for 15 years. Then then wake them up, tell them the world has gone to shit, and that they’re actually mutant reformers trying to help. And if they want to get back as the asshole who put them in comas, they should go after Kitty Pryde. It’s a real dick move in the highest order, turning victims into cronies. But fuck if it isn’t cunning. Even Richard Nixon would be impressed.

The X-men continue their fight through this barren wasteland of a world, but they’re not just out to bust up some Sentinels, thinking that’ll make this world less fucked. They actually do have a coherent plan and sadly, it doesn’t involve beating the shit out of President Kelly. Instead, it involves stopping the government’s efforts to create a new breed of Sentinel that can’t be taken down with a good punch to the jaw.

Since President Kelly likes to overachieve when being a total dick, he took the mutants that had been captured in internment camps and used them to develop better Sentinel technology. The problem is they have a really shitty IT department because Rachel discovered that there’s a serious flaw in these Sentinels and they’ll start killing humans as well as mutants. Now they could just grab some popcorn and let irony finish off this shitty world. But they want to use this as an opportunity to make the President tone down his douche-baggery.

To do that, Rachel and Magneto want Christina and Wolverine’s son Cameron (yes, Wolverine has a son in this world that he hasn’t tried to drown) to save President Kelly. They figure if they can save him, they can get him to ease up on the concentration camp policy. If he doesn’t, then that just reveals to everyone what a total asshole he is. Kitty Pryde isn’t thrilled, but Christina is all for it. She just got her mutant powers. What better way to break them in than to save her entire species?

It sounds like a perfectly viable plan. It might work, assuming President Kelly isn’t the kind of asshole that secretly jerks off at Holocaust museums. However, they quickly encounter a complication when Blob and Mystique show up. They present a nasty obstacle in that they don’t stop and question that those people from the government were bullshitting them when they said Kitty Pryde put them in jail. They start fighting and President Kelly’s cronies are all too eager to get it on tape. I guess even in an apocalyptic future, the paparazzi still finds ways to be assholes.

Blob and Mystique don’t attempt to be reasonable, forcing the X-men to fight them and prevent them from doing anything that’ll give President Kelly another mutant-hating rage-boner. They get a little help when Wolverine and his son show up. For some reason, Cameron is remarkably clean cut for being Wolverine’s son. There’s no hint on who his mother is. It could be She-Hulk for all we know. But he demonstrates some strange chemical-shifting powers that allows him to take down Blob, no easy feat for a guy whose ass has its own zip code. But it’s a nice way for a new Wolverine spawn to make his debut. It’s not quite on the same level as stabbing Sabretooth, but it still gets the job done.

Cameron and Wolverine meet up with Christina and the rest of the X-men. She’s more than a little upset that he apparently killed Blob. Given the body count his father has racked up, I don’t know why she’s surprised. But Blob dying quickly becomes the least of their worries when a new threat emerges. This time, even President Kelly’s paparazzi doesn’t stick around. Remember those new Sentinels that Rachel mentioned? Well, they’ve been activated and they don’t look anything like the boring hunks of metal we saw in the Days of Futures Past movie. They look like something Dr. Doom designed and in a world where Dr. Doom is a god, that’s pretty appropriate. It’s also a sign that this apocalyptic world is way more fucked than it thinks.

As sick as I am with apocalyptic futures, I gladly make an exception for the future of Days of Futures Past. Make no mistake. This future is pretty fucking bleak. Keep a bottle of Prozac or Ecstasy nearby. Or at the very least, keep a picture of baby kittens visible at all times. This might as well be a History Channel documentary on the holocaust. Mutants have lost here. They have been stripped of all their human rights, rounded up, thrown into internment camps, and sterilized by their own government. They lack gas chambers, but there’s a distinct impression that they’re not off the table.

Despite this bleak setting, there’s still this distinct sense of hope in the story. Chrissy Pryde is able to smile and Wolverine is able to crack jokes about changing diapers, even in the face of a mutant holocaust. There’s just something inherently comforting about that. She and the rest of the war-ravaged X-men are easy to root for. They somehow find a way to keep the tone light, throwing in a few tender family moments as well. Even fans of Starlord/Kitty Pryde would enjoy these moments. They help create an appealing setting and a unique conflict within the context of Battleworld. I think if Chris Claremont was pissed off at the Days of Futures Past movie, this will help him sleep very well tonight. I give Years of Futures Past #1 an 8 out of 10. There’s only so much appeal beyond the non-goth crowd that a holocaust story can have. That’s what makes a story like this so precious. It’s the only time when it’s okay to waste perfectly good Ecstasy. Nuff said!


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