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X-Men: The End – Book Two: Heroes and Martyrs (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

To describe Chris Claremont’s three six-part miniseries that comprise X-Men: The End as “convoluted” is to miss the point. Of course they are convoluted. Claremont is essentially writing a gigantic epilogue to his work on Uncanny X-Men. He is tidying away decades of continuity and offering a sense of closure to his work on these characters and their world. Claremont is an exceptional storyteller when it comes to long-form serialised storytelling.

As a writer, Claremont tends to layer interesting twists on top of interesting twists, with every resolution opening up more avenues for future stories to explore. He has demonstrated an ability to string along plots for decades, revisiting characters and situations years after most readers had forgotten about them. These are the qualities that make his Uncanny X-Men run so deeply fascinating, but they are also the qualities that make him a bit of an awkward fit for a concept like The End, an epic miniseries built around the idea of wrapping up the entire X-Men mythos.

Some things never go into fashion...

Some things never go into fashion…

However, what is so fascinating about X-Men: The End is that all of the elements that Claremont uses are the same elements that he has been playing with since he took over Uncanny X-Men. The story beats have a familiar pattern to them, the themes are familiar, the characters speak as they did in the years that Claremont wrote them. What is fascinating about X-Men: The End is the way that it serves to really set Claremont’s take on the X-Men in stone, treating the elements associated with Claremont as a truly inexorable part of the comic’s mythology.

X-Men: The End is very much a Chris Claremont comic, through-and-through. That’s what makes it feel like such a perfect fit.

A wing and a prayer...

A wing and a prayer…

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X-Men – Days of Future Past (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

What’s striking about Days of Future Past is how incredibly short it is.

That’s not to suggest that the comic “feels” small or has a shortage of ideas or anything like that. In Days of Future Past, writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne toss out a whole host of ideas that shape and define the entire X-Men mythos. These issues continue to inspire the X-Men comic book line. Without Days of Future Past, there would be no Age of Apocalypse. The franchise’s fiftieth anniversary “event”Battle of the Atom – is essentially a gigantic tribute to Days of Future Past.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

In fact, the influence of this story extends beyond the X-Men as a comic book franchise. “Bad alternate future” may be a trope favoured by the X-Men comics, but it’s a staple of the genre and – arguably – the medium. There’s a reason that the iconic cover to the first issue of this story arc has been emulated so often, or that Alan Moore planned to riff on the story’s central idea for his proposed Twilight of the Superheroes. Days of Future Past is just a great story hook.

However, reading it today, it’s striking how short it is. All of this come from two issues.

The poster child for this sort of story...

The poster child for this sort of story…

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