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Non-Review Review: X-Men – Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past works best as a paean for sixties optimism. A little bloated and messy, with not enough room for all its characters or side plots, X-Men: Days of Future Past could do with a trim or three. At the same time, it’s a very thoughtful and reflective blockbuster, pondering questions about innocence and idealism. There’s a sense that X-Men: Days of Future Past works better as a sequel to X-Men: First Class than it does an epilogue and critique of X-Men III.

Blue skies are gonna clear up...

Blue skies are gonna clear up…

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An Interview with Chris Claremont, Part I (of V)

All this week, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re publishing a serialised interview that we conducted with the wonderful Chris Claremont back in February for publication in a British comic book magazine. Many thanks to Mr. Claremont for taking the time to talk to us, and also to Adam Walsh for allowing us to publish this.

Chris Claremont’s studio looks a lot like you might expect.

Joining me online for a conversation about his work, the webcam allows me a glimpse of Claremont’s working area. As befits the man who wrote Uncanny X-Men (along with quite a few spin-offs and tie-ins) for seventeen years, the place is overflowing – with what look like notes and sketches, stories and ideas.

Some of these many papers are filed away neatly into boxes, some are sorted into giant stacks, some threaten to break free and consume their creator whole. Much like Claremont’s imagination and energy, these pieces of paper seem infinite – far too much to be contained in the space afforded.

It isn’t only Claremont’s study that evokes his creative process. He talks in a style familiar to anybody who has ever read any of his work. Answering the onslaught of questions, Claremont remains articulate and clever – often answering with wry wit and a knowing smile.

Subjects mentioned in passing become vitally important later on. Stories go in directions you don’t expect. What starts as a joke ends with an honest insight; what begins as profound statement ends with a clever punchline.


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X-Men – Battle of the Atom (Review)

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.

Battle of the Atom is a gigantic mess – but it’s a very fun gigantic mess.

Battle of the Atom seems to exist to fill two separate niches. On the one hand, its publication syncs up rather nicely with the fiftieth anniversary of Marvel’s merry mutants – something that the comic acknowledges by focusing on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original creations and by setting the climax at a recognisable setting from that first issue all those years ago. There’s a palpable sense of nostalgia about the whole thing – focusing on the past, present and future of the superhero team.

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot...

Stop or my Sentinel will shoot…

At the same time, it’s the big X-Men crossover event published half-a-year before the release of a multi-million dollar Bryan Singer motion picture. As such, Battle of the Atom feels heavily influenced by X-Men: Days of Future Past. Not only does it play with a variety of the tropes and conventions cemented by that classic Chris Claremont and John Byrne story, it includes numerous shout-outs and even the same basic structure.

Writers Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron are all having a great deal of fun writing Battle of the Atom, even if the comic does occasionally feel a little bit too light or too familiar. Then again, what’s the point in a fiftieth birthday party if you can’t be a little indulgent?

Dazed by X-Men past...

Dazed by X-Men past…

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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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