I remember as if it were yesterday reading my subscription copies of the original Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142, 'way back in 1980, only a few months after the shocking conclusion of The Dark Phoenix Saga in issue #137 and, unbeknownst to me, only an issue away from the break-up of the very best creative team ever to grace those pages. Writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne were at the top of their respective games at that point – in sharing co-plotting duties they created a whole that was considerably more than the sum of its parts – and I remained what I had been for the previous four or five years, a rabid “X-fan” during the only period of my life when I may well have been buying more Marvel comics than DC. My devotion to the franchise would slowly wane over the half-dozen or so years after the departure of John Byrne (his last issue was the tour-de-force #143), arrested only briefly during the tenure of Paul Smith (#165-175). Glee at the return of the “New” X-Men's inaugural artist from the mid-late 1970s, Dave Cockrum, with issue #145 quickly gave way to dismay that the artist whom I had long regarded as my absolute favorite had lost something in the interim – I found Cockrum's art much cruder this second go 'round, especially in contrast to the incredibly smooth, expressive draftsmanship of John Byrne.
|One of the most homaged |
Anyway, I have read and reread the original story many times – I have owned it in at least five different printings from the original issues (which I still have) to the most recent deluxe hardcover of the same title (X-Men: Days of Future Past) compiling the original story with thirty years of follow-up stories as Marvel could not resist going back to the “DOFP” well over and over again! I have been looking forward to this movie with my typical mix of anticipation and dread (my default attitude regarding upcoming comic-book movies) ever since it was announced during the unexpected success of X-Men: First Class several years ago. I began getting more excited about it a year ago almost exactly when I had the pleasure of hearing both Chris Claremont and Patrick Stewart express their own enthusiasm (which seemed genuine, but you can never tell how much is real and how much is just wanting to make sure their own paycheck is as big as possible) for the movie at Comicpalooza 2013 (LINK). As usual, the barrage of trailers and clips leading up to the big release this weekend looked good, but it's almost impossible to tell from those whether the final product will be an incomprehensible mess (a real danger with this type of movie compounded with the huge cast of characters brought into the story) or not. Nonetheless, this was a movie I had to see as quickly as possible.
And so, on its first day of release I was there for the very first afternoon showing. To cut to the chase, I really liked it. I don't consider it the best super-hero movie ever made, and probably not the best of the year, but it is without a doubt the best non-Marvel Studios effort at a Marvel Comics movie (don't get me started on the licensing issues) … and Marvel Studios is going to have a tough time living up to this film's achievement in one hilarious sequence where there is a unique licensing overlap between Marvel itself and 20th-Century Fox! – they have been thoroughly one-upped in advance, I feel. It is, of course, the best X-Men movie, and reconciles (for the most part) the differences between Bryan Singer's first two offerings and the reboot/prequel First Class, while simultaneously wiping the slate of the unfortunate story consequences of X-Men: The Last Stand and in no way invalidating that film – time travel and alternate universes can be extremely useful! I think the X-Men franchise is perfectly poised to go forward from here.
(And going forward from here there may well be SPOILERS...)