The X-Men Episode Guide 1×11: ‘Days Of Future Past, Part One’
Hitting at the height of the franchise’s popularity, the 1992 X-Men animated series translated all the action and melodrama that made the comic such a success to the world of Saturday morning cartoons, and it got its hooks into me like almost nothing else. That’s why ComicsAlliance is heading back through the archives for an in-depth look at every single episode of X-Men. This week: "Days of Future Past, Part One," in which we finally discover if classic X-Men stories can be improved by adding Bishop. The answer will not surprise you.
Previously, on X-Men:
When we last left our (reasonably terrible) heroes, they had just won a pretty decisive victory over Apocalypse, who had been secretly recruiting mutants under the pretense of "curing" them of their disfiguring powers. He was actually using a machine to turn them evil -- you know, like machines do -- and modifying them into being his soldiers in a war against all mankind. Unfortunately, his commitment to the gimmick of having "Four Horsemen of (the) Apocalypse" led to being woefully outmatched by the X-Men, who have six or seven members, a couple of whom are actually reasonably competent. Despite his defeat, though, Apocalypse pulled the straight up baller move of escaping in a spaceship that he kept under Stonehenge.
For the purposes of this episode, though, we need to go a little further back to Senator Kelly, Henry Peter Gyrich, and the Sentinel program. Due to the heroic actions of the X-Men, the President had ended government funding of the Sentinels and sent them packing off to Genosha, but apparently all it takes is one act of mutant-related terrorism to get things running again.
In our discussion of villains who never quite lived up to the hype, some of you must have misread the question and thought I asked for the raddest character ever, because ADAM X THE X-TREME was brought up. How could he not live up to the hype? Have you seen how backwards his baseball cap is? Please, people. Also, someone mentioned that Mr. Sinister looked like "Space Dracula" as though that was a flaw and not the best thing a person could ever hope to look like.
Now, let's see what happens when we take a visit to "Days of Future Past," Part One!"
This episode is, of course, based on the legendary Chris Claremont/John Byrne story of the same name, but I'll tell you right now that it is a weird one. The framework is basically there, but it's also been dropped square in the middle of the '90s in the most hilarious way possible. By which I mean that we're going to be seeing a lot of Gambit in the next couple weeks.
For now, though, we open in the grim darkness of the the future, where there is only war. Specifically, it's the year 2055, and the war in question is between super-powered mutants and giant robots, which has devastated New York City. And we know this, because -- and this is 100% true -- the very first shot of this episode is the Statue of Liberty quite literally shedding a tear. Already, things are amazing.
Even as we're reeling from that, we're introduced to what passes for the X-Men in this era: a ragtag trio consisting of Wolverine and two unnamed mutants, one of whom is dressed like exactly what you would imagine upon hearing the phrase "future hobo Flock of Seagulls."
As you might expect, it's not long before they run into a little trouble, of the large, purple and homicidally robotic variety. It's not too much trouble, though, as Radical Reverse Baseball Cap Girl starts shooting energy out of her hands, and her oddly coifed companion turns his arms to metal and starts running through the Sentinels' kneecaps.
The last Sentinel is taken out by Wolverine, who stands up and starts complaining about how he used to be way more efficient at robot-killing. To the animators' credit, they actually do manage to make him look a little older without just giving him grey hair. Admittedly, this is mostly done by giving him hair that's 100% out of control…
…but the stubble is a nice touch.
No sooner are the Sentinels disposed of than we get our first major deviation from the original "Days of Future Past" with the introduction of Bishop:
The M stands for "mullet."
Here's something I've never quite understood about Bishop (and that I've been too lazy to actually look up the reason for, if one exists): If he's a mutant-hunter from a future where the X-Men are dead and/or outlawed, then why is he already wearing what is essentially an X-Men costume? The dude even has two X-Men logos on it! Is he wearing them ironically? Is he some kind of Dystopian Future Hipster? Is that why he has the mullet? "Dude, Malcolm, Randall, check out my hair. It's hilarious, right? So stupid."
Sadly, those questions remain beyond the scope of the X-Men animated series. Instead, Bishop just handily captures Wolverine and his pals with an electric net and drags them off to be terminated at Sentinel HQ, which also leads me to wonder why he didn't just do the killing right there and then He's stopped at the gate by a pair of Sentinels, and we learn that in the future, Wifi takes the form of eye-beams shot at driver's licenses:
So, you know, at least there's a tradeoff for living in a hellish nightmare dystopia.
Unfortunately for Bishop, he has become a victim of his own success: Having reached his quota of mutants brought in for termination, the sentinels decide that Bishop himself is slated for the big T, and you know what? Serves him right. I mean, I don't want to say anything too controversial here, but I for one think betraying your race and hunting people down at the behest of murderous robots is a bad thing. There. I said it, and I'm not sorry.
While they're on their way to be terminated, Wolverine and Bishop pass by a graveyard (pulled directly from the original story), with the X-Men's graves positioned prominently because apparently killer robots have a pretty good sense of how to stage things for dramatic effect. Cyclops, Rogue, Storm and even Jubilee are all dead:
From the looks of it, though, the Sentinels took their sweet time about it. I mean, Cyclops is listed as having died in 2032, so if you give him the benefit of the doubt and say that in our regular 1993 timeline, he's a 25 year-old that just acts like a grumpy dad, he manages to make it all the way to the age of 64 before they bring him down. That's pretty impressive, but I'm willing to accept the possibility that he just wasn't a priority target until they'd gotten through all the mutants who weren't completely terrible.
Incidentally, Jubilee gets taken down in 2010. You'd think that would be something we'd remember, but -- wait. Is that when that whole Vampire Jubilee story happened? Did the X-Men animated series predict a terrible comic with a fake buster Dracula 18 years in advance?! Does this mean we only have 20 more years before we're done with Cyclops forever?!
While I was doing all that math -- and I won't lie, I used a a calculator because this is the 21st century and we have evolved beyond petty ideas like "subtraction," Wolverine decides that it's time for a breakout. He starts slashing up the Sentinels, but gets knocked out when one squeezes his abs really hard:
I'm not really sure how that works, but if we're going to have giant purple robots and adamantium claws, I guess I'm willing to accept that Wolverine's secret weakness is hugs.
Bishop also reveals his own mutant power, which is of course shooting energy blasts out of his hands because that's what everyone did in the '90s. The regular Sentinels are dispatched pretty quickly, but before the X-Men can make their escape, the bad guys call up the new model, Nimrod:
Quick aside: I know the origin of the name, but I've always thought it was really weird that they decided to call a deadly killer robot that we were definitely meant to take seriously "Nimrod." Didn't anyone else grow up hearing that used as a synonym for "idiot?" Was it a regional thing?
Anyway, Wolverine and Bishop -- who, if you'll remember, are our heroes in this story -- decide that it's best to leave those two unnamed teenage mutants to fend for themselves, and they escape to a nearby hidden laboratory where Forge is hanging out with his time machine.
I've talked about how crazy it is that this series went so hard in terms of introducing as much bizarre X-Men lore as they could without ever setting up more than the basic premise, but man, you really have to respect how dense they made these shows. We're not even five minutes past the opening credits and they're throwing around Bishop, Nimrod and Forge like it ain't no thing and just expecting the audience to keep up, and that's something that I really respect. On the other hand, it's also a show that decided that what "Days of Future Past" really needed was Bishop and Forge, so, you know. It could go either way.
So yeah, Forge has a time machine, and really, you'd think "ownership of a time machine" would've ended this little conflict toute de suite, but it turns out that they needed one last piece to make everything work: A transponder that'll keep whoever they send back from just being pulled back to their native timeline.
The reason for all this is that they've identified the moment where Everything Went Wrong: An assassination involving the X-Men that turned the public against mutants and led directly to the reinstating of the Sentinel program and the development of statues that can cry. Obviously, Wolverine is meant to go back and save everything, but Forge, presented with the young, strapping Bishop, mullet cascading down over his shoulders and glistening in the moonlight, cowboy bandana fluttering in the breeze, decides that he's a way better candidate. You know, despite being a dude who seems to have a pretty shaky grasp on history, who doesn't know Professor Xavier, and who hunted and killed mutants for money until literally two minutes ago.
Personally, I think it comes down to the fact that Bishop already had a holster for the double barreled laser shotgun they were planning to send back anyway.
It's worth noting that Forge is driven by the script's desire for a mystery to refer to the event they're trying to prevent as "The Assassination of the '90s," which makes it seem like someone was running around trying to shoot Super Nintendos, the Spice Girls and Saved By the Bell. That's the X-Men story I want to see.
Nimrod attacks just as Bishop jumps into the time portal, where he is held motionless in mid-twerk until it finally sends him all the way back to the past.
When he lands, Bishop is in a filthy alleyway, and since New York in the future looks like a city composed entirely of filthy alleyways (which we already knew thanks to the work of visionary future historian John Carpenter), it takes him a minute to realize that he's actually time traveled into the past. Fortunately, though, Bishop passes by a newspaper kiosk, and realizes that he has traveled all the way back to a time when print media wasn't dead.
There's still a problem, though, in that he has no memory of why he traveled back to the present. But we'll get back to that, becasuse it's time to check in on Beast!
Yeah, that's right! Beast! Remember how he's been in jail for the entire series so far? Well, he's still sitting there, but at the very least, Rogue has actually made good on her promise to come visit, and she brought Gambit with her. And folks, Gambit is in rare form, and may actually reach new heights of delightful scumbaggery.
For starters, Rogue and Gambit have managed to bring their speed-reading super-genius pal exactly one (1) book, a copy of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. This is a pretty amazing gift to give to someone who is sitting in prison for civil disobedience, what with the subtle reminder that he can't go home because he's on lockdown while they're sitting around drinking coffee out of replicators, but Rogue makes it even better with the line "I figured you read this one already." If that wasn't enough, Gambit takes the opportunity to add yet another insult to this cheery little gift exchange with "Beast is easy to shop for, no? Just buy the books with the most dust on 'em!" Sounds like someone didn't appreciate Gambit's last Christmas gift of an autographed copy of The Game.
Gambit also makes a big deal about how he doesn't like being in a prison cell -- a prison cell that he is visiting, and can leave virtually any time -- and threatens to blow up the bars before Beast finally gets up and bends them so he can run out. These two are complete and utter a**holes, and it fills me with joy.
Also, I don't know if I even have to say it at this point, but Gambit is in full costume. Of course he is.
Back in the filthy alley, Bishop is having trouble remembering anything more than that his visit has to do with the X-Men, until he's reminded in a way that is, without question, my new favorite moment of the series: Two kids run by, eager to head home so that they can play their new video game, ASSASSIN:
This. Is. Amazing. The way I see it, there are a couple of possibilities here:
1) The Punisher does not exist in the world of the X-Men cartoon, and so a video game company created him, gave him the relatively unimaginative name of "Assassin" and then marketed him directly to children.
2) The Punisher does exist in the world of the X-Men cartoon (which makes sense, since the Spider-Man cartoon crosses over with both) and someone made a video game about him but didn't get the rights to his name, and opted to call the game ASSASSIN rather than simultaneously commit the crime of trademark violation and anger someone who does literally nothing all day, every day but murder criminals. And also marketed it directly to children.
3) Marvel Comics exists in the world of the X-Men cartoon, and this is just a straight up home version of that Capcom Punisher Arcade game where Player 2 is Nick Fury, and somebody just mixed things up down in marketing.
Either way, this issue continues to be full of delights, even if it does point out that hte original "Days of Future Past" is irreparably flawed by not having the Punisher in it. Also, the name of the game is enough to jog Bishop's Sam Beckett-esque Swiss cheesed memory and remind him that he has to kill an X-Traitor. It's a task that's going to require a lot of cunning and good helping of luck.
So naturally, he just cold drives a bus through the X-Mansion.
Aw man, come on, Colossus just rebuilt that place. Where are they going to find another mutant skilled in construction who will work without pay because he owes them his life?
Bishop starts throwing down on the X-Men, and since his fighting skills at this point are literally "dude with gun," you'd think that a combat-trained superpowered paramilitary organization would be enough to take him out. They don't. Instead, Cyclops tries to blast him with his eye beams, and just in case this show hadn't made every effort to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Cyclops sucks, Bishop shoots his eye-beams out of the air.
I don't even know how that works. I've been thinking about it for hours and I got nothin'.
What actually does take Bishop out is Jubilee, who knocks his Plasma Rifle In The 40 Watt Range out of his hand and gives Wolverine the opening that he needs to get to stabbing. He says "I'll remember this, rookie" before he's about to deliver the killing blow, and since this is the same thing that Future Wolverine said before Bishop jumped into the time portal, which further jogs Bishop's memory. But here's the thing: That makes absolutely no sense in this scene.
What exactly is Wolverine going to remember? That he stabbed a dude with a flat-top mullet in the foyer one time? That Cyclops's eyebeams are useless if you shoot them? That maybe they shouldn't have a front door large enough to admit a bus? The only way this line makes sense at all is if Wolverine's secondary mutation is that he can only cycle through a limited number of dialogue choices like a background character in Arkham City.
The confusion takes up enough time that Professor X shows up and calls off the struggle, and Bishop tries to explain that he has to kill them or else they'll die. This, as you might expect, is a little confusing, so they all head down to the War Room so that Jean Grey can examine the laser shotgun with Egon's PKE meter and talk about its "blast potential."
Eventually, Jubilee invents USB ports and they're able to get some information out of Bishop's Pip-Boy 3000, which Professor X accomplishes by using Cerebro. You know, Cerebro? That thing that he uses to read people's minds and see what they know and whether it's true? Boy, that sure would come in handy if anyone ever remembered that this is his exact superpower.
After some grousing from Wolverine and whining from Cyclops, Bishop's transponder goes off and he explains that it's because someone else has used his time portal, and again, this leads into a whole thing about how Bishop has obviously failed, because if he hadn't, there wouldn't be anyone else to use the time portal, but look, we've all got better things to do today than try to figure out what time travel rules Bishop is operating under in this cartoon for tiny children.
The only thing that really matters is that when Bishop explains all this, Wolverine's response is to dismissively shout "CHECK PLEASE!"
WHY IS THAT NOT HIS CATCHPHRASE ALL THE TIME? Please, Jason Aaron. I am begging you to bring that back. It's what this weary world needs.
The X-Men track the Von Doom radiation down to yet another filthy alley, and it's revealed that they have been pursued by Nimrod, the Super-Sentinel From The Future who blasts its prey with the power of jazz hands. It knocks a brick wall down on Storm and Cyclops starts whining about how she's claustrophobic, and Bishop responds with "Nimrod can sense it!"
Wait, so this robot can sense fears and then acts on those fears in order to disable its opponents? I've read, like, four comics about Nimrod and this has never come up, but is this an actual power it has? Does it have a cannon that can launch scorpions at Wolverine? Please tell me this is the case.
Cyclops starts whining about how Nimrod is "impervious to our weapons," which is a pretty weird conclusion to leap to when you consider that a) Cyclops has not actually tried fighting Nimrod yet, and b) the only people who have are a mind reader and a teenager who can shoot fireworks out of her hands. That Summers kid's a go-getter with a real can't-do attitude.
With Cyclops choking harder than Cheryl from Archer, Storm finally cooks up a snowstorm and freezes Nimrod so that they can dismember it with laser beams, and that's how you deal with a problem, Cyclops. The only flaw in the plan is that Nimrod can reconstruct itself, but Bishop solves that by blowing up its transponder and making it Future Bishop's problem once again. It's the same principle I apply when I want to play video games but I have a deadline the next morning.
Everyone heads back to the X-Mansion to celebrate a job well done, and Bishop explains that the traitor that he's looking to murder could be any of them. Cyclops is quick to jump in with "It couldn't be Jean!" and even Jean rolls her eyes at this and reminds him that she occasionally turns into a planet-eating fire monster. Admittedly, this doesn't come up until next season, but, you know, that's the kind of thing he should probably not forget.
Storm admits that they all have dark sides that could lead them down the wrong path, but Wolverine isn't buying the idea that any of the X-Men could be killers. That's Wolverine, the guy with knives on his hands who just straight up kills people like all the time.
While the debate's raging, Rogue and Gambit finally return from their prison visit (and, in Gambit's case, probably buying a bunch of car stereo equipment with a stolen credit card), entering with the line "Everyone can relax! Gambit has returned." The second this happens, Bishop freaks right the f**k out and starts waving his gun around, bringing us the shocking reveal that Gambit, the sketchiest of all X-Men, is the traitor!
Wait, did I say "shocking?" I mean the opposite of that.
Discussion Question: Like I said, mythological hunter or no, I've always been a little perplexed as to why they decided to go with the name "Nimrod" for a villain we're meant to take seriously, but it's definitely not the worst name the franchise has ever seen. So if Nimrod doesn't have the worst name, who does?
Next Week: The thrilling conclusion of "Days of Future Past!" Will Gambit die at the hands of Bishop? No. Nor will Cyclops, so don't get your hopes up.