As a comic blogger who reviews every novel I read, every now and then I read a superhero inspired novel. I’ve read several in the past; the fun She Hulk Diaries, the decent The Incredible Hulk: Abominations, and the mediocre Civil War novelization. But since I read more X-Men comics than anything else, it’s about time I read an X-Men novel. Enter X-Men: Days of Future Past, adapted by Alex Irvine. Before I get into this book, just know that I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who’s read the original story and if you haven’t, you’ll probably feel lost.
This is a direct adaptation of the original comic, with the same story beats, the same characters involved and even the same teaser ending. On the one hand, it’s nice that the book is faithful to the original, but on the other hand, it’s hard to adapt a 2-issue storyline into a full-length book. For the most part this adaptation succeeds. It’s a fun read and it’s relatively short. That said, it’s not without its shortcomings.
While Days of Future Past is a direct adaptation, it adds depth to the original story and there are a few changes here and there. The original comic merely alludes to London possibly launching a nuclear strike to stop the sentinels from crossing the ocean. The novel expands on that plot point to great effect, adding a sense of urgency to everything. It also greatly expands Magneto’s roll in the story (he only showed up in one panel in the original), and he gets a great final attack against the sentinels after the other X-Men fall in the future. Instead of Kate’s mind being projected into the past, Kate and Kitty Pryde somehow switch minds, forcing the 13-year-old Kitty to witness the horrible future in the body of a middle-aged woman. This is a neat twist on the original story, and is used to further emphasize how dark the sentinel ruled future is. Instead of the present day half of the story starting in a danger room, it begins with a prison break, where the Blob is broken out by a bunch of mercenaries. The prison break scene adds to the book’s plot and it’s a fun scene, but it’s connected with this book’s biggest problem.
The Days of Future Past novel is a bit too heavy on the action. Even action heavy books need a break from the chaos every now and then, if only to expand on the book’s themes and character development. With this book however, pretty much the entire second half of the book is straight action. The pacing is relentless, moving back and forth between the X-Men fighting the brotherhood and the future X-Men invading the Baxter building. It’s true that the comic is the same way, but a comic is generally a much quicker read. Even for someone who writes action heavy books like myself, it feels exhausting after a while. That said, the action itself is very well-written.
While the action overload is the main problem, it’s not the only one. The book is written in third person perspective, with a mostly omnipresent narrator who can dive into pretty much everyone’s head. For an X-Men book, this feels appropriate. That said, there are times when it switches perspective with no warning whatsoever, which at times makes the book a bit difficult to follow until you figure out who’s head you’re in. When you switch perspective, you should at least provide a double space between paragraphs and introduce the new character’s perspective clearly. This doesn’t happen too often, but it’s a problem worth noting.
Despite the book’s shortcomings, it’s still a good adaptation. It perfectly captures the mood and themes of the original story, while also adding extra details and moments that improve the story in minor ways. If you’re a fan of the original story who reads books, this is worth checking out. If you’re a superhero fan who doesn’t read comics, this novel explains everything you need to know. It references a few X-Men stories that surrounded the original comic, but not in a way that distracts from Days of Future Past.
As a writer, I’m glad I read this. To me, it feels like a warning to not write my actions scenes too long. I haven’t had that problem yet, and I’m good at dividing longer action scenes up with quiet moments, but it’s still worth experiencing the action fatigue. And of course as an X-Men fan, I’m glad that I finally read an X-Men novel.