Saturday, 20 July 2013

Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Chris Claremont & John Byrne
New York, Marvel, 2011, 176p

I am incredibly excited about the release of the next X-Men film. I have really enjoyed this particular superhero franchise - whereas some of the comic book to movie adaptations have been misjudged, these movies have never failed to entertain me. And yet, I have not read much in the way of the graphic novels, so thought it was time I follow my rule about always reading the original before watching the adaptation.

Days of Future Past is the culmination of issues #138-143 of the original publications, featuring amongst other things a Wendigo and a Christmas demon. We find ourselves in 1980, following the departure of Scott Summers from the X-Men due to the death of his love, Jean Grey. Kitty Pryde, the youngest of the X-Men at only 13 years old, arrives at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and is immediately thrown into danger. We jump forward (remember, it's 1980) to 2013, where we find many of the X-Men and other superheroes dead or captured, controlled by Sentinels, an army of giant machines who keep the mutants under control. The X-Men's only hope is to transfer the spirit of 2013 Kitty Pryde into the body of 1980 Kitty Pryde, in the hope that she can lead the 1980s team to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly, which caused the destruction of the superheroes. 

I think I have made it sound rather more complicated than it is, so let me be more blunt: it is brilliant. The story is fast paced and action-packed. Whether you have just a basic knowledge of the X-Men or are a passionate enthusiast, the distress of knowing some X-Men are dead is universal. 

Comic books offer a different form of story-telling to novels or movies. Obviously, they are far more visual, so the text is not clogged up with descriptions of settings or people's appearances, but can focus on character's internal monologues or conversations. This really suits some readers, especially those who are reluctant to read something with too much bulk. The graphics in the X-Men series are brilliant, bright and detailed, engaging the reader with the story. People learn and absorb information in different ways, and many individuals are visual learners. Such people benefit from the visuals in a comic book - research shows that people are far more likely to remember the information from a comic book than a text book or novel because the information is supported by images. 

Many adults dismiss comic books as a too simple to support children's' leearning and achievement - I have come across many teachers who tell students to put their graphic novels away and read a "proper" book. This is infuriating, because comic books are really just another medium for literature, and are actually brilliant on so many levels: they engage reluctant readers, offer an alternative form of literature for more advanced students, and, if you think about the combination of text and images, they are in fact rather complex. I hope they start to be more universally recognised as a realistic alternative for some students, so I plan to keep making them available in my Library.

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