Thursday, April 15, 2010

VINTAGE SERIES: Kitty Pryde & Wolverine

One of the few treats of being a librarian, and a librarian known for reading graphic novels in particular, is that when I request that the library get a trade paperback that I want, they usually follow through. Such was the case with today's In Review title, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine. This story, published in the mid-80s, is notorious in X-Men history for containing a pretty big moment in the life of Kitty Pryde. It's also noteworthy that, up until 2007, it was very difficult to find it as a collection you kind of had to scour comic book shops/comic book conventions and try to find the six original issues. Having waited to read this title since I was 16 or so, I can tell you... it was actually pretty much worth the wait.

The story opens with Kitty having just been dumped. X-Men powerhouse Peter Rasputin broke up with after returning from the Secret Wars crossover, convinced that his falling in love with an alien healing babe had forcibly removed his love/flirtation with Kitty. She packs up and heads home to Deerfield, Illinois that same afternoon. This is where our story begins. She's wearing a hideous '80s ice skating costume that's pink and black. She decides to surprise her dad at work, thinking to herself that he has seemed to be under a lot of stress lately. Using her ability to 'phase' through solid materials, she inadvertently eavesdrops on her father and his new business associates, Japanese gangsters who have purchased the bank her dad formerly owned. Her father, in an effort to protect her, sends her home. He has to go to Japan to sort out some more of the potentially illegal business venture, and Kitty decides to stowaway on the plane. As his daughter and as a trained X-Man she figures that she'll be able to get her dad out of any trouble he's in. By the end of the first issue (or 'chapter' in the collection), she realizes her dad isn't being coerced by the crooks; he's in face in league with them. One of the baddies, a ninja named Ogun, notices Kitty both by her phasing power and her strength of spirit. He wants Papa Pryde to hand his daughter over as a part of the deal. After using some sweet ninja moves on him, Ogun makes Papa Pryde reluctantly agree.

Ogun attacks Kitty. Weakened and exhausted from both her flight and her short Japanese adventure, the ninja easily overpowers her. While the next part is somewhat unclear, it seems that Ogun somehow psychically connects to her in an attempt to 'link' them together. Basically his mind and will become a part of her, and she becomes a badass ninja in a little under a week. He also uses a katana to cut most of her hair off, giving her a pretty sick '80s 'do. Before Ogun managed to nab her, she tried to call Professor Xavier in America. It's a good thing Wolverine picked up the phone, because at this point in the story he arrives in Japan. He eventually figures out that Ogun, a former teacher of his, has Kitty against her will. Using his animal instincts, he tracks Ogun down... only to get attacked by someone with all of Ogun's moves, but a girl and half his size. After an extended fight, the ninja's mask is removed to reveal Kitty Pryde. When Wolverine hesitates, Kitty slices the sword right through him in one of the more memorable panels in the book.

As Wolverine's healing powers slowly do their thing, Kitty slowly reverts to her old self. Yukio, a Japanese friend of Wolverine's, helps hide them out in one of the Clan Yashida safehouses. She also continually hits on Wolverine the whole time. He rebuffs her advances because he's in love with (and still dating) Mariko Yashida, Yukio's employer. For a short hairy dude, Wolverine has a lot of women trouble. Despite the fact that he should be taking it easy, he uses this time to push Kitty to her limits. His hope is to make her strong enough to resist Ogun's lingering influence. While Kitty initially acts like a complaining 15 year girl, she eventually rises to the challenge... surprising even herself in the process. She decides the only way to really get over Ogun's possession is to face him once and for all. It's a battle she might not win. Wolverine doesn't let her face their mutual foe alone, however, and by the end... the two X-Men prevail.

This story is sort of famous for Kitty's transformation from the young teenage superhero ingénue into the adult X-Man to reckon with that she is today. She also decides she's no longer a 'Kitty' but a 'Cat' ... and one who likes the shadows at that. So, she becomes 'Shadowcat' finally solidifying a codename (she'd previously taken the names 'Ariel' and 'Sprite' ... ick!). The story is surprisingly NOT as dated as you would think. You also don't need a wide knowledge of the X-Men to enjoy the story, since it focuses only on two characters and essentially tells you all that you need to know about them. Chris Claremont is at his peak here; you can tell he loves Kitty Pryde, and it shows in particular in this international graphic adventure.

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