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1984-09-01 02:04:11
Previous:
Uncanny X-Men #186-188
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1984/Box 20/EiC: Jim Shooter
Next:
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #96

Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1-6

Issue(s): Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #2, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #3, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #4, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #5, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #6
Published Date: Nov 84 - Apr 85
Title: "Lies" / "Terror" / "Death" / "Rebirth" / "Courage" / "Honor"
Credits:
Chris Claremont - Writer
Al Milgrom - Penciler
Al Milgrom - Inker

Review/plot:
If you believe the legends, the purpose of placing the first Wolverine mini-series in Japan was to take him out of his element and put him in a setting that would deliberately cool his popularity. It didn't work, and now matters of ninja are part of Wolverine's standard repertoire. So now we go back to Japan for the second mini-series featuring Wolverine. This is mostly a Kitty Pryde story, but there are definitely some Wolverine moments as well. Mostly, in my opinion, damaging to the character.

But let's start with the plot. Yukio gives a nice recap in issue #6:

Kitty's father, Carmen Pryde['s]... involvement with the Yakuza Oyabun Shigematsu, is what brought [Kitty] to Japan. She fell into Ogun's hands and he used his foul magicks to try to replace her soul with his own -- as a means of prolonging his life in a young, vital body. Under Ogun's influence, Kitty nearly murdered Wolverine. Logan was able to break Ogun's hold on her -- but she felt she had to prove that to herself, by confronting Ogun.

Kitty's father's involvement with the Yakuza is a little unclear.

He, and his bank, were cheating in some way to help mortgage holders in his community. While we don't get the details, it sounds to me like it was benevolent, but the other good guy characters in the book are still not impressed with what he's done.

From Kitty's point of view, it's all from the perspective of having broken up with Colossus. So she's dealing with those emotions, goes to her father for support and realizes he's crooked, and then she has to do some growing up on her own, resulting some new resolve, new skills, and a new codename: Shadowcat.

I'm not a kitty anymore -- much as I wish differently -- I've grown up. I'm a cat. And I like the shadows a whole lot more than the daylight. Shadowcat. I like it. Suits me better than Ariel or Sprite, that's for sure.

The outfit she wears towards the end of this series will evolve into her new costume as well, although here she's just wearing it to blend in with the local teenagers. The eye make-up is supposed to help with that too, which i think might be racist.

Regarding the skill upgrade, this is the first example of Chris Claremont's "instant ninja" habit (unless you count Colleen Wing). The villain of the piece, Ogun, brainwashes her and imprints all of his ninja fighting skills in her.

After impaling Wolverine with a sword...

...the series focuses on her trying to regain her own soul.

By issue #5, Kitty says that her ninja abilities are "pretty much gone now", but they're replaced by fighting skills that Wolverine taught her organically, and while the time training with Wolverine can only take place over a short period of time, it's enough for her to face Ogun on her own. So any way you look at it, Kitty comes out of this series as a ninja.

Kitty isn't able to defeat Ogun however. Neither is Wolverine, until he unleashes his berzerker self that he's fought so hard to repress. This, of course, gives him some doubts.

Ogun himself is an immortal samurai. That's fine for what it is, except it means that even though he's killed at the end of this series, he can and will be brought back for any number of bad Wolverine or Kitty Pryde stories. Worse, though, is the fact that it turns out that Wolverine knew Ogun, had trained with him, and considered him a close friend at one point.

That's stupid for a number of reasons. Wolverine's path from wild berserker killer to noble warrior was directly due to the fact that when he came to Japan during his previous mini-series, he forced himself to learn the way of the samurai. If we're saying that he had samurai training all along, it kind of invalidates that resolution. Also, Wolverine was supposed to be a loner without much of a known history. Inserting a good friend like this is unsatisfying, and it's made worse by the fact that we're reminded in this story that James Hudson, aka Guardian, was supposed to be Wolverine's only good friend prior to joining X-Men. How many best friends can he have?

During this series, Wolverine learns via a phone call from Professor X that Guardian died. He also hears about Storm's loss of powers. He's in the middle of breaking Kitty's conditioning when he learns, however, so he can't react to either tragedy immediately.

As for the art, Al Milgrom is sort of a mid-level guy. He's been just OK on his Avengers and Spectacular Spider-Man runs. There were moments that i thought looked good and others than didn't seem right - a stiffness and a lack of flow between panels. I was kind of surprised to see that he was the artist on a high-profile mini like this (the first one was drawn by Frank Miller!), but i thought maybe on this type of project he'd be able to bring out his best. But while the style is somewhat different than what he does on Spider-Man (despite the fact that he's inking himself on both books), i didn't really think it was better.

I'm being a little too down on the series. It's fine. I know i'm unfairly comparing it to the Wolverine mini-series despite the fact that it doesn't in any way claim to be a sequel. The writing here is typical Claremont which at this point is still a good thing. You see a lot of the tropes (Wolverine uses his "I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn't very nice." in issue #3.), and i'm not sure the setting was a great one for Kitty, but the series was still well done.

I especially appreciate the fact that events from around the Marvel Universe factor in here. First and most importantly, we get a clear sense of where this series takes place in relation to the main X-Men series. This isn't just a random additional story like so many minis today; it's part of the story for these characters and it's especially important for Kitty Pryde's development after her break-up. Second, the connection to Alpha Flight, with Wolverine learning about the death of Guardian, is a nice touch. And finally, this all takes place during the world-wide snowstorm that was caused when the Casket of Ancient Winters was broken in Thor #348.

There's a great little scene with Wolverine going through airport security in issue #2.

So for all the wags who wonder how Wolverine ever gets through a metal detector: now you know.

It's pretty much implied that Wolverine sleeps with Yukio at one point.

Considering that a few panels later he's going on about how much he loves Mariko, i guess they just have an open relationship.

Early in the series, Kitty is alone in Japan without any cash or contacts. She winds up stealing from an ATM, which is very unlike her.

I guess it's supposed to show just how desperate and out-of-sorts she was, but it seems out of character.

Later, reflecting on the fact that Ogun cropped her hair so close while he was brainwashing her, Kitty makes a reference to having "tried a wig this length" in Uncanny X-Men #183. Near as i can tell, it's to cover up an art error where her hair was drawn shorter in that issue than it is in this series.

She also draws a little Wolverine on a subway window.

I thought to myself: "Hey, i could probably draw that." So i tried.

I guess i hereby have to take back everything negative i've ever said about an artist on this site. I'd better go back and change all the Quality Ratings to As.

Quality Rating: B-

Historical Significance Rating: 4 - First Ogun. Kitty Pryde becomes Shadowcat.

Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Kitty Pryde leaves the X-Men in #183. Professor Xavier's phone conversation with Wolverine takes place during Uncanny X-Men #188. Wolverine appears in Alpha Flight #16-17 after learning about Guardian's death in this series. Takes place concurrently with the Casket of Ancient Winters storyline in Thor #345-353.

References:

Cross-over: Casket of Ancient Winters

Continuity Implant? N

Reprinted In: N/A

Inbound References (5): show

Characters Appearing: Amiko, Mariko Yashida, Ogun, Professor X, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Wolverine, Yukio

Previous:
Uncanny X-Men #186-188
Up:
Main
1984/Box 20/EiC: Jim Shooter
Next:
Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #96

Comments

Ninjas started popping up all over the Marvel Universe around the same time, and they got really tedious really fast.

A good resume of a well written story.
The whole passage was published in Sweden by Swedish publishing house in one huge volume which I was privileged to read and enjoy. Keep up the good work!

I have to completely disagree with your paragraph of complaints about what this does to Wolverine's character.

Since when did Wolverine "force himself to learn the way of the samurai" during his first miniseries? What were you reading? He's much the same at the end as at the beginning, only he's had a bad experience, been shamed and beaten, and lost and then won the heart of his girl. But he never TRAINS during that entire miniseries. I think you misread that series. If you're saying he makes a resolution as far as a changed outlook, I think that's still valid. You have to remember, in his chronology (at least under Claremont/Windsor-Smith), Wolvie became a wild beast after the adamantium bonding process. He wasn't born one. THAT is what he's fighting back from. He's not fighting back from an original bestial state, as someone like Sabretooth probably is. Now as far as his ability to remember it, who knows? Wolverine never was shown to have lost his ENTIRE memory. He's been shown to remember certain participation in long-ago wars before. But his earliest stuff is probably gone or jumbled. Also, some of the memory may have come back over time.

I also don't buy him being a loner. He certainly doesn't work well with others in a really structured team setting, but Wolverine's entire past is as a soldier, a secret agent, etc - as a member of a team, working alongside other people. Plus, a guy lives that long, does that much, he's going to have plenty of opportunities for friendships, just as he does for enemies and attractions, of both of which Wolverine has plenty.

That of course may all be negated if, in-story, Wolverine's time with Ogun is said to be after the adamantium bonding process. Although even then, didn't he seem in the first mini-series, to be pretty up on his Japanese culture? To fit in pretty well despite all the ways he obviously didn't?

Also, crucially, even as far back as X-Men 118, Wolverine KNOWS Japanese. He meets Mariko in a garden and speaks Japanese. Someone later says, "You know Japanese? Why didn't you tell us?" "You never asked."

So Claremont is actually correct to have done this, in terms of continuity. Wolverine had to have had extensive business in Japan before, and since all his business ever has been in the context of being a warrior, it makes sense he trained as a samurai.

Hey Paul, thanks for these and other comments you've left here recently. I wanted to answer your challenge here since you were questioning my reading comprehension skills. ;-)

I need to expand on the "samurai" concept in my post on the Wolverine mini-series and i plan to do that when i get to filling in the "picture gap" for that year, but i definitely meant it metaphorically, not that Wolverine literally trains to become a samurai. At the end of book three, he has a revelation that changes his path and has him decide to strive for humanity (i've added the passage to the Wolverine entry). And then when the confrontation with Shingen is over, Mariko offers Wolverine the family samurai sword, which Wolverine rejects because he's still striving but not there yet. And then at the beginning of UX #172, the first issue that takes place after the Wolverine series, he's wearing samurai-ish clothing and looking more at peace than we've ever seen him. It's all meant, i believe, to represent Wolverine making a new effort at restraining his bestial side and striving towards nobility. That was, in my interpretation, the point of the original Wolverine mini. It was a way to bring Wolverine forward and not just have him be the violent killer of the team. I'm associating the samurai path with honor and using it as a contrast to Wolverine's normal berserker style and personality. I may be overdoing it, though - with Yukio and Ogen both identifying as samurais, i guess we're really just looking at it as a fighting style and not a Jedi-like way of being. So i take your point there.

As for the loner stuff and the sudden additional backstory that was added here, i'll start with UX #172 again, where Wolverine is reflecting on the upcoming marriage, and he says, "Look at me -- a roughneck Canadian mountain man, about t'marry the daughter of one of the oldest, most powerful, most respected families in Japan." The contrast is deliberate and there's nothing tempering that statement with the idea that, prior to the recent mini, Wolverine had any real experience with Japaneses culture. I write off his ability to speak Japanese as part of his Canadian Secret Service experience, which is what's referenced in the Wolverine mini as well. Never any indication that Wolverine had spent time there for personal reasons. I also point you to X-Men #139, where he introduces Heather Hudson with "Till I met you clowns, she an' Mac were the only true friends I ever had."

I'm very sensitive to the ridiculous amount of backstory that's been given to Wolverine, and i don't want to give Claremont a special pass on that front. You're definitely right that at this point it wasn't really established that Wolverine had missing memories or implants or the like. But readers at this point didn't know a lot about his past, and i still think what was revealed here didn't add anything illustrative about his character (in fact, i say it's contradictory, but that again is based on my probably faulty understanding of what it means to be a samurai).

All that said, i appreciate the challenge since it gave me reason to dig through all of this stuff and think about it again, and i'll keep it in mind as i go through the additional Wolverine revelations going forward and make sure i track when this concept of lost memories and fake memories (and also Wolverine's longevity) starts really getting introduced.

Didn't mean to come off as rude (though I certainly was rude), sorry for that. Appreciate the thoughtful reply.

My general take on it is, Wolverine is a problem character and has been from the very beginning. They had some weird origin for him at the beginning, then ditched that. Various writers/artists didn't know whether or not his claws were in his gloves or his arms. I don't think it was revealed/decided that his skeleton was adamantium for a long time (I don't think, for instance, it had yet been decided he was full of metal when the X-Men fought Magneto, who threw all-metal Colossus around like a rag doll and noted his special vulnerability, but who when he fought Logan only noted/went after his claws.) And as you keep reading Uncanny, Claremont keeps throwing in little details hinting at some theretofore unsuspected element of his history. Then miniseries after miniseries in the 80s reveals HUGE unsuspected parts of his backstory and of his essential nature.

So he's just a mess. And that's long before he got popular and started appearing in every book and got the ridiculous "secret past" thing going full speed. All the X-characters (and the whole x-universe) became a mess once they got out of Claremont's hands, but Wolverine was one even in Claremont's hands.

Milagros got some high-profile assignments, I think, because he was on staff--an editor as well as an artist. There's often a bit of favoritism for editors, which is why Bob Harras and Tom DeFalco can take Avengers and FF in the early '90s, but it's also possible Milgrom is someone Claremont and others would see at the office and say, "Hey Al, want to work with me on..."

(My ipad thinks Milgrom is the Spanish word for miracle, it seems.)

"Wolverine learns that Guardian died via a phone call from Professor X during this series." Heh. I haven't read any of this stuff is so long, and that made me blink. For a second, I was thinking, "Professor X had Guardian rubbed out?!"

Reworded that sentence i have. You i thank.

This was originally announced to be only 4 issues, and to start in February 1984.

The artwork received much increasing criticism as the series went on; one Amazing Heroes review claimed that Milgrom was inking with his fingers.

Wolverine is such a puzzle for me. He just does not work as a solo character, but sometimes it looks like no one else notices that.

I just got done reading this book. I've been tackling Claremont's runs in chronological order (Marvel Team-Up/X-Men/New Mutants) and some has been great but much was middle-of-the-road. Generally Claremont's long run on X-Men is regarded highly while his 2000s run on Uncanny and on X-Treme X-Men is thought of as bad.

Claremont's best work Wolverine mini, New Mutants with Sienkiewicz, and Byrne-era X-Men really does contrast with much of his other material. I wonder how much do we overlook Claremont's mediocre material because of these books? Is he given a pass and then when he came back in the 2000s was that judged on his own? I say this because much of his New Mutants run reads like his run on X-Treme. Am I the only one thinking this?

I'm not saying he is a Bill Mantlo but is he up there with Frank Millar, Byrne, Stern or Simonson?

Yes, he is. The work was good or bad, but Claremont knew his characters more than any other comic-book writer at the time. He treated them as existing three-dimensional people, and kept track of what each one of them had done in their lives. This is during his initial run, and not counting anything he wrote after being fired and coming back and anything else he's ever done.

He wrote Ms. Marvel, he treat Ms. Marvel seriously as a character living in Rogue's head. He wrote Spider-Man/Red Sonja, and treats Kulan Gath as a serious villain potentially threatening the entire Marvel Universe. I'm not talking about anything he's written after 1991, but before then, even his weakest material was part and parcel of the whole deal that made him the influential writer he is (was.)

Frank Miller could do innovative stories, but not consistently, and turned out not to be that interested in a regular series after leaving "Daredevil." Byrne could write, but his interest in the characters is as they used to be. Stern was little better, being able to tell good stories in line with continuity. And even when I'm looking at a page of awesome Simonson art, I don't get the love for Walt Simonson. He's a great artist, his writing is acceptable (up to Byrne/Stern standard.)

Someone once told me that John Byrne was a very good second-rate writer. Give him something to work on, and he'll do a decent job with it. From that, I extrapolated that Chris Claremont was a very bad first-rate writer, because he infused his work [again, pre-1991] with an authorial viewpoint that understood his characters, themes and plotlines, and even accounted for editorial changes and whatever else was going on in the shared universe.

I don't want to weigh in on the writer comparison too much, but i do want to defend Byrne against the "interest in the characters is as they used to be" idea to an extent. I assume that's coming from what he did in West Coast Avengers, which i'll wait until i get to that in this project before commenting on. But in his FF, he had Sue assert herself and become the Invisible Woman, matured Johnny to adulthood, and finished Roger Sterns' development of She-Hulk into a credible character after many wrote her off as a joke. Judging from some of the letters i saw in his issues, a lot of people found some of that to be sacrilege, but i thought it was great character development and not any kind of regression to the Lee/Kirby era.

To answer Ryan's question, so far i'm finding Claremont's biggest problem to be that he introduces so many ideas that many of them wind up languishing or not getting developed fully. Sometimes that means things are never fully explained (Demon Bear), sometimes threats that seem like they should be an immediate threat just sit on the sidelines (Maruaders), and sometimes it seems like development happens in Claremont's head that never makes it into the plots (like what's the deal with Michael Rossi?). I think he's great with characterization and as ChrisW says he's great with building off his own continuity (most of the time, the "too many ideas" thing isn't a problem but a benefit) and i definitely think he deserves to be included with the writers you list. (I wouldn't necessarily stack rank them as ChrisW does, but i assume my love for 80s era Stern, Simonson, and Miller is obvious from various entries.)

Byrne's "interest in the characters as they used to be" is more based on his own comments and not the actual comics. Other than "Next Men," I've probably read more "Fantastic Four" than any other Byrne-written superheroes. Fnord is right that he was expanding the characters, developing or building on plotlines. I would suggest that Lee and Kirby did the same thing, but it's a minor quibble. Byrne did solid stuff on FF, and probably all of his other series as well, even if it's not my cup of tea.

We're in the weird territory of having to talk about what a comic book writer does, and speculating about the differences between individual comic book writers. The Marvel Method alone makes this almost impossible, and any discussion becomes about 'who are you trying to kid?'

That said, in my opinion Claremont elevated comic book writing in a way that only Stan Lee had achieved before him, and Frank Miller/Alan Moore would achieve afterwards. We're talking about writing comic books, there is no basis for comparison. If we were discussing, say, rock'n'roll guitarists and we were all knowledgeable, we could point to speed, dexterity, chord changes, tempo changes, harmonics and other objective terms. But we're actually talking about how well the writer gave us Peter Parker interacting with Background Character B, or whatever.

This is all a long-winded way of saying Claremont was definitely working on a higher-level as a writer than everyone else. There's nothing specific to point to (other than his obvious interest in writing "X-Men" for nearly 200 issues) and there's no way to prove anything other than pointing to non-Claremont Marvel superheroes, then pointing to Claremont Marvel superheroes, and going "see the difference?" If you don't see it, you don't see it. [Not that there's anything wrong with that.] But if you do see it, something unlocks in your mind, and you *get* this stuff on a higher-level than generic superhero stories.

EC did it in the 50s, Stan Lee did it in the 60s, Claremont did it in the 70's-80s, Frank Miller did it, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman did it. It cannot be defined in any rational sense, it's entirely based on individual judgment to know there is This, and then there's That Other Stuff. Good or bad, Claremont was much more involved with his characters, their stories and their lives, than other comic writers of the time. No one cites Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as the geniuses behind "X-Men" after all.

Claremont fanboy that I am, I know where Ryan is coming from: even in the late '80s I had to admit that what I loved about Claremont's X-Men wasn't there in Excalibur. (Which I've since come to appreciate more, but still find more like his 2000s work than his original X-run.) Claremont's post-X-Men work for Dark Horse and DC really left me cold. But his good work really did give comics a depth and emotional weight they'd rarely had before: I agree with ChrisW's comparison to Stan Lee, a guy whose mediocre work also leaves you unprepared for just how good his best Spidey and FF work can be.

I can't say any comic written but not drawn by Simonson has ever impressed me much, and even when he draws as well as writes the plots are often more kinetic than coherent. His FF run was a dud in my book.

Byrne is more of a writer than Simonson, but Byrne's quirks as a writer are far more annoying: his inept attempts at realism, his inability--or worse, unwillingness--to create interesting villains, and his penchant for trying to update characters' origins. The last of those is part of where the "as they used to be" stuff comes in, but it's more that Byrne thinks his own revamps are truer to the original spirit of the characters than their actual accumulated continuity and character development is. So he resets the Vision to a condition the Vision never really had, he adds Skrulls to the Hulk's origin, he adds the Mandarin to Iron Man's, and he complains that mutants should never have more than one power or special attribute because, supposedly, the X in X-Men originally meant an "x-tra" power. You can see his realism and villain problems in Alpha Flight: mob boss threatening a little cafe is a realistic, down to earth plot, one that absolutely should not involve an immortal guy with a death touch. Deadly Ernest is too powerful for such a mundane plot, and showing up in such a mundane plot makes this really powerful guy seem like a piker rather than an archvillain. Or consider the motiveless nobody behind "Armor Wars II," Kearson DeWitt. Or any of the original villains from Byrne's three-year Namor run.

Most if these problems are absent from Byrne's FF run, but they appear at almost predictable intervals in most of his later writing.


 
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