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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #179

"What Happened to Kitty?"
March 1984

In a Nutshell 
Kitty is captured by the Morlocks in order to wed her to Caliban. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the tunnels beneath Manhattan, the Morlocks prepare Kitty for her wedding day. Meanwhile, at Bellevue Hospital, the X-Men arrive to identify the body of the young woman found dead at the Baxter Building. Although she looks exactly like Kitty, Wolverine realizes its not her because the scent is wrong, at which point Storm begins to suspect where the real Kitty may be. Back at the mansion, Nightcrawler tends to Colossus, but is unable to determine if he's even alive or dead. As Professor X attempts to probe Colossus' mind, he's once again hit by a powerful psionic scanning wave, rendering him unconscious. Elsewhere, Kitty, bewitched by one of the Morlocks, is about to marry Caliban when the illusion falters for a moment, and Kitty realizes what's happening. She tries to run, but Callisto reminds her she promised to stay with Caliban if he helped her save the X-Men, which he did. Remembering Colossus' injuries, Kitty begs for Callisto to allow her to leave to help him, but when Callisto questions how they can trust Kitty's promise to return, she runs off into the tunnels.


Lost and alone, Kitty realizes she has to honor her promise to Caliban. Just then, the Morlock Leech arrives and leads her back to the others. Callisto agrees to help Colossus once the ceremony is complete, but as Kitty once more prepares to marry Caliban, the X-Men arrive and attack the Morlocks. Kitty stops the fight, admonishing the X-Men for looking for a fight and telling her teammates she's there by choice. Back at the mansion, Rogue and the Morlock Healer combine their powers to remove Colossus from his frozen state and heal his wounds. The next day, Kitty says goodbye to Illyana and returns to the tunnels to honor her agreement with Caliban. But Caliban realizes it is wrong to force her to stay with him, and when she admits she doesn't love him, he releases her from her vow. They part as friends, with Caliban asking her to remember him not as a monster, but a prince.

Firsts and Other Notables
A pair of Morlocks, Leech and the Healer (often referred to as "the Morlock Healer"), make their first appearances. The Healer, who we learn is responsible for saving Callisto, behind the scenes, of the knife wound inflicted on her by Storm in issue #170, will pop up occasionally up through "Mutant Massacre", though he rarely rises above the level of plot device.


Leech, on the other hand, will go on to become a relatively significant supporting character, here and in spin-off titles X-Factor and Generation X (and even kinda make an appearance in the third X-Men movie). He has the ability to nullify the powers of anyone within close proximity (ie to leech the powers). In future issues, his physical appearance will change slightly, keeping the green skin but becoming slightly more human looking. He'll also become slightly more erudite over time, and it's eventually confirmed he is still a child.  


Dan Green comes aboard as the new regular inker; he'll remain on the title through the 260s, contributing artistically to more issues than either Dave Cockrum or John Byrne.

A footnote directs us to the Magik limited series, which we'll cover tomorrow.


Chronologically, the events of New Mutants #13 follow this issue.

A Work in Progress
As he was absent during their first encounter, this is the first time Wolverine comes face to face with the Morlocks (it also factors into the X-Men discovering the plan - the Morlocks never met Wolverine, so they never considered the need to disguise Fake Kitty's scent).

Nightcrawler does his best to tend to Colossus' injuries, though it's made difficult by the unknowns of Colossus' physiology while armored.


Professor X is hit by the psionic scanning wave again, and he now recognizes it as being extraterrestrial in origin. 


Kitty willingly returns to the Morlocks because she refuses to break her promise and turn her back on her fundamental beliefs, the way she believes Storm has done.

 
Leech, as presented in this issue, is arguably the most physically "non human" looking mutant yet.

In a terrifying little sequence, Masque uses his power to alter Kitty's features. Worth noting, given the permutations he puts her through, making her look like Storm bothers her the most. 


Masque's offer to alter Kitty's face, symbolizing her rejection of the surface world, suggests some of the Morlocks' physical appearance may have been willingly altered by Masque. 


Rogue mentions that she's avoided using her power on people with physical manifestations of their powers, like Nightcrawler, uncertain what would happen to her.


Storm believes that, whatever her past sins, Rogue's efforts to help Colossus at considerable pain to herself  earns her place on the team.


The Healer's power is depicted, via narration, as gradually restoring Colossus' life, first in terms of minutes, then years, until his full alotted lifespan is reached, which is an interesting way of describing the power.

Even though we know Kitty ultimately won't end up living as a Morlock, her resignation to that fact is still rather touching. She even writes letters to Colossus and her parents, explaining the situation.


I Love the 80s
Twice in this issue there's exposition explaining what happened to Colossus in issue #177 (he was super heated then cooled way down really fast. We get it).

Young Love
The issue ends sweetly, with Caliban releasing Kitty from her vow, realizing she doesn't truly love him and belongs on the surface, but hoping someday she'll come to love him and he'll find the strength to return to the surface, and they part as friends. 


For Sale
We get a couple He-Man ads in this issue, one for a pair of model kits (which, as a kid, bugged me, because they weren't as sturdy as the actual vehicles) and a Masters of the Universe video game. 


There's also an ad for a bizarre spaceship, which, if I'm understanding the add correctly, is most likely a couple pieces of strong cardboard or weak balsa wood with stickers on the outside, the kind of "too good to be true" type of product we haven't seen advertised in these pages for a while (remember the "working" submarine back in the 60s?).


It's in the Mail
Rogue tackles the letters page this month, most of which pertain to issue #171 and question her placement on the team. It's almost like Kitty is asking the X-Man most-involved in the issue being discussed by the letters to respond... 

Teebore's Take
For a variety of reasons, this issue, moreso than #176, has always felt like the true start of the John Romita Jr. run. In part, it's the arrival of inker Dan Green, who will remain on the book for the duration of Romita's run (and beyond). Additionally, following the more traditional two-part Brotherhood story (which helped setup this one), this issue kicks of a string of issues featuring self-contained plots (between now and the beginning of "Mutant Massacre" in issue #210, we'll have precisely three multi-part stories), with the connective tissue between issues formed exclusively by character and subplot development (often weaving back and forth between X-Men and New Mutants), thus fully embracing the "day in the life" approach begun in issue #167, with each issue functioning as a snapshot look into the lives of the characters.

Finally, as Jason Powell asserts in his post on this issue, this also marks the beginning of the darkening of book's tone and the political repositioning of the X-Men. Though it follows from a dangling thread in a previous Claremont/Smith story, the depiction here of the Morlocks and their tunnels is suitably darker than before, the circumstances surrounding Kitty's situation infusing the proceedings with a sense of unease and simmering creepiness. Recognizing the twisted politics of the original Morlocks story, Claremont has the X-Men chastised, first by Callisto (to Kitty) and then by Kitty herself for their treatment of the sewer mutants. He only takes it so far (the Morlocks remain in the sewer, and Kitty is ultimately released from her vow, conscious-free), but it shows a willingness to question, even unfavorably, the X-Men's politics, foreshadowing the gradual upending of the X-Men's political status quo that will unfold over the course of Romita's run.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we follow the footnote and learn more about Illyana's time in Limbo in the Magik limited series, and next week, the X-Men go small in the X-Men and the Micronauts limited series.

18 comments:

  1. Why is Kitty writing a letter to Colossus' parents? Have they met her? Are her and Colossus officially an item or something?

    Also, do we ever learn who the fake Kitty was? Did she have a family? Are people looking for her?

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  2. @Dr. Bitz: Why is Kitty writing a letter to Colossus' parents?

    She wrote a letter to Colossus, and to her parents, not his.

    Also, do we ever learn who the fake Kitty was?

    In issue #178, the Morlocks are shown altering the body of a dead homeless girl (we then learn in this issue they altered her to look like Kitty). There's no indication they killed the girl, but rather, found her shortly after she died.

    But yeah, if anyone is looking for her, they ain't gonna find her now that she looks like Kitty. And, considering Storm told a doctor at the morgue that the young woman WAS Kitty, the real Kitty might have to do some work to undeclare herself legally dead...

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  3. So you don't think they they killed a girl just to make her Pryde.

    (Sorry)

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  4. @ Teebore:

    "In issue #178, the Morlocks are shown altering the body of a dead homeless girl (we then learn in this issue they altered her to look like Kitty). There's no indication they killed the girl, but rather, found her shortly after she died."

    How convenient!

    This issue was much better than the previous 2 or 3. Claremont always did better with characterization than action, and JR Jr.'s art looks more assured.

    Kitty grew up a bit, too. I wonder what would have happened if she'd stayed with Caliban. Could she convince him to leave the sewers? Would Callisto allow it? Would they still follow Storm if the X-Men "stole" Kitty & Caliban? Maybe there would have been a Morlock war.

    @ Abigail:
    "So you don't think they they killed a girl just to make her Pryde.

    (Sorry)"



    I think it was a missed opportunity not to title this issue "Pryde of Caliban."

    - Mike Loughlin

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  5. If I had to pick a moment when I began to really despair for the future of X-Men, this would probably be it.

    You (not just Teebore) might see this as the start of when the X-Men really came into its own, instead, building on kernels of Lee/Kirby, Thomas/Adams, Wein/Claremont/Cockrum, Claremont/Byrne, and Claremont/Smith to move decidedly into the realm of seriously offbeat, fascinating, sociopolitical Marvel-Universe-will-never-be-the-same greatness; we can agree to disagree. I was clearly much less interested in the series as it veered away from what was to me so special about those runs and the All-New X-Men stuff in particular. It might actually be more daring, more sophisticated even, and I look forward to seeing how it plays to me now, but at the time I really did hate the Romita & Green artwork and I disliked what was happening in continuity to the characters even as I appreciated deeper explorations of the genre's potential elsewhere — Zot!, Concrete, Miracleman, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight were all on the horizon.

    I'll save the rest of my remarks on the issue for new comments, since they're mostly the kind of things I'd be calling out regardless of how I actually liked the material.

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  6. There is so much wrong with that cover. A red headband is wrapped around Kitty's bangs even though she's not a Kryptonian male. The Morlock "bible" shouldn't look nearly that ancient. Neither penciler, inker, nor colorist got the effect of the veil right, and as a result the only explanation for what's happening is that Kitty is phasing through it while she cries. Mostly, though, it's just hella ugly.

    Claremont's definitely reinforcing if not retconning the Morlocks as "self-proclaimed outcasts from a world that they believe has no place for them" with phrases like, well, the one I just quoted [emphasis mine] from Pg. 1.

    I'm so glad that the coroner leaves it at "Didn't think you were cops." Why trifle with asking for credentials? Never mind that it's not usually the cops ID'ing a body anyway, but loved ones, or that the next thing out of his mouth is that they'll probably never know what happened to the girl, which if he's expecting cops is presumably what they would be in the process of trying to figure out.

    And while I'm nitpicking dialogue, let's take a look at Nightcrawler's "I can't hear a heartbeat, Professor. But when Peter is armored, I'm not even sure he has one." You'd think that with all the testing Xavier's so fond of at the mansion, something like this would've come up, oh, the first week or so after Colossus was recruited, and that the Professor as well as resident medical dude Nightcrawler would be aware of the answer.

    I don't get why Rogue would absorb Colossus's present state rather than just his powers, although of course it makes for a nice dramatic moment.

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  7. A few things that jumped out at me and require images...

    Professor X gets a case of the Watcher's giant head while chatting with Storm. (Pg. 6)

    I call frumious bandersnatch on Xavier's psi-bolts being something that you can duck. Shouldn't they sort-of by definition be something, like telepathy, that travels straight from brain to brain rather than through the air? (Pg. 7)

    Dan Green inks JRJr.'s interior pencils on this issue, yet on the splash page (Pg. 2) Kitty has a definite Smith/Wiacek look to her — it's not at all how she looks, unfortunately, on the cover. The woman to her right (our left), by contrast, looks like an aged mutant hooker drawn by Frank Miller for some Dark Knight / Sin City crossover and the women on her left has a face straight from Keith Giffen's Muñoz impressions.

    For some reason it looks like Kitty's face has been retouched — inked by somebody other than Green, pretty much obliterating any trace of Romita's pencils as well — in some but not all of the panels when the wedding begins. (Pgs. 7-9)

    Oops! Wolverine pops his "mechanical" claws. And we've discussed before that even if his claws weren't bone his healing factor being neutralized would mean him bleeding from the hands something fierece. (Pg. 18)

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  8. Just then, the Morlock Leech arrives and leads her back to the others.

    Kitty has my favorite line in ages when she encounters Leech and says to herself, "He's so ugly, he has to be a Morlock."

    Masque's offer to alter Kitty's face, symbolizing her rejection of the surface world, suggests some of the Morlocks' physical appearance may have been willingly altered by Masque.

    I had that same reaction to (and had no recollection of) that. So the Morlocks aren't even necessarily all born disfigured — further cementing that they don't just embrace being outcasts and others, they push themselves in that direction. Getting a new face from Masque is a rite of passage like the Inhumans and the Terrigen Mist. Or maybe not, as that whole thing went nowhere after Masque turned Kitty's face back to normal.

    She even writes letters to Colossus and her parents, explaining the situation.

    It's pretty optimistic — or a plan to try to get them together (reading too much into it) — to send just one letter to both her mom and her dad.

    There's also an ad for a bizarre spaceship

    I was fascinated by that for just the reasons you say — it seemed, like, one step away from an SNL parody. We shouldn't discount the suggestive power of packaging on young minds, but I look at that and think, "Great idea! Wouldn't you just rather make a tunnel out of blankets, though?"

    I'm pretty sure that the Masters of the Universe video-game ad on the inside back cover was drawn by Bruce Timm. I realize that it doesn't look much like his stuff of the past 20 years — it's all more José Luis García-López — but one of his earliest jobs was drawing the minicomics packed with the MOTU action figures. I saw some of his art for them when interviewing him for Comicology and they were certainly in a more standard illustrative style like this; He-Man's face, especially, just has a Timm feel that I can't explain.

    the Morlocks remain in the sewer, and Kitty is ultimately released from her vow, conscious-free

    And Storm basically doesn't address the Morlocks as their leader at all, so Claremont gets an Incomplete bordering on Fail in terms of making a corrective revisitation. I forget if she actually appointed Callisto some kind of "regent" to deal with day-to-day stuff in her absence — on the one hand I doubt it, since she left Callisto for dead, but on the other I have a vague recollection of that not just being my rationalization for the chaos that would otherwise have followed — but she really only has herself to blame by defeating their leader (maybe the only one they've ever had), taking on that mantle herself, and then ignoring the entire subculture.

    I do appreciate how you tie this in to what's coming later in Romita's run — of which I have only the vaguest notions, but what you say sounds right and insightful.

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  9. @DrBitz: Are people looking for her?

    Yes. Still.

    It's small consolation but at least with "Marvel time" she hasn't been missing for decades.

    @Abigail: So you don't think they they killed a girl just to make her Pryde.

    What is this, Reno?

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  10. @Abigail: So you don't think they they killed a girl just to make her Pryde

    Heh. Well done.

    @Mike: I wonder what would have happened if she'd stayed with Caliban.

    It would have been interesting to see. I'm kind of surprised What If never covered that one (though, in that case, the answer would either be "something really close to what actually happened" or "the death of everyone").

    I disliked what was happening in continuity to the characters even as I appreciated deeper explorations of the genre's potential elsewhere

    While we disagree on the relative merits on this and upcoming material, I definitely see how approaching it as it unfolds, as opposed to approaching it as history, as something that's already happened to these characters, could influence the reaction to it.

    Claremont's definitely reinforcing if not retconning the Morlocks as "self-proclaimed outcasts from a world that they believe has no place for them" with phrases like, well, the one I just quoted

    Nice observation; I completely missed that one, but it definitely fits with Claremonts seeming attempt to address some of the issues with the Morlocks.

    Why trifle with asking for credentials?

    Similarly, I think it's kind of funny that Wolverine tough guys the doctor out of the room to tell Storm and Rogue the body isn't Kitty's. Couldn't they have left the room to have that conversation?

    You'd think that with all the testing Xavier's so fond of at the mansion, something like this would've come up, oh, the first week or so after Colossus was recruited

    Indeed. I mean, I don't live or work with Colossus, and I'm guessing he doesn't have a heartbeat when armored up simply because I, like the rest of the X-Men, know he doesn't need to breathe while armored.

    I don't get why Rogue would absorb Colossus's present state rather than just his powers, although of course it makes for a nice dramatic moment.

    I wondered the same thing, and simply chalked it up to the dramatic moment as you did.

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  11. Shouldn't they sort-of by definition be something, like telepathy, that travels straight from brain to brain rather than through the air?

    I've often wondered about that. I get the idea of using a physical depiction of a mental ability (a colored halo around his head when using telepathy, Jean's pink bubbles when using her TK) but I've never taken them literally. Similarly, while the psi-bolt is an effective way of depicting an offensive psychic attack, it does seem like the kind of thing you can't duck, but this is far from the only time we'll see them treated this way, so maybe there is somehow a physically element to them.

    (The Harry Potter books/movies have a similar problem with spells, which at first just seemed like something that happened - you put a spell on something, it did whatever the spell was. But as the series went on, it became more clear that spells (and jinxes and hexes and whatnot) had a physical element to them that could be ducked/avoided/blocked physically, and not just magically, with counter spells or whatnot).

    "He's so ugly, he has to be a Morlock."

    It's the ultimate "yo mamma" joke. :)

    It's pretty optimistic ... to send just one letter to both her mom and her dad.

    Ha! I never even thought of that. And I should have, considering Kitty mentions their divorce ALL THE TIME (I'm betting Romita wasn't quite as familiar with Kitty's status quo yet and simply assumed when asked to draw the letters).

    I'm pretty sure that the Masters of the Universe video-game ad on the inside back cover was drawn by Bruce Timm.

    I bet you're right. I'd totally forgotten that Timm had worked on those comics, but now that you mention it, I recall hearing about that.

    I forget if she actually appointed Callisto some kind of "regent" to deal with day-to-day stuff in her absence

    I too forget exactly when this happens (or, more correctly, when we learn it happens, because I'm pretty sure we never actually SEE it happen), but I'm pretty sure at some point it's made clear that Storm has appointed Callisto something like a regent, to rule the Morlocks while Storm is off being an X-Man and not ugly.

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  12. Hmm, I was away last week, and I don't really have much to add to the conversation other than:

    " The Healer..."

    The Morlock healer has possibly the coolest design for a throw-away character, ever.

    "...which, as a kid, bugged me, because they weren't as sturdy as the actual vehicles..."

    The thing that bugged me about those Master of the Unvierse models is that they were so much cooler looking than the actual toys they were based on, but they weren't compatible with the action figures!

    Teebore & Blam -- I'm about 99% certain that Bruce Timm was a storyboard artist for Filmation, and that he worked on the MotU cartoon there as well.

    If you want to see what He-Man and Skeletor look like drawn in Timm's current style, please click here.

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  13. @Matt: The thing that bugged me about those Master of the Unvierse models is that they were so much cooler looking than the actual toys they were based on, but they weren't compatible with the action figures!

    Yeah, that bothered me too. Frankly, I think it gave me a disdain for models I never quite got over.

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  15. Ooh, that comment from Illyana annoyed me when I dug this issue out and re-read it this morning. Assuming the cover dates aren't totally out of whack, I assume there was at least one issue of Illyana's mini still to come out, and here she's all "I totes killed ma two friends, SAAAAADD!". Not at all impressed.

    Also on my List of Interest; I wonder what a court would make of a legally binding contract (which yes, an acceptance of a marriage proposal certainly isn't) can be declared void if you entered into it because you wanted to get one person to stop another person from killing a third person.

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  16. (let's try that again without the typo screwing up the html link...)

    @SpaceSquid: Assuming the cover dates aren't totally out of whack, I assume there was at least one issue of Illyana's mini still to come out

    Actually, according to Mike's Amazing World of Comics website (my main source for the cover/on sale dates of issues, the final two issues of Illyana's series were on sale in November of '83, a month before #179 went on sale.

    So her series was complete by the time she made that comment, though just barely.

    ...if you entered into it because you wanted to get one person to stop another person from killing a third person.

    And if that contract was with someone from a fringe group squatting illegally in abandoned underground tunnels. :)

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  17. So her series was complete by the time she made that comment, though just barely.

    This is what I get for going by cover dates. Still, an issue out in November with a March cover date is abnormally ludicrous, isn't it?

    And if that contract was with someone from a fringe group squatting illegally in abandoned underground tunnels. :)

    He could still try to get the contract enforced. He'd just, you know, be homeless whilst and after he was doing it.

    I do like that as an insane but coherent argument, actually. "You promised you marry me, so don't back out, otherwise we'll still end up hitched but we won't have anywhere to live." Checkmate!

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  18. @SpaceSquid: Still, an issue out in November with a March cover date is abnormally ludicrous, isn't it?

    It is indeed. And there were clearly some scheduling issues, since both issue #3 and #4 were on sale in the same month, which isn't normal for, you know, a monthly comic...

    "You promised you marry me, so don't back out, otherwise we'll still end up hitched but we won't have anywhere to live." Checkmate!

    Caliban 1, Kitty 0.

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