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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

X-amining X-Men Annual #8

"The Adventures of Lockheed the Space Dragon and His Pet Girl Kitty"
1984

In a Nutshell 
Illyana tells a sci-fi story starring Kitty and Lockheed. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Steve Leialoha
Original Idea: Jo Duffy
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men and New Mutants are telling stories around a campfire. As the hour grows late, Illyana, hoping to cheer up Kitty, offers one last story: when the starship Chicago is attacked by the evil White Queen, young Kitty is captured. Using her nascent phasing power, she escapes. Just then, the White Queen's ship is boarded by a group of pirates led by Lockheed. The White Queen kills Kitty's parents, but Lockheed, Wolverine and Nightcrawler rescue the girl, and offer her a place on their ship. Years pass, and Kitty grows up a member of Lockheed's crew. One day, they are invited to help celebrate the jubilee of Charles Xavier. Landing at the imperial palace, they meet Xavier and Lilandra, rulers of the Shi'ar Empire, and Kitty notices a cute imperial guardsmen named Peter Rasputin. As the party begins, Lockheed receives a strange summons. Wolverine follows him, and watches as a group of dragons ambushes and disappears with Lockheed. Just then, the White Queen appears and captures Wolverine. She sends Kitty a message, making her believe she's killed Lockheed, and telling her to turn herself over to the White Queen or she'll destroy Wolverine.


Enraged, Kitty and Nightcrawler, joined by Peter, track an extra-dimensional energy signature found at the site of Lockheed's kidnapping, but they are unknowingly followed by the White Queen. The trail leads into a black hole, and Kitty must convince a reluctant Storm, once the best pilot in the galaxy, to fly their ship into it. Lockheed's crew emerges from the black hole to discover a crystal planet, along with Lockheed, alive, surrounded by female dragons. Just then, the White Queen attacks. The crew fights back as Kitty and Lockheed phase aboard the White Queen's vessel, freeing Wolverine. They escape to the planet, then destroy the White Queen's ship. Kitty and the White Queen engage in a battle of will power, with Kitty emerging the victor, leaving the White Queen to the mercy of the dragons. Lockheed is offered a place on the planet repopulating his species, and the rest of his crew depart on their repaired ship. Kitty is sad over Lockheed's absence until it's revealed that he's decided to remain with his crew. As Illyana finishes her story, Kitty and Colossus are moved to discuss their break-up. They agree to try and remain friends, and Kitty thanks her best friend for the story.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue serves as a sequel of sorts to "Kitty's Fairy Tale", from Uncanny X-Men #153, with Illyana returning the favor to Kitty and telling her own story featuring Kitty as a swashbuckling adventurer. This time, the fantasy trappings of the first story are replaced by sci-fi ones, with Kitty and the other X-Men cast as space pirates akin to the Starjammers.

Storm, after being derailed in her first attempt to leave the team and go to Africa for a time, resolves to do so once more. Issue #193 will reveal that she was more successful in her second attempt; as a result, she is considered to have left the X-Men as of this issue.


As a result of Illyana's story, Kitty and Colossus are able to talk about their break-up (Kitty learns Zsaji's name in the process), come to speaking terms with one another, and agree to try and remain friends.


At one point in the story, Kitty tries on a series of outfits while aboard Lockheed's ship; a footnote says the  designs are all courtesy of comic artist and writer Trina Robbins, who was one of the first underground comics artists of the 60s (she co-created Vampirella). I have no idea how she ended up contributing a handful of fashion designs to a random X-Men annual.


In a 100% unintentional bit of foreshadowing, the White Queen in Illyana's story can transform things into crystal, which is reminiscent of her secondary mutation to transform herself into diamond, which will be established during Grant Morrison's run in the 2000s. 

The Chronology Corner
This issue was on sale at the same time as Uncanny X-Men #188 and New Mutants #23, but the events depicted are considered to occur during issue #192, in the gap of time before the attack on Xavier at the end of that issue.

From here, Wolverine will appear in Alpha Flight #17, then he and the rest of the X-Men (save Storm) will appear in Rom #65 and #66, and then Dazzler #38.

A Work in Progress
As the issue opens, Kitty and Wolverine's adventure in Japan is referenced, as are Storm's efforts to come to terms with the lose of her powers and the state of Kitty and Colossus' relationship (now that they're hanging out together for the first time since they broke up).


Stevie Hunter pops up, attending the cookout with the X-Men and New Mutants.

Illyana cites her adventure in New Mutants #21 as an inspiration for her story, though we (the readers) still haven't learned the details of that adventure.  

The characters in Illyana's story compare some mountains to the Himalayas, which seems an odd point of reference for star-faring characters who aren't from Earth.


Claremontisms
Kitty exclaims "yum" upon seeing Colossus for the first time. 

Wolverine abbreivates the word "polite" as "p'lite" in his thoughts, the first (and I believe, hopefully, the only) time any has ever abbreviated the word in that manner, ever.

Young Love
Kitty is attracted to Colossus when she first meets him on Xavier's planet.


The end of the Illyana's story (and the issue itself) suggests a romantic relationship between Lockheed and Kitty, which is...yeah. 


Teebore's Take
I've gone on record as not being the world's biggest "Kitty's Fairy Tale" fan, but I think most of us can agree that the law of diminishing returns is already setting in with this annual. Where "Kitty's Fairy Tale" was a relatively fast-paced story set within the confines of a single issue, this one is ponderous and stretched out to fill a double-sized annual. "Kitty's Fairy Tale" also succeeded in part by presenting various X-Men in clever ways that played up a specific aspect of their personality (Nightcrawler as a goofy horndog, Wolverine as a monosyllabic brute), whereas this story does little to reinterpret or tweak the characters: Space Pirate Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Kitty are pretty much exactly the same as their regular counterparts, and the biggest twist this issue puts on the characters is the suggestion of a creepy romantic attraction between Kitty and Lockheed (who physically is no different in the story than ever).

"Kitty's Fairy Tale" also offered up a "happy ending" version of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", whereas this story...kinda represents Kitty's history with the White Queen, and tries to speak to both Storm's power lose and the Kitty/Colossus break-up, albeit in the most direct and obvious way possible. Finally, while the art from Steve Leialoha is serviceable, and even pretty good in places (there's a Mike Mignola-esque quality to it that serves the story well), it lacks the fun, whimsical energy that Dave Cockrum brought to his story, an energy that really helped elevate that story. So in the end, the trend of annuals featuring dragged out, largely inconsequential stories unfortunately continues.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we look at the Beauty and the Beast limited series, and next week tackle a pair of X-Men guest appearances in one post, Alpha Flight #17 and Dazzler #38.

9 comments:

  1. I have never read this issue. I have a pretty big blind spot for Uncanny annuals. Glancing at a list online, I see that of the 13 annuals published during Claremont's original tenure, I've read eight of them. And of those eight, I read three of those for the very first time within the past couple years via Marvel collected editions.

    I will soon be adding one more to the list of newly-read annuals though, as #11 is in the Captain Britain Omnibus I'm currently devouring.

    " it lacks the fun, whimsical energy that Dave Cockrum brought to his story, an energy that really helped elevate that story..."

    I think I said it after your review of issue 153, but I strongly believe that Dave Cockrum was the driving force behind "Kitty's Fairy Tale". He received no co-plotter's credit, but that issue had Cockrum's sensibilities all over it. Claremont may try to replicate it here, but as you note, without Cockrum to provide the whimsical touch, it just doesn't work (I assume -- again, I haven't read it).

    I general, we've seen before -- and will see again -- what happens when Claremont tries to do funny/whimsy on his own. It usually falls flat. He needs a strong collaborator to pull this sort of thing off, like a Cockrum or an Adams. I like Leialoha as an artist, but I've never associated him with this sort of story.

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  2. Trina Robbins and Steve Leialoha are a couple who have been together for many many years. So that's the connection...

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  3. Was she intentionally designing shitty costumes, possibly a reference to Kitty's awful costumes from her early days? Because those outfits are fug-lee.

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  4. @Anonymous: To be fair, they aren't supposed to be super-hero costumes, they are just clothes. On that level, I think 1 & 3 are fine, given the sci-fi setting. The poodle skirt is inexplicable, however.

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  5. @Matt: I will soon be adding one more to the list of newly-read annuals though, as #11 is in the Captain Britain Omnibus I'm currently devouring.

    Oh, are you getting read for our coverage of Excalibur? ;)

    I just picked up on the cheap the pair of Captain Britain hardcovers Marvel released not too long ago, collecting his earliest appearances through to the Alan Moore/Jamie Delano stuff, I believe (which is what you're reading in the omnibus, I think). I want to get through it before I get to Excalibur (mainly because I've never read it and that's as good as an excuse as any), and then I'll have to track down the Moore stuff and read that.

    Claremont may try to replicate it here, but as you note, without Cockrum to provide the whimsical touch, it just doesn't work

    Yeah, and as I noted in my review of #153, I'm not the biggest fan of "whimsy" in fiction, at least not in this series, but if you're going for whimsy, then go for it. This story is not nearly as whimsical as it's trying to be.

    @ShadZ: Trina Robbins and Steve Leialoha are a couple who have been together for many many years. So that's the connection...

    I did not know that. Thanks!

    @Anonymous: Was she intentionally designing shitty costumes, possibly a reference to Kitty's awful costumes from her early days? Because those outfits are fug-lee.

    They're certainly better than the rainbow colored on roller skates monstrosity from the second Cockrum run.

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  6. Teebore... Teebore, Teebore... Good luck with those two Captain Britain collections. I just finishined reading them last week before opening the omnibus. The only pre-Excalibur Captain Britain material I had ever read was the Alan Moore "Jaspers Warp" storyline in a trade years ago, and I've been wanting to read up on his full backstory for some time. So I picked up the two hardcovers, Birth of a Legend and Siege of Camelot, as well as the omnibus.

    Let's just say, there's a reason why you were able to get those two books cheap. They start off pretty good, with some old-fashioned 1970's era Claremont -- rarely a bad thing in my opinion -- but soon Claremont leaves and editor Larry Lieber begins co-plotting the book with the succession of subsequent writers, starting with Gary Friedrich. And Larry seems to have a very Silver Age sensibility to him. I'm not sure he evolved with the times as his brother did. The stories are very simplistic and were a bit of a slog. I wish I could say they were so bad they were good, but they were really just bad. It took me a few weeks to finally get through both books, contrasted with the omnibus, which I'm halfway through in less that one week.

    But anyway, I'm not trying to discourage you! If nothing else, I enjoyed the Herb Trimpe art in volume 1, and there was a spot near the start of volume 2 where John Buscema, of all people, illustrated a few chapters, and black and white Buscema -- to my eye at least -- is a breathtaking thing.

    If you're so inclined, I'd love to see a post on your overall thoughts on those volumes, even though they don't really fit in with "X-Aminations".

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  7. @Matt: If you're so inclined, I'd love to see a post on your overall thoughts on those volumes, even though they don't really fit in with "X-Aminations".

    My plan, after reading them, is to do some kind of post about them, sometime shortly before we dig into Excalibur, an X-aminations post in spirit even if the format is a little off model.

    And yeah, flipping through the two volumes some of that material looks pretty rough, though I agree that some of the Trimpe and Buscema art looks intriguing.

    I'm much more interested in the Alan Moore material that follows it, though I still need to get my hands on the latter half of what's covered in the omnibus (I have that trade you mentioned that covers the "Jaspers Warp" stuff).

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  8. I've always had a love/hate — well, like/dislike — thing with that cover. At first glance I think that the design, colors, and clean lines make a great impression, but it goes sour when I look at the faces and figures at right.

    In a 100% unintentional bit of foreshadowing, the White Queen in Illyana's story can transform things into crystal

    Despite not being too up on latter-day X-Men stuff, I found that funny — her use of a "frigi-beam" on Wolverine, too, considering that her mind will end up in Iceman's body for a while.

    The characters in Illyana's story compare some mountains to the Himalayas, which seems an odd point of reference for star-faring characters who aren't from Earth.

    I thought so, too, but then again Nightcrawler and Colossus are still throwing out their German and Russian phrases.

    On the other hand, Logan uses the word "supernally" on the splash page. Right. The caption states that he's being "unaccustomely elegant" (Claremont and/or Orz dropped a "d") but still. Plus, I realize it's just a story and Kitty then asks Logan if he was making reference to her recent Japanese adventure, but while there were women in the samurai class in feudal Japan I'm pretty sure that they didn't have swords and didn't stand guard; they went from being daughters to wives and mothers who were mostly trained only to defend their homes with bo staffs and knives.

    The end of the Illyana's story (and the issue itself) suggests a romantic relationship between Lockheed and Kitty, which is... yeah. 

    Yeah.

    And that after Nightcrawler tells us that Lockheed is worn out from a heap o' dragon nookie.

    I agree both that the law of diminishing returns has set in and that Illyana is none too subtle in terms of her messages.

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  9. @Blam: her use of a "frigi-beam" on Wolverine, too, considering that her mind will end up in Iceman's body for a while.

    Ha! Good point. I hadn't thought of that.

    I thought so, too, but then again Nightcrawler and Colossus are still throwing out their German and Russian phrases.

    Good point.

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