While I’ve been reading comics for almost two years, I haven’t read too many Christmas related issues. From what I have read, Uncanny X-Men 143 is easily the best of them. It’s not just a good Christmas issue; it’s a great issue in general.
While this takes place during the Christmas season, it’s actually Hanukkah (the comic isn’t entirely sure which day of Hanukkah). That’s appropriate since Kitty Pryde, this issue’s central character, is Jewish. She’s alone at Xavier’s mansion as everyone else is gone for either a date or some other social event. Well, she would be alone if there wasn’t a N’Garai demon attacking her.
This issue highlights how resourceful Kitty Pryde is, and how much potential she has as a character. The demon easily tears through every reinforced wall at the mansion, can hurt her even when she’s phased, and is at least somewhat smart. She has to use every bit of her training and brain power to outsmart the monster and kill it. In the process, the danger room, Storm’s plants, and the X-jet are destroyed.
Besides the extended chase scene, this issue has a fair amount of humour. It’s light on the holiday spirit, but that means it’s not annoyingly cheerful or overbearing. This issue also gave readers a chance to learn more about Kitty Pryde, who was new to the X-Men at the time. This issue really is her defining moment.
It’s a shame that she’s underutilized lately. While she pretty much starred Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, she hasn’t had all that much to do lately. She’s a regular cast member in Wolverine and the X-Men and she pretty much runs Wolverine’s school, but that’s about it. As fun as WATXM can be, there usually isn’t much focus on individual characters and it sometimes feels like a mess. Outside of that series, she usually has minor cameos at best.
This was actually John Byrne’s last issue of X-Men for more than a decade. After working with Chris Claremont for years, drawing The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past (Uncanny X-Men 141 and 132), he quit over creative differences and the kind of anger that makes him a controversial name in the industry. I won’t go into details into something I don’t fully understand, but John Byrne tends to hold grudges. It’s odd that he would leave after this issue instead of Days of Future Past, but that’s part of what makes this issue special.
The only thing that holds this issue back is that it’s overly wordy, something that Claremont is known for. He often uses thought bubbles to describe things that the art adequately portrays, or he over explains how characters’ powers work. This issue is worse for that than some. While it’s nice to look into Pryde’s thought process as she’s being chased by the demon, she over explains everything in the danger room scene, slowing down what should be an intense sequence. With Claremont books, sometimes you have to train yourself to skip over the wordy bits – his comics will flow better that way.
(This panel is the best example of this issue being overly wordy)
Still, this comic is worth checking out. While the original issue is kind of expensive, it can be found in the recently reprinted Days of Future Past paperback, which also features the story that the next X-Men movie will be based on and a number of other entertaining issues from the height of Claremont’s legendary X-Men run.
I love that comic. It’s so much fun, but also really tense. It’s a large part of why Kitty is my favourite Marvel character. I really wish she had more to do right now. Jason Aaron is completely wasting her. I’d actually really like to see Christos Gage writing her – he wrote her well in Avengers Academy #38.
But this issue, and Kitty’s Fairy Tale, are among the best single issues of Claremont’s epic run.
Even though I usually like Wolverine and the X-Men more than you do, I completely agree that she feels wasted in that series. Kieron Gillen wrote her well in his pre SCHISM Uncanny X-Men as well.