Kitty Pryde and Wolverine
Medium: comic
Year: 1984
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Al Milgrom
Keywords: superhero
Series: << Wolverine >>, X-Men >>
Format: 6 issues
Website category: Comics
Review date: 30 July 2021
I've just learned from the internet that it's an important mini-series that's been frequently reprinted. I'd had no idea. I bought the original issues because I love the Claremont-era X-Men and my favourite characters from it are Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. (I like that whole cast, though. I'm also fond of Cyclops.)
On first reading this, I'd been a bit disappointed. It doesn't star the Kitty I'd been expecting. Claremont makes her grow up a bit, graduating from her cute, innocent "little sister" characterisation and getting her brainwashed by an evil ninja. Her dad does deals with the yakuza. She chooses her new name, Shadowcat, and gets a really unflattering haircut. It's a character landmark story, yes, but the result in US superhero comics, frankly, is to make her more generic.
The story's also important for Wolverine. He returns to his second home, Japan, and his not-wife and foster daughter. He develops something like a sibling relationship with Kitty, while also being a complete bastard when healing/mentoring her. That was strong characterisation.
This is an unusually personal story in the world of 1980s superheroes. I don't think it's that good, but it's not bad either.
For obvious reasons, I was interested in what I'd think on rereading this Japan-set Marvel mini-series. I know the country a lot better than I did in the 1980s. What would I think? Answer: I was quite impressed. Claremont's making an effort. There's a lot of detail here, be it with stories about Miyamoto Musashi, Narita airport, pachinko or traditional stone gardens. It feels respectful. The art has lots of Japanese writing, e.g. signs. There are a few Japanese words in the dialogue, including honorifics, which tend to be correct and appropriate.
That said, though...
1. An important female character is called Yukio, which is a boy's name. There are some Japanese girl's names ending in "o", e.g. Misao, but... nope. (Google tells me that, elsewhere, Wolverine once joked that Yukio's real first name was Yukiko, which would be more plausible.)
2. The comic draws horizontal lines above the vowels of "Toyko" to indicate length. I was impressed. You almost never see linguistic detail like that. Unfortunately, Claremont gets carried away and incorrectly puts lines above vowels in "yakuza" and "oyabun".
3. A child, Akiko, calls her foster mother both "haha-san" and "haha-sama". No, no, no. Don't swap them around like that. Either would be acceptable, but please choose. Also, "haha" is just one of the words for "mother" and is a mildly unnatural choice in that context. You'd probably say "okaa-san" or "okaa-sama". (See also Akiko's "chichi-san" for "father". Ouch.)
4. It's "hai", not "hei" (although the word appears again later, correctly spelled).
There's occasional not-fanservice. I think it's meant to be pseudo-titillation that doesn't violate the Comics Code Authority, in the form of bath scenes that don't show anything and Kitty's naked back after getting stripped with sword blows.
I like the overlap with the contemporary Marvel universe, which didn't go on hold for the sake of this mini-series.
It's fine. I read it. I'm not planning to throw it out. (In contrast, I'd found myself throwing out lots of Grant Morrison when rummaging through my comics boxes. Morrison's X-Men? Gone. The only issue I ever bought of The Invisibles? Gone. I love some of his writing, e.g. Animal Man, Doom Patrol, but I was surprised to see how much of his other work I'd bought from author loyalty without actually liking it.) This story, though, isn't bad, although its finale is mildly amusing in how shamelessly it goes from "I can't possibly beat my old master Oguun" to "I just went berserk and even he knows I can't lose". I still prefer Claremont's previous version of Kitty Pryde, though.