[Guest blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]
Right down to the title, “Demon” is a blatant evocation and recreation of the Ridley Scott film “Alien.” After the astoundingly powerful “Days of Future Past” two-parter (itself an attempt – nearly successful -- by Claremont and Byrne to top their triumph on the Dark Phoenix Saga), Uncanny X-Men #143 can’t help but be a step down in terms of excitement level. Indeed, whereas Claremont and Byrne absorbed an old Doctor Who storyline entirely into their own canon, constructing a narrative that is pure X-Men on every level, they seem content with “Demon” to simply ape their source material -- with Kitty Pryde in the role of Sigourney Weaver and a blatantly Giger-inspired N’Garai demon in the role of the Alien.
(The use of the N’Garai is one of the more interesting things about the issue; they were the villains in Uncanny X-Men #96, the first issue of the comic fully plotted and written by Chris Claremont. That the same villains from Claremont’s first issue are reprised in John Byrne’s last is somehow fitting.)
In “Comics Creators on X-Men,” John Byrne admits to being “demented” enough at the time to believe that their pastiche was not entirely obvious – this in spite of the fact that the climax was lifted from “Alien” wholesale. Reading the published issue was a reality check for the artist, who then started anticipating an inevitable lawsuit (which did not come).
The story might also have been a reality check for fans, who could’ve been forgiven at that time for believing that Claremont and Byrne could do absolutely anything. With this solo Kitty Pryde story – deprived of the chance to engage in the exciting team dynamics and choreography at which they both excelled – they demonstrated an inability to turn every concept they touched into gold. Instead, the plot is fairly predictable (Kitty’s idea to use the Danger Room against the demon is easy to see a mile away), and the unrelenting use of Kitty’s internal monologue throughout the issue can’t help but weigh heavy after 15 straight pages.
The perfunctory use of the other characters – who appear briefly at the start and end of the issue – also fails to inspire. Wolverine almost kills Kurt in anger (possibly another allusion to the earlier N’Garai issue, which contained a similar scene); Colossus blushes when Kitty kisses him (and calls him “sexy,” a surprisingly overt bit of dialogue given the character’s youth); and Angel is excited about his “long overdue date” with Candy Southern. The most intriguing bit is the start of a new Cyclops arc, though as we’ll see next issue, it doesn’t go anywhere terribly interesting. All in all, this is a fairly ho-hum issue, and an anticlimactic one for Byrne to go out on. (The previous issue, with its embarrassment of riches in terms of both story and plot, would have been a far more appropriate finale.) Still, just by virtue of being the artist’s last, thus ending an era of profound creativity and formal elegance for the series, Uncanny X-Men #143 has earned its place in history.
Random trivia department: Byrne claims that when “Party of Five” debuted back in the 1990s, he pegged Jennifer Love Hewitt as the perfect actress to play his version of Kitty Pryde. She never did, but Hewitt was cast years later in a film called “Heartbreakers,” playing – oddly enough – the daughter of Sigourney Weaver.