[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]
Far from Claremont’s best work, the Kitty/Wolverine miniseries is notable mainly for being the first X-Men story to pair the two characters in a protégé/mentor relationship. The contrived, overly extemporized plot is as follows: Kitty goes to Chicago to visit her father, and learns he’s become involved with Shigematsu, a Japanese crime-lord. She follows her father to Japan, where she quickly realizes she’s in over her head and phones Wolverine for help. Shigematsu’s associate – an evil ninja calling himself Ogun (note again the phonetic allusion to James Carvell’s novel Shogun) – captures Kitty, brainwashes her into becoming his pet ninja apprentice, and sends her out to kill the newly arrived Wolverine. We learn that Ogun was Logan’s sensei years ago, and that there is now bad blood between the two of them. Wolverine rescues Kitty from Ogun’s thrall, becoming her tough-love mentor in the hopes that, with the help of his hard instruction, she’ll burn Ogun’s taint entirely from her psyche.
The climactic final battle involves not only Wolverine, Ogun and Kitty (who has by this time renamed herself “Shadowcat”), but also Yukio and Mariko. In the end, Wolverine saves the day even though he has to resort to his animalistic, berserker mode to do it, and Kitty proves to both Logan and herself that she is free of any evil influence. (As a happy side effect however, Kitty now has expert-level martial arts training.)
Though the story is not without its strong points, it is generally speaking not particularly exciting. Claremont has stated explicitly that he thinks Kitty Pryde & Wolverine is “as good” as the Frank Miller-illustrated Wolverine mini. Again, the author seems to have lost perspective. Where the Miller mini was direct and powerful, this one is contrived and overly complicated. And whereas Miller’s art was innovative and ahead of its time, Milgrom’s work is competent but conventional – and at times ugly.
The series is noteworthy more for historical reasons than anything else. It features not only the first use of the code-name “Shadowcat” for Kitty but also the last appearance of Mariko Yashida in a Claremont book. It’s clear in context that he didn’t mean for it to be thus; we learn in KP&W #5 that Mariko has actually adopted Akiko, the orphan Wolverine rescued in Uncanny #181, and in issue #6, Wolverine refers to himself as Akiko’s “foster father.” It will turn out that “deadbeat dad” would have been more appropriate – Wolverine won’t visit Mariko and Akiko again (at least, not on panel) for the next seven years.
This is another example of Claremont creating more story threads than he can possibly keep track of. Wolverine-as-family-man is an intriguing idea, and Claremont surely intended to explore the notion further in future X-Men comics or Wolverine miniseries ... but instead got sidetracked by various other threads and ideas, so that rather than KP&W being the beginning of something new, the miniseries instead marks the end of an era – no more Wolverine-in-Japan stories from here on out.