Uncanny X-Men #143 (1981, March)
It’s exam week. Ugh. Anyway, we reach the end of John Byrne’s time on the X-Men (and Terry Austin’s, too), but what a way for him to go out, with the “Demon.”
We start with a flashback to X-Men #96, and Storm battling N’Garai, and eventually destroying the cairn with a lightning bolt. Skip ahead to the present, and a N’Garai is still alive. It kills a pair of newly-weds. Then we cut to the Mansion, the night before Christmas, where Xavier is teaching Kitty about their equipment. She’s going over the Blackbird’s ignition procedure. Angel fetches Xavier, and they head up to the foyer, where they meet Mariko. Nigthcrawler teleports over with some mistletoe and gives her a kiss on the cheek, which makes Wolverine angry enough to take a swing at him with his claws. Once he’s calmed, he leaves with Mariko. Then the others all leave, leaving Kitty all alone. She mentions never having spent Chanukah away from home, firmly establishing her as Jewish, if it wasn’t before. I don’t think it had been mentioned.
Anyway, Scott calls the School, and is surprised that the others left her home alone. He heads over to a fishing boat, the Arcadia, looking for a job, and meets Aleytys “Lee” Forester. This is the first we’ve seen of him ion a few months, and it’s nice to touch in with him; the next issue will be all his. Back to the School, Kitty decides to get some exercise in the Danger Room, with a simple 60-minute acrobatic workout. She ends up pulling a muscle in her leg while thinking about how it’s the X-Men’s powers, not their bodies, that need exercise. This is pretty clearly foreshadowing.
The burglar alarm goes off in Ororo’s attic. She goes up to check, and gets attacked by the N’Garai. This begins a chase through the house, with Kitty trying to outsmart it. It manages to rip through her, and even though she was phased, she still felt it. She runs to the Danger Room, and programs a combat sequence. It goes after the control room, and wrecks the booth going after her. Before it can get her, though, the Danger Room comes to life, hitting the demon with all sorts of attacks. None of them do more than bother it.
She runs down to the hangar, and makes it to the Blackbird ahead of the demon. When the demon’s close enough, she ignites the engines. It’s a whole lot of flame and heat being blasted all at once. She turns the Blackbird off only when it tears off its landing gear and smashes into a wall. She leaves the plane, sure it’s dead. But then a claw pops out of the flame.
The X-Men – Xavier, Storm and Peter – return home, and Kitty’s happy to see them. Her parents are there, too. A special Chanukah present from Xavier. Kitty explains to Ororo what happened – it’s actually pretty funny, because she’s so matter-of-fact about all the damage she did.
This is a fantastic issue. It’s tense and exciting, and Kitty gets to show off her brains and her determination. Byrne made the demon genuinely frightening, and did a good job depicting Kitty’s fear. The panel of the claw emerging from the flames was scary. The whole thing was just brilliant. Kitty’s had a lot of great stories over the years – hell, we just finished a good Kitty story with Days of Future Past – but this is one of the best. Up there with “Kitty’s Fairy Tale,” a couple years later.
On a side note, this issue also featured a letter from Kurt Busiek, saying he was quitting the X-Men. He argued that over the past couple of years, Claremont and Byrne had been twisting and mangling the characters. I really do wonder if Busiek has since changed his mind about those issues. Because they’re some of the most popular and well-regarded comics. The Dark Phoenix Saga – including the Hellfire Club arc – were amazing, I thought, and are among the most iconic stories ever told in the X-Men.
Dazzler #1 came out the same month. But I’m actually going to review that series separately. So that’ll probably be done Saturday.