COMIC BOOK REVIEW: X-Men: The Wedding Special #1 (Here’s To The Pryde & Groom)

In honor of the wedding of the decade Marvel bring us three tales of the future happy couple as Peter faces the rite of passage that is the bachelor party and Kitty is visited by a face from an old flame of her intended to warn her of the perils of hurting him.

COVER

X-MEN: THE WEDDING SPECIAL #1
Writers: Chris Claremont, Marc Guggenheim & Kelly Thompson
Artists: Todd Nauck, Greg Land & Marika Cresta
Inker: Jay Leisten (Boys’ Night Out)
Colorists: Rachelle Rosenberg, Jason Keith & Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Colonel Clayton Cowles
Cover: J. Scott Campbell with Sabine Riche
Variant Cover: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:

You are cordially invited to the celebration of an event nearly forty years in the making. As the big day looms for the bride and groom to be, we visit each of them in the rite of passage that is the bachelor and bachelorette party respectively, as well as the return of the father of Kitty Pryde. Both of them in fact, Cameron Pryde and Chris Claremont join her as she takes stock of her life and the road ahead. And what kind of celebration would it be without a few surprise guests to brighten things up?

What You’ll Find Out:

Bullets and Booze. Opening with the sacrifice that defined the hero Shadowcat, we see key moments in her life, beginning with the Astonishing X-Men shocker of Kitty in the bullet sent to Earth from the Breakworld. Then on to a brief recap of her induction to the X-Men as seen through her eyes in Uncanny X-Men #129-131, her battle for her soul with Ogun in Kitty Pryde & Wolverine, fighting with the N’Garai demon in Uncanny X-Men #143, her parents divorce, falling in love with Peter, his betrayal and brief relationship with Szaji, the Mutant Massacre, joining Excalibur and finally running the school and team.

1 KEY MOMENTS

All the while a clock counts down. As she awakes and begins to mentally prepare for the biggest day in her life so far, she passes the wall adorned with photos of those she has loved and even lost over the years. Xavier, Logan, and Warlock share wall space with Illyana, Kurt and also her father. Even that of Alasdhair Kinross, the man Kitty once bounced through time to meet and fall in love with in X-Men: True Friends and his cousin, Lilibet, the young girl who would grow up to be queen is there.

2 WALL OF MEMORIES

And as she returns to Belles of Hell, the bar where she worked after losing so much in her past, with Lockheed in tow, she is visited by Kurt, who remarks on the fact Wolverine has watched out for her since before her birth, meaning, of course, the time he joined her and Rachel in that Scottish adventure. Sensing she might be having cold feet, he has taken it upon himself to fill in for Logan in his capacity as a friend. As they discuss the situation she suddenly spies the ghostly forms of none other than Alasdhair and Logan himself, both stood at the bar smiling. Carrying on with her discussion she tells Kurt that she is struggling with the duality of the commitment to one person and that of the life they lead. Kurt tells her that even Peter would understand if she didn’t want to go through with it.

3 DADDY

As the ghostly visits increase to include her father she tearfully decides that life moves on regardless of the choices you make. Kurt agrees that, given his past experience and brush with life after death, life is for living and the losses of the past make the choice she is making and the commitment to marry Peter even more important. Logan, Alasdhair, and Carmen seem to agree as they depart, having seemingly given their blessing and also cemented her resolve.

4 BLESSING

Demons and Dice. Where Kitty had a heart-warming heart to heart, Peter isn’t so lucky. As the scene opens we find Wong firing Krellick the demon from the casino he is in charge of, clearly a leftover of Damnation, for bad attitude toward the human customers. Readers may remember this is the same demon Storm and Old Man Logan faced off against in X-Men Gold #7 (let’s face it, he was trying to kill a woman). As he returns to work his last shift the male members of the X-Men just happen to arrive for a bachelor party for Peter, who doesn’t share Simons’ sentiment that he should get drunk and just wants a quiet night.

5 OUT

Whereupon Bobby has to remind Peter what a bachelor party is all about. Hearing the mention of the name X-Men is clearly a trigger button for Krellick who launches an attack. As Colossus takes him on Nightcrawler points out that he has jumped the itinerary, fights were set for later in the agenda.

6 JUMPED

As Iceman declares dibs on stopping the demon Nightcrawler stops him, believing this might be just the therapy Peter needs to shake him out of his mood. As the fun continues, Wong makes an entrance and stops the brawl, demanding to know who started it.

7 WONG

When Krellick admits the ones who attacked him aren’t present Wong asks Peter if Krellick attacked first. After Peter says yes and Kurt says it was “Wunderbar”, it’s clear Wong isn’t as impressed. As the X-Men leave, a little lighter in the wallet for the damages, they reminisce on the time Logan took him to a bar to pay him back for his breaking up with Kitty and they ask if this time it had the desired effect and he is ready to let his hair down. But despite the fact that all he wants is to go home to bed, Kurt has other ideas, as things are just getting started.

8 END 2

Strippers and Sewers. We find Peter trying to talk Kitty out of her bachelorette party and it seems that as Kitty and Peter mention Vegas, this clearly happens after the events of Til Death Us Do Part and X-Men Gold #29.  He has grave concerns and fears Rogue is the one who organized it, hoping, in fact, it was Ororo. She assures him that even had it been Ororo it may not be as tame as he hopes. It’s quite possible she isn’t wrong. Ororo, Meggan, Rachel, Rogue, Betsy and Stevie Hunter are on hand to make sure the girl has a night to remember and take her to a venue boldly named Stripperoke. Kitty prays for a villain to save her from the trauma of strippers and karaoke, but her friends aren’t letting her get away so easily.

9 STRIPPEROKE

After ducking out to hide in the bathroom and avoid a duet with Meggan of Islands in the Stream, Kitty meets Rogue, who thanks her for sending her on the retreat with Remy. The result apparently gave her cause to reflect on their relationship and she can now look forward, something Kitty can appreciate herself. As she leaves to return to the dreaded arena she is hijacked by Callisto to the sewers. Kitty reminds her that kidnapping and setting up duels never ends well for Cal, proving her point with a left hook, by way of thanks for their last encounter in the Box before phasing a parry with a length of pipe

10 LEFT HOOK

When Callisto refuses to reveal how she escaped prison she receives another roundhouse and a warning that kidnapping Kitty wasn’t a wise move considering those above that she could call on. Callisto denies it’s a kidnapping but says she has taken her to deliver a warning.

11 WARNING

As Callisto turns to leave, she reiterates, without even turning around that should she prove otherwise she will deal with her. When Kitty returns above ground she bumps into Illyana, who clearly had second thoughts about avoiding the party. As they walk back into the club they see Ororo singing up a ‘storm’ and all the other girls dancing away the night. When they sit down to join the rest of the gang for a rest, now including Jean, Neena, and Abigail, she spots a bottle of champagne on the table and when no one else claims to have bought it she says it’s unlikely to be Peter as he can’t afford such an extravagant gift. Not only that but if he knew where they were the others would be in trouble. When Betsy points out the card, Kitty finds it is inscribed “Have an astonishing day Ms. Pryde” and signed simply ‘E F’. When Ororo asks who it’s from she says “just an old frenemy” and demands it be opened so she can get the Dutch courage needed to get on stage and sing, much to Meggan’s delight. (from L to R Top row: Storm, Rogue, Abigail Brand, Meggan, Firestar, Terri Pryde, Rachel, Domino. Bottom row: Psylocke, Magik, Kitty, Stevie, Jean)

12 END

What Just Happened?:

The Dream Before: Chris Claremont returns to tell what is basically the story of a girls life. From her introduction, through her many trials with Peter, her fight for her soul against Ogun, going as far as to bring in his tale in X-Men: True Friends, where she meets and falls for Alasdhair Kinross. Even tying in the Belles of Hell bar she worked in for Dylan Maguire in Mekanix, Claremont has been there at the heart of this young heroines tale from the very start and there is no one more fitting to tell this tale. It all has the ring of a wedding speech. We even meet Father Whitney, Kurt’s friend and mentor when going through his holy orders, which leads me to wonder who will be overseeing the wedding ceremony? With the phrase this was the life he wanted for me, the one we dreamed of together while she talks about her father, I can’t help feeling this is Chris playing proud and indulgent father himself, walking his daughter down the aisle and leading up to the moment he gives her away to her future. A fitting return to the character he created and this, his wedding gift to her, spotlighting the defining moments in her life, as well as the links in the chain of her strong character throughout the years. I especially liked the ‘ghost’ element as Claremont also used this theme with Nick Fury and Carol Danvers talking to Wolverine and Psylocke from way back in Uncanny X-Men #258 and the Acts of Vengeance storyline. Todd Nauck also brings some suitable history to bear and drags it into the present to give Kitty a fitting snapshot for the swan song Claremont needs to give Kitty, as well as her father and other assembled loved ones. Also, Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are warm and suit the story well, even with the space backdrop, giving the nostalgic tale a touching and familial feel.

Boys’ Night Out: In the tale, Marc Guggenheim hinted at in X-Men Gold #26 we finally find out what happened in the casino before the nightclub. We already know how that ended and in true X-Men style, we find that Colossus and entertainment don’t mix, even hearkening back to Uncanny X-Men #183 where Wolverine set him up in a fight with Juggernaut. This is a fun tale also with a cameo appearance showcasing the dynamic use of Wong’s eye-popping mystical prowess that ends the way we all knew it would. The fight is broken up all too quickly, but given that each story is only a snapshot of their evening it is to be expected. The art of Greg Land is suitably bold, bright and brash here for the casino setting and suits Jay Leisten’s inks as well as Jason Keith giving a post-Damnation Vegas the rich vibrant color it deserves. And Marc gives Peter a night that ends in typical Colossus fashion, though with Gambit present I feel a little more card shuffling and dealing was in order, but Kurt was right, this was Peter’s fight.

Something Old: I feel Kelly was an inspired choice for this all-girl tale. Given her track record with female-led titles such as A-Force and Jem and the Holograms, which she created with Sophie Campbell, it’s little touches like the comment from Meggan about Alison missing the festivities were a godsend. It’s not often Ali gets involved in the world of X these days, so even a passing mention is something. But she will be very busy soon as we all know. Another detail of note is Callisto’s part in all this. It’s easy to forget that Callisto once also shared a relationship with Peter and loved him. It’s another wonderful touch of Kelly’s here, showing the battle-hardened warrior has a heart and defends those she cares about almost as fiercely as Kitty herself. I was actually expecting this to be part of the last dust-up they had but am glad it was held back for this occasion. Similarly, the assembled cast is perfect for the night of celebration. Meggan, her ally and friend from her Excalibur days and Rachel, her other ally from those days and her true friend. Also Illyana, her soon to be sister in law and another great friend and of course her surrogate mother Ororo, who was there to welcome her to the family at the very start of this long journey, bringing us full circle to the present. With the people surrounding Kitty I am assuming this is Stevie Hunter and not Cecilia Reyes. Apart from the fact she shares so much more history with Stevie, Cecilia just isn’t likely to be sat selecting songs for Kitty to sing. It just feels more organic that it would be Stevie, but it’s a little odd that it isn’t confirmed for sure. Although the writer has said in an article it is definitely Stevie and also Abigail Brand and not Lorna in the entourage. Also what looks like Kitty’s mother Terri, who she recently visited to ask to give her away. And of course though Emma chose to be magnanimous and stay clear (wise move with Jean and Ororo there) she reminds us all that she and Kitty have an understanding and although things aren’t more cordial at the moment, there is a strong feeling of respect, with a throwback to the comment Emma made to Kitty as she sacrificed herself in Giant Size Astonishing X-Men and the Breakworld bullet to space. And it wouldn’t be a reunion without Jean, fittingly sat right in front of Rachel, who looks happy and as relaxed in her company as we have ever seen her. High praise goes to Marika Cresta for doing what few artists have ever done with these two before and showing them so at ease with each other and Federico Blee gives the club some much-needed brightness after the confrontation in the sewers.

Overall three fun and nostalgic tales befitting the rich history of these two beloved characters and those involved in their intertwined stories. A great collection featuring some very familiar guests and faces from the past. All wrapped up with a stunning cover, featuring the happy couple side by side in true fighting stance by the amazing J. Scott Campbell and filled with tales by some very talented storytellers, where each chapter in the narrative holds up as well as the other and informs the vast backstory of these two lovebirds and those around them.

Rating: 8.5/10

Final Thought: A heart-warming farewell to Kitty from BOTH of her fathers.

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