You think you know Kitty Pryde? Think again! Revisit her early years in a tale of a bygone era and a touchstone for an X-Man who we’ve seen grow from the very beginning.
X-MEN GOLD ANNUAL #2
Writer: Seanan McGuire
Artist: Marco Failla
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Djibril Morissette-Phan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
Shortly after Kitty enrolls in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters she goes on a summer camp vacation to take a break from her newfound responsibility.
What You’ll Find Out:
Kitty has decided to go to summer camp to get back in touch with her old life and the friends she has had to leave behind. Agonising to Storm about whether she should even go, she is also concerned she will miss her old life too much and she may not belong with the X-Men after all. Storm believes it will be good for her and cement her feelings as well as blow away any doubts, which puzzles Kitty. When she arrives at camp she is reunited with two of her old friends and immediately they set about getting settled in and Kitty lets on a little more than she should about her new life, which her friends find weird. On the first night she is so hyped she can’t sleep and goes investigating to look for her phone which has gotten misplaced and she is worried someone will discover her secret.
Deciding she misses the Danger Room she sets about getting some training in and has to hide in a tree to avoid being found out. Narrowly escaping some junior counselors she follows them as she realizes they are up to something and the penny drops they are responsible for not only her phone but other missing belongings at the camp over the years. When they are gone she takes back all the pilfered items and replaces them with their owners and settles into sleep, happy in a job well done. Later she also decides to ensure they think twice before continuing with their illegal activities and plays a prank on them, playing her soon to be classic ghost trick. This backfires as the next day the talk of camp is the fact a mutant is in the camp and feelings of heightened hate become prevalent toward mutants, even from her close friend Madison. Running away from her in a rage she bumps into a boy who she doesn’t recognize but who knows her well, as he comments she never even looked at him before. What follows is a misunderstanding of her stance when he thinks she is a mutant hater.
As they argue about it she notices some lights in the woods behind him and pointing them out she is distracted long enough for him to slip away. As the week goes on she hears hushed comments about her being a mutant sympathizer, gossip about a death at the camp and the threat of mutants. All of this causes bigotry and bullying to come out among the kids, targeting Kitty as a sympathizer and tripping her, almost causing her to phase and reveal her mutant status, luckily her training kicks in and she goes solid before being seen. After challenging the cowardly attack and again being targeted she runs away, hiding in the woods and hears the junior counselors looking for a mutant, realizing they aren’t looking for her but a boy. Finding the same boy as before she realizes it’s him they are looking for and grabs him and ducks out of sight, phasing to help hide them both.
When she discovers he is a mutant too he introduces himself as Asher and shows her his power to create lights, that he dubs Will-O-Wisps and asks her about her powers and she tells him how to concentrate and control his own powers. Unexpectedly the intimacy of the situation causes them to let down their guard and they kiss. Immediately Asher freaks out and says they shouldn’t, they are mutants and to pass on the x-gene should be a crime. He also reveals he has over exaggerated pointed ears, which he usually hides with long hair, telling her it’s okay for her, she can hide who she is, for him it is harder and runs away.
The next day her friends apologize to her for mistreating her and claim they were afraid of the gossip about mutants. Kitty points out it wasn’t mutants committing all the crimes in the camp and that there is more to fear than mutants, maybe they should look deeper than their prejudices. They all vow to forgive and forget and make friends again with the end of the holiday approaching as Kitty looks wistfully out of the window, clearly worrying about Asher. On the last night Kitty sits away from the crowd around the campfire and as she sits thinking one of Asher’s glowing orbs gently flies to her and she lets it settle on her open hand and taking this as an apology, she says she is sorry too and it flies away. The next day and the trip home Kitty comes to a realization about herself and the Summer has given her a lot to think about with renewed resolution to ensure she makes a difference in the world
What Just Happened?
Characters: It seems many people were hoping this annual would explain Kitty dumping Colossus at the altar, or inform what in her past made it happen. But realistically that isn’t needed here, the explanation is in the main title and annuals very rarely tie in like that. Besides which, why MUST every motivation be analyzed to the Nth degree? She proposed, she had doubts and she decided upon caution. Why MUST she have a definitive answer for us all? After all, Peter didn’t demand it. A girl has the right to change her mind, and we need to honor that, not call her all the names under the sun. Better she did it now than later after the ink had dried on the marriage certificate. Also, some have even speculated this first kiss would be the harbinger of a returning character in Asher. But again annuals rarely introduce new or retconned characters, with extreme bagged and card-carrying exceptions, of course. Although it may be a welcome sight to see him grown up, as in their argument he gave as good as he got and didn’t let her have the upper hand and even got her guard down. Also, it would be interesting to see how he dealt with his obvious self-loathing and whether he managed to escape the horrible shadow he was obviously under, that was so vastly opposed to the more confident and courageous Kitty.
But sadly no, I think this is just an anecdotal look at the young girl we seem to have lost touch with over the years. At first, I wasn’t buying into a Kitty who can’t wait to get out from the mansion and back to her old friends and exhibited such underlying doubt over her powers and wanting to be normal. The Kitty I remember was always so gung-ho for the adventurous life and barely spoke about missing her old lifestyle, only occasionally commenting how she was the small town girl from Deerfield who couldn’t believe her luck at being in the big leagues. However, the criticism of her of recent times has almost made this story necessary, to remind people where she comes from emotionally and what it is that motivates her, especially her strong moral stance against bullying and bigotry. Also, the Prankster Kitty we see is perfectly in keeping with her at this time. Lets not forget this is the girl who once pretended to Force Lift the X-Jet for a giggle and it was great to see her again.
As the end had her reasserting her commitment to the X-Men and becoming more confident, we do also see a glimmer of the girl who would later go up against N’Garai demons and Sidri all alone. So it is believable that this was her turning point and the period in her life where she finally saw herself as being on a par with those adults around her, which as a newcomer could be a good assimilation to her new environment. And as many annuals do this takes a look at an individual character without having any impact on current storylines, much as X-Men Unlimited and the backup story of Classic X-Men used to do, while also informing on the greater struggle of the main title such as the fight against bigotry and injustice. And Kitty deals with the fact that the normal humans who were her so-called friends have some issues with who she is and she must come to terms with that, something that was always a sticking point for her, as well as the underlying self-loathing inflicted on Asher. As for Asher himself, clever that you see him from the start of the arrival at camp but he seems to blend into the background, much as he must have in previous years to Kitty herself.
Art: The cover by Djibril Morissette-Phan is vastly different from his previous work on All New Wolverine #15, #17 and #32 and paints a very bleak picture of what is going on and highlights the underlying oppressive attitude of the story without letting on what is actually going on. Very true to the story without actually giving it all away and showing Kitty phasing and hiding from someone clearly on the hunt. Within the comic as well the colors of Rachelle Rosenberg fit perfectly with the art of Marco Failla and both made it lighthearted and in keeping with the subject of a girl’s first kiss. And rising to the challenge as well of accomplishing the task of showing Kitty coming face to face with the low grade, but no less insidious bigotry among her peers and realising the hidden truth around her and the fragility of friendship without making it broody or dark, keeping true to the challenge of the story without making it oppressive. It also has some amazingly expressive moments to marry well with the writing. From the puzzled look of her friends as she reveals she is newly into exercise, her anger at realising what the junior counselors are up to, her mischievous look when she decides what to do about it, to the heated discussion between Asher and Kitty, as well as the collage page of the events going on in her first week…can we say 80’s montage people?
Writing: It seems as though this book was a trial period or work experience day for Seanan McGuire with Marvel, as she is known as a YA novel writer (October Daye, InCryptid, Ashes of Honor and Night and Silence) though this is her first foray into the realm of comic books. After all what better way to test the water than with a book of no continuity consequence or need for historical accuracy? It seems a success, as it has now been announced she will be going on to write for Spider-Gwen, a character I think who will be a perfect fit. The narrative is on point and tackles the hypocrisy of those pushing their bigotry and the bullying that teens face from their own ranks, sometimes from those they call friends, in a sensitive but unapologetic way.
This has of course been dealt with many times before, but it is always at the core of a Kitty tale. From standing up in front of a crowded auditorium to announce she is a Jew, calling out Phil by using the ‘N’ word back in Uncanny X-Men #195, or raging against the intolerance toward mutants in God Loves Man Kills and even speaking at the funeral in the suicide tale of Larry Bodine in New Mutants #45 and so Seanan got into Kitty’s head far better than we have seen anyone do in of late and bring her back to the core of her character in the truest way I’ve seen in a long time.
The underlying text is smoothed over with humor in a great way and it softens the blow without detracting from it or softsoaping it at all. And the resolution with her friends once again coming round and tying into her bittersweet parting with Asher was touching. I had hoped Kitty could have at least revealed the truth to her friends to test the boundaries of the friendship and deliver some denouement but we can’t have it all. I wasn’t expecting any earth-shattering revelations so it was an unchallenging, sweet backstory and a far superior story to the previous annual, which delivered nothing in the way of an interesting fight with a villain, characterization or overall closure or the reunion we were promised. This is not the case here. Well done.
Final Thought: This book managed to touch base with a character that has become somewhat stilted and a stranger to us in recent times and reminds us of the girl who will always challenge bigotry and injustice in her own inimitable way.
Storm must battle a mysterious figure from her past! But with the true nature of Stormcaster revealed, can Storm trust her powers any more?
X-Men Gold #34 On Sale August 22 2018!
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