The limited six issue story Kitty Pryde and Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Al Milgrom was a defining story for both characters. Previously Kitty Pryde was characterized as the lighthearted, innocent, and naïve while Wolverine was more of a “campy hardman” as described by Claremont. This story develops the characters further and makes you really care about them in a way not previously show before. In Wolverine: Black, White, and Blood, Logan says she’s scarier than he is. Because of her development in this series, readers can understand where that sentiment comes from.
Today we see Kitty Pryde as Kate, the Red Queen of the Hellfire Trading Company and new Quiet Council member. In short, she’s a major leader in the X-Men titles and has been for some time now. However if you told readers in the early 80’s this, they would never believe you. Kitty was a typical stereotype of a teenage girl of the 80’s; a little ditsy with a bright and smiley personality. One of her early costumes included roller skates and she had the fun name Sprite. A running theme in the comics was that while she was intelligent and talented, she still wasn’t taken very seriously. What changed her into the hardened warrior with a chip on her shoulder and a capable leader? This series sets out to start that journey.
Wolverine, in contrast, was a high profile and popular character at the time. From his explosive first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181 he was a powerhouse. His popularity, as well as the attention of artist John Bryne, eventually led to a solo series of four issues then the six issue Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. He’s seen as brash, primal, and rather simple. While he still has some of those harsher traits, Claremont smooth some of his rough edges and develops his character further.
The first issue of the story sets up the plot; Kitty is in Chicago needing a break from the X-Men as she just broke up with her brief romance with Colossus. While she is visiting her father she discovers a confrontation between her father and some Japanese business men. Sensing her father was in danger, she sneaks onto the plane headed to Japan to follow him. She discovers that her father agrees to use his bank to help launder money due to being threatened. This simple but effect set u is beautifully drawn; the way her phasing power is depicted is stunning and her bright pinkish-purple dress is a great visual. Wolverine is only shown briefly answering a call when Kitty decides she should let someone know where she is, but she is too embarrassed to say anything and hangs up. This really shows her more childish side which is important for the reader that may not be familiar with the character.
Keeping with the great visuals, the next issue starts with a thrilling escape through the building until she is caught by a mysterious figure with a red mask. This is Ogun, a masked ninja who is also a strong telepath. He asks to keep her as payment for helping the criminals, and he psychologically breaks her into thinking she is his daughter whom he has trained since birth. He cuts her hair short and has her totally transformed. In an incredible line showing his intentions he says “…there is no more us… only I. Alone.” Kitty then dawns his mask and becomes one with him. There is a problem though, Wolverine has come to Japan to look for Kitty. After an incredible fight scene where Kitty is put through a test of skill, she is tasked with killing Wolverine. In an incredible twist we learn that Wolverine and Ogun has some sort of past.
Wolverine starts the third issue with a telling monologue that concludes “Gimme the free, open, elemental spaces of my mountains…where a man holds his own fate in his own hands. No lies there, no deception, no compromise.” While this is still the brutish and brooding man readers have come to love, it adds some depth not seen too often prior to this. But the reader than learns he has a history with Japan, and a woman there. While we learn a little more about him and open up some to his past, he is attacked by an assailant in a red mask. At this point most readers are familiar with Wolverine and his fighting skill; he’s top marks. So the fact that who the reader knows to be Kitty is giving him a hard time? That’s insane and exciting. When is it finally revealed to be Kitty, he is so shocked he hesitates for just a moment giving her the opportunity to run him through with her sword. When Wolverine calls her deadly in the more modern comics, he has a reason to.
Wolverine’s companion Yukio manages to get a surprise round on Kitty and knock her out, taking her and Wolverine someplace to heal. When Kitty wakes up she seems to be herself, but she is shaken by being used. This is just the first in a long line of manipulation Kitty will go through which explains her hardened personality in the current Marauders run. The comic focuses on Kitty overcoming the influence and learning that before becoming immortal, Ogun was once Wolverine’s teacher and wanted revenge. This also lays the ground work for the mysterious past that readers find so compelling about Wolverine. It takes weeks, but Kitty finally feels like herself but needs to do one last thing; take down Ogun to be truly free.
Now a certified ninja Kitty goes to confront the business men threatening her father, assuring his safety. We also see Ogun hoping to kill Amiko, Wolverine’s foster daughter as revenge. Kitty anticipated this move, in tactical brilliance modern readers will be familiar with, disguised herself of Mariko, Wolverine’s fiancé, to fight him. She his nearly overcome however until Wolverine is able to come in and stop Ogun from killing her just in time.
The finale of the series sees Wolverine and Ogun dueling, with Wolverine being outmatched. They fight their way through Tokyo in gorgeous panels that leave the reader in suspense. Kitty follows them, and in the epic finale Ogun offers her immortality. In a last ditch effort to save Kitty, Wolverine goes into his patented rage that Ogun can not stop. Wolverine offers Kitty the chance to end him, but she chooses not to kill him proving she is finally free of his influence. Ogun tries to strike Kitty, but like the iconic cover Kitty phases, allowing Wolverine to stab and kill Ogun. While Kitty has come out more mature and hardened by this experience, she is still at the core a young woman who loves life and choses to celebrate winning with ice cream.
The plot begins with Kitty heartbroken over Colossus and needing to find comfort at home in Chicago and ends with her as an incredible and capable warrior ready to do what is needed to save the people she loves. She dawns the mantel of Shadowcat, saying she is not exactly a “kitty” anymore. This will go on to be her codename through to now. Her maturity emotionally and physically will go on to her leading the X-Men in many near-unwinnable situations. Wolverine goes onto becoming an even more compelling character with a rich history that writers love to explore. This series doesn’t define these characters, but elevates them in a way that made them the powerhouses they are today.