Halloween Back Issues: "Uncanny X-Men" #143
- by ReuBen DeBord, 29 October 2016
Hey there, Trash Muties! It’s about that time of year again! Time for comics set around Christmas time? Of course! Wait, what? Actually, as we close out October, in theory, it’s time for some scary All Hallows' Eve comic books. But today, I’ll be talking about an X-Men comic I really like that is the best of both worlds. It’s a scary monster comic that just happens to be set around Christmas time! But since it’s scary, we’ll be taking a look at it now, and not in December. Got it? Good! Let’s get into it, then!
The comic in question is Uncanny X-Men issue 143, co-plotted by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, with scripting duties by Claremont and pencils by Byrne, and inking chores done by Terry Austin.
In case you haven’t read this comic, I’ll fill you in on what you missed. Like I said, it’s Christmas time. But Kitty Pryde is Jewish, and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. So when the rest of the team go out to town, Kitty elects to stay at the Mansion and train a little bit.
One cool thing this issue does is that it follows up almost immediately after Days of Future Past. That short story saw a future, middle-aged, grizzled version of Kitty Pryde come back to the past to change the dark depressing future into the one we got (thanks a lot, Kitty). And then we get this issue where we get to see helpless teenage Kitty defeat a monster all by herself. It’s not like she’ll suddenly be doing pull ups on her upturned bed like Sarah Connor or anything like that, but it’s cool to see that the kick butt take names Kitty we saw in the Days of Future Past story might be a thing we’ll get to see after all, after we see this Kitty kick butt and take names.
You might have picked up on the fact that this issue is essentially a remake of the Science Fiction Horror film Alien, which came out 2 years before this comic. I love Chris Claremont like an uncle, but the man occasionally had a tendency to steal things from other franchises. I mean, girl is stuck in a big house with a big scary monster trying to kill her and she blows it up. Substitute house for space ship and that’s the plot of Alien right there. This isn’t the first time Claremont would do something like this. If the Brood seem very similar to the Xenomorphs, well, that’s because they basically are the Xenomorphs (sure, he eventually got around to evolving them a little bit past what they initially were based on, but the blueprints are pretty clearly stolen).
Something I really like about Claremont’s X-Men run is his ability to take a plot point you probably forgot about (because it is FIVE years old) and bring it back like it’s nothing. The man was on the X-Men for 16 years, so it’s entirely understandable that he might be grasping at something to make an issue out of after doing the X-Men for five years at this point. But I always loved that tendency for older ideas and concepts to rear their heads again much later down the line. You would see that a LOT in the latter half of his tenure on X-Men (so much so that he had at least a dozen ideas percolating in the background by the time he left the title in disgrace, several of which never really played out in the way you could see they were probably going to when the ideas were being planted) but I never realized he was doing it this early in his run.
The N’garai (the demonic species of which the monster in this issue comes from) last appeared in issue 96, one of Claremont’s first X-Men issues. And this issue is the next time they show up. Is it a little weird that this particular demon that survived that encounter with the X-Men waited almost 50 issues to show up and try to kill Kitty? Sure, but the issue is so good that I’m willing to give that a pass.
Speaking of Claremont’s ability to let plot points take their sweet time before they come to the forefront, I always got the feeling Claremont had something big planned for this particular type of demon that he never got around to doing. Sure, he eventually used demons in a big way in the 1989 Inferno crossover, but those demons aren’t really the same as these demons we see in X-Men 96 and Uncanny X-Men 143. The demons we see in Inferno feel more like the “traditional” demons attributed to biblical stories, while the N’garai feel more Lovecraftian. For example, this issue specifically calls the N’garai “elder gods,” a phrase HP Lovecraft used extensively in his Cthulhu stories. And just a few issues later, in Uncanny X-Men issue 148, Cyclops and his lady friend Lee Forrester find a mysterious island with giant tentacle monster statues.
Technically, the N’garai aren’t mentioned by name in that issue, but surely there was some intention to bring them in later, right? I mean, tentacles are practically synonymous with Cthulhu, even in the 1980s, right? But at some point, I get the feeling Claremont maybe lost interest in paying homage to the Cthulhu stories. Or at least he lost interest in this book. He did get to play around with that sort of thing with characters like Satana in Marvel Premiere and Shanna the She Devil. So maybe by this point he was growing tired of that kind of demon. Who knows?
Also, amusingly enough, that freaky tentacle island was what introduced Illyana Rasputin into the demon realm of Limbo, which eventually played a huge part in the Inferno story 8 years later. So it all comes full circle!
So what do you guys think? Just a big jumbled mess of thoughts? Yep! That happens when I talk about the X-Men. I’ve got a lot to say, it seems. But that’s because there’s a lot to talk about, here and in other parts of the world of the X-Men!
I’d love to hear you guys chime in about Kitty Pryde, demons, and other assorted things. In the meantime, I hope you guys have an awesome Halloween, if you’re into that sort of thing, and be sure to keep it trashy, muties