Friday, August 24, 2007

N'GARAI DEMON versus KITTY PRYDE
Demon (Marvel comics)
Where:
Uncanny X-Men #143 When: March 1981
Why: Chris Claremont & John Byrne How: John Byrne

The story so far...
It was long ago that the grounds of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters saw the sprouting of a demonic totem connecting to the world of the N'Garai -- a Cairn, the bridging gateway for these demonic creatures to spew forth into our world and wreak havoc.

Storm and her fellow X-Men were able to overcome the N'Garai who attacked them, but months later a N'Garai demon emerges once more on the grounds on Christmas eve, seeking to bring misery to the mutants of the X-Men mutant academy.

Alone in the mansion while the other X-Men spend down time with their loved ones, Kitty Pryde decides to direct her misery toward training in the Danger Room. Her session is interrupted by an alarm alerting her of the intrusion, and her investigation leads her to the greatest workout of her career -- one-on-one battle alone against a N'Garai demon!

Previous Form:
Kitty Pryde (#51): Involved in defeats of Wolverine, Nimrod, Punisher & Mr. Sinister.
N'Garai Demon: The N'Garai have not been featured before in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Kitty Pryde 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Kitty Pryde 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Kitty Pryde 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Kitty Pryde 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Kitty Pryde 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Kitty Pryde (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Kitty Pryde 1 (None)


So, it's around about the right interval to encounter another face-changing Infinite Wars rule that will reinvent the way in which you look at our rankings system. Okay, maybe not, but it's worth noting, none the less.

In the case of non-specific characters representing autonomous entities or groups (like The Hand), we do not recognise individuals. The only statistical impact made by characters like these is if they appear as a group, thus affecting result in the team rankings, or traditionally, by reflection on their opponents.
Exceptions to this rule are represented by The Doom Denouement Decree.

Because he isn't represented as a singular entity, and the chances of revisiting the N'Garai are fairly slim, the stats above only represent Kitty Pryde. These are not indicative of the total dominance of the Shadowcat character in combat.

Quite the contrary could be said of this example.
Kitty Pryde has suffered fairly an ebb and flow in characterization, being expanded as a SHIELD agent trained heavily in martial arts, to returning again to her perpetual inprisonment in pubescence. Because of that constant constraint on the character, I have no choice but to recognise the limitations set upon her by the many writers who have handled her -- to a degree.

As it happens, this particular encounter is quite early in her career, back when she was progressing through the teen years to earn her place on the X-Men. In the same way Jubilee faced a right of passage [Adventures of the X-Men #7], this story represents a turning point in the character.

Never the less, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves.

A N'Garai Demon is nasty stuff, and considering Kitty Pryde's mutant gifts are essentially defensive in nature, it's difficult to mount a logistical argument for her victory in this situation. Her fighting skills, in our opinion, are moderate, although at this stage in her career, yet to be developed.

One would even question her tactical capabilities, although in a more contemporary setting that would be a far less relevant issue. I'm afraid, for all of the Pryde pride, I just can't come up with a reason to tip Shadowcat on the merits of her abilities on paper.

The Math: Non-Applicable (Footsoldier Non-Entity Clause)
The Pick: N'Garai Demon

What went down...
Not wanting to alert the police to a false alarm, Kitty Pryde takes it upon herself to investigate intruder alert, despite protocols put into place by Professor Xavier and the senior X-Men.

Exploring the mansion, she finds a broken skylight in Storm's indoor conservatory where the plants all appear to be dead. Her curiosity aroused by the speed of the plant's decay, Kitty Pryde's suspicions based on goop on the floor are soon realised when she finds herself face to face with the hideous form of a N'Garai demon!

She narrowly avoids it's long, slashing limb, using her phasing abilities to flee through the floor. Unfortunatley for her, the taloned claw of the demon rips effortlessly through the mansion floor, following her into the hall below.

Using her powers of intangibility, Kitty flees through the improbable space of the X-mansion's reinforced walls, but they shred like cardboard before the might of the demon's grasp. His claws, as sharp as adamantium, allow him to make chase regardless of where the young mutant runs.

Hoping to use intelligence in the face of brute strength, Kitty uses evasive tactics designed to fool even the keen senses of Wolverine. She drops through the stairs into storage space, waiting patiently to see if the creature is aware enough to deduce where her disappearing scent could go.

Just as she decides to brave the vacuum and reach for the telephone, the demon appears to give her the fright of her life! With tactical precision it smashes through the door behind her, trapping her in the ultimate sneak attack!

It's claws slash through body and she screams, "but does not die."
Phasing at the last moment, Pryde lives, but is shocked to find herself in pain from the attack. The result leaves her right arm numb and hanging lifelessly, now more an inconvenience than part of her potential arsenal.

Unable to escape injury in her ephemeral state, Pryde heads for the most accessable weapon available to her, the aptly named -- Danger Room!
She punches in the input commands for the most dangerous setting she knows, just as the demon proves it's intelligence, bursting through the reinforced doors of the Danger Room command centre.

The lunging creature pushes her back over the console, through the apparently unbreakable viewing glass. She lands on the training room floor with a thud, leaving herself open to the killing blow prepared by the vile creature.

Ready for a main course of Sprite, the demon finds itself walking into the wile plans of the young mutant, instead, a mouthful of pneumatically launched metal rods!

The demon looks to mount a defense with the Danger Room itself, ripping at the floor to create a sturdy shield. Unwittingly the move interferes with the room's settings, potentially affecting the safety settings. It soon finds out just how much, suffering under roasting fires reminiscent of it's home.

Kitty Pryde realises the mounting danger fingers her, too, and notes that while phasing will protect her from the physical threats of the Danger Room, it will leave her still developing mind fatigued and vulnerable to other attacks.

The room's attack systems go AWOL, unleashing a wide array of cannons, explosives and energy rays!

Kitty Pryde tries to lure the determined demon into the line of fire, where her intangibility would protect her from the full brunt of fatal injury.
She successfully brings it to the centre of the action, but a random energy pattern forcefield wall puts an end to her plans. It's complex design requests great concentration from her, a luxury she does not have.

Narrowly avoiding the demon's wild slashes, Kitty plots an evasive course, again narrowly escaping certain doom at the menacing touch of the demon.

She navigates her way to a more vulnerable area of the wrecked Danger Room, feeling the effects of the draining chase, unsure of the level of injury sustained by her opponent - it's cries, easily born of rage, as much as pain.

Sprite drops through the floor, and stumbles her way toward a monocar that leads to the X-Men's hangar room. She gets barely halfway when the demon, still in hot pursuit, bends the track and forces her car from it's rails.

Making the rest of the trip on foot, the exhausted mutant takes full advantage of her phasing abilities, entering the Blackbird aircraft via shortcut directly through it's base. Inside, she prods at the controls which she had relcutantly received training for. Struggling to recall her training under such intense pressure, it's at the very last minute that she finds the means of ignition!

With no time to spare, the demon lurks with menace behind the ship, walking directly into the blast of flame produced by the immensly powerful turbines that power the incredible craft! Having been improperly started, the stress destroys the craft, ending the offensive-defensive maneuver.

Emerging from the plane, Kitty searches for the remains of the N'Garai, only to find herself staring down a clawed hand reaching from the resulting flames!
Lucky for her, it is the last exertion of energy, before the creatures burns to nothing.

The hammer...
The winner, by Blackbird infernal toasting - Kitty "Sprite" Pryde!
She's able to have herself a relaxing shower, before greeting her returning teammates, who bring with them her parents! Though a little stunned by the state of her attic plants, and the rest of the room, Storm is very proud of the young student.

And with that, we conclude our look at young women coping with invasions of the X-Mansion. I don't know if there's anything to really conclude from this, but it's certainly been an interesting theme to pursue.

You might wonder exactly what it is about these damsels in genetic distress, who seem find themselves regular targets of home invasion. If you've just joined us, you might want to go back and revisit the Jubilee/Sabretooth [Adventures of the X-Men #7] and Rogue/Sinister [Ultimate X-Men #49] entries, where we featured following infiltrations of the X-Mansion.

In the case of the Jubilee entry, if you have keen senses like the lupine Wolverine, you can literally smell the Claremont and Byrne all over Macchio's script. It's a none too subtle homage that builds on story from the cartoon series, featuring similar points of entry for the villains (Storm's skylight), a Danger Room trump card, and a last minute claw-scare, reaching from the final flaming frame of the villain's defeat.

While lacking the direct references, Brian Vaughan's Ultimate X-Men story comes full circle to reaffirm the validity of the concept, which in truth, has probably been seen even before examples like Juggernaut storming the mansion in the earliest adventures of the original team. Home invasion is by no means a new invention of the mutant menace.

Certainly, when dealing with children of any age or gender, a major milestone is the decision of leaving them home alone. It's no small wonder that the X-Men, built on gifted youngsters, have revisited this theme time and time again. It's a logical way of really bringing the test of readiness to the students, and is a dramatic device infinitely relatable to both those who have experienced such scares, and those who have only imagined it.

For female characters, it is perhaps an even greater proof of worth.
These are characters almost universally characterized as weak and timid through their formative years, events such as these providing the opportunity to force the characters to make their stand in a believable transition. The homeground advantage is the crutch which facilitates the next step of combative credibility.

I like this story. I like the simplicity of it's design, and the effectiveness with which it employs a specific spin on the technique of using a character's credibility to put another character over. I think this is deserved of it's reverence in the history of Uncanny X-Men stories.

It was actually among the very first X-Men stories I was exposed to.
Far more interested in the brightly coloured escapades of Spider-man, Batman, Superman or the Fantastic Four, this issue always stood out as an abberation.

It didn't make an X-fan out of me. Actually, I was never really much of an X-Men fan until the nineties and the explosion surrounding the cartoon and reinvention of the branding. Even so, despite all the things working against it, like the distinct lack of more prominent characters, this story managed to work it's way into my young psyche. This single, done-in-one, Kitty Pryde, "Sprite" story.

Of course, just to spoil the emphasis of that point, I have little to no interest in the Kitty Pryde character today, and could not feature the character without slipping in a note of distain for the furor surrounding Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. A title so thoroughly dependent on this era of Claremont/Byrne comics, that it reads thoroughly redundant, with that extra special slice of wanting to be too cute for it's own good, that only Whedon can bring.

Nominations of Astonishing remains the acid test for the corrupted credibility of the Eisner awards. You maniacs. Damn you. It was Earth.

It's not all negative though. Whedon deserves credit for at least recognising what works about the characters, and pushing the positive presence of Kitty Pryde. I don't know if he quite does it in the best way, putting a spin on the character distinct from Buffy, the character he's famous for, but still a little bit... young for my liking. It has been twenty-five years since this tale, afterall.

With that bombshell, I think it's just about closing time!
I am, as always, quite exhausted, but enjoying continuing working on new projects. If you haven't already bought yourself a copy of The Kirby Martin Inquest, you should dart over to Nite Lite Theatre where you can get yourself an affordable copy on online order! Rich L, along with a couple of other sites, will hopefully be carrying some reviews of the book very soon.

Speaking of plugs, it is Friday, which means it's the chance for all of us to wave our flags in the name of Bahlactus! He was pretty slack last week, forgetting to include our Christmas sweetening feature [Powerman & Iron Fist #66]
Let's hope his cosmic awareness is on the game this week, ready to devour the Infinite Wars as featured from the secret earth! electricalgoldfish was ready, and we have to throw thanks out to her! Cheers!

Now, I have to go rid myself of this damned demon ripping up my architecture, and get some sleep before coming back for more Infinite Wars!

NOTE (Nov 29, 2007): The purchasing public should be informed that Marvel Essentials collect black and white versions of reprinted materials. Though this issue is contained within, it will appear different to that which is featured here. Consider yourself informed!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5
[A classic Claremont and Byrne X-tale of single issued proportions! A ham like me could miss the presence of Colossus and Wolverine, but it's undeniably one of the great tales. Newbies would do well to check themselves for a lesson!]

3 comments:

Bahlactus said...

You're lucky the Announcer didn't come at you on the Black hand side. Bahlactus has spoken.

Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! Well, no doubt who sees all this week! ;-p

Cheers!

Pedro Cruz said...

One of my all-time favourite single-issues! Claremont/Byrne/Austin managed to top their own work time and time again, from the Proteus Saga to the Dark Phoenix to Days of Future Past and then this, Byrne's swan song on the book.
The X-Men were never this good again...