Friday, March 26, 2010

The Return of Kitty Pryde - Awesome Yet Dull

It's official. Kitty Pryde has returned to the world of X-men. Uncanny 522 was released this past week and as was previously revealed, it centered around the return of Kitty Pryde. Magento, who has been in a meditative state for the past two issues, has been focusing his powers on retrieving the giant metal bullet that Kitty is currently stuck in from deep space. Now how he was able to reach across trillions of miles of space to retrieve this bullet is not explained, but it's a comic! It doesn't have to be explained. It just had to work and the issue centered around the excitement that lead to the big return.

That return, however, was somewhat underhanded. Whenever a beloved character returns, it's cause for celebration. However, when that character's return is nothing short of yawn inducing, something's gone wrong or something hasn't been thought out. Both seemed to happen in Uncanny 522. There wasn't really much conflict in this issue. There was just concern about the damage the bullet could do if it hit Earth and how the X-men were going to cover it up to avoid a panic. They were able to get the Stepford Cuckoos and Danger to do some creative hacking and mind wiping to get the job done, but it felt patched together and was done basically in the span of two pages.

In addition, the reactions by the characters weren't all that enthusiastic. If anything they were bland. Only Colossus, Angel, and Cyclops had discernible reactions. Colossus was probably the most appropriate, but that's to be expected given that Kitty his lover and he assumed her to be lost. Other than that, nobody did much else other than gather near the hilltop with Magneto and wait for the bullet to arrive. It's as about as exciting as it sounds.

The biggest problem with this issue happened at the end when Kitty Pryde finally stepped out. Just as she was about to embrace Piotr, she phased right through him. It revealed the grim truth that she was stuck in phase mode and couldn't get out of it, requiring that she be contained in a special container (yet again). This essentially puts her back on the sideline and takes her out of the story again. Yes, she has returned. But she can't do too much because she's stuck in phase mode. She didn't have any impact and she's been set up to not have one, even as Second Coming is just about to begin. This is quite possibly the worst way to bring a character back into the fold. It's not so much a return as it is a gimmick, bringing a character back but making sure they don't have ANY effect on the ongoing stories. Maybe I'm just a little slow on the uptake, but isn't the point of bringing in characters to shake things up a bit and make it more interesting? Don't interesting stories sell better?

That is the biggest disappointment of this issue. Kitty Pryde comes back, but you're left wondering why. She's back, but she's stuck phasing and she can't do anything to effect the team. She can't help out during Second Coming. She can't meet Hope. She can't have any moments with Colossus. She can't even have any snarky comments with Emma Frost, which contributed a good 40 percent to Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-men awesomeness. There's no story there. There's just a gimmick for Kitty Pryde fans who wanted to see her back.

However, the comic does have a fair share of redeeming values that put it many levels above the toxic bullshit that is Ultimatum or Ultimate X. For one, the art is fantastic. Not that Greg Land wasn't good, but Dodson here really swung for the fences and the visuals of the issue were like a shot of ecstasy to the eyes. There is also some great dialogue by Matt Fraction. A funny 20-questions joke involving Fantomex, Logan, and beer was good for a laugh. There was also a nice exchange between Emma Frost and a deadpanned Magneto where she laid out the differences between him and Cyclops and how what he's doing comes so naturally and how Cyclops is still struggling like he always has. It hints at a possible divide that may very well grow during Second Coming.

These redeeming values make the issue worth at least a buy. It's not one of those comics that you would want to get multiple copies of, frame, and tell your grandkids about. It's also not something you're going to feel compelled to read again and again, just to indulge in the vast awesomeness. It's just a decent comic and there's nothing wrong with that. But Matt Fraction kept ranting and raving about this issue as if it could eclipse the sun by sheer awesome. Every time he gave an interview, he made a plug for Uncanny 522. It's going to be HUGE he says. Well when someone hypes a book up that much and it just turns into a gimmick, it's hard NOT to be disappointed. Fraction is a good writer, but the man overestimates worse than real estate investors. Uncanny 522 had too little be anywhere near as awesome as he claimed. While it's nice to see Kitty Pryde back, I would have more preferred she be BACK IN ACTION.

But so long as Kitty is back, she'll have her moment. It's just a matter of time before the writers get to her. If they didn't want to write her, they would keep her dead. You just can't do that with tough-nosed Jewish girls in comics. They're too awesome to keep down. The biggest tragedy, it seems, is that Kitty Pryde won't be able to partake in the awesome of Second Coming (provided it doesn't crash and burn). So to all those Uncanny fans, go ahead and get issue 522. Just don't expect it to be anywhere near as awesome as you wanted it to be.

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