Friday, 15 November 2013
KPW #5: "Courage"
("When last we met, I was but the learner...")
Ah! At last the purpose of this mini-series swims fully into focus. This is the story of how Sprite becomes Shadowcat, and how Wolverine shifts from being her protector to being her sensei. That doesn't entirely clear up the rather schizophrenic nature of the series, but it does justify its existence, and handily gives me a hook to discuss what's going on.
Given the insistence in giving Kitty and Logan equal billing, there are two questions to be discussed here: how wise and successful is Kitty's transformation, and does Wolverine's new role do anything for his character.
The sudden upgrade of characters in superhero comics is a trope which does not, to put it mildly, have an unblemished record. All too often it's an admission of failure, a confession that a character isn't working for some reason. Such things happen, of course, in long-running storylines, but even if one is unwilling to write that character out (or under editorial mandate to keep them in circulation), slapping on extra laser-beams or psychic shenanigans seems the laziest method possible of sparking the creative fire, with the possible exception of killing off a family member.
There are, as I've already discussed, problems with Kitty's transformation into Deadly Ninja Kitty (TM); it's too fast, too unpleasant, and it removes too much of her agency. All that said, this issue does confront these problems by focussing on Kitty's inner monologue, in which she makes clear she sees the future not as a choice between fighting Ogun and forever running in fear from him (which was Logan's framing, and which never really made sense), but between living a normal life in the suburbs, and risking her neck employing her mutant ability. Her horrific treatment at the hands of Ogun and the resulting new skill set stops being the focus, and becomes just a single part of a larger puzzle, that of how to regain agency in the wake of being utterly shafted by life.
This is a powerful theme of course, familiar to essentially everyone in the world, and it ties directly back to the central metaphor of the X-books. I don't mean to imply here that being a mutant is in itself to have been shafted, simply that to be a mutant in a culture so thoughtlessly and dangerously hostile to your nature counts as a fairly major crimp on your day. Seeing characters navigate that seemingly immutable fact is central to the mutant story.
All this also folds back into the one idea in the story of Kitty's treatment by Ogun that I really liked; deconstructing the tired old training-by-montage trope by having someone gain their abilities immediately and only afterwards to actually earn them (it might seem that idea is somewhat contradicted by how difficult Kitty found her post-ninja training, but I think that's just a case of her having the skills but not the stamina). The end result is a young woman no longer willing to justify her self-absorption as part of her age, and starts wondering about how to become a woman. The process is perhaps a little overwrought - "I like the shadows a whole lot more than the daylight" - and comes bolted to a rather worrying scene in which she paints dark slanting circles around her eyes and announces herself indistinguishable from a Japanese teenager (?! And !! ?!, I say!), but it does the job. Plus, Shadowcat is one of my all-time favourite superhero names. so there is at least that.
Having made her decision to become Shadowcat, and to christen her new identity in Ogun's blood, her next port of call is to Marijo's penthouse, where she (correctly) assumes Ogun will try to reacquire her. This results in her defending Wolverine's former fiancee and his adopted daughter from his evil ex-sensei. It would be tough to make it any more obvious that she is filling Wolverine's role here. Even the format is reminiscent of Wolerine's initial mini-series.
So where does that leave Wolverine himself? Well, that's the thing. Whilst Shadowcat is quite literally crossing swords with Ogun, Logan is doing nothing but heading off to help out, whilst taking some time out to call Caremen Pryde on his bullshit decisions. Which, fair enough, dude needed to be slapped around, but it's not exactly classic Wolvie, is it? He shows up in the final panel, once Kitty has stepped through the traditional spirited-but-ultimately-doomed combat with Ogun, because that's how final panels are supposed to be, but once again, for at the very least the third time, this title has proved to not be big enough for both title characters at the same time.
Maybe the final issue will finally confront this head on. As I said above, Logan seems to be moving from the role of protector to that of sensei, which almost by definition requires he takes a back seat - though that itself seems to be in tension with where this issue finds itself - but it's becoming hard to see how Wolverine justifies his inclusion in the title for any other reason other than to generate more money.
Kitty mentions it has been a few days since she left Wolverine to hunt down Ogun. We'll therefore set this issue two days after the last one.
Mariko mentions that Akiko was only orphaned a few months earlier (in UXM #181). By our timeline, it's been around a month and a half, so that more or less works.
Sunday 4th March, 1984.
Ai Iwamura is born. Sixteen years later, she appears in Battle Royale for all of five seconds, an achievement I will never be able to match.
"No place -- nobody -- is safe from a ninja." - Kitty.
And just like that, thirty-seven thousand '80s and '90s fplotlines are haphazardly generated.