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The Return of Kitty Pryde: Everybody’s Girlfriend

This Wednesday, X-Men fans will see the return of Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Everybody’s Girlfriend. Or at least, that’s how Chris Sims (correctly) described her to me. The fan-favorite phasing mutant rejoins the Marvel Universe this week in Matt Fraction and Whilce Portacio’s “Uncanny X-Men” #522, with all the appropriate sturm und drang of an X-Men character event, after being exiled within a gigantic phallic silver space bullet at the end of the critical and commercial juggernaut known as Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s “Astonishing X-Men.” She had an appropriately temporary permanent goodbye, and then she was gone, careening through the void in a ballistic dong. When you think about it, this is somewhat appropriate for a character who’s largely fulfilled the role of “dream girlfriend” for the majority of X-Men writers and readers. Because for a character who purportedly acts as a role model for girls and women, she’s always seemed like more of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for nerdy teenagers (and fetishistic British comic writers).

Kitty was always pretty close to perfect; whatever errors she made were always well-intentioned. She’s not a particularly vengeful character, and she constantly fights for the underdogs and disenfranchised, especially nerds and geeks. She’s proficient with computers and usually the wittiest person in the room. She’s the template Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars were based on – the cute, funny, principled girl who’d rather hang out with the misfits than the cool crowd. In short, she’s always been defined by the desires and ideals of dudes. It’s why her fate is a fitting metaphor for her status – careening around through the void of storytelling, trapped by the conventions and demands that her male writers and fans place on her. I’ve railed against the term “Mary Sue” before, but if anything justifies (or even inspired!) the term’s existence, Katherine Pryde is it.The fact is, Kitty’s moral perfection has become her character, since everyone loves her so much that nobody wants to drag her through any mud. Because she almost never makes mistakes, she can’t really progress as a character by learning from them – she’s a patron saint. The closest thing she’s had to a serious faux pas was jumping into bed with Pete Wisdom, and it’s not her fault Warren Ellis wrote himself into the comic and slept with her.

When Joss Whedon brought her back to the forefront of the readers’ consciousness with “Astonishing X-Men,” it was a pretty natural choice — after all, Whedon had been making a living off of the Kitty Pryde template, and his affection for the character (and the rest of the X-Men universe) was abundantly clear. He had a good if somewhat schizophrenic run, torn between the progressivism of Grant Morrison’s preceding take and the nostalgic, soap-opera Chris Claremont vibe he wanted to evoke. It’s not an exaggeration to say that his entire run was essentially her story, and centered around her emotional journey. But what was that journey, really?

Sure, she got back together with Colossus and finally consummated that relationship, but did Kitty really change over the course of those twenty-five issues? Did she experience any real emotional character growth? She came into the X-Men as the principled, courageous, clever firebrand, and that’s how she went out. Whedon and Cassaday even homaged the end of “X-Men” #132 in “Astonishing” #15 to make the following clear: Kitty Pryde, in their run, is Wolverine. She’s the best she is at what she does, and what she does is… well, it’s very pretty for her fans, since she basically dominates every situation, has unflappable principles, and is only gone at the end due to a heroic sacrifice and an absolutely tremendous display of power by phasing the space-bullet through the Earth.

In any case, it looks like she’ll be escaping her metallic prison three years later with “Uncanny X-Men” #522, featuring her triumphant return to the Marvel Universe and the X-books in particular. Matt Fraction is a talented writer, who’s gained a great amount of fame and credit in a short period of time. In 2006, he entered into Marvel with “Punisher War Journal,” and just four years later he’s helming “Uncanny X-Men,” “Invincible Iron Man” and now “Thor.” He’s notable largely for bringing new ideas to a stale pot, and for God’s sake, that’s what I’m praying for with Kitty Pryde. Considering the current state of the X-Men, and the identity of her savior (Magneto – another old dude!), she’s probably not going to be entirely thrilled with the state of mutant affairs. I’m sure her moral compass will be a big part of this, and considering she wasn’t exactly thrilled with Emma’s presence back in “Astonishing,” Magneto and Namor will probably give her an aneurysm.

Regardless of all of this, the one thing I really hope for is that Matt Fraction will do something NEW with Kitty. Put her in a role or situation or relationship where she isn’t just regular ol’ super-competent, super-awesome Kitty Pryde. Have her make a mistake, hurt someone, hell, just have her be WRONG about something that forces her to do something different or undergo some kind of change, because she can’t stay on that pedestal forever.

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