I’ve been rereading my old X-Men — that is, the Len Wein/Dave Cockrum-created New X-Men — for a while now and recently reached X-Men #183. I remembered disliking it and still do, but it turns out I didn’t remember the worst thing about it.The Chris Claremont/John Romita Jr. story takes place right after Secret Wars. While on the Beyonder’s Battleworld, Colossus fell in love. Now that he’s home, the woman is forever out of reach but the experience has convinced him his love for Kitty Pryde was nothing of the sort.Kitty’s heartbroken by the breakup. The rest of the team are PO’d at Peter for breaking Kitty’s heart which leads to Wolverine taking Colossus out for a beer and some man-to-man talk.Wouldn’t you know, they pick the same bar where Cain Marko, AKA Juggernaut, is drowning his sorrows. He and Colossus punch each other out, Juggernaut leaves and Wolverine explains Peter’s being a dick.
I dislike the story partly because I don’t like Romita Jr.’s art. It rubs me the wrong way though I can’t verbalize what it is that bugs me about it. In this case, Claremont’s script is at least as much the problem. For starters, there’s Juggernaut. Early in his X-run, Claremont had a real flair for humanizing villains but this scene—— doesn’t work at all. Juggernaut’s not some bar brawler the guys caught on a bad day, he’s a bully and a thug who hates the X-Men. Complimenting them just ain’t his style. I’m not saying he can’t be shown changing but “he did himself proud” comes out of nowhere, completely discontinuous with his established character.
I also hate Wolverine here, and in a lot of stuff written around the same time. The way he delivers the moral message, he could be Peter’s sitcom dad, summing up the Very Special Episode.What I missed, and now find much worse than any of that, is that for all Wolverine’s outrage and the other mutants’ dismay, we’re talking about a relationship between almost-twenty Peter and 14-year-old Kitty. Logan says she’s not a kid any more but that’s exactly what she is. If she and Peter were having sex it would be statutory rape; even without sex it’s not a relationship the team should be rooting for.
I suspect it didn’t register on first reading because in my head, Kitty was at least sixteen (that’s still below New York State’s age of consent but 16/19 in a fictional relationship doesn’t disturb me like 14/19). Even now, with the rereading fresh in my mind, my head canon insists that Kitty can’t be fourteen. Sure, she joined at fourteen but that was four years ago; Romita doesn’t draw her like a kid; and her references in other issues to the New Mutants as the “X-babies” had me thinking she must be older than them (nope. At least some of them are older). Maybe treating her relationship with Colossus as if she wasn’t jailbait influenced me too.
Claremont’s not unique. Eric Jerome Dickey had T’Challa deflower Ororo when he’s an experienced fifteen and she’s … twelve. George Lucas thought it would be more interesting if Marion Ravenwood was jailbait when she and Indy first did it (he’d have been mid-twenties). There are lots of other examples.
“Everybody is writing it!” though, is not an excuse.
#SFWApro. All images by John Romita Jr.