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The Uncanny X-Men 143
"Demon"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND March, 1981

Chris Claremont - John Byrne
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciller
Terry Austin
Inker
Tom Orzechowski
Letterer
Glynis Wein
Colorist
Louise Jones
Editor
Jim Shooter
Editor In Chief

She is Storm, and in her time, she has been known as a goddess. She is in fact a mutant -- able to control the weather and wind. Ororo is now a member of the Uncanny X-Men, a group of mutant super-heroes! It is on an Autumn night, in the skies above Westchester County that she will come face to face with members of an ancient race which had once ruled the Earth, and who intend to rule the planet once more!

The N'garai are the legendary elder gods, and one of them has attacked the X-Mansion, which is the secret headquarters of the X-Men. As the mutant continues to dodge the monsters' attacks, there is a cairn below, whose powers sustain the evil creatures who threaten her teammates! Unless it is completely destroyed, the X-Men are doomed! The N'garai are so much smoke and light creations of the cairn, while the true threat comes in the form of an energy bolt! Unable to concentrate, Storm finds herself being dragged down towards the cairn -- into darkness! She must break free! Ororo's fear of being buried alive fuels the energies she needs to shatter the unearthly structure, and at the same moment, its offspring also ceased to exist!

After her narrow escape, Storm heads for home... with Professor Xavier communicating telepathically that they are victorious and the battle is over! Months later, the site of battle has begun to heal, and the X-Men continue onto new adventures. The group knows both triumph and loss. The "new" X-Men have forgotten their fight with the N'garai, but the battle is far from over. The Professor had thought that by shattering the cairn, the doorway between Earth and the N'garai' dimension would be closed. Xavier would soon be proven wrong.

Douglas and Ellie Moore are celebrating their first Christmas together, and have gone out to find their own Christmas tree. They find a special little tree, and he tells her that the big one will be for when they have their first house. As they embrace beneath the moonlight, the couple hear something moving in the trees. Doug takes a look, while Ellie tells him to be careful. He tells her to relax because he thinks it's a false alarm. Doug's glad that there's a full moon and that he can see things without his flash -- URRRGH! It is a swift death for him, while his wife has time for a short scream... which is cut off as suddenly as her life. Once they are both dead, the N'garai begins to feed... on body and soul. They are the first of many victims....

It's Christmas Eve, and in the X-Mansion, all are busy during the holiday. A month has passed since they fought the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in Washington, D.C. -- and they have spent the time reviewing their skills and learning new ones. Each day is an opportunity to learn, and this is why Kitty Pryde -- the latest and youngest member -- spends an hour being trained by the Professor (as well as doing her schoolwork) learning all she can about the group, their skills, and their equipment. As Charles Xavier asks his pupil to begin the "Blackbird" ignition procedure once again, Kitty sighs and proceeds... with the Angel reminding his mentor that the car is waiting, and it's getting late...

Kitty welcomes the interruption and tells them that she feels like she could build the Blackbird from scratch. Charles smiles and says that he won't be satisfied until she can! Warren tells her that they've all gone through the training... and this is the easy part! The Professor thanks his student for the encouraging words, and tells Angel that they'll be right down... Downstairs, Logan introduces them to Mariko Yashida, while Nightcrawler uses some mistletoe to sneak a kiss from her. Wolverine extends his Adamantium claws and slashes in the air, while Kurt Wagner escapes serious injury by teleporting away in a "BAMF!" Peter Rasputin moves quickly, as he changes to the metal form of Colossus... and seizes Logan from behind. Professor Xavier uses his telepathy to have Wolverine sheathe his claws! The fact that this was an innocent Christmas greeting... and not an enemy attack begins to enter Logan's mind...

With the berserker rage over, Logan apologizes to Kurt for losing control of his temper. His are a killer's instincts. Wolverine had hoped this would have changed, but it looks like he was wrong. Seeing that things have gotten quite serious, Kitty picks up the mistletoe and kisses Peter on the cheek. He begins to blush, as Nightcrawler tells the young girl that if she had kissed him anywhere else, Peter would have probably fainted from the shock! The Russian mutant smiles and tells Kurt that he's starting to regret saving his life right now. Ororo has brought the limousine around, and Warren compliments her on the lovely night weather. Being able to control the weather, it's not too difficult to have a clear Christmas Eve. As she opens the door to the limo, Kurt enters, and Peter helps to lift the Professor towards the vehicle. The Angel has a long over-due date with Candy Southern, and he bids Kitty goodbye. She watches as they depart, and suddenly realizes that she's now all alone!

Kitty Pryde has never spent Chanukah away from home before, and wonders how her parents are doing. She calls, but there's no answer. BRRING! She answers, expecting to hear them, but it's Scott Summers. He is calling from the seacoast town of Shark Bay, in Florida. Scott was once the leader of the X-Men -- until the women he loved died. In his grief, he has taken a leave of absence from the group, and has been on the road ever since. Learning that no one is at the X-Mansion, he tells Kitty to wish them Merry Christmas, and that he'll try to call tomorrow. Scott had heard the loneliness in her voice, and remembers the Christmases he had spent in the orphanage. He wonders why the team would leave her by herself. Carrying his dufflebag, he calls out to a crewman and asks for Lee Forrester, the captain of the Arcadia. The "crewman" turns and Scott is introduced to Lee Forrester -- "Aleyttys" to her relatives -- and she's hiring crew. He sees that she's a girl, and apologizes for being surprised. She accepts his apology and offers him some coffee and some talk.

At the X-Mansion... Kitty is now wearing her X-uniform and uses her phasing power to pass through the control room floor -- and into the Danger Room. She is still getting used to her mutant powers, and is thrilled. After some warm-up exercises, she begins her workout. Kitty has thought that the life of a super-hero would be fun, but she hadn't heard about having to do schoolwork and exercising. All of her teammates work out, but she doesn't see the point. It is her mutant abilities which need the training, not her body, and Kitty thinks that she'll soon become a teenaged girl Schwarzenegger! She feels a twinge in her thigh, as she works on the parallel bars, and decides to take it easy.

Kitty thinks about Jean Grey, how her teammates hide their feeling around her, but whenever her name is mentioned, they are genuinely sad. Jean died as an X-Man. She could die. As Kitty wishes that she had known her better, the burglar alarm goes off! She sees on the wall scanscreen that there's an possible intruder in Zone 4... Ororo's attic! She's supposed to call the police, but decides to check it out herself. Kitty had called them last September during a big windstorm, but it was a tree branch which had gone through a skylight. She finds that running up molecules of air is more fun than going up stairs! With her phasing power, Kitty figures that there's no way she can get hurt. Even through her insulated costume, she feels the cold. She sees Ororo's flowers have died, but this can't be right. The attic was kept like a hothouse, and the winter air would have killed the plants, but not so quickly, so thoroughly! She then sees that the floor is covered with green goo... and then she hears a sound...

The demon heads towards her, its talons clawing at its new prey... but Kitty is able to phase through the floor... but it fails to shield her from her demonic pursuer!

It is strong, agile, and has razor-sharp claws which are capable of cutting through the X-Mansion's reinforced walls! Kitty knows that she can't run forever. The demon will destroy the entire house, and she can't run for help since it would either get away or kill whoever showed up! Although she is physically out-matched, Kitty can still try to outwit it. Ducking down the stairway and out of sight, she phases through into the storage closet below. Her scent will disappear in mid-air and the monster should have a tougher time of sniffing her out.

Kitty phases through the floor and into the closet below... next to a phone! If she were in a monster movie, this would be the moment where it would spring at her. Armed with that cheerful thought, she begins to open the closet door. Kitty reaches for the phone, intending to call Professor Xavier on the car-phone, and having the X-Men bid the monster good-bye! The demon comes crashing through the door behind her, and she screams as the claws tear through her -- but Kitty is still alive! She managed to phase before it struck her, but the attack has left her in agony... and her right arm is now numb!

The creature is able to hurt her while she's intangible, and Kitty finds it an effort to stay on her feet. She had underestimated it once, and she can't afford to do so again. Kitty plans to make her stand in the Danger Room, where her trail will lead it. Her phasing power enables her to walk on the air molecules from the floor to the control booth. She finds it difficult programming the most dangerous sequences with one hand. Kitty manages to overcome the built-in safety interlocks which prevents serious injury, and hopes that this will last long enough for her to reach Professor Xavier. Her task complete, Kitty waits for the monster... who is taking its sweet time. She wonders if the demon is smart enough to figure out that this is a trap... just as the creature comes crashing through the control room door! As Kitty phases through the booth, the demon leaps at her... breaking through the unbreakable glass with savage ease, shorting out the computers in its wake.

When she lands on the floor, Kitty Pryde feels the Danger Room coming to life around her. As the demon closes in, it is the N'garai's turn to be surprised as her carefully-made trap... is sprung! Even though it is subjected to multiple assaults, the N'garai is far from admitting defeat. She sees it ripping up the floor, and knows that the safety interlocks will be cancelled. Kitty knows that with the systems out of control, the devices can not only kill the demon... but her, as well!

Her mutant phasing ability will enable her to survive most of the threats, but she'll be more susceptible to sonics and illusionary lightshows. Kitty knows that she must keep away from the demon... especially since she had expected to be watching it from the booth. Seeing that the monster is wading through the attacks, she hopes to lead him into the worst of the assault! A force field wall appears before her, and the random energy pattern will require her full concentration to phase through... and that is time she simply does not have! The N'Garai continues the chase... with the creature getting madder -- and Kitty getting tired...

It would only take a couple of minutes for her to get her second wind -- but Kitty finds that she is slowing down from the initial adrenaline rush. She understands that the exercises are to enable the X-Men to survive the types of foes the group fights. Super-powers alone won't always be enough to win, and must be combined with a sound mind and body. The Danger Room is now completely wrecked and she is unable to tell if the demon's screams are from anger... or pain! It is still coming after her, and Kitty can't afford to make any more mistakes. If she's wrong again -- she's dead. What scares her more than the monster killing her is the thought of the X-Men being caught off-guard and slaughtered!

Kitty had noticed that the demon would have had her, but it was forced away by fire. It may be vulnerable to intense heat, and she regrets not having any flame-throwers on her. Kitty remembers seeing a film where the main characters used them on a monster, but it didn't work! She suddenly recalls what had... The monocar is capable of taking its passenger through the underground hangar a mile from the X-Mansion in less than a minute. Sometimes... a minute can be a very long time! She has gone almost halfway when the N'Garai derails the monocar! The rest of the nine-meter trip is completed on foot, and Kitty's left knee has her hobbling by the time she enters the hangar. The X-Men's modified SR-71 Blackbird sits on the launch bay elevator, and she knows that the demon will have to come through the transit tunnel to reach her. It would have a tough time digging through steel and reinforced concrete. Kitty is hoping that it will be too angry to try... and want her so badly that it will follow her on this path. The tail camera doesn't show it yet, and she begins to run through the ignition check...

The master switch and internal power are on. The brakes are locked and the fuel pumps are on. She can't remember what's next... and it's coming down the transit tunnel! Kitty forces herself to relax and stay calm. She knows that the Blackbird is on a turntable, and the ship would be able to follow the creature anywhere within the launch bay. Kitty waits for the right moment -- when it's almost on top of her... a few more steps... "GOT YOU!" The dual engines flare to life at the press of a button. They are running on full emergency power, and the afterburners begin to punch twin trails of flame from the massive exhausts. The N'garai is directly behind the Blackbird, and is having a sudden bird's-eye view of hell...

The howling roar of the engine fills the hangar, with flames not made to be fired beneath the ground -- and at full thrust. The blast waves shake the entire complex like an mild earthquake. Under stress, metal bends and shrieks. The cockpit panels light up with many warnings... which are ignored, until the Blackbird is hurled through the launch bay, and into a far wall. It is only after this -- that Kitty turns off the engines and floods them with fire-preventing foam. She sees that the air cyclers have malfunctioned, and the hangars is full of thick smoke. The automatic sprinklers will have to be activated manually, and Kitty walks on the air... feeling the heat from the floor through the soles of her insulated boots. She wonders about the demon. Did she kill it? She had to. Nothing could have survived this fiery disaster. Nothi --

The Rolls-Royce has made its way on icy roads and through airport traffic jams. It is midnight as the automobile pulls in at the mansion. They have heard about a series of brutal killings in the area this night. The last occurring very close to the school. The authorities had alerted the local residents, as well as checking on the strangers in town. They see that the lights are off, and at this hour, Kitty probably went to bed. This is what Peter Rasputin's eyes tell him, but Professor Xavier senses an aura of evil about the house... his mutant abilities are unable to probe further. With Ororo remaining with the Professor to guard the car, Peter enters, and immediately feels the significant difference in cold. Charles could swear that he had sensed this evil before, but he can't recall. The mansion seems peaceful, and Peter hears the television set in the living room. Peering in, he sees Kitty resting on a chair by the fireplace. She wakes up and greets him... Now fully awake, the young girl dashes towards her startled teammate, who blushes again as she greets him with a warm embrace! While Peter recovers his composure, Kitty sees that her mom and dad have come for a holiday visit!

Kitty's parents are handed some punch and see that their daughter's morale has improved greatly with their visit. They hadn't thought that they'd miss their daughter so much, and Professor Xavier's special Chanukah surprise is as much a present for them as it is to her. Ororo informs Kitty that she's been to her attic and wants to know exactly what happened while they were away. She tells her about the demon and how she narrowly won the fight. During the chase, the Danger Room was wrecked, as well as the Blackbird, the hangar, and much of the house, as well. When she asks Ororo if she's angry, Kitty learns that although she is unsure, Storm is quite proud of her young teammate. It was very close. Kitty was too exhausted and frightened to phase when the N'Garai reached for her through the flames. It might have killed her, if it had gotten its claws on her. But it was on its last legs, its alien body turning to dust with each second. It had tried ...and it failed. On Christmas Eve, Kitty endured a test of her skills, her intelligence, her bravery, her sense of self-worth. She passed.

The N'Garai first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #96.

This was the swan-song for the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne as co-plotters on Uncanny X-Men.

The creative team of Claremont, Byrne, and Orzechowski will be reunited... this time on The Justice League of America book.

In this issue, Kurt Wagner finds that mistletoe can be hazardous to your health.

We learn that Kitty Pryde is quite adept at the use of mistletoe, and that Peter Rasputin can blush as easily as he can turn into Colossus.

Scott Summers receives a Christmas surprise of his own in the form of Captain Lee "Aleytys" Forrester. It's uncanny that his ruby quartz glasses were capable of keeping his optic blasts in line from such an eye-opening surprise!

Before she became Shadowcat in Excalibur, Kitty Pryde was originally code-named "Sprite" and wore the original X-uniform from the Lee/Kirby days of the book.

In the story, Kitty remembers seeing an movie which had a monster being repelled by flamethrowers. A clever tip of the hat to the Ridley Scott film, "Alien."

This Review Is Dedicated To Tom Orzechowski (Thanks to Tom Orz for the use of his scanner and the lone of this issue and Justice League of America #110!)

Steve Chung
"Demon Review"