During the epic Chris Claremont run of Uncanny X-men in the 1980s and 1990s, the X-men tended to have unusual encounters during the Christmas season. The website Uncannyxmen.net has a great listing of all kinds of Christmas issues surrounding Marvel Merry Mutants. You can find it here. But I wanted to highlight one very different, yet very excellent Christmas issues.
Merry Christmas from Uncanny X-Men #205
Uncanny X-Men #205 was published in May of 1986. (I know, it doesn’t make much sense.) It is essentially a stand-alone issue.
But in the surrounding stories, you have Spiral, who came from Longshot’s world, doing work on various characters, making them cybernetic. (Eventually, she has done work on Rachel Summers aka Phoenix and Betsy Braddock aka Psylocke.)
In this case, she has outfitted three characters that were injured a long time ago by Wolverine in an epic Hellfire Club fight, and Lady Deathstrike, a Japanese woman who is after Wolverine because she believes that his adamantium skeleton was her father’s and she is reclaiming it.
The story is told, in part, from Lady Deathstrike’s perspective, which sets up an interesting dynamic that is played out in an eventual duel between her and Wolverine.
Mid-story, a wounded and near berserker Wolverine stumbles upon 5-year-old Katie Powers, aka Energizer from the Power Pack, a book about a family of kids who get their powers from aliens. She and Logan have met before, as Marvel had Power Pack guest appearing in tons of books. But in his berserker mode, he frightens Katie, but she decides to be the hero.
So, while this isn’t technically a Christmas story, the setting of it certainly is. Katie is out with her babysitter, headed to sing Christmas carols with her class when suddenly, the 5-year-old hero who can’t reach the hand dryer in the bathroom is forced to save the now monstrous Wolverine. Katie Powers is a perfect foil for Wolverine in this story, as it gives us yet another perspective to interpret this story. (Thought balloons weren’t all bad!) We see her wrestle with the hero she knows and the man/wolf she sees in front of herself and chooses to be brave anyways.
It plays out across the issue, as you see at different moments, the heroes each save each other. Katie is able to get Wolverine into a cab and then when the cab is attacked, Logan saves her, the taxi driver and himself.
The story ends in a morality moment, as Wolverine having defeated Lady Deathstrike and her crew (after hiding Katie and telling her to not look or listen) talks about the humanity he chooses, the beast that once overwhelmed him that he left behind, only to have Deathstrike pull it out of him. And he says that as he sees how utterly robotic and cybernetic she has made herself in Spiral’s Body Shop, all just to attack him.
Part of what makes this whole snowy issue work is the artwork of Barry Windsor-Smith. Windor-Smith is a unique artist whose style and work probably would never work on a regular book. A regular dose of it would make you forget the magic and joy that it is. So, in the Claremont era, they deployed him in the manner of doing a one or two issue arc focusing on one or two characters.
Along with this Wolverine issue, he drew some amazing issues focus on Storm and Forge, immediately after Storm lost her powers. The Windsor-Smith scheme works wonders here, as he is artist, inker and colorist and the vivid style and palette he uses are remarkable; it especially works well with the snow that is storming throughout the issue.
If you have never checked out Uncanny X-Men #205, it is definitely worth reading sometime during this holiday season! It’s available on Marvel Unlimited.