New Mutants #1- & Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants (Dec. 1982 – July 1984)
Written by Chris Claremont
Pencils by Bob McLeod (Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-3), Sal Buscema (#4-17)
Inks by Bob McLeod (Marvel Graphic Novel #4, #4-5, 7-8), Mike Gustovich (#1-3), Armando Gil (#6), John Tartaglione (#6), Tom Mandrake (#9-17), Kim DeMulder (#16-17)
Coloured by Glynis Wein (Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-5, 7-11, 13-15, 17), George Roussos (#6, 12), Ken Feduniewicz (#16)
Spoilers (from thirty-two to thirty-four years ago)
I’ve been wanting to reread Bill Sienkiewicz’s run on New Mutants for a while now, but because I’m a typical completist comic book reader, I couldn’t do that without starting at the beginning (and possibly, even sticking through what I remember as the god-awful pre-Liefeld years, not that things got much better at that point either). It’s hard to imagine a time when there was only one X-Men comic, or that the first spin-off from that hugely popular property wouldn’t even have the letter X in its title. The New Mutants launched in a graphic novel, only the fourth in Marvel’s ‘Marvel Graphic Novel’ series, and then launched into their own monthly title a few months later. I didn’t start buying the title regularly until after Secret Wars II suckered me into buying a crossover issue and I was blown away by Sienkiewicz’s art. I did go back and catch up on most issues over my preteen years (I only had to pick up a few to round out this column), and at some point got my hands on the fourth printing of the graphic novel.
Going into this column, I am somewhat dreading the usual Claremontian narrative excess that I remember being fond of as a kid, but which I can’t imagine has aged well. I guess we’ll find out.
Let’s take a look at who was in this series:
- Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair; Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1- 17)
- Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-17)
- Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-17)
- Psyche (Danielle Moonstar; Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-17)
- Karma (Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh; Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-6)
- Magma (Amara Aquilla; #13-17)
- Magik (Illyana Rasputin; #15-17)
- Donald Pierce (Marvel Graphic Novel #4)
- Former Hellfire Club soldiers who later become the Reavers (Marvel Graphic Novel #4)
- Tessa (Hellfire Club; Marvel Graphic Novel #4)
- A Brood (#2-3)
- Henry Peter Gyrich (senior member of the National Security Council; #1-2, 13)
- Sebastian Shaw (#2, 7-8, 12-13, 17)
- Sentinels (#2, 13)
- Silver Samurai (#5-6)
- Viper (#5-6)
- Nguyen Ngoc Coy (Shan’s uncle; #6)
- AIM (#6)
- Other Hellfire Club soldiers (#7, 16-17)
- Axe (#7)
- Castro (not Fidel, just a guy on Nina DaCosta’s yacht; #8-11)
- Marcus Domitius Gallio (Senator of Nova Roma; #9-11)
- Selene (#9-11)
- S’ym (#14)
- The White Queen (Emma Frost; #15-17)
- Jetstream (Hamahl Al-Rahman, Hellion; #16-17)
- Catseye (Sharon, Hellion; #16-17)
- Thunderbird (James Proudstar, Hellion; #16-17)
- Roulette (Jenny, Hellion; #16-17)
- Tarot (Hellion; #16-17)
- Empath (Manuel DeLa Rocha, Hellion; #16-17)
- Michael Rossi (Air Force Intelligence; #2, 5)
- Banshee (Sean Cassidy; #3)
- Team America (#5-6, 8)
- Storm (Ororo Monroe; #7, 14)
- Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner; #7, 14)
- Colossus (Peter Rasputin; #7, 14)
- Ariel (Kitty Pryde; #13-17)
- Rogue (#14)
- Wolverine (#14)
- Moira MacTaggert (Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1, 3)
- Professor Charles Xavier (Marvel Graphic Novel #4, 1-8, 13-14)
- Emmanuel DaCosta (Sunspot’s father; Marvel Graphic Novel #4; 7-8, 12)
- Stevie Hunter (teacher; #1-2, 4-5, 13-14)
- Illyana Rasputin (not yet a member of the team; #1, 3, 14)
- Gabrielle Haller (Israeli ambassador to the UK; #1)
- Lilandra (Majestrix of the Shi’ar Imperium; #4-8, 13)
- Nina DaCosta (Sunspot’s mother; #7-8, 11-12)
- Amara Aquilla (#8-12, later a member of the team)
- Lucius Aquilla (Amara’s father/Senator; #9-12)
- Doug Ramsay (#13-16)
- S’ym (Illyana’s servant; #17)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The graphic novel takes a very typical ‘gathering of the team’ approach, introducing each new character in turn. It opens in Scotland where Reverend Craig and some guys with torches chase young Rahne Sinclair onto Moira MacTaggert’s land, where she’s just sitting around waiting for a wolf girl to save, which she then does. In Brazil, Roberto DaCosta is playing soccer in a big high school game, with his father and girlfriend watching, when he is bullied by racist kids. His powers kick in, causing the crowd to freak out and flee, and we learn he’s being watched via some sort of control panel by someone in Victorian ruffles. In Kentucky, young Sam Guthrie starts his first day in the coal mines, having to give up his dreams of an education in order to support his family now that his dad is dead. When a cave in traps another miner, Sam goes back to save him, and his powers kick in, allowing the two to blast through the rubble to freedom. He is also being watched by cuff ruffles. In Colorado, Dani Moonstar hangs out with a mountain lion, and then has a talk with her grandfather about how he wants her to go study with Charles Xavier, as her ability to read and project people’s’ greatest fears has isolated her. She does not want to learn from a white man, but her grandfather explains that Xavier is practically family (bit of a temporary retcon there). We learn that she is also being observed by Donald Pierce, who wants to kill mutants, and who has captured the Hellfire Club’s Tessa (although I don’t know why, as she does nothing in this story). Later, Dani wakes up and finds that her grandfather has been killed. In Westchester, Xavier is studying Xi’an Coy Manh’s powers to possess others (apparently Shan was introduced in Marvel Team-Up so she doesn’t get as much of an intro, although we do learn that she is a Vietnamese refugee responsible for her younger siblings). Moira and Rahne are there too, when a letter arrives requesting that Charles come to get Dani. We also learn that Charles believes the X-Men to be dead, and that he is reluctant to involve more youngsters in pursuing his dream. They go to Colorado, find the grandfather’s dead body, and are attacked by some guys in battle armor on flying sleds. Dani joins them in fighting them off, and her mountain lion is killed. They learn psychically that the men work for Pierce and that he is after Bobby and Sam. They split forces – Moira takes Dani and Shan to Brazil, where cops question Moira for inquiring as to Bobby’s whereabouts. The girls escape, and find Bobby sneaking out to try to rescue his girlfriend who was kidnapped by Pierce’s men. They go to help him, and we learn that the men who have the girl are the same ones that Wolverine famously chopped up during the Dark Phoenix Saga, and that they have been rebuilt with cybernetics (these guys go on to become the Reavers much later). They stop them, but Bobby’s girlfriend is shot dead. Xavier and Rahne (somehow Xavier is driving a car) are attacked by Sam, who has been hired by Pierce. Rahne escapes, but is able to follow Xavier when he is taken, and finds Pierce’s compound. She hears Pierce’s plan, and is then attacked by Sam. They fight, the others all arrive (somehow), and help fight off Pierce’s large army of Hellfire goons. They eventually free Xavier and stop Pierce. Tessa takes him back to the Hellfire Club, and the rest leave a sad looking Sam behind. A couple of weeks later, the kids put on their X-Men uniforms for the first time, Dani modifies hers to better reflect her culture, and Charles allows it. Sam arrives, having been invited to the school by Xavier, and is welcomed by the others.
- The first issue doesn’t waste any time introducing characters. The team has assembled to watch Stevie Hunter, a teacher at the school, give Shan a new hairstyle. The kids are laughing and having fun, until Dani mindlinks with Shan and pulls up images of her and her mother being attacked and violated by Thai pirates on their trip to America. Shan reacts angrily, threatening to kill Dani for embarrassing her. Dani wanders the school, and finds herself in the living quarters of the missing X-Men. She starts to water Storm’s plants, and is later summoned along with her team to the Danger Room by Professor X. In London, Dr. MacTaggert and Illyana Rasputin (from this issue, I can’t tell if she’s supposed to be younger than the other kids, and I don’t know why she’s with MacTaggert) meet with Gabrielle Haller, the Israeli ambassador, who wants Moira’s help in assisting her autistic son who has mutant abilities. She reveals that the boy is Xavier’s son, and that she doesn’t want him involved. Professor X explains to the kids how the Danger Room works, and then uses it to deliver lessons in their ineptitude to each team member, except that Dani, fearing for her life, runs away. Rahne finds her on the grounds, and they have a good talk, before the younger girl leaves to join the rest of the kids in Stevie’s car, as they drive into town. We see that they are being watched by two men who report their movements to Henry Peter Gyrich, of the NSC. Dani, believing the school to be empty, returns to the Danger Room, enters the training sequence, and easily defeats it before being knocked out by a stunblast. Someone disables the room’s safeties, and she awakes to find herself in a deadly environment.
- Dani fights and runs her way through this environment, and thinks she’s figured a safe way out when she is frightened by a large Brood and falls, knocking herself out. The rest of the kids come out from seeing ET and start to befriend some local kids. Gyrich and Sebastian Shaw watch them on a monitor, while Gyrich rants about the number of new mutants in countries that aren’t America (such as all of these kids who aren’t Sam). We see that he has Sentinels, which he doesn’t want to use in this case, but Shaw, being a mutant himself, would rather see the kids become paranoid and battle-tested, so he can use them later. Stevie is grabbed by Michael Rossi, of Air Force Intelligence (and Carol Danvers’s dead lover). A group of agents working for Gyrich take the kids into custody, but as they lead them to their car, Rossi and Stevie show up to free them. The kids use their powers to stop the agents when three Sentinels show up. There is a long fight scene, and the kids are able to stop the giant mutant-hunting robots. Shan uses her powers to make the leader of the agents confess to the Police his involvement in things, and the kids leave with Stevie. Back at the school, they find the unconscious Dani, who wakes up and tells them what happened. Stevie wonders who could have disabled the security protocols on the Danger Room, since Moira and her were absent. We see Xavier sleeping in his study, and learn through Claremontian narration that he has a Brood queen growing inside of him.
- Dani wakes up at night because of a storm, and is attacked by a shadowy figure. She stabs the figure and goes for help, but finds her teammates killed by their worst fears. Dani unmasks the figure and finds that it is the bear that killed her parents. She then wakes from a nightmare, and while everyone convinces her that she’s fine and that it was all a dream, she discovers blood on her knife. She goes to tell the Professor, but overhears him telling Moira on the phone that he thinks Dani is psychotic. In Scotland, Moira talks to Sean Cassidy about her suspicions about Charles’s behaviour, and her resentment around the son he doesn’t even know he has. Sean chats with Illyana a little, who thinks about her time in Limbo. Shan and Dani bond a little, and Dani shares her conviction that the Professor is actively trying to kill her. They gather the team in the boathouse, and then discover that they are no longer on Earth. They go through the tunnels under the school, and find and fight a Brood. Dani is mindblasted by the Brood, and then wakes up in the Professor’s study. She figures out that the Brood has been using her powers to confuse her friends. While they all fight the Brood some more, Dani gets Sam to knock her out, disabling the Brood’s control. The Professor is upset to find that they’ve trashed the school, as the Brood has disappeared. Later, Dani and Bobby talk about how they are still suspicious of the Professor, but they bond as friends and decide to help each other. We learn that everything up to this point has happened between issues of Uncanny X-Men (166 and 167), so I think that the Professor plotline was resolved there.
- While hanging out at Stevie Hunter’s dance school, Shan learns that her teacher has been receiving harassing phone calls, although Stevie does not want any assistance from the New Mutants to deal with this. The rest of the team play together in the snow, in the kind of scene that is, I think, what Claremont excels at. We are starting to get a much better sense of all of these students, although Dani remains the central character of the series. They are summoned inside by Professor X, and joined by Shan. Xavier makes it clear that it was the influence of the Brood that had him bring the new students to the school, but now that that’s been taken care of (in an issue of Uncanny X-Men), he’s determined to keep educating the kids. Lilandra is hanging out with him for a while. Shan brings up Stevie’s problem, and Xavier has the kids look into it. They design a device that traces the next call, and then have Rahne use her senses to track the harasser to the local high school, where a dance is taking place. When the team enters, Rahne is able to perceive that one of the kids, who we’ve already seen at the dance school, reacts to Stevie’s presence, and she gives chase in wolf form, assisted by Cannonball. The chase ends up with the kid, Peter Bristow, crashing his car into a construction site (after Sam rescues a woman and child from a near-certain accident), and causing a building to come down on the kids. They work together to escape, and back at Stevie’s, we learn that the kid, who has been badly abused by his parents, is in love with Stevie, and is very mixed up. Things get a little ‘very special episode’ but at the end, the team feels good about their actions.
- Professor X decides to stand up and walk, which causes him a lot of pain, causing his mindlink to the New Mutants to disappear, which coincidentally serves Claremont’s plot for an issue. The team is at a fair with Stevie Hunter, where they have fun together, and then get excited to see that three members of Team America, the motorcycle trick squad that also kind of double as heroes, is about to perform. They speak to the Team, but Bobby is annoyed that Wolf, one of the riders, is rude to him. During the Team’s show, a group of armed soldier types arrive to kidnap them. The New Mutants jump into action despite not being in uniform, and help out. The Silver Samurai, working for Viper, enters the fray, when the Dark Rider, the mysterious target of Viper’s plan, appears to rescue Team America. The Samurai takes the Dark Rider down, and it is revealed to be Dani Moonstar. The Samurai teleports away with her. Later, Dani wakes up, wearing a Viper-like outfit, and in a Danger Room type environment, where giant metal wheels chase her. She is unable to use a motorcycle to save herself, and the Silver Samurai spares her life. Both are confused as to how she can be the Dark Rider, which makes Viper very angry. Michael Rossi helps the Professor and the New Mutants figure out what’s going on, while Viper visits the leader of Team America, demanding that he steal something for her or she will kill Dani. Apparently it’s easier for her to make them steal this thing than to use her army of tech-supported goons, for reasons that make no sense. The entire Team America is assembled to decide what to do (with Wolf wanting to do nothing) when Professor X and the Mutants arrive offering to help, and explaining to them that they are mutants who use their powers to create the Dark Rider. Bobby and Wolf argue, so the Professor has the kids leave, and outside, they begin to make their own plans to rescue Dani (which is more or less the plot of the last issue, except it was rescuing Stevie).
- The New Mutants break into the San Francisco apartment of Nguyen Ngoc Coy, Shan’s evil uncle, wanting his information about Viper so they can help track down Dani. Coy calls Shan’s bluff to kill him, and then offers to help if she agrees to work for him for one year (as her twin brother did before her). She accepts. Team America ride their motorcycles off-road to steal the crystal that Viper wants, but Reddy feels the need to push Wolf’s buttons, which earns them a scolding from Professor X over mindlink, although this tires him. We see that Dani is being held in Big Sur, as the Silver Samurai and Viper talk and scheme. Later, two of Team America infiltrate an AIM facility in Black Mesa and steal the crystal they are after, but they are discovered and the base explodes, apparently killing them, just as a mind attack from an unknown source takes out the Professor and Lilandra. The New Mutants arrive at Viper’s base, and attack it, while Shan hears a strange voice in her head saying it would take control of her. The team fight Viper’s people, and the Samurai. Rahne gets sliced up, and Dani finds her. Team America is pursued by AIM flying craft, so Wolf turns himself into the Dark Rider and takes them out. The New Mutants get the Samurai on the ropes, but he teleports to Viper’s side, distracting her and allowing Shan to take control of her. They get away anyway. The Professor wakes up after Team America arrive at his Blackbird, and they report that Wolf and one of the others aren’t with them, but then they arrive, so that page was pointless. The New Mutants are reunited with Dani, who was apparently told by the unconscious Rahne that Shan has made a deal with her uncle that she is not happy about, and then the Professor communicates to say he’s not happy that they didn’t wait for him to wake up before attacking. Shan hears that voice again just as Silver Samurai remotely blows up the entire base, and the Professor believes that he feels the whole team die.
- A few days have passed, and while most of the team survived the explosion, Shan has gone missing. Even with the X-Men helping to search, there has been no trace of her. Bobby is upset about this and spending a lot of time brooding. The Professor summons him and the New Mutants, and we learn that Bobby’s mother, Nina DaCosta, an archeologist, has come for him. She wants the New Mutants to accompany her on an expedition to the source of the Amazon River. Bobby gets mad at the Professor, taking the role usually played by Dani, and storms off. The Professor admits to the X-Men that he believes that Shan is alive and taken by a malevolent force that he doesn’t want the kids exposed to. The other kids calm Bobby down, and the team flies to Rio with her. They go to Bobby’s mansion, and sit through an awkward dinner where Bobby’s father, who has plans to exploit the oil in the Amazon source region, berates his wife for her idealism. The next day, the kids and Mrs. DaCosta take in the Carnival atmosphere of Rio, and decide to get fancy clothes for the Governor’s Ball. While trying stuff on, Mrs. DaCosta is abducted by some Hellfire Club goons, and when the kids try to save her, they are stopped by a large mutant called Axe (who has an axe). Rahne slips away and tracks the car, letting Dani know through their mindlink that she has found her. Later that night, the kids enter the hideout. Dani uses her powers to stop one of the guards, and the others attack the rest, leaving Sunspot to face off against Axe, while Cannonball flies his mom away. Later, the kids board a small plane to head into the Amazon (Bobby is not convinced his mom is safe yet), while Bobby’s father meets with Sebastian Shaw, and complains about how his plan to stop his wife failed. Weirdly, they talk like Mr. DaCosta is not a member of the Hellfire Club yet, although that was established in the Graphic Novel.
- The kids are hanging out in the Amazon, playing hide and seek. Rahne and Dani get closer, and both Dani and Sam are getting better at using their powers. They check in with Professor X, who is still dodging their questions about Shan, and who is busy training Team America. Dani decides to swim to the boat they are travelling on, and one of the sailors (later we learn his name is Castro) dumps garbage overboard to attract piranha). Sam rescues her, outing himself as a mutant to the crew. They end up on the other shore, where they are found by some indigenous women who attack them. They fight back, and take one prisoner (which is a bit of a twist on the usual New Mutants plot) for reasons that don’t make sense to me. On the boat, the crew is upset about Sam having powers (they don’t question that Rahne is walking around in her New Mutants outfit all the time), but Castro and the Captain calm everyone down. Bobby’s mother is confused by the various styles of weaponry the captive is carrying, and the captive’s friends are shown to be tracking the boat. Back in Rio, Emmanuel DaCosta continues to entertain Sebastian Shaw and the idea of Hellfire Club membership. He wants the region that Nina is exploring, the Maderia, for himself so he can exploit its mineral riches. We figure out that Castro is working for Shaw, but has been told to not hurt Nina or Bobby in stopping the expedition. Nina explains to the kids that the Maderia is supposedly home to a remote city of gold, and they talk about how the Amazon’s tributary there is treacherous. Rahne takes food to the captive girl, but finds Castro beating on her. She scares him off by turning into a wolf, and then tries to communicate with the girl, who is named Amara. She opens her soul to her, talking about how she fears her powers but loves being a wolf. Leaving the cabin, she finds the Captain dead, and is knocked out by Castro. When she wakes up, she finds the team unconscious except for Bobby, and the boat somehow travelling down the aforementioned tributary, which is clearly running in the wrong direction now, and their boat goes over a waterfall. The kids wake up and start to rescue each other. Bobby almost gets to his mom, but is knocked out and rescued by Sam. Rahne works to rescue Amara, who it turns out is white and blonde, not brown. She also speaks English, and Rahne is more upset about that. They are unable to find Bobby’s mom, and are then confronted by English-speaking Roman Legionnaires in proper period dress, claiming that they are slaves of Imperial Rome.
- The kids, with Amara, are taken to the city of Nova Roma, a Roman outpost hidden in the headlands of the Amazon, where many people can speak English, but also live as if it were the era of Julius Caesar, with no advancement in technology apparent. The kids are dumped in a dungeon, where Amara explains that her father is the First Senator, but that many in the city are descended from Incan people (despite being completely white/European in appearance) and that they want a totalitarian state. Dani uses her powers on Amara since they think she is hiding something, and they see a ‘black priestess’ throwing Amara into a pit of fire. Bobby knocks down the dungeon door, but everyone is hit by hidden darts that paralyze them. In the Senatorial baths, we learn that Marcus Domitius Gallio is Amara’s father’s rival. Gallio was going to use the mutants to seize power, but now has to follow the law, offering the girls up as slaves, and having the boys fight in the gladiatorial arena. We learn that Gallio is married to Selene (future Hellfire Club Black Queen), and that she is trying to feed her husband’s ambitions. She has Castro captive, and he offers goods from the modern world that would aid Gallio’s ambitions. The girls bathe and drink drugged wine. Amara, having not drunk anything, goes sneaking around. We learn that she had left the city and disguised herself as indigenous to avoid Selene, but when she faints (her mutant powers are developing), she is found by Selene. Bobby and Sam are sent to fight gladiators, and using their powers, are successful, until the drugs they were given cause them to fight with one another. Rahne, declaring her love for one of the boys, turns to a wolf to stop their fight, shaking the effect of the drugs off her and Dani. Dani manifests an image of Professor X to get through to the boys. Gallio declares the mutants the children of the gods, citing Rahne’s wolf-form as proof that she is descended from Caesar and the wolf that helped Romulus and Remus.
- The people of Nova Roma celebrate Rahne with a parade, and the others enjoy it except for Bobby, who is brooding. Gallio feeds the kids, and while Rahne is completely on his side (despite feeling bad about being seen as a goddess) and gets angry at Sam for considering Amara’s position. Continuing to brood, Bobby thinks he sees his mother being taken through a crowd, but learns that he is to be kept in the house Gallio has placed them in. Later, Dani slips out to explore the city, but is taken by someone. Rahne worries about her, and opens up to Bobby when an unseen assassin shoots him. It turns out that Castro is still around, and claims to have been ordered to kill the kids by Lucius Aquilla, Amara’s father. Dani finds herself Selene’s prisoner, alongside Amara and some other girls. They are to be sacrificed to her. The other kids go with Gallio’s people to arrest Aquilla, and Sam and Bobby decide to make sure he stands trial, thereby stopping Gallio’s people from killing him. Dani frees herself from Selene’s mental control and begins to fight her, and while the ancient mutant starts to drain her, Amara also busts free of her control and attacks her, but is pushed into a volcano. The entire town starts to shake, and fissures open in the street. We see that Amara has turned into a being made of magma, and she calls out for vengeance on Selene.
- Amara, now in her molten form, attacks Selene, who dumps her back in the magma, although that effort wears her out and ages her. She has her followers killed to steal their life energy, and begins to work some kind of mind control on Dani, who she wants to bring to her side of things. Amara busts out of the magma again, and as they fight, Dani gets free and tries to find a way out of danger. She discovers that Amara’s greatest fear is that she will hurt her friends. Selene drains Amara’s lifeforce. In the city of Nova Roma, Senator Aquilla and his people are arrested by Gallio. Bobby thinks he sees his mother again, so he sneaks off dressed as a Legionary, and discovers his mother with Castro, talking about how Bobby’s dad wants the resource riches of Nova Roma, and while he doesn’t want his wife injured, Castro doesn’t care. Bobby knocks him out and is reunited with his mother. He wants his mother to gather the Amazons who saved her while he gets to Aquilla’s remaining forces. At Gallio’s, the kids are upset to see that Senator Aquilla has been tortured. Gallio makes plans to poison Sam and drug Rahne when Amara (who we just saw as dead) appears in her magma form, just as Bobby and Nina lead an attack. The New Mutants join the fray, but allow Senator Aquilla to kill Gallio in a fair sword fight. The kids head into some tunnels beneath the city which lead into the mountains where they fight Selene, freeing Dani from her influence again. Bobby tosses her into a magma pit which he fills with rocks, leading to scorn from the others, while Amara worries about whether she is a mutant or is something darker like Selene.
- Emmanuel DaCosta enters his office in Rio to find Bobby there; they argue about how Emmanuel’s agent almost killed Bobby and his mother, and things get very heated. Not meaning to, Bobby storms off, basically disowning his father, who then phones Sebastian Shaw to join the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club (which is usually a mutants-only thing). Dani and Amara hang out on the beach, and Amara thinks back to how she chose to leave Nova Roma and seek help from the New Mutants after almost destroying her father’s home with her powers. When some guy on the beach tries to kiss her, Amara summons a volcano. Rahne goes to pray in a Catholic church about her feelings for Sam, who then comes to get her so she can track down Amara. Amara gets caught in traffic, and when a cop tries to drag her away, sets off another volcano. The team starts tracking her. Amara embraces her destructive side, but ends up passing out from heat stroke. Rahne leads the team to where she passed out, but believes she was taken by people in a truck or car. We see that some small children (who probably can’t drive) took her to a favela shack, where Bobby and the others find her. They decide that she needs to cool down, so Bobby and Sam steal an ice truck, which brings her around, and gets her to stop creating a volcano in Rio Bay. Amara decides to go with them to the Xavier School.
- The New Mutants present Amara to the Professor, and she is welcomed to the school. She is surprised to learn that her bedroom looks exactly like the one she left in Nova Roma, and worries that the Professor is reading her mind. The team holds a barbecue for her, and when she shows up in her finest dress, Dani is annoyed that Bobby doesn’t try to charm her. Sam spills soda on Amara when showing off, and she storms off after first causing a lava fissure to open with her powers. Rahne and Dani track her, but leave her alone. At Project Wideawake, Henry Peter Gyrich and Sebastian Shaw test a new Sentinel when an outside hacker causes it to go nuts. It turns out that the hackers are Doug Ramsay and Kitty Pryde, although they thought they were only investigating Shaw’s business holdings. Kitty heads home from Doug’s, and comes across Amara in the woods. Her offer of help is rejected, and the rest of the New Mutants are equally cold to her. The Professor later gives Kitty a hard time for not being a better role model, and then pines for Lilandra before being hit by a painful mindscan again. The next day, the kids take a computer class and then go to their dance class, where Rahne shows off as a way of showing up Amara. Later, Amara goes to the Danger Room but refuses to follow the Professor’s commands. Later still, she decides to quit the team, but when she goes to tell the Professor, she comes across him talking to Lilandra via hologram. Afterwards, they talk about responsibility, and Amara decides to stay at the school.
- Illyana Rasputin narrates issue fourteen, even though she’s not on the team yet, and gives us a recap of what happened in the Magik miniseries (where she lived for years in Limbo, abused by Belasco and S’ym, and taught magic). She feels apart from the New Mutants, who have fun playing together in the snow. They worry that Professor X is down (Amara fills them in that he is missing Lilandra) and they decide to throw a party for him. They invite Illyana to join them. They go to dance class, and then get Stevie to take them to the mall to buy supplies. While they are away, the Professor is attacked by S’ym the demon. When the kids return to the school, they send Illyana in to look for the Professor, and she is surprised by S’ym. She teleports the team (and Stevie’s car) into the school to help her fight him. Illyana is unconscious while the team attacks singly to no avail. Even Magma encasing him in lava does nothing to stop him. Stevie grabs Illyana and flees into the school’s service tunnels. Illyana employs her magic (magicks in Claremont-ese) to stop him, and basically insists that she is in charge of Limbo now that she’s chased out Belasco, and S’ym agrees to follow her. Illyana casts a spell on Stevie’s memories so she doesn’t know about her magical abilities. Later, the X-Men return to the school and see that the kids are having a party with the Professor, complete with a car and a volcano in the living room. The X-Men join in the fun, and the Professor reveals that he can walk again (with no explanation as to how). Then Doug Ramsay comes looking for Kitty, to tell her that he got accepted into the Massachusetts Academy and that he wants her to come with him for an interview. Kitty, of course, knows that the Academy is run by the Hellfire Club, and this thread is apparently continued in Uncanny X-Men #180.
- Illyana, worried that she never heard from Kitty and Doug, casts a spell and sends her astral self to Massachusetts to check up on her friends. We learn that the X-Men have disappeared, and the editor informs us that this is due to Secret Wars. Illyana finds Kitty the prisoner of the White Queen (it’s nice to remember when Emma Frost was a villain, complete with a cigarette holder). Frost tells Kitty that she is using her powers to give Doug his heart’s desire, which happens to be having Kitty in love with him, and that she is going to force Kitty to join her team. She also mentions that Doug is a mutant, which doesn’t really get a reaction. As Frost is threatening harm to Kitty’s parents, she notices Illyana’s astral form, which is unexpected, which causes Frost to also notice and to hit her with a mind blast. Back at the Xavier School, Illyana’s scream awakens the New Mutants, who discover the girl in a pentagram, with demons pouring out of her head. While the team rushes to stop them, Dani stays with the sorceress, conjuring an image of Illyana as a demon queen, which scares them all away. The kids sit with Illyana, who explains her ability with sorcery, and tells them about Kitty. When the kids can’t find anyone to help them (The FF and Avengers are also missing), and without even Stevie around to help out, they decide to take the bus. At the Port Authority, Dani and Roberto get caught up in a weird mindspell thing that almost has them going to the church where Cloak and Dagger hang out (this is follow up to an issue of Marvel Team-Up I’ve never read). On the bus, the kids all think and talk for a while. Illyana thinks everyone hates her, while Rahne kind of hates herself. Dani studies up on the Hellfire Club, and Sam goes to comfort Rahne. Later, the kids tunnel their way into the Academy’s secret basement using Magma’s powers, but when they find Kitty, she turns out to be a hologram. Emma Frost appears, with Kitty in her thrall, and tells the kids that they now belong to the Hellfire Club.
- Trapped by the White Queen, Amara uses her powers to blind the Hellfire Club soldiers and to create an earthquake that knocks out the lights. When lighting is restored, the kids are gone. Frost spends some time menacing the still-paralyzed Kitty Pryde, while the kids regroup, and capture a couple of Hellfire Club female soldiers. Dani is upset by using her powers on them, but then she and Illyana swap uniforms so they can move around freely. Bobby and Rahne also head out, which seems unsafe. Sam and Amara tunnel to the main generator room, and destroy it, plunging school and complex into darkness. They search for Doug, but are tracked from above by Jetstream. Dani and Illyana talk about how Illyana doesn’t use her teleporting powers because it’s not safe, and are followed by Catseye. Bobby and Rahne come across Thunderbird and Roulette, who get the drop on them. Dani and Illyana are attacked by Catseye and Tarot, while Empath makes a move on Sam and Amara, joined by Jetstream. Empath takes control of Magma, having her fire on Sam. He saves Jetstream when he is knocked out, and then stops Empath just as Doug Ramsay arrives. Sam inadvertently reveals his feelings for Amara to her. Emma Frost takes control of their minds, taking them into her custody and wiping Doug’s memory of these events. Illyana uses her soulsword to free Dani from one of Tarot’s creatures but another takes her down. The White Queen arrives and almost stops them, but Illyana uses the fact that telepaths can’t affect her to grab Dani and escape through one of her teleport discs.
- The Hellions gather to go over their performance, but Jetstream (who we learn, rather oddly, is both a mutant and a cyborg), gets into it with Empath, until the White Queen comes and shuts them down. Claremont does a fair amount of development for these characters, considering that they don’t get used all that often. We see that the New Mutants and Kitty have been combined to a large dorm room. Bobby has back pain, while everyone places their hopes on Illyana and Dani, who we see are in Limbo. Dani tries to defend the unconscious Illyana from demons, and is assisted by S’ym, which surprises her. In typical Claremontian foreshadowing, Dani compares the Limbo demons to the ‘demon bear’ she dreams about. Illyana heals herself, exposing more of her sorcerous abilities, and then she and Dani teleport back to the Massachusetts Academy, although her poor control has dumped them over a year into the future, and the team appear to be happy Hellions. They are discovered by Frost, but Illyana teleports them away again, this time to just a week after they originally left. They try calling the Xavier School, but no one answers (still Secret Wars!), so they go find their friends. The Hellions show up, but since the White Queen is away, they decide to offer their foes a contest: two of them will fight, and if the New Mutants win, they go free. Cannonball and Jetstream are chosen to compete, which is weird considering how untrained Sam is, and how much more powerful Magma and Magik are). As they fight, Sam feels bad about his lack of control, but his better training wins out. Frost and Sebastian Shaw show up, and while the kids attack them, Kitty shorts out the Hellions’ training room, causing it to go wild and attack them all. They flee, with Catseye helping Rahne drag Bobby out. The New Mutants teleport away (this is the issue that establishes that Illyana teleports to Limbo before she can go to the next location), returning to their school, despite the fact that Illyana doesn’t have enough control to do that earlier in the issue. The X-Men are still missing, and no one discusses the fact that they just left Doug Ramsay back in Massachusetts. The Demon Bear takes the form of a cloud in the sky and threatens Dani.
Issue seventeen is the last one before Bill Sienkiewicz took over the art duties (even his inking June Brigman on the cover makes this issue look more exciting than the previous ones), so it seems like a natural place to finish off this column. These eighteen stories (including the graphic novel) do a very good job of establishing the team and their personalities, and by the end of them, they are more aware of their limitations, but also beginning to work much more as a unit.
I enjoyed these issues more than I thought I would. I’d expected a lot of creaky Claremontian writing, but aside from his referring to Magik’s soulsword as the “eldritch totality of her [something or other]” a few times, he’s much more in control than I remember (maybe the overwriting really didn’t kick in until later in his career). One thing that Claremont could always be praised for was his careful and long-range planning. Upcoming stories, like the ones featuring Legion, and the disappearance of Shan, start from the first ten issues, even though it’s still a while before they are resolved or moved to centre stage.
Claremont’s greatest strength, of course, lies in his character development. Each of the team members (with the exception of Shan) is given a character arc, and over these issues, they each make progress. I especially like the way Dani is treated as the central character from the very start, as she was always my favourite (and during the Sienkiewicz era, I had a bit of a crush on her).
Artwise, these are not terribly impressive comics. McLeod outshines Sal Buscema, who is the quintessential 80s Marvel house style artist. Everything is fine in this department, but nothing is memorable.
One thing that I keep thinking about while reading these issues is how poorly treated these characters are being treated in the current Marvel U. Sure, Bobby might be running an Avengers team (and AIM), with Sam in his crew, and Illyana has stayed relevant in the X-Men books, but the rest are nowhere to be seen. Rahne got put in some difficult and weird positions by Peter David in X-Factor (that whole baby thing was unpleasant), and I have no idea where Dani or Amara are now. It’s a shame, because they made a good team.
So next time, we’ll take a look at Sienkiewicz’s run, and whether or not it’s as good, groundbreaking, and experimental as I remember. I hope it is…
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read these issues, they’ve been collected here:
New Mutants Classic Vol. 1
New Mutants Classic Vol. 2
Tags: New Mutants, Retro Reviews, X-Force, X-Men