Retro Reviews: The New Mutants #18-34, Annual #1 & Special Edition #1 By Claremont, Sienkiewicz, Leialoha, Adams & Other For Marvel Comics

New Mutants #18-34, Annual #1, and Special Edition #1 (August 1984 – December 1985)

Written by Chris Claremont

Pencils by Bill Sienkiewicz (#18-31), Steve Leialoha (#32-34), Bob McLeod (Annual #1), Art Adams (Special Edition #1)

Inks by Bill Sienkiewicz (#18-31), Steve Leialoha (#32-34), Bob McLeod (Annual #1), Tom Palmer (Annual #1), Terry Austin (Special Edition #1)

Coloured by Glynis Wein/Oliver (#18-34), Bob Sharen (Annual #1), Christie Scheele (Special Edition #1)

Spoilers (from thirty-two to thirty-three years ago)

My entire reason for picking The New Mutants for my next batch of Retro Review columns was because I wanted to reread the Bill Sienkiewicz issues that this column covers.  I started reading this series in the middle of this run, and then worked backwards to get all of the earlier issues, largely because of how well this comic caught my eye on the stands, and how it looked like nothing else being published at the time.  From what I remember, the storytelling got pretty weird in here for a while, with Sienkiewicz’s crazy visuals impacting Claremont’s approach to structuring his stories.  I’m curious to see how well this stuff has held up…

Let’s take a look at who was in this series:

The Team:

  • Mirage (Danielle Moonstar; #18-28, 32-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; #18-25, 29-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Magma (Amara Aquilla; #18-22, 29-34,  Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; #18-25, 29-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Magik (Illyana Rasputin; #18-21, 24-25, 29-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair; #18-28, 32-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Warlock (#21-23, 26-27, 32-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Cypher (Doug Ramsay; never seemed to officially join team; #26-28, 32-34, Annual #1, Special Edition #1)
  • Karma (Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh; #34, Special Edition #1)

Villains

  • Magus (#18-19)
  • The Demon Bear (#18-20)
  • Selene (#22-23)
  • Sebastian Shaw (#22-23)
  • Empath (Manuel DeLa Rocha, Hellion; #26, 28)
  • The White Queen (Emma Frost; #26)
  • Axe (Gladiator; #29)
  • Ivich (Gladiator (#29-30)
  • Unnamed minotaur gladiator (#29-30)
  • Karma (in shadow or unidentified; #29-30, revealed #31-33; exposed as actually the Shadow King #34)
  • The Beyonder (#30)
  • Nguyen Ngoc Coy (Shan’s uncle; #30)
  • The Shadow King (Amahl Farouk; #34)
  • The Drakanín (Annual #1)
  • Loki (Special Edition #1)
  • The Enchantress (Special Edition #1)

Guest Stars

  • Rachel Summers (#18, 30-31)
  • Lockheed the dragon (#18, 21)
  • Ch’od (Starjammer; #19)
  • Binary (Carol Danvers, Starjammer; #19)
  • Hepzibah (Starjammer; #19)
  • Corsair (Starjammer; #19)
  • Lilandra (Former Majestrix of the Shi’ar Imperium, Starjammer; #19)
  • Storm (Ororo Monroe; #20, 32-34, Special Edition #1)
  • Morlock Healer (#20)
  • Magneto (#21, 23-24, 26, 28-29)
  • Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner; #22)
  • Colossus (Peter Rasputin; #22-24)
  • Cloak (Tyrone Johnson; #23-25)
  • Dagger (Tandy Bowen; #23-25)
  • Rogue (#24-25)
  • Legion (David Haller; #26-28)
  • Banshee (Sean Cassidy; #26)
  • Multiple Man (Jamie Madrox; #26-27)
  • Guido Carosella (Lila Cheney’s bodyguard; #29)
  • Dazzler (Alison Blaire; #29-31)
  • Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde; #30-31)
  • Hela (Special Edition #1)
  • Volstagg (Warriors Three; Special Edition #1)
  • Fandrall (Warriors Three; Special Edition #1)
  • Hogun the Grim (Warriors Three, Special Edition #1)

Supporting Characters

  • Warlock (#18-20, then joins the team)
  • Tom Corsi (Westchester Police; #19-20, 26, 28)
  • Sharon Friedlander (Nurse; #19-20, 26, 28)
  • Professor Charles Xavier (#20-29, 34, Annual #1)
  • Doug Ramsay (#21, later joins team)
  • Moira MacTaggert (#22-24, 26-28)
  • Emmanuel DaCosta (Sunspot’s father; #22-23)
  • Lee Forrester (#23-24, 26, 28-29)
  • Father Michael Bowen (#24-25)
  • Leong Xui Manh (Karma’s little brother; #24)
  • Nga Manh (Karma’s little sister; #24)
  • Gabrielle Haller (Israeli ambassador to the UK; #26-28)
  • S’ym (Illyana’s servant; #29, 32-34, Special Edition #1)
  • Lila Cheney (#29, Annual #1)
  • Stevie Hunter (Annual #1)
  • Hrimhari (Special Edition #1)
  • Brightwind (Special Edition #1)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Sienkiewicz’s first issue opens with a splash page of Dani cowering under a quilt which shows the Demon Bear’s face.  It’s a bold start.  From there, we see the Charles Xavier School blown up, as a young redhead with telekinetic abilities runs to Charles, who is shot through the window by the soldiers who are surrounding the building.  This is all a memory for the young redheaded woman standing outside the school’s gates, who tells a passing cop that she is there to see Xavier.  We aren’t told who this woman is, but of course long-time readers know this is Rachel Summers.  In the school, Cannonball, Magma, and Sunspot are engaging in some Danger Room training while Dani and Illyana watch, and discuss Sam’s crush on Amara.  As they talk, Dani holds back that she’s been dreaming about the Demon Bear, not fully trusting Illyana.  They are interrupted by the doorbell.  Illyana opens the door to find Rachel, who gets upset to see her at the same age she was when she died in the future, and she runs off.  I don’t know why this is happening in this book, except that Claremont often blended plotlines between this title and the Uncanny X-Men, where Rachel of course ends up.  In a distant star system, a young alien named Warlock is pursued by his father, Magus, who destroys a star.  Dani has programmed a Danger Room session that has her fighting a bear with a bow and arrow.  Illyana tries to get her to open up, to no avail.  Later, Dani heads outside calling for the Demon Bear.  They fight (Sienkiewicz’s Bear is crazy), Dani uses her powers to show that the Bear’s greatest fear is her, and she manages to take it down.  She gets close to it, and we cut to a panel of Rahne screaming, as she feels Dani’s pain through their psychic connection.  The team rushes outside to find Dani lying in the snow, bleeding.
  • Dani is rushed into the local hospital in very bad shape.  As the doctors get to work on her, Tom Corsi from the Westchester County Police ask the kids, who have come to the hospital with Dani, what happened.  They tell him that she was attacked by a bear, and since it’s snowing heavily, Nurse Sharon Friedlander arranges spots for the kids to sleep while they wait for their friend to come out of surgery.  Sam speculates that the Demon Bear is going to be coming after Dani and he wants the kids to be ready.  Rahne transforms to her half-wolf state, but looks and feels wilder than normal (giving Sienkiewicz the space to make her look way cooler), and tries to contact Dani, except that the communication puts her at greater risk.  In deep space, the Starjammers, which include Carol Danvers in her short-lived Binary form, track Warlock flying past them, still pursued by Magus. They figure they are headed towards Earth, but can’t pursue or even send a signal quickly enough to warn the X-Men.  When Rahne goes to check on Dani, Officer Corsi almost shoots her, since she’s in her half-wolf form.  We learn that Dani is doing okay, but is still in danger, and Tom starts to hit on Sharon, until the Bear shows up.  Illyana places wards around the operating room, and when the Bear arrives and attacks them, she summons her Soulsword.  When that happens, some silver armor appears on her arm, surprising her.  The Bear cuts the power to the hospital, so some of the kids go to the generator where they engage the creature again.  The Bear teleports the kids, the operating room, and Sharon and Tom to a desert setting.  Sienkiewicz’s Demon Bear is awesome, even if it looks like it’s wearing a long coat.
  • Claremont’s narration clarifies things a little, making it clear that the kids and the others were teleported to a different world or plane, where the Demon Bear’s shadow is spreading darkness across the land.  The operating room where Dani is being operated on is still encased in Illyana’s mystical wards, but Tom and Sharon have been corrupted by the Bear’s claws into demons.  The kids fight the Bear and the demons to little effect, while Illyana worries that her spell won’t keep Dani and the doctors safe.  When the Bear tries to transform Amara into a demon too, Illyana summons her soulsword (“it’s the ultimate expression of Illyana’s sorcerous power – her soul personified” if you didn’t know that) and plunges it into her.  This sets Sam off, and he attacks his teammate, revealing that Rahne doesn’t trust her, before Amara calms him down by showing that she’s actually been healed by Illyana, who is surprised to see armor covering her arm where Sam ripped her uniform.  Illyana gets Rahne to use her connection with Dani (strangely, shown as happening when Rahne is human, when it doesn’t usually work) to find out how to stop the Bear.  Illyana cures Tom (although he’s shown as an ‘Indian’ now) and Rahne tells her she has to cut the Bear in two.  The team support her, and she manages to do this, despite the creature’s size, and it splits into two people.  Everyone is transported back to the hospital, including Tom and Sharon (who are permanently changed into, as Rahne describes them, using all of her Scottish racism, “red Indians”).  The two people the Bear split into are William Lonestar and his wife Peg, Dani’s parents.  A doctor informs them that Dani has survived her surgery, but will be permanently paralyzed.  Later, back at the Xavier School, Storm has the Morlock healer work on Dani, promising a full recovery.  Dani is happy to see her parents, who explain that the Demon Bear absorbed them and used them to hurt Dani against their will.  Professor X consoles his students, while planning to contact Dr. Strange to help solve the mystery of the Bear, and to return Tom and Sharon to their normal selves.
  • Issue twenty-one is double-sized, and has the girl members of the team hosting a slumber party for the friends they’ve made in town, ostensibly to celebrate Dani being home from the hospital.  Dani spends most of the issue in a wheelchair, and has started wearing a feather sticking out the top of her hair, which seems a little racist to me.  Magneto is startled by a fast moving figure going past his Asteroid M.  We see that this figure is Warlock, flying towards an energy signature he’s detected on Earth.  Amara feels like an outsider at the party, and everyone decides to give Rahne, who feels like more of an outsider, a makeover.  Bobby and Sam, return from town, and Sam doesn’t recognize the made-up Rahne, who punches him in the stomach.  Sam decides to go skinny-dipping, when he and Bobby see the meteor that is Warlock crash into the lake.  He retrieves it, inert, and they leave it in a workshop.  Warlock wakes up and begins to gather energy (lifeglow) from the socket and a potted plant.  Lockheed discovers Warlock and attacks him.  The kids start to fight him.  Illyana summons her soulsword, which is “the ultimate expression of her power as a sorceress”, and again finds armor appearing on much of her body.  The fight continues, and Bobby hurts Warlock, who makes his way into the school, where he discovers Dani, who uses her power on him to show him his father.  Eventually the kids figure out that Warlock isn’t there to hurt them, and they summon Doug Ramsay to help them speak to him.  They tell Doug that he and they are all mutants, and no one mentions the fact that the last we saw Doug he was still at Emma Frost’s school.  They eventually communicate, and the team learns that Warlock’s father, Magus, is chasing him to kill him.  They offer him friendship.  Later, Professor X arrives, and the kids introduce Warlock to him, telling them that they’ve offered him a place on the team.  The issue ends with some nice pin-ups of Cannonball, Magik, and Sunspot, which include Xavier’s thoughts about them.
  • Nightcrawler helps Sam practice being more maneuverable when he flies, although with little luck.  Kurt also flirts a bit with Rahne, which causes her to have another crisis of faith, because if he can be kind and looks like a demon, then perhaps Christianity is false.  Colossus is trying to help Sunspot with his training, but Bobby gets annoyed and lashes out at him.  Peter feels pain, and Bobby’s hands look weird momentarily.  Rahne watches as Professor X and Moira MacTaggert examine Warlock, and then interrupts Dani as she talks to her father on the phone.  In New York, Selene arrives at a jewellery store where the owner worships her, and requests access to wealth and power.  At the Hellfire Club, Emmanuel DaCosta prepares to join the inner circle.  Back at the school, Rahne writes a story wherein she is basically a princess who lives in a cottage with funny animals, until her prince arrives, gravely injured.  The Rahne character turns into a wolf and goes to the city where she attacks her enemies, the Black Baron and a sorceress (meant to remind us of Cloak and Dagger).  We see Rahne sleeping with the amulet the sorceress wore in her story in her hand.  There are a few more pin-up pages with excerpts from the Professor’s journal, this time focusing on Wolfsbane, Magma, and Mirage (which Dani changed her codename to, off-panel I guess).
  • I slotted the Annual here, although it might not be the exact correct place, continuity-wise.  Sam continues to be frustrated in his training, despite the Professor’s reassurances.  A green alien with a tail appears in New York and rips up a poster for singer Lila Cheney.  Dani is frustrated with her slow recovery from her Demon Bear injuries, despite Stevie Hunter’s reassurances.  Bobby snags tickets to the Lila Cheney show for the whole crew, including Doug Ramsay and Warlock, who can make himself look like a regular human now, at least when Bob McLeod draws him.  During soundcheck the kids stop a stack of speakers from falling on Lila, and she kisses Sam for his efforts.  They discover that the accident was deliberate and start investigating (without Doug and Dani, who are basically useless in this).  Rahne leads them to the alien, a Drakinín, and they fight until the creature’s equipment explodes, Lila generates a huge light show, and the band and Sam disappear.  They figure out that her sound equipment doubles as a stargate or something, and use the extra energy that Warlock absorbed to teleport themselves after the others, landing in deep space.  Sam, meanwhile, hangs out with Lila and the band in a large Dyson sphere.  Lila sends him to get new clothes and then enters into negotiations with the leader of the Drakinín about the fact that she was going to steal and sell to them the entire planet Earth.  Warlock has made himself into a ship to protect his teammates, and they travel to the nearby sphere.  Lila likes Sam’s new clothes and they make out while one of her bandmates betrays her to the Drakinín.  The kids make their way into the sphere and start looking for Sam just as the Drakinín attack.  Many of them are captured and put with Sam and Lila, making fun of his new punk look (it’s not as successful as Storm’s was during this same period).  The aliens execute the traitorous band member, Magma makes things shake, and the kids take out the aliens.  The only problem now is that the stargate technology is busted, and it’s going to destroy the Earth, but Doug translates some handy alien instructions and fixes things.  Lila uses her natural teleporting ability to take the team to her house in England, and Lila and Sam chat.  She hints that she was a slave once, and they agree to date, which makes Bobby jealous, despite the fact that he’s fourteen and she’s an adult.  This was kind of a weird issue.
  • At the Hellfire Club, Selene and Emmanuel DaCosta are inducted into the Inner Circle by Sebastian Shaw, who is wary of Selene.  Colossus plays chess against Harry of Harry’s Tavern, when they learn that a very strangely-behaving Roberto is sitting at the bar.  When Peter tries to talk to him, Bobby attacks, knocking out Harry and the woman working the bar.  Bobby is behaving very erratically, so Peter calls Prof. X, who sends Sam and Dani to help.  Sam walks in on Dani changing.  Bobby starts showing new powers, enveloping Colossus in darkness, before Peter knocks him out of the bar, exhausting them both.  In the Bermuda Triangle, Magneto is on a boat with Lee Forrester.  They talk about how Magneto has been injured (although we last saw him on his asteroid base) and they go to a secret ancient island city where Lee lives.  We see that Magneto is very weak.  Back at the School, Xavier and Moira examine Bobby and Peter, who are both in deep comas.  Dani answers the phone and runs to check on Rahne, who is missing.  Dani and Sam fly into Manhattan, where they use Dani’s powers to bluff their way into a swanky hotel.  They find psychic images showing that a stunningly beautiful tall redhead checked into the penthouse, but when they go there, they find Rahne alone and scared.  When they get her home, they find the amulet in her room, and later Dani admits that she had dreamed exactly what Rahne had experienced.  Sam sees in the paper that a couple had been attacked by a wolf in Manhattan, but were later found to have none of the injuries they remember having.  Sam and Dani go to see this couple, who are Cloak and Dagger, now powerless.  A lot of this depends on what happened in a Marvel Team-Up Annual I haven’t read.  Basically, from recaps we learn that Bobby and Rahne were injected with the same chemicals that gave Cloak and Dagger their powers, but the two older heroes removed that from them.  Now those two are powerless, and unwilling to help.  Back at the School, Bobby wakes up and drains energy from the still unconscious Peter, before going after Xavier and Moira.  There is a decent Warlock pin-up that explains some of his backstory.
  • In my last column, I said that Claremont’s writing was as narrative-filled and overdone as I’d expected, but by issue twenty-four, the style I was expecting all along is quite prevalent.  Moira tries to defend the unconscious Charles from the darkness spilling out of Roberto, but is saved by the now womanly version of Rahne, who shines light into Bobby’s darkness, calming him.  Sam (who is shirtless for some reason, yet again) and Dani arrive, scaring Bobby into teleporting away with Rahne.  They talk to the Professor about what’s going on and we are given a recap that incorporates Cloak and Dagger’s origin, and the events of the MTU Annual.  In Manhattan, Tyrone and Tandy (formerly Cloak and Dagger) leave the hospital they were in.  In the Bermuda Triangle, Magneto apologizes to Lee Forrester for being scary before.  Bobby and Rahne turn up at the church in the Lower East Side where Father Bowen looks after Karma’s siblings, and Bobby passes out.  Tyrone and Tandy continue to talk about their future, which doesn’t look like it’s going to be together now that they don’t have powers, and have to walk away from a pimp trying to take advantage of runaways.  Bobby thinks he killed Colossus, so Rahne enters his darkness to find that Peter is feeling guilty about how he’s treated Kitty since falling in love with Zsaji on Battleworld (Claremont forgets which book he’s writing sometimes), and Rahne rescues him from his despair, to find that the Professor has turned up at the church, alongside Dani, Sam, Illyana, and Rogue.  Tandy tries to convince Tyrone to go get their powers back, but he’s reluctant.  At the church, Xavier gives Sam a hard time for wearing a Lila Cheney shirt with cut sleeves, while Rogue compliments him.  Dani uses her power to try to figure out what’s going on with Bobby, but she starts channeling his darkness, causing Illyana to slice her with her Soulsword (you know, “the essence of her magickal powers focused into a weapon no eldritch entity or spell can withstand”).  She then teleports Rahne and Bobby to Limbo where her efforts to exorcise their new powers using black magic (or is that magick?) backfires.  When they return to the church, the professor is mad at her, and then Ty and Tandy show up.
  • Tandy is surprised to discover that it’s her uncle, Father Bowen, who is hosting the collection of New Mutants dealing with Rahne and Bobby’s problems, which is a weird coincidence.  Tyrone ends up snapping at Tandy due to his fear, while Xavier lectures Illyana some more.  Xavier then has a serious talk with Tyrone that goes for a few pages and perhaps thousands of words, and which ends with him agreeing to take on his Cloak powers again.  Everyone teleports to Limbo, including Father Bowen (but not Colossus, who we presume is still sleeping somewhere in the church, since we don’t see him again), where Xavier helps Rogue absorb the Dagger powers from Rahne (there had to be a reason to bring her along) and eventually the Cloak powers from Bobby.  Next, Illyana uses her sorcery to transfer the powers back to their original owners.  Restored, Cloak and Dagger turn down Xavier’s invitation to the school, instead setting themselves up to protect homeless kids.  They go after the ‘chickenhawk’ who they saw last issue, and stop him from giving two runaways furs and leather pants.  The issue ends with a pin-up of David Haller, with narration by Moira MacTaggert, and a Lila Cheney page covered with Xavier’s thoughts of the singer.
  • On Muir Island, we learn that Tom Corsi has become very strong in addition to becoming Native American after his encounter with the Demon Bear, but that Sharon Friedlander, who might not be any stronger, wishes she could have her old life back.  Their conversation is interrupted by the psychic projection of a young Arab kid.  They go check on David Haller, who is levitating, screaming, and making objects fly around the room, before really losing it and causing an explosion.  Later, Moira meets the arriving Blackbird, which brings Xavier, Banshee, Rahne, Dani, Warlock, and Doug (who I guess is on the team now).  Rahne is upset that Moira hugs Cassidy before her, and Warlock tries to talk to the Blackbird.  The kids meet Jamie Madrox, and learn that Tom and Sharon are unconscious.  Gabrielle Haller is there, and she tells Xavier about her son (without mentioning that he’s also his son), who is autistic and beyond conventional help.  Xavier’s annoyed that they didn’t call him sooner.  In Massachusetts, Emma Frost has a talk with Empath about some stuff that happened in an issue of Uncanny X-Men and the Firestar miniseries.  When Empath tries to take over her emotions, she fights back hard.  The kids go the the coast, where Warlock eats the lifeglow of a bird, and the Reverend Craig shows up to make Rahne feel bad about herself.  Xavier tries to reach through the wall in David’s mind, but is expelled by the Arab boy.  The force is so strong, it sends Xavier, Moira, and Haller flying.  Magneto, on the island in the Bermuda Triangle, has a nightmare and in his sleep starts trashing the place.  When his bed goes out the window, Lee jumps on, wakes him up, and then ends up making love to him.  Xavier and Gabrielle talk, a lot, and we learn that Xavier, an expert in the human mind, thinks that autism is caused by trauma.  Rahne goes to visit Moira, and they see the Arab boy projection again, just before there’s another explosion.
  • Charles and the kids go to Moira and Rahne, who are still alive but comatose, like Tom and Sharon.  Charles checks on David, who is still asleep, and suspects that Gabrielle continues to lie to him.  He also worries about his injured body (which happened in Uncanny X-Men).  Dani convinces him to take her onto the astral plane alongside her, hoping she can make contact with Rahne through their mindlink.  They are attacked by a wolf that isn’t Rahne, and in the real world, their bodies, along with Gabrielle’s and Doug’s, are consumed by psychic flames, which draw the other two onto the astral plane as well.  Charles tries to stop David’s mind from crushing them with a large brick wall, and in the process Charles realizes he is David’s father.  This distraction causes him to lose his grip on the others.  Different personas inside of David make themselves known, and the name Legion is used for the first time.  On Muir Island, Warlock and Madrox try to figure out what’s going on.  Inside David’s mind, we see that it is a mashup of a ruined Paris and Beirut, where strange war machines are attacking the ‘people’.  There is a large black dome where David’s mind resides or is trapped.  Rahne and Moira escape the Arab boy who tries to kill them, while Charles is rescued by Jack Wayne, a rogueish adventurer type.  Gabrielle recognizes the Arab boy, who was apparently behind a terrorist attack that traumatized young David.  Rahne and Moira meet Cyndi, the pyrotic personality, and they meet up with Dani’s group, who are having trouble holding back some generic weird soldier types.  They decide that they should try to get inside the dome, which is what Jack and Charles are working on doing as well.  Jack gives Charles a knife, suggesting that there’s only one way to save and/or stop Legion…
  • Charles and Jack Wayne continue to climb the mountain in David’s mind that leads to the dome his mind is hiding in, and are joined by the others – Moira, Gabrielle, Dani, Rahne, Doug, and Cyndi.  They struggle with their climb, and neither Rahne nor Dani trust Jack.  Lee Forrester is a little freaked out about having slept with Magneto, and when he tries to talk to her, she accuses him of exerting control over her.  Magneto is upset by all this, and tries to convince her to trust him.  In David’s mind, the group finally come to see the Arab boy, Jemail Karami.  After Dani uses her powers on him, they are able to reach the dome.  Xavier walks right inside, and finds it filled with various crystals, many broken, which represent David’s memories.  Charles starts to figure out how shattered David’s psyche really is, and when they all see the memory of terrorists killing David’s godfather and trying to kill him, which led to David’s powers manifesting, Gabrielle goes off on Jemail, but Charles stops her, while Jack looks like he’s about to kill the kid who was absorbed into David’s mind at that time.  At the Hellfire Club, Empath enters into conversation with a woman who knows that Emma Frost has locked down his powers.  Empath wants revenge on Frost and Xavier (don’t know why him), and wants the woman to use Sunspot and Magma in some sort of gladiatorial thing.  Doug stops Jack from killing Jemail, and Dani starts to talk to him, especially after something knocks Charles out.  They learn that Jemail’s been working to fix David’s mind from the inside ever since his powers started manifesting externally, and convinces him to work with Jack to fix all of the memory crystals.  We also see Tom and Sharon there, although they are unconscious.  Two weeks later, Charles finally wakes up and we learn that he and Dani were the last to be revived.  Charles goes to meet his son for the first time, although the other three personalities also manifest and speak to him.  Charles and Gabrielle go for a walk, and Charles feels like helping his son is pointless, since he knows that the Beyonder has now arrived on Earth (that’s right, it’s time for Secret Wars II).
  • At the Westchester airport, Sam and Illyana come bursting through, pursuing a red van that has kidnapped Roberto and Amara at a swim party.  They capture the van driver, but by then their friends have been loaded onto a plane.  Sam tries to pursue but can’t catch it; as he falls to his death, Illyana teleports him to Limbo, where they get S’ym to interrogate the driver.  They teleport to LA, where the other two were taken, but Illyana moves them forward a week in time.  They go to Lila Cheney for help (we meet Guido for the first time) and she teleports them to her Dyson Sphere to talk, not knowing that she also catches one of her session singers and takes her too.  This person turns out to be Dazzler, and we figure out that the Gladiators have taken the two kids, and that Dazzler knows them after her experiences in the Beauty and the Beast miniseries, which I’ve never read.  Bobby is not happy to learn that Axe is one of the Gladiators, and they begin to fight, before being stopped by their new boss, Alexander Flynn, who has Amara explain that he’s holding some kids prisoner and will kill them if Bobby and Amara don’t fight in his games.  At Lila’s, they plan to sneak into a Gladiator’s event to get their friends back.  In the Bermuda Triangle, Magneto practices his powers, and Lee begins to warm up to him, when Professor X sends a strained mental message urging Magneto to gather the X-Men and other heroes to fight off the Beyonder.  Magneto is surprised to be called.  Sam and the others go to the Gladiators’ event, and Alison is recognized despite wearing a turban and veil.  We see the broad (and I do mean broad) outline of a woman who is actually in charge of things, and learn that she wants these newcomers to be part of the group.  Watching the first fight, Alison decides she has to help her friend Ivich, blowing their cover.  Bobby and Amara start to fight Axe and a minotaur dude, and Sam jumps in to help.  Magneto arrives, ripping the roof off the complex, and demanding that any mutants come to help him.  Sam and Illyana agree to go with him, but Bobby and Amara want to stay with the Gladiators.  Sam is upset with Magneto (and of course questioning the decision to go with him), and this leads into Secret Wars II.  There is no mention of how Magneto knew the kids were in LA.
  • Issue thirty picks up after the first issue of Secret Wars II, and Sam, Dazzler, Kitty Pryde, and Rachel Summers are in Limbo, where Illyana has become the Darkchilde for the first time.  Kitty grabs her soulsword, which looks black in Illyana’s hand, and it turns silver in hers.  She uses it to cut the darkness out of her, and she returns to normal.  They teleport to LA and start picking up the Gladiators’ trail.  Bobby and Amara continue to resist, but also continue to be afraid that if they leave, some kids will be killed.  The others stake out the Gladiators’ mansion headquarters, and are observed by the Beyonder.  Dazzler goes undercover, and is immediately drugged to be made subservient.  Kitty also tries to get work with them, also undercover.  When Dazzler performs and fights some of the other Gladiators, she exults in her success.  When she makes contact with Bobby and Amara, they reject her help, and the next day, gang up on her in a training session.  Rachel meditates while the team prepares to free their friends.  Kitty lets Bobby know that there are no kids being kept prisoner, and they work on a plan.  The Beyonder makes himself known to the others, and Rachel tries to mindlink with him.  Kitty goes to Dazzler, and learns that she is struggling emotionally with the choices she’s had to make.  Kitty is attacked by the very obese Shan, but while she recognizes her, she is not identified to us.  Bobby and Amara, waiting for the signal to launch their plan, are attacked by a gigantic creature Gladiator, which we learn is a robot containing Kitty inside it, which makes Shan happy.
  • Bobby and Amara fight the giant robot while Dazzler performs and Fat Shan watches with glee.  Kitty begins to regain control over the situation, eventually making her way out of the robot and distracting Shan, just as Sam, Illyana, and Rachel arrive.  Magik teleports Dazzler into Limbo, which makes the Gladiators think she’s been killed.  They attack the mutants, but when Dazzler is brought back, she is free of Shan’s control.  The arrival of the police send the audience and the Gladiators running, while the team looks for Shan.  They find her escape tunnel and go after her, while she starts to use her powers to control them.  Sam flies into her great weight, and realizes that she is his friend Shan, which Kitty had already figured out but kept quiet about.  Shan threatens to kill all of her mind controlled slaves if she’s not allowed to escape, so they have to let her go.  Later, they see Shan’s uncle, General Nguyen Ngoc Coy being arrested.  The original team members insist that they go to find her, and Sam is not willing to wait for the Professor or the X-Men, who may have been killed by the Beyonder.  Dazzler still feels guilt for her actions, but Kitty tries to make her feel better.  After Rachel contacts the X-Men, the New Mutants still insist on tracking down Shan on their own, and Kitty has no choice but to respect their decision.  Sienkiewicz gives us a nice splash page (his last), and then two more ‘journal’ pages, one featuring Empath, and the other Catseye.
  • Issue thirty-two is drawn by Steve Leialoha, who often attempts a more angular Sienkiewicz-styled approach, but who makes it his own.  It’s a jarring shift, but an acceptable one, as Leialoha’s always been a great artist.  The issue opens with a flashback to Shan’s disappearance after the team’s fight with Viper (see my last column), and turns to Bobby’s continued brooding over the guilt he feels at not being able to save her.  The kids fly a commercial jet to Madripoor, but strangely one that has large sleeping quarters where they need to be careful to not be caught talking by a stewardess.  The strain of everything’s that happened is showing on Bobby, and we don’t know when or how the other members of the team, Dani, Rahne, Warlock, and Doug met up with them.  They’ve figured out that Shan is in Madripoor, so they sneak into the country (I always thought that Claremont invented this place in the Wolverine series), and start staking out Shan’s operation, although they are seen doing so on surveillance cameras.  Most of the team enter her compound, and their backup, Doug and Warlock, are caught.  Inside, Shan quickly takes control of the team, although Illyana is able to escape with Dani.  When they return with demon reinforcements, they find that Shan and the team are missing, but that her security forces are strewn about, murdered, and they believe that Shan has moved on to Cairo.  Dani convinces Illyana to teleport there, but they are tossed back in time, and end up meeting Ashake, Storm’s ancestor, who also happens to be a sorceress.  They teleport again, but end up a few decades into the future (which, I guess, would be now-ish), and find that the adult New Mutants are sadists who terrify the local populace.  They teleport back to roughly the present, and Dani gets very upset, until they are found by Warlock and Storm, who he summoned to help.
  • In Cairo, we learn that Karma is running the underground, and spending her nights at her club, Pharoah, where she enjoys using her powers and her New Mutants puppets to break up couples that have come there to dance.  Storm shows up to challenge her (in a scene that perfectly resembles Luke Skywalker’s appearance at Jabba’s palace), and when Karma has the New Mutants attack her, Dani, Illyana, and Warlock are able to get Rahne away from her, and to free her mind.  Rahne is upset about what she was forced to do, while Dani is weirdly jealous of the nice dress she wore.  Storm and Dani talk, when they are attacked by the possessed New Mutants.  Illyana teleports away with Dani, but drops her off in front of Karma, who immediately possesses her.  She then gets Warlock away from the other New Mutants, taking him to Limbo and leaving him with S’ym, who suggests that Illyana has switched sides and is working with Shan.  The team tries to take down Storm, who powerless, is able to hold them off, until Illyana teleports her away too.  We then see her at Karma’s club, where she is also possessed, further suggesting that Illyana is working for Karma.  In Limbo, we see Illyana apologizing to Storm’s image, but it’s made clear through her monologue that she has a plan, only it might be derailed by a very angry Warlock who threatens her.
  • Warlock and Illyana fight for a bit, until she decides to stop fighting and explain her plan to her angry alien friend.  They look in on the New Mutants, and see that Karma is toying with Storm more than the others, and has plans to perform psychic surgery on them so that she will always have control of them.  Illyana teleports herself and Warlock into the past, where they see Ororo as a child steal Charles Xavier’s wallet, before he uses his powers to recover it.  He then enters a cafe where he sits across from Amahl Farouk, a crime lord, and they engage in psychic battle.  Xavier walks away injured while Farouk falls over dead.  Illyana suspects that Farouk has been controlling Shan.  In the present, this is confirmed, as Farouk villainsplains to Storm.  Illyana enters the club and offers to join Shan/Farouk.  The villain grabs her and tries to take control of her mind, while the New Mutants are teleported away without her/his notice, because it’s actually Warlock she/he is grabbing.  The trip to Limbo having freed the team and Storm, they return and begin their attack.  Farouk leaves Shan’s consciousness, and the team becomes suspicious that he has taken over another teammate, which is something Illyana proves when she uses her soulsword to stab Doug, who doesn’t know that it won’t kill him.  Shan, disgusted by the changes made to her body and confused, attacks Farouk on the psychic plane and defeats him, although he escapes.  Shan wants to be left to die in the burning club, but the team convince her to reclaim her life.  Ororo offers to take the team to an island in the Aegean so they can recuperate from their experiences.
  • The New Mutants Special Edition is sixty-four pages of gorgeous art by Art Adams, although Christie Scheele’s colours often render some of his more detailed scenes indistinguishable.  The book opens on Loki, pining for Storm after seeing her fight Surtur’s forces in The Mighty Thor during Walter Simonson’s legendary run.  He dispatches the Enchantress to retrieve her and to kill the X-Men.  Storm is in Greece though, helping the New Mutants recuperate from their ordeal with the Shadow King.  Ororo tries to help Shan deal with what was done to her, while the rest of the kids have fun at the beach (in the type of scene that Claremont excels at).  The Enchantress’s forces take everyone out easily, and transport Storm to Loki, who dresses her up in Asgardian fetish gear.  The kids are taken to the Enchantress’s dungeon, where Illyana teleports them away.  A spell makes her teleportation go awry – Illyana is trapped with the Enchantress, while the rest are spread out all over the nine realms, and in time.  Karma is alone in a desert.  Cypher ends up working as a busboy in a tavern.  Rahne is pursued by giants and meets another wolf.  Warlock kills a dragon and meets Hela.  Bobby enjoys enhanced strength and the attention of girls.  Magma eats enchanted food and becomes a faerie.  Sam gets stabbed by some dwarves.  Dani finds and rescues an injured winged horse, and joins some warrior women on winged horses.  The Enchantress draws some of Illyana’s soul out of her body, and makes an evil avatar of her to track down the other kids.  Shan saves a young girl from a sandworm.  Evil Illyana tries to capture Doug, but he is saved by Warlock.  Rahne makes out with Hrimhar, who never gets named.  Bobby lifts Volstagg of the Warriors Three, and then parties with him.  Sam recovers from his wounds when Magma attacks his dwarf friends; he stops her.  Dani overhears her new friends talking about how she needs to seal a bond with blood, and runs away on Brightwind, her horse (we later find out that because the horse chose to bond with her, she is now a Valkyrie).  Shan continues to lose weight in the desert.  Evil Illyana comes for Bobby, and claims him.  Loki takes Storm, who he turns into a falcon, to get her a hammer, and questions Sam’s presence.  Evil Illyana gets Rahne too.  Karma is found by Warlock and Doug, and it turns out that the girl she was with wasn’t real, but a gift from the Norns to give her strength.  Evil Illyana appears, and as they fight, Sam and Amara join in, as does Dani.  The Enchantress’s scrying crystal shatters, but when they all arrive at her palace, she assumes that they’ve been claimed by Evil Illyana.  Instead, the team attacks her, and Karma frees Illyana.  They take the Enchantress to Limbo, and then talk about how some of them were happier in Asgard, and the fact that Magma can’t return to Earth, now that she’s been changed into a faerie.  They decide to go as a team to free Storm from Loki, and the story is continued in Uncanny X-Men Annual #9, which I don’t have at hand.

These issues really didn’t play out the way I remembered them.  To begin with, in my mind, the team was much more unified during Sienkiewicz’s run.  Instead, they were split in two for most of the time, with half of them dealing with Legion in Scotland, and the other half the Gladiators in LA.  When they finally got back together as a full unit, it was done off-panel, and with no explanation as to where Professor Xavier went.  One big flaw that is exposed when reading just this book, without also reading the contemporaneous issues of the Uncanny X-Men, is that a lot of plot threads appear and disappear at random.

Likewise, Claremont’s reputation for planning for the long game is not held up well by this run, especially in the area of character development.  Why was so much time given to Magneto’s budding romance with Lee Forrester?  Where did Sam’s infatuation with Amara go?  Same question, but with regard to Rahne’s feelings for Sam?  When did Cypher actually join the team?  A lot of stuff was happening off-panel, and it made things pretty confusing.

The Demon Bear arc, Sienkiewicz’s first, was actually the highpoint of his time on the book, as his art was at its richest (although the Legion issues look pretty cool), and there was a greater sense of cohesion to the whole endeavour.  

I feel like the story surrounding Shan was perhaps the messiest (not just because Sienkiewicz left half-way through), as Claremont never really makes clear what kind of threat Shan/The Shadow King really is.  If she’s the undisputed ruler of Cairo’s underworld, why is she spending so much time in LA staging mutant Gladiator fights to entertain and blackmail the rich?  Why run to Madripoor?  There is a feeling that Claremont was just making things up as he went along.

I have to wonder what some of his goals for this run really were.  Where the last column looked at how the team developed and grew, these issues were really just randomly introducing new concepts and characters, such as Legion, Illyana’s armor appearing alongside her soulsword, the shifting nature of Dani’s mindlink with Rahne, the “Indianization” (for lack of a better term) of two minor characters who then just appear randomly when needed for a story, and the total disappearance of the Xavier School from the kids’ lives.  I mean, why are they in Greece with Storm?  Also, why make Amara a faerie in Asgard?  Why devote so many issues to Cloak and Dagger (although I suspect that was done to boost their new series, which debuted just after their appearance here)?  Where did Lila Cheney go after her teenage boyfriend got into trouble with the Gladiators?  There’s some weird stuff going on here.

Don’t get me wrong, I got a huge shot of nostalgia off of reading these issues, but at the end of it all, I think these were better in my memory.  The problem with that is that I don’t remember being as impressed with the book after Sienkiewicz left.  I guess we’re going to find out next time, as I look at the remainder of Claremont’s run with the team.  I don’t remember much about those books – some stuff with the Beyonder, Magneto, the Hellfire Club, and a lot of different artists.   

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you can follow these links for trade paperbacks that encompass some of these issues.

New Mutants Classic Vol. 3
New Mutants Classic Vol. 4
Bill Sienkiewicz The New Mutants : Marvel Artist Select Series

 

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