Retro Review: The New Mutants #55-86 By Simonson, Blevins, A Little Liefeld & Others For Marvel Comics

New Mutants #55-86, Annual #4 (September 1987 – February 1990)

Written by Louise Simonson (#55-80, 82-86), Chris Claremont (#63, 81)

Pencils by Bret Blevins (#55, 57-61, 64-69, 71-74, 79-80, 82-83), June Brigman (#56, Annual #4), Jon J. Muth (#62), Bo Hampton (#63), Terry Shoemaker (#70, 81, 84), John Byrne (#75), Rich Buckler (#76-77), Rick Leonardi (#78), Louis Williams (#81), Geoff Isherwood (#85), Rob Liefeld (#86)

Inks by Terry Austin (#55-61, 64-66), Jon J. Muth (#62), Joe Rubinstein (#63, 81), Bret Blevins (#67-68, 83, 85), Al Williamson (#69, 71-72, #78-80, 82), Al Milgrom (#70, 84), Mike Manley (#73), Bob Wiacek (#74, 86), Bob McLeod (#75, Annual #4), Tom Palmer (#76), Roy Richardson (#77, Annual #4)

Coloured by Glynis Oliver (#55-60, 62, 64-73, 75-80, 82-86, Annual #4), Bill Wray (#61), Nel Yomtov (#63), Gregory Wright (#74, 81)

Spoilers (from twenty-seven to thirty years ago)

When Louise Simonson took over the New Mutants, her X-Factor was one of my favourite books (this is when she was working with Walt Simonson, developing Archangel and Apocalypse), and I’d felt that Chris Claremont’s work was becoming a little moribund.  I don’t remember loving this run though.  The focus, as I recall, was on the Bird Brain character, who I hated, and on Illyana constantly becoming the Darkchilde ad nauseam.  We’ll have to see how well it stands up…

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

The Team:

  • Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; #55-62, 64-86, Annual #4)
  • Cypher (Doug Ramsay; #55-60, 81)
  • Mirage (Danielle Moonstar; #55-62, 64-86, Annual #4)
  • Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair; #55-62, 64-86, Annual #4)
  • Magik (Illyana Rasputin; #55-73, 81, Annual #4)
  • Magma (Amara Aquilla; #56-57, 62, 81, Annual #4)
  • Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; #59-62, 64-86, Annual #4)
  • Warlock (#59-62, 64-86, Annual #4)
  • Rusty Collins (#77-78, 80, 82-86)
  • Skids (#77-78, 80, 82, 85-86)
  • Boom-Boom (Tabitha Smith; #77-80, 82-86)
  • Rictor (#77-80, 82-86)
  • Karma (Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh; #81)

Villains

  • Raek (alien; #55)
  • Empath (Manuel DeLa Rocha, Hellion; #56, 62, 81, Annual #4)
  • The White Queen (Emma Frost; #56-57, 62, 69-71, 73-75, Annual #4)
  • Ani-Mator (#59-60)
  • Cameron Hodge (#60)
  • The Right (#60-61)
  • S’ym (#61, 65, 67, 70-73)
  • The Black Queen (Selene; #61, 70-71, 73-75, Annual #4)
  • The Black King (Sebastian Shaw; #61, 70-71, 73-75, Annual #4)
  • Black Rook (#61)
  • Destiny (Freedom Force; #65, 78)
  • Mystique (Freedom Force; #65, 78, 80, 82)
  • Blob (Freedom Force; #65, 78, 80, 82, 86)
  • Avalanche (Freedom Force; #65, 78, 80)
  • Pyro (Freedom Force; #65, 78, 80, 82, 86)
  • Stonewall (Freedom Force; #65)
  • Crimson Commando (Freedom Force; #65, 78, 80, 86)
  • Spiral (Freedom Force; #65)
  • Super Sabre (Freedom Force; #65, 78)
  • Spyder (#66-70)
  • Intergalactic Red-Tape Brigade (Spyder’s accountants; #67)
  • N’astirh (#71-73)
  • Sabretooth (#75)
  • Hela (#77-80, 82-85)
  • Dark Valkyries (#79-80, 82-85)
  • Garm (wolf of Hel; #82)
  • The Vulture (#83-86)
  • Tinkerer (#86)
  • Nitro (#86)
  • Mutant Liberation Front (mostly unnamed; #86)
  • Strobe (Mutant Liberation Front; #86)
  • Wildside (Mutant Liberation Front; #86)
  • Zero (Mutant Liberation Front; #86)
  • Stryfe (unnamed and seen in extreme closeup from behind; #86)
  • Purifiers (High Evolutionary’s crew, not the later religious zealots; Annual #4)
  • Stack (one of the Purifiers; Annual #4)
  • Purge (one of the Purifiers; Annual #4)
  • High Evolutionary (Annual #4)

Guest Stars

  • Catseye (Sharon, Hellion; #56, 62)
  • Jetstream (Haroum Al-Rahshid, Hellion; #56, 62)
  • Roulette (Jenny Stavros, Hellion; #56, 62)
  • Tarot (Marie-Ange Colbert, Hellion; #56, 62)
  • Thunderbird (James Proudstar, Hellion; #56, 62)
  • Kitty Pryde (#65)
  • Lockheed the dragon (#65)
  • Forge (#65-66)
  • Artie (#71-74)
  • Leech (#71-74)
  • Skids (X-Terminator; #72-74, 76; then joins the team)
  • Rusty Collins (X-Terminator; #72-74, 76; then joins the team)
  • Boom-Boom (X-Terminator; #72-74, 76; then joins the team)
  • Wiz Kid (X-Terminator; #72-74)
  • Rictor (X-Terminator; #72-74, 76; then joins the team)
  • Colossus (Peter Rasputin; #73)
  • Namor (#76)
  • Cyclops (#76)
  • Beast (#76)
  • Iceman (#76)
  • Jean Grey (#76)
  • Wong (Dr. Strange’s servant; #77)
  • Dr. Strange (#77-78)
  • Hercules (#81)
  • Zeus (#81)
  • Apollo (#81)
  • Skurge the Executioner (#83, 85)
  • Thor’s goats (#84-85)
  • Balder (#84-86)
  • Karnilla the Norn-Queen (#84-85)
  • Volstagg (Warriors Three; #84-86)
  • Fandrall (Warriors Three; #84-86)
  • Hogun the Grim (Warriors Three, #84-86)
  • Queen Ula (#84-85)
  • Bulk (Annual #4)
  • Glow Worm (Annual #4)

Supporting Characters

  • Magneto (headmaster at the Charles Xavier School; #55, 57, 59-61, 64-67, 69-71, 73-75, Annual #4)
  • Lila Cheney (#55, 67-70)
  • Brightwind (Dani’s winged horse; #56, 58-59, 61, 76-80, 83, 85, Annual #4)
  • Bird Brain (#56-61)
  • Lucius Aquilla (Amara’s father/Senator; #62, Annual #4)
  • Gosamyr (#66-74)
  • Illyana Rasputin (as young child; #73-77)
  • Ship (Apocalypse’s former ship, now X-Factor’s; #74, 76-78)
  • Eitri (leader of Dwarves; #79-80, 83-86)
  • Hrimhari (wolf prince; #80, 82-86)
  • Mist (Valkyrie; #82-83)
  • Volstagg’s children (#82-86)
  • Tiwaz (Asgardian sorceror/giant; #83-84)

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

  • Simonson and Blevins launch with a story that acknowledges that Roberto and Warlock are still off with the Fallen Angels, but which makes no mention of the fact that Amara is nowhere to be seen.  Sam is worried about what to wear to a party for Lila Cheney’s new album release, while Doug laughs at him.  Likewise, Dani and Illyana have a hard time figuring out what to wear, while Rahne reverts to her shy Scottish roots, although she does allow Illyana to give her a dress she retrieves from Limbo.  Magneto acts like a fuddy-duddy, and the kids get driven into Manhattan.  Twice, in the first seven pages, references are made to a “bird boy” who is in quarantine on Governor’s Island.  At the part, an alien named Raek tries to get Lila to help him with something, but she refuses and goes off to hang out with Sam when the team arrives.  Doug and Rahne hang out together and pick up the Raek and his alien friends are upset and want to take Sam out of the equation.  They trip him while he’s dancing and then convince him to take some barbiturates.  Sam gets woozy, and the aliens fly off with him.  He recovers and blasts away, but they pursue.  Rahne and Doug get the others, and they all end up fighting on a garbage scow in the river.  Dani tries to figure Raek’s motivation out, and Lila shows up to explain that she knew this group back when she was a thief, and that they wanted her to steal something.  Illyana teleports the aliens to Limbo, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense, and then the team goes home, after some more light flirting from Doug directed towards Rahne.
  • The kids are hanging out on a Saturday morning, catching Amara up on the events of the party she missed because she was sick, when Dani uses her powers to discover that Amara has feelings for Empath.  She storms off, and we learn that her father wants her to return to Nova Roma.  The Hellions are also eating breakfast when they learn that the Bird Boy has escaped, and that Sam’s crashing into the tower where he was being quarantined last issue is the reason.  They figure he might be a mutant, and decide to go looking for him.  The White Queen, who is not supposed to know of their plan, charges Empath with reeling the New Mutants into some sort of trap or plan she has for them.  The New Mutants also decide to go looking for the Bird Boy, and once again don their ‘graduation’ uniforms to do it.  The Hellions set out, and Tarot accuses Empath of having feelings for Amara.  The New Mutants fly around on Brightwind (four to a horse) while Sam carries Amara, and they soon find the odd-looking Bird Boy, who is diving for fish in the river.  The Hellions show up, and quickly grab the Bird Boy.  The New Mutants go after them, there is some of the usual trading of jabs, and soon an injured Dani and Amara are up against Thunderbird and Empath.  Empath tries to make Amara love him, and she resists because she thinks he’s evil, but then she changes her mind when she sees him free Dani from Thunderbird.  The rest of the team show up with a ton of dead fish, just as Cannonball catches the Bird Boy, and they all teleport to the Danger Room (without the Hellions), where they find a program that will keep Bird Boy happy.  When Dani apologizes to Amara for pulling up the image of Empath earlier, Amara announces that she is going to transfer to the Massachusetts Academy as a way of making sure that she doesn’t love him, which basically just feels like Simonson wanting to get rid of her.
  • Magneto discovers that the New Mutants have been hiding Bird Boy in the Danger Room, and using the recently rebuilt Cerebro, can’t quite figure out what the character is.  Rahne brings him to the students’ study session, and Doug refuses to try to learn his language or communicate with him, and gives him the name Bird Brain, which sticks so quickly that later, even Magneto uses it without ever being told about it.  Everyone says goodbye to Amara, who is leaving with the White Queen.  Magneto sends the kids to study for their midterms, but they decide instead to go get dinner and a movie.  Rhane convinces them to take Bird Brain with them, and they dress him up to hide his appearance.  He makes a mess in the malt shop (I don’t believe that any malt shops still existed in 1987 though), and creates a scene by flying around at the movie (Dani convinces everyone in the audience that it’s a 3D film).  Illyana teleports everyone back home, and Magneto already knows about the malt shop.  Doug finally tries to talk to Bird Brain, and learns that he was “made” by people, and that he’s been trained to respond positively to food.  This makes Rahne happy.
  • While most of the team studies for finals, Rahne and Doug try to teach Bird Brain how to speak some basic words.  He likes when Rahne is in her half-wolf form, and in his language, says something about the full moon bringing a testing time.  When he sees a McBurger on TV, he says that word, so Illyana teleports to get him one, even though the team has been grounded by Magneto.  The kids use old issues of National Geographic to determine that Bird Brain came from islands off Greenland.  They take him to a McBurgers, and later give him an old New Mutants uniform, making him part of the team.  At night, he flies through Doug’s window, robs a McBurgers, and heads towards the North Atlantic.  The team catches up, and decides to take him there, having figured out that he’s trying to save his friends, who are about to be tested and potentially killed.  They arrive at his island and are surrounded by odd creatures.
  • I remember being confused by the Fall of the Mutants event, as it wasn’t really a cross-over, except perhaps thematically, and even that was pretty weak, as the New Mutants stuff didn’t line up with either Uncanny X-Men or X-Factor (which made up the totality of the X-line in 1987).  This issue opens with the team finding a large number of Bird Brain’s “friends” on the island.  The Animator, the lion skin and skull-wearing scientist that created the Animen talks to himself, revealing some sort of connection to Cameron Hodge’s anti-mutant group The Right, and decides that he needs the “new blood” of the mutants to aid his experiments.  Bird Brain gives food to his friends, who then decide that he is an enemy.  Rahne leaps in to protect him, and the other Animen change their minds.  Sunspot and Warlock return to the Xavier School after their adventures with the Fallen Angels, and Magneto is happy to see them.  The Animen are summoned by a whistle to perform their testing, which involves them having to survive a labyrinth.  The New Mutants are dismissive of the whole thing, and decide to go through it too, so they can keep the Animator from killing some of the Animen.  The maze is tougher than they expected, and they end up captives of the Animator, who is upset about Bird Brain wearing clothes, and who spouts some Biblical nonsense that Rahne argues about.  The Animator orders all of the Animen killed (none of his motives make sense to me) and Dani decries her hubris.
  • The Ani-Mator (now with a hyphen in his name) continues to rant.  Dani conjures an image of Cameron Hodge, which sets him to grovelling, until one of the Ani-Men walks through it.  The Ani-Mator has the New Mutants put in tubes while he slaughters a different group of Ani-Men, and while Rahne feels bad about being part animal.  For some reason, Illyana doesn’t teleport away, even though everyone else can access their abilities.  Back at the Xavier School, Bobby and Warlock miss their friends.  Magneto heads to the Hellfire Club to see if he can find the missing teens, while Bobby figures out that the team has gone to the North Atlantic.  He and Warlock set off.  On the island, the real Hodge gets in touch with the Ani-Mator, and we learn that he’s been funding his experiments in the belief that the mad scientist is looking for ways to eradicate mutants.  We learn that Hodge is on his way to the island, as are Bobby and Warlock, only they’ve gotten lost.  The Ani-Mator explains that he’s trying to create a servant class to perform dangerous jobs and to fight wars, so people don’t have to.  The New Mutants escape, and fight the Ani-Men.  Illyana teleports home for help, but doesn’t find anyone.  Doug stops the island from self-destructing, and the team is about to use the elevators to go save Bird Brain from the maze when Hodge and some of his Right Smileyface dudes show up, capture everyone, and negate Sam and Illyana’s powers.  Bird Brain’s people attack and free the New Mutants, just as Sunspot and Warlock arrive to help out.  Doug feels useless having to hide, but when he sees that Ani-Mator is about to shoot Rahne, he jumps out to protect her, getting shot himself.  Hodge moves to escape, but a giant octopus Ani-Man drags his plane into the sea, where it explodes.  Bird Brain takes down the Ani-Mator, and while the kids are about to celebrate, they realize that Doug is dead.  Illyana almost kills the Ani-Mator, while Bird Brain teaches his friends to honour their dead.  Sam gives a speech on being human.
  • Rahne is inconsolable, and when a Right soldier starts shooting at her, Illyana takes him to Limbo, where S’ym and his demon horde have regained control.  She dumps the Right guy there, and returns to her friends a ball of rage, before collapsing in despair.  The team gather their fallen comrade and flying horse, and bid farewell to Bird Brain, teleporting back to the Xavier School.  They find that Magneto isn’t there.  We see him arrive at the Hellfire Club in Manhattan (which means he took longer to fly there from Salem Center than it took for Warlock to fly Bobby to the North Atlantic).  We see the destruction caused by Apocalypse in X-Factor.  The Inner Circle, including the rarely seen Black Rook, complain that Magneto didn’t help them defend the place from Apocalypse.  Magneto weirdly refers to himself as the White Bishop, even though he was the White King when he joined.  They show him footage of X-Factor, who he of course knew were the original X-Men, and show him part of a live broadcast of Colossus fighting a dinosaur in Dallas.  At the school, the kids look at photos and mourn their friend, but also get upset at Magneto for not being there.  Various teammates mourn individually or in small groups.  Sam promises to treat Rahne like she’s his little sister, while Dani and Bobby try to outdo each other in terms of their guilt and responsibility for Doug’s death.  The team gathers to watch the X-Men on TV (apparently between panels, Illyana took Colossus to Dallas to join them), and they see the building they ran into explode.  Just then, Magneto returns and, upon learning of Doug’s death, goes a little nuts, causing Illyana to take off.  The kids blame Magneto, he blames them, and when Illyana returns, she’s even more upset, since she wasn’t able to get to Dallas, and believes that all of the X-Men are dead (but we know they’re just headed to Australia).  As Magneto mourns alone, the team gathers in the attic, where they put together new outfits for themselves, and resolve to replace the X-Men as heroes, regardless of what Magneto says.
  • Issue 62 is a one-off Magma spotlight issue, featuring art by Jon J. Muth, which is not as exciting as it probably should be.  The kids get a scroll from Amara (how do you mail a scroll?) telling them that she’s gone back to Nova Roma with Empath, and is having fun.  The story then backs up to the Hellions trying to take her down in their training room, and Amara holding them off single-handedly.  When Empath is told to take control of her with his powers, he hesitates, and insteads starts messing with Tarot again.  The White Queen stops him, and tells Amara she’s to return home, because her father is summoning her.  Frost tells Empath he’s to go with her, to subtly influence the father to open up his territory to the Hellfire Club for its resources.  The two teens travel by small plane from Rio, and are hit by lightning and crash.  They spend most of the issue helping each other survive and getting closer to one another.  After they are attacked by a jaguar, Empath makes Amara use her powers to call up a volcano to summon help, and they kiss.  Later, they are found by Amara’s father, and Amara introduces Empath as a close friend.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1986 lists this book as having an average press run of 369 000, with returns averaging 148 000 copies.
  • Issue 63 is a pretty terrible inventory issue, plotted by Chris Claremont, scripted by Simonson, and drawn by the usually great Bo Hampton.  It’s a story about Illyana writing about a dream she had, wherein she tells Kitty Pryde about a dream she had, wherein she becomes infected with the transmode virus, and ends up on a massive spaceship populated by clones of the X-Men, serving the whims of a Brood.  In the end, it was all a dream.
  • Three issues after they decided to more or less go their own way, the team is still at the school, dealing with Doug’s and the X-Men’s deaths, as Brett Blevins returns to the art.  Rahne works out scenarios that could have saved Doug in the Danger Room, and Illyana watches tapes of her brother’s demise on repeat.  Dani tries to explain death to Warlock.  The next day, the team goes to Doug’s visitation with Magneto.  Rahne runs out crying, declaring her love for Doug, and Warlock kind of falls to pieces.  Later, Warlock returns to the funeral home and steals Doug’s body, flying it to his former home and scaring his mother, before taking it to visit Rahne, who freaks out.  Warlock was hoping to revive his selfsoulfriend, but is eventually convinced that Doug should be buried.  The kids get the body back to the funeral home without being detected, and the next day, attend his funeral.  Illyana shows her friends more video of the X-Men’s death, and it becomes clear that she blames Forge for what happened in Dallas.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1987 (I assume, since it’s lacking a filing date) lists this book as having an average press run of 348 000, with returns averaging 122 000 copies.  It’s weird that two of these would be published within three issues of each other, but there were many months without a letter column, so maybe they needed to play catchup.
  • Illyana demands that Magneto and the team help her kill Forge.  Magneto responds by reupping the kids’ grounding and issuing vague threats.  Illyana teleports to Scotland to see Kitty, but is disappointed when she won’t agree to go with her to kill Forge.  Bobby and Rahne suit up to help Illyana, who returns briefly to get her ‘special’ costume, and the whole team ends up in Limbo with her.  Sam and Dani are eventually convinced to go with their younger teammates, if for no other reason than to try to keep them safe.  As Illyana takes her soulsword with her, S’ym gains more power over Limbo.  The kids port to Dallas, where they find Forge with Freedom Force.  They immediately begin fighting the former Brotherhood, who mostly have the upper hand.  Illyana goes all Darkchilde and grabs Forge, who turns out to be Mystique, before being dropped by Super Sabre.  Spiral prepares to kill Illyana when Dani, tapping into Destiny’s fear, manifests a vision of transmode demons taking over the Earth (i.e., the upcoming Inferno event), and Destiny warns Illyana of what lies ahead.  Illyana sees the real Forge and goes to fight him, while Destiny makes more vague prognostications of what is to come.
  • Illyana starts trying to kill Forge, but the others hang back, trying to figure out what to do.  Warlock notices that her sword is cutting the ground, and turning it a little demonic, which they all recognize as having to do with Destiny’s prophecy.  Forge’s magic is stronger than Illyana’s, so he’s mostly able to hold her off.  The others try to separate them by distracting her so Sam can fly her away and calm her down, but she teleports everyone into Limbo.  She has vines hold her friends (a little too vigorously), while she hammers away a Forge with her sword.  He tries to explain what happened with the X-Men, and how they willingly sacrificed themselves, but she’s not prepared to hear it.  Eventually, Forge allows her to strike him, but she pauses before killing him.  Her demons urge her on, but when Dani projects an image of Illyana as the Darkchilde, fully consumed by evil, she stops.  She instead frees her friends and returns Forge to Dallas.  The team goes home, and convince Illyana to send her sword and armor back to Limbo.  They see that Magneto has taken to wearing his ‘villain’ costume again.  In space, Spyder talks to his slave, Gosamyr, about how he has purchased Lila Cheney as a new slave.  He tells Gosamyr that they are going to Earth to get her.
  • Annual #4 fits here.  I was going to skip it, like I did Annual #3, but I saw somewhere on-line that it affected the regular title.  1988 was the year of the Evolutionary War storyline cutting across four different annuals, but aside from the High Evolutionary’s origin being spread among them, there was no real cross-over situation.  This book opens with Bulk and Glow Worm (previously seen in X-Factor) being attacked by the High Evolutionary’s Purifiers, whose armor supposedly protects them from radiation, despite their having bare arms.  They capture these two mutants, and watching from space, the High Evolutionary explains that his plan is to remove any powers that endanger human lives.  The New Mutants are training and horsing around in the Danger Room, making Magneto reiterate that they are grounded.  He mentions that without Doug, Dani has the most useless power.  The kids get a letter from Amara and learn that she is engaged against her will.  Dr. Stack and Purge, the leaders of the Purifiers, remove Bulk and Glow Worm’s powers, including their ability to survive radiation.  They watch Magma through a scope, and decide that she is their next target.  She is spending time with Empath in Nova Roma when the Purifiers teleport in and capture her, leaving Empath behind.  He and Amara’s father call the White Queen, who wants the Hellfire Club to take care of this.  The New Mutants overhear Magneto talking to her on video phone, and decide to rescue their friend on their own (luckily one of the Purifiers told Empath where their base is).  The kids suit up and teleport there, where they fight the Purifiers.  Amara is freed before her powers are taken away, but Dani is thrown into the machine.  Bulk reverses the flow of power to it as his last act, and suddenly Dani’s spirit forms are made real.  She uses her power on Stack, and ends up creating a horde of demons.  She visualizes and creates a ‘spirit lance’, which makes the demons go away.  The Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club arrive, and not wanting to be seen, Illyana dumps the Purifiers they took out into Limbo, and teleports the team away.  They return to the school, and try to convince Amara to stay with them, but she instead chooses to return to Nova Roma.  Illyana delivers her there.
  • In the backup story in the Annual, Dani flies around with Brightwind and practices her new powers.  She conjures a female flying horse for Brightwind, and a Porsche for herself.  When she’s pulled over, she conjures a fake drivers license.  After some mischief, she returns to the school just as Magneto arrives, telling the kids that Amara is safe.  Dani wears her spirit lance as a necklace, since the only way she knows to make her conjurings disappear is to conjure something else.
  • Sam promises Magneto that if he is allowed to go to the Lila Cheney concert, he won’t use his powers, even if there is trouble.  Magneto allows him to go.  Spyder talks about contracts, and sends his accountants to retrieve Lila from the Earth.  Sam feels inadequate in front of Lila again (really, their relationship makes no sense at all).  The rest of the team listens to the concert on the radio and chat.  Gosamyr escapes from Spyder, although he knows it and watches her sneak onto the Earth-bound ship, thinking he can get some enjoyment from it all.  The accountants, in the form of more than a dozen flying aliens, attack the concert, and the band fights them while still playing.  Sam is determined to keep his word to Magneto, which is weird because of the number of times they’ve snuck off on him lately.  The rest of the New Mutants, hearing the attack on the radio, teleport into Limbo to change into their uniforms, and so Illyana can trade quips with S’ym some more.  Lila’s powers are neutralized and she is flown away.  Bobby points out that this means Sam can use his powers now, and they fight the rest of the aliens.  Dani conjures a monster that then attacks them, and the team realizes they are too late to save Lila (Illyana can’t teleport them to their escape ship because her scrying glass is broken).  Gosamyr goes to the team for help, and explains what’s going on.  Bobby, who appears smitten, agrees to help her, and they learn she has a small ship they can use to pursue.  They even mention that getting Illyana off-planet keeps the world safe from Destiny’s prophecy.
  • In Limbo, Illyana tries to recreate her scrying glass so she can locate Spyder’s vessel, but after catching a glimpse of it, she is attacked by a vision of her adult Darkchilde self, which shatters the glass.  The team teleports to Gosamyr’s ship, and Illyana then teleports it to the place where they last saw Spyder (because apparently she no longer also jumps through time, and has much better control of her teleporting, just as she is losing control of Limbo).  Gosamyr uses the shy to make some new outfits for some of the kids, dressing Rahne up as a cross between Lila Cheney and a fairy princess, and pissing off Dani in the process.  Spyder provides some exposition to Lila, telling her how Gosamyr and her people are very destructive, and that he is using her as a trap for the New Mutants (for reasons I don’t understand, since he didn’t even know they existed before).  Sam and Bobby vie for Gosamyr’s attention, and Warlock notices that everyone acts weird around her.  Later, she and Bobby make out, which bothers Rahne, although she is even more bothered to see Sam pay attention to her.  She storms off, and Dani follows.  They find Spyder’s ship, starting to orbit a planet, and Gosamyr goes to find the others, using the opportunity to borrow Dani’s new powers, without her knowledge.  A spirit form of Sam comes to apologize to Rahne, and profess his love, which freaks her out a bit.  Dani wishes to use her powers to send authorization papers to the planetary authority so their ship can pass, just as Rahne and the fake Sam come to the bridge.  When Fake Sam disappears, Rahne thinks that Dani was playing a joke on her, and attacks her.  Dani figures out that Gosamyr is behind this, and storms off.  The fake papers don’t work, as what Dani really manifested was a bribe for the official she was talking to, and the local admiral orders his craft to destroy their spaceship.
  • The kids are saved from being blown away by Spyder, who wants the yacht to land on his planet.  Spyder brags about the profits Lila will bring him, and his employees are mean to her.  Dani leaves the yacht, suffering from a headache, and is surrounded by aliens who want her for her profitability.  The other New Mutants bicker, which concerns Warlock.  Dani fights off her first three attackers, but is then surrounded by more.  Rahne realizes Dani’s in trouble, and the kids teleport to Limbo in advance of helping her.  Illyana is upset to see that things have gotten even worse there.  Magneto gets a call from Emma Frost, informing him that the Hellions believe the Mutants were involved in the fight at Lila’s concert.  She pushes Magneto to be tougher on his charges, and he dons his villain outfit.  The New Mutants come to Dani’s rescue, but more violently than normal.  Illyana summons her sword, and it turns a robot into a demon (or something like that – this is the lead-up to Inferno).  One of the aliens tries to take Gossamyr, but Bobby and Sam save her, and immediately start fighting over her.  Warlock finally figures out that she’s from a race known for creating problems like this.  When Illyana cuts her with the soulsword, a giant monster is revealed.  Bobby still takes her side, but the others start to wonder about her.  Illyana can’t turn back from being the Darkchylde, and the others discuss leaving Gossamyr behind.  They still need to rescue Lila though, so they decide they need her help.  Illyana refuses to return to Limbo, so Warlock flies them to Spyder’s palace, which they infiltrate.  As they get close to Lila, a cage traps them, and Spyder puts a leash around Gossamyr and thanks her for bringing him the Mutants.
  • The team learns that Spyder’s cage is unbreakable, as we learn that Spyder likes to distill emotions out of his slaves, turning them into odors he keeps to sniff at a later date.  He makes Gosamyr feel bad about her role in their capture.  Magneto arrives in Manhattan to meet with the Hellfire Club, is attacked by an animated fire escape, and then deals with Shaw’s attempt to belittle him over the fact that he can’t keep track of his students.  Gosamyr undergoes something called the minor death, which makes her invisible or something, so she can free the New Mutants, after they promise to help her family, which is held captive by Spyder.  Free, the kids stop Spyder’s guards and go looking for Spyder, Lila, and Gosamyr’s family.  We see that her family members are in gigantic cocoons, and learn that Spyder is amassing silken strands that they weave, which are very valuable.  He intends to awaken the creatures, which is likely going to destroy the planet, but he has an escape planned out.  The New Mutants arrive in this chamber, and everyone starts to fight.  Gosamyr is now concerned that her family will emerge as monsters, which is exactly what happens.  Things get chaotic, but Illyana is still unwilling to use her teleportation powers to help her friends escape.  Sam and Rahne free Lila and remove the power dampeners keeping her from teleporting away.  Gosamyr now claims that her race, which Warlock has established is known for its destructiveness, usually emerge from their cocoons as peaceful wise creatures, but because of Spyder’s manipulations, her relatives are insane and dangerous.  They talk about teleporting them into the sun, but apparently Lila would need to accompany them, so that plan is abandoned.  Then Lila teleports them into the sun, apparently sacrificing herself.  Sam is upset, but Bobby consoles Gosamyr instead, and when Spyder’s forces surround them, Illyana teleports everyone to Limbo, claiming she is losing control of her powers.  When they get there, S’ym is waiting, and commands his demons to get them.
  • Issue seventy-one launches the New Mutants part of the Inferno event.  The team and Gosamyr are stuck in Limbo (Illyana can no longer use her teleportation powers, which we learn are not really hers, but belong to Limbo somehow, to get to Earth.  They are attacked by S’ym and his transmode virus infected demons.  He manages to get ahold of Illyana’s soulsword, but she is able to teleport herself and her friends away.  N’astirh, a different demon, berates S’ym for almost hurting Illyana.  The team has teleported to Belasco’s old throneroom, where Illyana tells everyone what happened back in the Magick miniseries, when she was a young child.  Rahne doesn’t take it well.  When S’ym’s demons find them, they teleport back in time, and watch S’ym beat on the six year-old Illyana, only to be saved by N’astirh.  They are found again, and teleport away again.  In New York, the inner circle of the Hellfire Club watch the Empire State Building grow, and start to kill the tourists on the observation deck.  The Hellfire Club tries to save them, but fail.  The New Mutants teleport to N’astirh’s part of Limbo, where he makes a deal with Illyana.  He wants her to get her sword back from S’ym, and to stop him from invading the Earth.  She is suspicious, but agrees.  She teleports again, attacks, and defeats S’ym, recovering her sword, and turning full Darkchilde, in all her red, scabby glory.  When she opens a portal to get her friends home, they turn up in Times Square, and the giant stepping disk remains open as dozens of demons stream in.  She realizes she has been tricked by N’astirh, who wants to take over the Earth himself.
  • While the Darkchilde argues with N’astirh in Times Square, surrounded by demons, S’ym shows up and they all start to fight one another.  N’astirh takes off, and the team realizes that there is a pentagram in the sky keeping the portal to Limbo open.  Warlock and Sam fly the kids up to stop it, while Illyana teleports away to a weird demon-ified diner.  The Mutants are joined in the sky by the X-Terminators, the kids that have been living with X-Factor (not that this issue tells us that) – Rusty, Skids, Boom-Boom, and later, Artie, Leech, and Rictor.  We learn that one of their teammates, Wiz Kid, was tricked by N’astirh into writing a magical computer code.  They realize that the pentagram is anchored by babies.  The Mutants decide to free the babies while the X-Terminators go to free Wiz Kid.  Illyana ends up in a demonic pet store, where all the demonic animals want her to use her soulsword on them.  The Mutants (and Gosamyr) start rescuing babies, which starts the pentagram to disappearing.  Illyana ends up in a beauty shop, where the tools go to work on her.  The Mutants are very close to making the pentagram vanish, and N’astirh worries that S’ym will defeat him, so he allows himself to be infected with the transmode virus.  Later, the team joins up with the X-Terminators, who have freed Wiz Kid.  Dani is injured, so she is left with Rusty, Skid, the younger kids, and all the babies, while Rictor and Boom-Boom join the Mutants.  They thought that the threat was gone with the pentagram disappearing, but then they find that buildings are still being transformed into demons.  Transmode N’astirh confronts Illyana, who is upset to see how completely she is becoming the Darkchilde, and they fight.  She summons her soulsword and armor, which covers her completely, and she cuts him.  Happy to have caused her to fall, he teleports away, and Illyana collapses in despair at how much of a monster she has become, not knowing that S’ym is standing over her.
  • Issue seventy-three is double-sized, and finally brings us to the end of the seemingly endless Illyana stuff.  She fights S’ym, and is tempted to use her full power to destroy him.  The combined uninjured New Mutants and X-Terminators go looking for Illyana, but are attacked by a demonic street.  Colossus comes striding through mid-town, looking for his sister.  He recognizes the demons as being from Limbo, but is surprised to learn that S’ym is in charge.  The demons decided to overpower him and take him to S’ym.  While the Hellfire Club fights demons, N’astirh offers to make peace with them, so long as they leave him Manhattan to rule.  The New Mutants fly by and hear this conversation, which helps cement their distrust of Magneto.  The unconscious Colossus is brought to S’ym, and Illyana fights to protect him.  The other kids make their way to Illyana, and fly her into a demonic pawn shop.  Colossus (who is now conscious again) knocks S’ym into the same shop, and is surprised to learn that the horned and hooved figure in shiny armor is his sister.  Illyana teleports to Limbo, taking the other kids with her.  Colossus continues to fight S’ym, while the Limbo demons in New York go after the babies again.  Rahne keeps appealing to Illyana’s better nature, while she continues to be tempted to go fully Darkchilde in spirit as well as form.  Skids, Rusty, and Dani fight the demons, but Dani is overcome by her Valkyrie death-sight.  When Illyana decides to embrace the darkness, Rahne goes running towards some naturally occurring stepping discs, with the intent of finding the child Illyana we saw last issue, and saving her from her years of demonic torture.  The other kids go after her.  When they find child Illyana, Darkchilde Illyana finds them, and turns into a being of pure life.  They all return to New York, where Darkchilde Illyana unleashes her full power, which is blindingly bright, and which drags all the demons away, including S’ym.  Gosamyr promises to protect the babies so Dani, Rusty, and Skids can go to the others.  They, and Colossus, arrive just as Rahne cradles the blackened suit of armor.  They believe Illyana dead until Colossus discovers the child Illyana inside of it.  They hug, then she hugs Rahne.  N’astirh, watching all of this, reminds the reader that he’s not done yet, as he conjures images of the infant Nathan Summers and the Goblin Queen.  No one asks Colossus if the other X-Men are alive too.  I remember being so thankful that the Illyana stuff was going to be finished when this first came out, and feel the same way today.
  • Now that Inferno has wound down, the kids are going around tidying up the city and dealing with any left-over demonic garbage cans or boomboxes.  The now-child Illyana, who doesn’t speak any English, is reluctant to let go of Rahne.  Dani still suffers terrible headaches and lingering Valkyrie-induced visions of death, and Sam finally begins to mourn for Lila Cheney’s death, although Rahne believes that Lila is still alive, since she’d never been to the sun she allegedly died in, and Lila needs to have been in a place before she can teleport there.  Gosamyr feels guilt about her part in Lila’s death.  Magneto and Sebastian Shaw argue over Magneto’s responsibility for the Inferno, since he was supposed to have better control over Illyana, and they come to blows.  Rusty calls X-Factor’s Ship, and arranges transportation home, along with the New Mutants and the various Inferno babies.  Upon arriving, Ship attempts to screen out any mutants, as per his programming, but allows Warlock through for semantic reasons.  Ship does not, however, accept Gosamyr, being aware of how deadly her species is.  Dani’s death visions get worse, and Gosamyr volunteers to leave.  Ship provides her with information about a race that can help her overcome her race’s violent tendencies, and provides her with a vessel.  The male New Mutants and X-Terminators want to go with her, but recognize that they can’t.  Emma Frost talks to Magneto about his fight with Shaw, but they are interrupted by Selene, who says something has happened at the Xavier School.  The New Mutants, having left Ship, also head back towards their school, talking about how much happier the X-Terminators are than them.  When they get there, we see them react to something that has happened (in issues of X-Factor, X-Men, and Excalibur, the first two of which contain the last chapters of Inferno; I don’t know how Excalibur is connected to this).
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1988 lists an average press run of 352 000 with newsstand returns averaging 116 000 copies.
  • When the kids arrive at the school, they find it utterly destroyed.  They discover an injured Sabretooth (likely one of Mr. Sinister’s clones) in the wreckage, and when they dig him out, he attacks before dying, which Dani did not predict.  Magneto and the rest of the Hellfire Club inner circle arrive, and Bobby tosses some wreckage at them.  Shaw takes out Bobby and Selene stops Sam while Emma Frost disables Dani’s powers.  Magneto wraps all the kids in a tight ball of wreckage to calm them down.  They explain what happened with Illyana, and the kids say they reject his leadership after seeing him bargain with N’astirh.  Shaw calls out Magneto’s weaknesses, and the two begin to fight.  As they fight, they argue, and we are given a vision of Magneto as having worked to turn the New Mutants into unquestioning soldiers.  He also claims to have purposely let the X-Men go off and die in Dallas, since they weren’t obedient enough to him.  Shaw argues that Magneto’s anti-human racism leaves a lot of money on the table.  The fight gets serious, until Magneto gets the upper hand, overloading Shaw’s powers.  Magneto reveals to Frost and Selene that Shaw funded the Sentinels program, which Frost holds responsible for the attack they suffered from Nimrod, which killed two of their members.  Magneto and Frost vote to remove Shaw from the inner circle, and Selene supports them after they promise her free run of the Amazon.  Shaw storms off, and the Mutants tell Magneto that they won’t follow him.  He allows them to go, stating that they will return and join him eventually.  Bobby is upset by this, especially when Magneto predicts he will be the first to switch sides.  Frost lets Magneto know that the departing kids are worried about Amara and her father’s connection to the Hellfire Club, which Magneto suggests will make it easier for them to betray Selene later on (this is being done telepathically).  I’m not sure how I feel about this villainous turn for Magneto.  I’d like to think that he’s letting the kids go as a way of saving them, but this issue can be read two different ways.  I suspect that Marvel wanted Magneto to be a bad guy again in time for Acts of Vengeance, but I think this decision set the character back for a couple of decades, and definitely flies in the face of what Chris Claremont was doing with him.
  • Now that they’ve severed ties with Magneto, the kids try to figure out what they should do next. They stop in a town to call their parents, but seeing as they are a shape-changing alien, a wolf-girl, a flying dude, and a girl on a flying horse (Brightwind found them off-panel) they gather a crowd, and have to leave.  They decide to head to X-Factor’s ship to get some rest.  The X-Terminators (at least Rusty, Skids, Boom-Boom, and Rictor – Artie, Leech, and Taki are nowhere to be seen) are exploring the ocean floor, having convinced Ship that it would be educational.  They scare off some sharks and discover a strange shell that they take back to Ship, where they learn that it’s actually a horn.  When Boom-Boom blows the horn, a massive monstrous squid attacks Ship.  They fight to defend their home as the New Mutants arrive, followed by Namor, who is angry that they’ve stolen an artifact he lost back in Fantastic Four #4.  Everyone decides to work together in an elaborate set of events that end up requiring some of the kids planting dynamite conjured by Dani into the squid’s mouth while everyone else hangs out in Warlock, who has made himself into a submarine.  As everyone returns safely to Ship, X-Factor arrive home, make peace with Namor, and offer the New Mutants a place to stay.  Rahne worries about Illyana, who has somehow slept through most of the issue in Rahne’s arms.
  • Issue seventy-seven starts with a recap of how Hel and Asgard are at war in Thor’s comic.  Somewhere between issue 76 and 77 the older X-Terminators, Rusty, Skids, Boom-Boom, and Rictor join the New Mutants (which is interesting when you consider that they moved into the X-Terminator’s home and started working with their teachers).  The larger team flies (either under their own power or in Warlock) to Siberia to return the young Illyana to her parents.  While there, Dani, who has been feeling sick, collapses, as does her horse.  They fly back to New York to go to Ship (who could have given them a presumably faster vehicle than Warlock), who suggests the problem is mystical.  They take Dani and her horse to see Dr. Strange, who is apparently wanting the world to believe he’s dead, so not willing to help.  Dani and Brightwind go nuts, and start setting everything around them on fire.  Strange comes out in his astral form to try to help, and takes Dani’s spirit to the astral plane while her teammates try to stop her from ruining the city and to rope the horse using a fence that Rusty melts.  On the astral plane, Strange figures out that some Norse demon is using Dani’s body, and she refuses to return to her body while it causes her so much pain.  When Rahne stops a child from being trampled by Brightwind, Dani realizes she has to act, and uses her powers to create a device to freeze her and Brightwind’s bodies.  Strange uses his powers to cure everyone of their injuries and to make the locals forget what happened.  The kids refuse any help by Stephen Sanders (Strange’s new identity) and decide to take their friend back to Ship, while Hela watches on, plotting revenge on her (although it’s not clear for what).
  • It takes the team a little while to figure out how to get Dani back to Ship, seeing as her ice machine is very heavy.  Warlock, with help from Skids, manages to lift Dani and Brightwind and the ice machine, while Sam provides force, and they begin to fly, watched over by Dr. Strange.  In Hel, Hela narrates her plan, which involves using the Valkyries to swell the ranks of her army.  Freedom Force has been called to New York, believing that the fires caused by Dani (which we thought Dr. Strange made everyone forget) were really caused by Rusty, who is wanted for being AWOL from the military.  They catch up to the New Mutants and tell Rusty that they are going to arrest him.  He asks that he be given time to help Dani, but things escalate.  They all land on Liberty Island, where Sam and the others hope to still appeal to Freedom Force, but things come to blows pretty quickly.  Dani’s ice starts to melt, and Skids protects Rusty from Freedom Force inside her force bubble.  Blob ends up blabbing about how Rusty will probably be used by the government to help train a large number of mutant children and babies.  Presumably these are the Inferno babies, who were given to Freedom Force by X-Factor in their title.  The kids are upset to learn this, so they decide that Skids is going to stay with Rusty to protect him, while the rest of the team will carry on to return Dani to Ship, and to tell X-Factor that Freedom Force broke their word.  Half of Freedom Force pursue the team to stop them from sharing this new information, and while they end up in the water, Avalanche sends a tsunami after Ship just as Dani breaks out of containment, and goes wild again.  Ship abruptly takes off, having ignored the melee taking place around him (this coincides with the interstellar arc in X-Factor, that has that team going off to space).  Dr. Strange, seeing how dangerous Dani is, sends her and the New Mutants to Asgard, which is weirdly hanging around in the Negative Zone at this juncture.  The kids figure out where they are, but not how they got there.  At this point, reading this title without also reading X-Factor (which I already did not that long ago) and Thor is a little confusing.  
  • Everyone’s a little confused to be in Asgard, as Dani becomes more demonic in appearance (because that’s a storyline that hasn’t been used in a while).  Hela is annoyed to learn that Dani is in Asgard, as that limits the number of new souls she can gather.  She’s okay with adding the New Mutants to her collection though.  The team doesn’t really know what they should do, but when Bobby, testing his Asgardian-enhanced strength, tosses a boulder, he reveals a tunnel full of dwarves.  They attack the kids, who fight back (poorly) until Sam realizes that they work for his old friend Eitri (from their first adventure in Asgard) and orders the team to surrender.  Sam questions his choices when the team is locked in a cell, while Rahne consoles Warlock, and Rictor and Boom-Boom squabble.  Bobby decides to cheer everyone up by juggling, which Warlock also does, although the fun is ruined when Boom-Boom tosses one of her time bombs into the mix.  Eitri arrives, happy to see Sam, and explains that the Valkyries had been attacking his people, so they began to dig towards Valhalla with the intent of fighting back.  They have a big feast and decide to work together, when three Valkyries and some assorted monsters arrive.
  • The New Mutants, and eventually the Dwarves, begin to fight the Valkyries to little avail.  Hela sends the possessed Dani to use a magic powder to freeze them all, since Dani’s spirit fights any attempt to cause her friends harm.  On Liberty Island, Freedom Force are still in a standoff against Rusty and Skids, who are safe behind her forcefield.  Freedom Force blast away the ground around them, and manage to lift the slab of concrete they are standing on into a helicopter (although I always thought that Skids’s force fields were slippery, hence her name).  Possessed Dani shows up at the underground fight, and at first her friends think she’s there to help them, but then her dust immobilizes them, and they, and Eitri, are taken prisoner.  They are thrown into a cell in Valhalla where they are unable to move.  Boom-Boom complains endlessly, raising the ire of her new teammates, until she forms a time bomb that blows out the floor below her, dumping her into a storage room.  Since she’s able to move again, she frees her friends, who take out some guards.  They disguise themselves and discover that Hrimhari, Rahne’s wolf-prince friend, is also a captive.  They rescue him too.  Hela, aware of the escape, decides to move all of Valhalla into Hel.  The kids argue over the best course of action – to attack Hela directly (although Sam worries they are not strong enough as a team without Dani, Illyana, Amara, and especially Doug), or to go to Asgard to let Odin know what’s happening.  They realize that the entire castle is being transported, so make a quick effort to get out of the closing teleportation sphere.  Warlock manages to get through with Boom-Boom and Hrimhari, while the rest are stuck in Hel.  Bobby prepares to attack when they are discovered by a Valkyrie.
  • Issue 81 is a fill-in by Chris Claremont and Louis Williams (who I’ve never heard of, but who the internet tells me also drew a creepy Daredevil voodoo story that I remember being disturbed by as a kid). The story opens in Brazil, where Amara and Empath argue about whether or not Christianity is the true faith.  She tells him that she has met her gods, or at least Hercules, and the rest of the book is a flashback telling that story, set before Karma left the team, and when Doug was still alive (which would put it around the same time that the New Mutants fought the Avengers, but whatever).  The kids all go to see Hercules star in a movie about himself, which is really bad, and then afterwards, this shakes Amara’s faith a little, and so she prays to Jove.  Hercules appears to her, but she thinks he is there as a practical joke, and the team challenges him to prove he is who he says he is.  Since various members of the team can match his abilities, he tries to take them to Olympus to prove himself, but Zeus blocks him, trying to teach him a lesson, since even Zeus hates the movie he was in.  Zeus and Amara end up going to Manhattan together on the train in the middle of the night, where he foils a robbery, and together they rescue some people from a fire, although one of them, a teenage boy who ends up helping Amara, suffers injuries he won’t survive.  Hercules and Amara sit up all night at the hospital with him, while Herc tells him stories, before he finally succumbs.  Amara recognizes the divinity in him, and apologizes for not believing him earlier and they go for breakfast.  In the present, Amara feels good about her faith, while Empath feels very assured of his own.
  • Returning to Asgard, we learn that Warlock is actually stuck in the warp bubble Hela has put up around Valhalla.  Boom-Boom, outside the warp with Hrimhari and most of Warlock, tries to free him with one of her time bombs.  That distracts the Valkyrie that has attacked the rest of the team, and they try to gain an advantage on her.  She tells Sam to lay off and pretend to be taken prisoner so she can help them.  Hela appears and sends dragons after Warlock’s group, just as they get free.  The others are sent to Hel, where they have to walk past Garm.  Rictor talks about his feelings for Boom-Boom, and how she is putting on a brave act.  Hrimhari guides Warlock and Boom-Boom to Asgard, but they find that Odin is sleeping the Odinsleep, and are taken prisoner by a guard until Balder, who is in charge, returns.  Mist, the still-good Valkyrie, on account of her half-faerie parentage, finally talks to the New Mutants, and they plot to stop Hela.  Volstagg’s children come to free the group in Asgard, and send them to find a giant who can help them (this feels very contrived, and serves to drag out this story which is already feeling way too long).  Back on Earth, Skids finally drops her force shield, and she and Rusty are formally taken into custody by Freedom Force.  The New Mutants see that Hela is trying to force Eitri into forging her an uru sword, and she threatens his daughter.  Boom-Boom and Hrimhari finally get rid of the dragons that have been chasing them by burying them in a time bomb enhanced avalanche, but then Warlock is caught in a net.  Hela cuts Eitri’s daughter, causing Sam to lead the team into battle, where they are easily captured again.  Eitri concedes to the goddess’s demands, and she in turn threatens to have Dani use the finished sword to kill the New Mutants.
  • A frost giant has caught Boom-Boom, Warlock, and Hrimhari, but he is stopped by a larger giant, whose appearance upsets Hela, who is watching on a scrying glass.  Eitri works on her sword while the captive New Mutants and Mist continue to plot.  The giant that rescued the others is Tiwaz, the sorcerer they were sent to find.  Rictor manages to use his powers to free everyone, and while Hela and her folk are focused on ensorcelling the finished sword, Mist leads Rahne and Bobby to rescue the Einherjar, a group of captured dead Asgardians, more or less led by the Executioner.  They create a stir, and Sam and Rictor are able to grab the sword.  Mist tries to lead them out of Hel, but she is losing control of herself, and as they reach a cliff, she turns evil.  In a maximum security prison, Rusty reads the newspaper, and watches as the Vulture is brought into custody and teased by younger villains.  He insists that Nitro, who is on trial at the moment, is going to come free him or something.  The New Mutants are trapped at the edge of  ledge, and Mist tosses Hela’s sword away and knocks the Mutants over the edge, although Hela appears and catches the sword, before giving it to Dani.  Dani believes her former teammates dead.  In Asgard, the Grand Vizier interrogates Volstagg’s kids, who decide that they themselves will have to go get Balder, who is hanging out with Karnilla.  Hela finishes enchanting her sword, and all of Asgard shakes, which worries Tiwaz, Boom-Boom, and the others.  The letters page for this issue (#83) teases an upcoming “new teacher” for the team, and talks about the popularity of Rob Liefeld’s work on the recent Annual #5, which I’m waiting to read in sequence.  There is also a small picture by Liefeld of Rictor.  Changes are coming, but first this endless Asgard story needs to actually end.
  • Issue 84 has the Acts of Vengeance tie-in trade dress, although it’s a pretty tenuous link to that event.  As Hela gloats, Sam and his group are still alive, hiding in the clouds of smoke above the lava flow Hela believes they fell into.  They get past her, and decide they have to stop her army from attacking Asgard.  Boom-Boom’s group hangs out with Tiwaz, who can’t really help them, but he gives them directions to find the Warriors Three, who are captives of Queen Ula of the Troll Swarm.  Volstagg’s kids talk to Thor’s goats, looking for transport to Balder.  They fly there, to find Balder and Karnilla hanging out under a tree, where Karnilla is upset about the fact that all of her subjects have been turned to stone.  On Earth, the Vulture finds that the Tinkerer has rebuilt his flying rig, and smuggled it into his cell.  In typical Vulture fashion, this is something that requires vengeance, and when Rusty tries to stop him from escaping, he is instead taken with him.  Boom-Boom’s group arrives in Ula’s hive, and rescue the Warriors Three.  During the battle, they learn that the Hive is upset with Asgard because the Valkyrie have been stealing living warriors.  Boom-Boom and Hrimhari explain things to them, and everyone joins up to go save Asgard.  Sam’s group disguise themselves as part of Hela’s army.  Karnilla tries to restore one of her subjects, and gets some help from Tiwaz, so that her people are still stone, but can now move and talk.  They decide to go help Asgard together.  Eitri figures out that Sam and his group are hidden in Hela’s army.  All the forces of good converge in Asgard and chat for a bit, until Hela’s army arrives, not knowing that Sam and his group are there and planning on stopping Dani from killing Odin.  This storyline is endless, and dull.
  • Continuing with a very tiny link to Acts of Vengeance, we get our first Rob Liefeld cover in the regular title, but in the interior, we get guest artist Geoff Isherwood, who opens with a few pages that show us just how big the fight between Hela’s forces and Asgard’s defenders really is.  The New Mutants are briefly reunited, before Warlock, Boom-Boom, and Hrimhari fly after Dani, who is on her way to murder Odin in his sleep.  They fight Dani a bit and are brought down out of the sky.  The others chase her.  In Hel, Eitri frees the Executioner and the other Einherjar, who rush to the portal to Asgard.  Eitri and his daughter follow, and the guilty-feeling dwarf has plans to stop Hela, even if it costs his life.  As the Asgardians falter, the Executioner and his crew arrive to support them.  Eitri comes through the portal, and rides a horse to Odin’s domain, which is not something dwarves do.  Sam, Rahne, Bobby, and Rictor stand between Dani and Odin, but there is nothing left of Dani in the Dark Valkyrie she has become, and she hurts them.  Eitri arrives, and attacks her with a hammer.  On Earth, Rusty continues to try to stop the Vulture from escaping, and frees Skids to help him.  The Vulture gets away, but they give chase, as Rusty is concerned that the Vulture is looking to free Nitro, who is really dangerous.  We see that Eitri was only able to put a chip in Dani’s sword, but he explains to Sam that in that spot, the sword is vulnerable, but that breaking the sword will likely kill the person who does it.  Sam flies at Dani as she is about to strike at Odin, and we see a magical explosion outside his chambers.  This frees the various beings Hela had ensorcelled, including the Valkyrie, and Hela has no choice but to retreat.  Dani is restored, although she and most of her friends, and Odin, are all just lying on the ground, knocked out, exhausted, or already sleeping.
  • Issue eighty-six is the first where Rob Liefeld handles interior art, but as it is used to wrap up the Acts of Vengeance tie-in, I figured it was best to make it the last issue of this column, instead of the first issue of the next one.  The Vulture tracks down the Tinkerer, determined to get revenge for his having stolen the Vulture’s costume design.  The Tinkerer has been expecting him, and was instructed to give him his Acts of Vengeance target, Speedball.  The Vulture refuses, instead insisting that the Tinkerer help him free Nitro.  At the prison, Rusty (who has somehow found the time to change into his costume) and Skids steal a truck so they can pursue the Vulture.  Rusty talks about burning down the prison’s metal gate, but the next panel shows them driving the truck through a decidedly unburned wall (this is not the first time the script and art don’t match – welcome to the Liefeld era!).  Vulture and Tinkerer fly towards a courthouse that is supposedly surrounded by picketers, but when they approach from the rear, it looks like a typical rowhouse with a skylight, and has normal windows.  The next panel shows the two looking through the skylight into a vast courtroom with cathedral windows.  The Vulture flies down and grabs the canister that is holding Nitro, and which keeps him from using his exploding powers.  He takes him to a rooftop for the Tinkerer to free him, as Rusty and Skids arrive on the scene.  The text talks about them almost hitting picketers with their truck, but the art shows no one other than a pair of cops who are shooting at them.  Rusty and Skids climb to the roof and while Rusty begins to fight the Vulture, Nitro is freed.  Rusty burns off the Vulture’s wings, and they collapse to the roof; Rusty is injured.  Skids, who has been talking a lot about not wanting to help humans anymore this issue, jumps on Nitro as he is about to explode, using her deflection field to smother his explosion.  This drains her, and causes Nitro to more or less collapse into a pile of dust.  In Asgard, the team is all reunited, Dani feels bad for what she did, and Sam suffers from injuries, until Hogun gives him “a restorative potion of immense power” that makes him, and all the New Mutants, recover from their injuries.  Balder informs them that, since the Rainbow Bridge is broken, there is no way they can get home.  Freedom Force, or at least Pyro, Blob, and Crimson Commando, show up to take Rusty and Skids into custody.  Rusty, and some paramedics, are worried that Skids is badly injured, but Freedom Force take them anyway, and tell the press that they are evil.  Later, members of the Mutant Liberation Force (the text says six of them, but there are clearly seven shown) enter a Wyoming federal energy research facility and blow it up after teleporting away.  Later, the guy in charge gets a phonecall from a Colossus-armed figure (in later issues we learn this is Stryfe) taking responsibility, and claiming this will keep happening so long as Rusty and Skids are in custody.  The Next Issue box gives us our first look at Cable.

I can definitely understand why Marvel was so willing, at this point, to give the relatively untested Rob Liefeld so much influence and control over this title starting with the final issue I discuss here.  Under Louise Simonson, this book really stagnated.  

There is very little focus on characterization during her run, and next to no development or change for the characters (aside from both Illyana and Dani becoming evil for a stretch).  Amara is shifted off-stage.  Doug is killed.  Illyana de-aged.  Sam’s girlfriend dies, and we never hear about her again.  Bobby has almost nothing to do aside from fall under the influence of an annoying alien girl.  Warlock becomes a cartoon figure who basically serves as the team’s transportation for months (and never, apparently, needs to eat again).  Rahne feels bad about Doug for a while, and then spends whole issues worrying about her ‘wolf-prince’, who when they are finally together, don’t even talk.  

New characters, who I remember having been relatively well-developed in X-Factor, join the team in the forms of Rusty, Skids, Rictor, and Boom-Boom.  Of these four, it’s really only Boom-Boom who gets any sort of personality, and that consists of endless complaining about how much she hates being in Asgard.  The others are basically cardboard characters in this book.  Sure, we learn that Rictor cares for Boom-Boom, but that’s about it.  It’s not until the last issue in this stack that Skids starts sounding like a junior Magneto.

Speaking of Magneto, the supporting cast of this title is gutted under Simonson after the Fall of the Mutants issues.  Magneto apparently turns evil again, and is never seen in this book again, and that’s fine, but what about some of the other supporting cast members?  The kids are basically homeless, and only once do we see them even talking about their parents or families.  Why is nobody calling Moira MacTaggert?  Or Stevie Hunter?  This book lurches from one overly long plot to another, with barely any time to rest.  The kids never take the mid-terms they spent so much time talking about around the time Bird Brain was in the book.  They also stop feeling as real as they did under Claremont’s guidance.

It really feels like no one, especially Simonson, knew what to do with this book leading into and after Inferno, so we get the long space-voyage with Gosamyr, followed by the endless war in Asgard to which the kids should have been minor players.  

I remember being excited about Liefeld coming onboard when I was fourteen, and reading over these books again, I can understand why.  At the least, he was a lot more dynamic an artist than Bret Blevins, or the various fill-in artists who worked with Simonson during her run.  There was never really a consistent look to this book, the kids’ costumes sucked, and things vacillated from too cartoonish to too house style.  I don’t remember noticing the various ways in which the script and the art didn’t match in Liefeld’s first issue, although I know that I was very aware (and sick) of his limitations by the time he abandoned X-Force for Youngblood (more on that in the next column, I imagine, when I’ll cover the series up to issue 100).

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

It doesn’t look like these issues haven’t been collected as separate New Mutants runs, but some of these issues can be found in the following trades:
X-Men: Fall of the Mutants – Volume 1
X-Men: Inferno Vol. 1
X-Men: Inferno Vol. 2

 

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