Retro-Reviews: New Mutants #87-100 By Liefeld, Simonson, Nicieza & Others For Marvel Comics With First Appearances Of Cable & Deadpool!

New Mutants #87-100, Annual #5-7 (March 1990 – April 1991)

Written by Louise Simonson (#87-90, 93-97, Annual #5-6), Dwight Jon Zimmerman (#92), Peter David (Annual #6), Fabian Nicieza (Annual #7)

Plotted by Louise Simonson (#91), Rob Liefeld (#98-100)

Scripted by Fabian Nicieza (#91, 98-100)

Pencils by Rob Liefeld (#87-91, 93-96, 98-100, Annual #5), Bob Hall (#92), Guang Yap (#97, Annual #7), Terry Shoemaker (Annual #6), Chris Wozniak (Annual #6), Gavin Curtis (Annual #6)

Inks by Bob Wiacek (#87), Hilary Barta (#88-91, 93-94), Jeff Albrecht (#92), Joe Rubinstein (#95-97), Art Thibert (#96, Annual #6), Rob Liefeld (#98-100), Tim Dzon (Annual #5), Scott Williams (Annual #6), Al Milgrom (Annual #6), Harry Candelario (Annual #6), Dan Panosian (Annual #7)

Coloured by Mike Rockwitz (#87, 91), Glynis Oliver (#88, 90), Brad Vancata (#89, 93-95, 99-100, Annual #6-7), Nel Yomtov (#92), Steve Buccellato (#96-98) Tom Vincent (Annual #5-6)

Spoilers (from twenty-six to twenty-seven years ago)

Things changed very quickly for the New Mutants once Rob Liefeld came on as the artist.  He was given a lot of freedom in terms of developing the story, eventually squeezing out Louise Simonson completely.  Normally when I write these columns, I group issues by writer’s arcs, as the artists tend to be less consistent over longer runs.  These issues, from 87 to 100, really do belong to Liefeld though, so I’m going to be looking at all of them, before attempting to read the early issues of X-Force again.  

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

The Team:

  • Mirage (Danielle Moonstar; #87)
  • Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair; #87-97, Annual #5-6)
  • Boom-Boom (Tabitha Smith; #87-100, Annual #5-7)
  • Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; #87-100, Annual #5-7)
  • Rictor (#87-98, Annual #5-6)
  • Warlock (#87-91, 93-95, Annual #5-6)
  • Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; #87-99, Annual #5-6)
  • Skids (#87)
  • Rusty Collins (#87)
  • Cypher (Doug Ramsay, as a ghost; Annual #6)
  • Thunderbird/Warpath (James Proudstar, #99-100, Annual #7)
  • Feral (#100, Annual #7)
  • Shatterstar (#100, Annual #7)

Villains

  • Wildside (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 100)
  • Forearm (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 100)
  • Strobe (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 100)
  • Thumbellina (Mutant Liberation Front; #87)
  • Reaper (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 100)
  • Zero (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 93, 100)
  • Tempo (Mutant Liberation Front; #87
  • Mystique (Freedom Force; #87-88)
  • Stryfe (Mutant Liberation Front; #87, 93-94, 100)
  • The Mindless Ones (#87)
  • Crimson Commando (Freedom Force; #88-89)
  • Blob (Freedom Force; #88-89)
  • Pyro (Freedom Force; #88-89)
  • Super Sabre (Freedom Force; #88-89)
  • Sabretooth (#90-91)
  • Masque (#91, 99-100)
  • Skrulls (#92)
  • Nguyen Ngoc Coy (#93)
  • Kamikaze (Mutant Liberation Front; #93-94, 100)
  • Sumo (Mutant Liberation Front; #93-94, 100)
  • Dragoness (Mutant Liberation Front; #93-94)
  • Commander Hodge (#95-97)
  • Pipeline (#95)
  • Wipeout (#95-96)
  • Genegineer (#95-97)
  • Gideon (#98-99, Annual #7?)
  • Deadpool (#98)
  • Brute (Morlock; #99-100)
  • Hump (Morlock; #99-100)
  • Imperial Protectorate (future Mojo-verse bad guys; #100)
  • Skids (Mutant Liberation Front; #100)
  • Rusty Collins (Mutant Liberation Front; #100)
  • Ghaur (High Priest of the Deviants; Annual #5)
  • Llyra (Empress of Lemuria; Annual #5)
  • Spike (Deviant; Annual #5)
  • String (Deviant; Annual #5)
  • Coal (Deviant; Annual #5)
  • Ahab (Annual #6)
  • Hounds (Annual #6)
  • Sentinels (Annual #6)
  • Stinger (Alliance of Evil; Annual #7)
  • Frenzy (Alliance of Evil; Annual #7)
  • Tower (Alliance of Evil; Annual #7)
  • Harness (Alliance of Evil?; Annual #7)
  • Piecemeal (Alliance of Evil?; Annual #7)

Guest Stars

  • Balder (#87)
  • Karnilla the Norn-Queen (#87)
  • Volstagg (Warriors Three; #87)
  • Fandrall (Warriors Three; #87)
  • Hogun the Grim (Warriors Three, #87)
  • Archangel (X-Factor; #88, 95-97)
  • Jean Grey (X-Factor; #88, 95-97)
  • Cyclops (X-Factor; #88, 95-97)
  • Christopher Nathan Summers (as a baby; #88)
  • Beast (X-Factor; #88, 95-97)
  • Iceman (X-Factor; #88, 95-97)
  • Legion (David Haller; #89)
  • Caliban (#90-91)
  • Sunfire (#93-94)
  • Wolverine (#93-94, 97)
  • Storm (Ororo Monroe; #95, 97)
  • Gambit (#95-97)
  • Forge (#95-97)
  • Banshee (#95, 97, Annual #6)
  • Havok (#95-97)
  • Jubilee (#96-97)
  • Psylocke (#97)
  • Feral (#99)
  • Shatterstar (#99)
  • Namorita (Annual #5, 7)
  • Undertow (SURF; Annual #5)
  • Sharkskin (SURF; Annual #5)
  • Eel (SURF; Annual #5)
  • Future Franklin Richards (Annual #6)
  • Invisible Woman (Annual #6)
  • Mister Fantastic (Annual #6)
  • Present Franklin Richards (Annual #6)
  • Artie (Annual #7)
  • Leech (Annual #7)
  • Wiz Kid (Annual #7)
  • Justice (New Warriors; Annual #7)
  • Kid Nova (New Warriors; Annual #7)
  • Night Thrasher (New Warriors; Annual #7)
  • Speedball (New Warriors; Annual #7)
  • Firestar (New Warriors; Annual #7)

Supporting Characters

  • Cable (#87-100; Annual #6-7)
  • Hrimhari (wolf prince; #87)
  • Eitri (leader of Dwarves; #87)
  • Ship (Apocalypse’s former ship, now X-Factor’s; #88-90)
  • Moira MacTaggert (#88-90)
  • Stevie Hunter (dance teacher; #95)
  • Emmanuel DaCosta (Sunspot’s father; #98)
  • Domino (#98-100, Annual #7)

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

  • Issue eighty-seven opens with an attack by the Mutant Liberation Front on a secret government energy facility, the second that they’ve attacked.  This one is well guarded, with uniformed guards trying to defend it, but the MLF rips through them.  We get the sense that everyone is mean to Thumbellina on this team.  Forearm is shown as getting shot in the attack.  Zero arrives to teleport the MLF home after they’ve set their bomb.  As it is counting down, Cable arrives, and is caught in the blast.  In Asgard, everyone has a big feats, where the New Mutants talk about having to stay there, since it is cut off from Earth.  An ice fairy enters the hall and gives Balder a scroll and a potion.  The potion turns Karnilla’s people back into flesh from stone, and the scroll is a map that will lead the New Mutants home; both of these are gifts from Tiwaz.  Dani tells her friends that she will have to stay to help restore the honour of the Valkyrie (for some reason).  Skids is bored in a prison hospital bed, and learns that the MLF is acting in her name.  Mystique arrives to threaten Skids and Rusty, who is being kept unconscious.  The New Mutants prepare to leave Asgard, using Warlock as transportation again, and everyone is sad to leave Dani, including Boom-Boom.  Stryfe, who has what has to be the world’s most uncomfortable armor to wear (I don’t think he’d be able to turn his neck) is angry at Wildside for getting injured in his mission (although the art only showed Forearm getting injured).  Stryfe grounds him and Tumbelllina and sends the rest of the team to free Rusty and Skids from their prison hospital facility.  They arrive outside of the prison because apparently Zero can only teleport to places he’s been before (which, apparently, would include the outside of this prison and the inside of the energy facility from a few pages prior).  Cable has anticipated that they would come there, and is waiting to follow them.  The New Mutants sail Warlock into a weird zone where they are attacked by the Mindless Ones.  They fight back (Bobby is shown clearly for the first time this issue, on page 20), and head to the next warp area on their map.  Tempo uses her time powers to speed up the MLF, but Cable manages to follow them just fine.  He attacks, taking out Tempo with his guns, and then fights one-on-one with Reaper and then Strobe, who melts his metal hand.  The New Mutants return to Earth, and are not surprised to see that Rusty and Skids are not still at the Statue of Liberty waiting for them.  The MLF drop into Rusty and Skids’s room, and at first Skids does not want to go with them, but then a guard shoots the just-woken-up Rusty, and she decides to leave with the terrorists.  The New Mutants see that X-Factor’s Ship has returned.  Cable lies in a hospital bed while doctor’s check him out and suggest that he has a large file.  He thinks about how he’s going to need help to take down the MLF and Stryfe.  
  • Annual #5 came out months before issue 87, but is set in between pages of it, so I held off reading it until I could get to it in sequence.  Ghaur of the Deviants and Llyra of the Lemurians have joined forces with Attuma to bring about an age of Set or something.  They need to sacrifice a lot of people to make their plan work, so Ghaur has decided to destroy Atlantis (without Attuma’s knowledge).  To achieve this, he wants the horn that the New Mutants found back in issue 76.  He sends three of his operatives, Coal, String, and Spike (who have passing resemblances to Sunspot, Warlock, and Wolfsbane) to retrieve it from Namorita, who Namor left it with.  The New Mutants, newly returned from Asgard, fly around looking for Ship.  The Deviants attack Namorita and make off with the horn.  She is assisted by three mutant Atlanteans (Sharkskin, Eel, and Undertow, who are later referred to as S.U.R.F., without the acronym being explained), who aren’t much help.  Namorita thinks it is the New Mutants who attacked her, so they go looking for them in Ship’s last known location.  They attack the kids and do that superheroes fight before teaming up thing for a while.  Eventually they begin to talk, and the New Mutants offer their hope.  Ghaur gets the horn from his people, and blows it.  The Atlanteans and Warlock sense it, and head to Atlantis, which is already under attack by a gigantic mouth monster thing.  Boom-Boom hurts it, but its blood is poisonous to the Atlanteans (all the Atlantean men are off fighting for Attuma, so there aren’t a lot of background characters).  The creature hits Ghaur’s sub, and the horn is blown out a bilge pump and destroyed.  The Mutants and Atlanteans eventually maneuver the creature into a deep trench and dump rocks on it.  Bobby suddenly has a terrible mullet.  Atlantis is now terribly polluted, so that the Atlanteans can’t live there anymore (how many times has that happened in Marvel history?).
  • Three members of Freedom Force (Crimson Commando, Pyro, and Blob) all go to see Cable in the facility where he is being held prisoner.  His hand is fixed, and it’s clear that all of these guys know who he is.  They argue about whether or not Rusty and Skids were working with the MLF (who, by the way, is stealing Tritium from the facilities they are blowing up, even though we’ve seen them blow up two facilities and not steal a thing).  They also suspect that Cable is working for the MLF too, and then they are called away by Mystique (who uses the gigantic TV screen on the wall in the holding cell).  The New Mutants approach X-Factor’s ship, which is now standing like a building.  They see Archangel fly away, but approach the other members of the team, who are happy to see them.  Cable tricks and knocks out his guards, freeing himself from his cell.  The New Mutants and X-Factor find out that Freedom Force has Rusty and Skids (no one remembers to talk about the babies that Freedom Force has – the whole reason why the team left those two behind in the first place), and want to go rescue them.  Iceman encourages diplomacy, but they have no luck getting ahold of anyone at Freedom Force via telephone.  Mystique talks to her team about X-Factor’s phone message, and then they discover that Cable has escaped.  He drops Pyro, and then gets outside the building.  The New Mutants relax in the ship – Sam calls home, and Boom-Boom puts on some new, provocative, clothes.  Rictor flirts with Rahne, making Boom-Boom jealous, but Rahne smoothes things over by being nice.  Freedom Force pursues Cable, and he somehow manages to place wire ahead of him to almost decapitate Super Sabre, who wasn’t even in the issue until this moment.  Rahne calls Moira McTaggert, who is in a punk phase (probably because it’s an evil doppelganger, Moira MacTaggert being the person we’ve seen in this comic before) to check in, and Moira insists that she come live on Muir Island, and says she’s going to come get her.  Rahne is sad about this.  Cable gets into a helicopter and flies away; Mystique orders Freedom Force to stop him.
  • Freedom Force chase Cable’s helicopter towards Manhattan, and after they fire rockets, wrecking his chopper, he shoots theirs down as well, landing everyone in the Hudson River.  Rahne is upset about having to leave, and has been hiding from her friends.  Cable escapes Freedom Force, who split up to chase him.  Sam, Bobby, and Boom-Boom fly off to get Rahne a goodbye gift – this is the first time we see Sam sporting goggles when he flies.  Cable runs into Blob and Pyro.  Rahne shares with Rictor and Warlock her suspicions that there’s something wrong with Moira (this would coincide with the time when the Shadow King was influencing everyone on Muir Island and things were getting really disjointed and weird in Uncanny X-Men).  Moira arrives and is cold to Rahne.  Cable fights Blob and Pyro, and Sam, Bobby, and Boom-Boom come across the fight and join in to help.  Crimson Commando shows up (before the speedster Super Sabre) to arrest them all.  Rictor storms off from Rahne and Moira, and Warlock gives chase.  Rictor’s not upset; he just wants to delay Moira and Rahne leaving.  He uses his powers to destroy her helicopter.  Cable steps up in the fight, and starts directing the kids in the use of their powers to take Freedom Force down.  Blob admits to Bobby that he doesn’t know where Rusty and Skids are, and Cable explains that the MLF has them.  He asks Boom-Boom about the present for Rahne, and mentions that he knows Moira (who is still being called McTaggert instead of MacTaggert) from back in the day.  Boom-Boom, who so far as I know has never met Moira, explains how much she’s changed.  Back on the ship, Moira explains her delay to Legion via video screen.  Cable and the others arrive, and Moira mentions that when she knew Cable, he didn’t have so much metal on his arm.  He convinces her to let him look after Rahne and the other kids, and to use them as his army to fight the MLF.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense that she’s okay with this, but she is.  The others seem okay to follow Cable’s leadership, but Rictor is wary, mentioning to Warlock that he already knows Cable, who doesn’t seem to remember him.  
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1989 describes an average press run of 314 000, with average newsstand returns of 103 000.
  • A Morlock named Samson wanders around in the Morlock tunnels, aware that he’s being followed by someone, but not aware that it’s Sabretooth, who is there to kill any remaining Morlocks he can find.  He kills Samson, but doesn’t know that the newly juiced-up Caliban is in the tunnels searching for him.  The New Mutants have brought Cable to the remains of the Xavier School, following Cyclops’s off-panel suggestion that they move there to avoid further problems with Freedom Force.  Sam shows them around, and we learn that there were always auxiliary living quarters underground, with stores of food.  Cable tells the team that they should develop their own courses of study, and design new costumes.  Caliban finds Samson’s body, and keeps hunting for Sabretooth, who in turn knows that someone is looking for him.  The kids design new outfits, but Rictor gets a little huffy, and tells the team that he doesn’t like Cable.  The kids get ready for a Danger Room session, and Rictor’s thought bubbles reveal that Cable is responsible for the loss of Rictor’s father.  During an outer space sequence in the Danger Room, Rictor has a bit of a meltdown as he gets surrounded by aliens, and it reminds him of what he saw happen to his father.  The sequence is shut off, and Rictor accuses Cable (whose metal arm is now his right arm, inexplicably) of setting him up for failure.  He storms off and decides that he should clear the Morlock tunnels of any threat to the team (this was casually mentioned earlier as a concern), while Cable worries that if he pushes Rictor, he’ll lose him like he did his own son (Cyclops?).  Later, the team enjoys their new outfits (Sam has pouches!  The 90s have begun!) when Rahne tells them that Rictor has gone off.  They get Cable (whose right arm is still metal) who wants them all to go after him.  Rictor finds Samson’s body, and then runs into Caliban, who he knows from the X-Factor days.  Caliban claims that the hold him is dead, and then Sabretooth attacks, cutting Rictor badly before starting to fight with Caliban.  Back at the school, Cable has suited up with a ridiculously large gun (which looks extra ridiculous in his tiny Donald Trump hands).  The teams stops to pose before heading into danger.
  • Issue 91 has Louise Simonson sharing writing duties with Fabian Nicieza, who will later take over the book from her alongside Liefeld.  I’m not sure what happened with this issue’s writing, but the art inconsistencies become hard to ignore with this one.  Rictor, who is apparently bleeding although no blood is shown, watches Caliban and Sabretooth fight some more.  Rictor tries to help his former friend out, but to no effect.  Cable and the New Mutants come running through the tunnels, and are surrounded (except for Warlock and Rahne, who just disappear for a page) by Masque and his Morlocks.  It’s just a show of force, Masque lets them continue on their way, saying he hopes that Sabretooth or Caliban kills them.  They arrive at the fight, but Caliban doesn’t want them there.  When Rahne sees that Rictor is hurt, she attacks Sabretooth, and Bobby and Cable fight Caliban.  While Boom-Boom brings the roof down on Caliban, Sabretooth takes off with Rictor.  The young mutant uses his vibrational power to fight Sabretooth, and is shown on alternating pages as wearing his usual shirtless-leather vest combo, and a simple wife-beater.  I’m not sure how that got past editorial.  He brings the roof down on Sabretooth, and the team rushes towards the sound.  They dig Rictor out, and are about to be attacked by Sabretooth again when Masque shows up, calling Cable by name (they weren’t introduced before, and it’s weird just how many X-Men villains know Cable at this point).  Masque wants the Mutants to leave, and Sabretooth just stands around while they argue.  Caliban shows up again and starts posturing in front of Masque before turning to fight Sabretooth some more.  He breaks Sabretooth’s back, and everyone leaves (not knowing about Sabretooth’s healing factor, apparently).  Back at the school, Rictor continues to recover from his injuries and the others give him a hard time about not liking Cable.  Rahne (who now has pointed ears like a Vulcan) is especially hard on him.  Later, Rictor decides to train by himself in the Danger Room, and sees Cable taking on a bunch of robots at a very dangerous setting.  Cable beats them, and Rictor decides he’s starting to respect the older man.
  • Issue 92 is a fill-in by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Bob Hall, and it’s pretty awful.  There’s a framing sequence that has Rahne training with Cable when she’s reminded of an earlier event that has traumatized her.  She and Cable go for a walk, and she tells the story of the time that the team (Rahne, Sam, Bobby, Rictor, and Boom-Boom, with no sign of Warlock or Rusty, Skids, or Dani, making it a very unlikely event, continuity-wise) was in Kentucky visiting Sam’s mom when they went to a carnival that ended up being run by Skrulls who were using the carnival as a front capture humans, especially enhanced ones, and sell them into slavery.  At one point, Rictor and Rahne are shrunk down to the size of a small rodent, and revert to normal size without any explanation.  It’s really not good.
  • Cable and the team have gone to Madripoor, where they are fighting some uniformed goons.  Rictor is afraid to use his power while on the Pacific Rim, since it’s apparently gotten stronger and he can’t really control it now (when did that happen?).  Sunfire arrives on the scene (because Asia) and helps fight the goons.  They figure they are being watched, and that this is why they were attacked.  Elsewhere, General Nguyen Ngoc Coy, Karma’s uncle, and now apparently the top crime lord in Madripoor, is on the video phone with Stryfe, complaining about how the team has fought his men.  Stryfe says he’s sending three members of the MLF – all Asians of course (Kamikaze, Sumo, and Dragoness) to destroy Cable and the Mutants.  As the team and Sunfire fly somewhere, Cable and Sunfire explain condolences over the loss of Sunfire’s father and Cable’s son (this is the first that Sam has heard of this).  We learn that either Coy or Stryfe have been using a deadly narcotic, called Sleet, to poison and murder a small Japanese mountain village.  Cable uses a portable Cerebro unit to locate mutants at the docks.  They split into two teams.  Cable, Rahne, and Bobby (and presumably Rictor, as he suddenly appears a little later) are sneaking around the docks, while Sam, Boom-Boom, Warlock, and Sunfire fly reconnaissance.  Rictor claims to be good with Cable now, and then Bobby gives Rahne grief for her and Rictor being “an item” (lots of revelations here), and she tells him off.  Sam’s group is attacked by the three members of the MLF’s Asian Squad, and they fight until the Mutants are hit by a paralysis ray.  Stryfe and Zero are on the scene, and he explains to Sam that he wants to use the Sleet to poison Tokyo, New York, and London.  Elsewhere, Cable’s group sees another figure lurking around the docks.  Bobby thinks about how much he believes in Cable, and then it turns out that it’s Wolverine they are following, and that he and Cable don’t like each other.  They begin to fight, and Bobby feels torn between his two biggest heroes (this feels a little ham-fisted).  
  • Cable and Wolverine continue to fight and insult each other.  Sam, Boom-Boom, Warlock, and Sunfire have been trussed up by their hands, and are apparently being held in place by a stasis ray, while Dragoness explains that the MLF is going to poison all the major cities in the world.  Sam asks her what the MLF’s manifesto is all about, and she weirdly kisses him and leaves.  Boom-Boom is upset about that, and Sam goes on about Dragoness having “lips a man could die for” so the equally immobile Boom-Boom then kisses him, expressing shock at how good he is at kissing.  Sam then explains that he lured Dragoness into kissing him (although the art and dialogue don’t support that) so he can grab the key to their bonds out of the pocket in her headdress.  Take a moment to take that in – his hands are bound above his head, but he somehow got a key card out of the pocket of someone’s headdress (never mind that she has a key pocket in her pointy mask) that he somehow knew was going to be there when he maneuvered her into kissing him by asking about her manifesto.  It’s the 90s folks!  Cable and Wolverine fight some more, and the kids watching get worried they are going to kill one another, so Rictor dumps a water tower on them.  This gets them to stop fighting, and we learn that they have been fighting like this for years.  Stryfe learns that the others escaped, and sends his human soldiers (why would humans work for him?) to stop them, against the advice of his mutant MLF people.  Cannonball and his group go looking for the drug, and as the soldiers approach, argue over tactics.  Cannonball’s desire for secrecy wins out, so he (who makes a ton of noise when he flies, remember) and Warlock attack them.  Boom-Boom takes out a few herself, and Sunfire threatens to burn one to death if he doesn’t lead them to the poison.  Cable, Wolverine, Rahne, Bobby, and Rictor have followed Cerebro onto a roof, and Wolverine just jumps in, where the team is reunited and then attacked by Stryfe and the other MLF people.  Warlock turns into a net/slingshot and Bobby uses him to launch Sumo away, while Cannonball takes out Kamikaze.  Rahne leads Wolverine to the poison, and he destroys it with his claws (for real).  Stryfe and Cable fight, and Cable punches him so hard his big red cape disappears.  While fighting, Stryfe mentions the injustices of Genosha, which is I guess a way of introducing the next issue.  Sunfire and Dragoness fight each other carefully, and Rictor tries to knock her out of the air, inadvertently setting the whole warehouse, which is also full of explosives, on fire.  The good guys all get out just as it is engulfed in flames, and everyone assumes that Stryfe is dead.  Boom-Boom finally remembers that Rusty and Skids are still captured by the MLF, and Cable promises to find them.
  • Annual #6 fits in here, and it is part of the very convoluted and messed-up Days of Future Present event.  The cover says this is chapter three, but it is in fact chapter two.  A Franklin Richards from the future arrives in the present, and is surprised to find the Charles Xavier School destroyed, so he rebuilds it and populates it with the New Mutants he remembers from his past in the future.  Ahab, a terrible 90s character, sends a Hound and a bunch of drones into the past to stop adult Franklin.  The New Mutants train in the Danger Room, and are confronted by adult Franklin’s New Mutants.  They fight, and things get weird, and then adult Franklin makes everyone leave, before Reed and Sue Richards arrive, with present tense child Franklin and Banshee.  Banshee is another person who already knows who Cable is, but the Richards don’t.  The Hound and drones attack, Rictor’s new powers go overboard and he almost kills the Hound, and then Ahab shows up and kills the Hound, making Rictor feel bad.  Little Franklin feels like he’s a bad person while adult Franklin tours a museum talking to a conjured up young Rachel Summers, and I really just start skimming the insane amounts of text.  Sentinels.  Cable killing Hounds.  The Franklins talk to each other.  It looks like adult Franklin goes away, maybe blocking young Franklin’s powers?  Rictor feels bad about the killing, and also suggests that Ahab looks a lot like Cable, which is ridiculous.
  • Peter David wrote a back-up story that has a very dead Doug Ramsay hanging out at his grave, feeling bad that no one visits him, while his immediate neighbours try to get him to get over himself.  Rahne comes to visit, but Doug figures out that she is developing feelings for Rictor, and that irritates him, as he feels that she should spend the rest of her life loving him.  Some jerks try to deface the cemetery, Rahne scares them off, and Doug has a change of heart.  I’m sure this is supposed to be poignant, but it’s a little creepy.  
  • The X-Tinction Agenda story began in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, before tieing into an issue of New Mutants that features more than a few artists and inkers, although only Liefeld and Joe Rubinstein receive credit.  Four New Mutants, Rahne, Rictor, Boom-Boom, and Warlock, along with the newly-teenage Storm, are teleported to Genosha, where they are at the mercy of Commander Hodge, whose head has been attached to a massive robotic spider-body.  Like with everyone teleported by Pipeline, the kids are naked, although Rictor’s headband made it through.  Warlock is in rough shape, but the rest begin to fight the Genoshans, until Wipeout takes away their powers.  Back in Salem County, Gambit, Forge, Cable, and Bobby talk about how their friends were teleported away.  Banshee and Cannonball arrive, establishing that they found most of their friends’ clothes.  Stevie Hunter tells everyone that she called X-Factor.  In Genosha, the kids sit in a holding cell, dressed in Genoshan mutate clothing.  They agree to give Warlock some of their life energy but Hodge interrupts them, explaining that he wants to use Warlock’s abilities to enhance his robot body or something.  The Genegineer, the guy who runs Genosha’s mutate program, talks to a naked teenage boy, providing exposition about how things work in the country, when Hodge brings him Warlock, so he can arrange the transfer of power.  As Hodge and the Genegineer argue, Warlock slinks away, returning to his friends.  Warlock breaks their cell door, but it takes almost all of his remaining energy.  The others decide they have to leave him so they can get out of the Citadel and call for help.  Havok, who is a Genoshan soldier, is sent after them, while Warlock is captured.  X-Factor arrives at the ruins of the Xavier School, which is now just a pleasant grassy field, and Cannonball informs them that Ship called to say that Val Cooper called to say that the captives in Genosha are going to be executed.  Rahne and Rictor kiss and split up, and Rahne goes back for Warlock.  Hodge is transferring Warlock’s power to him when Rahne cuts the connection, and Warlock just disappears, dead.  In New York, the gathered mutants watch TV, where the trial of Rahne and the others is announced; they are requested to go see the president of the USA.
  • The fifth chapter of X-Tinction Agenda has Rictor and Boom-Boom on the run with Jubilee, trying to stay away from some Magistrates, and heading towards where they believe X-Factor to be.  Our heroes are not happy with Jubilee, who they find very bossy.  They end up with one of the Genoshans’ tracking mutates, who agrees to help them.  Cable and X-Factor make plans to try to rescue Rahne, while Commander Hodge bosses Havok around.  He’s beginning to question his identity after having met Cyclops in other chapters of this story.  Rahne is about to be turned into a mutate, and Hodge can’t avoid gloating.  Rictor, Boom-Boom and Jubilee break into an empty apartment to get some food and rest, and end up fighting the Magistrate who returns home there.  They learn from the television what is about to happen to Rahne, and Rictor, declaring his love, wants to rescue her.  Cable, Gambit, Jean, and Sunspot start laying bombs on the side of the Citadel (assisted by Jean’s telekinesis), and Gambit causes one of the Magistrates to fall to his death when he almost discovers them.  Rictor and his group emerge from the sewers and are almost hit by this Magistrate.  They see the other heroes fighting and want to join in, but hang back.  Hodge and Wipeout arrive and erase everyone’s’ powers.  Hodge thinks he hears Rictor, Boom-Boom and Jubilee, but the mutate they had been with resists his programming, lying to Hodge and claiming to be the only person around.  Hodge brings Rahne out; she’s now a mutate, and Rictor starts making a plan to finish this whole situation.
  • Reading events like X-Tinction Agenda in this fashion really makes them confusing.  Guang Yap draws this issue, which both has a ton of big events in it, and at the same time is incredibly slow moving.  A lot of mutants are facing off against Hodge as Storm, restored to her adult body and her full powers, is able, through some Genegineer trickiness to restore other mutants who had had their powers removed by Wipeout.  As they fight Hodge, a bomb Forge had designed to seek out Hodge’s lab explodes, causing the villain to run off.  Rictor, Boom-Boom and Jubilee follow the Genegineer to Hodge’s lab, just as the bomb explodes.  Hodge arrives and rants, which leads to Boom-Boom finding Warlock’s ashes, and Rictor threatening the Genegineer.  Elsewhere, Storm and Cyclops wake up Forge, and they begin to work with the Chief Magistate to plan how to stop Hodge, while Havok, on his own, also seeks out the ridiculous looking antagonist.  The Genegineer stops the now-mutate Rahne from hurting Rictor, and they all reunite with Cable, Sunspot, Cannonball, and Storm, who restores Rictor’s powers, and Rahne to a more normal state, although only when she is in her half-wolf form.  Hodge attacks a group of X-Men, who start to figure out some of his weaknesses, while Cable’s group begins to trash his lab, which somehow weakens him.  He returns to the lab, and they fight some more.  The Genegineer damages Hodge but is killed by him, before Hodge gets away again.  The uninjured kids make plans to hunt him down, and Rahne asks that, if she doesn’t return, Warlock’s ashes are spread on Doug’s grave.
  • A lot happened between issues ninety-seven and ninety-eight.  The X-Tinction Agenda storyline ended, Rahne decided to stay in Genosha, and Louise Simonson left the title, handing control over to Rob Liefeld, with scripting being handled by Fabian Nicieza.  This was a watershed moment, and also one of the most valuable issues in my whole collection, thanks to the first appearance of a very important new character.  The issue opens with Gideon, a buff green pony-tailed bald guy with metal arms fighting robots he bought from Shaw Industries before planning a day of high finance business and crime, including a targeting of Emmanuel DaCosta’s business.  In the Danger Room, Cable fights his own robots, and when Sam steps in to help him, puts him through his paces with a training exercise made more complicated by Cable shooting blasts out of his bionic hand (did he ever do that again?).  They talk about Sam’s difficulty in quieting his blast field and being maneuverable at the same time.  In Brazil, Emmanuel DaCosta, Bobby’s father, is brought coffee by his assistant Eve, who we know is working for Gideon.  Emmanuel clutches his chest and falls dead.  I guess this finally finishes up the storyline about him joining the Hellfire Club that Chris Claremont started some ninety-seven issues ago.  Rictor wants to go back to Genosha to rescue Rahne, and when Boom-Boom doesn’t agree to go with him, he runs out of her room.  Cable is hanging out in the library, when he is attacked by Deadpool, who doesn’t know him, but who calls him Nathan.  Apparently Mr. Tolliver hired Deadpool to find and kill him.  They begin to fight, and Cannonball sneaks up on Deadpool, although the mercenary is able to stop him with a neural disrupter net.  Cable breaks Deadpool’s jaw, and Deadpool throws a knife into his leg.  The other three remaining New Mutants arrive, but Deadpool throws a constricting rope around Rictor’s neck.  Before the others can do anything, Deadpool falls over with three knives sticking out of his back, and Domino standing over him.  We learn that Cable called her, so she came.  The kids are surprised to see that Cable is actually smiling in Domino’s presence.  Later, Cable and Domino look at a computer screen.  We learn that Cable “mailed” Deadpool back to this Mr. Tolliver guy.  They look at pictures of inactive New Mutants together, and we learn that Cable believes that Rusty and Skids are now working with the MLF, which must explain why no one is bothering to attempt to rescue them anymore.  Rictor sneaks out of the bunker, having left a note for Boom-Boom saying he’s gone to save Rahne.  He probably should have taken a shirt with him – maybe he has one in his new leg pouches.  Bobby, also shirtless, is woken up by the shirtless Gideon, who he knows, who has come to tell him that his father is dead of a heart attack.
  • In the Morlock tunnels, Masque and a few of his followers chase and attack a character who looks like a cross between Wolfsbane and Marge Simpson named Feral.  She escapes them by climbing into an access hatch in the ceiling of a tunnel, and Masque clearly knows where she is going.  Cable is in Manhattan meeting with James Proudstar, who we learn has left the Massachusetts Academy, to offer him a spot on the New Mutants, as Cable prepares them for war.  Proudstar says he’ll think about it, and says he’s been getting pressured heavily by the Academy to return.  Gideon watches this conversation on a TV screen, and then goes to comfort Bobby on the death of his father, and to tell him that Bobby needs to take over his father’s company.  Bobby doesn’t really want to leave his team, and during their conversation, it’s implied that Gideon and Bobby grew up together, although Gideon is clearly a lot older.  Boom-Boom tells the team about Rictor leaving, and Cable doesn’t seem to be too upset.  Sam is very upset that the team is falling apart, as is Boom-Boom.  Proudstar returns to his reservation (which is apparently a fenced off expanse of flat land.  Everything is destroyed, and the Earth is smoking.  All he can find is a Hellfire mask, and he stands yelling into the air.  Cable, dressed like a spandex steampunk librarian in white gloves and spectacles, is standing in the library when Bobby comes to tell him that his father has died and that he has to leave.  Cable expresses sympathy, but when also says “Whatever” to the idea of Bobby not returning.  Bobby storms out, and Sam comes to confront Cable.  Boom-Boom and Domino exercise in the Danger Room (Domino does not have the black spot around her eye), and Domino speaks vaguely about the path Cable is going to take the team on.  Cable and Sam argue about this upcoming war that Cable is so concerned about.  Later, they gather to say goodbye to Bobby, and Cable talks about rebuilding the team from the ground up.  Later, Proudstar arrives and tells Cable that if he helps him get revenge, he will join his team.  Feral watches this conversation through a vent, and wonders if she can get the same deal.  The last panel shows an unconscious or sleeping Shatterstar lying on the floor of the Danger Room, with globules of green goo lying around him.  Weird ending.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1990 describes the New Mutants as having an average press run of 289 000, with returns average newsstand returns of 106 000.
  • The last issue of The New Mutants opens with Thunderbird, Cable, and Domino responding to an intruder alert in the Danger Room.  Sam joins them, and they arrive to see Shatterstar battling some Danger Room robots.  They all start to fight and Shatterstar holds them off quite well until Cable is able to drop him and suckerpunch him using his own double-bladed sword that sometimes has spikes on the handle.  Boom-Boom is just suddenly there, as they take him to the medical centre.  Feral watches this from a vent.  Three very Liefeldian generic badguys, from the Imperial Protectorate, appear in the Danger Room after it’s emptied, looking for Shatterstar.  At the same time, Masque sneaks into the complex with Brute and Hump, two large Morlocks, looking for Feral.  Shatterstar wakes up and explains that he’s come from one hundred years in the future and from Mojo’s dimension, hoping to recruit the X-Men to come help him.  He feels his mission is a failure, but Cable suggests that they could help.  Boom-Boom goes to the kitchen where she finds Feral raiding the pantry.  Others arrive as Boom-Boom takes her down, and she asks for protection from Masque.  Just then, the Imperial Protectorate guys show up in the med centre, and Shatterstar, Thunderbird, and Domino begin to fight them.  We learn that each of them is ten times stronger than Shatterstar.  Cable, Cannonball, Boom-Boom, and Feral hear this fight and head towards it; Feral guts one of the IP dudes.  Shatterstar is being held and crushed by one but manages to stab him with his big double-sword.  The art and dialogue sort of suggest that he stabbed the blade through himself first, but subsequent pages don’t support that.  Masque shows up just then, demanding Feral.  Cable shoots Brute in the face, killing him, and orders the rest out.  Later, they all talk, and we learn that each newcomer has decided to join the team in return for help with their own problems.  Cable says they have to move, since too many enemies know where they are (he includes Tolliver on this list, although we still don’t know who that is).  Cable also says that Xavier’s dream is dead, and that they have to become more of a fighting force.  Cannonball suggests the name X-Force.  Later, he and Boom-Boom share a moment, and then after that, we see the team boarding something like a Fantasti-car and flying off.  At the MLF’s headquarters, Stryfe gathers his forces to address them, and sends a squad to exact revenge on Genosha by wrecking a government or military complex.  Rusty and Skids are shown as part of the MLF, but we see Skids argue against violence.  After everyone leaves, Stryfe takes off his ridiculous helmet and we see that he looks exactly like Cable!
  • Annual #7 is weird, as it really features X-Force, not the New Mutants, but it’s titled that way.  I’m not sure if it came out before or after X-Force #1.  Anyway, at the beginning, the Alliance of Evil show up at the private school in Vermont where Artie, Leech, and Wiz Kid are attending.  They cause a ruckus, mostly as a distraction as a new character named Harness (who had to be designed by Liefeld, even though he doesn’t draw this issue) drags a child called Piecemeal out to eat some sort of energy or something.  Taki (Wiz Kid) wakes up after being stomped by Tower to find Boom-Boom and the team around his hospital bed.  She introduces the team, and this is the first that Proudstar is called Warpath.  Later, the team is in a helicopter and we learn that the Alliance has been performing many appearances like this, and Cable wants to know why and where they will hit next.  At the Genetech Research Facility, some business types talk about what the Alliance has been up to, and how they could be targets.  Another corporation, IDIC, is apparently behind whatever the Alliance is doing.  In Colorado, two people play chess.  From the profile, one of them could be Gideon, which suggests that the other is Sunspot, but we never see who they are.  The Alliance shows up in Niagara Falls, and Piecemeal is sent over the side of an observation ledge to eat whatever energy he is eating.  As Harness goes to pull him back up, the New Mutants arrive and start fighting them.  They take them down quickly, but Harness and Piecemeal teleport away.  Tower gives them info, so the team goes to the Genetech facility and infiltrates it.  When they get to the restricted lab they want, they discover the New Warriors there, and it looks like they will fight in New Warriors Annual #1

And there we have it – the 90s are in full swing, ushered in by the most 90s of creators, Rob Liefeld, the man responsible for bringing pouches, ridiculous guns, mullets, ballet steps, and extreme facial closeups to the mainstream comics world.  It’s easy to go through and pick apart these issues, with their character and story inconsistencies, unclear storytelling, and constant churn of new characters and ideas with no follow-up, but there is something else that can’t be denied about them.

These are the most exciting issues of the New Mutants since Sienkiewicz left the book.  I’ve just spent the last one hundred plus days reading this entire series (except for Annual #3 and the TV Special, because they both just looked so awful), and I really strongly dislike Liefeld, but I couldn’t help but get excited by the freshness of this book over this run.  He really did breathe new life into a title that was feeling very moribund and staid.

Of course, we who lived through this era know exactly what happened next – Liefeld got his own title, X-Force, set up some ideas, and then bailed on the whole thing, jumping over to Image, and leaving the title with people who thought they could copy his magic (and poor understanding of anatomy), with truly terrible results (more on that next time, because I’m going to go there).

Anyway, Cable.  The character who was introduced in these issues ended up being vastly different from who he’s become in the last twenty-five years.  Early Cable had a son that he lost.  He seemed to know everyone in the Marvel Universe except the New Mutants.  He had history with Domino, and something to do with Rictor’s father.  His arm and eye were cyborg additions.  No one ever questioned whether or not he was a mutant, and what his powers were (none seemed evident).  While Louise Simonson was still writing the book, he seemed to exemplify some of the best elements of both Professor Xavier and Magneto, and helped to ground the team and the series.  When Liefeld and Nicieza started writing, he became a lot darker and utilitarian, as well as being given to prognosticating total war, without saying with whom.  He kind of captured some of that early Wolverine energy, and made the book feel fresh.  This is probably why he’s on the cover more than the titular characters throughout this run.

The rest of the cast did not fare well.  Dani, Rusty, and Skids got written out in a hurry.  Poor Warlock got killed, and Rahne got dumped after it was clear that Liefeld would be plotting.  He quickly got rid of Rictor and Bobby, leaving only Sam and Boom-Boom as characters with any history with the title.  Bringing in James Proudstar was inspired, as he was always a great character, but Liefeld’s new additions to the team, Domino, Feral, and Shatterstar start out as little more than derivative archetypes.  

He also started throwing a ton of new villains at the team, but didn’t give any of them much time to breathe.  The MLF is a cool concept, but one that is not explored enough, and when attention is given to them, too much of it is spent on Stryfe.  Gideon and Deadpool are suddenly just around, and again, people that other characters supposedly know, with no explanation or backstory filled in.  I have no idea who this Tolliver guy who hired Deadpool is supposed to be.

One thing I couldn’t escape was the feeling that there wasn’t really much of a plan for what was going on here.  Whereas Chris Claremont was known for introducing ideas a year or two before wanting to use them, Liefeld and Nicieza are just throwing everything at the wall and looking to see what looks coolest there.

There are too many questions or plotlines left unaddressed when this series ends, and I don’t think many of them ever got touched on in X-Force (although I really don’t remember what happened in those comics).  Some things I’m left wondering about:

  • What’s up with the mutant babies that Freedom Force stole?  That was a big deal plot line for a while there, and the reason why they wanted Rusty and Skids so badly.
  • Why are the New Mutants not looking for Rusty and Skids?  Cable swore he’d make it a priority before the X-Tinction Agenda.
  • Who is Tolliver?  Why does he want Cable dead?
  • What’s up with Rictor’s father and his connection to Cable?
  • Did the Hellfire Club kill everyone on Proudstar’s reserve?  Why?

Anyway, I guess we’ll see if any of this stuff gets addressed or not down the line.  Next time around, I will be reading X-Force.  I really don’t remember much about them, except that I was often confused or dissatisfied with the book under Liefeld, and that it got a lot worse right after he left.

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:

X-Force: Cable & the New Mutants
X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda
Atlantis Attacks Omnibus
X-men: Days of Future Present

 

 

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