New Mutants #35-54, Annual #2 (January 1986 – August 1987)
Written by Chris Claremont
Pencils by Mary Wilshire (#35-37), Rick Leonardi (#38, 52-53), Keith Pollard (#39), Jackson Guice (#40-42, 44-48, 50), Steve Purcell (#43), Bret Blevins (#49), Kevin Nowlan (#51), Sal Buscema (#54), Alan Davis (Annual #2)
Inks by Bill Sienkiewicz (#35-38), Dell Barras (#39), Kyle Baker (#40, 42, 44-47), Terry Austin (#41, 53-54), Whilce Portacio (#43), P. Craig Russell (#48), Val Mayerik (#49), John Beatty (#50), Kevin Nowlan (#51), Dan Green (#52), Alan Davis (Annual #2)
Coloured by Petra Scotese (#35, 52), Michael Higgins (#36), Glynis Oliver (#37-39, 41, 43, 45-51, 53-54, Annual #2), Michelle Wrightson (#40), Elaine Lee (#42, 44)
Spoilers (from thirty to thirty-one years ago)
Issue thirty-five seemed like a good place to start a new column. The kids returned from Asgard to find Magneto running the school, and the art team started shifting pretty regularly. This is the era of the Mutant Massacre, and a growing maturity for the students of the Charles Xavier School. Weirdly, looking through the pile of issues that make up this column, I have very few memories of the actual stories, although I remember and recognize just about all of the cover. Let’s find out why that might be…
Let’s take a look at who was in this series:
- Mirage (Danielle Moonstar; #35-39, 41, 43-54, Annual #2)
- Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; #35-40, 42-54, Annual #2)
- Magma (Amara Aquilla; #35-40, 43-54, Annual #2)
- Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; #35-37, 43-52, Annual #2)
- Magik (Illyana Rasputin; #35-40, 43-47, 50-54, Annual #2)
- Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair; #35-40, 44-48, 50-54, Annual #2)
- Warlock (#35-40, 43-47, 49-52, Annual #2)
- Cypher (Doug Ramsay; #35-40, 43-47, 49-54, Annual #2)
- Karma (Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh; #35-40, 43-44, 46-48, 50-54, Annual #2)
- The Beyonder (#36-37)
- Some demons (#36)
- The White Queen (Emma Frost; #38-40, 51, 53-54)
- Empath (Manuel DeLa Rocha, Hellion; #38-40, 43, 53-54)
- Magus (#46-47, 50)
- Sentinels (#48, 50)
- Arbitrators (#49)
- S’ym (as a transmode virus infected enemy; #50-52)
- The Shi’ar (#51)
- The Black Queen (Selene; #51, 53-54)
- The Black King (Sebastian Shaw; #51, 53-54)
- Tessa (Hellfire Club; #51, 54)
- Silver Samurai (#53-54)
- Viper (#53-54)
- Mojo (Annual #2)
- Spyral (Annual #2)
- Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde; #36, 45-46)
- She-Hulk (#37)
- Thor (in frog-form; #38)
- Thunderbird (James Proudstar, Hellion; #39, 43, 53-54)
- Jetstream (Haroum Al-Rahshid, Hellion; #39-40, 43, 53-54)
- Catseye (Sharon, Hellion; #39, 43, 53-54)
- Roulette (Jenny Stavros, Hellion; #39, 43, 53-54)
- Tarot (Marie-Ange Colbert, Hellion; #39, 43, 53-54)
- Wasp (Janet Van Dyne; #40)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers; #40)
- Hercules (#40)
- Black Knight (Dane Whitman; #40)
- Namor the Sub-Mariner (#40)
- Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau; #40)
- Dazzler (Alison Blaire; #42)
- Legion (David Haller; #44)
- Lockheed the dragon (#46)
- Storm (Ororo Monroe; #46, 51)
- Rogue (#46)
- Callisto (Morlock; #46)
- Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner; #46)
- Colossus (Peter Rasputin; #46)
- Sunder (Morlock; #46)
- Psylocke (Betsy Braddock; #46 , Annual #2)
- Robert the Bruce (Scottish king; #47)
- Katie Power (#49)
- Lilandra (Former Majestrix of the Shi’ar Imperium, Starjammer; #50-51)
- Corsair (Starjammer; #50-51)
- Binary (Carol Danvers, Starjammer; #50-51)
- Ch’od (Starjammer; #50-51)
- Hepzibah (Starjammer; #50-51)
- Raza (Starjammer; #50-51)
- Captain Britain (Brian Braddock; Annual #2)
- Meggan (Annual #2)
- Magneto (new headmaster at the Charles Xavier School; #35-36, 38-40, 45-49, 51-54)
- Tom Corsi (former white cop, now Native American employee at the School; #35-36, 38-39, 43, 46)
- Sharon Friedlander (former white nurse, now Native American employee at the School; #35-36, 38-39, 43, 46)
- Brightwind (Dani’s winged horse; #35, 37-39, 41, 43, 45, 47-48, 52)
- Stevie Hunter (dance teacher; #38-39, 43, 48)
- Lila Cheney (#42, 48)
- Josh Guthrie (#42)
- Nina DaCosta (Sunspot’s mother; #43)
- S’ym (as Illyana’s servant; #43, 47)
- Moira MacTaggert (#44, 46-47)
- Larry Bodine (local mutant the kids meet at a dance; #45)
- Professor Charles Xavier (#50-51)
- Leong Xui Manh (Karma’s little brother; Annual #2)
- Nga Manh (Karma’s little sister; Annual #2)
- Butch/Snitch (Mojo’s Bratpack; Annual #2)
- Darla/Jubilee (Mojo’s Bratpack; Annual #2)
- Alfie/Straightarrow (Mojo’s Bratpack; Annual #2)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- It’s a little strange having Bill Sienkiewicz return to the book as an inker over Mary Wilshire’s pencils. They work well together, but I remember being unhappy with the look of things being close to Sienkiewicz’s solo work, but seeming less to me at the time. The kids are not sure how to react when they learn that Magneto is now their Headmaster, having promised Professor X that he would look after them. It’s not clear if Xavier is dead or just gone somewhere, and there were so many times that he left the school over the years that I don’t remember what was happening right then. Doug makes a dumb crack equating Magneto’s coming to school with Bobby’s father joining the Hellfire Club, and that sets the younger boy off. We see that Magneto has split with Lee Forrester, and I’m left wondering what the point of that whole plotpoint was in the first place. Magneto grounds Doug from a Danger Room session, which makes him very angry. The kids are supposed to take down Magneto, and Sam jumps the gun, making it hard for the team to recover. Later, the kids hang out at Harry’s Hideout, and the melancholy Dani decides to walk home on her own when Sharon Friedlander drives the kids. She is followed and assaulted by a trio of frat boys who are clearly going to rape her when Brightwind, her Asgardian winged horse appears and scares them off. She makes her way home, and while Sharon rushes to treat her, Magneto has the horse lead him to the frat boys, with the rest of the team following secretly. Magneto threatens and frightens the frat boys, impressing the kids with his strength and his restraint, and the frat boys call the cops to confess what they did. When the kids make it back to the school, they learn that Dani is okay, and see Magneto in a new light.
- The Statement of Ownership cites an average press run of 510 000 copies, with returns of 200 000. This boggles the mind, doesn’t it? I don’t know why this is the first time one of these was published, almost three years into the life of the title. It’s also dated September of 1984, not ‘85, but maybe that’s a typo? It seems weird that they would wait a year to publicize that information, but then I don’t know the rules for this stuff.
- Magneto pushes Bobby to increase his strength in the Danger Room, and the kid pushes back. Rather hamfistedly, we learn that Bobby has been upset by meeting the Beyonder, and we see the child questioning the point of being a hero when his girlfriend is dead because of him (which happened some three years prior and barely got mentioned for ages). Kitty Pryde studies Norse mythology in the New York Public Library, while Illyana is met by the Beyonder on the subway. He removes the evil parts of her soul, and has the subway car fly away. Illyana’s soulsword and amulet appear to Kitty and she is attacked by demons. Back at the school, the rest of the kids are playing in the pool when they too are attacked by a demon that Warlock is able to stop. Sam flies up to Illyana’s subway car, and begins to agree with her that the Beyonder is going to help humanity. Sam even references Arthur C. Clarke. The other kids resist Illyana’s offer to help them see the world her way, and things get a little cultish, until another huge demon shows up, with Kitty hanging from its neck. The team fights, but it takes a couple of pages for Illyana to join the fray, restoring her ‘evil’ nature, and sacrificing her newfound happiness to help her best friend. Ah Secret Wars II, how I hate you.
- The kids are hanging out at the school watching a movie when Dani begins to see visions suggesting that her friends are going to die soon (this is part of her now being a Valkyrie). Upset, she goes for a ride on Brightwind, and sees a vision of her grandfather, which is interrupted by Sam checking on her. In Manhattan, Sunspot tries to help out a woman trapped under a collapsed crane (which looks more like an excavator), but can’t quite manage, and gets helped by She-Hulk. Bobby then decides to fly to Brazil to see his mother. Back at the school, the Beyonder appears, and the team all expect that he’s there to kill them. Illyana volunteers to be sacrificed, and the Beyonder kills her. The others attack him, and when Dani tries to use her powers on him, she is overwhelmed by magnitude of his thoughts. Shan is killed trying to help her, and the team attacks again. Warlock thinks he’s defeated him, but he comes back to life and kills the rest of the team, leaving Dani for last. With her dead, he erases their existence from the world’s memory.
- Issue thirty-eight, which is drawn by Rick Leonardi, opens with a terrible dream shared between the New Mutants and Magneto. In the dreams, the kids face Sentinels and the Hellions, before defeating them and crawling back into their graves to go to sleep. It’s been a little while since the Beyonder resurrected the team, and was then defeated in Secret Wars II, and since then, the kids have been having the same dream each night, and have been listless and uninterested in their surroundings. Unsure what to do, Magneto doubts himself and is visited by Emma Frost, the White Queen, who offers to take the kids to her Massachusetts Academy to help them, but he refuses the offer. Magneto gets angry at Sam for flying poorly in a training exercise, and then yells at Rahne for dancing poorly in her dance class. Dani, who seems affected differently from the others, spends time with her horse when she is visited by Thor, who is at this strange point in Marvel history, the Frog of Thunder. He gives her a bit of a pep talk, appealing to her Valkyrie side, and she snaps out of her funk. A trip to a party in Salem Center doesn’t help the kids, and we learn that Dani is planning on going to visit her parents. Warlock goes to talk to Magneto, revealing that he is unaffected and concerned for his friends. Tom and Sharon discover Empath on the school grounds, and we learn that he has been using his powers to manipulate Magneto. He makes Tom and Sharon fall in love. The next day, Magneto assembles the team to tell them he is transferring them to the White Queen’s care, and only Dani appears to care.
- Keith Pollard drew issue thirty-nine, and his very standard Marvel house style really stands out in contrast to what we’ve been seeing for the last year and a half’s worth of issues. The White Queen welcomes the New Mutants (minus Dani, Warlock, and Bobby) to her school and to the Hellions, and comments on how spiritually comatose they seem. Thunderbird and Jetstream (whose name has changed since his last appearance) find Doug and Sam pretty lifeless, and Empath is annoyed that he can’t get a reaction from the girls when he walks in on them in the changeroom. Illyana, dressed half as a Hellion and half in her usual outfit, Two-Face style, scares Empath, who is then caught by his female teammates. Magneto broods in his office while Dani uses her abilities to conjure images of her friends in happier times, before the Beyonder killed them. Emma performs psychic surgery on the team off-panel, and we see her do the same with Rahne, restoring her personality, but also, we are led to believe, making some alterations along the way. Dani, who is leaving to return to her parents, gives Magneto a hard time for having given up, and then says goodbye to Stevie and Warlock before flying off on her horse. Rahne has a nightmare which gathers all of her teammates, and we learn that Sam is also having nightmares. Illyana shocks everyone with her increasingly demonic appearance, and Frost listens in on their thoughts. In a very strange scene, Magneto is interrupted in the shower by Tom and Sharon, who have been missing since Empath messed with them, and who now are in punk bondage gear, with strange haircuts, and at the point of collapse. They tell Magneto what happened to them (without explaining how they went from being madly in love with each other to changing their entire look, which I figure Sienkiewicz could have pulled off better than Pollard), and Magneto realizes that Empath had been messing with his mind too. Frost realizes that Magneto will be coming for her, and calls the local police to report that she learned that the famous mutant terrorist is on his way.
- New regular penciller Jackson (now Butch) Guice arrives as the Avengers receive an early morning call from the sheriff of Snow Valley, alerting them to the threat posed by Magneto. They (Wasp, Captain America, Hercule, and Black Knight, later joined by Namor and Captain Marvel) make their way to Massachusetts, where Cannonball and Magma engage in some practice with Jetstream. The White Queen and Jetstream are both concerned that the New Mutants are still not themselves, despite Emma’s attempts to fix them. Magneto and Warlock, who has fashioned himself after the Blackbird, are en route to the Academy when Hercules attacks the young alien, mistaking him for a vessel. The Avengers engage Magneto on the ground, and Captain America begins to recognize his reluctance to fight them. Magma senses the fight (because now she has a mind-link with the Earth or something) and Illyana goes to investigate, stealing Cap’s shield, and returning to the school to muster the team. Warlock, who is strung out like spaghetti, tries to protect his teacher, and Magneto stops him from killing the Avengers. Cap begins to listen to Magneto just as the New Mutants arrive (in Hellions garb) to enter the fray. Magneto forbids them from fighting, and they teleport him and Warlock away. Later, Magneto and the White Queen take the kids to an inn, where they work to help them through their recent trauma. At the end of the issue, the kids want to return to the Xavier School, and Frost allows it.
- Issue forty-one is a Dani Moonstar solo story, with lovely art by Guice and Terry Austin. Dani and Brightwind have flown across the country, and the whole issue focuses on Dani’s doubts after she feels she’s abandoned her team. She returns home and sees her parents, but they need to secure their ranch against an incoming blizzard, and so she doesn’t get to see them much. She heads into town to go to the mall, where she is accosted by Pat, a boy her age who was her close friend before her powers manifested and she scared and embarrassed him, which caused her to run to live with her grandfather. Pat spits out some pretty racist invective, and Dani sees the spectre of his death hover over him. She thinks about protecting him, but he drives off in a drunken rage, and she heads home. Later, at the ranch, she hears him call for help over CB radio (this issue has not aged well), and goes looking for him. She finds his car wrecked, and him in bad shape just as the blizzard closes in again (this blizzard comes and goes a lot). She gets him into a cave, where they reconcile some, and she learns that he was always in love with her. An aspect of death comes to get him, but Dani holds her ground and destroys it. Pat comes to her and things are good between them, but then he vanishes. In actuality, he’s been unconscious all this time. After they are rescued, Dani speaks to another aspect of Death, this time an old indigenous woman, who explains that the boy is diabetic and beyond help, and then he dies. Dani goes home and cries with her parents for a while.
- Issue forty-two is all about Sam as he returns home to Kentucky to visit his family. He has a weird dream on the bus that reveals that he’s nervous about having his girlfriend, Lila Cheney, come meet his mother. He flies to his father’s grave, and has a chat with him mom, wherein he learns that his family has been doing fine since he left, but that his brother Josh is having a hard time with his having left. Sam flies to North Carolina to visit Lila, runs into Dazzler, who is singing backup for her, and stupidly accuses Lila of having stolen the gift she intends to give to his mom. Lila basically dumps him, and he flies home, upset. The next day, Sam gets into it with Josh, then wanders the town for a while, and has another good chat with him mom in a diner. Josh interrupts with news that one of Lila’s bandmates is on the CB radio for him (because that’s how that would have worked?). We learn that Lila, Dazzler, and a bandmate took off in a small plane, and now can’t be found. Sam goes to join the search, and Josh insists on coming with him. He asks Sam, “If Ah’m a mutant, too, it won’t be all that awful,” proving that he had no idea that it would be Chuck Austen who would bring him out of limbo in some twenty years. They find the plane, buried under a bunch of trees it knocked down. Josh climbs down to the plane, and through his singing, provides Dazzler enough sound to blast her way free with her laser. Sam apologizes to unconscious Lila, and then saves everyone from an avalanche (wherein he notices that he’s not a full power), and Lila forgives him. Later, she tests him by showing up for dinner looking like a rock star, before teleporting home to change into Kentucky-approved clothing.
- Bobby returns in issue forty-three, which reunites the whole team, with the notable exception of Rahne, whose absence is not even remarked upon. The kids are excited to see Bobby return, and amidst his giving out gifts (including a letter to Amara from her father), Bobby learns some of what’s happened at the school in his absence. He finds out about how Tom and Sharon were used by Empath, and immediately wants revenge. Stevie stops him, but later he convinces the team to deal with him. A little while later, Magik abducts Empath to Limbo, scaring him. The rest of the Hellions realize he is gone, and use a Cerebro-like system to search for him. Empath is left in a strange old mansion, where the New Mutants take turns terrifying him, until he is left apologizing and quivering. It’s Doug who puts a stop to the proceedings, declaring that what the team is doing is no less bullying than what Empath does. The rest of the Hellions arrive, and while it looks like they are about to fight, Dani and Thunderbird maintain the peace. He promises to look after Empath, and explains that he is more likely to become a better person with the Hellions than without them. After the New Mutants leave, Thunderbird decks Empath.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1985 lists this title as having an average press run of 477 000, with returns of 190 000.
- In Scotland, a massive piece of lab equipment suddenly and randomly collapses, almost crushing Moira MacTaggert and Rahne, except that David Haller, Legion, lets Jack Wayne have control of his body (this is one of Legion’s multiple personalities) to save them. Jack refuses to return control to David, and has the equipment blow up. Dani senses Rahne’s distress back in America, and gathers the troops to go help, although Bobby expresses misgivings about travelling through Limbo to get there. They jump a little bit ahead in time in travelling to Muir Island, but quickly locate Rahne and Moira, who are okay. The team head to the mainland to pursue Jack/Legion. They find him in a bar, but their plan to have Karma possess him so they could stop him goes awry, and the team struggles to stop him. Reverend Craig shows up to make Rahne feel bad about herself, and to finally stop Jack/Legion, Bobby has Illyana transport him to Limbo, where he gets so freaked out that David is able to regain control. Later, Bobby talks about how he’s still afraid of Illyana, and Dani chides Rahne for having shouted out during that battle that she’d basically be okay with Legion destroying her home village.
- New Mutants Annual #2 is notable because it brought Betsy Braddock, Psylocke, from Marvel UK and into the American stable of characters. At the beginning, she is kidnapped by Mojo and Spyral, who give her cybernetic eyes. In a flashback, we see Doug admit to Dani that he feels isolated being a mutant, especially as one without offensive powers. Closer to the present, we see that Rahne, Bobby, Karma’s siblings, and some other kids love a cartoon called Wildways, featuring Psylocke, Mojo, and Spyral. Captain Britain goes looking for his sister in an abandoned school in NYC, and instead finds some kind of horror. Bobby calls the TV show, and is teleported away by Spyral. The kids go about their day, and when Bobby, Doug, and Warlock go to remove a dead tree (which has only green leaves), Bobby is crushed to death. Feeling guilty, Doug and Warlock figure out that Bobby was not really Bobby. We see that Bobby, Rahne, the Manh kids, and three members of Mojo’s Bratpack, have all been abducted by Mojo, and through Psylocke’s and Spyral’s powers, turned into beautiful and powerful adults who are Mojo’s slaves, as is Psylocke. The team goes looking for them, and end up fighting their former teammates and Mojo’s other slaves. The Manh kids have powers to reshape bodies. They turn Magma into a young kid and she runs away, while Doug and Warlock escape, leaving the others, who are transformed like their friends were. Doug and Warlock find a de-aged naked Captain Britain, and they join forces. Things drag here for a while, as Doug and Warlock merge, and eventually, with the help of the freed Psylocke, take a very long time to free their friends, while Claremont writes some painful Warlock dialogue, and things get pretty unclear, especially for Alan Davis art. Doug and Betsy show up in the New York school, and have an awkward moment because Betsy is naked. We see that Captain Britain and the others are back to normal (there’s no sign of the Bratpack again). Later, we see that Betsy has decided to stay at the Xavier School, and that Doug has a crush on her. Everyone goes to play baseball.
- Karma only showed up in the background of one panel in the Annual, and is nowhere to be seen in issue forty-five, which is kind of odd. The kids and Magneto are invited to a dance at the high school in Salem Centre, and take Kitty Pryde with them. Most of the kids enjoy themselves, but Kitty feels out of place, as does Dani, who decides to head home. She calls her winged horse to come get her, not knowing that she’s observed by a boy, Larry Bodine, who just moved into town, and who has the mutant ability to create sculptures out of light. Magneto and the other principal find Larry and introduce him to Kitty, who slowly starts to warm to him. Local bullies, playing around, accuse him of being a mutant, which freaks the kid out a bit, causing them to decide to put an X-Factor flyer with a note threatening him in his jacket (this is the era when X-Factor were pretending to be mutant hunters). The New Mutants and Kitty go to Harry’s Hideaway after the dance, and take Larry with them. Kitty’s really beginning to like him (what was the status of her relationship with Colossus at this time?), but when Larry, trying to seem cool, makes a mutant joke, everyone ditches him. He goes home (his parents are out of town) and feels horrible about chasing away his new friends, and is terrified he’s about to be discovered as a mutant, which he is, because Rahne has followed him. One of the bullies calls Larry and repeats that X-Factor is on their way for him. The next morning, Magneto informs the kids that Larry committed suicide the night before, which affects the team profoundly. Kitty goes to his house and discovers one of his sculptures, which she ruins by touching. Rahne comes to see her, and they comfort each other. Later, Rahne goes to the mall looking for revenge on the bullies, and is followed by Dani, Kitty, and Sam, who point out that the bullies are upset as well. The issue ends when Kitty gives a speech at the Salem Center High School about bigotry. Honestly, I’d forgotten this issue, but think that a lot of what Claremont did in issues like this really stuck with eleven-year old me, and were pretty foundational in developing my view of the world and people. I wish that the X-Men were addressing issues like this today still, even if it is a little preachy in places. Kitty tossing a whole bunch of racially and sexually charged epithets out during her speech is probably more shocking today than it was back then…
- The Mutant Massacre stands out as one of the best cross-over events ever, and it was one of the first. The kids are at the Xavier School when they hear Lockheed the dragon freaking out. The Mutants see he has gone into the underground complex, and go after him, while Dani receives a massive vision of death coming to the school. Illyana shows up on Muir Island to get Moira MacTaggert and bring her to the school, but they have to wait in Limbo for a touch because Illyana’s jumped back in time a bit. They make their return just as the X-Men arrive with a bunch of injured and scared Morlocks. The New Mutants, Psylocke, and everyone else pitch in to start triaging and treating the injured. The strain shows on everyone; Bobby throws a bit of a fit when his powers start to wane and storms off, and Karma is unable to possess and calm down Sunder, a very strong Morlock who is afraid that his leg needs to be amputated. Psylocke needs to do the job for her. Dani is afraid that she’s not strong enough to fight off death in this case, and Bobby and Rahne get into a stupid fight over sandwiches. Warlock, meanwhile, seems terrified of something that he is scanning for, but doesn’t want to discuss. Karma worries that she can’t locate her brother and sister, so she and Illyana jump into Manhattan to get them. When they turn on a light in her apartment, a bomb goes off. The rest of the New Mutants, knowing that they’ve gone, decide to go after them, despite having a lot of misgivings. Warlock refuses to fly them anywhere, so they decide to travel through the same Morlock tunnels that are currently the scene of a massacre (this part doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). As they drive off in Morlock’s DeLorean form, we see that Magus, his father, is lurking. They kids get to the LES, and while we don’t see what they saw in the tunnels, we see the effect it had on them. They discover that Karma’s building is on fire, but find their friends (the siblings are missing). Warlock goes nuts, taking them back into the tunnels, where they are attacked by Magus. Magik teleports everyone to Limbo, leaving him behind.
- In Limbo, all of the New Mutants have been rendered unconscious in travelling, except for Bobby, who watches as some demons make off with Illyana, he thinks to kill or harm her. His powers aren’t working, and he can’t rouse the others, but he still goes off to save her, even though he makes it clear that he doesn’t like her much. S’ym catches him, and we see that the demons are really reviving her. Illyana wears a huge demon superhero outfit, and revives the rest of the team. They discuss how to deal with Magus when he appears in Limbo. They fight him for a while, but with little luck, and Illyana teleports them away again. At the Xavier School, an exhausted Moira and Magneto talk about how hard it is to help the Morlocks, and how they don’t know where the New Mutants are. Magneto has hope that they are fine though, based on the fact that Brightwind is still around. The New Mutants turn up in Scotland during the time when Robert the Bruce is fighting off English encroachment. Bobby and Rahne help the Scottish King in a battle, bringing the rest of the team into the fray, and are invited back to his castle, where he makes a big impression on Rahne and Bobby. The team tries to figure out what to do about Magus, who they fear is destroying Limbo. Warlock, terrified, volunteers to scout Limbo for any sign of his father, and returns to claim it empty. As Robert the Bruce rides off, the team teleports back into Limbo.
- The team’s attempted escape has not worked out well. Four of them, Bobby, Shan, Rahne, and Amara have found themselves in the future, where the Xavier School has been destroyed, and plastered with a Days of Future Past-style poster showing that most of the X-Men are dead. Three Sentinels arrive to attack them, and while they are fighting them, they are joined by adult versions of Cannonball and Mirage, who help them defeat the giant robots and flee the scene. In the present, Magneto cleans the School while his new robots trap Stevie Hunter. The two teachers discuss how Magneto still believes the kids are alive and returning soon. In the future, Adult Sam and Adult Dani show just how damaged they are by all they’ve seen, and we learn that they’ve been moving people to Lila Cheney’s Dyson Sphere, since the Sentinels took over. They discover the Lila has been captured, and even though it’s clearly a trap, they go to rescue her. Adult Sam and Bobby provide a distraction in the ruins of Manhattan, while Adult Dani and Rahne go for Lila, and Shan provides overwatch on Brightwind. They all discuss some time paradox stuff that confuses me for a bit, and then the adults teleport away, leaving the kids for Illyana to find (despite the risk of more Sentinel attacks). Magma turns most of Manhattan into a volcano.
- Bret Blevins, who is to become the regular artist on this book soon, draws this issue. He’s a fine artist, but I’ve never liked his work on this book, which is, I’m sure, going to be the bulk of what I talk about in the next column. The rest of the team, Cypher, Warlock, Mirage, and Cannonball find themselves in another future, where mutants run New York, using a powered police force called the Arbitrators (think Judge Dredd meets classic New Mutant uniform) keep the human lower classes in line. Doug and Warlock attract Arb attention after tagging a pro-human message on a wall, and then evade them. Dani and Sam steal medicine from a hospital, and also evade arrest. Downtown, they witness and then intervene when some Arbs move to kidnap some mutant children from their human parents. They are joined by an aged Katie Power, from Power Pack, who has all of her siblings’ powers. The Chief Arbitrator is surprised to learn the identities of these new rebels. The team gives out food and medicine to human children, and meet Katie’s powered students, who help her resist. They are attacked by Arbitrators, and captured. In the present, Magneto dreams of the Holocaust, and then lets the readers know that he’s been tapped to join the Hellfire Club as White King, and feels like he may need to do so, to protect mutantkind. In the future, the captives discover that the Chief Arbitrator is the adult Sunspot, aided by the adult Magma. Old Bobby works to justify the choices he’s made (which have to do with Magneto’s joining the Hellfire Club) and the way in which mutants dominate the future. Warlock manages to free his friends, and they allow Katie to escape, figuring that they are going to be rescued by Illyana anyway, and remain Old Bobby’s captives. He makes plans to have telepaths alter their minds.
- Issue fifty is double-sized. Illyana learns that S’ym was infected with the Transmode Virus, and is in the process of taking over Limbo. She uses a big spell and her soulsword to try to stop the infection. In distant space, Professor Xavier helps the Starjammers to secure materials they need to repair their ship in a rough bar, where Jackson Guice has drawn in the various Micronauts. Charles gets a mental flash, and discovers that Illyana is about to be sold in a slave auction. He rescues her, and later, after she has rested, she catches him up on what’s been happening on Earth, focusing on the fact that the rest of the New Mutants are missing. Since she left behind her Soulsword, the evil aspects of her nature are gone, and Charles can read her mind. They figure he can help her use her powers with more control, although Lilandra is upset that this means that Charles will be going back to Earth. They go, with Binary, to Limbo, which seems quite pleasant until S’ym attacks. Illyana grabs her sword (and her horns) again, and they decide to save the other kids before saving Limbo. They first collect Sam, Dani, Doug, and Warlock, saving them from Future Bobby and Future Amara. Next they collect the others, stopping some Sentinels from killing them. When they return to the Starjammers, they find that Magus is attacking them (without explaining how he got to such a distant planet or knew where they were going to be). The fight is a long one, but after Binary charges Warlock, and Karma freezes the rampaging giant, Doug, merged with Warlock again, uses some kind of code-reading power thing to mess him up. Magus explodes, although Doug insists that he’s not dead, just reverted to his infant form. Warlock talks about what a father figure Charles Xavier has been for him (which is a little weird because they haven’t spent all that much time together) and they embrace.
- Issue fifty-one continues the rather random and inconsistent approach to art that marks this run. Kevin Nowlan draws what might be the most attractive issue of the post-Sienkiewicz era. Professor X links with his students to find out everything that’s been going on, and is very upset to learn about the Mutant Massacre, and about the fact that his original students have become the mutant-hunting X-Factor (this is before they were revealed to be fronting), and this makes him feel that he has to go back to Earth to help fix things. Magneto and Storm use a derelict ocean liner to fix a breakwater ahead of a hurricane, and they talk about the offer Magneto received to enter the Hellfire Club. He is unsure of what to do, while Storm sees his membership as advantageous for the X-Men. Storm makes reference to something called Plan Omega, yet another Claremont subplot that went nowhere. The New Mutants help the Starjammers fix their ship, but Illyana has a freakout, and doesn’t want to return to Limbo or Earth, since in space, she doesn’t feel evil. We know about this because Xavier has Shan possess her and read her memories, which angers Dani (and Illyana, of course). The Starjammers are attacked by cloaked Shi’ar fighters, and are only able to maneuver because of Xavier’s ability to read the enemies’ minds. Charles can’t decide what to do – returning to Earth leaves the Starjammers in a jam, but he wants the kids out of the battle zone. Charles decides to stay, but Illyana again refuses to return to Limbo without Charles’s help. He has Karma possess her again, and they teleport away, while the Starjammers escape their hunters. Back home, Illyana is furious at being taken advantage of, but Bobby is happy. Magneto and Storm accept the Hellfire Club’s invitation, sharing the White King position. We see that Shaw plans on using them, as does Selene. I don’t remember there ever being another reference to Storm being part of this club again.
- The New Mutants run a particularly realistic and brutal Danger Room simulation that has them fighting, and losing to, the Marauders. Magneto is not happy with how they did, and grounds the entire team, although he didn’t notice that Magik slipped away to Limbo, where she fights and defeats S’ym again. When she returns to the school, she worries about how much her darker side, now being referred to as the Darkchilde, is coming out. Dani and Rahne worry about the future while Bobby teaches Sam to play soccer. Shan argues with Magneto that she should be out looking for her brother and sister. Later, he goes to visit Illyana and together they go to Limbo. They are confronted by S’ym, who thanks to the transmode virus, has enough metal in him that Magneto could defeat him easily, but Illyana decides that since he is her problem, she should be the one to deal with it later. When they return, she is in a better mood, and goes to play soccer with her friends while Magneto feels better about himself as a teacher.
- Doug has a weird dream (either while in the shower or sitting on the toilet, strangely) that he has been infected by the transmode virus, and in short order, uses it to kill the New Mutants. When he realizes it was just a dream, we see that there is a bit of techno-organic material in his eye. A rich guy, named Van Ostamgen, spends one million dollars to purchase a statue of Selene from some buy in a cab. The New Mutants accompany Magneto to a party at the Hellfire Club, despite their reservations. Bobby and Warlock are off having adventures in the Fallen Angels miniseries. Doug is acting strangely, and gets upset when Illyana saves him from getting hit by a cab. Things at the party are tense, with the Hellions watching the Mutants from above, and Selene rattling Amara’s cage to the point where she almost starts using her powers, until Dani, dressed in very traditional “Native” dress, calms her down. Tarot approaches Doug and tries to be friendly, but he rebukes her. Illyana scares Empath, while James Proudstar and Dani agree to keep an eye on their teammates and keep them out of trouble. Catseye surprises Rahne and they decide to have some fun together in their animal forms. Dani and Proudstar decide they should find them, after they are alerted through Dani and Rahne’s mindlink. Jetstream gets under Sam’s skin. Van Ostamgen arrives, offering the statue to Selene, but Amara recognizes it as a fake, since the original is in her family home. Selene concurs, and lets Amara know that they are related. Roulette takes Doug to a poker game, and he begins to play. He wins big. Rahne and Catseye enter one of the upper chambers, and screams, alerting the New Mutants, who find Doug, drunk, hanging out with Roulette and some other girls. Doug figures out that Roulette used her luck powers to help him win, and he slaps her. Just as the teams are about to fight, Sam suggests that they settle their differences by trying to find out who swindled Van Ostamgen, as a form of contest.
- Chris Claremont’s last issue has him joined by an early series artist, Sal Buscema. Karma takes possession of Tessa to use the Hellfire Club’s computer to try to find her missing siblings, but the search turns up empty. Magneto explains he’s already tried this avenue. Dani and Proudstar work out that there won’t be any rules to the contest between their teams. Doug sobers up while Amara worries that she really is related to Selene. Illyana brings the team their ‘graduation costumes’, so they can work undercover, and they all get changed. Karma refuses to go with the team, and they teleport into Central Park, where Rahne recognizes the Silver Samurai and Viper’s scent (but doesn’t recognize the motive that would drive a terrorist to engage in forgery). Karma worries about her siblings some more, and is comforted by Magneto. In Limbo, the New Mutants spy on the Hellions, and learn that they are headed to a hideout on an island off Staten Island. Doug reveals that he is afraid. The team infiltrates the hideout, and engages the Viper’s goons. Doug is shot in the fighting, saving Dani from a sniper, but his costume protects him. Having dispatched the goons, the team is upset to see that the Hellions have captured Viper and the Samurai. They’d manipulated Dani’s team, knowing that Illyana would spy on them. Dani declares the Hellions winners, and they return to the Hellfire Club party. Tessa brings Dani a note from Shan, wherein she resigns from the team to join her crimelord uncle in looking for her siblings. Dani weirdly feels responsible for this happening.
And without any explanation, Claremont leaves the title, to be replaced by Louise Simonson.
This was a strange run, in that it felt pretty directionless most of the time. The first two years of this title were heavily focused on building the characters and the team, as new members were introduced over many issues. Once Bill Sienkiewicz came on-board, the stories got a little wilder, but the strong character work was mostly still there. These issues though, which featured work by a variety of artists, barely advance the characters at all. Where previously we saw the kids carry torches for one another, none of that is present here.
Instead, it feels like this book became an afterthought for Claremont. When the X-Men comic needed something taken care of, Magneto would get the spotlight for a while, or the Mutant Massacre would inform what is going on. When none of that was happening, it was a bit of a struggle to come up with a valid plot. The most significant thing to happen in this run is the Beyonder killing the team, but that gets fixed rather quickly, without lasting effect.
The other thing that Claremont does here is begin to set up the Inferno event, as Illyana’s control over Limbo is broken, and S’ym, infected with the transmode virus, begins to fight her for it. As always, there’s no telling if this was part of the long-term plan or not. Some plotlines, like Roberto’s father joining the Hellfire Club, just disappeared completely, like Shan’s siblings did. So did supporting characters like Tom and Sharon, and Stevie Hunter.
The revolving door of artists really hinder this stacks of comics too. Jackson Guice is great, as always, but never seemed able to make this book his own. Perhaps part of the problem with that is that the standard team uniforms don’t leave much space for individual artistic license (and maybe that’s why Sienkiewicz so often had the kids fighting while barely dressed).
At the end of the day, these were pretty forgettable comics, sadly. This was a great period for Claremont’s X-Men (the ones that I remember best, really), but it didn’t really spill over to this ancillary title. I can see why someone at Marvel felt the need to make a change, if that’s what happened.
That said, I don’t really remember loving what came after this. All I remember is the Birdbrain character, Rahne falling for Doug, and generally hating Bret Blevins’s art. I’ll see how I feel about it again soon.
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-Men: New Mutants Classic, Vol. 5
X-Men: New Mutants Classic, Vol. 6
New Mutants Classic – Volume 7
Tags: New Mutants, Retro Reviews