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Thursday, July 19, 2012

X-amining Marvel Graphic Novel #4

"Renewal"
1982

In a Nutshell 
After they are targeted by Donald Pierce, Professor X somewhat reluctantly takes on a new class of young mutant students. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bob McLeod
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Scotland, Moira MacTaggert rescues a young mutant werewolf named Rahne, and decides to take her to Charles Xavier. In Brazil, Roberto Da Costa gets into a fight at a soccer game, causing his super strength to manifests, frightening the crowd. In Kentucky, Sam Guthrie arrives for his first day of work in the coal mines, only to be caught in a cave in. In order to save a co-worker, he blasts out of the mine like a cannonball. In Colorado, a young Native American woman named Moonstar is told by her grandfather Black Eagle that he's sending her to study with Charles Xavier to gain control over her psychic mutant abilities. Donald Pierce, having split from the Hellfire Club and captured his former associate Tessa, monitors these activities, and decides to strike against these new mutants and Professor X.


That night Moonstar finds Black Eagle dead, realizes he's been murdered, and swears vengeance. In New York, Professor X, along with Moira and Rahne, examines another young mutant, a woman named Shan who can mentally possess people. After some prodding from Moira, Xavier, grief-stricken over the missing X-Men, reluctantly agrees to take on the girls as students just as a letter from Colorado arrives. Xavier, Rahne and Shan arrive in Colorado and help Moonstar fight off a group of armored henchmen sent by Pierce to kill her. Reading the mind of one of the attackers, Xavier learns Pierce is targeting the other mutants. He sends Moira, Shan and Moonstar to Brazil to find Roberto while he and Rahne go to Kentucky for Sam. After a run-in with the Brazilian police, Shan and Moonstar follow Roberto to where Pierce's men are holding his girlfriend Juliana hostage. In the ensuing fight, Shan and Moonstar help Roberto defeat Pierce's men, but Juliana is killed saving Roberto. Roberto, Shan and Moonstar agree to find Pierce and make him pay.


In Kentucky, Xavier and Rahne are attacked by Sam, who has been duped into working for Pierce. Xavier is captured, but Rahne escapes and follows Xavier to Pierce's base. Pierce intends to use a device to absorb all the information in Xavier's mind, leaving him a vegetable. As Shan, Roberto and Moonstar arrive, Sam discovers Rahne, and a fight breaks out between the young mutants and Pierce's men. When Sam realizes Pierce intends to kill the mutants, he turns on him. Rahne attacks Pierce and is seriously injured, but manages to shut off the mindtap device, allowing Xavier to use his telepathy to take control of Pierce. Unwilling to leave him behind and unable to wait for the authorities because of Rahne's injuries, Xavier reluctantly turns Pierce over to Tessa, who promises the Hellfire Club will deal with him. Two weeks later, Shan, Roberto, Rahne and Moonstar gather for the first time as Xavier's new pupils, when they are joined by Sam, whom Xavier invited to join the school as well. Looking on as his students welcome Sam, Xavier's grief lessens, and he realizes his dream is still good.

Firsts and Other Notables
The issue marks the first appearance of the New Mutants as a team, as well as the vast majority of its members: Sam Guthrie (Cannonball, who can blast through the air like a cannonball), Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane, who can transform into a wolf and human/wolf hybrid), Dani Moonstar (Psyche, who can project images of people's greatest fears and commune with animals), and Roberto Da Costa (Sunspot, who can convert solar energy to raw strength, his body covered by a black energy field when he does so). However, none of the characters receive their code names in this issue, and Moonstar's first name is never mentioned.

They are joined by X'an Coy Mahn, called Shan (Karma, who can mentally posses people), a refugee from Vietnam who is the oldest of the New Mutants. She made her first appearance in Marvel Team-Up #100. X-Men #165 will depict the genesis of the New Mutants, as Moira urges Xavier to take on Karma as a student. Karma is eventually revealed to be a lesbian, though no mention of that is made here (or for awhile). Karma has a twin brother who shares her power, and used it in service of their criminal uncle (as detailed in her first appearance). Her younger siblings, whom she is responsible for looking after, are also mentioned, and they will, more or less sight unseen, come to play a significant role in Karma's narrative for the next several decades.  

In addition to the main characters, a number of minor recurring supporting characters are introduced, including Rahne's fundamentalist guardian, Reverend Craig and Roberto's father, Emmanuel Da Costa.


The villain of the issue is Donald Pierce, former member of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, who has split from the Club. An anti-mutant bigot, he became fed up with working with the mutants in the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club and has begun a crusade against mutants.


He's brought along with him Cole, Macon and Reese, the three Hellfire Club soldiers whom Wolverine attacked in issue #133 and were remade into cyborgs like Pierce. This begins their association with Pierce, a partnership that will last throughout Claremont's run as the four cyborgs eventually join future villain team the Reavers.


Shaw's personal assistant (and, according to a future retcon, secret agent of Xavier) Tessa is kidnapped by Pierce, and later takes him into custody after he's defeated. He'll next be seen escaping that custody.


This issue was on stands as the same time as Uncanny X-Men #164, though to get this issue and the rest of the series up to issue #3 covered before Uncanny #167 (when the X-Men meet the New Mutants for the first time), we're looking at it a bit early. As a result, the New Mutants are gathering in a rebuilt X-Mansion; we'll see it finished for the first time in Uncanny X-Men #164. 

Bob McLeod pencils and inks this issue, and is credited as the co-creator of the New Mutants, having designed the majority of the characters. His work is very unique, strong in body language and facial expressions but light, in places, on backgrounds. 

Originally, this story was intended by Claremont and McLeod to appear as the double-size first issue of the regular New Mutants series, but according to Claremont, Marvel was doing a big push with their graphic novel line at the time, and as a result, were soliciting books without having finished content. So Jim Shooter decided to appropriate the first issue of New Mutants as a graphic novel, leaving Claremont and McLeod to write and draw a second double-sized first issue for the series proper.

As a result of being published as a graphic novel, this issue is printed on glossy paper, with a square binding and featuring no ads, Bullpen Bulletins page, etc. It originally cost $4.95. 

A Work in Progress
Amongst the character traits and background info we learn right away, Rahne is demure and deeply religious, believing mutant powers to be gifts of Satan, Roberto is hot-tempered, skilled at soccer, and initially distrustful of Sam, Moonstar resents authority and fled to the mountains after her power first manifested itself, and Sam is well-meaning but gullible. 

As the issue opens, Moira is in Scotland, though she last appeared in New York with Professor X, with no indication that she returning home. Banshee, of course, is nowhere to be found.

Moira mentions that mutants' powers tend to manifest themselves during puberty; I believe this is the first time that is made explicit.

In order to provide for her siblings while studying with Xavier, Shan is given the job of Professor X's secretary, putting her in charge of the day-to-day operations of the mansion. This is a condition which technically exists for the duration of her stay on the team, but little ever comes of it.


Xavier is said to be Moonstar's (deceased) dad's blood brother, a fairly random relationship which doesn't get explored much.

In these early issues, Moonstar's power is depicted as pink images, presumably to set apart them apart in the reader's eye from everything else on the page (similar to how Jean's telekinesis is often depicted with a colorful energy effect that goes unseen by the characters). I never quite got that as a kid, though, and often wondered why people were so frightened of pink outlines that were clearly fake.


Rahne's transitional form, between full wolf and full human, will be depicted in a variety of ways through the years, and here we see it as being almost centaur-like, with the lower half lupine and the upper half more human. It's also revealed that Moonstar's ability to telepathically communicate with animals allows her to communicate with Rahne when Rahne is in either half wolf or full wolf form.


It's also established that Rahne has accelerated healing abilities.  

Shan is shown to be a Catholic.


Despite his break from the Inner Circle, Pierce is sticking with the "18th century" motif, even drawing an old flintlock pistol on Xavier.


The New Mutants are given standard issue uniforms (the same style as Kitty originally wore when she first joined the X-Men). Made of unstable molecules, they alter to suit the wearer's powers (such as disappearing when Rahne becomes a wolf). Rahne considers the uniform "daring".


I Love the 80s
Like Thunderbird before her, Moonstar is very resentful of the white man.


Roberto refers to Sam as "senhor", which is either the Brazilian spelling of the word, or a pretty bad misspelling. 

Claremontisms
Long before Gambit is even a twinkle in Claremont's eye, Karma drops a "cherie".

Rahne, at least in this issue, suffers from one of the worst Claremont phonetic accents.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Moonstar spends most of the issue pissed off at the world in general and Xavier in particular, and refuses to wear the belt that is part of her uniform. The tension between the two will color these early issues.


Young Love
Roberto's motivations throughout this issue are spurned by the capture and subsequent death of his girlfriend Juliana. She is perhaps the first teenager in modern history to call her boyfriend "beloved".


They're Students, Not Superheroes
Moira convinces Xavier to take on new students by insisting that his dream isn't just about training mutants for combat.


Human/Mutant Relations
As the issue opens, Reverend Craig is leading a lynch mob after Rahne, and they've already shot her once.


Chris Claremont on the genesis of The New Mutants
“For about the last year since the spring of ’81 Weezie [Louise Jones] and I have on various occasions kicked around the idea of doing a second book. Just in a bullshit sort of framework: “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to do a second book.” “What would we do in it?” “Oh, probably go crazy and have heart seizures and nervous breakdowns and things like that.” The main reason why nothing was ever done about it was that we concluded that putting out a second book, especially considering the fact that there seemed to be no artistic personnel available...we decided to wait until we found someone and then think seriously about putting it together…And what happened was that while we were pretty much solidifying the concept or at least getting it as much into focus as we felt we needed, Mark Gruenwald when into Jim [Shooter]’s office with a proposal for an alternative X-Men book involving the “loose” members of the original team – Angel, Iceman, Beast, Havoc, Polaris- and I suppose any other extraneous mutants that happened to be around, and setting them up on the West Coast…Jim quite properly went to Weezie and said that this proposal was had been made to him, and asked if we had any problems with it…or suggestions, or comments. Weezie pointed out, well, we had our own concept in the works, and we’d had it for quite some time. And Jim said, “Oh, okay, well, let’s hear it.” So then we had to put up or shut up.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p109-110

Tom DeFalco on the genesis of The New Mutants
"It wasn't Gruenwald, it was me. Mark and I were handling the Spider-Man books and Jim Shooter noticed that sales were going up. He suggested we do another title. I asked why should we expand Spider-Man if X-Men was our biggest seller? Why not do a second X-Men book? Mark and I always assumed that Louise would edit it.

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p69

Chris Claremont on the concept of the The New Mutants
“This is all tentative in that the book will evolve as we go along, but I would like primarily to keep this focused in and around the mansion, Salem Center, that area of Westchester, New York City – the Northeast primarily, but not any farther than that. I would like to steer clear of the globetrotting, universetrotting, dimensiontrotting milieu of the X-Men themselves, because the idea is to draw as stark and absolute a contrast as possible. These are kids who could go down to the local malt shop, or would like to, which is something, for better or worse, I can’t imagine the X-Men doing.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p111

“This is basically the book Jim Shooter always felt The X-Men should be…It finally restores to Xavier a necessity of function that he hasn’t had in The Uncanny X-Men since after the first year of the new team’s existence.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p117

“One of the problems that has arisen with The X-Men is that it is a very insular book; there is a very limited interaction between the X-Men and normal people, the world around them. They generally tend to interact on a very extraordinary and extreme plane of reality, with super-heroes or aliens or demons or God knows what else. It’s a very rarefied atmosphere, whereas with this one, we want to go more in the direction of interaction between super-beings and normal people.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p118

Teebore's Take
By 1982, X-Men was rising through the ranks of Marvel's best selling titles. Spider-Man was headlining two titles (Amazing Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man) as well as Marvel Team-Up and the Fantastic Four's Thing starred as one half of the rotating duo in the Team-Up-esque Marvel Two-In-One. So it only made sense to the powers-at-be to spin-off a title from the critically and commercially successful X-Men.

Determined to keep the new title in house (where he could maintain control of the overall X-Men narrative) Claremont worked with Louise Simonson (nee Jones) to put together a spin-off book. In doing so, he finally gave Jim Shooter something the editor-in-chief had been after for years: a return to the "X-Men as students of Charles Xavier" concept. Instead of forcing the now twenty-and-thirty-something X-Men back into the classroom, Claremont created a new team of teenaged characters and made them Xavier's students. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of New Mutants is that the main characters are students first, not superheroes. While they wear uniforms and train in the Danger Room, it's for their protection and to give them greater control over their powers. While the conventions of the genre never quite let this status quo remain in place for very long, the effort (or lack thereof) made to maintain it helps give New Mutants a different tone and purpose, which helps set it apart from its parent title.

This issue is (likely intentionally) structured a lot like Giant Size X-Men #1, the last issue to introduce readers to a group of new mutants en masse (and like the Giant-Size team, the New Mutants are also a diverse group: in addition to Sam, from Kentucky, there's the Native American Moonstar, Scottish Rahne, Brazilian Roberto and Vietnamese Shan). It opens with 2-3 pages devoted to introducing each new character, followed by (part of) the team gathering at the X-Mansion before being sent out on a mission, during which the characters split off in an effort to showcase their individual powers and personalities before coming together to defeat the villain. It's an effective technique, and this issue reads something like the pilot of a TV show, with the characters and situations introduced such that by the end, you've gotten something that isn't quite what the series will be, but that's managed to setup what's coming.  

Next Issue: New Mutants #1
With the team fully formed, they kick off the first issue of their new regular series.

But first, we return to the X-Men for the first appearance of Binary in Uncanny X-Men #164.

26 comments:

  1. I don't have much to say. For whatever reason I really don't like the artwork here.

    But I've gotta bust your balls a little bit:

    "Roberto refers to Sam as "senhor", which is either the Brazilian spelling of the word, or a pretty bad misspelling."

    Senhor is PORTUGUESE for Mr.

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  2. For a long time, this single story was my main exposure to the New Mutants. I bought it to go with my X-Men back issues, but never bothered with any of the regular New Mutants series. I have since corrected that by reading most of Claremont's run in the New Mutants Classic trades and some of the Simonson issues in the various crossovers. Except for the first appearance of Deadpool, I've never touched a Liefeld issue of New Mutants.

    "...Dani Moonstar..."

    As I've mentioned before, I've never really understood the reader crushes on Kitty Pryde that were apparently prevalent around this time. However, when I finally got around to reading the early New Mutants issues, I decided that young me would totally have had a crush on Moonstar. However, she later suffers from a lot of the same Mary Sue-ism that Claremont applied to Kitty, which is unfortunate.

    "...Rahne's fundamentalist guardian, Reverend Craig..."

    SPOILER: Isn't he eventually revealed to be her father? Did that happen in the Warren Ellis run on Excalibur, or was it later?

    "The villain of the issue is Donald Pierce, former member of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, who has split from the Club."

    I've always felt this was too abrupt. I think it was clear from previous issues that Pierce didn't really like Shaw, but did it ever come up that he hates mutants in general? If it did, it wasn't played up effectively enough to make his break from the Hellfire Club seem natural. Some sub-plot scenes or something would've helped. Did Claremont ever cover any of this in his Classic X-Men back-ups? I haven't read all of them.

    "He's brought along with him Cole, Macon and Reese..."

    Funny how their first cybrogified appearance was in Uncanny #151 and 152, which also involved Bob McLeod.

    "[McLeod's] work is very unique, strong in body language and facial expressions but light, in places, on backgrounds."

    When I read this issue way back when, I didn't appreciate McLeod's art all that much. Having re-read it recently, along with his other early New Mutants stuff, I find that I like him a lot more now. As I've said before, I would've much rather seen McLeod and Buscema continued on New Mutants over Bill S.

    "Banshee, of course, is nowhere to be found."

    Still at Cassidy Keep with Theresa. And possibly Madrox, since he suddenly doesn't live on Muir Island anymore.

    "...a proposal for an alternative X-Men book involving the “loose” members of the original team – Angel, Iceman, Beast, Havoc, Polaris- and I suppose any other extraneous mutants that happened to be around, and setting them up on the West Coast..."

    Wow, that seems like a missed opportunity to me. Especially on the off chance they could've gotten Byrne to write and draw it. He's who I would've gone to first, anyway.

    Seriouosly, you've kind of depressed me now that I know that idea was tossed around and discarded.

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  3. I think that proposal would eventually morph into what would become X-Factor a few years down the line, so don't feel too bad. As somebody who didn't like that X-Factor or the original 5, I have to say I'm glad they went with a new idea.

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  4. Dobson -- "I think that proposal would eventually morph into what would become X-Factor a few years down the line, so don't feel too bad."

    Good point, Michael.*

    I just thought this idea sounded better since it was using all the then-"retired" X-Men, including Havok and Polaris.

    Plus, like I said, my mind just went nuts imagining John Byrne writing and drawing the thing -- which, since he had no involvement in X-Factor beyond the initial set-up, probably wouldn't have happened anyway.

    * - JOKE!

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  5. @Dr. Bitz: For whatever reason I really don't like the artwork here.

    I still can't decide how I feel about it. I like some of the expressiveness, but I also think it lacks dynamism. At the end of the day, I don't think the glossy paper and coloring does it any favors; I'm as back-and-forth on McLeod's art in the regular series, but it at least looks somewhat better.

    Senhor is PORTUGUESE for Mr.

    See? I was right. Brazilian = Portugese. ;)

    @Matt: Except for the first appearance of Deadpool, I've never touched a Liefeld issue of New Mutants.

    Then you, my friend, are in for a treat once we get there. :)

    I decided that young me would totally have had a crush on Moonstar.

    I've always been very annoyed by her in these early issues (here antagonism towards Xavier gets tiresome), but eventually she calms down a bit, and from that point on, she becomes one of my favorite New Mutants, even to this day.

    However, she later suffers from a lot of the same Mary Sue-ism that Claremont applied to Kitty, which is unfortunate.

    Hmm, I don't remember that. I know she gets saddled with a ridiculously nebulous power upgrade that does her no favors, but I don't remember the Mary Sue-ism. I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

    Isn't he eventually revealed to be her father? Did that happen in the Warren Ellis run on Excalibur, or was it later?

    Yes, and yes.

    Ellis' Excalibur run is actually a fun little gem. It has its problems, and its Ellis-isms, but it definitely stands out from the material being published in some of the other spin-offs at the time (the Pacheco artwork certainly helped too).

    If it did, it wasn't played up effectively enough to make his break from the Hellfire Club seem natural.

    It was known prior to this that Pierce didn't like mutants, despite his association with the Inner Circle, but it definitely wasn't played up.

    Did Claremont ever cover any of this in his Classic X-Men back-ups?

    Not explicitly. There's one backup which features Shaw and Emma taking control of the Inner Circle from the then-current White King, who was a mutant hater involved in Sentinel development (it was all meant to tie into the reference in issue #100 to Stephen Lang being funded by the Hellfire Club, and appeared after the reprinting of issue #100), so we could infer that Pierce is a holdover from that anti-mutant regime.

    Funny how their first cybrogified appearance was in Uncanny #151 and 152, which also involved Bob McLeod.

    Huh. I never made that connection. I wonder if McLeod had a hand in bringing them back/keeping them around?

    As I've said before, I would've much rather seen McLeod and Buscema continued on New Mutants over Bill S.

    And as I mentioned before, I remember not really liking the McLeod/Buscema art when I was younger, so I'm curious to find out what I think of it now.

    Seriouosly, you've kind of depressed me now that I know that idea was tossed around and discarded.

    If it makes you feel any better, they pretty much did that book eventually, only with the Avengers instead of the X-Men...

    @Dobson: I think that proposal would eventually morph into what would become X-Factor a few years down the line

    Could be. I know that the X-Factor idea was, in general, one that was kicked around Marvel for a while before they actually pulled the trigger, and that for whatever reason Claremont didn't get involved, so it could have its origins in that proposal.

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  6. About the only thing I don't like about McLeod's work is "baby face" Xavier. But that seems more prevalent here than in the ongoing series. Also, is it just me, or does he seem to be really trying to make Karma look ugly? One less cultured than me might even use the word, "fugly". Like, he's not just trying to make her look plain, but flat-out unattractive. Through total coincidence, I just read Marvel Team-Up #100 recently, and while Frank Miller draws her kind of plain, he doesn't give her the man-ish features McLeod applies to her here.

    Anyway, I agree that perhaps the format of this one-shot was less suited to his abilities than a normal newsprint comic. And I'll add that while I enjoy McLeod as a penciler, I think I prefer him as an inker on others' pencils.

    Teebore -- "Then you, my friend, are in for a treat once we get there. :)"

    Hmm, slight correction... I've also read the three New Mutants chapters of "X-Tinction Agenda". But that's it. I'll expand my original statement, though, to say: Except for the first apperance of Deadpool, the three "X-Tinction Agenda" issues, and the first issue of X-Force, I haven't touched a single issue of Liefeld's New Mutants or X-Force. Though I heard Marvel will be publishing an X-Force Omnibus in the near future. I may check that out.

    Teebore -- "Hmm, I don't remember that. I know she gets saddled with a ridiculously nebulous power upgrade that does her no favors, but I don't remember the Mary Sue-ism."

    I was thinking specifically of the power upgrade, plus becoming a valkyrie and getting her very own pegasus (seriously, a girl who owns a pegasus would be the picture of a Mary Sue in the dictionary), plus the fact that even though she and Cannonball are ostensibly the "co-leaders" of the New Mutants, Moonstar is pretty clearly the "real" leader.

    Teebore -- "Ellis' Excalibur run is actually a fun little gem."

    I pretty much can't stand Warren Ellis on anything, for a variety of reasons, but I love his Excalibur. It's one of my favorite X-runs of the 90's. I assume perhaps that the heavy editorial hand of the 90's X-office kept his excesses in check, and the result is a series of very fun and interesting stories.

    You're right that the Pacheco art certainly helps, though I think he only drew something like three non-consecutive issues after being announced as the regular artist. He was plucked off the title to draw the final three issues of Fantastic Four before "Onslaught", then came back for one single "farewell" issue before moving on to X-Men.

    And as much as I love his art, that "shaved head/chin goatee/earring/pirate costume" look he gave Nightcrawler was horrendous.

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  7. Me -- "He was plucked off the title to draw the final three issues of Fantastic Four before "Onslaught", then came back for one single "farewell" issue before moving on to X-Men."

    And to tie the above in with some of the recent material reviewed here, I'll add that the final Ellis/Pacheco issue of Excalibur was about Kitty, Nightcrawler, and Colossus battling Belasco.

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  8. @Matt: Like, he's not just trying to make her look plain, but flat-out unattractive.

    Definitely! I'm not saying all the women need to be super models, but it really does seem like he's trying to make her as unattractive as possible.

    Though I heard Marvel will be publishing an X-Force Omnibus in the near future. I may check that out.

    Oh man, that should be awesome, in an ironic, so-bad-it's-good kind of way.

    seriously, a girl who owns a pegasus would be the picture of a Mary Sue in the dictionary

    Okay, that made me laugh out loud when I read it. Too true. And yeah, when you lay it all out like that, it does seems pretty Mary Sue-ish.

    ...Moonstar is pretty clearly the "real" leader.

    It's funny that you say that. Since I read the first dozen or so issues of X-Force, where Sam is pretty much the dominant field leader (Cyclops to Cable's Professor X), before reading any substantial amount of New Mutants, I never even noticed that Dani was supposed to be co-leader until I finally read an issue that made it explicit.

    And as much as I love his art, that "shaved head/chin goatee/earring/pirate costume" look he gave Nightcrawler was horrendous.

    Agreed. Though I did like the idea of giving him a sword. Fit the whole swashbuckler image.

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  9. Reading about Moira's actions here, man, Deadly Genesis just absolutely doesn't work, does it? After the shit that went down in that series, I can't imagine Moira ever wanting to speak to Xavier again, much less prodding him to form another team. I understand Claremont or anyone else can't be blamed for a retcon twenty years later, but Marvel really should have thought a little harder about that before they commissioned the damn thing.

    Speaking of retcons that don't work (and this one I can blame Claremont for), we have Tessa! Deadly Genesis, ill-conceived as it was, was at least attempting something bold and lasting; what Claremont was hoping to accomplish with his "Tessa was Xavier's spy all along" business I'll never know.

    What do you guys think of the "X-Men in a classroom" thing that seems to get so much praise? Personally, I never got the appeal (and I'm not surprised that I find something else to disagree with Jim Shooter on). It was maybe a fresher idea here, but from Morrison on it's been tried time and time again (they tried it in Generation X for like an issue but that book was weird anyway) and I just don't get it. The original five were basically students in name only IMO (barring that Jean goes to college stuff) and honestly, I can't imagine why anyone would want to read about a bunch of super powered characters doing homework. New Mutants didn't go that way, of course, but then you've got to come up with a plausible reason why they always landed themselves in trouble fighting villains and such. Same problem now: the young teams always end up in battle (and get slaughtered in some of the more recent incarnations) and there's just no way that would fly. The X-Men would keep them under lock and key if they were serious about the student thing (with the exception of the now crazy Cyclops maybe). It's just odd to have them supposed to be students but have them constantly getting into dangerous shenanigans each week only to be yelled at by Magneto or whoever.

    Same issue bugged me with Buffy (here I go again). Students in a normal school that just happen to be in grave danger every week. And their schoolmates are cannon fodder and no one cares. Sorry, but it just doesn't work. Just admit they're superheroes and cut the bullshit.

    Strange that I apply none of this to the original five. Again, they didn't feel any different than the Avengers or Fantastic Four to me. Other than their stated ages, I never thought of them as "kids". Maybe because Xavier just sent them in to battle constantly and didn't seem to care that much.

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  10. I'm with Bitz. Not crazy about the art at all.
    But yay Sam! He's one of those side characters that i totally love

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  11. @Dan: After the shit that went down in that series, I can't imagine Moira ever wanting to speak to Xavier again, much less prodding him to form another team.

    It's been awhile since I read it (and I only read it once), but I think Xavier wiped everyone's memories of the second team (the one comprised of Moira's pupils), including Moira's.

    what Claremont was hoping to accomplish with his "Tessa was Xavier's spy all along" business I'll never know.

    I have no idea either, but man, if you want to talk Mary Sues, look no further than Claremont and Tessa.

    What do you guys think of the "X-Men in a classroom" thing that seems to get so much praise?

    While I'm not opposed to the idea in theory, you're right that it's never quite worked in execution. As I mentioned in this post, it's a decent idea, but the conventions of the genre inevitably end up either forcing its abandonment or making it look ludicrous.

    If you can divest it from the superhero action story, I think it could work great - think "90210/Dawson's Creek/OC/you're preferred teen drama with powers" - but it would have to be presented in a way where a monthly slugfest with a super-villain wasn't the expectation (in that regard, it could probably work a lot better these days, and in fact, the non-Morrison New X-Men that introduced characters like Surge, Prodigy, Hellion, etc. probably handled the concept the best. I was bummed when that book got the ax).

    Other than that iteration of New X-Men, I think the concept worked best during Morrison's run, in which the X-Men were the teachers and the mutant students were, essentially, the supporting cast of the book, and thus not required to have their own super-heroic adventures.

    Same issue bugged me with Buffy (here I go again). Students in a normal school that just happen to be in grave danger every week. And their schoolmates are cannon fodder and no one cares.

    I always viewed the students in Buffy more like the regular denizens of the Marvel Universe: some got caught up in the super-powered shenanigans, some became evil, some just lived their lives amongst the chaos. The thing with Buffy, at least in the first three seasons, was that the show was looking at high school experiences through the lens of horror - and that was something that involved everyone, at least tangentially, not just the main characters.

    Other than their stated ages, I never thought of them as "kids".

    Agreed. Part of it was probably that they were never depicted as kids. Or at least not as we'd expect kids to be depicted. I mean, maybe teenagers in the 60s went on dates to beatnik poetry clubs wearing suits and ties, but I somehow doubt it.

    @Sarah: But yay Sam! He's one of those side characters that i totally love

    He is nigh-invulnerable when he's blastin'.

    I too really like Sam.

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  12. @Teebore

    I always viewed the students in Buffy more like the regular denizens of the Marvel Universe: some got caught up in the super-powered shenanigans, some became evil, some just lived their lives amongst the chaos...

    You forgot to add, "and all of them were stupid idiots." :)

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  13. @Dan: You forgot to add, "and all of them were stupid idiots." :)

    True. :)

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  14. I meant to comment on this statement from Chris Claremont yesterday, but I forgot:

    "I would like to steer clear of the globetrotting, universetrotting, dimensiontrotting milieu of the X-Men..."

    So... that premise didn't really last long, did it? They're in South America and Nova Roma less than a year into the series, and not long after that they're halfway across the universe with Lila Cheney!

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  15. My problem with super heroes "being students first" whether it's Spider-Man or X-Men is simply that it's tough to see them fret over a test or something right after they've saved the city/country/world/galaxy from certain destruction.

    Wouldn't putting your life on the line every day put the more trivial school stuff in some sort of perspective?

    I can have the same issue with some of the romantic entanglements and love triangles super heroes will find themselves in. It can work if it's presented the right way, but once a character gets to obsessed with it you feel like they need a nice, healthy dose of perspective.

    Yeah, you're girlfriends pissed at you, but you just saved and entire orphanage from an evil monster. So it should all balance out.

    And I know, at the end of the day having superheroes sweat the little stuff is supposed to make them more relatable, but I wonder how realistic it is.

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  16. Mark Gruenwald when into Jim [Shooter]’s office with a proposal for an alternative X-Men book involving the “loose” members of the original team – Angel, Iceman, Beast, Havoc, Polaris- and I suppose any other extraneous mutants that happened to be around, and setting them up on the West Coast.

    @Dobson I think that proposal would eventually morph into what would become X-Factor a few years down the line...

    OK, I don't want to hijack the discussion away from the New Mutants' debut, but -- holy frack! This somehow never dawned on me before.

    Jean was resurrected for X-Factor because everyone wanted a second X-Men spin-off and couldn't find a female lead -- and Dark Phoenix was idiotically retconned to make it happen.

    But, why not just make it Polaris? She had more history with the original X-Men than any other female character. She had similar powers (visually) to Jean -- able to make (metal) things move and able to fly. And, what's more, she was AVAILABLE. X-Factor debuted nearly a year and a half before Claremont wrote Havok and Polaris back into Uncanny.

    For that matter -- why not stick to Gruenwald's original idea and make the X-Factor line-up be Havok, Polaris, Angel, Beast, and Iceman? Havok and Polaris were sort of honorary originals, anyway -- having joined the team pre-reprint era and having left the team with the others in Uncanny 93.

    Substituting Havok and Polaris for Cyclops and Marvel Girl makes sense. They're available. They have similar powers. They have a similar personal history. They're honorary originals. Most importantly -- you don't need to sloppily write Cyclops out of Uncanny OR retcon the book's greatest storyline to make it work.

    !@#$

    OK. I just got really worked up over that. I'm going to stop ranting now. But I might start again when we start X-amining X-Factor.

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  17. @Dr. Bitz My problem with super heroes "being students first" whether it's Spider-Man or X-Men is simply that it's tough to see them fret over a test or something right after they've saved the city/country/world/galaxy from certain destruction.

    Wouldn't putting your life on the line every day put the more trivial school stuff in some sort of perspective?


    I see you posted this while I was typing up by my X-Factor rant.

    I gotta disagree with you here. I mean, I can't speak from the perspective of saving the city / country / world / galaxy, but I can speak from the experience of my own life -- as everyone else here can.

    I work at a non-profit funded almost entirely by individual contributions. My job is to drive those contributions in -- contributions that keep people employed, fund healthcare plans, retirement plans, pay for office space, supplies, and hopefully allow the organization to make the world a better place.

    Raising money is tremendously stressful. If I fail, budgets are cut, benefits are cut, or people get laid off.

    But I also have a personal life. I have a boyfriend, a home, a dog. Sometimes I neglect some or all of these things to work. Sometimes I realize that work is not as important as those other things.

    We all live those sorts of competing priorities. I've always read student superheroes as characters with those same competing priorities writ large -- Raise the money or see my boyfriend? Save the world or pass the test?

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  18. @Michael, regarding X-Factor, Bob Layton originally intended for Dazzler to be the female member of X-Factor, and it wasn't until Kurt Busiek gave Byrne the means to bring back Jean that Layton replaced Dazzler in order to have all the original X-Men back together. You can read more about it here.

    Also, I don't think the problem was writing Cyclops out of X-Men; Claremont had already done that. The problem was that in order to get Cyclops into X-Factor, Layton had to write him as a grade A asshat.

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  19. I'm curious about Xavier's expression on the cover. Either he's recoiling from whatever the kids are facing, or, my first impression, given the representational nature of the art, horrified by this gang of strange, superpowered teenagers whom he sought out, introduced to one another, and gave uniforms.

    The color plates are frequently off-register in my (first) printing of the GN, which is really distracting.

    Bob McLeod's art is less appealing that I remember it being most of the time, and in some panels it's downright unfortunate. Even if I try to come up with a charitable excuse such as him being seriously pressed for time with the imminent launch of the series, I can't excuse the numerous instances of terrible perspective and malproportioned figure work — too poor for any old story and especially egregious in a presumedly prestige product.

    I'd guess that this is unintentional, but I kind-of love that Roberto is picked on for being "mixed-race" and then when his Sunspot powers manifest he literally turns completely black.

    You guys have said before, and here, that Tessa was later shown to be Xavier's plant. This would've been the perfect place to reveal that, but instead of suggesting it — which is where I thought things might be going — we get a caption that states outright that Xavier doesn't trust her, so the reveal will be a total retcon.

    Dani is putting her uniform on in the wrong order purely for the sake of a would-be titillating shot of her bare back. The leotard top she's holding clearly has to go on before the bottoms. Of course she's already fallen behind Rahne in the nudity stats.

    I'd forgotten that Dani insists on adding her boots and belt to the traditional school uniform — she's the Worf of the gang. Although the belt insignia is the one thing that I suspect Xavier would insist on showing.

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  20. After some prodding from Moira, Xavier, grief-stricken over the missing X-Men, reluctantly agrees to take on the girls as students

    "If ye don't like 'em, Charles, ye kin always send 'em off t' Krakoa."

    He sends Moira, Shan and Moonstar to Brazil to find Roberto while he and Rahne go to Kentucky for Sam.

    Why separate Rahne from Moira, separate Dani (who's not only untested but dangerous) from himself (who can keep her powers in check), and put the pair with mental abilities together?

    Moonstar's first name is never mentioned.

    Her first name is actually used repeatedly, pardon my correction. Xavier calls her "Danielle" telepathically, which surprises and angers her because only her grandfather knew it; later, the other girls are calling her Dani willy-nilly, which is strange since she seems to either resent the name or feel that it's personal.

    Banshee, of course, is nowhere to be found

    I figured you'd mention that. Moira was apparently right to fear that having his daughter turn up would drive a wedge between her and Sean, although it can't help that while he's off with Teresa Moira's spending time with her former lover first in the Bermuda Triangle and then back in the States.

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  21. Xavier is said to be Moonstar's (deceased) dad's blood brother, a fairly random relationship which doesn't get explored much.

    Claremont just can't help making special characters and special relationships even more special, almost like there's a general "Mary Sue" aura of privilege that he wants to impart to everyone. It would've been enough to have Dani's father be an old army buddy of Xavier's, as Xavier later mentions, but we first have to learn that they were blood brothers (which I hadn't remembered), that Xavier was proud to be accepted by Black Eagle as one of his own, and that he knows Danielle's name because he was in fact there the day her parents named her.

    I never quite got that as a kid, though, and often wondered why people were so frightened of pink outlines that were clearly fake.

    Even apart from my general dislike of the color-hold technique, you're right that the approach works at cross purposes for the reader — cueing to us that the images are mere mental projections at the expense of driving home how frighteningly real they are to the characters being affected.

    Moonstar's ability to telepathically communicate with animals

    Which of course is related to her primary mutant power of creating nightmare visions due to her... um, healing factor...?

    Long before Gambit is even a twinkle in Claremont's eye, Karma drops a "cherie".

    That was weird, even though we'd previously been shown that she spoke French, because she's not, like, Creole.

    Moira convinces Xavier to take on new students by insisting that his dream isn't just about training mutants for combat.

    Score one for Moira in-story as well as Claremont (and Shooter) here! The kids are gonna get into fights anyway because this is a superhero feature, but in my opinion it's rather nice to have this brought up. It used to be a much more obvious part of Xavier's mission to find young mutants, both to train them in the use of their powers so that they wouldn't be a danger or source of fear to humanity and so that Magneto didn't scoop them up for his Brotherhood first.

    Claremont: "These are kids who could go down to the local malt shop"

    And we all know how well things go when young mutants visit the malt shop.

    Louise Simonson wasn't née Jones, by the way. She'd been married to artist Jeff Jones, kept the name until marrying Walt Simonson, and was, per Wikipedia, was actually née Mary Louise Alexander.

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  22. @DrBitz: For whatever reason I really don't like the artwork here.

    'Cause it's not very good?

    @Matt: Except for the first appearance of Deadpool, I've never touched a Liefeld issue of New Mutants.

    I touched one once and got a nanovirus that manifested itself as a cybernetic eye, laser-cannon hand, and melancholy over what the comics industry would be for the next half-dozen years.

    @Teebore: Then you, my friend, are in for a treat once we get there. :)

    ?!?!?!!!

    @Matt: And possibly Madrox, since he suddenly doesn't live on Muir Island anymore.

    Why can't Madrox be on Muir Island and at Cassidy Keep?

    @Dan: Same issue bugged me with Buffy (here I go again).

    I'll just point out that the Hellmouth was both a metaphor and an actual in-story explanation for the supernatural occurrences.

    Teebore: Other than that iteration of New X-Men, I think the concept worked best during Morrison's run, in which the X-Men were the teachers and the mutant students were, essentially, the supporting cast of the book

    Which is actually something that the movies did too — the X-Men were the strike team, but also instructors to the younger non-action mutant students.

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  23. @Blam

    You guys have said before, and here, that Tessa was later shown to be Xavier's plant. This would've been the perfect place to reveal that, but instead of suggesting it — which is where I thought things might be going — we get a caption that states outright that Xavier doesn't trust her, so the reveal will be a total retcon.

    Did Claremont ever reveal when he came up with that idea? Not that I'd believe him for a second if he said he had planned it all along, mind you. Just curious if that was supposed to be one of his eventual plots that he never got around to finishing. I still call BS. I don't care that he rescued an obscure character from limbo only to reinvent her as marketable for his X-Treme X-Men series (they did it with Frenzy in Legacy to small success), but why the retcon? It doesn't make sense in terms of previous storylines, and it doesn't even seem like something Xavier would do. Yes, we've seen a lot of shockingly revealed dick moves from him in the past, but I'm not even sure how Tessa would make a good spy or why he would even care. In fact, her powers would probably have come in handy during more than one of those goofy silver age outings. Furthermore, supposing it was always Claremont's intention, by the time he got back to the books with X-Treme X-Men, why even bother? Who the hell knew who Tessa was or even cared? The fact that he was so hell bent on retconning such a minor character from years prior is about the only evidence I would see that points to this being some kind of master plan.

    That is all.

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  24. @Matt: They're in South America and Nova Roma less than a year into the series, and not long after that they're halfway across the universe with Lila Cheney!

    Yeah, like the whole "they're students, not superheroes" bit, that conceit gets lost to the conventions of the genre pretty quickly. Thought at least the Nova Roma stuff is couched as a school trip.

    @Dr. Bitz: Wouldn't putting your life on the line every day put the more trivial school stuff in some sort of perspective?

    @Michael: I've always read student superheroes as characters with those same competing priorities writ large -- Raise the money or see my boyfriend? Save the world or pass the test?

    In true waffling fashion, I can see both your points. On the one hand, superheroes whining about how their superhero lifestyle interferes with their personal life is a more dramatized presentation of the same struggle we all deal with occasionally.

    On the other hand, superheroes whining about missing out on a date because they had to save the world suggests a lack of proper priorities.

    For me, I think it comes down to balance. Spider-Man getting upset that Gwen is mad at him because he stood her up to fight Doc Ock is fine, and makes him more relate-able, so long as he doesn't do it all the time, or the times when he's doing it don't coincide with a major Earth-shattering event.

    I guess it's a matter of perspective; I can accept the analogy so long as the superhero thing standing in for our jobs isn't so major that choosing your personal life over it becomes obviously selfish. And as long as the hero isn't constantly struggling to reconcile two lives, I can accept it on the occasions that it does occur.

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  25. @Blam: Dani is putting her uniform on in the wrong order purely for the sake of a would-be titillating shot of her bare back.

    Good point; I meant to comment on that.

    I'd forgotten that Dani insists on adding her boots and belt to the traditional school uniform — she's the Worf of the gang.

    Ha! And, just like Worf, I find her pretty tedious in these early goings, until her edges soften a bit and I start to appreciate her character more (like I did with Worf on DS9).

    Why separate Rahne from Moira, separate Dani (who's not only untested but dangerous) from himself (who can keep her powers in check), and put the pair with mental abilities together?

    It is indeed some very odd, seemingly random pairings; perhaps we can chalk the shoddy field leadership up to what we learn about Xavier in New Mutants #3/X-Men 166/167?

    Her first name is actually used repeatedly, pardon my correction.

    No request for pardon necessary; I added that detail at the last minute when I thought "I've been referring to her as Dani, but is that just because *I* know that's her name?" Then I quickly checked one page, saw her referred to as "Moonstar" and ran with it, forgetting the numerous instances in which she's not only called by her first name but that attention is drawn to it. So that was my bad, and I'm glad you corrected it.

    Moira was apparently right to fear that having his daughter turn up would drive a wedge between her and Sean, although it can't help that while he's off with Teresa Moira's spending time with her former lover first in the Bermuda Triangle and then back in the States.

    Self-fulfilling prophecy much? ;)

    It would've been enough to have Dani's father be an old army buddy of Xavier's...

    Exactly. It's not enough for just one past connection, Xavier has to be thoroughly integrated into Moonstar's backstory via tons of contrivances and heretofore unknown relationships. It would be somewhat more forgivable if Claremont intended to use those relationships as launch pads for further stories, but as far as I know, he never did.

    Which of course is related to her primary mutant power of creating nightmare visions due to her... um, healing factor...?

    Ha! Yeah, this where Claremont pretty much gives up the ghost in terms of one mutant=one power.

    I've often thought that Shan's ability to possess people is really just a limited form of telepathy (Xavier can posses people too, as well as do other things telepathically), and you could maybe make that argument for Dani, too (her ability to telepathically only read the greatest fears and desires in the minds of others, as well as the whole animal communication thing, could be limited manifestations of greater telepathic abilities), but the fact that everyone sees the "fear images" she creates, not just her victims, represents a level of telepathy we've never seen before, unless we're to assume she's telepathically placing those images in the minds of everyone around here.

    But of course, those are just my wild theories; it isn't like Claremont ever goes down that road himself.

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  26. @Blam: It used to be a much more obvious part of Xavier's mission to find young mutants...

    Even if the New Mutants do find themselves in combat situations more than "just students" probably should, as you say I do like the impetus the series puts on this other part of Xavier's mission. X-Men can cover the "protect a world that fears and hates us" part of Xavier's dream, while New Mutants can handle the "find other mutants and help them deal with their powers, to be better integrated into society" portion of it.

    Louise Simonson wasn't née Jones, by the way.

    Fascinating. I never knew Jones wasn't her maiden name. Thanks!

    ?!?!?!!!

    An ironic treat, don't worry. Liefeld's art is horrendous to look at, but oh so much fun to mock.

    Which is actually something that the movies did too — the X-Men were the strike team, but also instructors to the younger non-action mutant students.

    Good point, and I liked how the movie handled it as well. Morrison definitely took some cues from the film in that regard.

    @Dan: Did Claremont ever reveal when he came up with that idea?

    I haven't done much research into Claremont's post-return work, so I haven't seen anything suggesting what his plan for Tessa was/why he setup the retcon he did/why he loved the character so much. But as far as I know, it was ALWAYS a retcon; Claremont didn't come up with the idea until after her returned to the books, and I don't believe he's ever tried to suggest it was something he had planned all along during his original run on the book.

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