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Thursday, July 26, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #1

"Initiation!"
March 1983

In a Nutshell 
The New Mutants get acquainted with the school and each other. 

Writer & Co-Creator: Chris Claremont
Penciler & Co-Creator: Bob McLeod
Inker: Mike Gustovich
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The New Mutants look on as Shan gets an unwanted haircut from Stevie Hunter. While joking around, Dani accidentally manifests images of Shan's horrific past. Enraged, she attacks Dani until Roberto pulls her off. Frustrated at her lack of control, Dani wanders off, ending up in the X-Men's wing of the mansion. She spends the day tending to Storm's plants before being telepathically summoned to the Danger Room. Meanwhile, in London, Moira and Illyana arrive at the residence Gabrielle Haller, the Israeli ambassador. She asks Moira for help treating her autistic mutant son, and explains that she doesn't want Xavier's help because he is unknowingly the boy's father. In New York, Professor X introduces the New Mutants to the Danger Room, showing them the basic fitness mode as well as an advanced training scenario designed for the X-Men. One by one the New Mutants attempt to cross the Danger Room, but all fail to accomplish their goal.


As Dani's turn approaches, she is overcome with fear and anxiety and flees the mansion. Rahne tracks Dani's scent into the woods, and the two girls discuss Dani's deceased parents and her frustration with her power. The rest of the New Mutants arrive, heading into town with Stevie, but Dani declines joining them, wishing to be alone. As the rest of the team departs, unknowingly followed by government agents, Dani returns to the Danger Room. Overcoming her fear, she does what none of the other students could do and passes her test. But just as she finishes, she's blasted from behind and knocked unconscious. When she awakens, she finds herself in the middle of the X-Men's dangerous training scenario.

Firsts and Other Notables
All of their characters receive their codenames this issue: Cannonball (Sam), Wolfsbane (Rahne), Sunspot (Roberto), Karma (Shan) and Psyche (Dani). Considering Xavier's insistence in this issue that the students aren't training to fight super-villains, it's unclear why he assigns them codenames, aside from genre-convention. 

Gabrielle Haller, the Holocaust survivor whom Xavier healed and then romanced in the flashback of X-Men #161, makes her first appearance in the present. Though he goes unseen, this is also the first reference to the character who will be known as Legion, as Gabrielle seeks out Moira's help with her autistic mutant son, who also happens to be Professor Xavier's son.


This is the first time we see the upgraded-with-Shi'ar technology Danger Room, as it is now capable of generating holograms and complex training environments.

Dani mentions dreaming of her parents dying fighting a massive bear; this is the first mention of the titular character in the "Demon Bear Saga" story which runs in issue #18-20.


Sam mentions growing up with several sisters; this is the first reference to Sam's numerous siblings, several of whom will eventually become students of Xavier themselves.


As you may have noticed from the cover date, we've jumped ahead a bit, for reasons detailed in the comments of last week's post. This issue shares a cover date with Uncanny X-Men #167, though it was actually on sale at the same time as issue #166. 

A Work in Progress
Kitty's dance instructor, Stevie Hunter, has joined the school to serve as the New Mutants physical education teacher.


Roberto hams it up, kissing Rahne's hand, prompting the sheltered girl to wonder if that means Roberto likes her.


Dani mentions that she was living in Wyoming before Xavier brought her to the school; in MGN #4 it was said she was in Colorado.

Illyana is in England, meeting Gabrielle Haller with Moira.

Dani finds her way into Storm's attic, and spends the rest of the day caring for Storm's plants. The staff and dagger Storm was seen wielding when she was poising as a goddess in Africa when Xavier first recruited her, as seen in Giant Size X-Men #1, can be seen hanging on Storm's mantle. This presumably means that, despite believing them dead, Xavier moved all their stuff back into their (new) rooms after the mansion was rebuilt.


Shan gets new haircut, replacing her old bowl cut.


We also get a refresher on Shan's backstory, established in her first appearance in Marvel Team-Up #100, in which her father is killed as the family fled Vietnam, her mother is captured by pirates and Shan must fight to save her little brother and sister, thanks to Dani accidentally pulling the images from her mind.

When the New Mutants believe a monster from the Danger Room is attacking them, Sam immediately takes charge, issuing commands to get the Professor and the girls to safety while he holds off the creature.


Rahne and Dani's friendship continues to grow, as Dani confides in Rahne about the premonitions she had before her parents' and grandfather's deaths, as well as her growing frustration with her power, which she feels only causes harm.

Claremontisms
A couple times Roberto says, "...in my native Brazil...", "in my native ___" being a recurring Claremont phrase. 

They're Students, Not Superheroes
Professor X specifically tells the New Mutants he is not training them to be the new X-Men, and that they are being trained in combat only for self defense purposes, not to battle super-villains.


Human/Mutant Relations
Henry Peter Gyrich, one time Avengers liaison and current head of the governments anti-mutant Project: Wideawake (established during the epilogue to "Days of Future Past" in X-Men #142), is shown to have the New Mutants under surveillance.


Bob McLeod on designing the New Mutants"I always liked Cannonball the best. I tried to give all the mutants distinct body types and characteristics, and with his big ears and lanky frame, he was the most fun to draw. I tried to make all the characters individual sand fun to draw, though. I made Rahne short hand full figured, and Dani taller and more flat chested. Roberto was short but muscular."

Buchanan, Bruce. "The New Mutants: From Superhero Spinoff to Sci-Fi/Fantasy." Back Issue August 2008: p63.

Teebore's Take
Following their "pilot episode" in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, Claremont and McLeod debut the New Mutants series, and the analogy continues, as this reads very much like the first post-pilot episode of a TV series, re-introducing the characters, the setting, and the purpose of the title, while, in true Claremont fashion, setting up a number of plot threads which will payoff in varying degrees in the future. Though the focus in this issue is primarily on Dani, we're once again given a clear picture of each of the characters' emerging personalities: Dani is a hothead, Sam is overeager, Roberto is a smooth ladies man while Rahne remains naive and sheltered, and Shan has a dark past. Most interesting, however, is the fact that in the first issue of a new superhero series spinning off from X-Men, no super-villains appear at all; the action all comes from the team using their powers in the Danger Room. While the conventions of the genre won't allow that to continue forever (or even for long, with a super-villain of sorts appearing next issue), it's worth noting that Claremont was committed enough to the idea of the New Mutants as students first and superheroes second to resist the urge to create an arch enemy for the team and drop him or her into the first issue of their ongoing series.

Next Issue
The New Mutants go to the mall in New Mutants #2, while the X-Men face their impending deaths in Uncanny X-Men #165.

24 comments:

  1. PART ONE OF A 2-PART COMMENT

    As I've said previously, I really only read Claremont's New Mutants run relatively recently, so a lot of this is pretty fresh in my mind (meanwhile, we're getting close to the X-Men era -- 176-210 or so -- which I haven't read in over a decade).

    As I read these issues for the first time, I found that I liked them quite a bit. Especially the first year, year-and-a-half -- before the arrivals of Bill Sienkiewicz, Warlock, and Headmaster Magneto. Though I'm not as harsh a critic of McLeod's art in the graphic novel as some, I have to admit that his work here is much better. Maybe it's due to someone else inking his work? Though that would be odd, since I actually like him as an inker on others' work.

    "...Gabrielle seeks out Moira's help with her autistic mutant son, who also happens to be Professor Xavier's son.

    This is a big instance of that tic Chris Claremont is known for, the "dropped subplot". I don't think he really ever dropped all that many, but it's more a case of the "rarely visited subplot". If I recall correctly, we don't even see or hear anything more about Legion for over a year! That's a long time to sit on a bombshell revelation while paying it no lip service whatsoever. See also Havok and Polaris discovering a crashed Acanti a few years from now in Uncanny, another bombshell scene which is then promptly ignored for a year.

    I guess this could be intentional, but I think the likelier and more obvious answer is that this is something born out of Claremont's style of writing, which we've seen described before as very "instinctual". He goes with what feels good at the time, often forgetting smaller plot bits for long stretches while he fills the current months' issues with whatever strikes his fancy. When you're writing the hottest comic on the planet, I guess you can get away with stuff like that, but I really wish his editors had ridden him a little harder on these things. Revisiting a subplot once a year can make it difficult for readers to remember what's going on. Just as a totally arbitrary rule, I would say no subplot in a monthly comic should go more than about three issues without being referenced.

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  2. PART TWO OF A 2-PART COMMENT

    "Dani mentions dreaming of her parents dying fighting a massive bear; this is the first mention of the titular character in the "Demon Bear Saga" story which runs in issue #18-20."

    Okay, I don't want to hear any more complaints about Spider-Man's parents being secret agents. And come to think of it, I should've said that when we learned Cyclops's dad was a space pirate...

    "This presumably means that, despite believing them dead, Xavier moved all their stuff back into their (new) rooms after the mansion was rebuilt."

    I didn't really catch that when I first read this, but isn't that a little creepy? I wonder if he has conversations with them like Norman Bates.

    "I made ... Dani taller and more flat chested."

    She really filled out when she grew up though, courtesy of Terry Dodson.

    (Terry Dodson is actually one of my favorite "modern" comic artists, and I love that particular cover. But still...)

    "...Claremont was committed enough to the idea of the New Mutants as students first and superheroes second to resist the urge to create an arch enemy for the team and drop him or her into the first issue of their ongoing series."

    And even better, when he finally does create an arch enemy (team) for them, it's another group of students. Though I'm not sure exactly when the Hellions were conceived. I think they first appear after McLeod is off the title, but the New Mutants Classic trades have Hellion character model sheets from McLeod. I can't recall if they're dated or not, but it seems like it's possible the Hellions were conceived while McLeod was still involved.

    For that matter, it just occurred to me that McLeod was involved in the first appearance of the Massachusetts Academy in Uncanny #151-152. I wonder if that was what got him and Claremont thinking about the New Mutants in the first place?

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  3. @Matt: I have to admit that his work here is much better.

    I thought so too, though I'm similarly confused as to what it is. I think I still blame the prestige format of the graphic novel. If nothing else, the background colors seem less garish, and I think that helps McLeod.

    ...it's more a case of the "rarely visited subplot".

    Yeah, that's a better term for it. Claremont likes to toss a lot of plot balls up in the air; some just seem to take a lot longer to come back down. :)

    It's something that doesn't bother me as much in hindsight, when I know exactly when the plot is going to come back around and whether or not it's going to be resolved at all (NOTHING bothers me more than the unresolved subplot). I can't say whether it would have bothered me the first time through, but there were plenty of languishing subplot in the 90s I bought into hook, line and sinker before I realized everyone was just making it up as they went along.

    At the end of the day, depending on the nature of the plot, I'd probably argue for a slightly longer rule than yours, but I certainly can't deny that Claremont let some of his subplots languish for a loooong time.

    I really wish his editors had ridden him a little harder on these things.

    Believe it or not, Weezie was apparently much better at that than Nocenti. She's said that occasionally Chris would come to her complaining he didn't have any story ideas and that there was nothing left, and she'd remind him of the half dozen or so subplots he'd setup, and he'd be off and running again.

    So at the very least, Weezie was at least keeping track of that stuff, whereas it seems like Nocenti just let him run with whatever.

    Oh, and Havok and Polaris < pendantic geekery> actually discover a crashed Star Shark, not an Acanti. < /pendantic geekery> :)

    And come to think of it, I should've said that when we learned Cyclops's dad was a space pirate...

    Heh.

    Yeah, even though it's a convention of the genre, nobody does "everyone has a complicated comic book-y backstory" better (worse?) than Claremont.

    I didn't really catch that when I first read this, but isn't that a little creepy?

    I missed it until just recently as well (probably because we've been talking about the mansion being rebuilt), and yeah, it does seem a little creepy. Like, boxing their stuff up in storage? Fine. Putting pictures on their walls, clothes in dressers? Creepy.

    Come to think of it, he must have gone out and bought all those plants to fill Storm's attic, considering the ones that were there would have been destroyed along with the mansion.

    She really filled out when she grew up though, courtesy of Terry Dodson.

    In her defense, everyone fills out when Terry Dodson draws them. :)

    And even better, when he finally does create an arch enemy (team) for them, it's another group of students.

    I really, really like that idea. It's one my favorite things about New Mutants, that their arch enemies are essentially just a rival school.

    I can't recall if they're dated or not, but it seems like it's possible the Hellions were conceived while McLeod was still involved.

    Yeah, I think I read somewhere that McLeod was involved in their creation, though they first appear in issue #16, IMS, and I believe that was after McLeod left. I'll have to see if I can source that...

    I wonder if that was what got him and Claremont thinking about the New Mutants in the first place?

    Huh. I never thought of that before. Could be.

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  4. What a coincidence! I've just been reading New Mutants and, as a matter of fact, I've wrote some of my opinions about the first issues here:
    www.artbyarion.blogspot.com

    I really enjoyed reading your post and it'd be a blast if you could stop by my blog and leave me a comment. I'd love to hear your opinion.

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  5. A star shark? Really? I can't believe I got that wrong!

    Teebore -- "...there were plenty of languishing subplot in the 90s I bought into hook, line and sinker...

    "At the end of the day, depending on the nature of the plot, I'd probably argue for a slightly longer rule than yours
    ..."

    I agree with your qualifier, "depending on the nature of the plot". In the 90's, I didn't expect the X-traitor to be mentioned every three issues after Bishop joined because that seemed kind of cleraly meant to be a long-running background story. But I would expect that when you suddenly introduce the heretofore unknown son of a main character, or when you end an issue on a dramatic cliffhanger (as I believe the Havok/Polaris/star shark scene was), you might want to follow up sooner rather than later.

    Super-tangent (or more accurately, Spider-tangent): I've always held up Roger Stern's final year on Amazing Spider-Man as a perfect example of how to stage an ongoing storyline in a comic, while weaving it into subplots when it's not in the spotlight. The Hobgoblin was a major reveal at the time, so it was only natural to pay him a lot of attention, even when he wasn't in that month's issue. If I may:

    ASM #238: A mysterious individual becomes the Hobgoblin in a last-page cliffhanger (subplot).
    ASM #239: Spidey fights the Hobgoblin for the first time (main plot).
    ASM #240: Spidey has a nightmare involving the Hobgoblin (subplot).
    ASM #241: No mention of Hobgoblin.
    ASM #242: No mention of Hobgoblin.
    ASM #243: No mention of Hobgoblin.
    ASM #244: Spidey searches for Hobgoblin (subplot intersecting with main plot).
    ASM #245: Spidey fights Hobgoblin (main plot).
    ASM #246: No mention of Hobgoblin.
    ASM #247: Spidey goes in search of Hobgoblin but fights Thunderball instead (subplot intersecting with main plot).
    ASM #248: Spidey worries about Hobgoblin (subplot).
    ASM #249-251: Spidey fights Hobgoblin (main plot).

    (Jeez, do I love those issues. Looking at them to put that list together just made want to re-read them again -- for the fourth or fifth time -- right here and now.)

    Anyway, what was the point I was making? Oh yeah... I really think a major subplot should be touched upon -- not necessarily with a full-blown flashback or anything that even requires a footnote, but at least with a passing comment or thought -- about once per quarter in a monthly comic, using Stern's work above as possibly the best guideline you could ever find.

    On the other hand, Stern also had a minor subplot going where Jonah Jameson became a fitness nut. That didn't need to be brought up as often as the Hobgoblin, in my opinion.

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  6. Teebore -- "Believe it or not, Weezie was apparently much better at that than Nocenti."

    I think you've mentioned it before, and I do believe it. Because of that, I'm quite surprised that Simonson let Claremont get away with dropping the Legion plot for so long!

    Teebore -- "She's said that occasionally Chris would come to her complaining he didn't have any story ideas and that there was nothing left, and she'd remind him of the half dozen or so subplots he'd setup, and he'd be off and running again."

    This is really funny to me. I believe I said it before when we first started discussing the disappearance of Banshee, but it seriously amazes me that Claremont didn't seem to keep any notes on what his various characters were up to when he wasn't using them. The fact that he needed to be reminded of his own subplots boggles my mind! Knowing that, it kind of amazes me that his run is as coherent as it is!

    Teebore -- "In her defense, everyone fills out when Terry Dodson draws them. :)"

    Except Kitty Pryde, comics' sole eternal A-cup.

    Seriously, look at that link. It's another great image from Dodson, but I can't help laughing at the fact that Dodson has two settings: "Double-D" and "Kitty Pryde".

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  7. @Arion: I really enjoyed reading your post and it'd be a blast if you could stop by my blog and leave me a comment.

    Thanks! I'll be sure to swing by and check out your blog sometime.

    @Matt: But I would expect that when you suddenly introduce the heretofore unknown son of a main character, or when you end an issue on a dramatic cliffhanger ..., you might want to follow up sooner rather than later.

    Agreed. My caveat was exactly for the kind of story the X-Traitor was, but something like cliffhangers or big status quo changes probably shouldn't be allowed to languish too long.

    Looking at them to put that list together just made want to re-read them again -- for the fourth or fifth time -- right here and now

    Don't hate me, but I've never actually read them all - #238-239 for sure, but I don't think I've ever finished that whole arc. Always meant to, just haven't gotten around to it.

    Knowing that, it kind of amazes me that his run is as coherent as it is!

    Ditto. And I've probably mentioned this before, but as a writer myself, I can't imagine not keeping notes on that kind stuff. And I'm just writing self-contained novels, not ongoing serial fiction, where the note taking is even more important!

    Except Kitty Pryde, comics' sole eternal A-cup.

    Ha!

    I can't help laughing at the fact that Dodson has two settings: "Double-D" and "Kitty Pryde".

    Double ha!

    Seriously. Funny cuz it's true...

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  8. In Terry Dodson's defense, I remember he kept Jubilee in the A/B range through his Generation X run in the mid 90's, although to compensate, he did get to draw a lot of Monet and Emma Frost. Not to mention some original creations that had pretty ridiculous outfits (Bianca LeNeige and Spoilsport, if you're curious enough to look them up). I like his work, even if I haven't read much of anything X-Men related in nearly a decade. His (brief) run on Wonder Woman was strong, and I like his new Defenders series.

    I also read that AMZ Hobgoblin arc in the past month, and I can vouch for it being pretty darn great. JRJR art before it got blocky and ugly (his dad even finishes his layouts in one issue), a fun mystery, and an all-time great story in "the boy who collected spider-man."

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  9. Teebore -- "Don't hate me, but I've never actually read them all..."

    I'm pretty sure you've mentioned that before, and while I don't hold this grievous omission against you, I do feel that -- especially as you are a self-professed fan of Stern's Avengers, Romita Jr. as an artist, and of Spider-Man as a character -- you really owe it to yourself to sit down and read it all at some point!

    Personally, I recommend starting with Stern's Spectacular run, which begins in issue #43. He wrote Spectacular for about two years before moving to Amazing, and while the art in his issues is somehwat uneven due to constantly rotating pencilers, the stories are pretty good, and they set up some of the plotlines that he carries over to Amazing.

    I may have said this before; I can't recall -- but of all the "what if" scenarios involving comics creators, such as what if Byrne hadn't left X-Men, what if Claremont hadn't quit Marvel in 1991, what if Jim Shooter hadn't been fired, my number one scenario is: what if Roger Stern had chosen to stay on Amazing Spider-Man instead of Avengers? I admit that I've never read Stern's Avengers, so maybe there was some fantastic stuff after he stuck with it over Spidey. But I can't help thinking that another couple years of Stern on Spider-Man would've been a lot better.

    Dobson -- "In Terry Dodson's defense, I remember he kept Jubilee in the A/B range through his Generation X run in the mid 90's..."

    I should mention that I'm certainly not bashing Dodson. Like I said, he's one of my favorite artists, and I'm a big fan of "cheesecake" artwork. I just can't get over how out of place Kitty looks in that X-Women picture. And I actually own a signed print of that image that I got at SDCC a few years ago!

    My point was more about how no female character can remain "undeveloped" forever. To use your example of Jubilee, have you seen what she looks like these days??

    And I realize I'm being kind of arbitrary in my picks here... I'm sure there are artists who have drawn Kitty as busty as any other heroine (in fact I think Dodson himself may have done that in the Pryde & Wisdom limited series some time ago), and still draw Jubilee flat-chested. And besides that, I'm seriously one of the last people you would ever see complaining that a female character was drawn too curvy. Maybe in the end, this is just me ranting about lack of fidelity to character model sheets (if they still even exist) among many of today's artists.

    Dobson -- "(Bianca LeNeige and Spoilsport, if you're curious enough to look them up)"

    As the only fan of Larry Hama's run on Generation X, I certainly do remember Bianca LaNeige. I'm surprised no one's brought her back. She was played for laughs, but I liked the idea of a rival for Emma who was her equal in both mental power and looks (though as I recall, not in the realm of hand-to-hand catgfights).

    I had to Google Spoilsport. I vaguely remember her from Jay Faerber's time writing Gen-X, but I have no recollection of the story except that it involved Paladin and Madripoor.

    Dobson -- "I also read that AMZ Hobgoblin arc in the past month, and I can vouch for it being pretty darn great."

    About as great as Spider-Man can get, in my own opinion!

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  10. I have never looked at boobs this in depth before. (Yeah...that's a total lie.)

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  11. @Matt: I recommend starting with Stern's Spectacular run, which begins in issue #43

    Huh. I did not know he started on Spectacular. I've probably got that in an Essential.

    I admit that I've never read Stern's Avengers, so maybe there was some fantastic stuff after he stuck with it over Spidey.

    Having not read the entirety of his Spider-Man run, I can't properly equate it, but I can say that not only is Stern's Avengers run my all time favorite, it's generally considered one of the best runs on the title, and contains what is almost unanimously considered the title's best story arc ("Under Siege"). So his imaginary Spider-Man run would have some pretty big shoes to fill. :)

    As the only fan of Larry Hama's run on Generation X...

    It's been awhile since I last read it, but, while I don't know that I'd call myself a fan of it, I can at least say I don't remember hating it with the vitriol that many did.

    @Dr. Bitz: have never looked at boobs this in depth before. (Yeah...that's a total lie.)

    You just made Baby Jesus drown in his tears, that lie is so big.

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  12. @Matt
    My point was more about how no female character can remain "undeveloped" forever. To use your example of Jubilee, have you seen what she looks like these days??

    That's a very recent Jubilee. She was rocking her banana raincoat wearin' petite figure right up until getting slutted up as a vampire. Most artists are probably just stuck in the past, afraid to age a character, or completely indifferent. I'd even guess that editorial might have something to do with it. It sounds silly, but you do have to wonder. I remember when Jubilee was introduced, her lack of figure was a point of contention for her; she cobbled together a costume from pieces of the X-Men's stuff (in what was probably supposed to be a Kitty Pryde reference) and was annoyed that she couldn't fill out Rogue's top.

    Where was I going with this again?

    As the only fan of Larry Hama's run on Generation X...

    You're definitely the minority. Generation X was on fire around issue 25. Lobdell left and James Robinson did a final arc tying in with OZT that meshed beautifully with what had come before (I remember not even noticing the new writer). The two of them finished off the story in such an exciting spot, I couldn't wait to read what came next. Then Hama came and just kind of ignored everything and wrote what was possibly the worst story in the book thus far. I tried him for a while and just gave up. The book was just dead to me, and I knew it would never go back because I knew Hama just wasn't on the same page as Lobdell. It was an awful feeling, one I would feel again years later when Morrison left and Marvel just dismantled it all. It's really a kick to the gut to be a series or a run from the very beginning, getting so invested, only to have someone completely new come on board and throw everything out.

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  13. I don't think this cover has been homaged much, if ever, but for all its simplicity it's a very memorable one — at least to me. And the unusual purple background may be as responsible as the figures. No doubt a large part of its standout nature is that the issue came at the dawn of my personal Silver Age of comics* when #1s and spinoffs were still rare and a legitimately big deal. [*For me the Golden Age was about 5-8, as an early reader, and Silver Age roughly 12-16.]

    I'd like to take a moment in praise of the logo too. To me it strikes just the right balance between similar and different in regards to the X-Men logo — it's a perfect "little cousin". The angle, perspective, and 3D-style letters have been maintained, but the letters are more slender (due at least in part to there being more of them, I suspect) and the 'N', 'W', and 'M' of New Mutants are pointed where the 'M' and 'N' of X-Men are flattened off.

    While joking around, Dani accidentally manifests images of Shan's horrific past.

    First of all, I just want to note how hilariously matter-of-fact this description of events is. Every once in a while, Teebore, you come up with a real doozy that drives home how wonderfully weird is all this stuff we take in stride. Second of all, I have to note that this feels particularly clumsy in the story itself, Claremont veering straight into how green these new recruits are and the dangers thereof, since Danielle isn't doing anything in the realm of exercising her abilities when it occurs; it's like the terrible mutant-power equivalent of my nephew laughing so hard that he burps.

    This is the first time we see the upgraded-with-Shi'ar technology Danger Room, as it is now capable of generating holograms and complex training environments.

    Which, if Xavier thinks the X-Men are dead and doesn't want to form a new such group, begs the question Why? He even refers to the "X-Men sequence" right after snapping at Sunspot that he doesn't want to discuss the team.

    this is the first reference to Sam's numerous siblings, several of whom will eventually become students of Xavier themselves

    Really? I have a vague memory of his sister getting involved right when I was leaving the title or randomly checking back in, but that's it. Clearly we're already at the point where things are introduced, intentionally or otherwise, that will pay off after I've stopped reading both/all series.

    Kitty's dance instructor, Stevie Hunter, has joined the school to serve as the New Mutants physical education teacher.

    I must say that never having read this huge a chunk of the X-Men oeuvre in methodical dedicated fashion like this I've never realized how jarring this is. There really hasn't been much with Stevie to suggest that she'd jump into such a role. I know that soon after her introduction she was witness to the Sentinel / Hellfire Club attack on the mansion and captured by Arcade, but especially with Kitty and Ororo missing (and presumed dead) I wouldn't expect Charles or Moira to just call her up and say, "Hey! We're re-opening the school. You're a dance teacher. How would you feel about becoming a bunch of untrained young mutants' gym instructor? We kind-of need them to perform at the level of Olympic athletes in case they're called upon to battle supervillains."

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  14. Matt: I have to admit that [Bob McLeod's] work here is much better. Maybe it's due to someone else inking his work? Though that would be odd, since I actually like him as an inker on others' work.

    This does seem odd on the surface, but when you think about it, it ain't necessarily so. I've seen plenty of inkers who really do shine in that role but don't have the compositional or anatomical chops to function well as pencilers — when the armature is there, so to speak, they're great at tightening it up, adding textures, and dealing with shadows. So it may be that McLeod is a better inker than a penciler, and a passable enough penciler that his bacon is saved by having another decent inker (like, here, Mike Gustovich, whom I also don't think of as a great penciler) work over him.

    Matt: She really filled out when she grew up though, courtesy of Terry Dodson.

    Oy! And that Jubilee picture you linked to later is crazy.

    Teebore: Come to think of it, he must have gone out and bought all those plants to fill Storm's attic, considering the ones that were there would have been destroyed along with the mansion.

    Professor Xavier is a fetishist!

    The X-Mansion would be a hell of a stand-in for The Bates Motel.

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  15. @Dan: It's really a kick to the gut to be a series or a run from the very beginning, getting so invested, only to have someone completely new come on board and throw everything out.

    It really is. I enjoyed Morrison's run but didn't adore it, yet while I didn't mind some of the Morrison changes Marvel rolled back (like giving them back costumes), the complete 180 Marvel did immediately after he left the book was terrible. I mean he hadn't even been gone a month and they were already working retconing the Magneto stuff.

    Whether I love an idea or hate it, I appreciate a little distance between a story and its retcon...

    @Blam: To me it strikes just the right balance between similar and different in regards to the X-Men logo.

    Well said. I was actually just looking more closely at the logo recently, thinking the same thing.

    Every once in a while, Teebore, you come up with a real doozy that drives home how wonderfully weird is all this stuff we take in stride.

    Ha! Thanks. That was actually a sentence I thought about revising, before I decided simple is better. I'm glad I left it as is.

    And I agree that it was a bit clumsy on Claremont's part, a forced effort to show us both Dani's power and Shan's background that never managed to rise above obvious exposition.

    Which, if Xavier thinks the X-Men are dead and doesn't want to form a new such group, begs the question Why?

    It definitely feels, in this issue especially, almost like the writer of New Mutants was unfamiliar with the status quo of X-Men, either that the X-Men are considered lost in space or that the mansion is recently rebuilt.

    Since Claremont is the author of both, it seems especially odd, and almost makes me wonder if he wrote these issues significantly ahead of or behind when he wrote the contemporaneous issues of X-Men, and thus lost the thread of who/what was where.

    I have a vague memory of his sister getting involved right when I was leaving the title or randomly checking back in, but that's it.

    Yeah, you're thinking of Paige, who was a member of Generation X (and appeared shortly before that series launched). Then there was Joshua or "Jay", who was featured in the non-Morrison New X-Men book that chronicled the post-Generation X "next generation" of students, and to a lesser extent Melody, who also eventually joined the school as part of that class.

    And though she's only appeared in the background thus far in the "regular" reality, there's also Elizabeth Guthrie, who appeared in a minor role during "Age of Apocalypse".

    Of course, there's other kids too, but those are the ones that have actually played a significant role in the books thus far.

    There really hasn't been much with Stevie to suggest that she'd jump into such a role.

    The goofy order we're reading these in plays a little role in that: X-Men #165, which was on sale a month before New Mutants #1, shows Stevie hanging with Moira and Illyana at the mansion.

    Granted, it's not a ton of setup, and your point still stands, but it at least re-introduces Stevie prior to NM #1 so that she doesn't go directly from "helping against the Hellfire Club" to "gym teacher".

    The X-Mansion would be a hell of a stand-in for The Bates Motel.

    "A boy's best friend is his professor." :)

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  16. I think I'm in the minority here too, but I was happy as a clam that Marvel backpedaled on Morrison's work as soon as he was out the door. I thought his run was awful. It was too different!

    It's kind of the same problem I have with the Outback years in Uncanny. The stories were well-written and intriguing in both cases, but also in both cases the changes to the status quo were just too much for my little traditionalist brain to handle.

    Not that I'm attempting to take this further off-topic or anything, but it occurred to me as I was typing the above just why I dislike the Outback years (besides the fact that I can't stand Longshot). As noted, I like the stories. Claremont was at his peak as far as subplots and never-ending, ongoing intrigues. His scripting was starting to wear on me, but the story ideas were usually good. But what bugs me is that that period feels like a waste of a few years of the name "X-Men".

    If the Outback team had been a spin-off starring Rogue, Dazzler, Longshot, Havok, Psylocke, and maybe one or two other unused mutants, I would be okay with it. But as it is, I just feel like we missed out on a few more years of Storm, Kitty, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus living at the mansion with Professor X -- which to me should pretty much always be the base of operations/status quo of the X-Men (I don't like Utopia largely for the same reason -- among many others).

    I know Morrison's team actually did live in the mansion with Xavier, but my problems with him were totally different -- the costumes, the explosion of the mutant population, and cat-Beast being the biggies. I've said before that if Morrison's X-Men wore normal superhero costumes, and if the Beast had remained in his traditional "ape" form, I could put up with about 75% of the other stuff I disliked, and maybe even enjoy his run. It's kind of a shallow way to look at it, I guess, but I'm very visual when it comes to comics (as I'm sure most readers are), and if something doesn't visually appeal to me, the story is guilty by association.

    Thanks for putting up with my random stream of consciousness yet again!

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  17. @Matt: I was happy as a clam that Marvel backpedaled on Morrison's work as soon as he was out the door.

    Well, I'm not at all surprised you didn't like that particular deviation from the status quo. :)

    I think I've said this before, but the Morrison stuff was pretty hit-or-miss for me. I don't object to the idea of trying something different, there were just some things I liked, some things I didn't (Pro: Xavier being outed, most of the school stuff, Scott & Emma. Con: the "uniforms", the population explosion, even if he did some neat things with it, secondary mutations. Cat Beast is one of those things I've never been able to get as outraged about as everyone else).

    At the end of the day, what bothered me most about Marvel's backpedaling was the speed with which they did it. Ultimately, I much prefer a three dimensional, well rounded Magneto to the raving Silver Age-style lunatic Morrison reverted him to (even though I fully understood what Morrison was trying to say), so I'm glad Marvel retconned that out (even if the means of doing so was an utter mess). But it bugged me that they did it before the body had even gone cold, so to speak.

    Love it or hate it, the Morrison run happened, and the speed with which Marvel went about undoing it suggested that the last few years we'd spent buying and reading those stories weren't all that important after all. Marvel has every right to change the stuff I both liked and didn't like, but I'd appreciate it if they could do it in a way that doesn't make me feel like I wasted my time and money reading it in the first place.

    Thanks for putting up with my random stream of consciousness yet again!

    No worries. As Blam would say, "Random Stream of Consciousness" is my new band name.

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  18. Teebore -- "Marvel has every right to change the stuff I both liked and didn't like, but I'd appreciate it if they could do it in a way that doesn't make me feel like I wasted my time and money reading it in the first place."

    I totally understand that point of view; I've felt it before with other franchises in other situations... but in the case of Morrison, I already felt like I'd wasted my time and money reading every issue of his run!

    (Why didn't I stop reading it if I just didn't like it? I was still a zombie completionist at the time.)

    But we'll have plenty of time to discuss all this in-depth when X-Aminations reaches the Morrison run in another couple of decades!

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  19. Illyana is in England, meeting Gabrielle Haller with Moira.

    I can't believe no one's asked this yet: Why?

    Seriously, why would Illyana tag along with Moira? Claremont hasn't established any subplot for the two, i.e. Moira wanting to run some tests. In fact, it's Xavier who says he wants to investigate Illyana's situation more, over in Uncanny 164. That's just before Moira takes off for Scotland (without Illyana) and finds Rahne in Marvel Graphic Novel 4.

    Does Claremont ever explain why he didn't just put Illyana on the team from the get-go? It's been just five issues (over in Uncanny) since she emerged from Limbo as a teenager. He's already setting up some sort Limbo / Magik subplot in that title with references to the as-yet-unnamed Bloodstone Amulet. Illyana not-so-subtly alludes to having powers in Uncanny 164. She even appears in the background of the Uncanny 165 scene in which Moira confronts Xavier about Karma -- the very scene that sets up the entire rationale for the spin-off title!

    But despite appearing in literally every issue of Uncanny around this time (with the exception of 166, which was entirely set in space), Illyana goes absent from Marvel Graphic Novel 4 -- and is thus relegated to lurking awkwardly in the background of both Uncanny and New Mutants for several issues before joining the team.

    WTF?

    @Matt Okay, I don't want to hear any more complaints about Spider-Man's parents being secret agents. And come to think of it, I should've said that when we learned Cyclops's dad was a space pirate...

    I absolutely HATE Spider-Man's parents being secret agents AND Cyclops' long-lost dad being a space pirate -- but I'm more forgiving of the Demon Bear. Don't ask me why.

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  20. @Teebore
    It really is. I enjoyed Morrison's run but didn't adore it, yet while I didn't mind some of the Morrison changes Marvel rolled back (like giving them back costumes), the complete 180 Marvel did immediately after he left the book was terrible. I mean he hadn't even been gone a month and they were already working retconing the Magneto stuff.

    I really enjoyed Morrison's run. I was there from his first issue to his last. And I had no idea who he was before X-Men (I had been away from comics for years and never read DC). I understand it wasn't for everyone, that's not the problem. I also understand why Marvel would want Xorn to remain a viable character in some form and not have Magneto be a decapitated murderous psycho (the Magneto reveal was great, but his behavior is the only part of Morrison's run that wasn't very good IMO). I guess the question I have then is why did they let Morrison do his story this way if they knew they didn't like the result? I never bought into the theory that they retconned everything just to spite him (give me a break). But if they wanted Magneto back and in better form, why did they allow Morrison to handle him the way he did? Because in the end, Marvel were the ones looking foolish.

    I didn't care for Morrison's Magneto or his reasons for doing it (pointing out the absurdity of such a character, people in his life dying resulting in him just being in a bad mood, etc.) It was almost as bad as Fatal Attractions Magneto on the Psychometer.

    @Matt

    and if the Beast had remained in his traditional "ape" form, I could put up with about 75% of the other stuff I disliked

    What was up with the cat beast anyway? And why the hell, in all these years, has no one retconned THAT? It boggles my mind, especially since apparently no one knows how to draw him. Old Beast never had that problem, you'd think they'd reverse it because a) it adds nothing and b) it would make the artists' lives easier. I heard a rumor that he became cat Beast just because Quietly thought it would look neat. God, I hope there's more to it than that. Secondary Mutations went right out the window with Morrison (another concept I didn't really understand) so why not just change him back?

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  21. @Matt: But we'll have plenty of time to discuss all this in-depth when X-Aminations reaches the Morrison run in another couple of decades!

    You say that now, but it'll be here before you know it. I still remember writing about Kirby-drawn issues thinking "pfft, New Mutants?!? It'll be years before we get there!" and now, here we are...

    @Dan: the Magneto reveal was great, but his behavior is the only part of Morrison's run that wasn't very good

    I ADORE the Magneto reveal. It remains one of the few turns that genuinely shocked me after I got old enough to see that kind of stuff coming. As I said, I didn't like what Morrison did with the character after the reveal, but even given that, I still recall the reveal fondly.

    But if they wanted Magneto back and in better form, why did they allow Morrison to handle him the way he did? Because in the end, Marvel were the ones looking foolish.

    Agreed. And agreed that it wasn't out of spite. I don't even think you could say they were afraid the fans would be upset if they ousted/strong-armed Morrison, because if they really were worried about what the fans of his run would think, they wouldn't have retconned everything so fast. I honestly have no idea why Marvel, if they were so uncomfortable with what he was doing, didn't step in sooner (unless they honestly gave him no editorial oversight, and thus didn't know what was happening until after the books saw print, but I find that hard to believe).

    I heard a rumor that he became cat Beast just because Quietly thought it would look neat. God, I hope there's more to it than that.

    That's what I've always heard, too. I'll see if I can source that by the time we get to those issues.

    But I also have no idea why no one has changed it back, especially since most (but not all; I've heard some artists stick up for it) artists don't like drawing Cat Beast. If nothing else, you'd think Bendis would have done it once Beast fell back in with the Avengers titles, simply because that's how he looked as an Avenger.

    @Michael: Seriously, why would Illyana tag along with Moira?

    Good question. I honestly have no idea. I'd say it was so Moira had someone to talk to, but Illyana really doesn't say much when Moira and Gabby are talking.

    Does Claremont ever explain why he didn't just put Illyana on the team from the get-go?

    Not that I've ever seen, but I'd love to find an explanation. It does seem awkward, especially since aging up Illyana in the first place seems like an obvious setup for her joining the New Mutants, yet it still takes Claremont to issue 13 or so of that series to do just that, and I can't think of any reason why he'd wait that long.

    I absolutely HATE Spider-Man's parents being secret agents AND Cyclops' long-lost dad being a space pirate -- but I'm more forgiving of the Demon Bear. Don't ask me why.

    Maybe because, while Cyclops' pirate dad hangs around and Peter's parent's secret agent lifestyle gets brought up occasionally, the fact that Dani's parents were killed by a mystical bear really only comes up in one story? And it isn't like her parents ever come back or are really mentioned all that often after that story?

    At least, I think that's why I never thought to put the Demon Bear stuff on the same level as "Spider-Man's parents are secret agents!" or "Cyclops' dad is a space pirate!".

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  22. I think I admitted here before that I liked Morrison's Magneto reveal. It gave me chills when I read it. That doesn't really balance out all the stuff I didn't like about his run, though!

    Regarding cat-Beast vs. ape-Beast, I know I've read that some artists don't like/aren't comfortable with drawing the cat version, but apparently a lot of the writers like it. I know for a fact that Bendis has voiced his approval of the design multiple times.

    I've also heard that Quitely just changed the design because he thought it would look better, but in addition to that I remember reading an interview with Morrison in 2002 where he spoke about the design as well, saying that whenever someone says "Beast", the first thing you think of is "Beauty and Beast", so why not make the character look something like that?

    At the time I thought it was one of the stupidest quotes I'd ever read from a writer, and it probably slanted my bias against his run from the very beginning.

    And I may have been exaggerating with the Demon Bear thing, but it does add to the point that pretty much everything about Danielle Moonstar is extremely special.

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  23. When I think of Beast from Beauty and the Beast I don't think of cats...

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  24. @Matt: I know for a fact that Bendis has voiced his approval of the design multiple times.

    Well, that explains that.

    @Dr. Bitz: When I think of Beast from Beauty and the Beast I don't think of cats...

    Maybe he meant the TV show? In which case, that Beast just makes me think of Barbara Streisand...

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