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Thursday, October 4, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #7

"Flying Down to Rio!"
September 1983

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants rescue Sunspot's mom from the Hellfire Club.  

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

Plot
Days after the explosion of Viper's base, the New Mutants and the X-Men continue to search for some sign of Karma. When Roberto's mother, Nina DaCosta, an archaeologist, arrives at the X-Men's camp, Professor X declares he's sending the team to accompany Nina on a trip to the headwaters of the Amazon. Though the New Mutants are reluctant to give up on the search, Professor X explains to the X-Men that he believes Karma is alive, but in light of the malevolent psychic entity he sensed, he won't risk the New Mutants encountering it while searching for Karma. A week later the New Mutants arrive at Roberto's lavish home in Rio De Janiero and suffer through a tense dinner in which Nina and Roberto's father Emmanuel snipe at each other. The next morning, the New Mutants accompany Nina into the city for Carnival, but Nina is captured by a group of Hellfire Club soldiers led by a mutant named Axe.


However, Wolfsbane is able to track the kidnappers to an abandoned mansion. Working together, Dani and Wolfsbane manage to knock out the Hellfire Club soldiers while Cannonball rescues Nina and Sunspot defeats Axe. A few days later, Nina and the kids depart for their trip. Unknown to them, they are being watched by Emmanuel and Sebastian Shaw, the later having sent Axe to kidnap Nina at Emmanuel's request. In light of the Hellfire Club's failure, Emmanuel decides to take matters into his own hands, and assures Shaw that his wife's expedition won't reach its goal, even if it means the death of his wife and son.    

Firsts and Other Notables
In the wake of last issue's cliffhanger, Karma has gone missing and is presumed dead by the New Mutants, marking her departure from the team and absence from the book for the foreseeable future, though we'll eventually learn she survived the explosions and what exactly happened to her during her absence.


Professor X tells the X-Men he's sending the New Mutants away in part to protect them from the malevolent telepathic entity that was released last issue; again, this is a reference to the Shadow King, which we'll discover when Karma resurfaces.


This is the last issue to use the codename "Psyche" for Dani; she'll eventually adopt the name Mirage, though she'll go simply by Dani until then.

This is the first appearance of both Axe, a super-powered Mr. T parody who uses, well, an axe, and Sunspot's mother. Though Axe will appear in a later issue and Mrs. DaCosta sticks around for the duration of this story, neither are terribly significant characters (and despite Axe's use of the derogatory term "mutie" on the cover, he is, in fact, a mutant himself).


This issue occurs just prior to the X-Men's trip to Japan in X-Men #172, as they are seen helping search for Karma while Wolverine is still absent. 

A Work in Progress
The heads in the corner box are, though not quite reacting to the events of the cover, not the usual static images, and Karma has been removed from the group.

Rahne refers to Nightcrawler as "the demon", echoing Kitty's early reactions to him and his fears from X-Men #167 that the New Mutants may have a hard time accepting his appearance.  

The New Mutants all try on costumes in Rio, which serves as nice little character moment for each of them.


Roberto's father Emmanuel is shown to be in cahoots with Sebastian Shaw, having asked Shaw to kidnap his wife as a show of power to convince Emmanuel to join the Hellfire Club.


I Love the 80s
For some reason, the word "dig" appears in quotations, suggesting it's some kind of slang term unfamiliar to general audiences at this time.  


Claremontisms
Like "tovarisch" and Nightcrawler's random German words, Claremont sprinkles "obrigado" into the DaCosta's speech on occasion.


Sam says that he's "pretty much invulnerable" when blasting; almost "nigh-invulnerable" but not quite there yet.

  
"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Professor X pisses off the New Mutants by sending them away to Brazil instead of allowing them to search for Karma, and though he has a legitimate reason for doing so, he doesn't see fit to inform the New Mutants of his reasoning. 


They're Students, Not Superheroes
Professor X sends the team on a field trip with Roberto's mom specifically to get them out of the line of fire, but of course they end up foiling a kidnapping plot (and the field trip leads to the adventures that unfold in the next several issues). 

My Hero, Thomas Magnum
The plan the New Mutants execute to rescue Roberto's mother is inspired by Thomas Magnum. 


Teebore's Take
This issue ostensibly kicks off what will turn out to be the fairly lengthy "Nova Roma" arc, New Mutants first multi-part storyline. But in terms of that storyline, this issue is mainly setup, dealing with the fallout from the end of last issue and getting the New Mutants to Brazil while telling the sort of done-in-one story that has characterized many of this series' early issues. As such, it serves as a nice touchstone for the series heading into its first protracted story arc, mimicking as it does the plot of the New Mutants first appearance (rescuing someone from the Hellfire Club) and touching on some of the plot threads left dangling from that story (like Roberto reacting to the death of his girlfriend). Axe is a pretty obvious Mr. T riff, but thankfully, he's much less integral to the story than Team America was in the last two issues, serving more as a generic goon, making his appearance feel less dated and thus allowing the issue to stand on its own. That said, while there's some interesting plot threads happening on the margins (the continued involvement of the Hellfire Club in the book, Professor X continuing to be a harsh taskmaster), nothing here is terribly exciting.

Next Issue
In Uncanny X-Men #172, Wolverine and Rogue go toe-to-toe with Viper and Silver Samurai, and then in New Mutants #8 the team meets a new friend in the Amazon. 

12 comments:

  1. I wonder if they "axed" Mr T to be in the book and he said "no".

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  2. @Anonymous: *rimshot*

    I love it.

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  3. I never read New Mutants, but this "Magnum, P.I." stuff is atrocious. How long did this go on? And better yet, why? I get it, it was a popular show and Claremont obviously liked it, but to reference it in every goddamn issue? Awful.

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    1. Yup. Right up until #100, I believe :)

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  4. @Dan: How long did this go on?

    Not too much longer, if memory serves. I think it gets dropped once Seinkiewicz comes aboard, which, regardless of your opinions about his art, is the point at which Claremont really elevates his game with this title, bringing the material above its current level of "competent but largely unexciting superheroics".

    That said, I'm honestly surprised at how often it's come up already, as I didn't recall it getting mentioned this often, so take my statement above with a grain of salt.

    As for why, I got no clue. Other than, as you say, Claremont was obviously a fan (which honestly seems like an odd thing for him to be a fan of). Maybe he thought it helped make the cast feel younger?

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  5. @Teebore: "Maybe he thought it helped make the cast feel younger?"

    And yet it makes me feel so old...

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  6. Axe does not compute. Just as Team America seemed like a weird throwback for Claremont to include in the title, so does Axe. In Uncanny, Claremont has moved far beyond this sort of Silver Age hokiness (which I say in an affectionate way), but he seems to embrace here in New Mutants even more than he ever did elsewhere!

    Otherwise, I like this issue. Globe-trotting stories are always fun, and Sunspot is probably my favorite New Mutant in the earliest issues, plus I love the Hellfire Club -- so this is a pretty good mix for me. Though Sal Buscema is all but unrecognizable under McLeod's inks here. I wonder if he just did breakdowns or something instead of full pencils? The previous couple issues were a clear mix of the two, but this is not.

    Dan and Teebore -- I think the Magnum stuff gets toned down somewhat, but it's still present throughout Claremont's run, right up to the end. I believe the final mention I recall from the Classics trades was around issue #50 or so. I really like it; it's funny to me that Sunspot is so enamored with this show. It obviously dates the material, but no moreso than many of Claremont's other pop culture references.

    "This is the last issue to use the codename "Psyche" for Dani; she'll eventually adopt the name Mirage, though she'll go simply by Dani until then."

    I liked when X-Force ultimately dropped her codename altogether and had go simply by Moonstar. It's a pretty awesome last name, so why not use it for a codename? X-Force wasn't really into secret identities by that point, after all.

    "The New Mutants all try on costumes in Rio, which serves as nice little character moment for each of them."

    Dani finds herself in skimpy clothing about as often as Kitty used to, but I guess it's less inappropriate because she's supposed to be around 16 or so, instead of Kitty's 13-14? Whatever the reason, I have much less of an issue with it.

    "For some reason, the word "dig" appears in quotations, suggesting it's some kind of slang term unfamiliar to general audiences at this time."

    When I read the above, I assumed you meant it was a phrase like "Can you 'dig' it, Bobby?" I could kind of see justification for that, since it truly is slang. But was the word, in relation to an arcehological dig, ever considered slang?? Isn't it just a technical term?

    "Professor X pisses off the New Mutants by sending them away to Brazil instead of allowing them to search for Karma, and though he has a legitimate reason for doing so, he doesn't see fit to inform the New Mutants of his reasoning."

    I love that he doesn't come along. I guess technically they're in the care of a parent of one of his students, but it still seems a little odd to send the other kids, who are supposed to be in his care, off on a field trip to Brazil. I know his school has never been the picture of orthodoxy, but I thought he was much more interested in the safety of this class. Especially after what just happened to Karma!

    The best part is that while they're traipsing around Brazil, he's just hanging out with Lilandra and attending Wolverine's wedding!

    (Yes, he could be searching for Karma day and night with Cerebro off-panel -- and he probably was -- but I still find this funny.)

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  7. @Dr. Bitz: And yet it makes me feel so old...

    Indeed...

    @Matt: he seems to embrace here in New Mutants even more than he ever did elsewhere!

    Which makes think it had to be intentional for some reason. I really wish Claremont had talked more through the years about his take on the New Mutants.

    It obviously dates the material, but no moreso than many of Claremont's other pop culture references.

    It doesn't bother me too much. I can reconcile it by remembering that thanks to Marvel Time, Sunspot could just be encountering the show for the first time thanks to DVD or Netflix. :)

    It's a pretty awesome last name, so why not use it for a codename?

    Agreed. I tend to think of her first and foremost as "Moonstar". Or even just "Dani", but "Moonstar" is more code name-y.

    Dani finds herself in skimpy clothing about as often as Kitty used to

    Huh. I hadn't noticed that (probably because, like you, it doesn't bother me as much, so it doesn't stick out). I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

    Isn't it just a technical term?

    That's what I always thought...

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  8. @Teebore
    "It doesn't bother me too much. I can reconcile it by remembering that thanks to Marvel Time, Sunspot could just be encountering the show for the first time thanks to DVD or Netflix."


    Agreed. In those early issues of Amazing Spider-Man, I like to imagine that Aunt May talking about watching Ed Sullivan is just the onset of dementia (she's most likely watching American Idol).

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  9. What is Axe's mutant power?

    His size and/or strength? Something to do with the axe that doesn't come across on the page? Ebonics?

    I didn't remember just how easily he was taken out this issue, although given that he's just a hired gun (yeah, yeah, yeah: "hired axe") it shouldn't be a surprise. He's pretty much the epitome of the character who somehow defeats our hero[es] after taking them by surprise only to be hopelessly outclassed in the final battle, which is indeed what happens, and I must say that it's actually slightly more believable given how green the New Mutants are. Him just shrugging off Dani's nightmare-made-real attack because he ain't afraid o' nuthin' seemed like a cheat, though, unless it turns out that his mutant power has to do with that.

    And speaking of iffy mutant-power stuff, I'm really tired of hearing from Sam that "ah'm pretty near invulnerable when ah'm blastin'... an' so's whomever ah'm carryin'." (Note to 1983 Chris Claremont, by the way: Sam's Joaja accent doesn't make up for Axe's jive talk.) You can make fun of John Byrne's psionic explanations for Superman's powers all you want but there's at least a kernel of a good idea in there when it comes to rationalizing how a superhumanly strong character can lift up something huge from the corner without leverage (or lack thereof) making the rest of it just break off or how a door opened into Clark Kent's face doesn't splinter into pieces. Sam talks like he and his passenger literally become impervious to harm, where it has to be more like his blasting power extends a field of protection around him an' whomever he's carryin' when that power is activated. Maybe it's splitting hairs to some, but to me the former sounds like magic crazy-talk and the latter is just enough pseudoscientific folderol to work within the story.

    I liked the opening scene of this issue a lot, but perhaps in part because it was given the room that it was the pacing on the rest of the story felt off. Once again, too, while the art is competent — very good, actually, in terms of the composition of and rendering within most of the panels — the staid panel layout suffers mightily in comparison to the way pages routinely pop over on X-Men. Smith, Miller in Wolverine, and even Cockrum switched things up in terms of dynamics a lot more.

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  10. @Matt: Axe does not compute.

    Whatchoo sayin', turkey? Just because a man's skin is brown don't mean he can't get hip to technology!

    @Matt: Otherwise, I like this issue. Globe-trotting stories are always fun, and Sunspot is probably my favorite New Mutant in the earliest issues, plus I love the Hellfire Club -- so this is a pretty good mix for me.

    None of this is bad, exactly, but it just feels so... aimless, even though the plot progression is in fact pretty relentless. I remember thinking so when the series first launched, too; it's all so over the place and so far from what it feels like the premise of the series was supposed to be — in fact, I'm pretty sure that I dropped the series a little while after this only to pick it up again when Sienkiewicz came aboard (meaning that I had to pick up the intervening back issues, of course). Aside from grooving to Sienkiewicz's art in a way that I know you've said you don't at all, I feel like the book only really hit its stride when the focus returned to training, slumber parties, adolescent angst, etc. at Xavier's school during Sienkiewicz's tenure (although since I was AWOL for a while, as noted, the focus may have shifted back before that; I don't recall).

    @Matt: I love that he doesn't come along. I guess technically they're in the care of a parent of one of his students, but it still seems a little odd to send the other kids, who are supposed to be in his care, off on a field trip to Brazil. I know his school has never been the picture of orthodoxy, but I thought he was much more interested in the safety of this class.

    +1 (as the kids say these days).

    @Teebore: I can reconcile it by remembering that thanks to Marvel Time, Sunspot could just be encountering the show for the first time thanks to DVD or Netflix. :)

    Wait, I thought we agreed that these stories take place in 1983 even though the kids are only a couple of years older now (or whatever; I haven't read anything with the New Mutants cast in longer than it's been for just about any other Marvel stuff).

    @Dan: I like to imagine that Aunt May talking about watching Ed Sullivan is just the onset of dementia

    Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Lichtenberg for the win.

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  11. @Blam: His size and/or strength? Something to do with the axe that doesn't come across on the page? Ebonics?

    Good question. I have no idea (one of the Hellfire goons refers to him as a mutant; that's the only reason I know he's mutant). If I had to guess, I'd go with "Something to do with the axe that doesn't come across on the page".

    Sam talks like he and his passenger literally become impervious to harm, where it has to be more like his blasting power extends a field of protection around him an' whomever he's carryin' when that power is activated.

    My understanding (and I believe the official explanation) of how his power works is exactly what you describe: a protective force field (or "blast field") that protects Sam (an' whomever he's carryin'), which is activated whenever he's blastin'.

    Later stories will show Sam trying to manipulate the position of the field around him, and even, if I recall correctly, call upon it when not blastin', which I believe is how he defeats Gladiator in one of the better X-Men issues from the 90s.

    (And for what's it worth, while it does get overly technical at times, I agree there's a kernel of a good idea to Byrne's psionic explanations for some of Superman's powers).

    None of this is bad, exactly, but it just feels so... aimless, even though the plot progression is in fact pretty relentless. I remember thinking so when the series first launched, too

    That has always been my recollection of these early (pre-Seinkiewicz) issues, and this re-read has done little to dissuade me of that notion. The Seinkiewicz run is really where the book seems to find a groove, even independent of his work, simply because Claremont, as you say, seems to get focused/reinvigorated/whatever when Seinkiewicz arrives.

    Wait, I thought we agreed that these stories take place in 1983 even though the kids are only a couple of years older now

    My rationalizations for problems brought on by time are ever shifting, sometimes even from issue to issue. :)

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