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Thursday, October 11, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #8

"The Road to...Rome?"
October 1983

In a Nutshell
In the Amazon, the New Mutants meet a strange girl named Amara. 

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

Plot
In the Amazon, the New Mutants play an improvised game of hide-n-seek to exercise their mutant powers. Later, they check in with Professor X, who advises them that Karma is still missing and that they should continue their trip. When Dani decides to swim back to their boat, one of the crewmen, Carlos, hoping to stir up some piranhas, empties a slop bucket into the river. Dani uses her power on the fish to scare them away, and Sam manages to pull her out of the water. They crash on the opposite shore and come face to face with a group of Native American women, who attack them. Realizing the Native Americans were watching the boat, Sam and Dani fight them off, but take one of them captive. That night, as the ship sails up the river, Roberto's mother Nina unsuccessfully tries to communicate with the captured girl. Meanwhile, in Rio De Janiero, Emmanuel Da Costa meets with Sebastian Shaw, and they discuss once again the difficulty of sabotaging Nina's expedition without hurting her or Roberto, but Emmanuel insists he will stop her from reaching the uncharted resources of the Maderia.


Back on the river, Nina and the New Mutants reach their destination, the Maderia mountain range. Rahne brings food to the captured girl, but discovers Carlos beating her for information. Rahne transforms into a wolf and scares him off, then learns the captive girl's name is Amara. But when Rahne returns to the deck for more food, she is knocked out by Carlos. Nina, the New Mutants and Amara awaken to discover they are alone on the boat as it heads towards a waterfall, its engines sabotaged. The boat crashes, and everyone scrambles to get to shore. Rahne manages to pull Amara from the river, but Amara emerges with white skin and blond hair. The New Mutants realize that Nina is missing, but before they can search for her, they are suddenly surrounded by a group of Roman legionnaires. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The is the first appearance of Amara Aquilla, who will eventually join the team as Magma, though here we only meet her as Amara, a Caucasian girl disguised as and living amongst a tribe of South American Indians for reasons we have yet to learn.

After stepping down as regular penciler in favor of inking, this is Bob McLeod's final issue inking the series, taking him completely off the series he co-created. I believe his next project after this was inking Marvel's Star Wars comic. 

The cover heads are back to normal, yet oddly, Karma is amongst them.

A Work in Progress
Rahne believes that wearing less clothes in deference to the jungle heat would be "na' proper".


Dani has been practicing refining her power to choose either a good or bad image to recreate.


Team America is seen at the mansion, and Professor X mentions he is continuing their training.


Dani tells Sam to help her out of the river by using "rescue maneuver 2", which is apparently...pulling her out of the water. Not sure that needed a specific designation.


Roberto's father and Sebastian Shaw again discuss Emmanuel joining the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club and the need to prevent Nina Da Costa from reaching the Maderia.


Reminded of her upbringing by the anti-mutant sentiment aboard the boat, Rahne delivers a monologue to Amara, believing she can't understand her, about how she thinks her life would be easier if she could just stay a wolf.


The idea that Roberto is super-strong but not invulnerable is reinforced.


I Love the 80s
Behold the satellite phones of the 80s:


Dani strips down to her two piece swimsuit at one point.


The New Mutants are in the Amazon, so of course Dani's swim leads to an encounter with piranhas, whipped into a frenzy by one of the crewmen working for Emmanuel Da Costa, though the popular depiction of piranhas as vicious predators able to devour humans has these days largely been debunked.

Emmanuel is pretty much a Bond villain in this issue, complete with a secret map hidden in a wall and ladies of the evening on standby. 

The idea of the Caucasian Amara disguising herself as a dark skinned Native American via makeup and a wig is...dicey, at best.


They're Students, Not Superheroes
The New Mutants continue their training while on the field trip, and must submit their training results to Professor X for evaluation.

Human/Mutant Relations
Much of the crew of Nina's boat is reluctant to continue the expedition when they learn there are mutants aboard.


Teebore's Take
The multi-part "Nova Roma" story kicks off in earnest, with the New Mutants journeying down the Amazon towards the Maderia, meeting the girl who will eventually be known as Magma for the first time. Claremont continues to do an effective job of both developing the characters, giving everyone a standout moment or two, as well as depicting the New Mutants actually improving in the use of their powers (Dani, not surprisingly, has come the farthest in that regard), something that was often missing even from the original school-age X-Men team. Yet, as with past issues, the end result seems perfunctory; competent and well-executed, but nothing to get too terribly excited about. Claremont isn't exactly phoning it in, but it's clear he's not yet devoting the same kind of energy and creativity to this title that he is to contemporaneous issues of X-Men.  

Next Issue
We take a break from the norm, and look first at Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Dallas, followed by a New Mutants guest appearance in Marvel Team-Up Annual #6.  

9 comments:

  1. I don't really recall the Nova Roma issues individually; they're all kind of lumped together in my brain. I will reiterate my opinion that a lot of the early issues feel like a primetime TV series, though. The Viper/Silver Samurai story was slightly more epic, but now we're kind of back to some low-key adventure show antics. Once Selene arrives, though, is where I think this TV feeling finally ends.

    I like Magma. I never knew much about her, as she had pretty much vanished from the X-titles by the time I became a regular reader, but I learned to appreciate her in the New Mutants Classic trades. I thought she was a fair trade for Karma, though I like when eventually they're both on the team together.

    "...this is Bob McLeod's final issue inking the series..."

    I like that Claremont pretty much consistently lists him as "co-creator" in the credits going forward, though. I always appreciate that sort of courtesy.

    "Team America is seen at the mansion, and Professor X mentions he is continuing their training."

    I feel like we were cheated out of a scene where Wolverine meets Wolf. Though even if that had occurred to anyone, Wolverine is off in Japan right now so it couldn't happen. I wonder if Professor X left Team America "home alone" when he went to the wedding? I'm telling you, there's some untold story here; I just can't figure out what it is.

    "Dani strips down to her two piece swimsuit at one point."

    I told you; now that you're wathing for this you're going to see her get half naked more often than Kitty ever did. Maybe even more often than Storm!

    "Emmanuel is pretty much a Bond villain in this issue, complete with a secret map hidden in a wall and ladies of the evening on standby."

    Emmanuel DaCosta is another character who was gone by the time I started reading the X-books regularly, so I never got to see this storyline unfold. Unfortunately, Claremont kind of sidelines it as his run continues, and it never really seems as important as they're trying to make it out to be in these early issues. I'm not sure if Simonson ever did anything with it, though I know how it eventually ended under Liefeld.

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  2. @Matt: I don't really recall the Nova Roma issues individually; they're all kind of lumped together in my brain.

    Ditto.

    Once Selene arrives, though, is where I think this TV feeling finally ends.

    I can see that.

    I thought she was a fair trade for Karma, though I like when eventually they're both on the team together.

    I'll withhold my comments on Magma until she makes more of an appearance, but in general I've always found her to be a visually interesting character who seemed to always get the short-shrift story-wise (frankly, I'm always surprised to read a later Claremont story and find her in it; she just never seemed to do anything, so I always forget that she was there).

    I agree that she's a worthy trade-in for Karma, if for no other reason that she adds a fun visual dynamic to the team, but we do get some mileage out of the various guys crushing on her as well.

    I like that Claremont pretty much consistently lists him as "co-creator" in the credits going forward, though

    Ditto, especially since at the time there's nothing forcing Claremont (or anyone else) to do so.


    I told you; now that you're wathing for this you're going to see her get half naked more often than Kitty ever did.


    What was seen cannot be unseen!

    Claremont kind of sidelines it as his run continues, and it never really seems as important as they're trying to make it out to be in these early issues.

    Yeah, it never really elevates outside the realm of subplot when Claremont is writing the book, and then Simonson more or less ignores it during her run until Liefeld, to his credit, at least pays lip service to wrapping it up in the process of clearing the deck for X-Force.

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  3. "Behold the satellite phones of the 80s..."

    I wonder if they could pick up Magnum, P.I. on that thing.

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  4. @Dan: I wonder if they could pick up Magnum, P.I. on that thing.

    Probably; I doubt Roberto could make it through the entire planned trip without his beloved Magnum. :)

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  5. Ah, rescue maneuver 2, one of my favorite maneuvers, right behind the Heimlich. I always roll my eyes when a character in a comic or a TV calls for "evasive maneuver 7-delta!" or whatever. It invariably sounds completely phony.

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  6. @Teebore-
    I doubt Roberto could make it through the entire planned trip without his beloved Magnum.


    Wouldn't it have been great during the X-Force era to have Reignfire start talking about Magnum? Could have been one more "clue" to his identity...

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  7. Dan -- I can't speak for anyone else, but the thought of Reignfire talking about Magnum just elicited a big laugh from me.

    Also, I agree with Anonymous regarding "maneuver numbers". Did the New Mutants really train specifically for a situation where one of them might fall in the water and need to be fished out by Cannonball? It's silly.

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  8. I've always thought that this cover resembled the work of John Severin. His distinct inking isn't on display, but something about how McLeod drew Sam's face here just has a Severin feel to me, as does the way Dani's tussle in the background is at once dynamic and rather staid-looking. I like Severin's work fine, be it on EC war titles, Marvel Westerns, or Cracked parodies; yet it has a unique "frozen in time" quality that, to me, at once highlights the action and sort-of underwhelms the urgency of it.

    Also, I keep typing "McCloud" for "McLeod" because I'm much more used to writing about Scott McCloud (born Scott McLeod, so it comes full circle).

    In the Amazon, the New Mutants play an improvised game of hide-n-seek to exercise their mutant powers.

    Dani's and Sam's control over their powers got a lot better all of a sudden — even given her reference to their training. Less explainable? Sam didn't look like he should be anywhere near the gang when he hit that tree. I can't believe that nobody broke out a George of the Jungle reference, either.

    they check in with Professor X, who advises them that Karma is still missing and that they should continue their trip

    He basically says, "I don't have time for you children," which is so great. Sure, he's telling them to enjoy their vacation — but he also says explicitly that he doesn't need them and implicitly that he has bigger priorities than training them.

    Given that this is the Marvel Universe, where they can stumble upon a plan to kidnap members of Team America at a county fair or whatever in their own frickin' backyard, you'd think that Xavier might be just a bit more concerned about what they might encounter deep in the Amazon.

    Sam and Dani fight them off, but take one of them captive.

    I'm not sure that made any sense to do.

    Rahne brings food to the captured girl, but discovers Carlos beating her for information.

    I like the POV shot on Castro when Rahne turns into a wolf.

    The New Mutants realize that Nina is missing, but before they can search for her, they are suddenly surrounded by a group of Roman legionnaires.

    Which is pretty out of the blue in the issue itself, but an even more hilarious non sequitur in your synopsis. I chuckled even having just re-read the issue. Thanks for that!

    Rahne believes that wearing less clothes in deference to the jungle heat would be "na' proper".

    To be fairer to Rahne and Claremont, as the panel you reproduced shows, Dani just says "I've got to get you undressed." I could easily see Rahne balking at wearing a bikini, or even a swimsuit of any kind, akin to scenes we've had in the past, but this makes it sound like she's gonna strip Rahne down to her skivvies.

    I kind-of think that costumes made from unstable molecules should cool down the wearer as much as they can insulate the wearer, depending on the climate, not unlike a thermos; they are, after all, pretty much magic.

    The solution that Dani comes up with makes for a neat bit, however, especially as a way of showing us that she's made that kind of progress with her abilities. We just maybe shouldn't think too hard about whether Rahne's state of mind / belief in the snow could cool her down properly, although it feels plausible enough.

    Rahne delivers a monologue to Amara, believing she can't understand her, about how she thinks her life would be easier if she could just stay a wolf.

    I call Claremontism on "deep in my secret soul".

    The idea that Roberto is super-strong but not invulnerable is reinforced.

    You forgot to add "clumsily". 8^)

    Emmanuel is pretty much a Bond villain in this issue

    I had the very same thought.

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  9. @Anonymous: I always roll my eyes when a character in a comic or a TV calls for "evasive maneuver 7-delta!" or whatever. It invariably sounds completely phony.

    Totally agreed on both the eye rolling and the phoniness.

    @Dan: Wouldn't it have been great during the X-Force era to have Reignfire start talking about Magnum? Could have been one more "clue" to his identity...

    Ha! That would have been awesome.

    @Matt: Did the New Mutants really train specifically for a situation where one of them might fall in the water and need to be fished out by Cannonball?

    Any why even train for that? If someone falls in the water, fish them out. It's not rocket science.

    @Blam: Sure, he's telling them to enjoy their vacation — but he also says explicitly that he doesn't need them and implicitly that he has bigger priorities than training them.

    Yeah, that probably should have gone under "Professor Xavier is a Jerk".

    I'm not sure that made any sense to do.

    It really doesn't. I even went back and re-read that page when I wrote up the synopsis because I was like, "wait, why did they capture her? Oh, the story never makes that clear...".

    I kind-of think that costumes made from unstable molecules should cool down the wearer as much as they can insulate the wearer, depending on the climate, not unlike a thermos; they are, after all, pretty much magic.

    I would think so too. Maybe that doesn't happen until Forge improves them during the whole "the X-Men have disbanded" post-Inferno era.

    We just maybe shouldn't think too hard about whether Rahne's state of mind / belief in the snow could cool her down properly, although it feels plausible enough.

    I thought the same thing: it makes sense, but don't think about it too hard.

    I call Claremontism on "deep in my secret soul".

    I'll keep my eye out for that in the future. :)

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