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Thursday, November 1, 2012

X-amining New Mutants #10

"Betrayal!"
December 1983

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants are drawn deeper into the machinations of Nova Roma. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Finisher: Tom Mandrake
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Consultant: Diana Schutz

Plot
The New Mutants, heralded as gods, are paraded through the streets of Nova Roma. Arriving at Senator Gallio's palace, he tells them of how Senator Aquilla, Amara's father, wishes to declare himself emperor of Nova Roma. Though both Sam and Dani sense that Gallio is lying, they play dumb. That night, Roberto goes for a walk, and sees a woman he believes to be his missing mother in the street, but Gallio's guards detain him, and following Xavier's teachings, he refuses to use his power on them, so he loses his mother in the crowd. Later, Dani sneaks out of the palace, hoping to get a sense of what Nova Roma is really like, when she's grabbed from behind. Back inside, Roberto is suddenly shot in the arm, and the New Mutants discover the gunman is Castro, who claims Senator Aquilla hired him to kill the mutants. Gallio orders the immediate arrest of Aquilla.


Elsewhere, Dani awakens in a cavern alongside two other girls, one of whom is Amara. They are led to a pit of lava, where Senator Gallio's wife, Selene, entrances one of the girls. She throws herself into the lava, allowing Selene to absorb her life force. Back in the city, Sam and Roberto help Gallio's guards arrest Aquilla, but when they observe the guards trying to kill Aquilla, they save him, and when he's handed over to Gallio, Roberto overhears their conversation in Latin, making it clear that Gallio is actually the one trying to seize power. Back in the cavern, Selene prepares to sacrifice Amara. Dani uses her power to break free and rush Selene, but is easily overpowered. The confrontation allows Amara to snap out of her trance, but she is still knocked into the pit by Selene, which triggers an earthquake throughout the city. Suddenly, a column of fire spews forth from the pit, with Amara, enveloped in flames, riding atop it, declaring vengeance on Selene.

Firsts and Other Notables
Amara manifests her mutant power for the first time, emerging from Selene's firepit seemingly comprised of lava.


We also learn more about Selene, specifically that she is a mutant with some kind of psychic powers, and that she is several centuries old, using the energy of young woman to remain young.


Karma's head has been removed from the corner box.

A Work in Progress
Not surprisingly, Rahne thinks it's "na' proper" (which is darn near a Claremontism at this point...) for the Nova Romans to worship her as a god.


Both Dani and Sam display leadership ability, with both taking charge at one point or another.

Rahne admits to Roberto that she wishes she could stay a wolf.


Dani believes her mutant metabolism prevents her from being as affected by a drug as two other girls, another example of the occasionally-mentioned idea that mutants heal faster than regular humans (though it's worth noting that Amara is one of the still-drugged girls, and though Dani doesn't know it at the time, she's a mutant as well).

Roberto speaks Latin, something he's been keeping in his back pocket throughout the New Mutants time in Nova Roma.


I Love the 80s
Another issue, another excuse to get Dani in skimpy clothes. 


Young Love
Dani wishes Roberto would open up and let her in, another hint at a romantic subplot that I don't recall ever coming to fruition.


Rahne flies off the handle when someone threatens Sam, and is clearly jealous of his attraction to Amara. 


Human/Mutant Relations
After seeing Selene in action, Dani can see why some humans may fear mutants. 


Teebore's Take
The New Mutants' Nova Roma adventure continues, with more of the same: competent but unexciting writing and art. Thankfully, with much of the setup work done last issue, Claremont is able to work some characterization into this one, which, as with past issues, at least helps connect this story to the larger narrative. There's hints of possible romances, with Rahne filled with jealously over Sam's affection for Amara and Dani wishing Roberto would open up to her, Rahne's continued struggle with the wolf side of herself, as well as suggestions of Sam and Dani's burgeoning leadership abilities in the wake of Karma's departure. We also learn more about Selene and experience the first manifestation of Amara's powers, which creates the impression that the story is moving along even while it also already feels like we've been in Nova Roma (and away from the mansion) forever.   

Next Issue
Things get whacky in X-Men Annual #7. 

8 comments:

  1. I think this was the point where I decided that the Brazil/Nova Roma story was running a bit too long. I usually like globe-trotting adventure stories, but unlike the X-Men's "world tour" from the Claremont/Byrne days, this storyline spends too much time in one place, and isn't all that compelling to begin with.

    I do like Selene, though. She's one of my favorite Claremont-created X-villains.

    "Another issue, another excuse to get Dani in skimpy clothes."

    Something tells her she's not dressed that way for a party? What kind of parties did she go to?!?

    (Okay, the obvious answer would be a pool party, but still...)

    "Young Love"

    One thing I like about this run is that everyone has a crush on everyone else. It makes perfect sense, since they're hormonal teenagers and all. I like that Claremont went that route, but ultimately didn't have any of them become a couple.

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  2. @Matt: I think this was the point where I decided that the Brazil/Nova Roma story was running a bit too long

    Ditto.

    I do like Selene, though. She's one of my favorite Claremont-created X-villains.

    Also ditto. Sometimes it's nice to just have a villain who is unrepentantly evil. I wouldn't want 'em all to be that way, but the occasional one is fun.

    One thing I like about this run is that everyone has a crush on everyone else. It makes perfect sense, since they're hormonal teenagers and all.

    I totally agree, though what's funny is that when I first read these issues as a teenager, that bugged the heck out of me, because it felt like Claremont was forgetting who was supposed to crushing on whom and leaving all these feelings unresolved.

    Re-reading the run as I got older (and again for the blog), I saw it from a totally different angle and now really like what he's doing with all the various teenage crushes.

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  3. I wonder what Diana Schutz consulted on.

    which is darn near a Claremontism at this point

    Nope. I'm calling it. Claremontism. 8^)

    it's worth noting that Amara is one of the still-drugged girls

    Ooh. Good point. I hadn't thought of that.

    Another issue, another excuse to get Dani in skimpy clothes. 

    What's creepier is that I have a feeling that Selene herself wasn't the one who changed Dani, given that she wakes up amidst big male guards.

    Roberto says to himself that he feels guilty over both letting his mother drown and, earlier, not being able to keep Shan from falling into the ocean. Didn't the New Mutants think that Shan blew up in the explosion?

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  4. PS: I saw Magik #1 in the Hype Box of this issue's Bullpen Bulletins page. Are you planning on giving the four issues an entry once the mini concludes and/or whenever it's supposed to fit into the ongoing series' timeline?

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  5. @Blam: I wonder what Diana Schutz consulted on.

    Me too. I was thinking maybe some of the Roman stuff?

    What's creepier is that I have a feeling that Selene herself wasn't the one who changed Dani, given that she wakes up amidst big male guards.

    If I've learned anything in the course of this re-read, it's that there's an inherent creepiness to the somewhat-standard superhero trope of a character(s) getting captured wearing one thing then awakening in their costume or some other garb that I never noticed until now.

    Didn't the New Mutants think that Shan blew up in the explosion?

    I think so, yeah. Roberto had an especially angsty moment in the issue immediately after her death, at this might explain that, but if so, he kept the notion that he saw her fall into the ocean to himself (which probably doesn't help the search for her).

    Good catch. I totally missed that.

    Are you planning on giving the four issues an entry once the mini concludes and/or whenever it's supposed to fit into the ongoing series' timeline?

    Yeah, we'll be covering it next month (I forget the exact week w/o checking my schedule). The X-Men post that week will cover X-Men vs. The Micornauts while the New Mutants post will cover the Magik series. It roughly coincides with the end of the series' publication and it's placement in the overall narrative (at the very least, the events therein are referenced in the issue of New Mutants we'll cover the following week).

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  6. I was thinking about what Blam said about Amara in the UXM #175 comments whilst I was writing up my own take on this issue:

    "[T]he kids just happen to encounter a girl their age from a hidden city who just happens to be a mutant whose powers just happen to have to do with magma and manifest when she's thrown into, of all things, a lava pit."

    Obviously, all that's true, and it's a typically aggravating example of comics coincidence (I promise that's not the only thing I'll comment on here, honest).

    All that said, though, there's an interesting possibility regarding Amara that I've not seen suggested (in part, no doubt, because it leads to other problems later on). What if her power wasn't "control over lava", so much as "control over anything that would otherwise have killed her"?

    Maybe her power set is actually kind of like Darwin's, only it allows her to control her surroundings rather than merely survive them, and maybe for whatever reason, it's just gotten stuck on lava ever since (I haven't read enough New Mutants to know if she ever ended up dead for a while, so it's even possible she's never changed because she never needed to).

    I'm under no illusions that this is anything other than fanwank of the highest order, and almost thirty years to late into the bargain. Still, it's just possible that it might be interesting fanwank, which is why I mention it.

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  7. @SpaceSquid: I'm under no illusions that this is anything other than fanwank of the highest order, and almost thirty years to late into the bargain. Still, it's just possible that it might be interesting fanwank, which is why I mention it.

    It definitely is an interesting idea. I used to have a personal theory that a lot of the energy manipulating powers are just limited forms of telekinesis (so for example, Magneto is really just a telekinetic who can only move metal objects with his mind), but that leads to less interesting things...

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  8. @SpaceSquid: Maybe her power set is actually kind of like Darwin's

    I have no idea who Darwin is, but I do recall it being proposed that many of the atomic-age Marvel characters' attributes — whether the result of mutation or cosmic-ray exposure or gamma radiation — stemmed from their personalities and/or circumstances.

    The only specific story that comes to mind is a What If? issue in which the familiar members of the Fantastic Four get different powers. It's explained (by the Watcher, I think; Roy Thomas wrote the issue) that Johnny Storm became a Human Torch because he was a hot-headed teenager, but due to his love of technology like hi-fi radios he could just as easily have become, as he does in this story, a human robot called (half-cleverly but all-redundantly) Mandroid. Similarly, Ben Grimm's personality led to him becoming The Thing "for real" but given his piloting skills in What If? #6 he grows wings and becomes Dragonfly instead.

    I think that the concept had earlier been established in Hulk stories when, in contrast to the relatively milquetoast Bruce Banner turning into the brutish Hulk, a janitor of unexceptional intelligence became The Leader. This was before things got more metaphysical and it was revealed that there were several Hulk identities reflecting Banner's MPD. Likewise, I believe that Walter Langowski originally turned into Sasquatch under controlled gamma-radiation exposure because of his subconscious cultural associations (which accounted for his general look, anyway; the orange vs. green was written off as the byproduct of a solar eclipse or sunspots or something) before his origin totally changed.

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