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Thursday, January 10, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #16

"Away Game!"
June 1984

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of the Hellions.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Inkers: Mandrake & DeMulder
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Ken Feduniewicz
Editors: Jones & Nocenti 
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
When the Hellfire Club guards move in to capture the New Mutants, Amara triggers an earthquake which disrupts the power to the lower levels of the Massachusetts Academy. In the ensuing darkness, the New Mutants manage to sneak into a store room, where they plan their next move. Knocking out a pair of female guards, the team splits up. Sam and Amara blow the generator, shutting down power throughout the campus, then go in search of Doug. Meanwhile, Illyana and Dani, dressed as Hellfire Club guards, search for Kitty, not realizing they are being followed. In another part of the complex, Roberto and Rahne search as well, but they encounter a pair of the White Queen's students, Thunderbird and Roulette, who manage to knock out the two New Mutants.


Meanwhile, Illyana and Dani are attacked by Catseye and Roulette, while above ground, Sam and Amara are confronted by Empath and Jetstream. Sam and Amara overcome their foes, at which point the White Queen intervenes, telepathically entrancing them. As Dani and Illyana defeat Tarot and Catseye, the White Queen enters the fray again. With Illyana's mind closed to her, the she telepathically ensnares Dani, but Illyana, knowing the two of them are no match for the White Queen, grabs Dani and teleports away.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of the Hellions, students of the White Queen and the New Mutants counterparts at the Massachusetts Academy. They are Roulette (influences the short term luck of her targets), Catseye (shapeshifts into a cat-like creature), Thunderbird (possesses enhanced strength, speed and senses), Tarot (physically manifests images from her tarot cards), Empath (manipulates emotions) and Jetstream (cybernetic-assisted flight), all of whom appear in this issue for the first time.

Worth singling out from that group are Empath, who, moreso than many of the other Hellions, will become the most overtly villainous, and Thunderbird, who will be revealed next issue to be James Proudstar, younger brother of deceased X-Man John Proudstar, the original Thunderbird. Eventually adopting the name Warpath, James will join the New Mutants shortly before their transformation into X-Force, becoming a mainstay of that team before joining the X-Men proper.


Ann Nocenti, who will take over from Louise Jones as the editor of both X-Men and New Mutants in the near future, co-edits this issue with Jones, making it, I believe, her first work in the X-universe.

A Work in Progress
Illyana refers to Amara as "Amy", and later, after Sam calls her "'Mara", she says she prefers Amy as it is less intimate.

Ilyana makes it clear once more that her teleporting power is unpredictable, saying she'll only use it as a last resort.


Doug Ramsey emerges from his dorm during the Sam and Amara's battle with Empath, seeing them in costume and using their powers for the first time, though White Queen ultimately wipes his memory of the event.

Confronting Sam and Amara directly, White Queen telepathically makes them see her differently based on their desires. For Sam, she appears as a doting Amara, while for Amara, she appears as Amara's long dead mother.


I Love the 80s
Sam tells Amara that if any of the regular Massachusetts Academy students question their costumes, they should say they're designer ski suits. 

Claremontisms
Sam is once again "near invulnerable" while blasting, while Illyana's Soulsword is once again described as being the "ultimate manfestation" of her sorceress abilities.
 

Young Love
Sam accidentally calls Amara "sweetheart", a term of endearment that doesn't go unnoticed.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of CyclopsDani Moonstar
After using her power to terrify a pair of Hellfire guards into submission, Dani throws herself down, overcome with angst over her terrible power.


Human/Mutant Relations
The White Queen presents a different take on human/mutant relations to Kitty, one in which certain mutants could be viewed as desirable by the powers-that-be.


Teebore's Take
This issue introduces the Hellions, and though their appearances here are brief, they are without a doubt Claremont's most significant contribution to the title since the creation of its initial main characters. Even with the book's "students first" focus, it cried out for some kind of recurring villain for the team, especially by now, well into the series' second year. With the Hellions, Claremont finally gives the New Mutants an arch nemesis, a Magneto or Dr. Doom that can serve as a dark reflection of the heroes.

More notably, he does this while still maintaining the book's unique aesthetic. While both teams possess super human abilities and wear uniforms that are more comic book-y than traditional school uniforms, and while their parent organizations consist of more traditional superheroes and villains, the conflicts between the New Mutants and Hellions will play out more like the rivalries between students at two separate schools (complete with occasional cross-school crushes and defections) than the life or death battles between the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. Looking ahead, Claremont will use the Hellions sparingly (and they'll largely disappear shortly after he leaves the book, for a variety of reasons), but their first appearance here as the New Mutants' rivals, and the promise of future appearances, are enough to make the book finally feel fully formed. 

Next Issue
Rogue gets the spotlight in Uncanny X-Men #182, followed by the conclusion to the New Mutants rescue mission in New Mutants #17.

8 comments:

Matt said...

According to bonus material in the New Mutants Classic volumes, the Hellions were designed by Bob McLeod. I don't recall if there were dates on his model sheets, so I'm not sure if he drew them when the series started, or closer to their first appearance here.

Funny how there just happen to be some female Hellfire guards just when two female cast members need to sneak around unnoticed. Reminds me of old episodes of G.I. Joe where there were absolutely no generic female Cobra Joe troopers unless the plot required them to exist.

Teebore said...

@Matt: According to bonus material in the New Mutants Classic volumes, the Hellions were designed by Bob McLeod.

Interesting. That kind of makes you think Claremont had been sitting on the idea for awhile (note to Past Claremont: the Nova Roma story would have been a good place to shorten things up to allow for the Hellions to appear sooner), or else McLeod designed them well after he'd left the title.

Funny how there just happen to be some female Hellfire guards just when two female cast members need to sneak around unnoticed.

To be fair, I don't think there was anything about their plan that required two female guards to conveniently show up. That is, the other New Mutants moved around without disguises, and there's no plot-based reason, say, a male and female guard couldn't have had their uniforms accosted by Roberto and Rahne.

Matt said...

I took a moment to glance at the Hellions model sheet last night, and it's not dated at all, so it could have been drawn at any time. It's also only one sheet showing all of the team; for some reason I had thought it was more than that.

But anyway, yeah... it sounds like Claremont probably held off on introducing the Hellions for longer than expected. I guess it's possible McLeod was commissioned to design them after leaving the title, especially if Claremont wanted his co-creator to receive a royalty for creating the title's main villains too -- but knowing Claremont, I lean more towards procrastination on his part.

Teebore said...

@Matt: but knowing Claremont, I lean more towards procrastination on his part.

I say it with all due respect to the man, but ditto. Totally.

Blam said...


White Queen: "The grave is a mutant's only lasting sanctuary."

Uh... Not so much with the lasting.

How convenient that the New Mutants have such exact opposite numbers in the Hellions!

Focused Totality is my new band name.

@Teebore: To be fair, I don't think there was anything about their plan that required two female guards to conveniently show up.

Wait... According to previous conversations on Claremont's approach, isn't that exactly why the guards would be female? If, all things being equal, there's no reason these characters can't be women, they should be women. Although with that said I admit that seeing the flunkies walk by with female shapes made me do a double-take and sure seemed like Claremont was, er, stacking the deck towards putting Illyana and Dani in those uniforms for plot reasons.

@Matt: I took a moment to glance at the Hellions model sheet last night, and it's not dated at all

Unlike everything else about the series so far. *rimshot*

Teebore said...

@Blam: How convenient that the New Mutants have such exact opposite numbers in the Hellions!

The odd ones out, of course, being Illyana/Amara and Empath/Roulette, unless you want to line up Empath with Dani (both take advantage of emotional states) instead of Dani and Tarot (both make images "real" in some capacity).

If, all things being equal, there's no reason these characters can't be women, they should be women.

That's Claremont's thinking, yeah (though I don't know if it extends as far out as to random "extras", so to speak).

My point was more that Claremont just happened to make them female, for reasons other than plot convenience. That is, the plot point served by the guards was giving the New Mutants knowledge of where Kitty was being held. Their gender to that effect was irrelevant; Claremont (or Buscema, perhaps) made them female for some other, ultimately irrelevant reason.

Had they been male, then Dani and Illyana would have just snuck around without disguises like the rest of the team. Nothing they did specifically required them to be in disguise, thus the only plot convenience comes from any guards just happening to come by when the New Mutants needed intel, but given the setting, I don't think it's reaching too much to suggest easy access to some Hellfire goons.

Unlike everything else about the series so far. *rimshot*

Nicely done. :)

SpaceSquid said...

"To be fair, I don't think there was anything about their plan that required two female guards to conveniently show up."

I just assumed this was to ensure Dani got to spend some time in her underwear again, even if this time we didn't see it. The girl has a reputation to maintain, after all...

Teebore said...

@SpaceSquid: The girl has a reputation to maintain, after all...

Ha! Yes indeed. :)