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Thursday, January 17, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #17

"Getaway!"
July 1984

In a Nutshell
Cannonball and Jetstream duel for the New Mutants' freedom. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Sal Buscema,Tom Mandrake & Kim DeMulder
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
As the White Queen leads the Hellions in an analysis of their confrontation with Xavier's students, the defeated New Mutants find themselves imprisoned along with Kitty in a room with a power inhibitor. Meanwhile, in Limbo, Dani, with the help of S'ym, tends to an exhausted Illyana. When she awakens, she casts a healing spell on herself, then teleports with Dani back to the Massachusetts Academy. When they arrive, they discover their teammates dressed like the Hellions and interacting with them as though they're all old friends. Dani and Illyana quickly realize they've arrived at the school a year after their initial encounter with the Hellions, and that the White Queen has succeeded in brainwashing their teammates. Illyana teleports them again, and they arrive a week after their fight with the Hellions. Certain she won't be able to do any better, Dani and Illyana steal into the New Mutants' room to rouse them. But before they can escape, they are confronted by the Hellions.


Some of the Hellions, all of whom came to the academy by choice, are unhappy with the idea of the New Mutants being forced to join them, so they propose a duel: one New Mutant versus one Hellion. If the New Mutant wins, they all get to leave, otherwise, they will all stay willingly. Dani reluctantly accepts. Inside the Hellion's Combat Room, Cannonball and Jetstream blast off with the goal of outlasting their opponent. Sam eventually manages to knock Jetstream to the ground, winning the duel, but the White Queen and Sebastian Shaw suddenly arrive. Refusing to honor the Hellions agreement, Shaw and the White Queen are attacked by the New Mutants. Kitty is able to sneak away and trigger an explosion in the Combat Room's equipment, creating enough of a distraction for Illyana to teleport the New Mutants away. Arriving back at the mansion, Dani suddenly has a vision of the Demon Bear, who declares that he will soon come for her as he once did her parents.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the last issue featuring the Buscema/Mandrake team on art, with Bill Seinkiewicz announced on the final page as the book's new artist. Also, Ann Nocenti officially takes over as the book's editor with this issue.

When Dani and Illyana first teleport back to the Massachusetts Academy and arrive a year into the future, they see the New Mutants dressed as and acting chummy with the Hellions; this is possibly a setup for a story, a little over a year (publishing time) from now, which will find the New Mutants sent to study at the Massachusetts Academy for an extended period of time, though the details between this future and that one are not consistent (Kitty, for example, is missing in the later story), meaning this is likely just an alternate future averted by Dani and Illyana's second rescue attempt.


Dani and Illyana's second attempt to return to the academy lands them at the school one week after the events of last issue, which helpfully covers the week, in story-time, that the X-Men were on Battleworld for Secret Wars.  

A Work in Progress
Proving what a jerk he is right from the get-go, Empath refers to his teammate Jestream as "Arab".


In contrast with Rahne, who struggles with her desire to remain in her lupine form, it's made clear Catseye much prefers remaining a cat.


Thunderbird mentions wanting revenge on the X-Men for the death of his brother John, but it still hasn't been made explicit that he's the brother of the Thunderbird who died in issue #95. 

Setting up the story which will begin next issue, the Demon Bear which killed Dani's parents is referenced several times in this issue.


The Hellions training room, the Combat Room, resembles the Danger Room, and it's said it was created in part using technology and know-how stolen from the X-Men during the time when the Hellfire Club had the mansion bugged (circa the "Dark Phoenix Saga"); however, as the Shi'ar enhancements that allow for the Danger Room's holographic capabilities were installed later, the Hellions' Combat Room lacks that enhanced functionality, something which Sam notes during his duel with Jetstream.


As promised in X-Men #182, Shaw shows up at the Massachusetts Academy, and the New Mutants are forced to fight him and the White Queen briefly before they're able to teleport away.


I Love the 80s
I probably need to get my mind out of the gutter, but I couldn't help chuckling at the image of Kitty using her physical therapy skills, learned in dance class, to give Roberto's injured back a massage.


After fleeing to Limbo, Illyana and Dani are (of course) dressed (by S'ym) in skimpy/revealing attire.


Young Love
Tarot, whilst thinking of the New Mutants, drops the "lovers" tarot card, kicking off a minor subplot that emerges whenever the New Mutants and Hellions meet that never really gets resolved.


My Hero, Thomas Magnum
Roberto urges Sam to use the "Maneuver 7 Magnum variation" against Jetstream, which appears to involve him grabbing a gymnastics ring, then swinging around and blasting into his opponent, which seems oddly specific/uncomplicated.


Ann Nocenti on Sal Buscema's departure
"I knew you couldn't have an old-fashioned artist on something geared to bring in new readers ... Probably the hardest call I ever made at Marvel was to Sal Buscema, to say, bluntly - too bluntly - 'I am taking you off this book.' He asked why, and I said, 'You're old-fashioned. This needs to be new.' And he was really mad, then upset. Then he turned around, and in the next issue of The Incredible Hulk...it was fucking magnificent. It was like Sal saying, 'you want to see what I can do?' He just pulled all the guns out. "

Howe, Sean. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. p276

Teebore's Take
And with that, we close out the three part "rescue Kitty/tussle with the Hellions" arc (and, with the imminent arrival of Bill Sienkiewicz next issue, we also close out the first "era" of the title). In this issue, Claremont continues to depict the Hellions less as super-villains and more as rivals for the New Mutants, smartly peppering the issue with little bits of characterization that help the Hellions feel like more than just generic villainous counterparts: Empath is a scheming asshat (and the most overtly villainous of them all), Thunderbird has a strong sense of honor, Catseye prefers life in her animal form, Tarot may be crushing on one of the New Mutants, etc. Furthermore, this initial confrontation between the two schools ends not with a super powered throwdown between the teams, but a test of skill between Cannonball and Jetstream, with both sides agreeing to honor the results. Only the intervention of Shaw and the White Queen, true super villains, leads to the New Mutants having to (barely) fight their way out of the Massachusetts Academy. Not only does this maintain the "students first" aesthetic, but it also makes it easier to bring back the Hellions as antagonists while suggesting the possibility of deeper interactions between members of the two teams in the future. 

Next Issue
Kitty returns to the mansion and deals with the fallout from Secret Wars in Uncanny X-Men #183, while New Mutants #18 kicks off one of the books most acclaimed stories as we welcome aboard new series artist Bill Seinkiewicz.  

8 comments:

  1. My gosh, that cover is ugly. It's just so plain. And the background color doesn't help it. If the background was entirely white, the figures would stand out more and though it would still be boring, it would be a bit more visually appealing. But really, if you're going with something so plain-looking, how about some cover copy to spruse it up? "CANNONBALL vs. JETSTREAM -- with the FREEDOM of the New Mutants at stake!

    This is another story that feels somewhat drawn out. It's not as long as the Brazil/Nova Roma saga, but I think it could've been trimmed by one issue and not lost much. I would've liked to have seen more of the New Mutants coping without their teacher with comical results, rather than a three-part showdown with the Hellions. But I guess it is what it is.

    "Proving what a jerk he is right from the get-go, Empath refers to his teammate Jestream as 'Arab'."

    It could've been worse... he could've called him a "camel jockey" as Cyclops did in one of the classic Thomas/Adams issues.

    "Thunderbird mentions wanting revenge on the X-Men for the death of his brother John, but it still hasn't been made explicit that he's the brother of the Thunderbird who died in issue #95."

    Hmm, already knowing who he was when I first read this, that never occurred to me. I guess that makes it a bit of an Easter egg for longtime readers.

    "Roberto urges Sam to use the 'Maneuver 7 Magnum variation' against Jetstream, which appears to involve him grabbing a gymnastics ring, then swinging around and blasting into his opponent, which seems oddly specific/uncomplicated."

    Well, we've already established that they have a maneuver for Cannonball to pull drowning teammates out of the water too, so this is not necessarily that much of a stretch. Professor X just wants to make sure they're ready for everything.

    It would've been fun to see good ol' militarily-minded Cable struggling to remove all these bizarrely useless maneuvers from his students' minds a few years down the line.

    "Ann Nocenti on Sal Buscema's departure"

    Ann's comments on Sal are pretty great. I love that he took his firing off this title as a challenge. I've seen some of his Hulk work (teamed with our occasional pal Bill Mantlo), and there's some good stuff there. Of course, as I've said, Sal is always at his best when inking himself.

    I think I've mentioned previously that I love Sal's work on Spectacular Spider-Man in the late 80's/early to mid-90's. as far as I'm concerned, that was some of his best work, mainly -- again -- when he inked himself. Some of it was inked by Mike Esposito and it didn't look nearly as nice. During the Clone Saga he was inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, and while they sometimes seemed an oddly compatible match, mostly it just looked scribbly and over-finished.

    Anyway, I'm glad to hear that Sal was mad about it. Heck, Nocenti's firing him may have been what led to me liking him so much a few years later on Spider-Man.

    "...New Mutants #18 kicks off one of the books most acclaimed stories as we welcome aboard new series artist Bill Seinkiewicz."

    Wooohoo.

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  2. @Matt: My gosh, that cover is ugly. It's just so plain.

    It really is. I meant to comment on it.

    This is another story that feels somewhat drawn out.

    It does feel a smidge long to me, though probably only by a few pages, and not an entire issue. Thinking it over, I'm not sure what I would cut to eliminate an issue's worth of content. It took the New Mutants most of issue 15 to get to Massachusetts, but to speed that up you'd have to lose some pretty good character bits in that issue, and while you could probably trim a few pages out of this one, I really do like that Claremont took the time to setup the Hellions to be more than one dimensional villains.

    You could easily cut some of the Limbo stuff from this issue and #15 and I wouldn't miss it. But then, as much as I like Illyana, Limbo really doesn't do much for me.

    It could've been worse... he could've called him a "camel jockey" as Cyclops did in one of the classic Thomas/Adams issues.

    Ah, social progress! :)

    Hmm, already knowing who he was when I first read this, that never occurred to me. I guess that makes it a bit of an Easter egg for longtime readers.

    Yeah, I've only ever read these issues knowing Thunderbird is the dead Thunderbird's brother as well. I was honestly surprised that wasn't made more explicit in this issue, but I know it is by Uncanny #193.

    Professor X just wants to make sure they're ready for everything.

    And that they have a code name for every possible action.

    It would've been fun to see good ol' militarily-minded Cable struggling to remove all these bizarrely useless maneuvers from his students' minds a few years down the line.

    Cannonball: "Rahne, quick, execute maneuver 7-1-A!"
    Cable: "'Maneuver 7-1-A'? That's just punching someone! Just punch them!"

    I think I've mentioned previously that I love Sal's work on Spectacular Spider-Man in the late 80's/early to mid-90's. as far as I'm concerned, that was some of his best work, mainly -- again -- when he inked himself.

    You know, I haven't read too much of that stuff. I wonder if I might have a better appreciation for his art (which I generally find perfectly cromulent if unexciting) if I did.

    Wooohoo.

    I think you meant, "Wooohoo!" :)

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  3. After fleeing to Limbo, Illyana and Dani are (of course) dressed (by S'ym) in skimpy/revealing attire.

    I got a chuckle out of the name of the picture when I...umm...accidentally...clicked to embiggen it!

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  4. @MOCK: I got a chuckle out of the name of the picture when I...umm...accidentally...clicked to embiggen it!

    Ha! Glad you caught that. :)

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  5. I have to disagree on the cover. The background washes out the figures a bit, yes, but I really like them. I still remember seeing this cover on the racks, in fact, and thinking that it was about time — we hadn't had a good cover in, like, a year. Today especially you wouldn't think of Bill Sienkiewicz inking June Brigman (except in the sense that Sienkiewicz has inked all sorts of folks you wouldn't expect) but at the time he wasn't quite Bill Sienkiewicz yet; he was just growing out of being a Neal Adams clone and about to become Bill Sienkiewicz on The New Mutants.

    @Matt: Professor X just wants to make sure they're ready for everything.

    Xavier: "Dani? Maneuver Omega-3, if you would be so kind."
    Dani: [ten minutes later] "Here's your tuna sandwich, white man."

    So if Illyana's teleportation discs have her traveling through Limbo from point to point, then how do they work when she uses them in Limbo?

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  6. Blam -- "So if Illyana's teleportation discs have her traveling through Limbo from point to point, then how do they work when she uses them in Limbo??"

    She travels through Double-Limbo.

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  7. "Maneuver 7 Magnum variation"

    And this was the "Magnum variation"! Just think, there is a regular Maneuver 7 we never got to see.

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  8. How is Jetstream not just a dude with a jet pack? What makes him a mutant?

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