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Thursday, January 31, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #19

"Siege"
September 1984

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants defend Dani from the Demon Bear. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
A critically injured Dani is rushed to the hospital and put into surgery. The New Mutants explain to Officer Tom Corsi of the Westchester County Police that as near as they can tell, Dani was mauled by a bear. As the kids wait at the hospital for word on Dani, they're tended to by a nurse named Sharon. Musing that the Demon Bear is likely to come after Dani to finish her off, Sam has the New Mutants suit up and stand watch. Rahne shifts into her wolf form to monitor Dani through their rapport. Dani tells Rahne that the bear is afraid of Dani, but Rahne pulls back before she can explain further when Dani fights against her anesthesia to communicate with her.


Meanwhile, in outer space, the Starjammers detect a pair of powerful entities passing near their ship, both of whom are headed for Earth. Back at the hospital, Dani is still in surgery when the New Mutants hear the Demon Bear attacking Tom and the hospital staff. As they follow its trail, Illyana puts up a series of protective wards around the operating room, but then the bear attacks her. Illyana is able to fight it off, but just then, the hospital loses power. As Illyana throws up more wards around the hospital's generators, the bear attacks again. The New Mutants are able to hold him at bay, prompting the bear to teleport the New Mutants, Tom and Sharon to a desert, where an image of Dani's surgery floats in the air. The rest of the New Mutants are confused, but Illyana realizes that because the bear couldn't defeat them on their turf, he's transported them to his.   

Firsts and Other Notables
Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander, a local police officer and nurse, respectively, make their first appearances. Both will end up changed as a result of their encounter with the New Mutants and the Demon Bear, and will stick around as supporting cast members in New Mutants and then off and on in X-Men.


Attacked by the Demon Bear, Illyana manifests protective armor for the first time. This armor will continue to grow and be linked to the use of her sorceress powers, with it growing wilder and spikier the closer she comes to being overwhelmed by her dark side.


A Work in Progress
Following from last issue, Professor X is still away in Massachusetts for some reason.

There's a funny bit where Sam asks Roberto to guard the door, then calls him on his over-the-top bravado.


When Rahne transforms into her werewolf form at the hospital, it is noticeably wilder and more ferocious than in the past. While likely just a matter of artistic license, the other characters do comment on it, though no in-story explanation for the change is given.  


The Starjammers make a cameo appearance as they observe Warlock's flight from Magus, noting that both entities are extremely powerful and headed towards Earth.


I Love the 80s
Sam is seen wearing a "Terry Austin Fan Club" hat.


There's a doctor at the hospital who looks suspiciously like Alfred Hitchcock. 


Claremontisms
It's been awhile, but we're reminded in this issue that Roberto is not invulnerable while powered up. 

Young Love
Roberto watches Dani's operation and urges her not to die, though it's unclear if he's thinking of her as simply a friend and teammate, or something more.


It's in the Mail
One letter in this issue admonishes the creators for not making Dani more voluptuous (it's from a woman arguing that at Dani's age, she should be more developed), while another takes them to task for their depiction of Nova Roma and the response to a third establishes that the Nova Romans learned English from traders and invaders earlier in its history. 


Teebore's Take
After his triumphant debut last issue, the Sienkiewicz art in this issue is a slight step down, featuring more typical panel layouts and page constructions than in the previous one. Which isn't too say the art is bad, or even pedestrian. It's still remarkable and breathtaking, and if anything, Sienkiewicz's Neal Adams influence is more prevalent than ever. In the second chapter of the "Demon Bear Saga", he and Claremont do a wonderful job of heightening the tension throughout the issue, isolating the New Mutants in increasingly smaller spaces as the issue progresses. They begin the issue on their own, with Professor Xavier away. Soon, the hospital loses power and is cutoff from the outside by the snow storm, then the New Mutants end up in and around the operating room as they attempt to keep out the Demon Bear, before they end the issue transported to an extradimensional desert, forced to face the creature entirely on their own. It's an effective technique for moving the story along and raising the stakes even though the entire issue takes places within one setting, and it helps keep this middle chapter of the story from sagging. 

Next Issue
Forge inadvertently makes an impact in Uncanny X-Men #185, while the "Demon Bear Saga" concludes in New Mutants #20. 

13 comments:

  1. Ha! I was going to begin this post by saying, "I like the art in this issue more than last," and then I saw your comment that "the Sienkiewicz art in this issue is a slight step down, featuring more typical panel layouts and page constructions than in the previous one." So that explains that! This really reminds me of latter-day Moon Knight Sienkiewicz, which I enjoy.

    Otherwise, not much else to say about this one, other than that Sienkiewicz draws some pretty great Starjammers.

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  2. I like how the New Mutants seem to go for long periods of time with absolutely zero adult supervision. Or even an emergency number? Which would be troubling for normal teens but for the type of shenanigans these teens get into? You’d think Xavier would keep an eye on them constantly.

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  3. @Matt: I was going to begin this post by saying, "I like the art in this issue more than last,"

    And when I typed out that sentence, I finished it in my head with "...which means Matt must like it more than ever!" :)

    Otherwise, not much else to say about this one, other than that Sienkiewicz draws some pretty great Starjammers.

    He does indeed. But yeah, not a whole lot to this one.

    @Dr. Bitz: You’d think Xavier would keep an eye on them constantly.

    A telepathic eye, at the very least.

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  4. Ah, the New Mutants...

    I had a big fanboy thing for them in 2000s. Loved the CC run, shunned the Simonson run. Wrote a lot of NM fanfic x-overs with Anime like TENCHI MUYO, TRIGUN, and DBZ (sadly never finished them). Have pondered about a FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST x-over...

    Missed out on the Jason Powell discussions (printed them all), so I am glad to participate here.

    About the Xavier absence, wasn't this when the X-Men were still overseas after SECRET WARS? A recent promo-book, used to promote the present NM series, made that explanation.

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  5. Sure, the art isn't as amazing as in issue 18. Sienkiewicz makes up for it in issue 20. The thing he does best in this issue is facial expressions, my favorite being Magik's in the panel in which she first manifests the armor. What works in this issue is the mood; Claremont & Sienkiewicz give the whole issue a claustrphobic, horror-like atmosphere. As Teebore noted, the tension is raised effectively.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  6. @Dr. Bitz
    I like how the New Mutants seem to go for long periods of time with absolutely zero adult supervision. Or even an emergency number? Which would be troubling for normal teens but for the type of shenanigans these teens get into? You’d think Xavier would keep an eye on them constantly.


    Which is one more reason why junior teams will never, ever, work for me. It's just too implausible. New Mutants, Generation X, New X-Men, Young X-Men, and whatever the hell they have now. In order for the book to be even remotely exciting, the characters have to fight villains, they have to be put in danger. And there's just no way Xavier or the senior team would allow it to happen time and time again.

    The only way this would really work is if a junior team was physically isolated for an extended period of time, having to fend for themselves. Of course, with all the powers everyone has, the only way that would even fly is if they were in another dimension or space or something. And even so, would this premise really stand for years? Sure, the mansion gets attacked, and freak things happen. But you'd think that even a few issues in to the New Mutants book, Chuck would rethink his idea.

    I'm convinced that the only way a junior book could fly and still contain super heroics is if they just dropped the kiddie angle and made them a strike team like everyone else. The original X-Men were kids. The All New, All Different X-Men were kids. But it's obvious, especially in retrospect, that Chuck trained them to fight and, if necessary, die for the cause. With New Mutants and all the other stuff, they always tried to say it was all about learning and not action, but I'm sorry, doesn't work. Either the book is boring because it's about taking tests or Chuck and everyone look like assholes for constantly putting kids in harms way. If they just screwed all of that and said, "Hey, this is another team of X-Men, just made up of new recruits", I could swallow it. One of the few things about Cyclops' current insanity that makes sense, because he admits to putting kids in danger because he feels he has to.

    And I've never understood the endless "learning to control their powers" angle these books do. The original team had the Danger Room stuff, fine. But I think we can all agree that they learned to control their powers through fighting time and time again. And if each student has a different power set, what is Chuck gonna teach them? Every time a new kid shows up, they've got to change the curriculum? Do they get one on one classes? How does Chuck even know and understand how all the powers work?

    Sorry to get off topic, and I know this has come up before. New Mutants was an okay book and I get the willing suspension of disbelief, but ever since the X-Men movie and Grant Morrison (whose run I love btw) they've been hell bent on establishing kiddie teams and it just makes no sense at all (until Cyclops started using them to build an army). New Mutants was fine but it's been over for years, why not just let the past be the past? Argh.

    Also, was there ever a New Mutants Meet Magnum P.I. book? That would make me feel better.

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  7. I'll venture to guess that this is the first and perhaps only time the corner box of any comic has depicted someone on a plasma drip.

    Does this issue have atmosphere or what? I said it last week and I'll say it again: Claremont really stepped up his game. And Glynis is killing it with the colors, too. Sienkiewicz has to be credited not just for turning in great art that opened a lot of readers' eyes, and for whatever contributions his sketchbook (Warlock?) and/or style in general made to the plots, but for shaking Claremont out of his scripting rut on this series overall.

    Had I not already been reading this series — and from what I remember, I was seriously thinking of dropping it — last issue would've made me curious but this issue would've hooked me for sure.

    "Good evening" indeed, Teebore. 8^)

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  8. @angmc43: Missed out on the Jason Powell discussions (printed them all), so I am glad to participate here.

    I missed out on a good chunk of that discussion as well. Glad you're here as well.

    About the Xavier absence, wasn't this when the X-Men were still overseas after SECRET WARS?

    Technically, no. Xavier and the X-Men returned from Japan (where they landed after returning to Earth from Battleword) sometime between X-Men #182 and #183, and this issue/story takes place between #183 and #184.

    This issue also specifically states he's in Massachusetts, though I've never seen anything official revealing why he's there. I've seen some speculation online suggesting he's there helping extricate Doug Ramsey from the Academy (since Doug will be seen back in New York following "Demon Bear") but as far as I know that's just speculation (albeit plausible speculation).

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  9. @Dan: And there's just no way Xavier or the senior team would allow it to happen time and time again.

    I dunno. I've actually been really impressed with how Claremont has sold the concept of "students first" so far in this series. Most of their genre-mandated fight scenes have come about due to (relatively) plausible circumstances (for the Marvel Universe, at least) that hasn't required too much bending of the "students first" rule.

    There most overt, antagonist battle was probably the trip to Massachusetts, and that came during a period of well-established isolation from Xavier, and was couched very much as a rivalry between two schools and not a hero vs. villain fight. Or, from another perspective, Dani being attacked by the Demon Bear would have happened whether she was a student of Xavier's or not.

    I am curious to see how well the "students first" edict continues to hold up (because I do remember it getting flimsier and flimsier as time goes by), but so far I haven't had to suspend my disbelief too much more than normal. But to each his own.

    I'm convinced that the only way a junior book could fly and still contain super heroics is if they just dropped the kiddie angle and made them a strike team like everyone else.

    The other way I think it could work would be to drop the super heroics entirely. Which couldn't have happened in the 80s, but totally could today. A "90210/Dawsons Creek/OC/your preferred teen drama with super powers" kind of thing, in which super powered fights are more or less restrained to Buffy-esque metaphors for adolescence and growing up.

    I haven't read it yet, but I think that's kind of the angle Jason Aaron has been taking with the school kids in Wolverine and the X-Men, but I could be wrong, and even if I'm not, I have no idea (yet) how successfully he's pulling it off.

    One of the few things about Cyclops' current insanity that makes sense, because he admits to putting kids in danger because he feels he has to.

    All of that said, I definitely agree: if you are going to train the kids for combat, call a spade a spade, and own up to it. I always did appreciate Cyclops' arguments to that effect.

    And if each student has a different power set, what is Chuck gonna teach them? Every time a new kid shows up, they've got to change the curriculum? Do they get one on one classes? How does Chuck even know and understand how all the powers work?

    One of the things I do wish New Mutants had done more, which Generation X flirted with but never really adopted, and which the Morrison-less New X-Men handled the best was showing Professor X and the X-Men teaching/helping the various students use their powers.

    We get a little bit of it sprinkled in New Mutants, with stuff like Nightcrawler helping Cannonball use agility to redirect himself, but most of it happens offscreen. I wouldn't mind occasional scenes of Xavier designing training curriculum, or Wolverine leading a general defensive combat class or something.

    Sorry to get off topic, and I know this has come up before

    No worries; "Off Topic" could be this blog's subtitle, and we're all all the better for it. :)

    Also, was there ever a New Mutants Meet Magnum P.I. book? That would make me feel better.

    Not to my knowledge, but boy, that would be awesome.

    @Blam: I'll venture to guess that this is the first and perhaps only time the corner box of any comic has depicted someone on a plasma drip.

    Ha! You're probably right on the first one, though I wouldn't be surprised if there was another instance of it since then.

    Does this issue have atmosphere or what?

    It really does. An agreed on the impact Sienkiewicz seems to have had on Claremont.

    "Good evening" indeed

    Glad you liked that. :)

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  10. @Teebore
    There most overt, antagonist battle was probably the trip to Massachusetts, and that came during a period of well-established isolation from Xavier, and was couched very much as a rivalry between two schools and not a hero vs. villain fight. Or, from another perspective, Dani being attacked by the Demon Bear would have happened whether she was a student of Xavier's or not.


    The Demon Bear makes sense. Mutant hating assholes with Sentinels who randomly attack students make sense. I've never cared for the Hellions concept (probably because it never, ever goes away). We're still talking about two teams of children, each with their own adult headmasters. Rival schools is one thing, beating the living hell out of each other is another. It would work for a while, but eventually, another explanation would be needed.

    I am curious to see how well the "students first" edict continues to hold up

    I think there's eventually some room for leeway when Magneto is on board. He's still an adult and part of the X-Men, but he's Magneto and he gets nuttier and nuttier as the thing goes on. Even when he's not full on nutty, he's probably much more reckless of a leader, even when he's trying to do a good job. And then Cable, of course, is something else, but the book is pretty much done by that point anyway.

    A "90210/Dawsons Creek/OC/your preferred teen drama with super powers" kind of thing, in which super powered fights are more or less restrained to Buffy-esque metaphors for adolescence and growing up.

    Yeesh. Before I start complaining, let me say that you're completely right. It probably would work, although I think it would have to be marketed differently, probably more towards that coveted "young female / manga" crowd. But at that point, I'd be out. New Mutants barely scrapes by with me, but a full-on teeny bopper book just isn't my thing. :)

    In Wolverine and the X-Men, it's a little different. I think it's more flat out goofy than anything. It's probably a lot closer in tone to Lobdell's Generation X, but much, much more post modern. Probably one of the more creative X-books out there right now actually, worth reading but sometimes they goofy just goes too far. The last arc was one of those "team fights evil circus performers" stories. Ugh.

    One of the things I do wish New Mutants had done more, which Generation X flirted with but never really adopted, and which the Morrison-less New X-Men handled the best was showing Professor X and the X-Men teaching/helping the various students use their powers.

    The more I think about it, the more I think it's one of those ideas that makes practical sense and sounds good on paper, but just isn't that fun to read. I think those opening Danger Room sequences in the original X-Men (which more or less serve the same function) are completely skippable month after month. Having scenes of learning about powers in class just isn't as interesting as seeing those powers used in fights. The Wolverine idea might work, though; have him just take everyone, regardless of powers, out in the woods for a week and let them be completely blindsided by his methods of tactics and survival. And an old Sentinel would probably attack them while they were out there, so that works too.

    I remember Gen X had one scene where Beast taught a class. It was kind of neat but they never did it again while I was reading. I think the main reason for it was so Beast could reveal that M was autistic but who cares.

    Not to my knowledge, but boy, that would be awesome.

    Marvel Team-Up can come back for one more issue just to get it done. Or they could just do a Giant-Size New Mutants Meet Magnum P.I. special.

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  11. Teebore: "There's a doctor at the hospital who looks suspiciously like Alfred Hitchcock."
    -- Isn't that Mel Gibson next to him?
    I haven't read any Sienkiewicz New Mutants, but have read a few Moon Knight. And yes, as another commenter said, the art looks like later Sienkiewicz MK (reminds me of the "Hit It" era - classic issue!).

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  12. @Dan: Rival schools is one thing, beating the living hell out of each other is another. It would work for a while, but eventually, another explanation would be needed.

    I'm curious to see how my memory of this holds up, because I don't seem to recall too many outright slugfests between the teams (beyond the initial one). I know the X-Men end up fighting a contingent of Hellions, led by Thunderbird, in issue #193, but I feel like most often the New Mutants just end up more in competition with them (like the time they race each other to find Selene's moon goddess statute or some such thing).

    And then Cable, of course, is something else, but the book is pretty much done by that point anyway.

    Yeah. And Cable more or less tosses out the "students first" mandate with his arrival, even before the transition to X-Force. If Xavier explicitly tried to say "I'm not training you for combat", Cable pretty much comes in and says, "I am training you for combat".

    It probably would work, although I think it would have to be marketed differently, probably more towards that coveted "young female / manga" crowd.

    Definitely. And like I said, it could only work these days.

    And I'll freely admit I have an unhealthy appreciation for Beverly Hills, 90210, and I certainly can't begrudge anyone for whom the "teen soap" genre ain't their thing. :)

    @Pete: Isn't that Mel Gibson next to him?

    You know, I thought the guy next to the Hitchcock doctor looked familiar, or at least looked like someone I should recognize, but I couldn't place it.

    You're right that it definitely looks like Mel Gibson from that era; I bet it is him.

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  13. When Rahne transforms into her werewolf form at the hospital, it is noticeably wilder and more ferocious than in the past. While likely just a matter of artistic license, the other characters do comment on it, though no in-story explanation for the change is given.

    I always read that scene as foreshadowing to the (upcoming) Cloak & Dagger arc: indication that something's wonky with Rahne's shape-shifting.

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