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Thursday, March 28, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #25

"The Only Thing to Fear..."
March 1985

In a Nutshell
Cloak and Dagger reclaim their powers, curing Rahne and Roberto. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterers: Orzechowski & Buhalis
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Presenter: Stan Lee
Stars: New Mutants

Plot
Cloak and Dagger announce their willingness to help the New Mutants, and then Dagger is reunited with Father Bowen, who is her uncle. Scared that this means she'll leave him, Cloak angrily lashes out at her and storms off. Illyana tells Professor X about her attempts to cure Roberto and Rahne through magic, which failed due to the need of Cloak and Dagger's abilities be hosted by someone. Then Xavier telepathically speaks with Cloak, and helps him realize that even though his powers aren't a curse, his fear of them makes them one. Cloak agrees to do his best to not let his fear overwhelm him, and Xavier decides on a course of action. He has Illyana teleport everyone to Limbo, and with Sam and Dani guarding against any demonic incursions, helps Rogue use her power to purge Rahne and Roberto of Cloak and Dagger's abilities.


Illyana then casts her exorcism spell, freeing Rahne and Roberto of their possession and forcing the powers back into Cloak and Dagger. Back on Earth, Xavier and Illyana confirm that Rahne and Roberto are free of their possession, while Cloak and Dagger have returned to their normal, powered states. Professor X offers them a place at the school, where he may be able to help purge them of their abilities once and for all, but they declare their place is on the streets, helping the kids who no one else will help. Later, Cloak and Dagger save two runaways from the drug dealer who accosted them when they were powerless, and send the kids to Father Bowen for shelter and counseling. Dagger wonders if anything they can do will make a difference, but Cloak asserts that she, as well as Xavier and the New Mutants, have taught him what matters is that they tried.  

Firsts and Other Notables
It's revealed that Father Bowen is Dagger's uncle in this issue.


This issue contains two pinups at the end, one on Legion, Professor Xavier's son first mentioned in issue #1, from Moira MacTaggert's notes and one on Lila Cheney from Professor X. Legion's apparent powers (telepathy, telekinesis and pyrotics) are detailed prior to his first appearance next issue, as well as Moira's worries that Xavier will hate her and Gabrielle Haller for keeping Legion a secret from him, while it's revealed that Lila speaks with a cockney accent.


A Work in Progress
Xavier tells Cloak about the first thought he ever heard, after his power manifested, that of his step-brother Cain, the future Juggernaut. 


Professor X goes to Limbo for the first time, and sees Illyana's armor for the first time as well. He realizes she is as confused by its presence as he is.


Arriving in Limbo, Rahne worries that represents the image of Illyana's true soul. 

We're reminded that Rogue's mind is difficult to read telepathically.

Professor X offers Cloak and Dagger a place at his school, but they turn him down for the second time (Sam extended the same offer when they met in Marvel Team-Up Annual #6).


I Love the 80s
Dani quotes Obi-Wan Kenobi and compares Limbo to the Star Wars cantina.


80s term or Claremontism/Anglicism: Dagger refers to the pimp/drug dealer as a "chickenhawk".


Claremontisms
Soulsword, ultimate expression, etc. 

They're Students, Not Superheroes
Professor X, admonishing Illyana for her brash action last issue, explains that part of what he's not just teaching the New Mutants how to use their powers, but when to use them as well. 


For Sale
It's an ad for Go-Bots, the Transformers' idiot cousins. Well, technically, this is an ad for motorized model kits featuring Go-Bot characters and not the toys themselves (which I actually kinda liked), but the point stands.

Teebore's Take
Well, at least that's done with. As I mentioned in the last post, this story definitely feels drawn out and padded, and its conclusion is no exception. Cloak and Dagger's gradual domination of the story reaches fruition here, as this issue reads more like an issue of their series guest starring the New Mutants rather than the other way around. Claremont was certainly never afraid to occasionally give space to a pet character or two in favor of series regulars, but I've never understood Cloak and Dagger to be personal favorites of his (he certainly never wrote their series), making their increasing presence throughout the story all the more puzzling.

Even worse, this issue is lacking in tension. We're told that it's getting harder for Roberto to keep his shadow-based hunger under control, and that something terrible will happen if he or Rahne aren't cured soon. But that urgency and risk never really comes across, and the end result is a lot of sitting around and talking inside a church before everyone goes to Limbo and the idea Xavier had to fix the problem works on the first try. The cost is Cloak and Dagger, but they kinda wanted their powers back anyway (as shown in a three page epilogue that has them returning to defend innocent children from a drug dealer/pimp) and besides, we're not primed to care as much about them as the actual stars of the book. Overall, this isn't a terrible story; it's just a thoroughly average one whose greatest sin is not living up to the amount of space it was allotted. Even given its ostensible purpose of closing off a dangling plot thread and with Sienkiewicz on hand to jazz things up, it's eminently forgettable. Best to just move on then, to something better, which thankfully begins next issue.

Next Issue
Uncanny X-Men #191 wraps up the Kulan Gath storyline, while Legion makes his debut in New Mutants #26. But first, come back on Monday for a special bonus X-amination! What is it? You'll just have to wait and see.

7 comments:

  1. I meant to comment on this some time back, but I kept forgetting: Sienkiewicz's covers were a big turn-off to me as a kid, and a major reason why I had no interest in collecting New Mutants back issues alongside Classic X-Men. I can certainly recognize that they're well-crafted and creative, but they just don't look like comic books to me.

    Obviously I've made my feelings on Sienkiewicz's interior art clear previously, but, at least to kid me, the covers were even worse.

    In the "chickenhawk" picture, the "hilt" of Dagger's dagger cut-out seems dangerously low on her breast. It's usually above, but there it's just about right in the middle.

    I know we mentioned this when you reviewed the Marvel Team-Up annual, but it bears repeating that that is a ridiculously tittilating costume for a teenage girl to be wearing in a comic book (or in general, but specifically in a comic for kids). I never had a problem with it when I assumed she was older. I don't think I realized she was underage until recently (I'm not well verse in Cloak & Dagger lore), and that's when it became retroactively creepy for me.

    "Claremont was certainly never afraid to occasionally give space to a pet character or two in favor of series regulars, but I've never understood Cloak and Dagger to be personal favorites of his..."

    But just like the Dire Wraiths, they were created by his pal, Bill Mantlo. He and Mantlo seemed to enjoy borrowing each other's characters around this time.

    "It's an ad for GoBots, the Transformers' idiot cousins."

    I liked Go-Bots. I watched the cartoon and played with the toys. Later on, after they had faded away but Transformers were still going strong, I used Go-Bots figures as miscellaneous Cybertronians when I played with my Transformers.

    These days Hasbro owns the Go-Bots along with the Transformers, and IDW took advantage of that a few years ago in a one shot about Megatron's past as a gladiator on Cybertron. He had a match against the evil Go-Bot leader, Cy-Kill, in a cameo apperance, and... killed him.

    "But first, come back on Monday for a special bonus X-amination! Was it? You'll just have to wait and see."

    Ooh, exciting (or is that X-citing?). I'm trying to think of what it could be, but since I'm not positive about what ancillary X-Men stuff was published around this time, I'm at a loss.

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  2. @Matt

    You're certainly fair in your discussion of Sienkiewicz's covers. As a Sienkiewicz junkie (who recognizes that his style is off-putting to others), I appreciate it. My opinion is different, as I've always loved his covers, but I agree that his covers on the Cloak & Dagger issues weren't among his best (except issue 22). "Don't look like comic books" is an interesting criticism, and one I'm inclined to agree with. To me that's a good thing, but of course that's only my opinion.

    In fact, one of my favorite thing about '80s comics is the sheer amount of Bill Sienkiewicz covers. I wish Marvel would put out an art book of his cover work. I can't justify buying a bunch of Dazzler back issues just for the awesome covers.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  3. I remember when back issue prices for this issue went way up before AoA because it was technically the first appearance of Legion. The following two issues, as well as #44, got the same treatment. Thanks, Wizard.

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  4. It's on the wordy side, but I like Xavier's talk with Cloak/Tyrone — especially the telepathic dialogue setting it up and Xavier's astral form sitting casually in a chair while his body is across the room.

    Dani quotes Obi-Wan Kenobi and compares Limbo to the Star Wars cantina.

    That was fun. Way better than a Magnum, PI reference... Also, I love Father Mike's "Ditko cross" in that panel you shared.

    Sienkiewicz oddly draws Limbo as, well, an actual limbo, with no ground or visible surroundings.

    Dagger refers to the pimp/drug dealer as a "chickenhawk".

    That was strange — largely because it doesn't gibe with familiar usage(s) of the term, although I take it to mean here that Slick was a puffed-up predator who fainted after his experience with Cloak — but what really jumped out at me was Claremont having Slick follow up his usage of the word "spooked" with the aside "hehheh, li'l Ghetto humor". Yikes!

    Professor X, admonishing Illyana for her brash action last issue, explains that ... he's not just teaching the New Mutants how to use their powers, but when to use them as well.

    Xavier's backhanded compliment is hilarious.

    "Look, Sam — I got a 'relatively competent' from the Professor on my second-quarter report card!"
    "Huh... I got a 'danger to others' again. What about you, Illyana?"
    "I got a 'You must remember, child, the people and things around you impact — and in turn are impacted by — every decision you make. Power such as yours requires constant vigilance.'"

    It's an ad for Go-Bots, the Transformers' idiot cousins.

    I don't really know from Go-Bots, but your description has me picturing Transformers getting stuck halfway through their changes and, like, walking into one another.

    No mention of "Power Pack and the Amazing Spider-Man with Tips on Ways to Prevent Sexual Abuse"? Maybe in next week's X-Men review...

    I've never understood Cloak and Dagger to be personal favorites of his

    I see that Matt's already pointed out the Bill Mantlo connection, as there was with Rom and Team America.

    Why are you looking at Dagger's boobs, Matt? 8^) Seriously, though: If you want to see where the cut-out on Dagger's suit officially lies in relation to her nipples, I suggest you zoom in on Carl Potts' poster. One year for Chanukah, apparently 1986, I got both that and Carl Potts' "X-Men Women" poster — either from my mother or I think maybe (at least one of them) from my friend Ron, but definitely opened in front of my mother, which given the content was kind-of embarrassing.

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  5. @Matt: I never had a problem with it when I assumed she was older. I don't think I realized she was underage until recently ... and that's when it became retroactively creepy for me.

    Ditto. Heck, I may have even known she was supposed to be a teenager when I first encountered the character, but being a kid, that seemed plenty old enough to me. Then you blow past that age and look back on it, and realize how creepy that costume is for someone that age.

    But just like the Dire Wraiths, they were created by his pal, Bill Mantlo.

    Ah, yeah, that's right. I even knew Mantlo had created them, but had forgotten about that in the context of this story. That certainly makes sense.

    Come to think of it, it's probably a good thing Claremont decided to use the Wraiths instead of Rom himself, or we might have an un-reprintable issue or two of X-Men or New Mutants on our hands...

    I liked Go-Bots. I watched the cartoon and played with the toys.

    Ditto. I've probably mentioned this before, but as a kid I was really anal retentive about the relative size of my various toys (so GI Joes could interact with Transformers, because Transformers were generally bigger than humans, but GI Joe couldn't interact with He-Man, because they should be the same size, but weren't). Anyways, as a result, I always had a soft spot for the Go-Bots because they were all the same size as robots, just like they were on the cartoon, whereas Transformer's sizes relative to one another in their robot mode ranged wildly, despite all generally being the same size on TV.

    @Dan:I remember when back issue prices for this issue went way up before AoA because it was technically the first appearance of Legion. The following two issues, as well as #44, got the same treatment. Thanks, Wizard.

    Ha! Good old Wizard, always inflating back issue prices. I'm surprised issue #1 didn't get a similar bump, being the first mention of the character, but I suppose it already got enough attention, being a coveted #1 and all.

    @Blam: especially the telepathic dialogue setting it up and Xavier's astral form sitting casually in a chair while his body is across the room.

    Yeah, I do like the way that is depicted.

    Sienkiewicz oddly draws Limbo as, well, an actual limbo, with no ground or visible surroundings.

    I wonder if that was an intentional choice, or just a case of him not knowing the details of Illyana's limbo and assuming it was just a "traditonal" limbo.

    "I got a 'You must remember, child, the people and things around you impact — and in turn are impacted by — every decision you make. Power such as yours requires constant vigilance.'"

    Oh man, now I want a Marvel Handbook-style issue collection the X-Men and New Mutants' various report cards through the years.

    I don't really know from Go-Bots, but your description has me picturing Transformers getting stuck halfway through their changes and, like, walking into one another.

    As I mentioned to Matt, I like the Go-Bots fine, but there are definitely some Transformer fans out there who would probably agree that your image of them isn't too far from the truth. :)

    Maybe in next week's X-Men review...

    You'll just have to wait and see... :)

    We're at a point now where there's starting to be more than one or two ads an issue worth highlighting, so I'll probably try to share them between the two books occasionally.

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  6. @Teebore: We're at a point now where there's starting to be more than one or two ads an issue worth highlighting, so I'll probably try to share them between the two books occasionally.

    I've been figuring that you preferred to mention the ads in your X-Men posts when they appear in both titles because that's the parent series and, presumably, if one is read more than the other, the more read of the two running posts. As I think we hashed out when you began with New Mutants, even though issues of it came out later in the month than X-Men they were cover-dated a month after the same month's X-Men — X-Men #190 was released on Nov. 6th, 1984, per Mike's Amazing World, and New Mutants #25 came out on Nov. 27th, 1984, but the first was cover-dated February and the second March, so the "March" issue of New Mutants actually preceded the "March" issue of X-Men and brings us that cover/indicia-date month's batch of shared ads a week sooner in your reading. When I have something to say about a certain ad in New Mutants I tend to wait 'til the next week because I figure if you have something to say too you'll mention it when it shows up in X-Men and if you don't then I can just pipe up then. (deep breath) Or whatever.

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  7. @Blam: I've been figuring that you preferred to mention the ads in your X-Men posts when they appear in both titles because that's the parent series.

    That's true for the most part, though as we get into an era with more and more ads worth commenting on, it'll become more likely that I split the ads across the titles (particularly if there isn't much else to discuss in a particular issue of New Mutants, as was the case here).

    Nevertheless, it's a generally a good rule of thumb to expect most of the ad commentary to appear in the X-Men posts.

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