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Thursday, April 4, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #26

"Legion"
April 1985

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Professor Xavier's son, Legion. 

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

Plot
On Muir Island, Tom Corsi marvels at the strength of his new body as Sharon Friedlander looks on. Suddenly, they see the astral projection of a young Arabian man. He screams, then vanishes, just as an alarm sounds. They rush to David Haller's room and discover him crying for help in the midst of a telekinetic storm. As Tom and Sharon duck for cover, David's hands burst into flames and he starts to laugh with the voice of a girl. Then the room explodes. The next morning, Professor X and several of the New Mutants arrive on Muir Island, responding to a call from Moira for help. She shows Xavier Tom and Sharon, whose bodies are unharmed but whose minds are seemingly gone. A surprised Xavier is then reunited with Gaby Haller, his former lover, and the mother of David. Meanwhile, at the Massachusetts Academy, the White Queen admonishes Empath for his recent actions, and after he attempts to take control of her with his power, she telepathically blocks his access to it as punishment. Back in Scotland, the New Mutants explore the town of Ullapool as Xavier attempts to telepathically help David.


Xavier notes that David's condition is very similar to that of his mother's when Xavier first treated her. But when he attempts to break down the boy's psychic walls, he sees an image of the telepathic Arab before being forcibly pushed out of David's mind. Xavier tells Moira and Gabrielle that a portion of the boy's mind isn't his own. In the Bermuda Triangle, Lee Forrester awakens to a screaming Magneto, who is experiencing a nightmare. He unknowingly tosses his bed out a window, but Lee manages to wake him up in time to prevent him from falling onto the rocks below. In gratitude, Magneto kisses Lee. On Muir Isle, Xavier discusses David's condition with Gaby, and asks that she tell him about the trauma that made him autistic. As she does so, Rahne sneaks out of bed to visit Moira in her lab, but they are interrupted by another astral projection of the Arab, who tries to warn them about something just as Moira's lab explodes. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first full appearance of David Haller, aka Legion, following a mention in issue #1 and an appearance in a pinup last issue. He is the son of Gabrielle Haller, Xavier's former patient/girlfriend first introduced in X-Men #161 (though Xavier hasn't yet learned that Legion is his son). This story will reveal that Legion suffers from a form of multiple personality disorder, triggered when he first manifested his mutant power, with each personality capable of using a different mutant power. In this issue, we see him use telekinesis, telepathy, and pyrokinesis (the ability to mentally create fire), each of which, we'll learn, is the specific power of one of his three dominate personalities.


Though not as significant a character to the X-Men narrative as you'd expect the son of Professor X to be, Legion nonetheless will go on to have a critical role in several significant stories, and is currently headlining the X-Men: Legacy spinoff.

Both Doug Ramsey and Warlock are amongst the New Mutants who accompany Xavier to Muir Island, making this their first appearance with the team since New Mutants Annual #1. 

Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander return, following their transformation at the end of the "Demon Bear Saga" in issue #20, having been living on Muir Island ever since. We learn that their new Native American bodies are in peak physical condition, giving them near-superhuman abilities.


Appropriately enough for an issue that features a trip to Muir Island, a number of recurring characters make a guest appearance, including Muir Island residents Moira, Banshee and Madrox the Multiple Man, Legion's mother Gabrielle Haller (last seen in issue #1), and Rahne's former guardian Reverend Craig. 

Curiously, this issue (and the next two) are set after Uncanny X-Men #193, which won't go on sale until two months after this issue. As a result, Banshee is shown returning to Muir Island with the New Mutants following the events of that issue.


Later, Professor X mentions his weakened condition, a result of events which will occur in Uncanny X-Men #192.

Also, the White Queen admonishes Empath for his role in X-Men #193, and references events from the Firestar limited series (the first issue of which won't go on sale until roughly a year after this one). She then temporarily blocks his ability to use his power as punishment. 


The regular price of the comic goes up with this issue, from sixty cents to sixty-five cents.

The Chronology Corner
As mentioned above, this story takes place after Uncanny X-Men #193.

A Work in Progress
We haven't seen it in awhile, but the Professor X and the New Mutants fly to Muir Island via the Blackbird (Warlock proceeds to try and communicate with it).


Warlock attempts to appear as a normal human, but seems to have more difficult with it than he did in New Mutants Annual #1 and Uncanny X-Men #190.


It's established that Warlock can touch/be touched by others without infecting them with the transmode virus (called the transmutation virus here). 


The specific details of Magneto's dream are left unclear, but it presumably pertains to his time in the Holocaust. 


I Love the 80s
Sharon helpfully defines telekinesis for Tom.


Claremontisms
Warlock is referred to as "Locke" and Dani as "Chief" throughout. 

Artistic Achievements
Sienkiewicz will really go nuts in the next two issues, but he does turn in a few great sequences in this issue, including a neat depiction of Legion forcing Xavier out of his mind and back into the physical world, in which a giant image of Legion forms the central gutter between panels, resulting in Xavier being depicted as getting thrown out of a representation of Legion's mind and emerging from his head at the same time. 


"Professor Xavier is NOT a Jerk!"
Despite being curious about what Gabby is hiding from him regarding David, Xavier specifically says he won't use his telepathy to probe her mind and find out.


Later, he apologies to her for taking advantage of her when she was his patient.


Young Love
After once again saving Magneto's life, Lee and Magneto kiss, then presumably do more, marking this issue as the beginning of their romantic relationship.


Human/Mutant Relations
Reverend Craig, last seen leading a lynch mob against Rahne, calls his former ward the spawn of Satan.


Teebore's Take
This issue kicks off the three part "Legion" story that finally sees Claremont getting around to paying off the thread he started way back in issue #1, when it was revealed that Professor X unknowingly had a son. It also marks a return to form for both Claremont and Sienkiewicz following the relatively lackluster and drawn out Cloak and Dagger story from the previous four issues. "Legion" is arguably Sienkiewicz's swan song on the title (after finishing this story, he'll stick around for one more four issue story), featuring some of his most striking and inventive work on a story with a setting that plays to his strengths. A few pages herein aside, though, most of that comes in the next two issues, along with more information about Xavier's son.

This issue, meanwhile, consists mainly of setup as Claremont once again uses the beginning of a new story arc to do some character work. As with the previous story, he's once again working with a pared down cast. With Sam and Illyana featured in the last four issues and Amara getting page time in Uncanny X-Men, he gets around to doing something with Doug Ramsey and Warlock, fives issues after they ostensibly joined the cast (Rahne is included despite her significant role in the previous story most likely because of the setting, while Dani is probably included because she has psionic powers and is, as has been mentioned before, Claremont's favorite). Doug is shown to have a lot of enthusiasm for the new life he's been thrust into, while Warlock is continuing his "fish out of water/'selfriend'" schtick that is already becoming somewhat tiresome (especially given his portrayal in contemporaneous issues of X-Men). This "cast within a cast" approach is relatively unique (though not entirely without precedent, as Claremont has clearly reached a point in X-Men where he no longer feels compelled to feature the entire cast every issue), but it works to the book's advantage, not only giving Sienkiewicz room to play, but giving the characters room to stretch and grow as well.

Next Issue
Warlock's dad arrives on Earth in Uncanny X-Men #192, while the mystery of Legion deepens in New Mutants #27. 

14 comments:

  1. So much to like in this issue, most notably Sienkiewicz getting his grove back. He's one of the bestat depicting nonlinear reality. I hope he illustrates a Dr. Strange story someday. Anyone else ever read Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix? The way Sienkiewicz cut back and forth from reality to dreamy semi-reality is amazing.

    Legion is maybe the second character to be diagnosed with autism in super-hero/ big 2 comics (the first I know of being the boy in the Demon story from Moore' & Bissette's Swamp Thing). I am a teacher who works with children with autism, and am a bit critical of portrayals of people with that diagnosis in fiction. Thankfully, Claremont & Co. revealed that it was PTSD/MPD that caused Legion to withdraw from reality, not autism. The funny thing is that Sienkiewicz gave (pre-intervention) Legion body language that I've seen in people with autism. Intentional or not, I thought that was a cool touch.

    Next issue is the tour-de-force, and probably Sienkiewicz's best work on the title.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  2. Man, talk about your delayed sub-plots! Two years between the first and only mention of Legion, and his first appearance! Maybe if Claremont hadn't stretched so many 2-parters into 4-parters, we would've seen him sooner.

    I don't like Legion very much. I enjoyed "Legion Quest", but that that was about the only time I ever found the character interesting. I feel like Xavier's illigitemate love-child should hold my attention, but he never does. I also think, as with the previous Cloak and Dagger story, that this Legion story runs a bit too long.

    Also, Jack Wayne was the name of the Hardy Boys' pilot. I don't think I would ever remember that nowadays, except that when I first read a Legion story, I wasn't that far removed from reading the Hardy Boys books. So I've always remembered that weird tidbit.

    "...a number of recurring characters make a guest appearance, including Muir Island residents Moira, Banshee and Madrox the Multiple Man..."

    Whoa, three-for-three! When was the last time we saw Madrox? During the Byrne run?

    Mike -- "Next issue is the tour-de-force, and probably Sienkiewicz's best work on the title."

    Yes, he does some good work next issue. As with the Demon Bear story, I have little problem with Sienkiewicz's exaggeration when used for fantasy/dream sequences and locales. I just don't like the super exaggerated stuff he does with people in the real world (Legion's hair, Xavier's eyebrows).

    And I still would never have bought any of his issues based on the covers when I was young. This one is too abstract.

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  3. @Mike: I am a teacher who works with children with autism, and am a bit critical of portrayals of people with that diagnosis in fiction. Thankfully, Claremont & Co. revealed that it was PTSD/MPD that caused Legion to withdraw from reality, not autism.

    Thanks for weighing in on that. Re-reading this issue for this post, I found myself wondering how accurate the portrayal of Legion's condition was (simply by virtue of the fact that we've learned so much more about autism in the last ten or so years that it would be very easy for this to be unintentionally dated), but knew I wasn't nearly intelligent enough about the subject to even speculate on the accuracy of its portrayal. So I'm really glad you weighed in.

    The funny thing is that Sienkiewicz gave (pre-intervention) Legion body language that I've seen in people with autism. Intentional or not, I thought that was a cool touch.

    That really is quite cool, either way.

    @Matt: I feel like Xavier's illigitemate love-child should hold my attention, but he never does.

    Yeah, my biggest problem with Legion (aside from the fact that everyone else will continue to draw him with whacky Sienkiewicz hair but otherwise normally) is the fact that he's more or less completely ignored most of the time. Not only does that make Xavier look like a dick in-universe, but the idea of Professor X having a son has so much storytelling potential that is pretty much wasted (I'll probably get into this more in my write-up of issue #27).

    I also think, as with the previous Cloak and Dagger story, that this Legion story runs a bit too long.

    Here, we disagree. I think this story, at three issues, is just about the perfect length, at least as I recall. Setup in this issue, rising action ending with a twist in the second, and then climax/resolution in the third. We'll see if that holds up as I re-read it, but I don't recall thinking this one was over-long.

    Also, Jack Wayne was the name of the Hardy Boys' pilot.

    Huh. I did not know that. Though I've never actually read any of the Hardy Boys books. My juvenile boys detective/adventure series of preference is The Three Investigators, whom I've always considered the Hardy Boys' far cooler literary cousins. :)

    When was the last time we saw Madrox? During the Byrne run?

    I think so, yeah, at the end of the Proteus story. He didn't even come over as part of the substitute X-Men team in the Doom/Arcade story.

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  4. @Teebore
    Yeah, my biggest problem with Legion (aside from the fact that everyone else will continue to draw him with whacky Sienkiewicz hair but otherwise normally) is the fact that he's more or less completely ignored most of the time. Not only does that make Xavier look like a dick in-universe, but the idea of Professor X having a son has so much storytelling potential that is pretty much wasted (I'll probably get into this more in my write-up of issue #27).


    That's interesting. As cool as Legion looks here, it's a bit of a pisser that Sienkiewicz drew him first because, had it been someone else, he most certainly wouldn't have that same stupid hair to this very day. No one else tried to keep Xavier's evil wizard eyebrows and linebacker shoulders going, so why Legion's hair? It's funny because, despite being a human, Legion always struck me as an awkward character to draw for most other artists. They'd get the giant hair right, but his facial features were extremely varied. Probably had something to do with how little he appeared compared to the main cast, but still. How funny is it that both he and Warlock are still in constant states of interpretation just because Sienkiewicz drew them first?

    And does anyone else find it funny that the son of a bald guy has hair that's six feet tall? I bet that made Xavier feel real good when he found out.

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  5. Never liked Legion for the same reason I never liked Corsair, having real fathers and sons messes with the theme that Professor X and Cyclops have a father-son relationship which is one of the stronger dynamics of the book.

    Chris

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  6. Never read this issue- I really need to get around to reading New Mutants- I made the mistake of starting at the beginning, but I can't deal with Sal Buscema's stuff on a book like this. I know Louise Jones talked about how hard it was to fire him, but it was definitely the right call. I mean, Bill S. is just doing amazing work right here. I think he gets a little sloppy sometimes later, but this is amazing stuff (although his Neal Adams-y early Moon Knight stuff is also a favorite).

    Am I the only one that started hearing "Let's Get it On" when Lee woke up Magneto? Also, not to shame Lee, but dang girl, first Cyclops, now Magneto? Who's next? Cable? Skull the Slayer?

    Also, I kinda like Legion, even if he is Proteus mark 2. I think it might just be the awkward posing that always makes him look unsettling, here and in his later 90's appearances.

    No one else tried to keep Xavier's evil wizard eyebrows...

    False! I definitely recall 90's artists giving Xavier evil wizard eyebrows- maybe the Kubert's? Granted, he was in the middle of transforming into an evil wizard at the time.

    Never liked Legion for the same reason I never liked Corsair, having real fathers and sons messes with the theme that Professor X and Cyclops have a father-son relationship which is one of the stronger dynamics of the book.

    I don't particularly agree with this. It's like saying adopted children should never meet their biological parents because it would ruin their relationship with their adopted parents (for story purposes). If anything, it opens up more stories about how Legion feels about the fact that the Prof went and started a new "family," abandoning him in the process. Or it would, if Legion were a character and not a plot device.

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  7. @Dobson
    If anything, it opens up more stories about how Legion feels about the fact that the Prof went and started a new "family," abandoning him in the process. Or it would, if Legion were a character and not a plot device.


    Emphasis on would have. The son of Xavier should have been, and should still be, a big deal. He never was. He's been a plot device for nearly all of his existence. No one knows what the hell to do with him. They kill him off, and somebody brings him back. They remove his excess personalities, but somebody brings them back. He's just permanently crazy and a giant pain in the ass for everyone in the MU, basically. If I were Chuck, I'm not sure I'd claim him, either.

    Just once, I'd like to see a major MU character have a grown son or daughter who wasn't crazy or evil. Someone who worked alongside their parent, who maybe started to develop different ideals, or perhaps didn't know whether or not to follow their parent's path. Even the *slightly* more sane examples, like Quicksilver, are obnoxious because he's always been a whiner who's constantly complaining about his father to the point where Magneto doesn't even care anymore. "Oh, shut up, Pietro." And then we get nut jobs like Dakken. How he had any fans at all just boggles my mind. The father vs. son dynamic is such a tired trope. Imagine a father and son on the same superhero team for years, and then some tension begins to form as the son starts to believe different things. They could even split and settle their difference without a final father vs. son showdown! But nope, it will never happen. The kid is either evil / nuts or an obnoxious brat that no one wants to read about but no writer kills, either.

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  8. Have you ever considered putting your humorous file names as either a caption or hover text?

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  9. Ugh... Here's more of that problem with Flexographic printing we were talking about recently — at least I think we were.

    Tom says that David is "screaming like a banshee" and Moira calls Sean a "rogue". (Several issues later: Professor X notes that Rahne's insecurities are legion and the circle is complete?)

    Xavier notes that David's condition is very similar to that of his mother's when Xavier first treated her.

    My reaction when looking at that panel you posted was "Highest level of Breakout ever!"

    As a result, Banshee is shown returning to Muir Island with the New Mutants following the events of that issue.

    Those references to X-Men #192-193 and especially to the Firestar miniseries are kind-of crazy.

    Sharon helpfully defines telekinesis for Tom.

    Tom's dialogue later in that page while under fire is even more questionably articulate.

    After once again saving Magneto's life, Lee and Magneto kiss, then presumably do more, marking this issue as the beginning of their romantic relationship.

    Do you think Magneto always cries when he gets busy?

    he gets around to doing something with Doug Ramsey and Warlock

    Seriously! It's even more laughable given that all the captions telling us that this issue takes place after X-Men #193, etc., virtually shout "Look at us planning stuff!"

    Rahne is included despite her significant role in the previous story most likely because of the setting, while Dani is probably included because she has psionic powers and is, as has been mentioned before, Claremont's favorite

    Was Claremont on a count, like he could only use so many characters at a time? I'm sympathetic to your comments about breaking up the cast into small groups in theory, but in practice we've spent so little time with the newer recruits especially, individually and in terms of the group dynamic, that it feels wrong both when they don't show character development, since it should've happened even when we weren't watching, and when they do, since it's kind-of sprung on us.

    No Doug, Warlock, or even Illyana in the corner box...

    Telepathic Arab is my new band name. Our debut album is called Patient/Girlfriend and hits iTunes this summer. It will be shunned due to the insensitivity of both titles.

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  10. @Teebore: Not only does that make Xavier look like a dick in-universe, but the idea of Professor X having a son has so much storytelling potential that is pretty much wasted

    I'm sorry but not surprised to hear that. My jump off the titles is just over a year's worth of issues (publishing time) away now, but I did have this impression.

    @Dan: And does anyone else find it funny that the son of a bald guy has hair that's six feet tall?

    Ha! Now that you mention it, yeah, that's funny. And you make a good point too about later artists keeping Sienkiewicz's visual for him, or his hair at least, ditto Warlock, even though those are arguably style to an extent rather than canon design.

    @Chris: having real fathers and sons messes with the theme that Professor X and Cyclops have a father-son relationship which is one of the stronger dynamics of the book

    I think I have to agree with Dobson and disagree with you here, again with the caveat that I know very little of what happens in the X-Men titles except in very broad strokes after 1986. Cyclops' reunion with Corsair was more powerful exactly because he had a father figure in Professor X, even if Claremont unsatisfyingly passed on giving us some relevant dialogue — or even a couple of awkward silent panels obviously addressing the subject — between Xavier and Corsair.

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  11. @Dan: How funny is it that both he and Warlock are still in constant states of interpretation just because Sienkiewicz drew them first?

    That's a good point - the characters that existed pre-Sienkiewicz reverted to "normal" once he left, but for the ones he created, everyone else gets stuck trying to emulate his designs.

    The son of Xavier should have been, and should still be, a big deal. He never was. He's been a plot device for nearly all of his existence. No one knows what the hell to do with him. They kill him off, and somebody brings him back. They remove his excess personalities, but somebody brings them back.

    That's pretty much my problem with Legion. Lots of potential to be a big deal, but outside of triggering some big stories, he himself never really is.

    I've heard some decent things about the latest iteration of X-Men Legacy he's headlining though(haven't read any of it myself yet). Then again, whatever is done with the character will probably only last for as long as the initial writer is on the title.

    Just once, I'd like to see a major MU character have a grown son or daughter who wasn't crazy or evil.

    There was Scott and Cassie Lang, though I don't know if the second Ant-Man really counts as a major character.

    @Chris: Never liked Legion for the same reason I never liked Corsair, having real fathers and sons messes with the theme that Professor X and Cyclops have a father-son relationship which is one of the stronger dynamics of the book.

    As others have said, I think there's storytelling potential in the idea of Professor X and Cyclops having to face the actual blood relations the absence of which led them to lean on each other in similar ways, but there's no denying that in both cases, especially Legion's, that potential went largely untapped.

    @Dobson: Also, not to shame Lee, but dang girl, first Cyclops, now Magneto? Who's next? Cable? Skull the Slayer?

    I can't remember if she actually ends up getting it on with him, but she does hang out with Cable in a story featuring D'Spayre that was clearly meant to emulate her adventure with Cyclops in issue #144.

    @Mock: Have you ever considered putting your humorous file names as either a caption or hover text?

    Hmm...I honestly thought they were setup to be hover text, but apparently not. I'll have to look into that. Captions are unwieldy and, frankly, kinda ugly, on Blogger so I won't use those.

    @Blam:Ugh... Here's more of that problem with Flexographic printing we were talking about recently

    Yeah, I'd like to read these Sienkiewicz issues via the recent trades sometime, just to see how the art works on better paper with modern printing capabilities. Cuz it's definitely kind of dodgy in places in the original issues.

    Several issues later: Professor X notes that Rahne's insecurities are legion and the circle is complete?

    Ha!

    Those references to X-Men #192-193 and especially to the Firestar miniseries are kind-of crazy.

    It makes me wonder if the Firestar mini had some behind-the-scenes issues that delayed it. Cuz the two X-Men issues you can write off as Claremont planning ahead/the schedule having some kinks in it, but the Firestar mini is just about a year away. If they knew about it then, you'd think it would have come out sooner.

    Was Claremont on a count, like he could only use so many characters at a time?

    If he was, I've never heard about it. I've always assumed it was a choice on his part, to either keep the story or the art from getting too crowded (then again, maybe it's something Sienkiewicz specifically asked for, to give him more room to work; the whole "team-within-the-team" thing pretty much begins and ends during Sienkiewicz's run).


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  12. @Teebore: I honestly thought they were setup to be hover text, but apparently not. I'll have to look into that.

    I've begun adding hover-text to images in new posts, and to images in old posts as I rework them, purely for descriptive reasons — much as I love gags like Bully's (or your own filenames).

    You go into HTML view and, somewhere within the 'img' tag — after the 'width' attribute and before the closing '/>' is fine; all the attributes will be alphabetized next time you look at it anyway and order doesn't seem to matter — you put in
    [alt="text you want"] and [title="text you want"] without the brackets. You might get the hover-text visually with only the 'title' attribute, whereas 'alt' is what will be read to the visually impaired using reader applications or what delivers content info to search engines, but I've been doing both.

    I wish I'd been doing this all along for many reasons, including the fact that images used to go missing on my blog a lot and that I'm sympathetic to wanting to turn off image-loading if you don't have a great Internet connection and that images should be identified for the visually impaired as I mentioned, but I guess better late than never.

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  13. @Blam: You go into HTML view and, somewhere within the 'img' tag — after the 'width' attribute and before the closing '/>' is fine; all the attributes will be alphabetized next time you look at it anyway and order doesn't seem to matter — you put in
    [alt="text you want"] and [title="text you want"] without the brackets.


    Thanks for the info.

    Like most things with Blogger that seems ridiculously cumbersome (I'm never a big fan of having to edit HTML manually when so much else can be done through the interface), but I'll have to give it a shot once I have some more time. I'm sure it'll become second nature once I've done it enough.

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  14. "Just once, I'd like to see a major MU character have a grown son or daughter who wasn't crazy or evil."

    Cyclops has 2! Cable and Rachel. Well, Rachel is more kind-of, sort-of. Neither of them are crazy or evil. Cable is just more of a dickish anti-hero, and Rachel used to cry a lot.

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