Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #27

"Into the Abyss"
May 1985

In a Nutshell
Professor X and Dani enter Legion's mind to save their friends. 

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

Plot
Professor X, Gabby Haller and the New Mutants examine the unconscious forms of Rahne and Moira, marveling that despite the destruction to Moira's lab caused by the explosion, their bodies are unharmed. However, just like Tom and Sharon, Xavier determines that their minds are gone, and suspects David Haller is behind the attacks. With Rahne still in her wolf form, Dani reasons she may be able to contact her through their psychic link via the Astral Plane. Xavier and Dani enter the Astra Plane, where they're attacked just as Gabby Haller and Doug are pulled onto the Astral Plane as well, leaving a despondent Warlock behind. Determined to end the threat, Xavier begins attacking the psychic walls around David's mind. In the process, he discovers that David is his son, a revelation that distracts him enough that the others are get sucked into David's mind. Coming face to face with the three dominant personalities which control David's powers, Xavier plunges into the boy's mind after his companions. He finds himself in a war-torn representation of Paris, dominated by a massive black dome in the distance.


Making contact with Dani, he sends her, Doug and Gabby to find Moira and Rahne while he searches for Tom and Sharon. Xavier is then attacked by a gunship and saved by one of David's personalities, Jack Wayne, who controls David's telekinesis. He tells Xavier that the dome imprisons David's true psyche, and that it was erected by the young Arabian man who controls David's telepathy. The Arabian, according to Jack, turns David's nightmares against David's other psi-selves, making the Arabian responsible for David's condition. Meanwhile, Dani, Doug and Gabby encounter the Arabian, whom Gabby recognizes as the terrorist that led an attack which almost killed David. Elsewhere, Rahne and Moira come across Cyndi, another of David's personalities, who controls his pyrotic ability. She leads them to the others, and Moira theorizes that when David used his nascent powers to defend himself during the terrorist attack, he inadvertently absorbed the mind of their leader into his own. Elsewhere, Jack explains to Xavier that the only way to free David and restore order to his mind is to kill the Arabian. Xavier reluctantly agrees. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Professor Xavier learns that Legion is his son in this issue.


Legion's origin is revealed in this issue: young David Haller was the only survivor of a terrorist attack that first triggered his mutant power, causing him to destroy the minds of all the terrorists, save their leader (whom we'll learn next issue is named Jemail), whose mind Daniel inadvertently absorbed into his own. The trauma of psychically experiencing so much death rendered him catatonic and fractured his mind into multiple personalities, chief among them the cavalier Jack Wayne and the rebellious Cyndi who, along with Jemail, each control a different facet of his psychic abilities. The name Legion comes from Jack Wayne, a play on the biblical passage "My name is Legion: for we are many".


Of the three personalities, Jack controls David's telekinesis, while Cyndi is pyrokinetic (or "pyrotic" here) and "the Arab" is telepathic. Future stories will show Legion capable of absorbing other minds (like he did with Jemail), with each capable of manifesting a different ability.  

It's revealed that Daniel Shomron, the friend of Xavier's who brought Xavier in to help Gabrielle Haller in Uncanny X-Men #161, was David's godfather, and died in the attack that led to David's current condition. 


A Work in Progress
It's established that under normal circumstances, Rahne reverts to her human form if she's knocked unconscious while in her transitional state.


Professor X compares the mindless but otherwise unharmed bodies of Moira and Rahne (and Sharon and Tom) to the condition in which Rogue leaves the people from whom she's taken powers.

Xavier once again references his weakened condition and diminished powers, brought on by the attack he suffered at the end of X-Men #192.

When Xavier and Dani enter the Astral Plane, they appear, as he explains, in an idealized form. It's not quite on the level of putting Dani in the skimpiest outfit possible (since Xavier is similarly (un)attired), but it's still kinda icky to think that Xavier is interacting with the "idealized" and very naked forms of his female students.


It's made clear that Cyndi is responsible for the explosion in Moira's lab, though she points out that Cyndi could have killed them but didn't. 


I Love the 80s
Cyndi, in both name and attitude, is a clear allusion to 80s pop singer Cyndi Lauper.

Dani refers to Legion as a "geek", but since she presumably isn't aware of any predilections he may have towards comic books, video games or the like, she's may be using it in terms of its older definition, in which it applied to oddball performers, due to his unique look.

Claremontisms
Dani is once again called "Chief" by Doug throughout. 

Rahne refers to Jamal as a "spalpeen", which I believe is the correct spelling of the word "spaleen", previous uttered by Banshee and Moira in various issues. It's actually an Irish slang terms for rascal or scamp, from what the internet tells me.

Artistic Achievements
It's a relatively simple image (especially compared to some of the other stuff in this issue), but I've always liked the closing panel of this issue, featuring Xavier against a stark white background, defined by the knife he's taken from Jack Wayne representing his agreement to try and kill the Arab. 


Teebore's Take
This issue reveals more to us about Legion and the specifics of his condition as well as revealing to Xavier that Legion is his son. It also sets up the seeming objective for the remainder of the story: penetrate the dome and destroy the Arab to save David and everyone else trapped in his mind. But while Claremont packs this issue with plot, the real standout is the Sienkiewicz art. Once more free from the constraints of depicting some representation of reality, he cuts loose, depicting a nightmarish, ravaged Paris packed with skewed perspectives and surreal images like tanks with arms and helicopters with teeth. As much as Sienkiewicz played with open space in the Demon Bear's dimension during issue #20, here he does the opposite, creating a claustrophobic setting jammed packed with people and objects, all without losing the position of the characters or the thread of the narrative. Sienkiewicz is clearly having fun, and the energy on the page throughout the issue is palpable.  

Next Issue
Wednesday, we look at X-Men Annual #8, then the Beauty and the Beast limited series (Dazzler is the "beauty"). 

10 comments:

  1. This month's issues of Uncanny and New Mutants feel like they should be switched. The Magus storyline definitely feels like it belongs in New Mutants, while Professor X discovering he has a son really seems important enough to be in the flagship title. Next month's Uncanny is a big fight with the Hellions, which just reinforces that for me.

    This era of Uncanny up until the Mutant Massacre is just too scattershot for me--and outside of the post-Inferno, pre-Jim Lee era--is probably my least favorite era of Claremont's run. Uncanny 200 is pretty great, though.

    ReplyDelete

  2. Did we not mention the new logo last week?

    On Pg. 4, Professor X refers to Dani as "Mirage" for what I think is the first time, as they prepare to enter the astral plane. Her "Psyche" alias barely registered, apparently. Also, like you say...

    Dani is once again called "Chief" by Doug throughout.

    ... including right before he utters the apparently unironic line "General Custer would've loved you!"

    Nice take on Sienkiewicz's art!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Jeff: This era of Uncanny up until the Mutant Massacre is just too scattershot for me--and outside of the post-Inferno, pre-Jim Lee era--is probably my least favorite era of Claremont's run.

    Obviously, I disagree (the scattershot nature of this era, with plot threads pinging back and forth between Uncanny and New Mutants, is one of the things I love about it). Agreed on the post-Inferno, pre-Lee era though, which is hands down my least favorite era of Claremont's run.

    What separates it from this stuff, for me, is the better, more consistent art from Romita Jr. and the fact that, as scattershot as it is, the X-Men are still the X-Men and there aren't as many meandering "no team" issues and stories.

    @Blam: Did we not mention the new logo last week?

    D'oh! We did not. Somehow I managed to catch the price change, but not that...

    On Pg. 4, Professor X refers to Dani as "Mirage" for what I think is the first time, as they prepare to enter the astral plane

    I had that in notes as "first Mirage?" and meant to try and confirm whether that was the first time it was said, or just the first time in a long time, then ran out of time.

    If you're thinking the same thing, it's probably true.

    ... including right before he utters the apparently unironic line "General Custer would've loved you!"

    Ha! I totally breezed right past that. Now I'm imagining a panel of Dani giving Doug a "you didn't just say that, did you?" look.

    Nice take on Sienkiewicz's art!

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The unreal cityscapes in this issue are my favorite things about the comic. As you noted, Sienkiewicz is in his element here. He does fine with more realistic settings, but it's when reality goes awry that he kills it.

    Sienkiewicz is also at his best when he has an arresting image to draw. It's telling that his creator-owned Stray Toasters is filled with single-image pages. I've heard that some criticize Sienkiewicz for his panel-to-panel continuity ( including the great Alex Toth), and I can see the basis for such claims. In my mind, his work pushes what comics can be and shows a differing style in which words and pictures interact.

    - Mike Loughlin

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Mike: I've heard that some criticize Sienkiewicz for his panel-to-panel continuity ( including the great Alex Toth), and I can see the basis for such claims.

    As can I, though I do have to say that re-reading these issues now, I was surprised at how little a problem the panel-to-panel continuity was a problem compared to what I remembered it being. Maybe it's just a function of my having read a ton more comics and gained a better understanding of how art works on the page since the last time I read them.

    In my mind, his work pushes what comics can be and shows a differing style in which words and pictures interact.

    Agreed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sooo... did Banshee and Madrox just sleep through the explosion or something?


    Teebore -- "Now I'm imagining a panel of Dani giving Doug a "you didn't just say that, did you?" look."

    If only this comic was written by Bendis, we would've had a whole nine-panel page filled with reaction shots devoted to that one joke...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can sort of understand proper nicknames that don't stick (happens in real life but most people are quick to shoot them down if they don't like them), but this codename thing for Dani is baffling. So she never had an official codename up to this point? And she had no reaction to Xavier calling her "Mirage" or anything else? And "Chief"? Wouldn't that kind of make her angry?

    Does she have a codename today? I remember the "Moonstar" thing during X-Force and her involvement in MLF, but I always associated that name with her villain identity. It's so strange that her and Kitty went through dozens of stupid names only to land right back on their proper names after all these years. I suppose their names are unique enough to get away with it, but how hard is to to editorially mandate a codename? "I don't care if you hate it, this is what she's called because toys and movies."

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Matt: Sooo... did Banshee and Madrox just sleep through the explosion or something?

    Madrox (or one of his dupes, at least) is actually hanging around in this issue (he's seen with Warlock after everyone else gets sucked into Legion's mind). Banshee, however, is nowhere to be found. I assume he's sleeping off a bender. :)

    @Dan: So she never had an official codename up to this point? And she had no reaction to Xavier calling her "Mirage" or anything else? And "Chief"? Wouldn't that kind of make her angry?

    Technically, her official codename up to this point was "Psyche", which is what she was given in the first issue, though it hasn't been used for many issues prior to this one (not that many of the characters' codenames get used all that often, in part because they're still ostensibly not superheroes and in part because Claremont seems to prefer real names anyway).

    The lack of reaction to being called "Mirage" is odd; I guess we can assume she or Xavier bestowed it upon her at some point behind the scenes, prior to this issue, though Xavier's use of it is odd in and of itself (it isn't like he's calling Doug "Cypher" throughout this story).

    As for "Chief", yeah. A case can be made that it's a reference to her position as the leader of the team, such as it is (if Cyclops were nicknamed chief, that would be why and we'd think nothing of it), but it definitely doesn't help that it's being used on a Native American character, and seems odd that Dani herself wouldn't comment on that.

    Does she have a codename today?

    I'm pretty sure it's just "Moonstar", which, like you, I tend to associate with her time posing as a member of the MLF and also consider to be fairly lame because it's, you know, just her name...

    ReplyDelete
  9. "but I've always liked the closing panel of this issue, featuring Xavier against a stark white background, defined by the knife he's taken from Jack Wayne representing his agreement to try and kill the Arab."

    If only Wolverine was around. I'm sure he would have said "Hardcore, Chuck".

    ReplyDelete
  10. For me, BS's art is sublime in the Demon Bear arc but it gets worse and worse as he goes. There are panels or pages here and there but otherwise I find his work on this arc very hit or miss and way too muddy.

    Funnily enough, I think his work is one of the few that looks way better on the original cheap paper than better paper or digital.

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!