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Thursday, May 23, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #30

"The Singer and Her Song"
August 1985

In a Nutshell
Kitty, Rachel and Dazzler help the New Mutants infiltrate the Gladiators.

Presenter: Stan Lee
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Sam, Kitty, Rachel and Dazzler find themselves in Limbo, where Illyana had teleported them in the wake of their encounter with the Beyonder. As a result of that encounter, Illyana's Darkchilde side has been released, causing Limbo to go as mad as its mistress. Wresting her Soul Sword from her, Kitty uses the weapon to restore Illyana to normal. Still seeking to free the captured Roberto and Amara from the Gladiators, Illyana returns the group to Los Angeles, where they once again track down the Gladiators. Dazzler offers to infiltrate the group, and though everyone else decides against it for fear she won't be able to resist the lure of fame, she goes anyway. Welcomed back by her old friends, Dazzler is forced to take an inhibition-lowering drug to prove her loyalty. Later, Kitty, posing as a technician, gets a job working for the Gladiators. As Dazzler revels once more in being a star, she tries to win the trust of Roberto and Amara. Following a practice session, Kitty triggers a blackout and seeks out Roberto.


Having confirmed there are no child hostages, she gives Roberto the details of their escape plan. Outside the arena, Sam, Illyana and Rachel are waiting for the signal from Kitty to alert the cops when they're visited once more by the Beyonder. Rachel attempts to make contact with him, but nearly dies in the process, forcing Sam to blast off with her and Illyana. Inside the arena, Kitty tries to inform Dazzler of the plan, in the process reading her diary and realizing she intended to leave the Gladiators after all. However, Dazzler suddenly attacks Kitty, and Kitty awakens to find herself the prisoner of the Gladiators' true leader, a strangely-familiar telepath who had taken control of Dazzler. That evening, Roberto and Amara, still waiting for Kitty's signal, enter the arena to find themselves facing a monstrous creature, one which is, unknownst to them, a robot containing a mind-controlled Kitty. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is a Secret Wars II tie-in, as indicated by the little yellow insignia in the top right corner of the cover, and opens with Kitty, Rachel, Dazzler, Sam and Illyana in Limbo following the events of Secret Wars II #1. The Beyonder, still looking like Molecule Man, also appears in the issue.

The letters page returns this issue with a two page installment. An editorial response announces the imminent return of Karma and Bill Sienkiewicz's departure from the title (next issue will be his last), though here it's said he's only taking a break to work on a Daredevil graphic novel (what becomes, I believe, Elektra: Assassin).


Another response teases a future issue in which Amara will come face-to-face with one of her gods; this story will not see print until issue #81, when it runs as a fill-in.

The Chronology Corner
This issue follows immediately after Secret Wars II #1, detailing what happened after Illyana teleported into Limbo with a contingent of X-Men and New Mutants. Kitty and Rachel will appear in the next issue, before returning to X-Men for issue #196. 

A Work in Progress
Her Darkchilde persona brought forth by the Beyonder, Illyana's Soul Sword is black instead of silver. 

When Kitty forcibly takes it from Illyana, Illyana's armor suddenly transfers to Kitty as well.


Kitty says the Beyonder owes her two: one for taking her love from her (as it is the Beyonder that led to Colossus falling in love with Zsaji), and another for tormenting Illyana.


It's been awhile, but we're reminded that while Roberto is super-strong, he's not invulnerable. 


The actual leader of the Gladiators is shown to be extremely large, and contacts Karma's villainous uncle for "added insurance".


I Love the 80s
Sam mentions that the Avengers have a toll free 800 number tip line.

Artistic Achievements
The issue ends with Roberto and Amara facing off against a gigantic opponent in the arena who is actually Kitty within the body of a robot. That twist is pretty standard fare for this kind of story, but Sienkiewicz, not surprisingly, turns in a truly unique and monstrous look for the creature the two New Mutants must face.


Like a Phoenix From the Ashes
Rachel compares reading the Beyonder's mind to the stories she was told about Dark Phoenix.


Human/Mutant Relations
The New Mutants are reluctant to go to the police for help freeing Sam and Amara from the Gladiators, fearing they'd be thrown in jail themselves given the current attitude towards mutants. 


Teebore's Take 
Secret Wars II continues to wind its way through the title, and Claremont continues to use it as an opportunity to keep an otherwise-routine story from bogging down too much. The issue-opening jaunt to Limbo gives Sienkiewicz a chance to cut loose, while the inclusion of Kitty and Rachel in the story and the deepening of the mystery surrounding the real power behind the Gladiators keeps things from covering too much of the same ground as last issue. Claremont also gets some mileage out of guest-star Dazzler, handling the lure of the Gladiators and her addiction to fame in just a few pages much better than the interminable Beauty and the Beast limited series ever did.

To be clear, nothing here is anywhere close to the level of craft and imagination on display in either the "Demon Bear" or "Legion" stories. But by taking advantage of Secret Wars II and some X-related guest stars, Claremont is able to keep an otherwise genre-standard story from dragging out like the Cloak and Dagger storyline did. At the end of the day, this story continues to be about little more than mutants fighting each other in a gladiatorial setting, but at least Claremont and Sienkiewicz are keeping things moving. 

Next Issue
The Beyonder tour continues in Uncanny X-Men #196, while the Gladiator story (and Bill Sienkiewicz's run) wraps up in New Mutants #31. 

6 comments:

  1. "Kitty says the Beyonder owes her two: one for taking her love from her (as it is the Beyonder that led to Colossus falling in love with Zsaji), and another for tormenting Illyana."

    So, it wasn't Peter trying to find a way out of a relationship that got 'weird" (deep and mature)?

    I think this issue establishes Illyan's standard Darkchylde costume (big horns, exposed belly, lioncloth, sometimes a cape).

    On the same note, this pretty much shows Rachel how different the Illyana of this timeline is from her own. I say this because Illyana was the first one Rachel met when she came to this timeline (and gave her her first clue about the divergence between the two). The two characters share a lot of similarities (X-relatives, horrible childhoods, slew X-Men, friends with Kitty), that it's surprising the two never really shared much a word from each other. When I wrote commentaries about the CC run on NM on Google, the answer I got was that perhaps it was these uncomfortable similarities that forced a distance.
    Of course, one big difference is that Illyana rarely let her past affect her like Rachel's did to her. Only a few incidents (UXM#171, NM#36, 51) did Illyana suffer an emotional freak-out. Otherwise, when her Limbo time was brought up, Illyana usually used it as a comparison toward someone's situation or a deal-breaker toward someone's whining about getting a raw deal (e.g. Kitty "Professor Xavier is a Jerk!" issue in 168). Maybe Illyana should have had a word with Rachel...

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  2. On a different note, considering CC later changed U-No-who's lifestyle, adding an unrequited attraction to Kitty, the climax is probably the closest U-No-Who ever got to her.

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  3. what becomes, I believe, Elektra: Assassin

    I think it's Daredevil: Love and War (Marvel Graphic Novel #24); Elektra: Assassin follows later.

    There were a few interesting and/or just weird letters. One statement that was conspicuous for its lack of a reply was a complaint about name changes being revealed in the backup dossiers — Dani's from Psyche to Mirage, specifically — "without even mentioning why or that you've even done it!"

    Another response teases a future issue in which Amara will come face-to-face with one of her gods; this story will not see print until issue #81

    Ha!

    Despite the letter from a self-described "mature" woman praising the "consistency" of Claremont's writing (along with Sienkiewicz's art), I must say that this reread is really surprising me with how sprawling the characters and plot lines have become (yes, even given Claremont's reputation). I'm very sympathetic to the plight of an author's grand plans getting away from him, but starting a handful of issues ago I feel like I blinked and we'd suddenly gone from a smaller core group than I'd remembered in the wake of Karma's disappearance to new members being added — without much or any official indication of enlistment until they show up in costume, at that, as Illyana sort-of joined the New Mutants to rescue Kitty from the Hellions and just stayed on, while Doug was recruited off-panel during the slumber party and likewise stuck around. At the same time various characters have been often-inexplicably absent as whole adventures split the team into smaller groups, with egregiously little attention paid to Doug and Warlock. Plus there are running subplots or continuity points appearing in X-Men rather than New Mutants (or vice versa) with little distinction — not to mention characters from New Mutants appearing in main plots in X-Men as well, made all the more jarring given the artistic differences between the titles.

    I was puzzled by a scene in this issue where Sam mentions that his power of propulsion can blast the rocks to smithereens. I'm not sure that that was established before and in fact I'd have assumed the opposite to be true; that is, I'd figure his Cannonball trail incorporated the same kind of Mark Gruenwald Extradimensional Physics that kept Cyclops' optic blasts from taking his head off, so that Sam didn't always destroy the floor/sidewalk/road/whatever when he blasted off.

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  4. I must say that this reread is really surprising me with how sprawling the characters and plot lines have become (yes, even given Claremont's reputation)

    Cocaine is a helluva drug?

    It actually gets worse leading up to and following Uncanny #200 and possibly reaches its apex immediately preceding the Mutant Massacre. While it's great that Claremont uses Annuals and Specials to introduce significant changes to the cast, they fact that some of them simply don't make any chronological sense, and that so many ideas are brought up only to be ignored, creates a lot of frustration. I don't envy Teebore having to make sense of it all in this format. Where's NIghtcrawler? What happened to Phoenix? Who the hell is Longshot?

    Cocaine is a helluva drug.

    - mortsleam

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  5. @mortsleam: It actually gets worse

    Which is why I dropped New Mutants about an issue after Sienkiewicz left and was determined to quit X-Men with #200 — although #201 intrigued me, and I liked the looks of the BWS Wolverine issue, so I actually stayed on through #205. I'm curious to read the actual issues that followed, not having checked back in with the issues until "Inferno" and occasional later sampling every few years, although I'm aware of some of the broad strokes. For my sanity, X-Men (and related titles) was something that I had to be all-or-nothing about, which seems to be a common sentiment and more surprisingly became increasingly easy to do vis-a-vis the whole line's relation to the greater Marvel Universe.

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  6. @angmc43: I think this issue establishes Illyan's standard Darkchylde costume (big horns, exposed belly, lioncloth, sometimes a cape)

    I think you may be right: elements of that look have appeared before, but this might be the first time they all come together.

    Maybe Illyana should have had a word with Rachel...

    Ha! Definitely. All things considered, Illyana handled her tragic past much better.

    the climax is probably the closest U-No-Who ever got to her.

    Good point.

    @Blam: I think it's Daredevil: Love and War (Marvel Graphic Novel #24)

    That makes much more sense. I don't think I knew Sienkiewicz worked on that (having never read it).

    I must say that this reread is really surprising me with how sprawling the characters and plot lines have become

    "Sprawling" is a good word for it. I recall liking the somewhat bigger scope of the title during Sienkiewicz's run, and this re-read has affirmed that, though I definitely didn't remember just how scattered the cast was through most of it and just how nonchalantly the various additions to the team were handled, and I can't deny I was a little disappointed in that this time through the run.

    @Mortsleam: I don't envy Teebore having to make sense of it all in this format. Where's NIghtcrawler? What happened to Phoenix? Who the hell is Longshot?

    I appreciate the sentiment, but you don't have to worry about me. I still love this era (at least up through "Mutant Massacre") because of how sprawling it is. Piecing it all together was part of the fun back in the day, and now that I've done it once, it's a lot easier to follow. :)

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