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Thursday, June 27, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #34

"With a Little Bit of Luck!"
December 1985

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants defeat Karma.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Steve Leialoha 
Letterers: Buahlis & Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In Limbo, Warlock attacks Illyana, believing that she's joined Karma. Illyana defends herself as she tries to explain to Warlock that she has a plan to save their teammates, but is ultimately forced to lower her defenses, telling Warlock that if he truly believes she's evil, he can kill her. Warlock is unable to do so, and finally accepts that Illyana isn't a traitor. Illyana calls up a scrying pool and looks in on Karma's nightclub. She and Warlock watch as Karma torments Storm. Inspired by some cryptic remarks Karma makes about her past with Xavier, Illyana and Warlock teleport twenty years into the past, where they observe Professor Xavier's encounter with the evil and powerful telepath Amahl Farouk. Illyana deduces that Farouk may have survived that encounter, and has now taken control of Karma, which accounts for her evil actions and increased telepathic abilities. After hatching a plan, Illyana seemingly returns to Farouk and takes him up on his offer of partnership.


However, Farouk has no interest in an equal partnership, and turns his full attention on bending the young girl to her will. As he does, the New Mutants, unnoticed, are telelported away, and "Illyana" reveals herself to be Warlock in disguise. The real Illyana returns Storm and the New Mutants, now free of Farouk's control, back to the nightclub, where they furiously attack, determined to keep Farouk off balance and unable to re-possess them. When Dani uses her power on Karma, she realizes that Farouk has fled Karma for another host. Illyana stabs Doug with her Soulsword, and when he reacts to the attack, they realize Farouk has possessed him, as the real Doug knows Illyana's sword wouldn't hurt him. Karma, unwilling for anyone else to suffer at Farouk's hands, challenges him to a psychic duel. Overcoming her doubts, she's able to force him back onto the astral plane and emerges from the duel victorious. Storm, believing the New Mutants have earned a rest, offers to take them on a vacation.  

Firsts and Other Notables
It's revealed that Karma has been possessed, since shortly after issue #6, by Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King (though that name is never used here), whom Professor Xavier fought in the flashback of Uncanny X-Men #117 (revisited in this issue), and is thus responsible for all the criminal acts Karma committed (as well as her obese state). Though Karma is freed of his influence and chases him away, he remains at large, existing on the astral plane, at story's end.


The Chronology Corner
As mentioned in issue #32, this entire story takes place after Uncanny X-Men #198.

A Work in Progress
Karma mentions that Storm's psychic defenses are almost as strong as Xavier's.


After observing Xavier's previous encounter with Farouk, Illyana reasons that the villain may have taken possession of Karma, using several of the hints planted throughout this story to reach that conclusion. 


The reasoning for why Farouk would leap from Karma to Doug is sound, but nevertheless probably doesn't make Doug feel too good about himself.


I Love the 80s
Illyana compares Warlock's attempt at a disguise to E.T.'s.


Claremontisms
Illyana uses her Soulsword a few times in this issue, and where her Soulsword is, the phrase "ultimate expression of her magical power" is never far behind. 


They're Students, Not Superheroes
Despite all of their teammates being in the thrall of Karma, Illyana tells Warlock she's reluctant to teleport to the X-Men for help out of free that she'll makes things worse.


Teebore's Take
"The Hunt for Karma" ends as perfunctorily as possible, not bothering to deviate in any way from the previous two issues' genre-standard efforts, though the reveal that Karma has been possessed by Xavier's old enemy Farouk does make for an interesting twist that pays off several of the hints seeded throughout this story and the previous one and helps connect the New Mutants to the larger history of the X-universe. Also, to Claremont's credit, while the New Mutants' efforts to defeat Farouk are fairly routine (they basically overwhelm him until he abandons Karma, a strategy that works this time when it hasn't before because it does), Karma is at least the primary agent in her ultimate rescue, facing down the villain one-on-one and defeating him through the sheer force of her will, making her, in the end, as much as a rescuer as the one needing rescue.

At three issues long, it's tempting to call this story overly long, but it's really not. The beats it hits are, again, fairly standard, and while nothing here is terribly exciting, little of it feels unnecessary or tacked on either (well, okay, the Ancient Egyptian Magical Storm Ancestor bit in issue #34 was pretty superfluous, but that was all of two pages). This isn't a bad story, but wedged as it is between the end of Sienkiewicz's run and the relatively big shakeup in the status quo of the book set to occur in the next issue, it feels more than anything like a fill-in story, an exercise in treading water, even though it ultimately features the return of one of the book's original cast members.

Next Issue
The New Mutants' vacation is interrupted by a trip to Asgard in New Mutants Special Edition #1, and the X-Men follow them there in X-Men Annual #9. 

6 comments:

Dr. Bitz said...

So, I'm a little confused on Karma's obesity. When the Shadow King took her over did he decide to just engorge himself? Any particular reason or is he just a glutton?

And, man, I'd hate to be Karma having to lose all that weight. Even if she has good self restraint it'll probably take a year or two and when she thins out she'll probably need surgery to get rid of the excess skin...then there's the stretch marks....

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz: When the Shadow King took her over did he decide to just engorge himself? Any particular reason or is he just a glutton?

Pretty much just a glutton. The body we saw him in during the encounter with Xavier was large (though not to Karma's extreme), so the idea is, I think, that he's a guy who enjoys his food and drink, and when he's inhabiting someone else's body, there's no reason not to just go nuts and engorge himself.

Even if she has good self restraint it'll probably take a year or two and when she thins out she'll probably need surgery to get rid of the excess skin...then there's the stretch marks....

Surprisingly enough, the next story will address this, to an extent.

angmc43@hotmail.com said...

I remember having the second chapter of this story, and wanting to see the conclusion. Eventually I got the end, and I felt it was worth it. This story is Illyana's show, and I think this storyline really made me a fan of the character.

One commentator at Jason Powell's extensive analysis-blog of Claremont's X-MEN made an interesting parallel about Illyana and Shan. Karma had suffered physical rape (by pirates) and is suffering a similar experience by Farouk. The person to engineer her rescue, Magik, had suffered a spiritual rape herself (and perhaps a physical one by S'ym). Claremont would repeat this point with Rogue/Carol in his Genosha storyline.

I wonder if Doug ever found out that Ororo tried to stab him to death?

Teebore said...

@angmc43: This story is Illyana's show, and I think this storyline really made me a fan of the character.

That's a good point, and one I glossed over and probably shouldn't have - other than an issue or two when she first joined the team, this is really the first New Mutants where Illyana takes center stage, and she acquits herself well.

Karma had suffered physical rape (by pirates) and is suffering a similar experience by Farouk. The person to engineer her rescue, Magik, had suffered a spiritual rape herself (and perhaps a physical one by S'ym).

That is an interesting parallel, especially since both Karma and Illyana tend to be the "darker" members of the team.

I wonder if Doug ever found out that Ororo tried to stab him to death?

Ha! If he did, knowing Doug, he probably laughed it off.

Blam said...


The reasoning for why Farouk would leap from Karma to Doug is sound, but nevertheless probably doesn't make Doug feel too good about himself.

Ouch.

Regarding Karma's ginormity, I suspect that Sienkiewicz doing his extreme ad absurdum thing had a lot to do with it; that is, she wasn't "really" quite as huge as we saw, just as Xavier's eyebrows don't actually grow off his head and Legion does in fact have a chin.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I suspect that Sienkiewicz doing his extreme ad absurdum thing had a lot to do with it; that is, she wasn't "really" quite as huge as we saw, just as Xavier's eyebrows don't actually grow off his head and Legion does in fact have a chin.

Ah, that's a good point. Even when Leialoha (or Adams) draws her in the next two stories, she's big, but nearly as big as Sienkiewicz was drawing her.