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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

X-amining New Mutants Special Edition #1

"Home is Where the Heart Is"
1985

In a Nutshell
Loki brings Storm and the New Mutants to Asgard. 

Author: Chris Claremont
Illustrator: Art Adams
Embellisher: Terry Austin 
Letterers: Buhalis & Orzechowski
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Loki, plotting both revenge against the X-Men and to seize power within Asgard, decides to transform Storm into a new god of thunder. He tasks the Enchantress with abducting Storm and her companions, assuming they will be the X-Men. However, Storm's current companions are the New Mutants, who are enjoying a vacation on the island of Kirinos when the Enchantress teleports them to Asgard. As Loki begins to transform Storm, the Enchantress attempts to kill the New Mutants, believing them to be the X-Men.  Illyana tries to telelport her friends to safety, but the Enchantress' magical wards cause Illyana to remain behind while the rest of the New Mutants are scattered across time and space. Each finds themselves in a different part of Asgard: Karma stranded in a vast desert, Doug in a mead hall, Rahne in a forest, where she helps a werewolf like herself escape a pack of giants, Warlock in Hel, Roberto in a tavern, where he becomes a local hero, Amara amongst a group of Dark Elves who transform her into a fairy, Sam in a cavern beset by trolls, in which he saves a Dwarf princess, and Dani on a grass plain, where she frees a captive winged horse and fights off a group of hunters, after which she is asked to join a group of warrior women riding similar steeds. 


Back in the Enchantress' fortress, the sorceress releases Darkchilde, the dark side of Illyana, and tasks it with tracking down her teammates. Leading a horde of soldiers, she first finds Doug, now working in the Mead Hall, but he's rescued by Warlock. Rahne, who has fallen in love with the Wolf Prince she saved, and Roberto, who has befriended the Warriors Three, are both captured by Darkchilde while Sam, having gained the favor of the Dwarf Lord Eitri by saving his daughter, is reunited with Amara when she's sent by the Dark Elves to attack the dwarfs. Amara is ultimately captured, and Eitri is able to restore her memories, but not her human form. Dani, overhearing her new friends speak of her participating in some kind of blood ritual, flees their company. Meanwhile, Loki visits Eitri and asks him to create a new enchanted hammer for Storm, the equal of Thor's. Sam and Amara overhear this, and learn that Storm is a captive of Loki.


Elsewhere, Karma emerges from the desert, having shedded the weight she'd gained when possessed by Farouk, and is greeted by Warlock and Doug. But the threesome is quickly attacked by Darkchilde. Holding their own, they're eventually joined by Dani, and Karma is able to take control of Darkchild and stop the attack. Gathering the rest of their teammates, the New Mutants storm the Enchantress' castle. As they battle her forces, Karma forces Darkchilde to merge with Illyana, breaking the Enchantress' hold on her, then turns her attention to the Enchantress. Karma is able to take control of the sorceress, but fears she won't be able to hold her for long. Illyana instructs her to simply force the Enchantress to lift her protective wards, at which point Illyana is able to teleport everyone to Limbo, where the Enchantress is powerless and Illyana reigns supreme. Debating their next move, several of the New Mutants express an interest in returning to Asgard for good, but Sam says they can discuss that later; what matters now is rescuing Storm. Leaving the Enchantress in the care of S'ym, they return to Asgard to try and defeat Loki. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first "New Mutants in Asgard" story, a trope that will, for better and worse, pop up again in the history of this book and these characters. As a result, it introduces a handful of supporting characters who will reappear whenever the New Mutants end up back in Asgard, chief among them the Wolf Prince Hrimharri, who falls in love with Rahne (he actually is referred to only as the Wolf Prince in this story; his name is revealed in a later one). The story also features characters who made previous appearances but will become recurring players in future New Mutants stories, such as the dwarf lord Eitri, who forged Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, and befriends Sam in this issue. 


Of all the New Mutants, Dani emerges from this story the most changed. This issue marks the first appearance of her winged horse, Brightwind, who will return with her to Earth, and by rescuing him, she becomes a Valkyrie, one of the warrior women whom claim the souls of the honored dead and brings them to Valhalla.


Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 reveals that this story takes place while Thor is storming Hel in Thor #361-362; his absence from Asgard gives Loki the idea and opportunity to use Storm to usurp Thor's position as god of thunder. In a larger sense, this story occurs during Walt Simonson's (husband of former X-Men editor Louise Jones) legendary run on Thor, shortly after Odin was believed to have died fighting the fire demon Surtur (who appears in this issue as the thing the Enchantress most fears).

This issue was meant to be the second New Mutants annual, but apparently it was expanded to include additional pages (at 64 pages long, it is technically a "triple-sized" issue, I believe), and thus was re-branded as a special edition.

Published concurrently with his work on Longshot, this issue features art from Art Adams, and represents his first collaboration with Chris Claremont and his first work in the X-Men universe. Terry Austin, the inker of John Byrne's X-Men work, does the inking.

A Work in Progress
The story begun in this issue constitutes Loki's attempt at revenge against the X-Men following the events of the X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series. While attempting to seduce Storm into becoming a new Asgardian thunder god, he tasks the Enchantress with destroying the X-Men (whom she believes the New Mutants to be), so as to not break his vow to not harm the X-Men.

As promised last issue, Storm and the New Mutants are vacationing on the Greek island of Kirinos, the same island at which Professor X recovered from his breakup with Moira per Uncanny X-Men #117.  

Doug worries that his powers are no good in a fight, and on several occasions throughout this story, works in tandem with Warlock as Warlock takes a shape that allows him to protect Doug. As such, this issue marks the beginning of the close Doug/Warlock friendship.


The Enchantress mentions briefly encountering the X-Men in Dazzler #2; she was something of a recurring foe in the early issues of Dazzler's solo series.

While in Hel, Warlock adopts the form of Longshot, and even though he seems aware of the coincidence, it must be simply that, as he's yet to meet the actual Longshot.


Roberto, who finds himself stronger than ever in Asgard, soaks in the adulation he receives for his heroic efforts, quickly becoming enamored with Asgard and appreciating a world where he's treated as a hero and untroubled.


In something that I always found terribly clever as a kid, as a result of her months-long voyage across a desert, Karma manages to lose most of the weight she gained while possessed by Farouk, emerging more or less back to normal (also, in a thought that didn't occur to me as a kid, she must have also encountered a plastic surgeon in the dessert, who took care of what had to have been the folds upon folds of skin that remained even after she lost the weight).


Karma declares that reuniting Darkchilde and Illyana will heal Illyana's physical wounds; I'm not sure how Karma would know that...


I Love the 80s
Also vacationing on Kirinos are Remington Steele and Laura Holt.


Though the issues opens with most of the New Mutants enjoying a day at the beach, and thus wearing swimsuits, Illyana's bikini makes her the most scantily clad of them all, and she spends pretty much the rest of the issue wearing little else.


Sam spends his time in the realm of the dwarfs rocking a pair of cutoff jean shorts.


Three characters whom Doug meets in an Asgardian mead hall, Harald, Thigvald and his paramour loosely resemble Popeye, Bluto and Olive Oyl.


Upon meeting Brightwind, Warlock assumes the form of Gumby. 


Young Love
After saving him from attacking giants, Rahne and the Wolf Prince quickly become smitten with one another.


They're Students, Not Superheroes
After Dani leads the team in an impromptu training session during their vacation, Roberto protests, saying that the New Mutants don't need to train because they're not the X-Men, while Dani insists that since trouble seems to find them, they need to be able to take care of themselves.


Human/Mutant Relations
Roberto argues that the New Mutants should stay in Asgard, rather than return to a world that hates them.


Teebore's Take
This and the corresponding X-Men annual constitute one of my all time favorite comic book stories. This certainly isn't the first (or last) time that Claremont weds his typically more sci-fi, grounded-in-a-social-metaphor characters to the tropes of high fantasy, but it's arguably his most successful iteration of the concept. A lot of that success has to be credited to some absolutely gorgeous artwork from Art Adams, who has already improved from his generally-strong work on the Longshot mini. His figures (especially the faces) are dynamic, his action clear and easy to follow, the level of detail he puts into each panel astounding without becoming distracting.

What also helps this chapter of the story to succeed is Claremont's attention to characterization. As in the best such stories, Claremont uses the fantastic setting to explore and deepen the New Mutants' as characters. The extra pages give him room to breath, and after the characters are scattered across Asgard, each is given several pages all to themselves, depicting their circumstances, before Claremont starts to draw the characters, one by one, back together. As a result of the way each character handles and reacts to their specific situation, each of these vignettes serves as a primer on their respective star, affirming existing characterization and/or revealing new depths. As a result, even though this story takes place in a pseudo-annual, the characters will not emerge from the story unchanged, as, for better and worse, they will return to Earth changed by these experiences.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we wrap up this story in X-Men Annual #9, as the X-Men follow the New Mutants to Asgard, and the following week we examine the trial of Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #200.

10 comments:

Jeff said...

I've never read this storyline and have always wanted to. Mile High Comics, here I come!

Teebore said...

@Jeff: If you can find it, I highly recommend the Asgardian Wars collection (I have an older edition that's a paperback; it may be available as a hardcover now). It collects this issue and X-Men Annual #9, as well as the X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series, which all together add up to four (double sized) issues and two stories of good old-fashioned comic book awesomeness.

angmc43@hotmail.com said...

I had the (bad) luck of reading UXM# Annual 9 first, and seeing the changes to the New Mutants in that issue, I wondered how much happened could happen in one Special Edition.

Considering the Surturwar brought Storm to Loki's attention, it's unfortunate CC never wrote his X-teams into the battle (although Storm and Colossus have cameos in THOR#352). Then again, AVENGERS was the only other series to do a crossover of the battle.

Loki gets Amora the Enchantress' help, unaware of the joke she played on him. Amora' sister Lorelei, a heartless siren who can compel men to fall for her, had been trying to get Thor under her power, refusing to help Asgard fight Surtur. Angered by this, Amora cast a spell to make Lorelei fall madly in love with Loki. Although this at first works to Loki's advantage, getting beguiled Lorelei to order beguiled Thor to relinquish the Asgard throne to him, it backfires when Amora convinces Thor to visit Lorelei, where he finds she and Loki in bed together. Sure enough, after some blackmail concerning Mjonir, Thor convinces Loki to remove the love spell on him.

Doug seems to have a guilty pleasure about wearing brief trunks, donning them but insecure about it. Note that he's lying on his front while watching Illyana in her bikini glory, perhaps trying to hide some...physical growth resulting from this experience.

Of the team, it appears that when teleported, Doug and Rahne are fully costumed, Dani and Amara are incomplete, Sam is only wearing his shirt, and Illyana and probably Roberto are still in their bathing suits. 'Locke, of course, is in his birthday suit.

While helping the dwarves, Sam considers himself to be no girl's idea of a man. Guess he and Lila had a falling out...

Karma isn't the first obese to be helped by the Norns in the desert. Walt Simonson's THOR had a subplot concerning Balder the Brave. Killed and resurrected, the experience shattered the Asgardian warrior, causing him to shorn the sword and exercise, making him to grow rather portly (although this weight problem in NO WAY effected his ability to go Badass, as THOR#344 exemplified). Traveling into the desert for suicidal reasons, the Norns allowed Balder a chance to fulfill his wish- by breaking the Fates' mystical string of his life. However, Balder had a mystical experience where he saw his fate aligned with the fate of others, making him realize that ending his own life would be disastrous to many others (especially with the Surturwar coming up). His act together, Balder returned to Asgard.

The Norns are named Verdandi, Urd, and Skuld. Any AH MY GODDESS! fans here?

Blam said...


64 pages — straight through, no ads, plus a wraparound cover — and it's still stuffed to the brim.

I've always loved this one as well. Adams' detail is not just a wonder to behold on its own but, as you say, it raises Claremont's game too. We've seen him step up with formidable collaborators before, be it Byrne overall or Windsor-Smith (in my estimation) for those special issues; I suspect that how much information the art imparts to the reader here likewise helps curb his tendency to overwrite. To be honest I do feel like the section where the gang gets back together is a little rushed, with the dialogue filling us in on some things we should've been shown, but I'll take it.

Given all the (glorious) clutter, Pg. 16's view of Karma in the desert is all the more impressive.

a trope that will, for better and worse, pop up again in the history of this book and these characters

I guess it's no surprise that this is a surprise to me. Due to my appreciation for the Asgardian two-parter, for "Days of Future Past", and for other singular stories/scenarios that apparently end up getting run into the ground, I'm not exactly looking forward to the later, presumably quite paler imitations, revisitations, and distortions.

Of all the New Mutants, Dani emerges from this story the most changed.

At the risk of repeating myself: I'd no idea about this, either, as I dropped New Mutants right around now.

It's more of Claremont's piling special attributes upon his characters, which does particular damage when the premise of the feature is otherwise normal kids trying to deal with adolescence while learning to live with their mutant powers. Dani is also a frickin' Valkyrie; Illyana has become supreme leader of an entire demonic realm to which she can teleport herself and others with a thought. Oy.

Blam said...


Doug ... works in tandem with Warlock

Which is a brilliant idea, honestly.

I hadn't noticed this until I saw the panel in close-up in your post, by the way, but the little smiling face of Warlock's that speaks to Doug from the helmet looks like it's based on the face (Inkwell?) in Teri Sue Wood's Amazing Heroes strip The Cartoonist. Finding a "new" Easter egg in this issue after nearly 30 years is pretty weird.

On that score, however: You mention Remington Steele and Laura Holt, the kinda/sorta Popeye and friends (quite possibly a nod to Terry Austin's own love of the character), and Gumby, but not the fact that one of the giants chasing Rahne on Pgs. 19-20 is Martin Short's Ed Grimley. I loved that one most of all.

[Shan] must have also encountered a plastic surgeon

It's a magic Asgardian Desert. Or maybe the Fates took care of it. 'Nuff said.

Dani insists that since trouble seems to find them, they need to be able to take care of themselves.

Clearly 'Berto has not read the past 30 issues.

Amara tells Sam on Pg. 6, "Ororo said we might visit Mother Rome herself! I cannot wait to write and tell my honored father!" So apparently Nova Roma, like that lost Atlantean/Lovecraftian island the X-Men briefly used as their headquarters, gets mail.

If you look at the word balloons on the last panel on Pg. 6 and the first panel on Pg. 7, incidentally, there's an odd space after "'Lock" suggesting that the "e" Claremont nonsensically used to include in Warlock's nickname has been removed; this wasn't a factor later in the issue.

On Pg. 44, ladies and gentlemen, we learn that Asgard has plain old Midgardian fire extinguishers. What the Frigga?

Anonymous said...

@Blam: I completely agree with you about Claremont's adding extraneous special attributes to his characters that detract from the core theme of the book. It is a major weakness of his writing as is the case of his inclusion of obtrusive soap opera elements and inability to have anyone - even supporting characters - just be normal.

Chris

angmc43@hotmail.com said...

"So apparently Nova Roma, like that lost Atlantean/Lovecraftian island the X-Men briefly used as their headquarters, gets mail."

I think Roberto's mom is the messenger between the two places.

Teebore said...

@angmc43: While helping the dwarves, Sam considers himself to be no girl's idea of a man. Guess he and Lila had a falling out...

We could probably chalk that up to his continued lack of self-confidence (largely, because we know he's still technically with Lila at this time). I could see him rationalizing Lila's attraction to him and still thinking he's less than ideal.

Karma isn't the first obese to be helped by the Norns in the desert.

Interesting. Apparently the Norns have a soft spot for the overweight.

Thanks, incidentally, for the background on that as well as the rest of the Asgard stuff in this issue. I've read woefully little of Simonson's Thor.

I think Roberto's mom is the messenger between the two places.

In terms of Nova Roma/Westchester, I think that actually makes a lot of sense, and is a No-Prize worthy explanation.

@Blam: I suspect that how much information the art imparts to the reader here likewise helps curb his tendency to overwrite.

That's a really great observation, and a suspicion I imagine is correct.

I'm not exactly looking forward to the later, presumably quite paler imitations, revisitations, and distortions.

Thankfully, the "New Mutants in Asgard" stuff doesn't get too watered down. Weezie does one such story towards the end of her run (right before Liefeld comes aboard), and the biggest problem with it is lackluster art and being a few issues too long, while it's helped by the charm in seeing the characters reunite and interact again with the Asgardian friends they made in this story.

After that, the story trope takes a break because X-Force, and doesn't really return again until the latest iteration of the title which I haven't read yet (but that I gather is definitely a case of diminishing returns on the idea).

It's more of Claremont's piling special attributes upon his characters, which does particular damage when the premise of the feature is otherwise normal kids trying to deal with adolescence while learning to live with their mutant powers.

Definitely, and Dani emerges from this story to take her place alongside Illyana as the most egregious example of this (though I don't think either is quite on the level of Kitty).

Finding a "new" Easter egg in this issue after nearly 30 years is pretty weird.

And kinda cool, too!

...but not the fact that one of the giants chasing Rahne on Pgs. 19-20 is Martin Short's Ed Grimley.

I had never noticed that before, (hence the lack of mention). Thanks!

It's a magic Asgardian Desert. Or maybe the Fates took care of it. 'Nuff said.

And your No-Prize is in the mail as well. :)

Clearly 'Berto has not read the past 30 issues.

I know, right?

On Pg. 44, ladies and gentlemen, we learn that Asgard has plain old Midgardian fire extinguishers. What the Frigga?

You know, I noticed that while reading the issue, and near-instantly thought of an in-universe explanation for it, yet now, for the life of me, can't remember what it was...

@Chris: It is a major weakness of his writing as is the case of his inclusion of obtrusive soap opera elements and inability to have anyone - even supporting characters - just be normal.

I'll give you the piling on of special characteristics (though some of that just comes with the territory of telling serialized adventures of characters for years and years, not that that is the case with relatively new characters like Dani and Illyana) and the lack of normal supporting characters (Stevie Hunter being, I think, the exception), but the unabashed embrace of soap opera elements is one of the things I love the most about Claremont's writing. But that's just me.

Blam said...


@Teebore: while it's helped by the charm in seeing the characters reunite and interact again with the Asgardian friends they made in this story

I do think there's a fine line in terms of revisiting that kind of stuff. As long as it's part of a character's history, it should be explored or at least referenced when appropriate. Like I said, I have no idea how Dani being a valkyrie was handled, but my suspicion is that it was more like Storm being leader of the Morlocks and less like Illyana being ruler of Limbo; the latter, again in my limited knowledge, is more of a concern to Illyana that she wants to avoid dealing with but which actually comes into play frequently, whereas the former is a giant crucial plot point that we don't even get thought-balloon service to when Ororo heads to Africa or whatever.

Of course it all really boils down to whether or not the story in question is done well — maybe not "all" but "mostly" at least; I realize that even good stuff can provide diminishing returns through overfamiliarity.

Teebore said...

@Blam: Like I said, I have no idea how Dani being a valkyrie was handled, but my suspicion is that it was more like Storm being leader of the Morlocks and less like Illyana being ruler of Limbo

We'll have to see how my recollection holds up moving forward, but I think it's probably somewhere in between. There's certainly at least a few instances of Dani fighting off Dani and seeing death visions and whatnot that at least keep her role as a Valkyrie from drifting away to the extent that Storm-as-Morlock-leader does, but at the same time, it never quite dominates the character and bleeds into storylines in the book the way Illyana's struggle with her dark side and role as Limbo's ruler does.