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Thursday, October 24, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #46


"Bloody Sunday"
December 1986

In a Nutshell
"Mutant Massacre" comes to New Mutants

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Jackson Guice
Inker: Kyle Baker
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
As an alarmed Lockheed alerts the New Mutants to the return of the X-Men, Illyana teleports to Muir Isle to enlist Moira's help in treating the injured. They arrive back at the school at the same time as the battered X-Men, who are leading a group of wounded, dying Morlocks. Moira immediately sets up a triage center, and the New Mutants help gather equipment, run supplies and treat the wounded. Throughout the day they work, overwhelmed by the horror of the situation. Doug, however, notices that Warlock is acting differently, constantly scanning the sky but refusing to explain why. Meanwhile, Karma, worried that if the Marauders are targeting mutants they could go after her younger siblings, tries to call them, but gets no answer. Illyana offers to teleport her to their apartment, but they find the place deserted., and when Karma turns on the lights, she triggers a bomb.


Back at the school, the rest of the New Mutants realize their teammates are gone and go after them, without telling the X-Men, whom they feel are dealing with too much else of importance. They sneak out through the tunnels beneath the school, as Warlock refuses to fly them, and are unknowingly being tracked by Warlock's villainous father Magus, the source of Warlock's strange behavior. The New Mutants arrive at Karma's apartment, having witnessed firsthand along the way the aftermath of the Marauders attack, and find Karma and Illyana relatively unharmed thanks to Illyana quickly teleporting them out of the apartment when the bomb went off. Suddenly, Warlock goes crazy, grabbing his teammates and rushing back into the tunnels. Just then, Magus appears, prepared to destroy his son and his allies, but Illyana manages to teleport the team out of his grasp, leaving an enraged Magus to swear he will track them down no matter where they run or how hard they hide.     

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue represents New Mutants sole contribution to "Mutant Massacre", mostly dealing with the immediate aftermath of the events of Uncanny X-Men #211 and showing the New Mutants reaction to the ensuing carnage, as the issue ends with Claremont sending the team off on what will turn out to be a multi-issue arc set away from the mansion.

To that end, he revives the long-simmering Magus subplot (not referenced since Uncanny X-Men #192), as Magus finally tracks down and attacks Warlock, prompting Illyana to teleport the team to safety, a move that will ultimately take them away from the mansion for several issues.


This issue also sees the launch of what will be another long running subplot: in the wake of the attack on the Morlock, Karma calls her younger siblings at the apartment they share together (seen in New Mutants Annual #2), but gets no answer, and when she and Illyana investigate, they discover the twins missing before triggering a bomb presumably left by their kidnappers. The New Mutants assume the Marauders are behind the attack, but this subplot stands as one of the more egregious examples of Claremont tossing a ball in the air then losing track on it: he'll touch on it a few more times during his tenure on the title (with Karma ultimately leaving the team to search for her siblings) but will fail to resolve it before leaving both this book and the X-Men franchise, leaving it to future writers to resolve the subplot, ultimately in, of all places, a Beast miniseries in the 90s.


The X-Men will learn of the New Mutants disappearance in Uncanny X-Men #212, and this issue represents the last time the New Mutants will be seen sharing the school with the X-Men, due to future events in both titles. 

A Work in Progress
Looking at the mansion as the X-Men return home bearing survivors from the massacre, Dani sees a massive image of Death looming over the school.


Certain readers of this blog will be pleased to know that as Illyana teleports Moira back to the mansion, she mentions leaving a note for the still-sleeping Banshee explaining where Moira has gone.


Following from X-Men #211, the X-Men return to the mansion, bearing wounded Morlocks.


Psylocke makes a brief appearance, but more importantly, the word "totality" is used in relation to her for the first time.


The Morlock Sunder freaks out in this issue when it's said that he must have his leg amputated. Though Psylocke ultimately calms him down, when Sunder next appears, he'll have both his legs.


Continuing his characterization as a selfish jerk, Roberto is more angry about being reprimanded by Magneto than upset at what's happened to the Morlocks.


Illyana mentions that she tried to heal Kitty by taking her to Limbo and using magic, but was unable to do so.


Teebore's Take
"Mutant Massacre" comes to New Mutants, though Claremont wisely sticks to the book's "students first" aesthetic and keeps them away from the bulk of the carnage, bringing the kids in only as triage nurses at the mansion (and later showing them reacting to the aftermath of the massacre, observed off panel when they sneak out of the school). It's a smart move, as it both gives the characters a chance to react to the events without having the X-Men ordering their students into a slaughterhouse. But the massacre really only concerns the first half of the issue - after that, Claremont focuses on addressing a pair of subplots: a new one, that will go unresolved by the author, and an old one, returning after simmering in the background for far too long.

As that second subplot rises to the surface, it kicks off the title's next multipart storyline, a deck-clearing exercise that will find the New Mutants separated from Magneto and away from the mansion for several issues. It's more cleverness on Claremont's part: he uses a languishing subplot to kick off an arc that sends the New Mutants away from the school, getting them out of the picture as the massacre and the changes it triggers unfold over in X-Men. As a result, this issue represents something of the end of an era - when the New Mutants finally return to the school, the X-Men will be gone, and the New Mutants will be the only pupils of Xavier left at the mansion.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor encounters the Marauders in X-Factor #10. Next week, Wolverine meets an old foe in the Morlock Tunnels in Uncanny X-Men #212, while the New Mutants meet an unexpected new friend in New Mutants #47 

12 comments:

  1. "he'll touch on it a few more times during his tenure on the title (with Karma ultimately leaving the team to search for her siblings) but will fail to resolve it before leaving both this book and the X-Men franchise, leaving it to future writers to resolve the subplot, ultimately in, of all places, a Beast miniseries in the 90s."

    Claremont also touches on it in the WOLVERINE solo series ... just so that it can become an unresolved dangler for THAT series as well as "New Mutants." :)

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  2. Love that Sunspot picture tag. When people ask me why I don't like them, I show them this issue. His whining while people in the next room are dying is as bad as Surge greeting her new roomie by being a racist bully.

    Claremont also touches on it in the WOLVERINE solo series ... just so that it can become an unresolved dangler for THAT series as well as "New Mutants." :)

    Yeah, I think the modern X-writers have just decided to pretend Karma has no younger siblings. You'd think they'd pop up in a Jean Grey School background or something, but they've kind of vanished. They kind of embody X-danglers in my mind - we'll bring them up to pad out a scene or give a miniseries we don't need a point of some sort, but other than that they're forgotten.

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  3. So -- should we take the title literally and assume the Mutant Masacre occurred on a Sunday? Not that it makes any difference. But I like to know these things.

    "Certain readers of this blog will be pleased to know that as Illyana teleports Moira back to the mansion, she mentions leaving a note for the still-sleeping Banshee explaining where Moira has gone."

    :-)

    I like that he's been retired for years, and Illyana never even knew him as Banshee, but -- presumably for the benefit of new readers -- she still refers to him by his codename.

    "...when Sunder next appears, he'll have both his legs."

    I wonder if Claremont just forgot this little line, or if the next artist to draw him (Silvestri?) didn't know. Though you'd think Claremont would've included that note in his plot, if he'd recalled this scene.

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  4. So Moira was buck naked when Illyana teleports her off of Muir Isle? I could see that being the jumping off point of a lot of future fan fiction...

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  5. This is probably more of a comment for the Arthur Adams annuals you just covered and is something I never really noticed before, but as I've been reading along, I've noticed Claremont sometimes seems to struggle with comics due to the "Marvel Style" creation process. People always make cracks about his verbosity which I don't think are always fair, but I have noticed a tendency to over-explain stuff when it seems like he might not know what the art is showing. Stan Lee obviously had trouble with this (some early issues of Spider-Man have scenes that make NO sense). I think some of the problems might just be ingrained into that form of production, but it becomes more noticeable when you know how the books are created.

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  6. 2 things I noticed about this issue:

    1) Magneto's drawn with the wrong costume on the cover.

    2) This book has a Warlock and a Magus. But didn't Adam Warlock also have an arch-nemesis named Magus? Are the New Mutants characters references to the earlier characters?

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  7. More eerie coincidences: Karma helps Sunder deal with having to get a leg amputated, and 2 decades later, Karma ends up having to get her leg amputated after it got severely wounded during Second Coming.

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  8. This also showcases what will be a continuous problem for these booted x-overs:haphazard continuity that interrupts the flow of the overall narrative (particularly noticeable if you're reading the trade like I am.) For instance, this issue contradicts a few critical point from Uncanny 211, specifically Magik and Nightcrawler.

    This also shows why Magneto as a hero ultimately doesn't work. Just like a certain maniacal stepbrother, Mags had to be severely weakened to be a viable member of the team, as a man who could once battle the whole team by himself has trouble containing a crippled Morlock. At least his characterization here is more in line to what I imagine "good guy" Magneto would be like: someone who cares about his charges, but will still harshly chastise them for not doing things correctly (as opposed to the "cuddly uncle" Claremont usually writes him as during Magnus's periodically bouts of reformation.)

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  9. @Jason: Claremont also touches on it in the WOLVERINE solo series ... just so that it can become an unresolved dangler for THAT series as well as "New Mutants." :)

    I haven't read those issues, but I know Karma shows up in them - so I made a point of differentiating that he will fail to resolve before leaving both New Mutants and the whole X-Men franchise, to account for Wolverine. I suppose he should get some credit for at least remembering the dangling plot thread and using it in Wolverine, even if its all for naught. :)

    @Mela: They kind of embody X-danglers in my mind - we'll bring them up to pad out a scene or give a miniseries we don't need a point of some sort, but other than that they're forgotten.

    They do make good poster children for that sort of thing. For many years there, "The Twelve" mystery was my go-to example of a dangling plotline, but then they finally resolved it (in the most unsatisfactory way possible).

    @Matt: So -- should we take the title literally and assume the Mutant Masacre occurred on a Sunday?

    Good question. I wondered that too. We'll have to leave it to Space Squid to determine how literal we're meant to take the title.

    Though you'd think Claremont would've included that note in his plot, if he'd recalled this scene.

    Yeah, that gets down to the question of did Claremont forget about this, did he forget to tell Silvestri, did Silvestri forget after being told, or did they all just say "screw it!" and feature him with two legs?

    @Dr. Bitz: I could see that being the jumping off point of a lot of future fan fiction...

    To be fair, everything is a jumping off point for fan fiction...

    But yeah, Moira was in the shower when Illyana arrived, and there was "no time" for to get dressed, so Illyana conjured her (slightly risque) clothes while in Limbo.

    @Jeff: People always make cracks about his verbosity which I don't think are always fair, but I have noticed a tendency to over-explain stuff when it seems like he might not know what the art is showing.

    I definitely think it waxes and wanes depending on who his collaborator is, and how much he trusts/works with that collaborator (with Byrne, for example, you didn't see as many cases of the text overwriting the art, except when Claremont wanted intentionally wanted to do so).

    And there's something to be said for it as a limitation of the style. I'm pretty sure very few writers (at Marvel or elsewhere) use it anymore (I think everyone is pretty much full script in this day of writer-focused comics); maybe that's one of the reasons why?

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  10. @Ian: Magneto's drawn with the wrong costume on the cover.

    Yeah, he's got his earlier "reformation" costume instead of the more recent one. Windsor-Smith has drawn him in the former before, so Nocenti probably dropped the ball in getting him an updated reference.

    But didn't Adam Warlock also have an arch-nemesis named Magus? Are the New Mutants characters references to the earlier characters?

    Yes, and no. I mean, they're a reference to the earlier characters in that both sets are playing off the relationship in the language between "warlock" and "magus", but the New Mutants characters aren't related in any way, in-universe, to the cosmic characters.

    I think it was discussed in the comments of a post around Warlock's first appearance, but it's pretty much a case of Claremont either forgetting or not caring that a Warlock/Magus hero/villain pair already exists in the MU and going with it because he likes the connection.

    FuryofFirestorm: Karma helps Sunder deal with having to get a leg amputated, and 2 decades later, Karma ends up having to get her leg amputated after it got severely wounded during Second Coming.

    Oh, good catch! As irritating as the unplanned nature of the sprawling, decades-long superhero narrative can be, it's always fun when totally coincidental but nonetheless effective connections like that get made. :)

    @Jonathan: For instance, this issue contradicts a few critical point from Uncanny 211, specifically Magik and Nightcrawler.

    I know there's some messiness with Magik teleporting the X-Men into the Morlock Tunnels but then waiting, for some reason, until the New Mutants are alerted to their return in this issue to go get Moira, but what's the snafu with Nightcrawler between #211 and this issue?

    At least his characterization here is more in line to what I imagine "good guy" Magneto would be like: someone who cares about his charges, but will still harshly chastise them for not doing things correctly

    Simonson really plays up that angle of Magneto's relationship with the team during her run, almost to the point where she takes it too far in the other direction (to the point where you start to question whether he cares about them at all).

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  11. God forbid we actually see Sean on-panel.

    Why is Kitty translucent when that's never been part of her phasing?

    I like this look for Magik, but I'm a little confused by it. Did we get a story resolving how the armor kept growing on her when she manifested her soulsword and I forgot? Was it explained that she somehow found a way to heel its growth, smooth it out, and integrate it into this bodysuit?

    Don't have a new band name at the moment, but Bearing Wounded Morlocks is our next album.

    Man, Roberto is seriously obsessed with Madonna.

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  12. Why is Rogue dragging a badly-injured Nightcrawler by his collar? Seems a bit cold.

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