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Thursday, November 7, 2013

X-amining New Mutants #48

"Ashes of the Heart"
February 1987

In a Nutshell
Half the New Mutants end up in a future ruled by Sentinels. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Jackson Guice
Inker: P. Craig Russell
Letterers: Buhalis & Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Creators: Chris Claremont & Bob McLeod

Plot
Accidentally scattered through space and time by Illyana, Sunspot, Magma, Karma and Wolfsbane find themselves in a future ruled by Sentinels, in which most of their teammates have been killed. They're are quickly attacked by Sentinels, but are rescued by adult versions of Sam and Dani from this timeline. Meanwhile, at Xavier's mansion in the present day, Magneto discusses the New Mutants' absence with Stevie Hunter, repeating his belief that they are still alive, and that he won't abandon them. In the future, Sam tells the New Mutants about the history of his timeline and how the world turned against mutants, while Rahne is shocked to learn just how cold and distant the adult Dani has become. Sam explains that most of the surviving mutants have fled Earth to live on Lila Cheney's Dyson Sphere, something which rankles Roberto. Just then, the Sentinels announce they've captured Lila and intend to execute her.


Sensing a trap, Sam and Dani are nonetheless unwilling to abandon Lila, and with the help of the New Mutants, quickly form a plan to rescue her. As Sunspot, Magma, Karma and Sam create a diversion to draw out the Sentinels, Dani and Wolfsbane sneak into the Sentinels' headquarters in Manhattan. Thanks to Wolfsbane's senses, they're able to evade the trap and rescue Lila. Later, Wolfsbane confronts the adults with knowledge she gleaned from Dani: that they intend to flee the planet and leave the New Mutants behind. Sam tells her she's right: their world is done for, and the only way to save it is for the New Mutants to wait for Illyana to arrive and return them to the past, where they can change the future. As the New Mutants wait for Illyana, Magma triggers a volcano on the island of Manhattan, something for their foes to remember the New Mutants by. 

Firsts and Other Notables
In this timeline, the remaining free mutants are operating out of Larry Trask (and later Stephen Lang)'s old Sentinel base in the Adirondack Mountains, which will later be used to similar effect by X-Force early in their series.


A Work in Progress
The opening splash page sets the scene with an homage to the cover of X-Men #141, featuring a tattered wanted poster showing which of the New Mutants and X-Men have been captured and terminated.


Magneto has created a series of small robotic machines he calls "widgets" to help him maintain the mansion. An interesting idea, but I don't think we ever see them again.


He also notes that while he originally took over the school to honor his friendship with Xavier, he has come to genuinely care for the New Mutants. 


Roberto marvels that the adult Sam has learned to quiet his blasting to the point where he can fly almost silently; we'll eventually see "our" Sam work on controlling his blast field in similar ways.


At one point, Karma worries about her still-missing siblings.


I Love the 80s
When Stevie runs into Magneto, she has a bit of dialogue so expository it'd make you think this is her first time at the mansion since Xavier left (it's not).


In the future, the Sentinels speak to the public via the "videonet".

In the ruins of New York, the New Mutants walk past Marvel's offices.


Human/Mutant Relations
In a less-specific origin than "Days of Future Past", Adult Sam tells the New Mutants that his world came to be as everyone started to blame mutants for everything: war, famine, poverty, etc. After the Sentinels were ordered to hunt down all mutants, they turned on their masters and took control for themselves (as the robots always do...)


Teebore's Take
The Magus storyline continues with more time travel hijinks: the conceit of this issue and the next is that the team gets split up, with each half ending up in a different alternate future and interacting with the older versions of the teammates that ended up in the other timeline. The setting of next issue has enough of a twist to carry that story, but the setting of this one is little more than bog-standard dystopic futuristic timeline stuff. We're not quite yet at the point of diminishing returns when it comes to "Days of Future Past" homages, but we're pretty dang close (once, a Sentinel flayed the flesh from Wolverine's bones; now, a Sentinel gets outsmarted by Wolfsbane), and the future on display here is so derivative of that story (right down to the iconic "terminated" wanted poster) it may as well be set in the "Days" timeline.

Fortunately, it's not, which at least helps prevent the watering down of that story. The setting here makes for a decent enough one-off, but it's hard to get too invested in the adult and jaded Sam and Dani, nor share Roberto's outrage that his older teammates are doing the smart thing and getting the hell out of Dodge in the face of overwhelming odds. This isn't a bad story, but rather, a lifeless one (and the lack of Baker on inks doesn't help in that regard), and coming on the heels of the seemingly-unstoppable threat of the Magus and the grimness of the Marauder attack, another dystopic future where mutants are hunted down and killed, with little to help it stand out from similar settings, simply comes up lacking.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor makes its final contribution to "Mutant Massacre" in X-Factor #12, and next week, we look at the ancillary "Massacre" tie-ins, first Power Pack #27 and Daredevil #238, then Thor #373-374.

6 comments:

  1. I take it this issue is the source for the 'Magneto does the New Mutants' laundry' comment.

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  2. A Native American valkyrie in a leather/metal bikini with a machine gun on a winged horse facing a giant robot. If Roy Harryhausen, Michael Bay, and Robert Rodriguez had a baby...

    That splash is a rather pitiful echo of the cover to X-Men #141.

    You're right too that the art, without Baker, is lackluster (to be kind) — which is strange given that Russell was already quite an accomplished artist in his own right at this point.

    I found it really weird, starting with last issue, that the New Mutants are shunted into a whole other storyline given what's going on in X-Men (and threading through other titles). The only good reason I can think of for Claremont to launch a fairly major — if brief and remarkably contained compared to what came after — event like "Mutant Massacre" in his and his friends' own little corner of the Marvel line and then take one of the two titles he's writing out of it is that unlike the X-Men proper he wanted to stick with the current New Mutants lineup and not have the kids suffer any casualties.

    For some reason watching Magneto clean up the kids' rooms and have Stevie drop by got me wondering whatever happened to Lee Forrester. Did they part ways on-panel circa his World Court trial and it's just not coming to mind?

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  3. @angmc43: I take it this issue is the source for the 'Magneto does the New Mutants' laundry' comment.

    I believe so, though that's a bit of an oversimplification. He's not so much doing their laundry as marveling at their relative lack of cleanliness (or Dani's at least) while wandering through their rooms, and as much as his robots are following around behind him (presumably cleaning), it reads more like someone who is trying to connect to a missing person(s) via that person's things than it does him cleaning up after the New Mutants in their absence.

    @Blam: The only good reason I can think of for Claremont to launch a fairly major ... event like "Mutant Massacre" in his and his friends' own little corner of the Marvel line and then take one of the two titles he's writing out of it is that unlike the X-Men proper he wanted to stick with the current New Mutants lineup and not have the kids suffer any casualties.

    I think that's part of it - and as a corollary to that, he may have been concerned about inflicting too much damage onto a lineup of teenagers and/or that putting them into the massacre and NOT inflicting damage would tarnish the aura of the Marauders as capable killers to be feared (though such concerns didn't seem to bother Simonson vis a vis Power Pack).

    But I also think he just wanted the deck cleared for the X-Men, and to not have to worry about showing the New Mutants' reactions to all of that while it was in process.

    Or, to put it another way: in the wake of "Mutant Massacre", Claremont scatters the X-Men, ostensibly in the name of protecting the Morlock survivors and hunting down the Marauders, and it would be that much harder for the X-Men to abandon the mansion if the New Mutants were still hanging around (either the X-Men would look stupid for leaving the New Mutants unprotected, or they'd have to come along). Better then to write them out for awhile, in a manner that allows the X-Men (however stupidly or callously) to believe they're dead, the better to do the kinds of things they couldn't do if the New Mutants were still hanging around.

    Or something like that...

    ...whatever happened to Lee Forrester. Did they part ways on-panel circa his World Court trial and it's just not coming to mind?

    I feel like they did part ways, on panel, but I can't for the life of me think of when it would be.

    Lee was with Magneto in issue #196, then behind-the-scenes (but still with him) in issue #199. Then her next appearance is in Marvel Fanfare #33 which, as I recall from paging through it, involves the X-Men vacationing on Magneto's old island base (with Magneto) and fighting some Lovecraftian creatures or something (nothing terribly important, which, along with my difficulties in finding it digitally, is why we didn't cover it). Maybe that's where it happened. I'll have to flip through it again.

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  4. "I feel like they did part ways, on panel ..."

    They didn't.

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  5. Ray Harryhausen. Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray. Sorry.

    I recall Lee being with Magneto when they had their lunch date at the deli with the X-Men in #196, largely because I remember mentioning how awkward that must have been — not only is Magneto there, but he's with Cyclops' ex-girlfriend — but I really couldn't bring to mind a farewell for her or even an ex post facto explanation of a farewell. I did figure we might've had one in #199 or #200, but I guess not.

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