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Thursday, March 20, 2014

X-amining New Mutants #61

"Our Way!"
March 1988

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants deal with Doug's death. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Bret Blevins
Inker: Terry Austin 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bill Wray
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
On the Animates' island, Rahne is hysterical over the death of Doug as Illyana teleports the remaining Right soldiers to Limbo. When she returns to the island, the New Mutants say goodbye to Bird-Brain and the Animates, then teleport home with Doug's body. Meanwhile, Magneto arrives at the Hellfire Club amidst the devastation caused by Apocalypse and his Horsemen, and learns of the X-Men's battle in Dallas. Back at the mansion, the New Mutants all react to Doug's death in their own way before calling Magneto at the Hellfire Club. As they wait for him to return, they watch the footage of the X-Men seemingly dying in Dallas. Just then, Magneto arrives and learns of Doug's death. His sadness quickly gives way to anger, as he suspends the New Mutants in midair, asking if that's the only way he can keep them safe.


He forbids them from leaving the school or using their powers without his permission. The New Mutants break free, and when Magneto refuses to go to the aid of the X-Men, Illyana teleports to Dallas herself. She returns moments later, unable to enter the city but able to confirm that the X-Men are dead. She angrily attacks Magneto as her teammates plead with her to return her Soul Sword to Limbo. They prevail, and Illyana, in tears, teleports to the attic. As Magneto tends to Doug's body, the New Mutants gather in the attic. Creating new costumes, they rededicate themselves to Xavier's principles. With the X-Men dead, they declare that they're all that's left to fight evil mutants and humans alike, all that's left to save the world.   

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue ends with the New Mutants declaring their intent to continue the X-Men's work in the wake of Doug and the X-Men's deaths and Magneto's efforts to exert more control over them. To that end, they abandon their school uniforms and don a new set of individual Blevins-designed costumes. They are more uniformed and less elaborate than the earlier Art Adams-designed graduation uniforms, but as with the Adams costumes, Illyana's remains the best. These are the costumes they will wear until shortly after Rob Liefeld and Cable come aboard the series. 


This is thankfully the last we'll see of Bird-Brain, as he elects to say on the island with the other Animates after a handwaving explanation is given for why they can't join the New Mutants back at the mansion.


Taking advantage of Illyana's increased use of the Soul Sword recently, S'ym has gained a further foothold in Limbo, which will become a more pressing matter in the run-up to "Inferno". Illyana also sends the remaining Right troops there; they'll popup occasionally in future Limbo stories.


We also get our first look at Blevins version of Illyana's Darkchilde manifestation (which will also become more prominent and demonic leading up to "Inferno"). The thong is even creepier now that Illyana is consistently drawn like a thirteen year old.


When Magneto visits the Hellfire Club, both Leland and Von Roehme are erroneously on hand, despite having died in Uncanny X-Men #208 and #209. Magneto also erroneously refers to himself as the White Bishop (he's the White King).


Given the contents of both last issue and this one, everyone is way too happy on the cover. 

A Work in Progress
I have no idea what Illyana is doing on the opening page.


Roberto is back, which means it's time to be reminded that he's not invulnerable!

Brightwind, who was with the New Mutants in issue #58, was sent away by Dani in #59 and didn't appear in #60, is back on the Animates island this issue.

Sam tells the Animates that Doug always believed in their humanity, even when the other didn't. Except in issue #57, which he spent steadfastly refusing to try and talk to Bird-Brain because he thought he was just a dumb animal.

As Magneto flies into New York, he sees the damage caused by X-Factor's battle with Apocalypse in X-Factor #25.


Later, he reacts to X-Factor's outing of themselves as mutants. 


The New Mutants look at a series of pictures of the X-Men through the ages. The picture of the present day X-Men must have been taken circa X-Men Annual #11, before Storm left to find Forge and the X-Men relocated to San Fransisco.


In the wake of Doug's death, Sam and Rahne grow closer and agree to look after one another like siblings, which will make it all the more awkward when Rahne develops a crush on Sam in a few issues.


Dani angrily admits that she should have known better than to sneak out and not tell Magneto where the New Mutants had gone.


Magneto gets a great moment, upon learning of Doug's death, saying he now has to call Doug's parents (who don't know their son was a mutant nor the truth about Xavier's school) and explain how he allowed their son to die.


Illyana, upon seeing the footage of the X-Men in Dallas, attempts to teleport there to help her brother, but is unable to enter the city due to magical barriers in place around it.


Human/Mutant Relations
Magneto reacts about as well as you'd expect to the news of the Mutant Registration Act.


Teebore's Take
As with the other "Fall of the Mutants" issues published this month, this issue sets up a new status quo for the New Mutants, as in the wake of Doug's death, as well as the perceived deaths of the X-Men, they rededicate themselves to Xavier's teachings, don new costumes, and decide to fill the gap left by the X-Men. And, has been the case with the rest of this crossover, once again, its the New Mutants' portion that comes up short, as this new status quo never really materializes as anything more than new costumes and more arguments with an increasingly erratic and out-of-character Magneto before the team ends up hanging around with X-Factor and then Cable, remaining firmly in the "still students" mold until they become X-Force. 

But all that aside, this issue does do an effective job of dealing with Doug's death. As needless and maddening as his death was, Simonson at least gives it the attention it deserves, more or less dedicating this issue and issue #64 to exploring the ramifications of it. Here, each character (except Warlock, whose chance is coming) is given a chance to react in their own way to the death, and for the most part, they react in a genuine and true-to-character manner (Rahne is devastated, Sam and Dani blame themselves, Roberto makes it all about him). Blevins work continues to be exaggerated and cartoony but his knack for body language and facial expressions comes in handy in this issue. The image of Magneto collapsing over Doug's body is particularly effective: you can almost see him shuddering as he strains to control his sorrow and rage.

So while the new status quo established in this issue ultimately fizzles, Simonson at least accomplishes the far more important task of giving Doug the sendoff he deserves. It's a shame that she decided to kill him off, but at least his death is getting its proper due, and isn't just being swept under the rug in favor of the next big storyline.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor wraps up its "Fall of the Mutants" storyline in X-Factor #26. Next week, we hit the tie-ins: Captain America #339 & Daredevil #252, followed by Power Pack #35 & Fantastic Four #312.

24 comments:

  1. I'm sure I'll be in the minority here, at least in how I perceive the scene, but I like the depiction of Magneto's confrontation with the New Mutants in this issue. It is, to me, the real, tyrannical Magneto flickering through the civilized facade he has tried to craft for himself, and the first step toward his return to villainy.

    I'm less a fan of the new costumes, though. Wolfsbane's looks too superhero-y, Sunspot's open chest is silly, and Warlock's entire get-up is kinda dumb. Cannonball's look is okay, though the buccaneer boots seem a bit odd for a guy who you would think might want a sleek outift (though the bulky purple Liefeld jacket down the road is a look I like, even though it also seems counter-intuitive). I agree that Magik's costume is pretty good, but I like Dani's the best.

    "The thong is even creepier now that Illyana is consistently drawn like a thirteen year old."

    Maybe it's because I've looked at too much anime and/or manga over the years, but I don't see a thirteen year-old there. I just see a girl of indeterminate age with a big head.

    "When Magneto visits the Hellfire Club, both Leland and Von Roehme are erroneously on hand, despite having died in Uncanny X-Men #208 and #209."

    Wow, Blevins really wasn't doing his homework! Those issues were well over a year ago at this point!

    "Later, he reacts to X-Factor's outing of themselves as mutants."

    "X-Factor. I recognized them long ago, of course."

    We know he's telling the truth, but the know-it-all/defensive way that line is written has me imagining Shaw is thinking, "Suuure you did."

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  2. @Matt: I'm sure I'll be in the minority here, at least in how I perceive the scene, but I like the depiction of Magneto's confrontation with the New Mutants in this issue.

    I actually do like that scene, though not because I think it's a glimpse of the real tyrannical Magneto (who isn't the real Magneto to me anyway), but because it just seems like a genuine, in-character response for him. What parent, in the heat of anger and sorrow, wouldn't want to just strap down their kids rather than let them out into a world that can harm them? Magneto just happens to have the power to do so.

    Reformed Magneto doesn't have to be *nice* Magneto, and while Magneto locking the kids up for days on end would seem out of character at this point, reacting like that in the heat of the moment? I buy it.

    Sunspot's open chest is silly, and Warlock's entire get-up is kinda dumb

    The open chest is made sillier by how beanstalk-y Blevins draws everyone. At least when Adams did, his Roberto was a little bulkier. And I don't think Warlock sticks with that look much at all, at least not anymore than he sticks with any look for very long.

    Agreed on Cannonball's Liefeld jacket too - I've always had a soft spot for that look.

    I just see a girl of indeterminate age with a big head.

    "Thirteen" is perhaps too specific an age. I just know that she, like all the other New Mutants, look younger under Blevins than they did under previous artists. And it wasn't like Illyana's physical portrayal wasn't already a little creepy before, even when she looked older but was still ostensibly a teenager.

    Wow, Blevins really wasn't doing his homework!

    And/or Nocenti really dropped the ball. She even edited those Uncanny issues!

    the know-it-all/defensive way that line is written has me imagining Shaw is thinking, "Suuure you did."

    There is definitely some Shaw eye-rolling going on in that scene. :)


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  3. It has forever bugged me that the cover of this issue makes it looks like the New Mutants just won the Superbowl. Why are they so happy???

    That aside, I do think that the aftermath of Doug's death-- in particular the way it, along with the X-Men's "death", begins to push Illyana over the edge-- is one of the few things about Louise Simonson's run that works well. (It helps that Blevins draws a great angry Magik.)

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  4. As a father who once had to watch his young daughter Anya die before his own eyes, making Magneto make that phone call is especially harsh on the writer's part. Bad Louise!

    But for Nocenti, she was possibly thinking that Leland had once again inexcsicably evaded a blatant on-panel death. Von Roehm is a lycanthrope and wasn't killed by a silver bullet. And possibly a Sinister clone.

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  5. I'm with Teebore regarding Magento's reaction. I don't see the "real, tyrannical" Magneto flickering here, I see a realistic reaction of a parent figure whose "kids" constantly defy him by sneaking out without his permission, and now one of them is dead due to that irresponsibility. I mean, verbally grounding them every time they were caught sneaking out wasn't working...

    Illyana's costume is the best, but I also really liked Dani's. Warlock's is somewhat similar to the idea Adams used. But the other 3...meh.

    "This is thankfully the last we'll see of Bird-Brain"

    Sad, I know. Though the giant squid/octopus waving goodbye on the cover is (unintentionally?) hilarious.

    "We also get our first look at Blevins version of Illyana's Darkchilde manifestation (which will also become more prominent and demonic leading up to "Inferno"). The thong is even creepier now that Illyana is consistently drawn like a thirteen year old."

    I will admit, while this is creepy, his later depictions of her are much better. But yeah, a 13 year old in a thong and giant head? Yikes.

    "When Magneto visits the Hellfire Club, both Leland and Von Roehme are erroneously on hand, despite having died in Uncanny X-Men #208 and #209."

    At least Von Roehme is wearing his I Love Selene bondage outfit. But what's up with Leland rocking a 6-pack? And from the text in those panels...who exactly where the HC fighting, exactly? And how do they even know about Apocalypse, anyway?

    "which will make it all the more awkward when Rahne develops a crush on Sam in a few issues."

    Well, Sam is from Kentucky, no?

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  6. "Magneto gets a great moment, upon learning of Doug's death, saying he now has to call Doug's parents (who don't know their son was a mutant nor the truth about Xavier's school) and explain how he allowed their son to die."

    It's a good moment, but given the (shocking) lack of exclamation points from Weezie and the over-emoting, facially, from Blevins, the scene does feel off. The scene you posted on Magento with Dougs body is much, much better.

    "Rahne is devastated, Sam and Dani blame themselves, Roberto makes it all about him"

    For once, these actually feel like the characters CC gave us, instead of the brats we've gotten over the last few months. I could actually see CC's Dani be arrogant enough not to ask Magneto to help, thinking they could handle it themselves, and feeling guilt over it later, for example.

    "Agreed on Cannonball's Liefeld jacket too - I've always had a soft spot for that look."

    I actually think the best contribution from Liefeld was the aviation goggles.

    "X-Factor. I recognized them long ago, of course."

    Well, now that I think about it...isn't it a plot hole contrivance that Magneto was able to recognize Scott and co. while they were X-factor operatives...but nobody, him or anyone else, recognized them while they were operating as the X-terminators? I mean, a team featuring among others, a guy with ice powers, a blond guy with giant white wings, a guy shooting a red force beam from his eyes, etc? And nobody wondered how the Scott and co. were operating as both teams?

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  7. Sam/Rahne... with Kurt/Amanda and Andrea/Andreas, shouldn't we be quite okay with sister-girlfriends by now?

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  8. Illyana: 'cause if we don't save the world. Who will?

    I dunno...the Avengers, Fantastic Four, the Defenders, Spider-Man...

    Also, words can't express the humor I find in seeing your description "The New Mutants deal with Doug's death." and then looking to the right and seeing Illyana raising her arms in unrestrained joy.

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  9. @Ben: It has forever bugged me that the cover of this issue makes it looks like the New Mutants just won the Superbowl.

    The disconnect between the cover and the contents inside is seriously hilarious.

    It helps that Blevins draws a great angry Magik.

    Creep factor aside, he really does.

    @wwk5d: And from the text in those panels...who exactly where the HC fighting, exactly? And how do they even know about Apocalypse, anyway?

    I could buy that the Hellfire Club would be aware of Apocalypse on some level (from his dealings with the Alliance of Evil, if nothing else; I imagine that sort of thing probably registered on super-villain radar or whatever), but yeah, I have no idea who they were fighting, unless there's a lost "Hellfire Club vs. the Horsemen" issue out there somewhere (in which case, I want to see it, stat!).

    Well, Sam is from Kentucky, no?

    I am both impressed and saddened that it took us that long to make that joke...

    I actually think the best contribution from Liefeld was the aviation goggles.

    I like those as well.

    isn't it a plot hole contrivance that Magneto was able to recognize Scott and co. while they were X-factor operatives...but nobody, him or anyone else, recognized them while they were operating as the X-terminators?

    This gets us back to the whole discussion we had circa X-Men #210 and what Magneto told the X-Men about X-Factor and how aware of of X-Factor everyone was. It's possible that Magneto just never saw or heard much about the X-Terminators (really, there was just that one public "battle" between them and X-Factor in X-Factor #7, and then the business with the Right in San Fransisco in issue #17), and thus, never had the occasion to make the connection.

    Then again, when it comes to the X-Factor/X-Terminator thing and the notion of X-Factor and X-Men arbitrarily being kept apart, it's best not to think about it too much...

    @Teemu: Sam/Rahne... with Kurt/Amanda and Andrea/Andreas, shouldn't we be quite okay with sister-girlfriends by now?

    Good point. Compared to those couples, Sam & Rahne are nothing!

    @Dr. Bitz: I dunno...the Avengers, Fantastic Four, the Defenders, Spider-Man...

    Hey now...the Defenders couldn't save the world.

    Just kidding, Defenders fans!

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  10. Didn't the Defenders have Silver Surfer in their ranks at one point...? Though, didn't many of the active team die well before this era putting end to that team, or am I confusing them with the Champions (some of whom are preparing for a parade in NY and are not available at this moment)?

    So, did all the other X-teams (New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur) effectively step in independently and explicitly to replace the X-Men before their alleged dead bodies weren't yet even cold? This puts that whole Scott's Inferno-era comment about showing these impostors who are the originals in very bad light indeed.

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  11. Once again, we look to X-Men Annual 10. Here we find Sam wearing a purple jacket & boots outfit. It's true that Liefeld's best contribution was the aviator glasses, seeing as it was just about the only contribution.

    I'm completely on Magneto's side here. I've never read this issue, but as a parent I get where he's coming from. Grounding the New Mutants is absolutely understandable. After doug's death, I don't know how they could have gone forward and had a relationship that was workable.

    Flash forward to Uncanny X-Men 375. In the midst of his return to villainy, Magneto says he tried Xavier's way and couldn't make it work. Looking at NM 61, the confession becomes tragically poignant.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  12. "Roberto makes it all [Doug's death] about him". It sounds just like Scott Summers, doesn't it? LOL!

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  13. I really like the idea that Claremont introduces in X-Men #2 that overuse of Magneto's powers screws up his brain chemistry and makes him go crazy. It seems like a pretty good compromise for "Villain Magneto" fans and "Anti-hero Magneto" fans.

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  14. Actually he'd already introduced that idea a couple years earlier, in Classic X-Men #19.

    I agree that it is a great idea. Everyone who hasn't should read that back up in Classic 19. It's the best Magneto story ever, for my money.

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  15. Teebore -- "I actually do like that scene, though not because I think it's a glimpse of the real tyrannical Magneto (who isn't the real Magneto to me anyway)..."

    wwk5d -- "I'm with Teebore regarding Magento's reaction. I don't see the "real, tyrannical" Magneto flickering here..."

    Yeah, like I said, I figured I'd be in the minority as far as my reading of the scene. I just like the perpetually angry, haughty and superior, and, most importantly, irrational Magneto. Completely randomly, I recently re-read the pre-"Magneto War" issue where he bullies that construction worker into hating him, just to prove a point. That's Magneto, to me.

    Though I will say that, per Jeff's remark, I have no issue with Claremont's explanation that it's his powers that make him that way.

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  16. I'm in the camp that thinks the new costumes are overall a "fail." I've been cheerleading Blevins a lot on these blogs lately, but I definitely can't get behind these designs. I agree that Magik and Dani's are the best.

    I think my very, very first exposure to the New Mutants was in "Inferno," which of course didn't have Magik in this costume anymore, and I remember thinking the whole team seemed lame, in large part because of the costumes they were wearing. Even though now with more context I can see that Dani's is kinda neat, in "Inferno" that was lost in the general wash of ugly. (It didn't help that at that point they were bolstered by Boom Boom and Rictor, whose get-ups were also laughably bad.)

    Also, will toss in my agreement with the general thrust of the comments, that Magneto's reaction to events here is good, and that the inclusion of Leland and Von Rohme is the Hellfire scenes is a ridiculously egregious mistake.

    (Question: Are those two characters ever identified by name in this issue? The No-Prize explanation could be that it's a pair of "dead ringers," to use a Claremont-ism.)

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  17. @Matt I recently re-read the pre-"Magneto War" issue where he bullies that construction worker into hating him, just to prove a point. That's Magneto, to me.

    I love that issue and think it's easily one of the best ones from the late 90s X-Men, but what's funny is Magneto seemed more like the conflicted Magneto in that to me. Maybe that's just because Scott Lobdell wrote him like a genocidal lunatic for most of the 90s. He would have straight up murdered that construction worker without even talking to him around "Fatal Attractions." And even though he pushes the guy get to his desired reaction, he's way more civil than Silver Age Magneto. If I remember correctly, he's pretty benevolent once he starts running Genosha, too. Until Lobdell comes back and he goes nuts again in "Eve of Destruction." Groan

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  18. Silver age Magneto for me equals one-dimensional mustache twirling lunatic which equals *yawn*.

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  19. The Joe Kelly/ Alan Davis "Magneto bullies a construction worker" comic is the best of its era. I'm a big Alan Davis fan, and was disappointed by most of his late-'90s run. It wasn't all his fault; editorial was leaning heavily on the books and the scripters he had to work with did him no favors (Terry freakin' Kavanaugh!). Still, his first issue stands as one of my favorite Magneto stories.

    Giving Magneto Genosha was a great idea, but Marvel squandered it. It's funny that this happened around the time Lex Luthor was elected president of DC's USA, and proceeded to do nothing interesting.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  20. I think Rahne's the only person on the cover who realized that they were still supposed to be sad after returning to the Animates' island in their new costumes for the photo shoot.

    My take on the tentacled creature, by the way, given those melancholy bashful eyes: Snuffloctopus!

    Lots of stuff about that Inner Circle scene feels off, but I agree that Magneto's reaction to the death of Doug and the New Mutant's irresponsibility is emotionally on target.

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  21. @Teemu: Didn't the Defenders have Silver Surfer in their ranks at one point...? Though, didn't many of the active team die well before this era putting end to that team, or am I confusing them with the Champions

    Yeah, Silver Surfer was one of the "big four" Defenders members back in the day, and yes, the latest iteration of the team (the New Defenders) broke up just before X-Factor launched, when most of the team members except Beast, Iceman and Angel died.

    You're probably confusing it with the Champions because Angel and Iceman were on that team, and because the Champions were to the Defenders what the Defenders are to the Avengers. :)

    So, did all the other X-teams (New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur) effectively step in independently and explicitly to replace the X-Men before their alleged dead bodies weren't yet even cold?

    Pretty much, yeah, though X-Factor never explicitly says they're stepping in for the X-Men (since the X-Men were never public heroes anyway). In their case, it's a more symbolic stepping in than the other two.

    @Mike: I'm completely on Magneto's side here.

    Me too. He had every right and reason to ground them when they snuck out with Bird Brain, then they did it again and one of them died.

    @Jeff: I really like the idea that Claremont introduces in X-Men #2 that overuse of Magneto's powers screws up his brain chemistry and makes him go crazy. It seems like a pretty good compromise for "Villain Magneto" fans and "Anti-hero Magneto" fans.

    Me too - some of them can be a bit fan wanky at times, but in general I really like little things like that which try to apply an in-universe explanation to something caused by the fact that these stories are being told by hundreds of different creators over the course of decades, so there's bound to be inconsistencies and just outright different portrayals of characters along the way.

    @Matt: Completely randomly, I recently re-read the pre-"Magneto War" issue where he bullies that construction worker into hating him, just to prove a point. That's Magneto, to me.

    I like that one too, and the subsequent status quo of putting him in charge of Genosha. But like Jeff, to me that's more in line with Claremont's conflicted/multidimensional Magneto than Silver Age or Lobdell's Magneto.

    @Jason: Are those two characters ever identified by name in this issue? The No-Prize explanation could be that it's a pair of "dead ringers," to use a Claremont-ism.

    No - and while Von Roehm looks very much like he did in the issue in which he died (complete with the headband and everything), Leland looks very off model. It's generally accepted online that he's accidentally in this issue, but one could easily argue he's not.

    Von Roehme's presence would have to be chalked up to a dead ringer, though.

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  22. @Mike: Giving Magneto Genosha was a great idea, but Marvel squandered it.

    Agreed on both counts.

    @Blam: I think Rahne's the only person on the cover who realized that they were still supposed to be sad after returning to the Animates' island in their new costumes for the photo shoot.

    Right? Everyone else is dementedly high on laughing gas or something.

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  23. Looking through the images from this issue I'm wondering if Tom Orzechowski was the sole letterer. His work is usually done with care, but in this issue it looks like a rush job.

    In addition, some of the lettering, especially the balloon shapes, appear to be that of Richard Starkings. Magneto's balloon in the first panel just screams Starkings to me: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EzoYem02kh4/UysZDoUAGHI/AAAAAAAAUKQ/4FdV-xUnvHo/s1600/plot.jpg

    If this is indeed Starkings' hand then it's very possible that the lettering had to be done on a short deadline and other letterers had to step in and help out. That could also explain some of the messy balloon shapes that I would never expect from Orzechowski in the late 80's.

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  24. This one is all Orz. It may indeed have been a rush job, but there's no other letterers on it.

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