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Thursday, April 10, 2014

X-amining New Mutants #63

"Redemption"
May 1988

In a Nutshell
An untold tale of Magik (sort of). 

Plot: Chris Claremont
Script: Louise Simonson
Artists: Bo Hampton & Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Nel Yomtov
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At the X-Mansion, Illyana tells Kitty how she acquired the spacesuit hanging in her closet. When Warlock first landed on Earth and infected Illyana with the Transmode virus, she and Lockheed teleported to Limbo. Once there, she cast a spell to cure herself of the virus, but passed out when she tried to return home. Waking up back at the mansion, she was confronted by the X-Men all of whom, including Kitty and Colossus, didn't recognize her. Sneaking around with Lockheed, she discovered she was on a spaceship, with the group's "Professor X" a Brood who had created clones of the X-Men to use as host bodies. Donning the spacesuit and weaponry of one of the ship's deceased crewmen, Illyana revealed the truth to the X-Men clones, and together they defeated the Brood. Illyana then teleported the clones to Limbo, curing them of their Brood infection, then sent them back to the spaceship to guard its cryogenically frozen passengers. As her story ends, Illyana wakes up, the conversation with Kitty having been a dream. Taking it as a sign, she realizes that while her magic can't bring back the X-Men, she can use it to kill the monster responsible for their death: Forge. 
 
Firsts and Other Notables
In New Mutants #21, after Warlock crashed to Earth during the New Mutants' slumber party, at one point Illyana teleported away. After Warlock had been calmed down and peace made, she then reappeared, wearing a space suit and carrying a gun. This issue, then, tells the tale of what she experienced while away from the mansion at that time. Sort of. 


Chris Claremont gets a plotting credit in this issue, his first credit on the title since leaving after issue #54. However, presumably because Claremont's original plot involved a framing device of Illyana telling this story to Kitty, Simonson is forced to add an additional framing device, since Kitty and Illyana are no longer living in the mansion together. So this issue is instead Illyana dreaming about telling Kitty about her adventure, with the bulk of the issue then the story which Dream Illyana is telling Dream Kitty. Inception, eat your heart out.

As a result, it's unclear if what we're reading here is what really happened (for what that's worth) to Illyana during the events of issue #21, or just a fabrication of Illyana's subconscious, and so for the second month in a row (after Uncanny X-Men #228), we get a fill-in story featuring a dubious and overly complicated framing device. 

Art comes from Bo Hampton and Josef Rubinstein. I'm not terribly familiar with the former's work, but the art in this issue does bear some resemblance to Rubinstein's work inking Dave Cockrum.

Great cover, though I'm not sure why the clearly-brunette Kitty is featured and not Illyana.

The issue ends with Illyana waking from her dream an deciding that Forge is responsible for the deaths of the X-Men; this will be followed up on in issue #65-66.


A Work in Progress
In the course of her adventure, Illyana wishes Doug was there to help translate - perhaps an attempt by Simonson to remind readers how useful Doug was?


I Love the 80s
The slumber party from New Mutants #21 is referred to as a "spend-the-night" party. Is that, like, a term people use? I've always heard such things called "slumber parties" or "sleepovers", but maybe those are regionalisms/contemporary terms?


Teebore's Take
This is just an odd issue. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with going back and telling the story of how Illyana ended up in a spacesuit wielding a ray gun in issue #21. As fill-in stories go, filling in an untold tale certainly adds to the narrative more than a re-appropriated inventory story like X-Men #228. But then there's the curious decision of making the story we're reading a recounting of the tale, and the recounting of that tale a dream of Illyana's, leading us to question whether what we're reading is what actually happened to Illyana, or just a creation of this dream.

Obviously, the "tell Kitty the tale" part of the story was envisioned before Kitty and the New Mutants were split apart, but the whole dream element just seems to be adding an unnecessary complication to an otherwise straighforward story (if nothing else, I'd think it'd be easier to rework the framing sequence so that Illyana could be telling this tale to Kitty over the phone or something. Or just have it be set in the past). Toss in some uninspiring art and the fact that this is the second consecutive New Mutants fill-in (and the third such issue in two months if you're also reading Uncanny), and it's hard to get too excited about this, even if the intention is good enough.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor battles their new headquarters in X-Factor #28. Next week, the X-Men play Santa in Uncanny X-Men #230 and Warlock plays Weekend at Bernies in New Mutants #64.

11 comments:

  1. I dunno, does every little thing need to be explained? Couldn't Illyana returning with a gun and a spacesuit just be a silly visual gag that didn't need to be delved into? Or am I just getting crotechety(er)?

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  2. @Matt: I dunno, does every little thing need to be explained?

    No, not really. Had Illyana's spacesuit and off-panel adventure in issue #21 never been explained, it would have been no big deal, and it certainly doesn't warrant an entire issue to be told.

    But if you're going to run a fill-in anyway, I'd rather it be something like this, which at least (sort of) adds to the narrative, rather than just some random inventory story created months or years earlier that brings nothing to the table.

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  3. If they weren't going to have the framing device be Illyana talking to Kitty over the phone, they could have just had Illyana remembering herself telling Kitty the story (maybe she's boxing up some of Kitty's things to send to Muir Island and gets all nostalgic and whatnot?). Yes, it's ridiculous - how often do you reminisce about the time you were telling a friend or family member about a past exploit?

    On whole, it's not as horrible as fill-ins go as it is pointless. But at least it does set up Illyana's future conflict with Forge, so it at least has that going for it as well.

    Of course, if Illyana missed Kitty that much, it wouldn't be all that hard for her to visit Muir Island, no? For that matter, do Kitty and Illyana ever meet in person again before Inferno?

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  4. @wwk5d: Of course, if Illyana missed Kitty that much, it wouldn't be all that hard for her to visit Muir Island, no? For that matter, do Kitty and Illyana ever meet in person again before Inferno?

    Yeah, when you're a teleporter, there really is no reason to suffer through a long distance relationship. I mean, they could hang out together every night if they wanted to.

    As for the two meeting again pre-Inferno, I don't believe they do. Which is kinda crazy.

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  5. I'd think it'd be easier to rework the framing sequence so that Illyana could be telling this tale to Kitty over the phone or something.

    Or have Illyana write it in a letter to Kitty... (Always a comic book favorite.)

    Or have Kitty visit the U.S. to pick up some things before her permanent move overseas...

    Or have Illyana teleport overseas to hang out with Kitty... (Wouldn't everyone do this if their best friend lived some distance away and they had the power to teleport through space and time?)

    I dunno, does every little thing need to be explained?

    No, they don't. But Claremont seemed to insist on wringing all the fun out of little moment like this by giving them ridiculous backstories.

    Of all the criticism Claremont gets for dropped subplots and writing tics, the only thing from him that I ever truly hated (or even disliked) was his insistence that everything -- everything! -- have a complicated backstory. So, of COURSE the spacesuit and ray gun got a backstory.

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  6. I'd never heard "spend-the-night party" before this either.

    The opening captions are the most interesting (and relevant to the series) thing I've read in this title forever — Illyana noting how she'd "grown up in another dimension" and that "it takes time to learn... human things, like history and algebra." So it's a shame that we probably won't return to such perspectives much if ever as the New Mutants attempt to grow into the "A-team" (as Illyana calls it, one presumes more in the sense of 'primary' than 'soldiers of fortune led by George Peppard') role in the X-Men's absence. Of course after those captions the narration is mostly dubious, expository wordsmithery.

    // there's the curious decision of making the story we're reading a recounting of the tale //

    Yeah. Maybe if Claremont were still (or back, as I gather he was going to be) in the writer's chair we'd have got a terse opening like "Interlude. Elsewhen." and jumped right into the flashback, with Illyana waking up in the present day in the last panel connecting her dream/memory to current events. Not that I really get how the Brood connects with whatever she thinks Forge did.

    All the comments about Illyana being able to visit Kitty in an eyeblink are valid, and it's crazy to hear that they don't get together during this time — to lean on each other in the wake of the X-Men's, and especially Peter's, apparent deaths, never mind that just in general they're, like, best friends.

    The comments on this being an unnecessarily revealed heretofore-untold story are spot on, too. Nothing in the issue is as sharp as the single, non-sequitur panel of Illyana showing up in the spacesuit back in #21.

    Although I do kind-of love the idea of Ann Nocenti walking into Al Milgrom's office and saying, "You know that random inventory story with the great Bo Hampton cover you were gonna run in the next Fanfare? We need it for the actual book."

    One of the objects strewn about Illyana's room is a Spirit comic, by Kitty's feet in Pg.1 Pn. 2.

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  7. "I dunno, does every little thing need to be explained? Couldn't Illyana returning with a gun and a spacesuit just be a silly visual gag that didn't need to be delved into? Or am I just getting crotechety(er)?"

    You're not crotchety. Even when I was younger, this struck me as an issue-long explanation of a joke that didn't need one. Add to it the plot holes such as a teleporter bemoaning a long-distance friendship and a vendetta that I don't recall going anywhere, and this issue is actually more inexplicable to me as a fill-in than the OZ Chase one.

    And as a former teenage girl & slumber party participant, I can second the fact they've never been called "stay-the-night parties". No idea where that one came from.

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  8. Bo Hampton (whose brother is another comic book artist, Scott Hampton) doesn't have a ton of credits to his name, but drew some Batman Animated comics in the Bruce Timm style and painted some in the '80s Jon J. Muth style. I think he did some issues of Legends of the Dark Knight with his brother. His art looks good whenever I see it. I have an obscure monster fairy tale comic he painted called Verdilak that is a bit muddled storywise (the writer is a guy I never heard of) but gorgeous. Definitely a talented guy.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  9. Despite my Claremont fanboyism, I've never bothered to pick this issue up. My dislike for Simonson's dialogue trumped my affection for Claremont's stories.

    Doesn't sound as if I missed much. I don't have any principled stand against the idea of using the gag in New Mutants 21 as a jumping off point for a light, fun space-opera type adventure. I think having it happen three years later is enough distance where you still preserve the integrity of the original sight gag.

    But it sounds like "fun space-opera" isn't really what got delivered. The proceedings sound pretty bland. (Much like the later Claremont NM issue, #81, which I HAVE read and which don't really care for.)

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  10. I could be wrong, but I think Kitty and Illyana have a last meeting. Illyana tells Kitty her plan to kill Forge, to which Kitty unsuccessfully tries to change her mind.

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  11. Completely non-essential, but dang if I didn't love that cover.

    - mortsleaM

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