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Thursday, April 17, 2014

X-amining New Mutants #64

"Instant Replay!"
June 1988

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants bury Doug Ramsey. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Bret Blevins
Inker: Terry Austin 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the Danger Room, Rahne replays the events surrounding Doug's death, only this time, she manages to prevent his death. Just then, Roberto interrupts, urging Rahne to get some sleep before Doug's visitation. Upstairs, Illyana watches the footage of the X-Men dying on a loop, while Dani and Warlock watch Night of the Living Dead. The next day, the students, as well as Magneto, attend Doug's visitation, though the site of his body upsets Rahne, and the notion that Doug will be buried away from light and sun forever causes Warlock to freak out. That evening, Warlock sneaks into the funeral room and attempts to wake up Doug. Remembering the time Doug helped revive Warlock by giving him some of his life energy, Warlock tries to the do the same. When Doug doesn't revive, Warlock concludes Doug has forgotten what it feels like to be alive, and determines to show him how much everyone misses him in order to get Doug to take Warlock's life energy.  


Gathering up Doug's body, he flies to Doug's parents, frightening Doug's mother when she sees Doug standing outside her window. Warlock then returns to the school, and Rahne awakens to the sight of Doug. At first relieved that he's alive, she quickly realizes the truth and is horrified. But once Warlock explains what he was trying to do, Rahne realizes it's no different than what she was doing in the Danger Room, refusing to accept Doug's death. Rahne explains to Warlock that Doug's body is just a shell now, that the Doug they loved is safe in heaven. Together, the New Mutants return Doug's body to the funeral parlor, and the next morning, they lay him to rest. That evening, Illyana gathers the New Mutants and shows them the footage of the X-Men dying. Pointing out that it was Forge's sorcery that was responsible for killing her brother, she declares that she's going to make him pay.

Firsts and Other Notables
Doug Ramsey is laid to rest this issue, after a visitation and funeral.

The Brett Blevins corner box premieres this issue, featuring, amongst others, pouty Illyana and Sad Sack Sam.

Only two months after the last one, the Statement of Ownership appears again, listing the average number of copies of each issue sold during the preceding 12 months to 347,712,with the single issue nearest to filing date selling 392,116, though I have no idea to what year those numbers apply, given this is the second statement in nearly as many months...

A Work in Progress
It's established that Magneto has created a cover story for Doug's death, telling his parents that he was accidently shot by a hunter while on a school camping trip, since his parents were aware neither of Doug being a mutant nor the true nature of Xavier's school.


Rahne struggles with her faith in the wake of Doug's death. 


For once, Roberto is not a selfish jerk and actually gives Rahne some good advice.



This issue depicts Doug's parents as being from out of town (they're staying at a hotel), even though it's been well established previously that Doug was a local kid, with his dad even appearing as the school's lawyer once. 

I Love the 80s
Illyana has "taped" all the various news coverage of the X-Men's death.


Warlock adopts a new, be-mulleted human form for Doug's funeral.


Human/Mutant Relations
Magneto says he had to create the cover story regarding Doug's death because he doesn't feel it's safe for mutants to come out in the current political and social climate. 


It's in the Mail
The letter column teases a Starjammers feature in Marvel Comics Presents, though I don't believe that ever came to fruition. 

Teebore's Take
This is probably my favorite single issue of Louise Simonson's New Mutants run. As much as the decision to kill Doug irks, there's no denying that Simonson gives the event its proper due, having the team react immediately after he dies in issue #61, and then continuing to deal with it in this issue, as Doug is finally laid to rest while Rahne and Warlock comes to terms with his passing. How many people, mourning the sudden death of loved one, replay the events in their head, wondering what could have been done differently? Here, in a great use of the book's sci-fi trappings, Rahne is able to do that a bit more literally, as she replays the events surrounding Doug's death again and again, only to save him each and every time. It's a reaction that feels genuine and honest despite the outlandish circumstances, and the admission that she's already found seventeen different ways she could have saved Doug is heartbreaking.

Later, as Warlock, not fully grasping the concept of organic death, attempts to revive Doug, the story becomes more macabre and darkly comic (this issue has been called "Warlock does Weekend at Bernies for a reason), and while there's no denying there's a disconnect between the seriousness of Doug's death and the image of Warlock, a goofy grin plastered on his face as he hold up Doug's body in front of Doug's mother, that disconnect is wholly intentional (the more overtly whacky "get Doug back in his coffin before the funeral director finds him missing!" scene does take the disconnect a bit too far, though): Warlock is reacting to Doug's death like a child would, not understanding why Doug doesn't just take some of Warlock's life energy and wake up, not realizing that what remains of Doug is just a shell, that what made his friend his friend is long gone. Again, it's a genuine, honest reaction to the death of a loved one, even if it's coming from a techno-organic alien being, and the end result is an effective look at grief, one which makes the most of an unfortunate turn of the plot. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Infectia attacks Ship in X-Factor #29. Next week, Colossus reunites with Illyana in Uncanny X-Men #231, followed by Illyana's attack on Forge in New Mutants #65. 

6 comments:

  1. "The Brett Blevins corner box premieres this issue, featuring, amongst others, pouty Illyana and Sad Sack Sam."

    It also has my favorite of them all, bitch-face Dani. Poor dead Doug is also there.

    "For once, Roberto is not a selfish jerk and actually gives Rahne some good advice."

    I will say this for Simonson, when she tones down the histrionics and doesn't have the kids acting like brats all the time, she does some good character work with them.

    Yeah, this is one of the high points of Simonson's run on the title. The character work is probably some of her best, and the characters reactions to the issue are handled rather well (within the confines of the genre, of course, as you point out).

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  2. This issue is definitely one of the high water marks of Simonson's run. It's proof that if she hadn't done the forced de-aging & de-maturing, she could have written this title much better. None of that seems in evidence here, and the character pieces (especially Rahne's Danger Room epiphanies) are so much stronger for it.

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  3. I bet in the Marvel Universe, where Lila Cheney is friends with Steven Tyler, the death of Doug was the subject of Aerosmith's hit "Rahne, He's Got a Gun".

    // the site of his body upsets Rahne //

    It's actually the sight of his body that upsets Rahne, although it is the site of his body that upsets Warlock. 8^)

    Is "visitation" maybe a regional thing? I'm only familiar with the term "viewing" — a brief search finds them to be interchangeable per some sources but not others.

    // Blevins corner box premieres this issue, featuring, amongst others, pouty Illyana and Sad Sack Sam. //

    I assume Corpse Doug's face doesn't stick around. I'm curious about the dark mass at the center, though.

    // The letter column teases a Starjammers feature in Marvel Comics Presents, though I don't believe that ever came to fruition. //

    I wonder if the material intended for that was what ran in the X-Men Spotlight on... Starjammers miniseries.

    // This is probably my favorite single issue of Louise Simonson's New Mutants run. //

    It's a good issue overall, with appropriate reactions to both Doug's and, on Illyanna's part, the X-Men's deaths, particularly if you give in to their younger, less mature characterizations.

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  4. Yeah the emotional reactions are well written, although once again Blevins overacts everything - it sometimes looks as though Rhane's face is about to collapse into a singularity. But the tonal shift from Warlock-whimsy to dark comedy to tragedy doesn't quite work for me, and I was viscerally appalled at the (literal) handling of Doug's dead body as a kid. I guess I just found it in poor taste, not only Warlock's actions but the actions of the writer and artist and publisher for making it. The slapsticky 'Weekend at Bernie's' vibe and the exaggerated Blevins cartooning made it seem to me that they were being... I dunno... sarcastic? Flippant? And the emotional shift at the end simply didn't make up for it. Looking back, I'm surprised I was emotionally involved in a comic, so kudos to Claremont for getting me there.

    Even though Simonson proves in the emotional scenes that she can in fact write these characters well, between Blevins' cartooniness, and the mangled, insensitive handling of the death of one my favorite characters, I was quickly deciding the "new" New Mutants were not for me.

    ... And yet I stuck around for Gosamyr and Inferno and the Asgard 'epic' hoping it would get better. And thus I was primed to accept the coming of Liefeld as the change the book needed. Heh.

    In other news, and to blatantly pimp myself if that's alright, I have a new webcomic up and running. Please check out Effed-Up Comics for tales of self-loathing, awkward social encounters and the funny side of depression! I'm hoping to update every Thursday, time permitting. And yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of my tirade about this issue considering some of the tasteless stuff I get up to in my own comic.

    -- mortsleaM

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  5. This may be a late reply, but do we ever see the Ramsey family again? Details, please, especially considering the publicity of Xavier's mutancy and Doug's recent resurrection.
    Speaking of which, considering how much his death hit him, did Magneto meet his pupil post-resurrection?

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  6. @ angmc43:

    I believe Doug's parents were veeery briefly glimpsed in an Excalibur story (one of the annuals?), where Kitty thought Douglock was really Doug reborn. Seeing that his parents had moved on with their lives, turning his old bedroom into an office or something, helped her come to grips with his death herself.

    As for whether post-Necrosha Doug and Magneto ever interacted... to the best of my knowledge, no, and it always irked me. Considering that Magneto described telling Doug's parents about his death as "the hardest thing [he'd] ever had to do" (and this is a man who lived through the Holocaust), I was really hoping for a nice character piece where Magneto acknowledged Doug's return, that played on his character changes since then. After all, the last thing Doug knew, Magneto was in full "good guy" mode. But even though they were both living on Utopia then, it never happened. It's only slightly less irksome than the fact that they never addressed whether Doug had told Rahne or, y'know, *his parents* that he was alive again.

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