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Thursday, April 24, 2014

X-amining New Mutants #65

"Demons!"
July 1988

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants fight Freedom Force. 

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

Plot
Illyana approaches Magneto, asking for his help in killing Forge to avenge the deaths of the X-Men, but Magneto refuses, saying that the X-Men died willingly, and that they are not his charges. He reminds the team that they are grounded, but this doesn't stop Illyana from teleporting away. She arrives on Muir Isle and reunites with Kitty Pryde, hoping to enlist Kitty's help. But she too tries to talk Illyana down, and Illyana teleports away in anger. Back at the mansion, the remaining New Mutants are split over whether to help Illyana, but when she appears to grab her costume, they quickly follow her to Limbo. Though still unwilling to kill Forge, the New Mutants agree to help Illyana, if only to prevent her from being killed herself. Drawing her Soul Sword, thus ceding control of Limbo to S'ym for the time being, she teleports the team to Dallas, where they find Forge and Freedom Force waiting for them.


When Illyana attacks Forge with her Soul Sword, Freedom Force steps in to defend him, triggering a melee between the two teams. In the course of the battle, Illyana manages to corner Forge, but is stopped from delivering a killing blow by Sam, after which it's revealed that Forge was actually Mystique in disguise. With the New Mutants defeated, Spiral prepares to kill Illyana, but Destiny stops her, saying that Illyana is fated to unleash a great disaster on the world, and that killing her now will only hasten it. The only way to prevent it is to allow Illyana to go, in the hopes that she will learn and change course. As the New Mutants regroup, Illyana expresses disbelief at Destiny's prediction, believing Freedom Force would say anything to protect Forge. Just then, the real Forge appears, and Illyana teleports the New Mutants to his side. But Destiny holds back Freedom Force, saying they've done all that they can, that now the Darkchilde must follow her destiny, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue represents the first meeting between the New Mutants and Freedom Force. 

Illyana teleports herself to Scotland to meet with Kitty and discuss her "Forge killing" plan with her (which Kitty is, not surprisingly, opposed to) in this issue. This represents the last interaction between the characters before "Inferno" and Illyana's de-aging.


We also learn that Kitty has been made aware of Doug's death (Magneto phoned Moira), an underplayed response to the death of a character who was first introduced as a friend and possible love interest of Kitty's.


S'ym notes the irony of Illyana being so bothered by Forge's portal when he's planning on opening an even bigger one, more "Inferno" foreshadowing.


The Chronology Corner
Kitty's appearance here occurs before Excalibur Special Edition #1.

A Work in Progress
Illyana, angry that Magneto won't help her attack Forge, tells him he's not fit to be in charge of a bunch of hamsters.


Limbo, which is a reflection of Illyana, has grown darker since the last time the New Mutants were there, as a result of the darkness growing inside Illyana.


In a discussion that reads very much like an attempt to cover up a possible plot hole, Dani notes that when in the midst of a battle, her death glow (the ability to see when someone is about to die) flickers on and off as danger waxes and wanes, making it useless as a defensive tool.


In a funny moment, Destiny allows a brick wall to crash onto Spiral even though she saw it coming, just to take some of the starch out of Spiral.


Towards the end of the fight with Freedom Force, Sam asserts that the New Mutants didn't start it. Except they did. Completely. When Illyana tried to kill Forge after being told he was under Freedom Force's protection.


The New Mutants do refer to themselves as "muties" in this issue.

At one point Dani projects an image of Destiny's greatest fear, her prediction of the course of events Illyana may trigger, which looks a lot like some of the events of "Inferno".


Destiny sees that Illyana will bring disaster to the world.


I Love the 80s
For whatever reason, Illyana is shown stripping down to her underwear to put on her costume, while everyone else gets into costume off panel.


Artistic Achievements
I rather like the cover to this one (teal background aside), particularly the perspective of Stonewall. Everyone has something to do, stretched across multiple levels.

They're Students, Not Superheroes
Magneto reiterates once again the New Mutants are grounded and not allowed to use their powers without his permission, something they promptly ignore (because it worked out so well the last time).


It's in the Mail
The letter column in this issue teases the sequel to Fallen Angels which never occurs, and also runs some letters urging the creators not to kill Doug.

Teebore's Take
Give Louise Simonson credit: she is not taking the events of "Fall of the Mutants" lightly, taking the time to deal with the ramifications of that storyline on a level that is nearly unprecedented in modern comics. After two issues (not counting the fill-ins) addressing the immediate aftermath of Doug's death, she now moves on to the deaths of the X-Men, as Illyana confronts Forge, determined to exact vengeance for his role in killing the X-Men. The end result is an issue that, in hindsight, almost reads like a pivot point for the series between "Fall of the Mutants" and "Inferno", as Simonson uses the fallout of the former to setup the latter (helped along by the presence of Destiny, always good for a foreboding prophecy or two).

In the meantime, we have a New Mutants/Freedom Force fight, and while Bret Blevins' strengths remain body language and facial expressions, his action choreography is a bit dodgy (there's a panel featuring Dani attacking Crimson Commando and I don't even know what she's supposed to be doing - jump kicking, I think?). Nevertheless, there's enough charm in the first meeting between these two teams to carry the day, and combined with its position between two big X-events, it makes for a surprisingly significant issue. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Infectia makes her move on Iceman in X-Factor #30. Next week, "Evolutionary War" begins in X-Factor Annual #3 followed by New Mutants Annual #4.

17 comments:

  1. Never read this issue, but it sounds pretty cool.

    Question: Why are Freedom Force protecting Forge? At the end of Uncanny 227, Mystique was ranting pretty much like Illyana, blaming Forge for the X-Men's death and wanting to kill him.

    So, wha hoppen ... ?

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  2. It's hard to decide whether Kitty or Illyana is the bigger asshole during the reunion... but I'm going to go with Kitty.

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  3. Jason, I'd bet that Mystique was told it had to go like this by her leman Destiny and that Forge must survive. The Freedom Force's ill-fated tour to Muir Island in not so distant future had the same sort of premise.

    Also, I find it probable that Destiny has a hunch the X-Men aren't really dead and also knows some pressing reasons to keep it hidden too from Mystique too, or perhaps especially from her.

    Now, how does this story fit chronologically with the X-Men story with Baba Yaga... this has to be first, right, Illyana wouldn't go hunting Forge after that heart-to-heart with Colossus?

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  4. @Jason: At the end of Uncanny 227, Mystique was ranting pretty much like Illyana, blaming Forge for the X-Men's death and wanting to kill him.

    As Teemu suggested, it's probably a case of Mystique getting calmed down by Destiny, while the specific level of her anger being lowered by the transition from writer to writer.

    Certainly, she remains no huge fan of Forge until well after Claremont leaves.

    @Ben: It's hard to decide whether Kitty or Illyana is the bigger asshole during the reunion... but I'm going to go with Kitty.

    It's definitely a toss up, with neither one doing too well.

    @Teemu: Now, how does this story fit chronologically with the X-Men story with Baba Yaga... this has to be first, right, Illyana wouldn't go hunting Forge after that heart-to-heart with Colossus?

    Yeah, it occurs first. There's a footnote in X-Men #231 saying as much.

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  5. "As Teemu suggested, it's probably a case of Mystique getting calmed down by Destiny, while the specific level of her anger being lowered by the transition from writer to writer."
    In this specific case, though, Mystique was only protecting Forge because she thought that if Illyana killed him, she'd turn evil and unleash demons on the Earth. It's not Mystique protecting Forge- she's protecting herself and Destiny.
    By the way, how quickly after Uncanny X-Men 227 does this happen? Couldn't someone get poor Forge a shirt?

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  6. Magneto being secretly evil makes a lot more sense than him being the worst caretaker ever.

    Coming from the X-Men side of Inferno, I'm surprised how far they set up the event in this book. But I guess it is the ultimate resolution for Illyana's story.

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  7. "In this specific case, though, Mystique was only protecting Forge because she thought that if Illyana killed him, she'd turn evil and unleash demons on the Earth. It's not Mystique protecting Forge- she's protecting herself and Destiny."

    That may well be the extent of what Destiny disclosed with her, but I'm also certain "cos Destiny says it's of utmost importance" is good enough reason for Raven without her needing to hear the particulars.

    I'm sure Destiny knows much more than she's willing to share, because if she was departing freely with the information she has the people generally would be tweaking their action towards what they feel is the best outcome of things (for them), regardless of the bigger picture. Destiny on the other hand with the burden of her powers may have some deeper understanding what is her role in ensuring that the "right" future happens, and she really can't be expected to endlessly share the myriad vistas her powers open in before her.

    We know for sure she wasn't playing for the happily ever after for her and Raven. With the sole exception of it being the best thing for their adoptive daughter Rogue, or perhaps for to save Mystique, she was willing to sacrifice herself for some bigger goal. It's also a terrible betrayal really on Irene's part towards Raven and her trust. And they say Northstar's marriage sometime in 2000's is a big deal in portrayal of homosexual relationship in mainstream comics...

    There may also have been a profound reason why Shadow King wanted Destiny dead, and also for she obliging while still saving Forge on the go. Damn you, Bob Harras!

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  8. What the heck is going on with Illyana's face in that scene with Kitty? It's so scrunched up that it looks like it'll collapse on itself.

    This story is mostly blah to me, but it was a good showing for Destiny. She knows what's going on (that the X-Men aren't truly dead), she knows what horrors are to come (Inferno), but she'll only tell the others as much as they need to know. Like Teemu outlined, she really is an underserved character. Also, that scene where she puts Spiral in her place is the highlight of the issue.

    Illyana confronting Forge could've been interesting, but here it's just her acting like a jerk for 22 pages. Again. The contemporary Uncanny issue does a much better job at showing her reactions even if it's a side plot. It's just another example of Simonson's "bratification" of the New Mutants and how it was frustrating.

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  9. "It's just another example of Simonson's "bratification" of the New Mutants and how it was frustrating."
    To be fair, I think that part of that can be explained by the fact that Illyana has been becoming more evil since she started tossing villains into Limbo to be enslaved, tortured or killed by the demons. Of course, that just raises the question of why Lila and the New Mutants thought it was a good idea for Illyana to start tossing villains into Limbo in the first place.

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  10. "As Teemu suggested, it's probably a case of Mystique getting calmed down by Destiny, while the specific level of her anger being lowered by the transition from writer to writer. ... Certainly, she remains no huge fan of Forge until well after Claremont leaves."

    Fo' sho'. It just seems -- and again this is just based on the summary of the issue so I don't know how it actually reads -- that it's a bit of dramatic irony that Simonson could have played up. Even if it was just a strategic thought balloon from Mystique about how she's tempted to switch over to Magik's side of the fight and help her kill Forge, but she knows she can't.




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  11. "Even if it was just a strategic thought balloon from Mystique about how she's tempted to switch over to Magik's side of the fight and help her kill Forge, but she knows she can't."

    She should have let CC ghost-write that line..."Every fiber of my being - body and soul - just wants to join Magik in her quest to slay Forge. I need - nay, I crave - nothing less than absolute justice and retribution for Rogue. However, I must honor the rules and terms between FF and the government, and play things legit...for now".

    "Certainly, she remains no huge fan of Forge until well after Claremont leaves."

    Out of all the danglers and left-over plots from the CC days, it's interesting that that is one of the ones Lobdell & co. decided to follow-up on...

    "Magneto being secretly evil makes a lot more sense than him being the worst caretaker ever."

    Not really, it just seems like lazy writing to me.

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  12. wwk5d: Out of all the danglers and left-over plots from the CC days, it's interesting that that is one of the ones Lobdell & co. decided to follow-up on...

    Mystique is one of the very few old X-Men enemies left at this point to carry a dangler after that little simultacrum of "So, Scourge of the Underworld went into a bar..." they played at the Hellfire Club the minute Claremont was gone!

    Anyway, some has-been's danglers are nothing but schmanglers when there are exciting new enemies to explore like Omega-Red, Opal's ex-boyfriend; Trev Fitzroy, that Hazard boy; MLF and Stryfe, Gambit's ex-wife, Mike Rasputin is back in life; Graydon Creed the mutant hater; who killed all X-Men, I'll think sumting later...

    I guess they had such a massive negative intellectual property value that Marvel got them purged in the bankruptcy. That's probably the reason why none of them are around today.

    (yes, I too was severely traumatized. say what you want of that Rusty Collins, at least he had one of those easy concept superpowers, pyrocinetics, instead of mutantdeathfactor or take-a-chunk-of-magnetic-field-to-cause-boom. stupid 90's powers.)

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  13. Anyway, I did some soul searching, not to mention back issue googling, and came to realize I'm actually a massive fan of Destiny. Her deadpan comments on matters in midst of action are pure gold: "Do you play chess, Dr. McCoy?", "He gets you. But you won't die.", and the pure awesomeness of the piece in UXM #170 with Mystique's dream where her initial shock upon a timeline clearing up on Rogue has already turned to laconic "We are too late, Raven." when Mystique is only springing into action, drawn masterly by Paul Smith.

    Also, no wonder she learns to be sparing with her predictions after the whole tragedy with Carol Danvers happens only because Mystique and Rogue in their turns set out to try prevent it.

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  14. If Stonewall, Blob, and Juggernaut were standing around punching each other, would any of them fall down?

    // Spiral prepares to kill Illyana, but Destiny stops her, saying that Illyana is fated to unleash a great disaster on the world, and that killing her now will only hasten it. //

    Weirdly, Sam and Dani say they "don't get it" when Freedom Force turns reluctant after this because Mystique et al. are "bad guys". Not all supervillains want to destroy life as we know it, kids. Most just want lots of money and/or power; some even think they're the good guys, out to save humanity from itself and/or save the world from humanity (although those do tend be the ones who sort-of want to destroy life as we know it).

    // For whatever reason, Illyana is shown stripping down to her underwear to put on her costume, while everyone else gets into costume off panel. //

    And out of all the New Mutants, she's the one who should be able to change clothes instantaneously with her powers.

    I like the cover too. And I love Destiny's swipe at Spiral.

    The real Forge had to be there, unless Illyana's scrying spell was manipulated by Spiral or something, although I didn't realize this until the end of the story when it felt like he kind-of popped up at random.

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  15. Blam: If Stonewall, Blob, and Juggernaut were standing around punching each other, would any of them fall down?

    Ah, the classical "what happens when that which can't be stopped meets that which can't be moved".

    Stonewall has been a classy guy since we first met him, but the other two can beat seven kind of shits out each other for all eternity for what I care. Of course, as avid proponent of Juggernaut's and Black Tom Cassidy's "partnership" being of very special kind, the scenario has a disturbing slash fiction potential.

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  16. Once again, I'm really curious about the lettering in this issue. Something tells me that Richard Starkings did some uncredited assists here, and also on a few other issues. The balloons, especially their tails, remind me so much of Starkings' work from the 90's, and don't appear to be at all similar to what Orzechowski was doing in UXM at the same time.

    Another possibility is that Blevins is placing the balloons and drawing in the borders, much like Walt Simonson did for Joe Rosen in X-Factor and John Workman in Thor. In this issue of NM, especially the scene with Kitty and Illyana talking, you can see that the bubbles go directly into the gutters and aren't separated by a panel border, something I don't think Orzechowski did very much.

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  17. "Question: Why are Freedom Force protecting Forge? At the end of Uncanny 227, Mystique was ranting pretty much like Illyana, blaming Forge for the X-Men's death and wanting to kill him."

    I always thought it was simply because their Freedom Force position MADE them protect him (wasn't that the case when they did the same thing next year in Uncanny?). Remember they ARE under the thumb of the government, so I sure they don't have much choice in assignments. In addition, as a advanced tech and weapons designer is someone the government would want to keep close relations with.

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