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Thursday, May 1, 2014

X-amining New Mutants Annual #4

"Mind Games"
1988

In a Nutshell
The High Evolutionary targets Magma and Mirage gets a new power.

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: June Brigman
Inker: Bob McLeod , Roy Richardson (2nd Story)
Letterer: John Workman
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editors: Ann Nocenti & Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Just outside New York, the Purifiers capture Bulk and Glow Worm, determined to strip them of their dangerous mutant abilities. At the X-Mansion, Sam and Warlock train in the Danger Room before Rahne arrives with a letter from Amara lamenting her arranged marriage. At the Purifiers base, they remove Bulk and Glow Worm's power, then receive another high power level danger alert, belonging to Amara. In Nova Roma, Amara is discussing her situation with Empath when the Purifiers arrive, overpowering the pair and teleporting away with Amara. When her father contacts the White Queen for help, and the White Queen calls in the other members of the Inner Circle, the New Mutants overhear Magneto's conversation and learn of the situation. Deciding to rescue Amara themselves, they teleport to the Purifiers' base.


During the ensuing fight, Amara, Bulk and Glow Worm are freed, but Dani is knocked onto the power removal device. Using the last of his strength, Bulk changes the settings on the machine before he dies, and when Rahne and Roberto retrieve Dani, she discovers her power has changed, and that she can now physically manifest the images of fears and desires she pulls from her targets' minds. Just then, the Inner Circle, including Magneto arrives, and the New Mutants, including Amara, teleport back home before they're spotted. Back at the mansion, the New Mutants say goodbye to Amara before Illyana sends her back to Nova Roma, where her grateful father credits the White Queen with her rescue and return.

2nd Story: "If Wishes Were Horses" 
Shortly after returning from rescuing Amara, Dani tests out the limits of her new power. After manifesting Brightwind's greatest desire, an attractive mare, she gets tossed off the horse and ends up creating a sports car to drive home. Pulled over for speeding, the car disappears as she creates the drivers license requested by the police officer. Thinking she's some kind of alien, the cop arrests her, but Dani is rescued by Brightwind, and creates her Spirit Lance in order to make the fake drivers license disappear. Realizing how cumbersome the lance is, she makes it into a smaller necklace, and resolves to wear it as her "default" manifestation.

Firsts and Other Notables
Dani's receives a significant power bump this issue, as her interaction with one of the High Evolutionary's machines modifies her mutant ability such that she can physically manifest other peoples fears and desires (including her own). So if someone is scared of a monster, she can make that monster real. She can only manifest one image at a time, so if she switches targets, the first image is replaced by the new one.


The backup story in this annul focuses on this new power and establishing some limitations on it. It ends with Dani deciding to use a miniaturized version of her Spirit Lance, worn around her neck, as the "default" object she's manifesting (so it'll disappear when she manifests something else, then return when she no longer needs to use her power for something else).

This chapter of "The Evolutionary War" finds the Purifiers targeting mutants whose powers threaten the planet: first, the radioactive Bulk and Glow Worm, then Magma. They're stopped by the New Mutants and the Hellfire Club before getting any further.

The Hellfire Club's plans for Nova Roma and Magma are referenced again, and Magneto is revealed to be aware of them, though once again, this subplot never really gets paid off.


Bulk and Glow Worm, the two radioactive mutants who attacked X-Factor in issue #7 of their series, return and are killed off, dying of radiation poisoning after having their powers removed by the High Evolutionary's machine. 

New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod inks this issue, while Bob Harras shares editing duties with Ann Nocenti in preparation of his becoming the editor of the entire X-line.

The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place between New Mutants #66 and #67.

A Work in Progress
Magneto is essentially wearing his old Magneto costume, sans helmet, throughout the issue. Sebastian Shaw, meanwhile, shows up to fight looking like he got pulled out of a sumo match for some reason.


Dani used her Spirit Lance against Death in New Mutants Special Edition #1 and Power Pack #21, according to a footnote.


I Love the 80s
In the backup story, the cop who pulls over Dani wonders if he's on Candid Camera when her car disappears, then remembers that show had been cancelled.


Dani's fake drivers license lists her as Poca Hontas, with an address of Gitchigumi Shores in Valhalla, NY.


Young Love
The New Mutants, or at least Rahne, are well aware of Amara's feelings for Empath by now.


They're Students, Not Superheroes
Magneto once again reminds the students they're grounded, and scolds them for popping into the Danger Room unannounced.


Later, Magneto cites in loco parentis, an actual legal responsibility given to some individuals or organizations to act on behalf of a student's best interests in the place of their actual parent or guardian. It usually applies to colleges and universities, and often boarding schools like Xavier's.


After her power is changed, Dani worries about having to carry her Spirit Lance around at parties.


Teebore's Take
The big development in this issue is Dani's new power. It is, to say the least, a dubious development, as it is a ridiculous power-up for a character who can also see and battle Death and rides a winged horse, and a power-up that goes largely undefined or restrained. We know that Dani can only physically manifest one image at a time, but is there any limit to what she can manifest? If she makes, say, a tank, does it come with tank shells? Does the damage they inflict disappear along with the tank, or remain even after the tank is gone? Can she manifest things without knowing how they work (presumably she can, unless she's intimately familiar with the operation of a car)? If so, why not periodically create a machine that cures all disease and go on a whistle-stop tour of hospitals? Or a machine that makes it so she can manifest multiple images at a time? Simonson tries to put some limitations on this power, and the the desire to amp up Dani's abilities is understandable (with Doug gone, she's now the weakest character in a fight, strictly in terms of her mutant ability), but this power-up is so huge and limitless it's laughable.

The other thing this issue does is hammer home the schism that's developed between the New Mutants and Magneto since Doug's death (and even before). The problem is that it continues to be a case of being told one thing and shown another. The New Mutants repeatedly bemoan that Magneto is being harsh and unforgiving, and that they are justified in disobeying him, sneaking out to be superheroes. Except they're not justified, and Magneto isn't harsh. He's right to ground them - Doug died because they snuck out on their own. He's right to require them to train in the use of their powers, and not to teleport into the Danger Room unannounced - it's called the Danger Room for reason.

Magneto isn't asking or expecting more of the characters than Professor X ever did, and it seems like the only reason they're whining now is because Simonson seems to think the only way to convey "teenage" is turn the characters into petulant brats while throwing Claremont's characterization of Magneto under the bus. Maybe the New Mutants/Magneto schism would read better to me if I was brimming with adolescent angst and teenage rebellion, but even as a kid this all felt off and forced. 

Next Issue
Next week, the Brood return in Uncanny X-Men #232, Illyana battles Forge for real this time in New Mutants #66, and Iceman runs afoul of Infectia in X-Factor #31.

13 comments:

  1. This story is like a checklist of stuff that annoys me about Simonson's run. Dubious power tweak? Check. Magneto mischaracterization? Check. Teenagers acting like kindergarteners? Check. Using the "heart of the team" character of Rahne to justify that godawful Magma/Empath romance? Big check. Illyana is literally the only person with a brain in that scene, and it's probably meant to show she's overly cynical & more corrupted or something.

    This starts the trend of futzing with Dani's powers to the point where her being depowered actually made her a lot clearer. It's not as bad as John Francis Moore's quantum power dealie from X-Force, but it started a bad trend.

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  2. Magneto sports that small angular "m" emblem on his chest with his old uniform and continues to do so in Avengers West Coast "Darker than Scarlet" storyline where he's a villain really and where also Wanda adopts one to pin her cloak with... Was there ever any deeper meaning given for it?

    That's pretty much all I get from this. I was totally in with the New Mutants when they occasionally co-starred in Claremont's UXM issues or when I was treated a rare treat of them in their own title in the form of the NW Special Edition in Asgard or the Wildways annual or UXM annual 10. But these kiddos and their ugly uniforms (yes, Adams' design but not drawn by him, a massive difference)... I get absolutely no hold of them.

    Was I/am I so spoiled or ruined by Claremont and his definite versions of the characters, or have they been pretty much directionlessly freewheeling since the Magus story under Simonson that the title actually was served well by having it given to Liefeld, for a while?

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  3. At least this issue has art by June Brigman, a very good cartoonist.

    Ugh, Dani could make stuff out of thin air? Seriously? Stupid. In the Zeb Wells-written New Mutants series, she had no powers and worked much better as a character.

    Speaking of that series, it's too bad Wells left and Abnett & Lanning failed to write the characters convincingly. I've liked a lot of their work, from Ressurection Man to Annihilation, but their New Mutants was a misfire. Going by these posts, it's kind of like going from Claremont to Simonson
    - Mike Loughlin

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  4. "Sebastian Shaw, meanwhile, shows up to fight looking like he got pulled out of a sumo match for some reason."

    And of course Selene does have him by the balls in that picture, doesn't she? Speaking of, why is she depicted as a redhead here? Talk about being off model.

    Also off-model? Emma firing energy beams from her hands.

    Still, Brigman does a nice job on the art work. I wish she had been doing the artwork instead of Belvins, since her depiction of the NM actually has them looking like kids. As opposed to Blevins' anorexic midgets with unnaturally large heads.

    @Mela sounds like the perfect assessment of where the title is at this point, along with Teebore's assessment of the kids as (nearly) unsympathetic brats and Magento actually making sense in what he says.

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  5. Selene? I first thought Tessa, but of course that's rather a Selene uniform. I'd also accept her being yet another Jean Grey running around this time in her Black Queen of the Hellfire Club persona, as metacommentary on how things have been lately. The Lords Cardinal were probably dealing with the demons for to get their hands washed of it all.

    Should be NM Annual 4, btw, not 3. Probably came from the connected X-Factor Annual being number 3. Doesn't really matter, I'm starting to see why there are people thinking if it wasn't drawn by Adams or Davis it doesn't count.

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  6. Don't feel bad about getting the annual number wrong- Marvel misnumbered Daredevil Annual 5 as Annual 4.

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  7. @Mela: This story is like a checklist of stuff that annoys me about Simonson's run.

    Yeah, it's like a perfect storm of Simonson's New Mutants.

    This starts the trend of futzing with Dani's powers to the point where her being depowered actually made her a lot clearer.

    Indeed. Dani the powerless hand-to-hand combatant with a knack for leadership is probably the best use of the character since Claremont wrote her.

    @Teemu: But these kiddos and their ugly uniforms (yes, Adams' design but not drawn by him, a massive difference)

    These are actually the Blevins-designed uniforms, so you don't have to feel bad for not liking them. :)

    Was I/am I so spoiled or ruined by Claremont and his definite versions of the characters, or have they been pretty much directionlessly freewheeling since the Magus story under Simonson that the title actually was served well by having it given to Liefeld, for a while?

    Well, the Magus story was still Claremont, and I still maintain that not all of Simonson's run is terrible, but there's definitely a sense that the title was meandering/adrift when Liefeld came aboard, coming off the interminably long Asgard story.

    Say what you will about his art (and we will) and what it led to, but there's no denying his arrival gave the series a focus and direction it had been lacking.

    @Mike: Speaking of that series, it's too bad Wells left and Abnett & Lanning failed to write the characters convincingly.

    I'm actually in the middle of their run right now, and yeah, the difference between them and what Wells was doing is striking, and disappointing.

    @wwk5d: I wish she had been doing the artwork instead of Belvins, since her depiction of the NM actually has them looking like kids. As opposed to Blevins' anorexic midgets with unnaturally large heads.

    I would have enjoyed Brigman on this series. Her work was never flashy, but reliably consistent.

    @Teemu: Should be NM Annual 4, btw, not 3. Probably came from the connected X-Factor Annual being number 3.

    Indeed. Thanks, I fixed it.

    @Anonymous: Don't feel bad about getting the annual number wrong- Marvel misnumbered Daredevil Annual 5 as Annual 4.

    Ha! I know that the "Days of Future Present" New Mutants annual gets mislabeled as part 2 when it's actually part 3 (or vice versa), but I did not know that.

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  8. Teebore: These are actually the Blevins-designed uniforms, so you don't have to feel bad for not liking them. :)

    Hmh. Sunspot is the most horrid, and that isn't Adams. Wolfsbane isn't, Mirage isn't, Magik kind of works but isn't, Doug's dead, Karma's gone... Yes. It's that darn Cannonball that got me distracted I guess, he has an Adams, the rest have switched all right (on mobile, working on memory). Probably didn't like the pink masks.

    Actually they aren't that bad really, except Roberto is wearing an abomination and I have probably judged all of them based on that.

    Well, the Magus story was still Claremont, and I still maintain that not all of Simonson's run is terrible, but there's definitely a sense that the title was meandering/adrift when Liefeld came aboard, coming off the interminably long Asgard story.

    Yes, I should have emphasized that Magus was mentioned as "from but not including", because what's more Claremont than a teenage girl getting a full blast from Ape's pleasure gun?

    It was Claremont's last NM right, barring fill-ins? It's actually the only genuine NM issues my local publisher ever put out on, I liked it well and with it, the Wildways Annual by Claremont/Davis and Asgard SE by Claremont/Adams my standard for New Mutants has been yanked way too high.

    Say what you will about his art (and we will) and what it led to, but there's no denying his arrival gave the series a focus and direction it had been lacking.

    Yes. In hindsight it all should have been killed with fire, but back then the... Upstarts generation brought something inspiring and energetic all right when something was badly needed. It's just terrible to think which is worse: they were given plotting rights for the flagship titles overnight without anything to show for it because the higher-ups genuinely thought they had the next generation's John Byrnes, Frank Millers and Walter Simonsons in their hands, or that the higher-ups didn't even care about the plots at all and just went all-in for the contrived poses, tits and guns.

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  9. Some of the comments are a bit unfair. Dani's power bump could be compared to Tarot's solid "phantom beings", and as she had mentioned, she did show the potential for this power prior. In that respect, her power is just a combination of telepathy and telekinesis (re-arranging atoms with psionic energy). Further the White Queen did use her hands to direct her psi-blasts. She did this, with an identical pose fwiw, during the scene where she fought Phoenix when Jean came to rescue Storm in the start of the Dark Phoenix Saga. But I can't excuse the art, nor did I think it was in character for Rahne to understand Amara's feelings given what Empath has done. His rehabilitation never worked, and Illyana seemed the most in character within that scene.

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  10. Drew, as her actual mutant power goes, you do have a point. I think the problem comes from the fact that yet another character bump goes to someone who already was introduced as the team individual in #1, then was shown to be the natural leader soon afterwards, then was bumped to be a Valkyrie with a death-seeing power and given a winged horse.

    That's a lot of something compared for example to Rahne whose development in the same time is relaxing a bit in her religious fervor, while in the core staying the same lycanthrope. Who Dani can understand the best because she also has this empathic connection with animals.

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  11. So whether or not it's a power overkill, it's a massive character overkill. In hindsight it's no wonder Dani decided later on to stay in Asgard, like there was no more match for her on Earth. And when I say Dani, I mean Louise Simonson.

    Which is sad because Dani is a great character who essentially got robbed from us. Chances are if her leadership had been there in the lastest NM issues she just might have with her mere presence fought back on Liefeld and Cable turning the New Mutants into wrong direction.

    Well I say New Mutants but who of the classic team actually went on to form the X-Force? Cannonball alone? They did drop a plenty of members post-Claremont.

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  12. Well, from the original team (by the time Liefeld got control of the book post X-tinction Agenda):

    Warlock - dead
    Cypher - dead
    Magik - de-aged back to being a child
    Wolfsbane - In Genosha until Peter David gets her back a few months later
    Magma - Written out and forgotten about by Simonson, with no interest in being used by Liefeld
    Karma - Written out and forgotten about by Claremont, with no interest in being used by Liefeld
    Sunspot - Written out by Liefeld from the team, but still appears in X-force until he rejoins (Nicieza's idea?)
    Mirage - Written out and left in Asgard by Simonson and/or Liefeld

    Of the people above, Sunspot will rejoin X-force during it's 2nd year, and Mirage will much much later. But other than those 2 and Cannonball, none of the others join X-force, though understandable in some cases.

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  13. I've said before (reading this stretch for the first time) that having Brigman on New Mutants instead of Blevins would've been nice. Still think so. Carry on.

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