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Thursday, October 30, 2014

X-amining New Mutants #78

"Let's Make a Deal!"
August 1989

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants battle Freedom Force en route to being sent to Asgard. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The New Mutants, still watched over by Dr. Strange, work together to gather up Dani and the massive ice machine keeping her fiery rampage in check, determined to get her back to Ship before the machinery fails. Watching from Hel, Hela plots to use the Valkyrie against Odin and get revenge on Thor, and moves to keep the pressure on the New Mutants. Back on Earth, Freedom Force arrives in Manhattan, called in by reports of Dani's attack and believing Rusty is responsible. They attack the New Mutants en route to Ship, with Destiny insisting Rusty must be apprehended to ensure Freedom Force's survival, and both teams land on Liberty Island.


When Blob taunts Rusty and Skids with the fact that the government has plans for the babies X-Factor turned over to them, Skids tells the rest of the New Mutants to get Dani back to Ship and to tell X-Factor what they heard, while she and Rusty stay behind, protected by Skids' force field. The rest of the New Mutants break off, pursued by Crimson Commando and Avalanche. Now over the ocean, Avalanche triggers a tidal wave that frees Dani just as Ship inexplicably flies into space. Still watching, Dr. Strange realizes Dani is too dangerous to remain on Earth, and that the Fates have called on the New Mutants to spoil Hela's plan, just as they've called on him to deliver them to Asgard. In a flash of light, the New Mutants disappear and suddenly find themselves in Asgard. As the still-possessed Dani flies off, her friends wonder what they're supposed to do now. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The New Mutants are sent to Asgard at the very end of this issue, thus kicking off New Mutants' 1989 long-running, multi part storyline. Settle in guys; they're gonna be there for awhile.

Two New Mutants who don't make the trip to Asgard are Rusty and Skids, who remain behind to deal with Freedom Force. They'll formally remain a part of the team and be featured in the book for awhile yet, but this issue marks the final time they'll appear alongside the rest of the New Mutants.

Freedom Force appears in this issue, called in by Hela and believing the fires triggered by Dani last issue to have been caused by Rusty, in violation of the furlough he received in X-Factor #40. However, Spiral and Stonewall don't appear in this issue. And Super Sabre is referred to as Silver Sabre. 


Destiny declares that Freedom Force must prevent Rusty from reaching Ship, as doing so will engulf Freedom Force in the dark times ahead for mutants. We never find out what, exactly, Destiny's trying to prevent, but since Freedom Force does stop Rusty from getting to Ship, I guess whatever it was got avoided, which is why we never find out about it.


It's revealed that the government has plans for the Inferno babies, whom Freedom Force took custody of in X-Factor #40, that presumably don't involve returning them to their parents as promised, something which Blob blurts out to the New Mutants (which will cause problems for Rusty and Skids in forthcoming issues). This is another plot thread that never really gets resolved, though we eventually learn, much later, that the Inferno babies end up being used by the army and stranded in Limbo (here, Blob seems to hint at the idea of the government raising and training the babies as well as other super-powered children). 


The New Mutants reach Ship only to find it ignoring them as it flies higher and higher into the air; X-Factor #43 shows this scene from X-Factor's perspective, and explains what's happening to Ship.

Dr. Strange carries over his guest appearance from last issue, watching the New Mutants battle Freedom Force via his Astral Form, saying he'd like to intervene but he dare not assist them, as too much of their fate remains in question. Eventually, he realizes he must send the New Mutants to Asgard.


Rick Leonardi, still getting work in the X-Office at this point, fills in on pencils.

A Work in Progress
Rusty mentions that he's impervious to his own heat, something that's been visually implied before but which I don't think has ever been formally established previously.


Hela reveals that the rest of the Valkyries have all succumbed to the illness Dani is fighting, preventing them from swelling Odin's armies. It's also noted that Asgard is now in the Negative Zone, the alternate dimension home of Annihilus and Blastaar, as of Thor #404.


I Love the 80s
Crimson Commando attempts to stun Rictor with a gentle blow...by firing a bullet at his temple.


It's in the Mail
One of the letters in this issue more or less hits right on the loophole that would allow a teenaged-Illyana to return. 


Teebore's Take
We're on the cusp now of the interminably-long second Asgard story, with the bulk of the team arriving there in the closing panels of this issue. But before that, we get a relatively straightforward fight with Freedom Force that takes up the bulk of this issue, and for the most part, it's rather entertaining. Freedom Force has consistently made for good done-in-one/secondary antagonists, as time doesn't need to be spent establishing their motivations, they have a wide range of powers at their disposal, and the contrast between them being selfish jerks and government agents easily introduces tension into every confrontation with them. Plus, at this point they have a history with the team, which always helps as well.

So Simonson and Leonardi make the most of the confrontation, seamlessly giving each character a chance to contribute to the confrontation and show off their powers while consistently ratcheting up the tension throughout the issue. A lot of what gets setup here (Destiny's premonition regarding Rusty, the split of Rusty and Skids from the rest of the team, the government's plans for the Inferno babies) ultimately fizzles out (or gets resolved much later), and Dr. Strange hanging around like a goober doing nothing until the very end makes it clear his only purpose in this story is to be the means of getting the New Mutants to Asgard, but for the most part, this reads like a brief glimpse of what this series might have looked like, post-"Inferno", had the characters not stayed in Asgard as long as they do or had Rob Liefeld not risen to prominence on the book so far, so fast. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, find out where Ship is going in X-Factor #43. Next week, Blob and Pyro drop in on Daredevil in Daredevil #269, followed by Excalibur #11.

9 comments:

  1. Hela reveals that the rest of the Valkyries have all succumbed to the illness Dani is fighting, preventing them from swelling Odin's armies.

    Hmmh. In Surtur Saga by W. Simonson it was kind of a plot point that Eilif the Dragonslayer was to fill the last empty seat in Valhalla, and I don't think there are too many Vikings roaming around on Midgard at this point dying bravely and getting to Valhalla. Though, after Surtwar they probably again have vacancies, and at least Skurge did get there eventually I believe, and of course Thor roaming around and Surtwar in fresh memory may have won new believers for Odin some of whom are Valhalla-eligible.

    Unless of course they have branched out to completely new worlds to be served as gods there and are drafting armies for Odin en masse there under the moniker of 'Asgards' or something.

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  2. So now that New Mutants can add not finding the Inferno babies to their to do list, along with not helping Amara.
    It's hilarious that Freedom Force is trying to stop the New Mutants from telling X-Factor about the Inferno babies, but when the New Mutants finally get to X-Factor, they do nothing.

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  3. "Destiny declares that Freedom Force must prevent Rusty from reaching Ship, as doing so will engulf Freedom Force in the dark times ahead for mutants. We never find out what, exactly, Destiny's trying to prevent, but since Freedom Force does stop Rusty from getting to Ship, I guess whatever it was got avoided, which is why we never find out about it."

    Except, within the next few years, Destiny, Stonewall, and Super Sabre all die, and Crimson Commando and Avalanche are severely injured. So...thanks, Destiny?

    "though we eventually learn, much later, that the Inferno babies end up being used by the army and stranded in Limbo"

    Who knew of all the dropped threads, this would be the one resolved 20+ years later?

    "Crimson Commando attempts to stun Rictor with a gentle blow...by firing a bullet at his temple."

    Either Weezie was on some good drugs when she was writing this...or she was trying to cover up some discrepancies due to some plotting/artwork miscommunication. Or both.

    I think Leonardi helps this issue. It's good work, and it's a shame he wasn't made the regular artist for the rest of this story. It might have been more tolerable. And maybe the storyline wouldn't have felt so long if there were less fill-in issues scattered throughout it. In any case, this is the swan-song for the pre-Imagification of the title...and it's a shame it isn't a good swan song.

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  4. @Teemu: In Surtur Saga by W. Simonson it was kind of a plot point that Eilif the Dragonslayer was to fill the last empty seat in Valhalla, and I don't think there are too many Vikings roaming around on Midgard at this point dying bravely and getting to Valhalla.

    I will definitely need some help during this upcoming storyline with what's going on in Thor at the time, as I really have no idea, other than the vague recollection from an Avengers story (and the footnote herein) that Asgard is in the Negative Zone for some reason.

    @Anonymous: It's hilarious that Freedom Force is trying to stop the New Mutants from telling X-Factor about the Inferno babies, but when the New Mutants finally get to X-Factor, they do nothing.

    To be fair, when they finally run into X-Factor again, it has been awhile. I mean, they can only remember stuff for so long, and they probably got a bunch of new memories while in Asgard. ;)

    @wwk5d: So...thanks, Destiny?

    Ha, good point. If that's "saving" Freedom Force, I'd hate to see what would have happened if Rusty reached Ship...

    Either Weezie was on some good drugs when she was writing this...or she was trying to cover up some discrepancies due to some plotting/artwork miscommunication.

    It strikes me as the latter, like she needed to script in a reason Rictor wasn't dead from getting shot in the head (which is clearly what the art shows). Which would then beg the question of why Leonardi thought having the villain shoot Rictor in the head was a good idea.

    It's good work, and it's a shame he wasn't made the regular artist for the rest of this story.

    Yeah, Leonardi seems like a good fit for this title, a little bit Blevins cartooniness, a little bit the more traditional work of a Guice, even a dash of Sienkiewicz at times.

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  5. // Rusty mentions that he's impervious to his own heat //

    In exposition that stops things cold (er, so to speak). That panel you show has him literally turning his back on the pressing matter at hand to soliloquize — and then converse with Skids — in the name of recapping his story. Right after he says "Poor Dani," he becomes completely self-absorbed.

    Sorry. I want to be reasonably charitable towards this kind of thing given the period, but for some reason it just struck me as odd that out of all the stuff going on we get a half-page's worth of origin summary for Rusty straight off the bat.

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  6. @wwk5d: // I think Leonardi helps this issue. //

    Me too. I've actually been surprised at his work on the X-titles because from his stuff on Spider-Man not long before this I thought he tended to favor lean, lithe figures. Not unlike the shock I got when I saw Art Adams doing a bulked-up Superman and Batman in 1987's Action Comics Annual, influenced by Frank Miller's Dark Knight, on the heels of the extremely sinewy characters populating Longshot.

    @Teebore: // Which would then beg the question of why Leonardi thought having the villain shoot Rictor in the head was a good idea. //

    'Cause he's less interesting* than Rusty? Which is really saying something, I know. Despite all four "X-Terminators" still barely being more than a collection of superpowers**, though, I would for whatever inarticulable reason much rather have Rusty and Skids integrated into the New Mutants than Rictor and Boom-Boom. [*I almost called him a complete cipher, then figured that was a little too on the nose in terms of New Mutants getting popped in the line of duty.] [**Boom-Boom has the Valley Girl schtick, too, but it's not a point in her favor. I can articulate that much, at least.]

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  7. @Blam: I want to be reasonably charitable towards this kind of thing given the period, but for some reason it just struck me as odd that out of all the stuff going on we get a half-page's worth of origin summary for Rusty straight off the bat.

    Which is especially funny considering Rusty is relegated to subplot pages for the next seven issues or so, and then disappears pretty much completely after getting a solo spotlight issue. So Weezie is making a point of recapping his origin just before he functionally disappears from the narrative.

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  8. I think that Rusty and Skids were originally intended to rejoin the New Mutants- there were Liefeld sketches of them. Of course, the real problem was that Simonson seems to have intended the "Freedom Force took the Inferno babies" plot as a long term plot, like the Marauders taking Nate and Lorna. But that doesn't work, since Freedom Force was shown to be working for a commission including Valerie Cooper, General Haywerth and Raymond Sikorsky (the Avengers liason) and while it was plausible the X-Teams couldn't find the Marauders immediately, there's no reason they should have trouble locating Cooper, Haywerth and Sikorsky.

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  9. @ANonymous: think that Rusty and Skids were originally intended to rejoin the New Mutants- there were Liefeld sketches of them.

    Oh, definitely. It seems like they were meant to stick around longer, even after Liefeld came aboard. But presumably he got bored with them, or distracted by X-Force, or whatever. It's just in hindsight, knowing how it all plays out, it's kind of funny that Rusty gets a bit of a spotlight in this issue (and NM #86, of course).

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