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Thursday, October 2, 2014

X-amining New Mutants Annual #5

"Here Be Monsters!"
1989

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants team-up with Namorita and SURF to battle Ghaur. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Tom Dzon
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Learning of the New Mutants recent discovery of the Horn of Doom, Ghaur and Llyra conspire to acquire the Horn for themselves, so that it may aid Set in dominating the Earth. To that end, Ghaur sends three Deviant warriors, each of whom resembles one of the New Mutants, to steal the Horn from Namorita, Namor's cousin, to which he entrusted it for safekeeping. Meanwhile, the New Mutants arrive back on Earth, only to discover Ship missing from his position over the Atlantic Ocean. Leagues away, the Deviants attack Namorita in Atlantis, attracting the attention of three Atlantean mutants, dubbed SURF, who come to her aid, though the Deviants succeed in acquiring the horn and escaping. Believing the Deviants to be the New Mutants, Namorita and SURF track down and attack the young mutants.


Namorita eventually realizes the New Mutants were framed, and they agree to help her recover the Horn. Meanwhile, Ghaur has arrived on the outskirts of Atlantis, and blows into the horn. The sound is heard by the Atlanteans and Warlock, enabling them to home in on the Horn's location. They arrive to discover a massive sea monster attacking Atlantis, sent there by Ghaur to slaughter the inhabitants as a sacrifice to Set. Working together, the New Mutants and SURF lure the creature away from the city and into a deep trench nearby, where they trigger an avalanche and bury the creature. But the damage has been done, with the city heavily damaged, many of its inhabitants dead, and the water around it poisoned by the monster's blood. Namorita and SURF vow to hunt down Ghaur and the Deviants and make them pay for what they've done, while the New Mutants resume their search for Ship, having gained a sense of perspective regarding their situation.

Firsts and Other Notables
This marks Rob Liefeld's first time drawing the New Mutants, coming a few months ahead of his assumption of regular penciling duties on the series itself.

This issue is a follow up to New Mutants #76, subbing in Namor's cousin (and future New Warrior) Namorita for Namor and featuring the Horn of Doom (the conch shell with which the New Mutants accidentally summoned a massive sea creature), set amidst the ongoing "Atlantis Attacks" story as Ghaur, taking advantage of the absence of his ally Attuma, current ruler of Atlantis, sacrifices the city to Set. 


Namorita is joined by SURF, three super-powered Atlantean mutants.This is their first appearance, and I believe their only other appearance is in an annual back-up story later in "Atlantis Attacks".

The second story in this issue features Boom-Boom breaking the fourth wall and interacting with her artist (former Power Pack and future X-Factor penciler), Jon Bogdanove, in a dream, proceeding to rate various men throughout the Marvel Universe in terms of their hunkiness and compatability. It's the kind of goofy and lighthearted fluff that started showing up in the second or third positions of annuals around this time.

In addition to the second story and the ongoing Serpent Crown historical retrospective, the issue is rounded out by a series of pin-ups by Liefeld, including one featuring former New Mutants team members, giving us a rare glimpse at Liefeld's take on some departed characters (in a testament to his design, not even Liefeld can make Art Adams' Magik costume look bad).


The current group shot features Rusty and Skids prominently, even though they'll be written out of the main series very soon after Liefeld's arrival.


The Chronology Corner
This is a tough issue to place in context of the larger X-Men narrative. Chronologically, it takes place towards the end of New Mutants #87, after the team has completed their upcoming Asgardian adventure, yet it was on sale at the same time as New Mutants #80, while the team was still in Asgard, and thus, to anyone reading it at the time, it spoils the end of that story.

Furthermore, it's obviously a part of the "Atlantis Attacks" storyline, and while it was on sale the same time as the other tie-in annuals, those annuals clearly take place around issues set before the New Mutants go to Asgard. So holding back this one until after the Asgardian story mucks up the overall chronology more than it should.

Long story short, there's no good place to slot this annual in, so we're looking at it now, around the same time as the other "Atlantis Attacks" annuals take place, rather when it was on sale (circa issue #80) or takes place (issue #87), the better to just get the X-books' contributions to "Atlantis Attacks" over and done with (For what it's worth, the Marvel Chronology Project places this issue between issues of #76 and #77 of New Mutants, while the Grand Comics Database places it between pages of New Mutants #87).

A Work in Progress
Boom-Boom notes that at some point X-Factor was made her and Rictor's legal guardians. 


It's suggested that Roberto's super strength also gives him the ability to hold his breath longer. Not sure how well that follows.


I Love the 80s
Despite living underwater, Namorita is shown to sleep in a skimpy negligee.


Teebore's Take
Well, this is pretty much a mess. It's basically just a rehash of New Mutants #76 (which was a perfectly serviceable done-in-one issue but certainly wasn't crying out for an extra long reprisal), with Namorita swapped in for Namor, complete with two different hero misunderstanding fights, featuring some unremarkable Atlantean mutants, tossed in to pad out the page count. There's some historical novelty in seeing Rob Liefeld draw the New Mutants for the first time, but the setting does his work no favors: aside from when they're riding on Warlock, the New Mutants don't ever really end up on solid ground for the entirety of this story, making the figures' sense of place on the page even more nebulous than it usually is with Liefeld. The end result is an issue that, artistically, becomes more difficult to follow than it should be (it also doesn't help that someone, either Liefeld or inker Tom Dzon, decided to draw in as many bubbles as possible in the underwater scenes; it may be more realistic, but it makes things even more cluttered and hard to follow). Bottom line, this is just another ho-hum "Atlantis Attacks" chapter with little to recommend it. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Havok and Wolverine melt down in Meltdown #1-4. Next week, the X-Men battle a giant robot in Uncanny X-Men #246 and the New Mutants visit a strange doctor in New Mutants #77.

20 comments:

  1. The second story in this issue features Boom-Boom breaking the fourth wall and interacting with her artist (former Power Pack and future X-Factor penciler), Jon Bogdanove, in a dream, proceeding to rate various men throughout the Marvel Universe in terms of their hunkiness and compatability.

    Oh. She-Hulk and Wasp will do that for male Avengers in WCA Annual 10, also of Atlantis Attacks fame. That story was featured in the "I love Ya But You're Strange" feature of Comic Book Resources, but apparently Brian Cronin is misplacing the blame, if that's what it is, for the idea on Gruenwald faultily, seeing that Weezie went there first.

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  2. The rampage on Atlantis makes Ghaur's eventual nuking the kingdom seem overkill (although it does result in a good scene- in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL chapter- of Attuma going into shock over the news that his kingdom is no more. It's an interesting dimension for a character popularly known as a warrior-conqueror).
    I don't think there was ever a back-up for Namorita and SURF in this storyline. The next time we see Namorita is in the final FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL chapter, where out of nowhere she is presented as Ghaur & Llyra's captive. The capture happening offpanel.
    There's a lot of off-panel stuff in this series: as your review suggests, there is no scene confirming that a constantly-appearing mysterious Armored person is actually the seemingly-dead Namor in disguise. Scenes of Ghaur capturing several of the Brides is also absent from the printed story. What sloppy continuity! The chapters on the Serpent Crown Saga were better done.
    Speaking of which, can you tell me what this issue's chapter was: I presume it adapts Roy Thomas' original Crown story: Destiny's Helmet of Power taking its serpent form, Betty Prentiss, and Naga.

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  3. angmc43 -- "There's a lot of off-panel stuff in this series..."

    I noticed that when I (shudder) read the whole thing in the Omnibus a while back. It's like all the various creators thought other books were handling certain plot points, so no one actually presented them. Another reason why "Evolutionary War" worked better. "Atlantis Attacks" is just too free-form (I believe it was conceived with the intention that it didn't have to be read in any strict order).

    I've always liked Namorita; at least the version from Fabian Nicieza's NEW WARRIORS. I haven't read much else with her. Oh -- except the brief period where she was dating Johnny Storm during Carlos Pacheco's FANTASTIC FOUR run. That was an interesting plotline that didn't get a whole lot of exploration, as I recall.

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  4. @Teemu: apparently Brian Cronin is misplacing the blame, if that's what it is, for the idea on Gruenwald faultily, seeing that Weezie went there first.

    "Rating the hunks" is more my commentary (likely influenced by that AWC annual, which I have read as well) than something the story actually does - it's more about Boom-Boom being disappointed withe dating prospects of her male teammates and then going in search of better men, only to end up finding the best match in Franklin Richards.

    So I'm willing to defer to Cronin on this one. Besides, it's also possible Gruenwald came up with the idea and mentioned it to Weezie, even if her story was technically published first.

    @angmc43: I don't think there was ever a back-up for Namorita and SURF in this storyline.

    It might be a later annual I'm thinking of.

    I presume it adapts Roy Thomas' original Crown story: Destiny's Helmet of Power taking its serpent form, Betty Prentiss, and Naga

    I believe so. I don't remember Betty Prentis, but the Helmet of Power and Naga were there, along with Namor and Barracuda.

    @Matt: I believe it was conceived with the intention that it didn't have to be read in any strict order

    Interesting. Having not read the entire story from end-to-end (I pity you), I'd always assumed from how poorly the pieces I have read fit together that this one was MORE tightly constructed than "Evolutionary War". But apparently that disconnection came about due to an entirely different goal.

    That was an interesting plotline that didn't get a whole lot of exploration, as I recall.

    That could be said about a lot of Pacheco's FF run, unfortunately.

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  5. Little Thin Man Accused in RobberyOctober 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    The second SURF appearance is in an Avengers West Coast Annual back-up from 1990. It's a pretty generic story - they attack a SeaWorld-esque park to try and free the killer whales, but get stopped by a small group of Avengers. There's no obvious reason they got used, like Simonson or Liefeld being involved, it's dull annual back-up filler, basically.

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  6. Not much to add to the "what a mess" consensus, but The Rob really made Bird Boy look like Divine crossed with Cruella DeVille & Mr. Sinister. It's kind of amazing.

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  7. Teebore: only to end up finding the best match in Franklin Richards.

    To be fair he is quite a catch. Will be owning an extremely valuable patent portfolio one day, and if John Byrne is to be believed (Days of Future Past, not the FF hippie look) adult him will also be of that timeless Marvel handsomeness of Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Henry Pym, Donald Blake, Johnny Storm...

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  8. Mela, Divine... of John Waters' Pink Flamingoes fame? Because you may just have ruined Bird-Boy AND Rob Liefeld for me in one go. Which should be impossible.

    A genuine "your devices have limits. I don't." moment for me.

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  9. Early Liefeld art, yay! Even back then, he seems to have an aversion to drawing feet. His Birdboy is way off model (and was he really considered a member?). At least his big hair look kind of works in Magma here. Wasn't there also a page of Mirage and Karma in their outfits as well?

    "and thus, to anyone reading it at the time, it spoils the end of that story."

    "while the Grand Comics Database places it between pages of New Mutants #87"

    Simonson could have avoided both problems by just including Dani in the story, have a footnote saying it occurred BEFORE they went off to Asgardand, and it wouldn't have changed things or affected the story much. To be fair, it does make sense for it to take place in-between pages of #87, but still.

    Is it just me, or does the Namorita seen on the cover seem like it was drawn by somebody else and photo-shopped on?

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  10. "It's suggested that Roberto's super strength also gives him the ability to hold his breath longer. Not sure how well that follows."
    It's established that people like Thor, Hercules, Hulk, etc. can hold their breath longer than a normal person, so apparently super-strength does give you the ability to hold your breath longer in the Marvel Universe.
    "Simonson could have avoided both problems by just including Dani in the story, have a footnote saying it occurred BEFORE they went off to Asgardand, and it wouldn't have changed things or affected the story much. To be fair, it does make sense for it to take place in-between pages of #87, but still."
    She didn't even have to include Dani- she could have just thrown in a line about how Dani was sick or babysitting Illyana or whatever.
    "The rampage on Atlantis makes Ghaur's eventual nuking the kingdom seem overkill (although it does result in a good scene- in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL chapter- of Attuma going into shock over the news that his kingdom is no more. It's an interesting dimension for a character popularly known as a warrior-conqueror)."
    "Is it just me, or does the Namorita seen on the cover seem like it was drawn by somebody else and photo-shopped on?"
    Also, note that in Fantastic Four Annual 22, the Thing talks about how the New Mutants and Namortia fought U-Man on Avengers Island. It looks like this issue was redone at the last minute and that's why Atlantis was destroyed twice.

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  11. The sound is heard by the Atlanteans and Warlock

    Ha, I had a flashback there. Back in the day I was relatively new to Marvel and some bigger boys went on and on about the psychedelic awesomeness of "Starlin's Warlock" and I was somewhat confused over that I had pretty much discarded our techno-organic friend as a comedy sidekick and couldn't think of any angle that would justify him having his own series and even less understand that something like that could get actual praise from people more into the scene than I was.

    Here, and I really should have known better, my first reaction was: "Wasn't he supposed to be dead or something around this time, cocooning up for return only two years later?" Must have been some sort of ripple in the ether, or some scanning wave coming in from the 90's, can't think of why...

    Was there ever an element in New Mutants' Warlock of being a trademark holder for Marvel for the name, and has anyone heard if there was any hint from the cosmic office to drop the character around this point because they were about to kick a Thanos storyline in and...?

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  12. Mela, Divine... of John Waters' Pink Flamingoes fame? Because you may just have ruined Bird-Boy AND Rob Liefeld for me in one go. Which should be impossible.

    I think it's the winged-out eyeliner Rob gave him more than anything. And frankly, if you're in the same boat as me, nothing can possibly ruin Bird-Boy more than his mere existence has.

    I've said this before elsewhere, but I do think Liefeld has a good handle on Warlock's cartoonishness. It's probably not what he wanted to draw, but that's the one instance where his tics didn't look out of place & actually fit the character.

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  13. Mela: And frankly, if you're in the same boat as me, nothing can possibly ruin Bird-Boy more than his mere existence has.

    Luckily I have totally avoided any exposure expect for the second-hand for Bird-Boy, but firstly and foremostly I'm on the boat of the Douglas Ramsey Appreciation Society. The boy survived being a slave to an Asgårdian Popeye, godsdamnit, that creature had no right to pop in for a pair of issues and get Dougie killed in the meantime.

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  14. "...firstly and foremostly I'm on the boat of the Douglas Ramsey Appreciation Society."

    So we are in the same boat! You're so right - if his death had been in service of a better plot, it wouldn't have felt so hacky. I parallel it with the death of Karate Kid in the Legion - he was similarly disliked (in particular, by the artist), but the creators had enough smarts to have him die saving a whole planet & his wife & their teammates instead of a feathery Jar Jar.

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  15. I'd be surprised if Namorita's face — at least — wasn't redrawn in the Bullpen by one of Romita's Raiders for that cover art. All figures but the background characters, including the inset SURF faces, have a very slightly-earlier-Marvel-house-style look to them in the manner of Ron Frenz.

    "While Atlantean forces led by Warlord Krang and Attuma the Barbarian battle the Avengers in New York...," reads the inside front cover's preamble. Now that's more like it, although here we are back with the Deviants.

    Mela described Bird-Boy's look in that illo perfectly. Oy. At least Magik looks surprisingly decent, as Teebore noted. Poor Doug has his belt 'n' pants hiked up past his navel.

    I swear it looks like Liefeld is still doing his Invasion! homage/parody in the main story, especially on the Giffenesque closeups.

    SURF is a dippy name (if par for the course in the genre) and the characters themselves are forgettable, but "mutant Atlanteans" is actually a pretty nice idea.

    I've never been able to completely get past the depiction of surface people — even metahumans, depending on their powers — several fathoms undersea in oxygen masks but no suits, moving about freely as if there was no physical drag due to water resistance and the pressure didn't affect them in the slightest. Unless you can fly and/or have considerable strength, you shouldn't be able to swim easily at all; heck, Rictor and Boom-Boom should probably be unable to breathe that far down if not crushed outright. Not to mention how it would be impossible to see.

    I also don't buy that the creature could wreak havoc of the sort described on a city of the size that I have previously imagined Atlantis being. Although it's hard to tell from the artwork, my impression while reading was that only several buildings on the outskirts and their inhabitants — perhaps one or two blocks in our terms — were affected. The end of the story tells me otherwise, however.

    For all the gap-filling hand-waving plotwise that those of you who've read the whole saga say must occur off-panel or between issues, I think it's hilarious that Ghaur surveys the damage wrought by the creature and decides that it fulfills the terms of a ritual that requires, per captions on the first page, "the sacrifice, to Set, of an entire race of people." He basically says "Close enough!", which doesn't seem like it should be his decision since he's the person trying to live up to the terms of the spell. I'll grant that he uses the word "decimated" and we all know that folks rarely mean it literally anymore, but he clearly doesn't believe that everyone was killed and Namorita mentions at the end that the populace has fled because the property damage, and that creature's blood having poisoned the water, made Atlantis uninhabitable. While displacement of a civilization is not a small thing, it ain't genocide.

    I thought Boom-Boom's vignette was a winner — which given my aversion to her is no small feat — partly for the cute idea but mostly for the really, really choice Bogdanove/Barta art. Fluid, stylish work like that on the series proper would've made it a much different, much more appealing ride the past few years. Pop-culture references abound, by the way, from Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone theme to Leave It to Beaver to a Marie Severin quality in the art for certain sequences, I presume in salute to her Not Brand Ecch days, to Boom-Boom's "That's the ticket!" per Jon Lovitz's Tommy Flanagan of recent Saturday Night Live vintage to the posters in her room featuring Terence Trent D'Arby, Dirty Dancing, and it looks like George Michael.

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  16. Blam: I'll grant that he uses the word "decimated" and we all know that folks rarely mean it literally anymore, but he clearly doesn't believe that everyone was killed

    Technically the word decimation means literally "removal of the tenth", originally meaning the form of punishment in the Roman army where every tenth soldier was killed by the rest of the legion for mutiny or desertions or stuff. If you go and kill everyone in the legion you have done the decimation terribly wrong and in fact committed a "Teutoburg".

    I find Graur's deviant approach towards maths of the situation appropriate but would like to question if they have commissioned setting up the terms of the ritual to a Roman empire sorceress perhaps.

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  17. @Teemu: // decimation means literally "removal of the tenth" //

    I know. My point was that even under the assumption that Ghaur was using it in what's become the lazy vernacular of "killed/destroyed a lot of" (or even "... most of"; heck, even if he meant "leaving only a tenth" instead of "removal of a tenth") he was being very generous to himself. What he says: "A city is but stone and mortar. It can be rebuilt... but its people have been decimated... and I declare by the blood of the monster that now blackens the water... that our ritual sacrifice" — a sacrifice, remember, that we're told requires "an entire race of people" — "is complete." After which I figure he called home to check on the kids and his son told him, after swallowing a few green beans and scraping the rest off his plate into the trash, "Dad, I totally ate all my vegetables!"

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  18. We have to remember though that Set is a snake god and your average snake is a cheating deceitful fellow, so maybe that's kind of expected from a true servant. I'll bet had someone gone and honestly killed the entirety of some conquered folks Set would have been less pleased and more like "Dafuq? Are you fucking sstupid or what! Whosss gonna now do all the mining and sstuff!"

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  19. I do have to say I do like that glimpse on Ghaur's domestic life by Blam. Reminds me of the time when someone at the Bugle suggested Peter should get a beeper and he imagined a scene where he had to excuse himself because of the beeper going off from a battle with Doc Ock who was quite understanding and said he too hated those little things. Fitting the personal life with a career in superheroics or villainy can be demanding.

    Also note how he left the kids home and thus is seemingly more sensible than the entire X-Factor. He's probably going to play catch with little Flymg (pronounced Phlegm) after he has got all this Atlantis business sorted out first

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  20. This issue *is* a mess, but compared to the Nicieza-scripted stories that we saw from Liefeld in New Mutants and X-force, the scripting skills of Louise Simonson really shine through.

    I tend to look back on her dialogue as verbose and expository, but there were a few good lines in here, and compared to the 'realistic' and decompressed superheroes stories of today, this was really fun.

    What comes from the heart goes to the heart, as they say.

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