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Thursday, May 14, 2015

X-amining New Mutants #90

"To Hunt The Hunter"
June 1990

In a Nutshell
The New Mutants get a new headquarters and new costumes. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Hilary Barta
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the Morlock Tunnels, Sabretooth attacks a Morlock named Samson, drawing the attention of Caliban. Meanwhile, Cable leads the New Mutants to their new base of operations: the subbasement of the destroyed X-Mansion. Leading them inside, Cable orders the kids to design their own curriculum and new costumes, then report to the Danger Room for a training session. Roberto also cautions everyone to stay clear of the Morlock Tunnels, as Jean Grey recently told them the remaining followers of Masque have grown dangerously insane. As Caliban comes across the body of Samson, the New Mutants work on their costume designs, and Boom-Boom asks Rictor why he's been such a pain since Cable arrived. He admits that he knows Cable, but that it's personal and he doesn't want to talk about it. Later, the New Mutants gather in the Danger Room, and during the exercise, Rictor is overwhelmed by his opponents.


Reminded of what happened to his father, he collapses, begging Cable to turn off the simulation. Insisting Cable ran that specific sequence to set him up, then runs off, thinking that he'll prove himself by clearing the Morlock tunnels of Masque and his followers. Later, Boom-Boom, Sam and Roberto are trying on their new costumes when Rahne rushes in, declaring that Rictor has gone into the tunnels. They alert Cable, who tells them to be at the tunnel entrance in five minutes so they can get him back. In the tunnels, Rictor is caught between Sabretooth and Caliban, with Sabretooth slashing Rictor's stomach then turning to face Caliban. At the X-Mansion, Cable tells the New Mutants that while they are probably too young to experience what lies in the tunnels, Rictor has a better chance of survival if they all work together, and proceeds to lead the team into the tunnels. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The New Mutants debut their new, Liefeld-designed costumes in this issue, and for the most part, they're pretty solid, a nice mix of individualized and uniformed elements (and definitely a step up from the rather blah Blevins-designed costumes). Most won't survive the transistion to X-Force, though this is the look Sam will sport pretty much entirely until Greg Capullo redesigns all the X-Force costumes post-"X-Cutioner's Song". The New Mutants also adopt the subbasement of the X-Mansion as their new base of operations in this issue, which will be the team's final locale before they become X-Force.



The Chronology Corner
This story takes place after Uncanny X-Men #264. Cable references a conversation with Cyclops in which Cyclops suggested the New Mutants using the old subbasement to keep Freedom Force off their trail (which is clearly a hand-waving attempt to justify getting the New Mutants out of Ship and in their own locale); as far as I know, that conversation happened entirely off panel.

A Work in Progress
The group of Morlocks Masque is leading (the contemporaneous antagonists in Uncanny X-Men) are referred to as "Masque's gangsters", suggesting there now exists different factions within the surviving Morlocks (though given how many surviving Morlocks have popped up in all three titles of late, it's enough to wonder if the Marauders killed any of them...).

The Sabretooth/Caliban confrontation, first setup in X-Factor #52 & 53, spills over into this issue and the next.


Cable suggests Freedom Force is being backed by one specific individual with a nefarious agenda; unless he means Val Cooper, I don't think anything ever comes of this cryptic remark.

Enough time has passed between last issue and the next that Rictor's mohawk is gone.

We get a ton of cryptic hints about Rictor's past with Cable in this issue: Rictor admits that Cable isn't some kind of mass murderer but says Cable stole his father from him and when Rictor is overwhelmed in the Danger Room by opponents, he compares it to what Cable did to his father.



Cable tries to repair Cerebro in this issue to locate the MLF, confirming some version of Cerebro still exists at the mansion. 


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Sam adds a pair of goggles to his costume, admitting that, while he doesn't need them, they just look cool.


The New Mutants use "modem" as a verb, to describe how they're sending their costume designs to Ship.

They also wear some...interesting workout attire for their Danger Room session.


The Reference Section
Ships that look suspiciously like Imperial TIE fighters attack the New Mutants in the Danger Room.


The Cable Guy 
This issue begins Liefeld's somewhat annoying tendency to never draw Cable in the same attire in consecutive issues. Early in the issue, he sports a new armored look as the New Mutant tour the remnants of the X-Mansion, and then later he sports the look seen on the cover as they prepare to go into the tunnels to rescue Rictor.


Cable worries that if he doesn't handle Rictor correctly, he'll lose him like he lost his son. This is one of a few Cryptic Cable Comments that still makes some sense in retrospect, as it will eventually be established that Cable has a son; however, he loses that son when Stryfe brainwashes him, which doesn't really compare to what's happening to Rictor in this issue.


They're Students, Not Superheroes
Cable tells the New Mutants that despite his more aggressive mission, they still need to keep up their studies, to better understand the world they're trying to save, and charges each with designing their own curriculum to that end. He also orders them to design new costumes, as new looks may momentarily confuse Freedom Force when next they meet.


501 Genes
I don't know what the spikey rubble on the cover is supposed to be, but it sure does a bang up job of obscuring everyone's feet...

Squinty Face Liefeld is on display all throughout this issue.

Rather than draw someone explaining all the amenities of the Mansion subbasement, or, you know, draw the amenities themselves, Liefeld just drops in a picture from the Official Marvel Handbook. I love the Handbook more than most, but that just seems lazy. 


Rictor's fingers are drawn all roughly the same length, the way, you know, everyone's fingers are. 


Cable's gun, which is comically large regardless, changes shape and proportions between the second to last and last pages of the issue.

The final page of this issue is effectively a pin-up shot of the team. 


Rob Liefeld on designing new uniforms
"The first thing I asked Bob when I got on the book was if I could redesign Sunspot's costume, because his was the only costume I really didn't like. But then I said, why not just take the whole group and revamp them? I sent in various designs for all the characters, and the ones we settled on had more of a uniform look. ... I've bought several magazines and borrowed some of my sister's magazines, trying to think what kind of accessories would they put on themselves. ... If the New Mutants are in the Savage Land and it's too hot, I'm to have the sleeves and the lower pant legs zipped off. If they're in the Antarctic, I'm debating having windbreaker hoods come up out of their collars. With Boom-Boom I laugh: this is what Madonna was wearing in 1983. Her hair's going to change. I'm thinking about ditching the bow in her hair. I like the glasses she wears. She has attitude, she likes to convey attitude, so I'm going to show that in what she's wearing. They'll all look like teenagers of the 90s."

Sanderson, Peter. The Mutant Report: Rob Liefeld Interview." Marvel Age #86. March, 1990: 11

Teebore's Take
After three issues that introduced Cable and brought him into proximity with the team, this issue essentially sets up the new Cable-led status quo for the series: a new base of operations (which, yes, is technically at least part of their old base of operations), new costumes, and new conflicts, both internal (Rictor vs. Cable) and external (the New Mutants vs. the Morlocks). Much of the issue is turned over to Rictor's angst about Cable, something which (mostly) fits with the later reveal but is still nonetheless irritating in its vagueness at this point: while a case can be made for Cable's "don't push it" attitude when it comes to grilling Rictor for details on just why he doesn't like him, there's no reason, given what we later learn Rictor's beef with Cable to be, that Rictor doesn't tell his teammates why being around Cable bugs him so much, other than mystery for the sake of mystery on the part of the creators.

The other problem with this setup is that it, ultimately, doesn't lead to much. After next issue (which is really just the conclusion to this issue's setup), we get a fill-in set mostly in the past, then a two-parter that genuinely features this new team dynamic before a crossover takes over for three months. By the time that's done, the transition into X-Force begins in earnest. So this is an issue setting up a new status quo that effectively lasts for all of three issues' worth of story (in the main series, at least). There's some promising material here, both in Cable's approach to the team and their reactions (Rictor's and otherwise) to him, but most of it gets pushed aside by the crossover and the push towards X-Force, the end result being that it's hard to get too excited about this new direction, promising though it may be.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, an old friend and an old foe return in X-Factor #55. Next week, Spotlight on the Starjammers #1-2 and Excalibur #23.

Collected Editions

16 comments:

  1. "The New Mutants debut their new, Liefeld-designed costumes in this issue"

    I have to admit, as shitty of an artist as Liefeld is, I did like his new costume for Sunspot.

    "it's enough to wonder if the Marauders killed any of them"

    I like to think they just added more people. Some mutants needed a place to belong to, heard rumors about a community of mutants living underground in NYC, and joined them.

    "Cable suggests Freedom Force is being backed by one specific individual with a nefarious agenda; unless he means Val Cooper, I don't think anything ever comes of this cryptic remark."

    Obviously, it was the Shadow King.

    "Cable tries to repair Cerebro in this issue"

    I don't think Liefeld or Simonson quite grasp the mechanics of Cerebro...esp since we're seen people wearing it and still being able to hear people talking to them.

    "as it will eventually be established that Cable has a son"

    What's funny is he goes from having a son to he wasn't really a son, more like a partner to back to having a son except wait, it's his step-son...

    Well, the artwork is what I expected to be. Horrible horrible horrible horrible horrible. But at least it's funny horrible, and fun to point and laugh at.

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  2. Just looking at the lengths Liefeld goes to hide feet on the cover for this issue, I have to imagine that Rob Liefeld and Quentin Tarantino are each other's archenemy.

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  3. Don't forget that this is the issue where Rahne became an elf, apparently.

    I do like design of the costumes (except Boom-Boom's. Enough with the skimpy minidresses already!) How they would "confuse Freedom Force, though remains a mystery? Everyn knows that when you want to disguise from villains you just put on a pair of glasses. Duh! One rather odd aspect of the new uniforms is that they were partially designed by Ship. I didn't know Ship was apprenticing with Oscar de La Renta on the side.

    The "workout" hear is just....no. Besides the fact Sunspot appears to be fighting in a woman's swimsuit, this is yet another instance of Leifeld drawing his teenage cast as fan-servicey 25 year-olds.

    Teebore if you hate(as do I) the cryptically contrived way Rictor handled his dead father angst, you are go to die when we get to the Lobdell era, where this type of disconnected foreshadowing will make up 75% of the (unresolved) plot.

    This depiction of Cable is what I mean when I talk about how Liefeld and Simonson work better together than separately. By "softening" Cable's "badass soldier" attitude with legitimate concern about Rictor and his charges education, it makes him a likable mentor. Much more then the unrepentant hardass he'd become once Simonson is off the book. Cable had a nice "balance" here that wouldn't have until Fabian Nicieza start reforming the character post-Liefeld.

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  4. Jeff: Just looking at the lengths Liefeld goes to hide feet on the cover for this issue, I have to imagine that Rob Liefeld and Quentin Tarantino are each other's archenemy.

    *chuckle* Personally I have been wondering a while if at this time at the Marvel offices Liefeld and Claremont were having lengthy and deep discussions about gladiators.

    Jonathan: Don't forget that this is the issue where Rahne became an elf, apparently.

    I think in the traditional lore pointy ears have been a mark for vampires, werewolfs and such. What I guess happened was that Liefeld came in with that info and ~100 issues of art be verdamt, started applying it to the resident wolf.

    Everyn knows that when you want to disguise from villains you just put on a pair of glasses.

    The other Simonson has already established six-and-a-half feet tall blonde Sigurd Jarlson couldn't fool even a punch of kids with that trick. This is Marvel Universe, what they need are eye patches for everyone.

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  5. The other problem with this setup is that it, ultimately, doesn't lead to much.

    I wonder when the decision was made to relaunch the series as X-FORCE? One gets the impression that, as of this issue, that wasn't on the table, yet. So, yeah, in retrospect, all this set-up does feel a bit anticlimactic.

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  6. Re: eye patches, I wonder what Nick Fury was disguising;)

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  7. Well, he obviously has some pretty damn condemning shit on Thor and is into military&intelligence. I don't want to claim anything, but has anyone ever seen him anywhere together at the same time with Odin?

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  8. Did you know that Odin's name alludes to 'rage, madness, fury', while his visage has been an inspiration to Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas? The bastard's really flaunting it at our faces, while using the eye patch to cover the very recognizable eye pit.

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  9. Quick, everyone spread his arms and legs and keep your mouth open !

    Turning into à caucasian! Putting on a mom’s bathing suit ! The unseen adventures of Roberto da Costa...

    I also like his new costume, Ken’s crotch aside. And FWIW, i think on the final pinup Liefeld drew a great wolf-Rahne.

    Regarding stuff changing between panels, there’s also ric’s headband, which has no loose end in the first panel (BTW, how impractical in a fight !)

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  11. Cerebro - im guessing that the X-Force decision was made pretty late, probably while the X-tinction Agenda issues were being produced. I remember that contemporary interviews gave no hint at the shift, at least until that crossover was almost finished and it was announced that Simonson was moving on.

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  12. @wwkd5: I like to think they just added more people. Some mutants needed a place to belong to, heard rumors about a community of mutants living underground in NYC, and joined them.

    That's probably fair. It's just kind of funny, given that one of the goals of the Mutant Massacre was to bring the Morlock population down, it seems to be back to what it was pre-Massacre now.

    @Jonathan: One rather odd aspect of the new uniforms is that they were partially designed by Ship.

    Were they partially designed by Ship, or just manufactured by him? I've always assumed the latter.

    Teebore if you hate(as do I) the cryptically contrived way Rictor handled his dead father angst, you are go to die when we get to the Lobdell era, where this type of disconnected foreshadowing will make up 75% of the (unresolved) plot.

    Oddly enough, I'm much more forgiving of it during the Lobdell Era. I think the difference here is that the only reason Rictor is keeping this a secret from his teammates is because the creators want it to be a secret, whereas (as I recall) Lobdell at least tries to give the characters a reason to be mysterious (for example, with the whole "Gambit did something bad for Sinister" mystery that gets dragged around for years, there's at least an effort made to suggest that Gambit wants it to remain a secret so his teammates don't think less of home. Ditto the X-Trator - it's not like Bishop knew who the traitor was and just wasn't saying, it was a mystery for him as much as for us.

    Cable had a nice "balance" here that wouldn't have until Fabian Nicieza start reforming the character post-Liefeld.

    Definitely. This is a much more enjoyable version of the character than his X-Force iteration.

    @Cerebro: I wonder when the decision was made to relaunch the series as X-FORCE?

    I don't know for sure, but like Huey suggested, it had to be pretty last minute. The writing is on the wall coming right out of "X-Tinction Agenda", yet none of the press leading up to that event made any mention of it. I'm going through old issues of MARVEL AGE, and hoping to at least note the first mention of the series there.

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  13. There’s a panel in the library where Sam’s in front of a stack whose shelves, and the books on them, are well over half his height. So apparently Professor X was collecting the entire Taschen catalog. Although from the desk Rictor’s leaning on it’s possible they were just all hit with Pym particles upon entering.

    @wwk5d: // I like to think they just added more people. Some mutants needed a place to belong to, heard rumors about a community of mutants living underground in NYC, and joined them. //

    “Come join the Morlock society! What are the odds of the Marauders coming back and slaughtering most of us again?™”

    @Jonathan: // One rather odd aspect of the new uniforms is that they were partially designed by Ship. //

    I think Ship just made them based on the New Mutants’ designs, like Teebore says, the idea being that the kids would “modem” over the specs for Ship to whip together out of advanced-science fabrics with any necessary technical gear.

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  14. Teebore, I remember a few old X-Axis entries joking that the Morlocks were like roaches: you could gas 'em, blow 'em up, destroy thier habitat, etc. and yet there ALWAYS seem to be a colony that ends up surviving. By this point (I mean 2015 here) Marvel had tried to exterminate the Morlocks like FOUR different times,cand yet nothing seems to do the trick. Even M-Day didn't take with them.

    I know pointing out Liefeld flaws is a "fish in the barrel" analogy at this point, but this issue demonstrates two particularly annoying artistic tics of his. The minor one is that for all his hyper-exaggerrated musculature, he tends to draw characters with some surprisingly weak ankles, made even more noticeable by the oversized boots they often wear. The major one is that while Rob...er..."excels" in big splash pages and pin-ups, he forgets that comics is about art and is a notorious inadequate storyteller, which in turn contributes to the bad writing technique of writers playing Exposition Fairy and over-narrating scenes to try to explain actions that the art's shortcomings fail to convey. I meant to mention this earlier, but a key panel in New Mutants #86 regarding Skids defeating Nitro is one such example. This issue with Sabertooth "ripping Rictor's guts out" is another. So yes part of it probably WAS just people doing Claremont pastiches, but I do feel that artistic shortcomings, such as Liefeld's do play a big part of the "overwriting" problem of the 90s.

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  15. About Ship, I think I just fine it bizarre that he had any type of "costume manufacturing" software at all. That just doesn't seem like something that Apocalypse or the Celestials would place any type of priority on. After all, a third party made X-Factor's uniforms. Costume manufacturing just seems like a very "Pimp my Ride" like embellishment for sonething like Ship. It'd be like finding out Apocalypse installed a full arcade in one of the holds.

    I think the other weird part about this is that it implies that the New Mutants have close relations with X-Factor. Odd since Simonson has gone through ridiculous lengths to separate the teams otherwise.

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  16. Jonathan: That just doesn't seem like something that Apocalypse or the Celestials would place any type of priority on.

    Oh I don't know. The original Horsemen had their individually customized team look and Apocalypse for sure wasn't sowing up the costumes by himself, and any way we don't know how standard an option such a machine might be on advanced races scale universe-wide; they did have one at the Battle World during the Secret Wars.

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