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Thursday, April 27, 2017

X-amining New Warriors #31

January 1993

In a Nutshell
The Hellions get a send off while Magma and Nova Roma get a retcon.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Darick Robertson
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Rob Tokar
Group Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Cannonball, Firestar & Warpath journey to Nova Roma, in order to inform Magma & Empath about the recent deaths of the rest of the Hellions. When they arrive, they find Magma acting odd. Suspecting Empath of controlling her, Firestar sets out that night to investigate, only to discover Empath has taken control not only of Magma, but also Cannonball, Warpath and all of Nova Roma. Eventually, Firestar is able to use her powers to break Empath's control, at which point a confused Magma forces Empath to reveal the truth: Nova Roma is a lie, created by Selene, and its people aren't descendants of Roman settlers. In Selene's absence, her control over the people in the city started to fade, and Empath, loving his life there with Magma, took over, enforcing the lie. Now, he reluctantly agrees to help all of Nova Roma reclaim their lives, even though it means giving up a place he loves. Later, Warpath returns to the Massachusetts Academy and, with Firestar & Cannonball, burns the White Queen's secret files on the Hellions, giving the group a funeral of sorts.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is an epilogue of sorts to the slaughter of the Hellions at the hands of Trevor Fitzroy back in Uncanny X-Men #281 (and #282 to a lesser extent), as Cannonball joins former Hellions Warpath and Firestar to go to Nova Roma to give their former teammates Magma and Empath the news.

This issue also introduces a fairly dubious retcon to Nova Roma in general and Magma in particular, as Empath reveals that the whole "descendants of Romans living in South America" thing was an illusion created and maintained by Selene, and that the people in Nova Roma have been kidnapped by Selene and made to think they're descendants of Romans. Thus, Magma isn't really Amara Aquilla, but an Englishwoman named Allison Crestmere. While a fairly radical upending of Magma's history, nothing really comes of this idea, and the next time she's used regularly (in the early 00s, pre-"M-Day"), it's eventually established pretty quickly that Empath is lying here and the original Nova Roma origin is correct.

Firestar gets a new costume at the end of this issue, replacing her original look inspired by the character's appearance on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

The Chronology Corner
Cannonball & Warpath appear here while still technically under house arrest at the X-Mansion, between X-Men #17 and X-Force #19 (X-Men #17 has a scene setting up their appearance in this issue).

This is the first appearance of Magma & Empath since New Mutants #81 (though Magma has been mentioned in passing a few times since then). Both will next appear in the X-Force/New Warriors crossover "Child's Play".

A Work in Progress
An angry Firestar declares that no one will ever control her again, at the very least an indirect reference to how she was manipulated by the White Queen in her limited series.

Lest we feel too bad about Empath's sorrow over losing Nova Roma, the only place he's ever been happy, remember that this is the guy who nearly made Tom Corsi & Sharon Friedlander sex each other to death.

Casually tossed aside in Uncanny X-Men, Cannonball, Warpath & Firestar return to the Massachusetts Academy to give the Hellions something of a sendoff.

Incidentally, the fact that Warpath joined up with the New Mutants/nascent X-Force in the first place because he believed the White Queen ordered the massacre of his reservation never gets brought up here.

Austin's Analysis
This issue manages to both give a dangling plot thread some much needed closure, and also introduce one of the franchise's most pointless retcons. After the Hellions were unceremoniously killed off in Uncanny X-Men #281, no attempt was made in either X-Men book (where they died) or X-Force (where the characters who interacted the most with the Hellions were) to show how that would affect their surviving members and the New Mutants who knew them best. So kudos to Nicieza for picking up that dropped ball. It's just one issue, and much of it gets overshadowed by the retcon, but the tacit acknowledgement of the history between these various characters and how the events of Uncanny #281 affect that is very much appreciated, and stands as another example of the post-Image Exodus creators attempting to restore a sense of history and continuity to the series.

But then Nicieza goes and squanders all that goodwill by using this issue to introduce the bizarre idea that Nova Roma is a fake, and that everyone there, including Magma, are people Selene brainwashed into thinking they were descendants of Romans living in the Amazon as part of a massive nostalgia kick on her part. Look, I don't love Nova Roma either, and it stands as one of Claremont's weaker ideas, but in attempting to have it make MORE sense, Niceiza just makes it even more ridiculous. The biggest problem is that Nicieza (nor anyone else) ever really does anything with this idea - there's not really any fNova Roma stories in the future, and aside from an appearance in the upcoming "Child's Play" crossover and a brief stint as a quasi-villain later in X-Force, Magma doesn't really get used much for years.

So while it's possible, given time and some well-written stories, this retcon could have worked, instead, it's just sort of getting thrown out there, like it solves all of Nova Roma's credibility problems just by existing. As a result, it mostly gets ignored from this point on, aside from Magma's real name getting listed as "Allison Crestmere" on the backs of trading cards and in reference material for a few years, until eventually it gets re-retconned out of existence just as effortlessly and Nova Roma goes back to just being the bizarre, anachronistic enclave of Rome in South America it always was, making the whole "Allison Crestemere" business seem even more pointless in the end.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Phoenix battles Galactus in Excalibur #61. Next week, Professor X takes a stroll in Uncanny X-Men #297 and X-Factor gets examined in X-Factor #87.


  1. Wow, this Darick Robertson artwork looks so much better to me than his later stuff!

    I'm a big fan of Fabian Nicieza and I love a lot of what he's written over the years -- his X-MEN, THUNDERBOLTS, and CABLE AND DEADPOOL are some of my all-time favorite comics -- but this is such a dopey ret-con.

    I seem to recall reading an interview where Nicieza revealed his only reason for doing this was that satellite imagery was so advanced in the nineties that there was no way a place like Nova Roma could exist without someone seeing it -- to which I say, "Who cares?" Have some fun; indulge in some suspension of disbelief! Hidden civilizations are a well-worn trope going back to the days of pulp adventure novels, or maybe even earlier. I like the original Nova Roma storyline in NEW MUTANTS quite a bit because it feels like some kind of throwback to "Doc Savage" or what-have-you -- and it's not like Nova Roma's existence was harming anything.

    Anyway, I've never actually read this issue. Someday I want to read all of Nicieza's NEW WARRIORS. I even have the NEW WARRIORS OMNIBUS on my bookcase, but it only goes up through the end of Mark Bagley's run, issue 26, while Nicieza wrote it for nearly another thirty issues. Hopefully when the NEW WARRIORS sitcom (?!) hits ABC, Marvel will release a volume 2 to complete Nicieza's run.

    1. I checked the initial appearance in the early NM issues, and Nova Roma is in a cauldron of mountains covered by clouds, as an instantaneous explanation against this sort of but-the-satellites claim.

      I'm willing to go to the extent that it's downright offensive to do away with Nova Roma like this: the pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic contacts are an intriguing fringe topic in the real world historical science as is, and it's almost a sacred duty for the superhero comics to extend just that kind of things to and beyond the implausible extent.


    2. @Matt: // Hidden civilizations are a well-worn trope going back to the days of pulp adventure novels //

      I don’t mind the trope per se, and I’m certainly not above fun or suspension of disbelief in my superhero comics. Nova Roma was just such a mess. As for Nicieza’s reasoning, I’m not sure how this retcon helps much unless the idea is that Selene created it so recently satellites wouldn’t have picked it up yet, which has its own problems; even as a hedge against orbital surveillance technology coming still further along, those clouds Teemu mentioned provide cover. Of course there’s a way to link those to Selene, if they weren’t already her doing, and have part of the retcon be that they were dispersing in her absence just like people’s memories were returning.


    3. Small correction, by the way: New Warriors is being developed for the ABC/Disney-owned cable channel Freeform, which until last year was ABC Family, not the main ABC broadcast network. So is Cloak and Dagger, which has a trailer out already. Cloak and Dagger will be part of the MCU, although I’m not sure if the same is true for New Warriors.

  2. I'm a big fan of Fabian New Warriors run, so I am happy for this issue to be cover. Thank you.

    As for the issue itself, I generally liked it, but it does seem odd that this story had to take place somewhere other than a X-book.

    BTW, for those that haven't rad the issue, the best part is the 2-3 pages involving how she got the new costume. I think it's a bit busy, but I like it better than the original, as it's a bit drab even thro it's yellow.

  3. Matt I picked up the full run of New Mutants for probably less than what you paid for the Ombnibus. Those issues are dirt cheap.

    1. I know, I know -- in many cases the single issues are dirt cheap. But somehow I've become that which I once derided: a collected edition snob.

  4. An angry Firestar declares that no one will ever control her again, at the very least an indirect reference to how she was manipulated by the White Queen in her limited series.

    And very direct reference to UXM #193 where she spent most of the time utterly mindcontrolled by Empath and was painfully sorry of the mess he made herself cause afterwards, and I won't even go to the subtextual incinuations.

    1. It occurs to me that I like this costume for Firestar quite a bit when it's not accessorized by the ill-conceived bomber jacket she usually wore with it.


    2. Aren’t you kids supposed to love your ‘90s bomber jackets? 8^)

      My favorite costume for Firestar, I think, was the one she got in the Busiek/PĂ©rez Avengers run — still a mostly yellow bodysuit like the original* but with black (picked up from this outfit, presumably) gloves, boots, and added shoulder-to-chest design with red trim, her face-paint mask or whatever my only quibble. [*I don’t ever recall noticing before how similar Firestar’s exceedingly simple original costume was to Spitfire’s, the only significant difference being a cape.]

    3. Well if multiple members of the group wore matching jackets like Jim Lee's X-Men and Steve Epting's Avengers, it might make sense. But Firestar just wears an unbranded brown leather jacket over her costume for no apparent reason!


    4. Grant Morrison’s down-to-Earth incarnation of Animal Man wore a jacket over his traditional skintight costume so he’d have pockets, to keep some cash on hand, as well as for modesty’s sake (even though it was always unzipped and ended at the waist, so it didn’t exactly keep his legs or, uh, bathing-suit area from being on full display).

  5. I read this issue when it came out, as I was a regular reader of the title at the time. I'd never read New Mutants (I was young) and I don't think I followed the plot at all, though all these hints at the byzantine complexity of the Marvel Universe's history was like catnip to 10 year old Pushpaw. Anyways, after having long since read Claremont's New Mutants run, I resent this as a retcon. Sure Nova Roma was silly, but so are all super hero comics! It was fun silliness, and the idea of retconning it away because it's silly is far, far sillier.

  6. And I love that the "Hellions Master File" says "Secret" in big letters on the cover. Super subtle, Emma.


  7. I got a kick out of the White Queen’s dossier on the Hellions being a thick book labeled “Hellions Master File (Secret)” in huge letters.

    // Magma and Nova Roma get a retcon. //

    Not a bad retcon, in my apparently minority opinion, but definitely one that should’ve been rolled out over more than a page with more than just some blurted-out exposition from Empath. And sans any follow-up, yeah, kinda pointless.

    Since this is The New Warriors and it involved X-Family characters, I really wanted to see Nova and Roma show up in Nova Roma. 8^)

  8. That big letter massive Secret Hellions Master File is almost a retcon-bait if anyone wanted to bring back the Hellions at some time. "Did you kids actually think I kept Hellions Master File in a huge-ass book saying SECRET!!! on its cover? For reals?!"

    The Hellions' life essences were absorbed by a guy who's peculiar power is to open time portals to backwards direction only... it's more likely than not that some odd hiccup sent them back in time to the distant past of about 1985 and their "return" (by taking the long route of living it day by day under cover) as a grown-up supergroup should be nothing short of imminent, now that the New Mutants are to be a popular property all of the sudden. Seeing how IRON MAN film opted for the 70's Black Sabbath featuring in the soundtrack, to have 80's Judas Priest and "Hellion" as the central leitmotif for this one about the next generation makes so much sens it's near painful.

    1. As the Internet's Only Hellions Super-fan, I just wanna let you know that this idea is brilliant, and I would pay to see it actually done.

  9. After I finally read all of Claremont's run back ten or twelve years ago, my new obsession became reading comics that came later that tried to resolve the dangers. The internet was very helpful, and this issue is one of stories to which I was led.

    I actually liked it for a lot of the reasons it is being railed on here. It's quick, it's one issue, and it's done. Fine by me.

    I can see being annoyed with the lack of follow-up by Nicieza or anyone else, but to me this issue closes the can of worms rather than opening one. Nova Roma was going nowhere fast, despite all the hints of something big on the horizon. (Like all those implications whizzing around in Simonson's New Mutants #75, for example.)

    Also, I never really liked how Claremont wanted to double-down on angst-factors for Amara, making her both a woman out of time AND a mutant with a power verging on "awesomely destructive" a la the Summers brothers. It's just too much. "Oh, if I get upset, a volcano will erupt in Times Square. Wait, what is a 'Times Square'?" Fine if she was the star of a solo series, but in an ensemble cast of nine, she was overburdened given the amount of page time she has.

    So, I like this ret-con. And this is coming from someone who loves the Claremont and generally finds Nicieza unreadable, so if nothing else you can't accuse me of being already predisposed towards having a positive attitude toward this issue. :)


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