Monday, June 18, 2018

New Mutants #6: "Road Warriors!"

Countdown to "'Ah'm Nigh Invulnerable When Ah'm Blastin':"  None.

This issue continues the Team America storyline, and it somehow even gets worse.  Claremont throws out any sense of logic or plot:  the team somehow takes on A.I.M. without anything approaching a weapon, and we never learn what the point of Viper's scheme is.  Let's just get to through it, shall we?

Summary

The New Mutants bust into the apartment of Nguyen Ngoc Coy, Xi'an's uncle and a former general in South Vietnam's national police.  He's currently a "prosperous multinational businessman" as well as the "self-styled crime czar of the Bay area."  A robe-clad Nguyen orders his two sexy lady bodyguards to kill Xi'an and her friends, but Xi'an is able to possess both women as Rahne transforms into a wolf and tackles Nguyen.  With the bodyguards unconscious, Xi'an demands her uncle provide the team with information on Viper.  Despite Rahne growling at him, Nguyen sticks with the claim that he's a simple businessman.  When Xi'an then threatens him, he asks what she plans to do if he refuses to squeal.  She then possesses him and marches him onto the ledge of his penthouse.  She informs him it's a 250-meter plunge onto California Street, but he calls her bluff.  Despite betraying her parents and corrupting her brother, Nguyen knows Xi'an won't kill him.  She admits defeat, but 'Berto leaps at him, informing him he has fewer scruples than Xi'an does.  The team stops 'Berto before he succeeds in throwing Nguyen off the ledge, and Nguyen offers to help them if Xi'an agrees to work for him for a year.  Xi'an is appalled at the idea of using her powers as her brother did, to help Nguyen expand his criminal empire.  But, she agrees for Dani's sake.

In "Sonora Province, New Mexico," R.U. Reddy leads the team as Wolf tries to catch him.  However, the mountains are more suited to Reddy's style of riding (motocross to Wolf's speed), and Wolf crashes.  Reddy exults in Wolf's failure as the rest of the team arrives and tells Honcho he taught Wolf a much-needed lesson.  Xavier projects himself into their minds, reminding them they still have a tough road in front of them and lambasting them for acting so childish.  Wrench gets to work fixing Wolf's motorcycle as Honcho reminds everyone Dani is counting on them to survive.  We learn Xavier and Lilandra are camped inside the Blackbird on the banks of the Colorado River, halfway between the New Mutants and Team America so Xavier can communicate with both teams.  But, Xavier is exhausted, and Team America's constant squabbling is forcing him to spend all his energy focused on them.


In Viper's HQ in Big Sur, Dani experiments with her power, intending to distract the person watching the monitor focused on her room by projecting her spirit forms at a longer distance than she previously has.  Harada watches from the room he shares with Viper, recognizing the determination on Dani's face and wondering if Xavier fully appreciates her strength.  Harada recommends Viper kill Dani (given her determination), but Viper says she wants to learn more about Dani's powers.  She asks Harada why he's been so distracted lately, and he says it's because his father, Shingen Yashida, has died.  However, when Viper asks if he'll return to Japan to claim his inheritance, Harada informs her he has none:  although his father pledged he would become lord of Clan Yashida, Shingen passed that honor onto his daughter Mariko, Wolverine's fiancée!  Viper pledges to help Harada reclaim his inheritance after concluding the current scheme.


In Black Mesa, Team America arrives at its location, with Honcho complimenting Reddy and Wolf for blazing the trail.  Wolf unexpectedly gives Reddy all the credit, and Reddy tells Wolf that means a lot to him.  But, Reddy tells Wolf he needed Wolf pushing him forward, and they agree that Xavier might've had a point about teamwork.  Cowboy arrives to check on the guys, and he's surprised to find them sleeping.  Xavier appears to Cowboy, announcing he put them to sleep so their natural defenses could be weakened and he could "more easily hone their mutant abilities."  Cowboy is suitably disturbed by that assertion, and he and Georgianna focus on the bikes.  Meanwhile, Honcho and Wrench have invaded the fortress, and Xavier warns them guards are approaching.  They knock said guards unconscious and steal their uniforms.  Honcho explains the place is guarded by A.I.M., "a criminal think tank," and Professor X tells them he "scanned a layout of the complex" from the guards' minds before they knocked them unconscious.  That said, he then says the research staff's minds have sophisticate psi-screens, so he doesn't quite know what they're going to encounter.  He leads them to the vault, and Wrench tries to break through the lock's electronic coding.  But, he trips an alarm, and the research staff opens fire.  Wrench manages to open the vault and swipe the crystal, but, suddenly, the complex explodes.  In the Blackbird, Xavier screams in agony as he explains to Lilandra he suffered a psychic attack from Black Mesa so powerful he couldn't repel it.  Lilandra is also knocked unconscious given the mindlink they share.


In Big Sur, Sam comments how lurking outside Viper's fortress reminds him how the team first came together, Xi'an laments she can't raise Xavier to consult with him before they invade the fortress, and Bobby says he's likely just focused on his new favorite, Team America.  Sam (somewhat bitchily) reminds Bobby Team America, particularly Wolf, used to be his heroes, but Bobby admits they no longer are now that he's met them.  Xi'an decides to green light the attack despite Xavier's absence, but she also suffers a psionic attack, likely from the same mutant who attacked Xavier.  Her scream raises the attention of the HYDRA guards, and the kids leap into action.  Sam takes out a few guards by crashing into them, Bobby hurls a tanker into the generator to dim the lights, and Xi'an uses the cover of darkness to take control of two guards and turn them on their fellows.  A hole suddenly opens in Dani's cell, and she uses her powers to distract two guards, giving her time to knock them unconscious.  She finds a bleeding Rahne in the hallway, and the Silver Samurai -- fully suited -- is standing over her, energy sword at the ready.


At Black Mesa, Team America marvels that Honcho and Wrench survived the explosion, and Honcho wonders if it wasn't because of the MacGuffin...I mean, the crystal.  They're an hour from the border, but A.I.M. hovercraft appear in pursuit.  Cowboy goes on a suicide mission to distract the hovercraft while the others escape, but Wolf calls on the Black Rider to possess him so he can save his friend.  Reddy asks Wolf if he's crazy, but he says Roberto's words struck too close to home, and he will use his powers with honor.  Now the Black Rider, Wolf somehow uses the bike to leap from craft to craft to craft, disabling them in the process.  He tells a stunned Cowboy he feels amazing, and Cowboy tells him to ready for round #2.  Meanwhile, in Big Sur, Cannonball slams into the Silver Samurai before he can harm Dani.  Harada tries to recover, but Bobby knocks him for a loop.  He uses his teleportation ring to check on Viper, as she's locked in a battle to resist Karma's possession.  He calls her name, distracting her.  Xi'an then seizes her mind.  She has Viper turn her gun on Harada, but he realizes it's Xi'an and not Viper, so he knocks out Viper, and, thus, Karma.  He mentions how he could kill Karma's prone form, but he decides instead to escape with Viper.


At the Blackbird, Team America rouses Xavier, who informs them he doesn't sense the presence anymore.  Someone hypothesizes the mutant died in the explosion, but Xavier says it felt more like he was born.  Xavier wishes he knew what A.I.M. was doing, but he puts aside that matter, saying it's time to help the kids.  Honcho tells him they left behind two members of the team, but Xavier points out the window.  To everyone's shock, Wolf is carrying Reddy.  In Big Sur, the New Mutants are reunited with Dani; Xi'an even teases her for her outfit, asking if it's the "latest in Wild West fashion."  Rahne is sleeping near them, and, although they're concerned about her wound, they also know she heals quickly.  Despite appearing unconscious pretty much all issue, Rahne apparently had time to tell Dani about Xi'an's deal with her uncle, and Dani tells her she won't allow Xi'an to do it.  Xavier then psychically appears to the kids, chastising them for taking action against Viper without consulting him.  Xi'an politely reminds him she tried but he didn't reply, and Xavier says, given their success, he retroactively approves.  (Helpful, Xavier.)  Xavier informs them they're on the way to collect them.  However, to Xi'an, his image changes to show the mutant who attacked her earlier; he tells her he's coming for her, body and soul.  She screams, and the New Mutants struggle to understand her as she's speaking in Vietnamese.  Viper and Harada are seen leaving on a boat, and she orders him to destroy the headquarters, with the New Mutants still inside.  He does, and a shocked Xavier tells Lilandra to hurry to California.


The Review

As I said in the lead into this review, Claremont really scrapes the bottom of the barrel here.  As the following list shows, the issues suffers from a number of inconsistencies and mistakes that someone like Claremont rarely makes.  It contributes to the feeling the editors forced the Team America plot forced on Claremont, so he simply threw some stuff on the page and called it a day.

Some of the more problematic developments are:

- I've currently read through issue #13, and I'm pretty sure we never learn what the point of the crystal was.  Seriously, it was totally a MacGuffin.  (Moreover, we also haven't seen Xi'an again.)

- Having finally just watched the movie “The Wolverine,” it’s interesting to see the story that forms the basis of its plot mentioned here, of Mariko taking over the company from Shingen.  In the movie, her grandfather is the Silver Samurai, Shingen is her villainous father and Harada is her ex-boyfriend; here, Shingen is her benign (as far as we know) father and Harada is both her illegitimate half-brother and the Silver Samurai.  It's almost unrecognizable.

- I don’t get how Reddy and Wolf “blazed the trail.”  I mean, it’s not like they were literally cutting a path through a jungle.  Everyone would’ve had to have ridden equally hard as they did to get where they were going.

- I love Xavier putting Reddy and Wolf asleep to weaken their “natural defenses” so he can “more easily hone their mutants abilities.”  First, if you have to weaken someone’s natural defenses to accomplish your goal, you should probably question how worthwhile your goal is.  Second, if Xavier can just hone someone’s mutant abilities while he's sleeping, why all the focus on training?  Couldn't he just turn everyone into a seasoned X-Men with a few naps?

- I'm not really sure what Team America's plan was as they break into A.I.M. headquarters with no weapons.  At one point, Honcho claims to be holding off the A.I.M. researchers firing on him, but he has no weapon to do so.  Even if you buy they’re “unlimited class motorcyclists” who just happen to find trouble, shouldn’t they be a little more prepared for trouble, given they know they’re going to find it in this case?  Given Xavier had the New Mutants submit an after-action report in issue #4, you'd think his focus on planning would've extended to asking Team America how they planned on stealing the crystal from A.I.M. with nary a gun.

- I don't get where the hole in Dani's cell came from.  No one really attacked the fortress enough to rattle it like that.  Are we supposed to believe it was from 'Berto throwing the tanker at the generator?

- Putting aside the idea everyone on Team America just so happened to find the other mutants in the world with the same power to create a projecting gestalt, only Wolf actually uses that power here.  In fact, Reddy asks if he's crazy when he does so, which makes no sense.  As we're lead to believe, they've just spent weeks training with Xavier in the use of their mutant power.  Why wouldn't summoning the Black Rider be everyone's first option when confronted with the A.I.M. hovercraft?

- Last issue, Team America summoned the "Dark Rider," but here Wolf summoned the "Black Rider."

- As he did last issue with Bobby and Rahne, Harada tells us how he could easily kill Karma...but then just teleports.  If he had actually done so, we'd be down to Dani and Sam at this point.

- Why is Wolf carrying Reddy?  When last we left the team, Cowboy and Wolf were ready to go for a second round with A.I.M.  What happened to Reddy?  I guess we’re supposed to assume they fought A.I.M. off-panel?

In other words?  Man, I'm glad this arc is over.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

New Mutants #5: "Heroes" (or "Revenge of the '80s")

Countdown to "'Ah'm Nigh Invulnerable When Ah'm Blastin':"  "Ah'm lucky Ah cant' be hurt when I'm blastin'."

This issue kicks of a pretty crazy series of events that takes the New Mutants from encountering a group of D-list celebrities (not Ka
thy Griffin, unfortunately) to finding themselves trapped in a lost Roman city in the Amazon.  The Nova Roma saga (issues #7-#11) is pretty great, but we have to get through mediocre issues #5-#6 to get there.

Summary
Professor Xavier collapses in his study (in front of a suspiciously sexy headshot of a red-headed woman), and Lilandra rushes to him.  He explains to her (and us) that his "phantom, psychosomatic pain" persists, preventing him from walking.  Lilandra wonders if the problem is actually physical, and Charles panickedly announces the "attack" (conveniently) shattered his mindlink with the New Mutants.  Lilandra encourages him to relax, as they're in good hands for the next few hours with Stevie at a carnival.

The kids are enjoying themselves at said carnival when Bobby excitedly recognizes Team America, "unlimited class motorcyclists" he saw perform in Rio before coming to Xavier's.  Bobby exposits the team disbanded a few months earlier, and Claremont focuses on their banter to show us why.  "Wolf" refuses to lend "R.U. Reddy" his screwdriver, revealing the tension in the group.  "Cowboy" encourages them to cool it, as Bobby approaches asking for autographs for his "sister."  Cowboy happily signs -- and cannily signs one for Bobby as well -- but Wolf refuses to participate in such foolishness, hurting Bobby's feelings.  Cowboy thanks Reddy and Wolf for coming.  He laments "Honcho, Wrench, and Georgianna" couldn't join them, but explains their performance that day will not only help charity but also his cycle school.  Wolf tells him he stands by his friends, though he and Reddy continue to squabble.  The kids take a seat in the stands to watch the show as a mysterious observer standing atop the grandstand complains only half the team is there.  She tells her companion, Keniuchio [sic], to make sure to take the targets alive.

During the team's finale, an explosion knocks the guys to the ground as a group of green-clad goons rush Team America.   As the crowd stampedes around her, Stevie tells the kids she can't reach Xavier through their mindlink.  Sam pledges to help Team America before they're stomped "by a bunch o' goons," but Xi'an reminds him they're not in uniform.  Sam notes everyone is fleeing, so they'll be unlikely to see them in the smoke and confusion.  Wolf is shocked when Cannonball barrels through a group of goons, and Reddy comments they shouldn't let someone else fight for them.  With that, Team America joins the fray as Karma possess one of the goons and has him knock out another one.  Stevie manages to throw Xi'an to safety before she's hit by a missile, and she reminds us she's a dancer and teacher, not a superhero.  Bobby and Rahne leap into action as Team America run over the goons with their bikes.  The mysterious observer and her companion (who she now calls Harada) lament the New Mutants ruining their plan to bring out Team America's mysterious "guardian angel," the Dark Rider.  The observer tells Harada to ensure the children do not defeat Hydra, and Harada reveals himself to Stevie and Xi'an to be the Silver Samurai.  Xi'an tries to possess him, but he's able to resist, knocking her unconscious with his energy sword.  Observing his attack, Sam powers towards him, saying Xi'an better not be hurt.  But, his threat is undermined when Harada easily knocks him aside with his sword.  Wolf picks up one of the unconscious goons' gun and tells Harada to freeze.  However, Wolf hesitates, remembering a recent battle where a man died at his hands, and Harada uses his distraction to throw a throwing star at him.

From nowhere, a black-clad rider appears, but Harada makes quick work of him, evading the motorcycle with a sidestep and then using his sword to cut off the front of the bike.  The Dark Rider recovers, landing on one wheel, but Harada then takes out the engine and rear wheel with a pair of throwing stars.  He's shocked when he takes off the Dark Rider's helmet, revealing "him" to be Dani.  Wishing he could stay to take out the rest of the New Mutants as Bobby and Rahne approach him, Harada picks up Dani and teleports, as Viper instructed him.  Meanwhile, Sam recovers, lamenting his inability to maneuver and shocked when he sees a crying Stevie holding an unconscious Xi'an.  Stevie asks where Dani is, segueing us to an image of Dani dressed as the Viper.  (It's weird.  It's like she's wearing hand-me-downs.)

Dani finds herself in a place reminiscent of the Danger Room.  She sees a motorcycle and hilariously wonders if a "white rabbit in gang colors" comes next.  However, a voice sounds, telling her that she has to escape three large, spiked wheels coming her way and that the bike is her only means of doing so.  However, since Dani's never ridden a bike before, she's instantly confused, forced to leap from it as one of the wheels crushes it.  One of the other wheels almost crushes her but it stops and Harada appears, telling her to follow him.  Dani wonders if she should flee, but realizes she knows nothing about her situation, so fleeing could only make it worse.  Harada leads her to Viper, who observes Dani's incompetence on the bike in the testing room belies the fact she rode like an expert at the fairgrounds.  Viper asks her connection to Team America, but Dani says she doesn't have one.  Viper points out she was the Dark Rider, and a confused Dani stresses she doesn't remember anything.  Fueled by her anger, Dani loses control of her powers, showing Viper as a child fleeing the ruins of war-torn Europe.  A surprised Viper knocks aside Dani, pledging to kill her eventually for the affront.

At the School, Xavier announces he can't find Dani even with Cerebro.  He confirms she's not dead, as he would've sensed that, but posits she's either far from them or shielded from his probes (or both).  Colonel Rossi is on had, and he shows Xavier his files on the Silver Samurai, Viper, and the Dark Rider.  Rossi explains the Rider is a champion rider and electronics expert, though Dani isn't.  Sam asks why Dani would pretend to be the Dark Rider, and Xavier wonders if she had any choice.  He fires up Cerebro to ponder an idea, and Stevie thinks about how Xavier reminds her of the demon from "Night on Bald Mountain" when he uses Cerebro, wondering how he doesn't become corrupt given all his powers.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Viper pays a visit to Honcho, telling him he has to assemble Team America and break into an impregnable fortress deep in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains to obtain a certain object.  Honcho refuses, but Viper threatens Dani's life, refusing even to provide proof of life to Honcho.  He asks why she wants Team America to accomplish this task instead of her own agents, and she says it's easier to use them.  Honcho says he'll do it but can't speak for the others, and she says it has to be all of them for them to have a chance.  She tells him the rest of the team will be there by dawn (at her instigation) and they have 24 hours to make the decision.  With Team America assembled, Wolf argues Viper doesn't have a hostage, but Honcho asks if they can take that risk.  Georgianna asks Wolf if he wants Dani's blood on his hands, but Honcho then points out the fact Viper might not hold up her end of the bargain.  A knock on the door interrupts the conversation, and it's Xavier arriving with the New Mutants!

Wolf tells the kids to scram, and Bobby threatens him.  Xavier tells Bobby to control himself, and, when Wolf threatens to take him over his knee, Honcho tells Wolf he's acting like a child.  He recognizes Xavier as the world's top expert on mutants, and Xavier announces Cerebro confirmed for him Team America is comprised of mutants that create a "projecting gestalt," using their powers to project their abilities on someone to become the Dark Rider.  Wolf announces they don't need help from Xavier's "nursery school," and Bobby powers up himself and threatens Wolf.  Xavier tells Team America they're responsible for Dani's predicament because they haven't bothered to learn how to use their powers.  He tells them he'll help them learn, though Honcho notes he doesn't seem to be offering them a choice.  Georgianna tells Xavier he's not being fair, but he responds that it's not fair to Dani either; moreover, their powers come with responsibilities.  Wolf threatens Bobby for the cheap shot and tells Xavier he doesn't want to work with the New Mutants.  Given the tensions, Xavier agrees, to the New Mutants' fury.

Leaving the apartment, Bobby is devastated over how foolish he was to idolize Wolf, while Xi'an comments how Xavier can't train Team America and save Dani.  Xavier mentally projects to them then, saying training Team America gives them enough time to summon the X-Men for backup.  He argues Team America's need is greater than Dani's lest they harm an innocent.  An enraged Bobby reminds Xavier he asked them to stay at the School, so Dani put her life in his hands.  Xavier says he'll have to live with the repercussions of his decision, and Bobby reminds him Dani might not be so lucky.  Bobby thanks him for showing how little their lives mean to him, outraging Xi'an.  She tells Bobby he's doing what he thinks is best, as they must, which means they have to save Dani without Xavier's help.  Xavier doesn't stop them, simply acknowledging to himself how they're unaware of the perils they face and hoping his life is the one sacrificed if necessary.

The Review
Oy, this issue.

First, Team America is as '80s of a concept as I could possibly imagine.  I mean, a hair crimper would be jealous of how '80s Team America is.  I can see and hear the commercial for the toys, even though I don't know if they even had a commercial.  It was the sort of ridiculous conceit that made its way to market back then; your toyline couldn't just have one shtick, it needs several shticks.  A great example was "M.A.S.K.," where each element might have worked (transforming trucks!  cool masks!  magic stones!) but together it just made no sense.  (That said, I freaking loved "M.A.S.K.")

To make matters worse, Team America makes even less sense as a result of Claremont having to find some way to connect them to the X-Men.  After all, the only reason the New Mutants are involved here is because they happen to be at the fairgrounds when Viper attacks.  Claremont tries to square the circle by revealing they're mutants, but that somehow makes matters worse.  Five "unlimited class motorcyclists" with exactly the same mutant powers just happened to find each other?  Also, assuming they all have the power to project a gestalt, does it have to be the Dark Rider?  Could it be someone else?  Also, how few guys do they need to do so?  Viper insists they all have to agree to help her as she's blackmailing them, presumably because she wants them to summon the Dark Rider.  But, Cowboy, R.U. Reddy, and Wolf summon the Dark Rider all on their own here.

Moreover, it doesn't help that Viper's reasons for "recruiting" them barely makes sense.  She needs a team of "unlimited class motorcyclists" (sorry, I'll stop with the quotes soon) who summon the Dark Rider to...drive up the Sierra Madre mountains?  Wouldn't it have been easier to recruit a group of advanced mountain climbers?  Couldn't she just have blackmailed the X-Men?  After all, her only leverage here is Dani.  How was she going to convince the Dark Rider to work for her if the New Mutants hadn't foiled her plan to capture him?  

It seems pretty clear Claremont was given an editorial order to work Team America into the series, because it's the only thing that explains why this issue is so sloppy across the board.  It's not just their insufficiently explained mutant powers or Viper's equally unexplained terrorist plot.  Just to pick one example, Xavier claims the psychic "attack" he suffered in his den has severed his mindlink with the kids, but he also describes his fall as a psychosomatic "block," very different from an "attack."  Moreover, the battle scenes are just bizarre.  Team America on several occasions is shown as taking on the HYDRA goons, but it's really unclear how they're doing so.  Often, it looks like the goon is jumping backwards from the motorcycle when, in fact, we're supposed to conclude Team America ran into them.  But, Team America riders never suffer even a loss of control over their bikes, despite running into 200 lbs. of goon.

On some level, I understand Xavier's predicament here.  If he can properly (if hastily) train Team America, they're the best chance he has of saving Dani, particularly if he's able to maneuver the X-Men into backup.  (It raises the question of how inaccessible they are right now if he can't just dispatch them immediately.  But, let's ignore that question for now.)  This way, he's using two teams of adults, instead of a team of adolescents, to save Dani.  But, it also assumes Dani can just hang for a few weeks waiting for Team America to be trained.  In a way, he's treating her as the type of professional combatant he swore he didn't want the kids to become.  In that way, Bobby really isn't wrong here to be outraged by Xavier's callousness.

Turning to the series' ongoing plot, Stevie has noted several times now she's a dancer or teacher, not a superhero.  At some point, you'd figure she or Xavier would agree she's maybe not the best person to be escorting the team outside the School, given how frequently they run into trouble.  (Along those lines, Stevie, you should probably follow your instincts when it comes to whether or not the Professor's powers corrupt him.)

In other words, to be repeat my first comment, oy, this issue.  I'm happy to say it's uphill from here, at least for a while.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Mutants #4: "Who's Scaring Stevie?"

Countdown to "'Ah'm Nigh Invulnerable When Ah'm Blastin':"  “Ah can’t be hurt when Ah’m blastin’.”

Summary

Stevie receives a threatening phone call, and Xi'an walks into Stevie threatening to rip out the callers' heart.  Xi'an encourages her to go to the police since it's not the first threatening call Stevie has gotten, but Stevie says the police told her verbal harassment isn't a serious enough crime for them to do anything.  She tells Xi'an that it's her problem, but Xi'an presses the issue, not incorrectly noting the X-Men and the New Mutants could help.  Stevie and Xi'an enter Stevie's dance studio and are surprised at the presence of a (not-at-all-creepy, red-headed) teenage boy named Peter Bristow.  Stevie asks how he entered the studio, and he tells her the door was open so he figured he'd tidy up the studio before class.  Stevie sends Xi'an on her way, apologizing for snapping at her.

At the Mansion, the New Mutants are playing frisbee in the snow when Xavier calls for them.  Sam expresses his ongoing surprise at the Professor using his powers while Dani recalls how she can't get over the fact he tried to kill her.  They encounter Lilandra on the way to Xavier's office, and she promises them mulled cider and sandwiches after their meeting with Charles.  Sam thinks about how he still gets the "willies" around Lilandra, while Rahne tells her royalty shouldn't be preparing food for them.  Not surprisingly, Dani asks Rahne if she doesn't think they rate such treatment, and Lilandra thinks about how Dani's rebellious streak reminds her of herself.  Xavier recalls the events of the past few days for the students and tells them he plans to keep open the School, even if he originally made the decision to open it under the Brood Queen's influence.  He understands some of them don't trust him, but he wants them to stay, though he would understand if they don't.  Dani is impressed that he spoke form the heart, something she hadn't heard from him previously, so she speaks for all of them when she says they understand he wasn't himself.  As people who've been unfairly condemned themselves, she says it wouldn't be right for them to do it to him.

Xavier then asks Xi'an if something is wrong, hilariously claiming that, contrary to popular opinion, he doesn't read his students' thoughts.  Xi'an reveals Stevie's situation and tells the Professor she intends to help Stevie regardless of her wishes.  Dani whispers she'll help with or without the Professor's blessing and privately hopes the Professor refuses.  (I guess that détente didn't last too long.)  The Professor hears Dani's remark (and possibly her thoughts, though it's unclear) and realizes he needs to get a handle on her rebellion before it goes too far.  He tells Xi'an to devise a plan, and Dani bristles, saying it's not a classroom exercise or game.  The Professor disagrees, seeing all circumstances, even deadly ones, as opportunities to learn.  He then tells Dani only a fool would waste any strength on unnecessary confrontations and beseeches her not to treat him like an enemy he isn't (even if he just called her a fool).  After the children depart, Lilandra enters, noting how upset Dani looked.  Xavier admits he once would've overpowered her with his powers and personality, but he now realizes her loyalty must come from respect, not fear.  (Good job there, Charles.)  Lilandra then tickles him to hear him laugh.  (Really.)

At Stevie's apartment, Bobby installs a phone tracer the Professor helped him build on Stevie's phone.  She makes it clear she's reluctantly accepting the kids' help, but the tracer works, leading the kids to a phone booth after the stalker calls.  After the "disgusting" smells in the phone booth initially overwhelm her, Rahne finds the scent.  As a result of their psychic rapport, Dani reveals they're looking for a boy their age.  The trail leads them to the high school, where the mixer the kids were invited to attend in issue #2 is happening.  Sam and Rahne crouch at the windows, as Rahne scrutinizes the heat signatures of the kids for signs of an outlier emotion.  The rest of the kids enter with Stevie, hoping her presence provokes a response from the stalker (since it worked on "Magnum, P.I.").  Stevie encourages the kids to enjoy themselves while they're at the mixer.  Tim takes Xi'an to dance as Sam comments to Rahne that he thinks they got the short end of the stick.  Suddenly, the stalker sees Stevie and his heat signature changes, and Rahne identifies Peter as the stalker.  (No!  Quelle surprise!)  Peter realizes Stevie somehow knows and bolts, and Rahne bursts through the window to follow him.  The sudden appearance of a wolf causes a panic, and the New Mutants struggle to follow Peter in the crowd.  Sam makes his way around the building in time to see Peter leap into a car.  Sam follows him and sees that Peter is heading straight toward a mother and her child crossing a crosswalk.  Sam grabs the pair of them but realizes he doesn't know what he should do next.  Although his blast field protects all three of them, he's barreling toward a building.  He manages to turn just in time and, although ecstatic at finally turning, realizes he doesn't know how to return to the ground.  At that moment, Professor X appears in his head, encouraging him to trigger his power in short bursts to descend.  He does, and, although he's left with a fainted mother and bawling child, he's thrilled he finally did something right.

Meanwhile, Peter takes a turn too sharply, crashing the car (which catches fire) into a shed and escaping on foot.  Wolfsbane is in hot pursuit, and Cannonball arrives in time to see him duck into a derelict building.  The kids follow him into the building, but Karma has Bobby stay outside to deal with the fire.  Bobby manages to wade into the fire and hurl the burning car from the shed.  However, an explosion hurls him off his feet, and he discovers the shed is (for some reason) filled with explosions.  He warns Professor X, who warns the kids the situation is dire.  Xi'an says they have to find Peter before he's hurt, though Dani says he'd deserve his fate.  Xi'an disagrees, saying it's not their responsibility to pass judgment.  They hear a scream and discover Peter has knocked Rahne unconscious with a bat; he's startled when she's revealed to be a girl (since, after all, he hit a wolf).  Xi'an possesses Peter as Dani sees to Rahne.  However, the shed explodes, and the building starts to crumble.  Dani tells Xi'an to run as she'll shield Rahne with her body, but Cannonball arrives to grab Rahne, allowing the girls to flee.  Xi'an sends Dani ahead, as she can't run fast while possessing Peter, but Dani refuses, saying they all leave together.  Bobby keeps open the tunnel Sam created through the debris and they all escape just as Bobby's power expires.

At Stevie's apartment, Peter goes into near "mortal terror" when Stevie mentions calling his parents, and Professor X says he's so agitated it (oddly) blocks his psi-scans.  He encourages one of the New Mutants to use their powers to get to the bottom of Peter's fear.  Dani (rightfully) wonders if that's the right thing to do, as people have a right to privacy over their own thoughts.  However, she respects Xavier's authority all of a sudden, figuring he has a good reason to ask her to do it, so she uses her powers on Peter.  We see his heart's desire as an image of him kissing Stevie is revealed.  However, we then see his deepest secret as an image of his father beating him appears.  An enraged Peter lunges for Dani, and Sam's grip on his shirt causes it to tear, revealing scratches and welts on his back.  Xi'an briefly possesses Peter to stop his attack, but they're all appalled by his scars, some of them dating back years.  Bobby asks why Peter's parents hate him, but Peter says they love him -- he's just a "bad boy."  In fact, he didn't understand why Stevie didn't punish him, because she said she liked him.  He kept trying to provoke her, but he interpreted her failure to punish him as a sign she didn't really like him.  He started the calls as revenge.  He collapses into her arms in tears begging her forgiveness as Stevie herself weeps.

Xavier arrives later and wipes out Peter's memories of the New Mutants.  He then calls an ambulance and child services.  Rahne asks what'll happen to Peter, and Xavier says he'll go to a foster home.  He pledges to help Peter once he's ready for therapy, and he tells the kids they should be proud of themselves for their intervention, as they hopefully broke the cycle of abuse.  He reminds them being a mutant isn't about fighting evil mutants or villains, but helping people.  He then tasks them with writing an evaluation of their performance for tomorrow's class, and Stevie tells them they did good.

The Review
Jesus, Claremont continues to be grim.  I mean, Peter isn’t only an abused child; he’s so thoroughly broken from the abuse that he believes abuse is the only way people can show love.  That said, Claremont and Cockrum tell a really moving story here.  The scene of a crying Stevie holding a wailing Peter was particularly devastating, and it shows why the incident has left the kids shaken.  Moreover, Claremont shows how the kids are frequently willing to risk their lives for one another:  Dani for Rahne, Xi'an for Dani, Dani for Xi'an.  Even if they're not as close as they'll eventually be yet, Claremont makes it clear they've bonded to each other.

I enjoy Roberto continuing to pattern himself after Magnum, P.I.  I totally hope in a future issue they run into Tom Selleck.  My favorite exchange in the issue happens when the kids arrive at the mixer:  Roberto immediately declares the band to be terrible, and a seemingly in-agreement Stevie encourages him to “endure,” as he’s a guest.  Continuing '80s pop-culture references, Sam watches the kids dancing from the window and tells Rahne he once made a fool of himself trying to dance like that "Travolta fella."  (I could see that.)

Claremont also continues to use vignettes to tease out the characters' personalities, as Sam confesses to Rahne 
as they spy on the dance (at a fairly inopportune time, I have to say) that he misses his family.  But, his later exultation when he actually turns puts some fire in his belly.  It’s clear his confession about missing his family came because he was questioning his place at the school, but this development might make him feel a little more at home.  We also see the Professor as a more hands-on instructor than his Brood-possessed self, helping Sam work through his powers.  (That said, it sort of undermines Charles' claim he doesn't read his students' thoughts, as Sam doesn't call for him the way Bobby later does.)

On a downside, I don’t get why Dani was the one to speak for the students about their willingness to stay at the school given she then immediately hoped to defy Charles after he presumably forbade them from helping Stevie.  Yes, she was moved to hear Professor X “speak from the heart” for the first time, but the warm, fuzzy feeling she had faded pretty damn quickly.  More confusingly, she then later trusts Xavier when he orders her to use her powers on Peter, even though she (rightly) has concerns about violating his right to privacy.  In fact, his orders almost seem to confirm she's right to be suspicious of him.  I guess Claremont is telling a nuanced story of a teenager inherently trusting an adult but not necessarily letting them luxuriate in that trust easily.  But, at times, he seems to be going too far with it.

To continue on a theme about Dani maybe having a point, Xavier continues to prove a hypocrite here.  He not only encourages Dani to show us Peter's deepest secrets, he then wipes out Peter's memories of the New Mutants.  What memories does he leave him?  Stevie just guesses he’s abused when Sam rips off his shirt for no reason?


Turning to other characters, it's interesting how fast Rahne is.  In the frisbee sequence earlier in the issue, Claremont shows her able to catch a frisbee in midair in her transitional form, return it, chase it in her wolf form, and catch it before Bobbie can.  Compared to Sam still struggling with his powers, Rahne appears to be learning at leaps and bounds.  In a Marvel continuity note, Xi'an leaves her siblings with Father Bowen, Dagger's uncle and apparently the man who helped her and her siblings in her fist appearance in "Marvel Team-Up."

All in all, it continues to be a solid start to the series.  We've got a clear idea of the characters and their relationships with one another and the challenges they face.  All good so far.

Friday, June 1, 2018

New-ish Comics: The May 23 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Detective Comics #981:  This issue is so good.  Tynion has everything completely and totally collapse.  That alone is a surprise in comics, but he goes one better by making everyone the better for it.

The end comes as Stephanie shows Tim the future that Brother Eye edited -- where Kate kills Bruce not because she's working for the President but because he had terminal cancer and killing him allowed her to pass Amanda Waller's psi-scans.  It's then a quick road to Tim reasserting control over himself.  The Belfry collapses, and the dream is dead.

But, Tynion makes it clear it should be dead.  Both Kate and Tim are shaken by the revelations about their future, mostly because they realize they both spent so much time worried about their futures that they've neglected their presents.  The team ends so everyone can take time to assess where they are.  The President pardons Jacob on the promise he dissolve the Colony, so he helps Kate as she becomes an independent Batwoman again.  Cass goes to live with Leslie, and Babs has agreed to tutor her.  Clayface (in human form) watches her happy ending from the shadows with a tear in his eye before leaving Gotham with Victoria.  Tim and Bruce embrace the fiction of Tim going to Ivy University as, instead, he and Stephanie head into the sunset (literally).  (Tim tells her he doesn't want to take the lonely path his future self took.)  Jean-Paul is left searching for his own truth while Luke dedicates himself to studying Brother Eye so something like it can never happen again.  In other words, none of them is in the place to be part of a superteam right now.

Tynion does a great job of showing of how each development is connected to each character's experience over the course of his run; they're not just left somewhere DC needed them to be because of some upcoming event.  Interestingly, it's Bruce who's possibly the most changed.  He's still smarting from Babs' analysis of his relationship with Kate, and, in typical Bruce fashion, he sees it as a problem (Bruce = bad at relationships) to solve.  (Tim even comments on how odd it is to see him smile.)  In other words, Bruce's lesson is the value of trusting his family and saying he's sorry.

It takes someone of Tynion's talent to leave everyone so broken but thus better, but he totally does that here.  This entire long arc has been one of the strongest Batman stories ever told, incorporating a supporting cast in a more profound way than we've previously seen.  I can't wait to see where we go from here.

Hunt for Wolverine #1:  I wasn't going to read this event, because, OMFG, I'm over events.  Also, Marvel is engaged in a cash grab of almost unprecedented proportions with four mini-series spawning from this issue.  But, when I saw one of the mini-series involved getting the New Avengers together, well, I just couldn't pass up the chance to see the old band again.  The goods news is Soule is as good as he usually is here.  He wisely chooses the Reavers to be the villains who go after Logan's corpse.  First, their motive is pretty clear:  their last few jobs haven't gone well (a nod to the general incompetence of villains), and they need money for repairs and upgrades.  But, they're also formidable enemies even in their weakened condition (a nod to their illustrious past of ass-kicking).  Along the way, we learn their attempt to extract Wolverine from the statue was always doomed to fail, because Kitty had phased his body from the adamantium months ago.  I've wondered why she hadn't done so numerous times since Wolverine "died," so it's good to see Marvel going with this approach here.  It also makes sense:  they wanted to keep it a secret so he could have a legitimate resting place.  Soule also wisely uses a framing device of Kitty telling Logan this story at his grave, not just because it's lovely, but also because it sets up her discovering he's not there.  The second story has Kitty recruiting help from all the corners of Logan's life, setting up the four (!) mini-series.  Soule is successful here because he spends a lot of time focused on the characters' voices and personalities; everyone sounds and acts like s/he should.  If the authors of the mini-series keep that attention to detail, it could be a good time, even if it is a cash grab.

Infinity Countdown:  Darkhawk #1:  I have two main questions after reading this issue, and I'm afraid only one is going to get answered.  The one I expect to get answered is how the Raptors are now able to survive without their link to the Tree of Shadows.  But, the question I don't think I'll get answered is how the Fraternity of Raptors went from a somewhat feared group to the hot mess it is here.  The Raptors are apparently mad at the Fraternity for stealing from them, but I'm not entirely clear what they stole.  In Chris Powell's case, he switched places physically with the Darkhawk armor.  If the Fraternity only opened a portal into the Nullspace for the first time in this issue, how did they get their hands on Raptor suits in the first place?  If I remember correctly, they're actually using knock-off Raptor suits but, if that's the case, what did they steal from the Raptors to make them so angry?  Moreover, why did Robbie wait until now to actually open the portal to the Nullspace with the Nega-Bands?  Shouldn't they have jumped on that opportunity previously?  It seems like they've maybe been waiting to collect the Power Stone and their failure to do so left them with no choice, but I'm not sure.  I guess I had more questions than I thought...

Star Wars #48:  I'm not really sure what Urtya's plan is here.  I get the idea that he wanted to be the one to broadcast the king's dying message to his people; as he himself said to Leia, it wasn't Leia's responsibility to do so.  In fact, Gillen does a pretty good job of showing Leia as too forceful here.  Urtya's right:  she's endangering the lives of his people, and she's not the one to get to make that call.  But, Leia's also right that his decision to broadcast the piece to his people almost immediately is absurd, since they're nowhere near prepared to rebel.  Why hold Leia and her allies at gun point to retrieve the video instead of working with her and her considerable resources to free Mon Cala from the Empire's rule?  I'm assuming Gillen has an ace up his sleeve, because this sort of loose end is unusual for him.  That said, Threepio's star turn is hilarious, as he and the Clawdite deliver an impromptu three-hour play after the Shu-Torun opera concludes to buy Leia and her team more time.  A big break indeed.

Star Wars Annual #4:  This issue is sort of fun, mostly for the fanwank moment where Darth Vader is impressed with Luke's ability to fly a podracer but then damages the racer to keep his legend (as Anakin Skywalker) for being the only human able to do so in tact.  But, despite Bunn having 30 pages, I still have a lot of questions here.  I don't get why Vader wordlessly destroys one of Darth Astrius' lightsaber.  I mean, assuming he somehow knows Luke destroyed its twin (though I'm not sure how), did it really not have any value on its own?  Also, was I supposed to recognize the items Sana swiped to fence?  It seems like I am, but I don't.  It's not a terrible issue, but I feel like Bunn skipped some steps here.

Also Read:  Falcon #8; Hunt for Wolverine:  Adamantium Advantage #1; Old Man Hawkeye #5; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #20; X-Men Gold #28

Thursday, May 31, 2018

New-ish Comics: The May 16 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Avengers #2:  First things first, I have to go on record as opposing the apparent reversion of Loki to his eviler incarnation.  Kieron Gillen (in "Young Avengers") and Al Ewing (in "Loki:  Agent of Asgard") did such amazing work on his character, evolving him from the God of Lies to the God of Stories, that I can't accept any story that undoes that.  Aaron had been seemingly undermining that story in "The Mighty Thor" with Loki stabbing Freya, but the revelation that he did it to save her life helped keep hope alive.  But, Aaron almost rules out that possibility entirely here, as Loki is revealed to be conspiring with the Final Host, seemingly to "cure" humanity of its heroes.  Loki implies heroes were created through a mistake the Celestials made a million year ago, presumably during their battle with the prehistoric Avengers.  I get the homage to Loki originally bringing together the Avengers, but I draw the line at any conclusion to this story that doesn't reveal a more nuanced approach to Loki than we're seeing now.  That being said, I'm still enjoying the story.  The banter between Cap, Carol, Thor, and Tony is great, though Aaron leans a little too heavily on exposition when it comes to the new Ghost Rider.  But, hopefully Aaron's conveyed everything he needed to convey with this monologuing and Robbie will join the banterers' ranks soon.

Batman #47:  So.  Goddamn.  Awful.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #18:  I haven't been too thrilled with this series lately, but this issue is solid.  Mysterio's daughter Misty plots to make Cassandra's casino disappear so she can get her hands on an artifact she believes is located below it, an artifact that her father Mysterio doesn't think actually exists.  Dusk has been tailing Misty (as we've previously seen), so when Ben becomes suspicious about Misty's intentions she and Ben join forces.  (Cassandra's henchman, Slate, is also concerned, but Cassandra insists it's just like David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear.)  Ben and Dusk watch the festivities from the outside while Ben has Kaine stashed on the inside watching Cassandra and Slate.  Cassandra is surprised when the casino actually disappears and they suddenly face an alien landscape filled with Mindless Ones.  Meanwhile, Ben and Dusk hightail it after Misty and Mysterio, and suddenly this series is a lot more interesting.

Captain America #702:  I want to be as gentle here as I can be, because I know this series means a lot to Mark Waid.  But, I just don't know what I'm supposed to do with this story.  Jack successfully flees to a safehouse that this reality's historians maintain; it conveniently isn't on the government's radar.  The safehouse also conveniently has house rules that nothing discussed within its walls can be discussed outside them.  Jack tells his story to a colleague, but she thinks this Kree "conspiracy theory" is insane.  An oldster named "Old Vic" (I'm guessing the Vision, given his reference to wearing many faces) conveniently (notice a theme?) uses a special monocle to show Jack that Cap and the Red Skull have been locked in battle inside the Cosmic Cube below Washington for decades.  The government raids the safehouse (likely because they followed Jack there).  Despite no real physical training, Jack manages to make his way through the ruins of Washington because the monocle conveniently (OK, I'll stop now) shows him exactly where the Cube is located.  Jack discovers Cap's shield conven...lying nearby, so he smashes the Cube with the shield, but only the Skull emerges.  Uh-oh?  I guess?  Clearly, the string of coincidences is too strong here to feel like we're reading a naturally evolving story.  Instead, Waid is doing the same thing he did last arc, manipulating events to show exactly the impression of Captain America he wants us to have.  But, the coincidences starts to lead you to believe Steve Rogers isn't really all that brave:  he's just been lucky.  I don't think that's the conclusion Waid wants us to draw, but I'm not sure what else I'm supposed to conclude here.

Daredevil #602:  The story continues to move along smoothly, as Matt declares a state of emergency to shut down the buses, schools, and subways in an attempt to keep New Yorkers off the streets.  He also brings in Foggy as his chief of staff so he can go hero.  Foggy notes the city needs him more as the Mayor than as a hero, as plenty of other heroes -- Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Misty Knight, etc. -- are on the case.  Matt wavers briefly, but when he learns One Police Plaza is under assault he and Blindspot hit the bricks.  Soule and Henderson do a great job with the action sequences here.  First, the guys have to rescue two cops who were late to the building so didn't get trapped inside it when the Hand swarmed it.  Then, they have to make their way through a kill zone the Hand established outside the building, forcing them to ignore the wounded officers on the ground begging for help.  (Blindspot gets hit when he's distracted by one officer's appeal.)  But, when they finally claw their way into the building, the Hand has somehow removed everyone -- by removing the center of the building.  Henderson is really on fire here.  Matt is all square jaws and determined glares; it's a good look for him.  Meanwhile, Soule really conveys the exhaustion everyone is starting to feel, particularly as they just dealt with the Kingpin imprisoning all the heroes.  I was wavering a bit on this series, but Soule focusing a little bit more and Henderson injecting a strong sense of energy into the story has helped establish a more stable equilibrium.

The Wild Storm #13:  This issue isn't bad, per se, but it isn't great given the unnecessary exposition Lynch and John employ to explain situations that we, the readers, already understand.  I wouldn't call it a miss, but it's probably the weakest installment of this outstanding series so far.

- Lynch tracks down Colonel Marc Slayton, the first volunteer for IO's experiment to embed into human beings the "viable, active genetic material" they found on alien beings in ancient burial sites around the world.  The Wild C.A.T.s' invasion of IO tripped the alarms Lynch set on the Thunderbook files, and he's there to warn Slayton someone may be coming after them.  (I'm pretty sure it was the Wild C.A.T.s who accessed these files, but Lynch thinks it's IO itself.)  However, Slayton has gone a little crazy after years of coexisting with an alien.  (We later learn he's been sacrificing people to send "many souls" to his alien's planet.)  Slayton claims he deserved to have been the only alien-human hybrid, and he's mad that Lynch made more.  Slatyon tells Lynch the aliens sense something different about him and then attacks, though Lynch manages to escape (as he always does, Slayton later laments to his alien reflection in the mirror).

- Miles orders King to task three C.A.T.s to destroy Skywatch's Ground Division in New York in retribution for Mitch's murder.  Similarly, Bendix orders his right-hand woman  (whose name I always forget) to develop plans to destroy some of IO's research facilities (a scaled-back version of the Science City Zero attack) or kill a lot of its people.  (He'll decide later.)  In the end, she complains Bendix and Craven are both too afraid of the big fight, which would expose them to humanity.  She proposes they engage in actions that "will radically destabilize life on Earth, break IO's control over the planet and make it impossible for any global order to replicate it."  Go big or go home, as she says.

- John records himself stripping off his human body and revealing his alien body, something he does once a year on the day he picked as his "birthday."  He sends the video to Jacob to taunt him, even speaking the name of their planet - Khera - despite Jacob banning its muttering.  John exposits he was just a solider, but Jacob ruining the Expedition and stranding them on Earth was the best thing that could've happened to him.

Meanwhile, Jenny and the Doctor track down the Mayor (I think) and an alien appears to Voodoo while she sleeps and tells her to "dream of the world as it truly is."

In other words, we still have a lot brewing, over halfway through this series.  Even if this issue was a little slow, it's pretty clear this series is going to be pretty spectacular once this fight breaks into the open.

X-Men Red #4:  Taylor does a great job peeling back the onion slowly over the course of this issue.  Jean and the team eventually incapacitate Storm, and T'Challa scans her brain, revealing a nanite on her amygdala.  Jean uses Trinary's powers and T'Challa's knowledge of the brain to extract the nanite with her telekinesis, and Trinary's study of the still-active nanite reveals it's a sentinite.  Cassandra Nova (though they don't know it's her) is using them to turn everyone into a Sentinel, as the sentinites activate once they come in contact with a mutant.  Eventually, we learn Nova achieved this feat through bringing Forge under her control.  She then infects world leaders with the sentinites, ensuring the destruction of mutantkind.  However, Jean and her team have fled Wakanda for the more remote Atlantis, where a devilishly handsome Namor has provided them sanctuary.  Trinary and the Wakandans have whipped up some suits that can serve as a firewall for the sentinites, which cause mutants (as we see with Storm here) to attempt to commit suicide when they infect them.  (It unfortunately also means, in Gabby's words, Namor has to cover up "Abs-lantis.")  This story is brilliant mostly because it's ripped from the headlines:  it literally weaponizes the Russian misinformation campaign, as Trinary herself mentions here.  It's proving to be one of the smarter series on the shelves, and, with the excellent art team, is really starting to find its stride.

Also Read:  Bloodshot Salvation #9, Eternity #1-#4, Infinity Countdown:  Daredevil #1; Mighty Thor:  Gates of Valhalla #1

Friday, May 25, 2018

New Mutants #3: "Nightmare" and "Uncanny X-Men" #167: "The Goldilocks Syndrome"

Countdown to "'Ah'm Nigh Invulnerable When Ah'm Blastin'" (New Mutants #3):  "Ah thought Ah was invulnerable when ah blasted.'"

Countdown to "'Ah'm Nigh Invulnerable When Ah'm Blastin'" ("Uncanny X-Men" #167):  "It's a good thing Ah'm pretty much invulnerable as Cannonball."

These summaries continue to take me longer than I thought they would:  the first one here took 50 minutes and the second one took 40 minutes.  But, we cover a lot of ground here, so it was worth it.  After this point, though, I'm going to try to cut back a bit.  We'll see how that goes.


Summary

Dani awakens believing she saw the Brood Queen's face in her storm-drenched window.  She acknowledges she's been on edge for days and wonders if her powers have started turning her own "secret terrors" against her.  Suddenly, the Queen leaps through the window, grabbing Dani and noting Dani's spirit forms can't hurt her.  Dani realizes if the Queen can grab her she can stab the Queen, but her knife doesn't slow down the Queen at all.  Dani flees her room to warn her friends, hoping their combined powers can stop the Queen.  However, she finds each teammate dead of their worst fears:  Juliana has mowed down Roberto with a machine gun, Xi'an has been assaulted again, Sam is buried in a mountain of skulls, and a mob is burning Rahne at the stake.  The Queen appears again, grabbing for Dani.  Dani tries to leap out Rahne's window, despite it being on the second floor, but the Queen manages to grab her.  As Dani flails, she discovers the "Queen" is wearing a mask.  She rips off said mask, revealing the bear who killed her parents.  It asks if she's forgotten it, and Dani then startles awake, realizing it's not even raining.  She expresses relief that Roberto and Sam are alive as they enter her room; Roberto tells her they heard her screaming.  She then frets she's losing her mind.  Later, Xavier is at her bedside and tells her she's fine; her heartbeat and temperature are normal.  He assures it was a bad dream, despite Dani swearing how real it was.  After everyone leaves, Dani frets Xavier's thinks she imagined the monster in the Danger Room, her own fault for using the Room on her own after he instructed her not to do so.  However, she's sure the monsters were real and assumes they'll return for her again.  She checks her knife to be ready, only to discover blood on it, proof something real happened.

Dani runs to tell Xavier about the knife, only to overhear him in his study on the phone with Dr. MacTaggart in Scotland.  He tells Moira that Dani has increasing psychopathic tendencies, such as extreme paranoia and schizophrenia.  Dani is devastated, pondering whether she only shows people terrible things because she's wicked (and hurtful and evil).  She contemplates suicide with her knife, not hearing Moira on the other end of the line screaming at Charles to conduct a mindscan before bothering her again.  (She also reminds Charles that Dani checked out fine the previous summer).  Banshee approaches Moira, telling her she was a little rough with Charles.  He asks if she's tense because of "the boy," and Moira confirms she is.  She grieves over how Charles has a son he doesn't know he has, a child she and he dreamed of having when they were in love.  But, she also thinks about the son she and the X-Men had to destroy and laments why her child couldn't have been the one to survive and bring Charles joy.  (Ha!  Don't worry there, Moira.)  Sean then creepily presses her to marry him so they can have their own children.  He asserts Proteus was who he was because he was conceived in an act of violence whereas their children would be different because they'd be conceived of love.  (You should probably leave the genetics to Moira, Seannie Boy.)  Moira tells Sean she can't take the risk, and Sean goes for a walk, cursing Joe MacTaggart's memory.  Sean stumbles upon Illyana singing a song to the sun, and she tells him it's in her best friend's memory.  Sean recalls it's Kitty's birthday and figures Illyana means her.  He assures Illyana the X-Men have only been kidnapped and have escaped worse situations.  Illyana then thinks about how he's talking about the here and now, but she's thinking of Limbo, where Belasco killed some of the X-Men and she killed others.  (OK...?)


Back at the Mansion, Xi'an offers Dani a towel after she finishes her morning laps in the pool.  When Xi'an remarks how cold the water must be, Dani says it helps clear her head.  She confesses the Professor thinks she's "looney," and Xi'an asks if she is.  Dani tells her someone or something has been after her since she came to the School.  She thought its goal was to drive her from the team, and, as she's refused to leave, the situation has gotten serious.  She also confesses she thinks the Professor is involved.  Meanwhile, in the Danger Room, Sam sees stars after he slams into a cushion at full power.  Xavier tells him the readings were off the charts in terms of his force, but then switches to an agility exercise.  When Sam is unable to turn and slams into one of the moving rings through which he was supposed to fly, Xavier realizes he needs to maintain a minimum speed to remain flying.  (He also expresses relief he measured Sam's ability to take punishment before he had him try to fly through the rings.)  Sam confesses the only thing wounded is his pride, and Xavier assures him everyone else has felt that way, too, at some point.  In the shower after his workout, Sam is lathering up shaving cream when suddenly he blacks out entirely and awakens to cold lather.  He sees a note written in shaving cream on the mirror telling him to go the boat house, and he storms in there furious at Xi'an for possessing him against his will.  Roberto tells Sam she did the same to him and Rahne, but Dani tells them it was on her behalf.  She confesses her story to them, but Sam refuses to believe her, not unreasonably noting the Professor could've just kicked her off the team if he wanted her gone.  He also recalls the Professor is a doctor, so he may be right about Dani's mental state.  However, Sam changes his tune when he opens the door on an alien landscape.


The team is shocked, and Xi'an notes they can't get to the Professor since he's in the Mansion and the altered landscape makes it hard to tell where it would be.  Dani then leads them into a tunnel, telling the team she's been exploring the tunnels under the Mansion.  Sam recalls the Professor asked them not to do that, and Dani responds with a simple, "Yup."  She then tells them they have no choice:  either the Professor is a victim or the perpetrator, but, either way, they have to get to him.  As Dani opens a portal, the Brood Queen attacks.  Dani tells the team it's the creature that attacked her, and they spring to action after it offers them their lives in exchange for Dani.  Xi'an tries to possess it, but fails, after its alien and evil mind stuns her.  Meanwhile, Dani can't access its mind at all, leaving her helpless.  Rahne swallow her fears and attacks, grabbing the monster's leg, as Sam fires up his powers, slamming into its side.  However, when the dust settles, the monster is gone.  Sam wonders if it dissolved since monsters do that on TV, and Roberto mockingly wonders if the Enterprise beamed up the creature.  Rahne then points out a hole in the wall, and Roberto correctly identifies the material as organic, pondering whether they're now inside a living organism.  Roberto pushes them to investigate, acknowledging Rahne's reasonable fear that they, too, will begin to change, but asserting they can't abandon the Professor.  (He offers to hold Rahne's hand.)

The team notes the organic material gets stronger as they head into the Mansion and realize it must be the source.  Xi'an compares it to the Danger Room, wrapping illusion around reality, given it conforms to the basic structure of the Mansion.  Xi'an also wonders if the creature stalking Dani is really that strong, given it hasn't defeated only five untrained youngsters.  As if accepting the dare, a tentacle appears from the wall, grabbing Bobby, and he fires up his power to rip it off him.  However, the Queen attacks, grabbing Dani while its allies attack the others.  Dani's mind is on fire, and she awakens trapped in a study.  She asks the Queen why it didn't just kill her, as it tried to do outside the Danger Room, and she confesses she changed plans.  The Queen now plans to impregnate the New Mutants with eggs so they can become Brood Queens.  Dani realizes her pounding headaches mean the Queen has been having her use her powers, and the Queen confesses to doing so.  In fact, she tells Dani she augmented Dani's powers to make the images real, as Dani would eventually be able to do as an adult with more training.  The bear, Queen, and tunnel have all come from her imagination.  The team then arrives to save Dani, and she has Xi'an possess her to break the Queen's control over her.  However, this inspired plan backfires when the Queen uses the link to grab control of Xi'an.  She attacks Roberto, who knocks out Xi'an (with apologies), and the Queen is gone again.  It reappears and grabs Rahne, and Dani tells Sam to knock her unconscious, which he does (again, with apologies).  Sam wonders if it was Dani all this time, but Xi'an confirms she felt the Queen's alien (and evil) presence through their link.  Xi'an expresses concern about Dani's health given the impact of Sam's power-backed blow, and they're all in trouble when the Professor realizes what they've done to his study.


Later, Roberto approaches Dani on the porch.  He encourages her to cheer up a bit, as the Professor believed their story after he mind scanned them and is searching for the monster.  Dani figures it's just a matter of time before it returns and wonders if she should just leave to keep everyone safe as even the Professor isn't sure if he can shield her from the Queen's influence.  Roberto tells her not to do so, as they're all friends and friends stick together.  Dani hugs him, telling him she really needed to hear that.  But, she worries the Professor is involved, as the creature knew so much about them.  Roberto swears no one is that good of an actor and puts his arm around her.  He points out a shooting star, telling her it's a good omen.  Dani isn't having it, reminding him they don't really know the Professor all that well.  Roberto wisely tells her they'll cross that bridge when they come to it, and Sam calls them into the TV room for "Magnum, P.I."


"Uncanny X-Men" #167 starts where "New Mutants" #3 ends, with the kids watching "Magnum, P.I."  As the ladies talk about how handsome Tom Selleck is (fair), they're all surprised when the X-Men bust into the TV room.  The kids leap into action, with Cannonball slamming Colossus into the yard.  Scott is impressed by the kids' guts and realizes Xavier may not have told the kids about the X-Men.  He announces the X-Men mean them no harm and tells them to hit the floor, reminding himself any delay could prove fatal.  (He undermines his "no harm" point when he fires an optic blast the kids' way to get them to hit the floor.)  Meanwhile, Kitty phases through the walls of the second floor on her way to the Professor, hoping someone else gets there first (but knowing they won't) and fretting they could be wrong about the Professor.  Psyche uses her powers to rattle Scott -- showing him as a monster with uncontrolled optic blasts -- as Rahne surprises Kurt by leaping at him in wolf form and Sunspot takes on Wolverine.  Logan knocks Bobby aside, marveling at how the kids would be dangerous if their skills matched their guts, and Karma tries to stop him with her powers.  She's stunned when he shakes off her possession as he makes his way upstairs.


Meanwhile, Kitty exposits that the Brood Queen who kidnapped them revealed she had an agent on Earth, and Logan put two and two together to figure out it was Charles.  Kitty is rightfully concerned a Brood Queen with Charles' powers would quickly take over Earth, and she realizes it's why the kids are at the School, to host Brood embryos.  (She's a smart one, that Kitty.)  She's relieved she doesn't have to shoot Charles with the Shi'ar gun she's carrying when she finds him in human form, but then she realizes he's "napping" at his desk despite the noise downstairs.  She exposits she's trying to protect her thoughts from him, but she's probably doing a lousy job as she's scared.  Charles "awakens" and tells Kitty she should've heeded Wolverine's injunction and fired (despite him not issuing said request, as far as I can tell), and Kitty frantically opens fire.  Logan hears the blast as he makes his way up the stairs and screams out Kitty's name, but Bobby is on him.  Meanwhile, Kurt teleports from Rahne's grasp and knocks Dani and Xi'an's heads together.  However, the hero-on-hero brawl comes to an end when Kitty's body comes flying down the stairs and Xavier emerges, telling the X-Men not to worry about Kitty as she's beyond help.  Creepily, the Brood Queen then exits from his spine, telling the X-Men they should fear for themselves.  Scott blasts the Queen outside the Mansion, and Colossus heads after it.  (He's knocked Sam unconscious somehow.  As he runs, he reflects on how Sam was roughly the same age he was when he joined the X-Men and hopes he isn't hurt.)


Colossus comes upon the Queen and realizes she isn't even hurt.  He pledges to stop her, but she reads his mind using Charles' powers, taunting him with the fact she knows his every move before he does.  Dani and Xi'an (who've apparently recovered) follow Cyclops and Logan in hot pursuit.  Dani asks if the monster is the same one they faced, and Logan tells her to stay put, as they'll handle the situation.  Dani asks who "you creeps think you are," and, when Logan tells her they're the X-Men, she helpfully reminds them they're dead.  Kurt teleports above the treeline to locate the Queen, and everyone heads that way.  She then hurls Colossus' body at them, telling them it's hopeless.  But, Logan is totally a badass here, leaping on Piotr's unconscious form mid-air and springing at the Queen with claws extended.  Expecting her telepathic powers to predict his attack, Logan veers from aiming at her heart at the last minute, slicing her stinger.  Infuriated, she uses telekinetic powers (I think) to hurl him from her.  Xi'an realizes they should be helping the X-Men, but her attempt to posses the Queen is no more successful than it was the first time she tried to do so.


The Queen flees to heal from the wound Logan delivered, but Binary appears, knocking her back.  Storm then uses her powers to disorient and freeze her, declaring that the Queen defined the stakes of the battle when she declared it to be to the death.  However, Storm is unable to deliver the final strike of lightning, and Logan tells her not to worry:  she is who she is, and he is who he is (i.e., the killer on the team).  However, Cyclops (oddly) tells him it's his responsibility as Xavier's first student, and he apologizes to the Queen's prone form.  But, Xavier surprises Cyclops by communicating with him telepathically, revealing the mental transformation was incomplete and Storm's attack allowed him to get the upper hand.  But, he says the Queen will eventually emerge dominant and confirms Cyclops has no choice but to kill him.  Scott then refuses, realizing Jean played that game with him, too:  he'll be damned if he loses the Professor without trying to save him after he failed to save Jean.  He announces the X-Men fight to preserve life when a chance exists and asks if anyone has any objections; hilariously, Logan answers, "Lots," as Storm says, "None."  (Seriously, it's a funny moment.)  Sam and Dani marvel at Cyclops in the background.


Later, aboard the Starjammer, Cyclops asks Corsair if he's chasing rainbows in trying to save Charles, but Corsair asks if it matters if he is.  Moira and Sikorsky announce they think they can clone Xavier a new body from tissue they had in storage and then transfer his mind to the new body.  (Apparently you can't de-evolve a Brood Queen, which makes sense given she emerged from Xavier's skin like a butterfly from a cocoon.)  Meanwhile, Kitty is thrilled to awaken to Illyana and Piotr sitting at her bedside.  Storm watches from the sidelines, noting she also kept vigil over Kitty.  She smiles at Kitty's joy in seeing her best friend and the man she loves, but also acknowledges she feels alone, as that joy would previously have been directed at her.  Leaving the room, Storm chastises herself for feeling this way, noting she coped when she wasn't acting as a parent, though it was a role she happily filled.  She encounters a nervous Kurt, who watches the New Mutants marvel at the view from the ship.  He wonders if they'll accept him, and Storm reminds him Kitty was initially afraid of him but got over it.  Meanwhile, Scott chats with Corsair, continuing to express his concern over Charles.  He coyly notes Charles is almost as much of a father to him as Corsair is, and Corsair acknowledges the debt he owes Charles for raising Scott into the man he is.  Scott asks if he'll stay on Earth, and Corsair says he's been gone too long:  "Christoper Summers -- Major, U.S. Air Force" is no more.  He plans on visiting family and friends but he'll then return to the stars; Scott intriguingly asks if he'll take him with him.  Corsair says he will if he wants and then invites him to meet his grandparents.  (Really?  Scott didn't know he had grandparents?  Jesus, Corsair, you really were a crappy father, even when you were on Earth.)  Corsair then asks if Scott is too big to give his father a hug, and, I got to say, I choked up a bit.  The moment is interrupted with the appearance of Gladiator.  He demands to see Lilandra, and Corsair acknowledges it's a big deal, since he swore he'd only board the Starjammer if the Stajammers were enslaved or dead.


In the medbay, Lilandra wonders if Deathbird has become Empress as the Brood promised her she would be if she delivered Lilandra and the X-Men to them.  She wonders if she has the will to lead another rebellion.  Gladiator arrives and confirms Deathbird is as mad, in her own way, as D'Ken.  But, he also has graver news: in his encounter with the Fantastic Four, he learned Galactus had come to Earth to die, but Reed Richards not only healed him but also gave him a new herald.  (I'm not sure Reed would describe this sequence of events in the same way.)  Lilandra appears as a hologram to Reed and Sue in their bedroom, declaring that she will seek vengeance against them if Galactus destroys a world dear to the Shi'ar.  (This sequence gives us Johnny Storm in his tighty-whities as he and Ben enter the room to see about the disturbance, so, even if it's a bit of a non sequitur, I approve.)  She says Earth finally has to accept it has responsibilities in the wider cosmos.  She ends the communication, thanking Corsair for allowing her to use his technology and noting her ability to actually implement her threat is limited.  The group then rejoices when Xavier appears, with his spine completely healed.  He stands, but then collapses.  He explains he'd use his powers for years to block out the pain of his injury, so his body is rejected his attempt to stand.  Moira expresses confidence he'll eventually move past the block, though noting his stubbornness doesn't work in his favor here.  Kitty notes he'll have to use the Danger Room like the rest of them; Lilandra pledges her love and support, while Moira hilariously tells him she'll just kick his ass to get him into shape.  Charles announces his joy at seeing the teams together, apologizing for the nature of their initial meeting.  He then announces, to everyone's shock, Kitty will join the New Mutants, as it's too dangerous for her to be an X-Man.


The Review

These two issues nicely wrap up this series' opening arc, as the Brood Queen's possession of Charles explains why both he and Dani have been acting weirdly lately.  Moreover, the team builds on their experiences fighting the Sentinels; whereas they had mostly fought as individuals in that fight, they come closer to fighting as a team here.  The X-Men's return also makes their roles a lot clearer, as they're no longer worried about replacing them and able to focus on their training.

First, I'll say Claremont really gets the youth of the team.  It makes them brave and loyal even when they're afraid, as we see with Rahne attacking the Brood Queen in her wolf form despite Claremont telling us she's as afraid as she's ever been.  But, they're also unskilled.  The Brood Queen is using Dani's power to create real -- and not holographic -- nightmares, telling her she would've eventually been able to do the same thing as an adult.  Moreover, Dani's plan to have Xi'an possess her, breaking the Queen's link, is inspired, but Xi'an doesn't possess the psychic defenses to keep the Queen from simply taking control of her.  In fact, the only way the team can stop the Queen from using Dani and Xi'an's psychic abilities against them is to knock them unconscious.  Cyclops and Wolverine both comment on how the kids would be dangerous if their guts match their skills.  With the X-Men back in the picture, Claremont's focus on the kids' lack of skills sets up the rest of the series nicely, as the focus now shifts to them as students.

To continue on a theme from previous issues of Claremont's brutality, we open this issue with Dani awakening in a terror as a storm rages outside.  The Brood Queen appearing in Dani's window in a flash of lightning is terrifying, and the Queen herself is then revealed to be the bear who (supposedly) murdered Dani's parents.  Dani can't even flee the scene without murder haunting her, as she stumbles upon scenes of her dead friends.  Later, the Queen tells Cannonball she'll "feast on [his] living heart" if he makes a move against her.  In other words, the Queen didn't come to play.  But, Claremont goes even further:  Dani seems suicidal as she contemplates her "wicked" soul after overhearing Xavier on the phone.  It's hard to believe this issue would get past any censors today.


At this point, Dani is clearly the most prominent character.  Her comment on her powers are interesting, because it's the first time we consider her powers might not be just to pull people's darkest fears or "anguished memories" from their minds; she might just be doing that because of her own trauma.  But, she's not motivated entirely by trauma; she has spunk independent of that.  I loved when she reveals she's been snooping around the tunnels system under the Mansion despite the Professor's prohibition on them doing so.  She's also the only one clear-eyed on the Professor's involvement, particularly after she realizes the extent to which the Brood Queen understood their powers.  We see the kernel of the adult she'll become once she matures and her powers develop.


Separately, the X-Men are fascinating to watch at this point in their history.  Storm throws some serious shade at Kitty when she (mentally, not to Kitty herself) dismisses Peter as the man Kitty thinks she loves.  Damn, Storm.  Storm's jealousy over Kitty's ties to the Rasputin siblings is fascinating as I had honestly forgotten she had this kind of maternal bond with Kitty.  That said, she also shows why she's often portrayed as the adult of the team; she acknowledges her childish feelings and chastises herself for them.  Scott and Logan are also great examples of who they were in this period.  Logan is all ready to murder the Brood Queen as the team's resident murderer, and Scott is shown as indecisive, as, frankly, he often is, despite his reputation to the contrary.  But, his decision to embrace hope in terms of possibly saving Charles represents a step in the right direction.  It shows us a hint of the man he becomes before he goes down a much darker road.  All that said, Moira continues to be my favorite character at this point, as she's in essentially a constant state of rolling her eyes at everyone's foolishness.

I'll admit that it felt like Claremont had to vamp a bit to meet his page target, as the sequence with Lilandra and the Fantastic Four felt totally random.  However, it was also a reminder of how closely the Marvel comics were connected in this era; they really put a lot of emphasis on the shared Universe in which all the comics took place.


At any rate, I'm really digging this series at this point.  I think it really stands up 35 years later.  In fact, teenagers right now might find themselves identifying more with the violence these kids face than they do from reading "Champions."