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1985-05-01 00:09:10
Previous:
Firestar #3
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1985/Box 21/EiC: Jim Shooter
Next:
Web of Spider-Man #2

New Mutants #26-28

Issue(s): New Mutants #26, New Mutants #27, New Mutants #28
Published Date: Apr-Jun 85
Title: "Legion" / "Into the abyss" / "Soulwar"
Credits:
Chris Claremont - Writer
Bill Sienkiewicz - Penciler
Bill Sienkiewicz - Inker
Ann Nocenti - Editor

Review/plot:
We learned in New Mutants #1 that Holocaust survivor Gabrielle Haller is the mother of an autistic mutant. Professor Xavier is the father, and she's been keeping the son's existence a secret from him, choosing instead to work with Moira MacTaggert. In these issues, the secret comes out when Xavier and some of the New Mutants (Wolfsbane, Doug Ramsey, Dani Moonstar, and Warlock) show up on Muir Island to return Banshee (who had been kidnapped by Thunderbird II in Uncanny X-Men #193).

The son, David, has multiple personality disorder (referred to in these issues as schizophrenia. That was a common error at the time; see also: Aurora), the result of a traumatic terrorist attack. Inside David's head are three distinct personalities in addition to David's (which is mostly undeveloped and unseen). There's Jemail, who was one of the terrorists, and whose personality got sucked into David's head.

There's Jack Wayne, an amalgam of cowboy/action-hero characters.

And Cyndi, a punk-ish female brat.

Each personality has its own powers (Jemail: telepathy, Jack: telekenetics, Cyndi: pyromancy). Altogether, they are called Legion.

Xavier, Haller, and the New Mutants wind up getting sucked into Legion's head, where a war is playing out between the various personalities. It turns out that Jemail is actually the good guy here. He'd been trying to restore David's personality, and Jack Wayne wanted to stop him in order to preserve his own. In the end, the personalities all remain in David's head in an uneasy co-existence.

A battle between Professor Xavier and his mentally ill son on the astral plane drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz equals surreal madness...

...and occasionally accidental(?) tributes to Pink Floyd.

Unfortunately, while the plot really allows Sienkiewicz to go wild, it leaves Claremont somewhat stranded from a storytelling perspective, to the point where he's often adding text that has absolutely nothing to do with the pictures.

More generally, Claremont's characteristic wordiness combined with Sienkiewicz's abstract art makes these issues occasionally more like a picture book rather than an actual comic. Interesting experiment but not something i'd like to see all the time.

A letter printed in New Mutants #42 from someone from the Committee for Palestine takes Claremont to task for perpetuating Arab stereotypes and Zionist propaganda. But the letter was written after reading only issues #26-27, and Claremont responds with the fact that Jemail, not Jack Wayne, was shown to be the good guy in issue #28:

The point, in the end, is that both Gaby and Jemail are able to put aside their long-held animosities, to work together - and in Jemail's case, make a considerable sacrifice - to save the life, the native consciousness, of an innocent boy.

In subplots, Empath is punished by the White Queen for his actions in Uncanny X-Men #193, and his powers are removed.

And Lee Foster and Magneto's relationship has its ups and downs.

Lee Foster thinks about the strange Cthulu-esque statues on the island that she and Magneto are staying at:

I see that state every time I swim. Suddenly, the implications of its pose have become painfully personal. A human couple, draped worshipfully at the feed of their non-human lord and master.

She goes on to compare it to Magneto's thoughts about humans, but as usual the origins of the island and its statue are never explained. At first i was frustrated by this, but instead maybe i should just enjoy the fact that in the Marvel Universe there are strange ruins, the remnants of years and years of strange one-off stories going back to the days of Krull and Conan.

Later, Empath tries to set up a vengeance scheme against both the White Queen and Professor X by offering Magma and Sunspot to the Gladiator organization that we previously saw in Beauty and the Beast. I'm not sure how a non-powered Empath is in a position to offer anything along those lines, but i guess we'll see.

During the final battle inside Legion, Xavier is knocked out by an unrelated psychic presence. It turns out to be the Beyonder, heading to Earth.

For some reason i wound up with the "X-Men Archives" reprint of issue #26 even though the original issues sell in the less than one dollar range, and it adds two pages of text in the form of a journal entry from Xavier about Legion, but the journal references events that take place after these issues, so it's not really relevant.

Quality Rating: B-

Historical Significance Rating: 4 - first Legion

Chronological Placement Considerations: Banshee is returned to Muir Island in this arc after having been kidnapped by Thunderbird II in Uncanny X-Men #193. Professor Xavier is unconscious for almost two weeks ("better part of a fortnight"), and then he wakes up. Secret Wars II #1 depicts a scene during that time when he wakes up briefly to alert people to the Beyonder's arrival, so the end scene in issue #28 here takes place after Secret Wars II #1, which also means that it takes place after New Mutants #30, since that issue is concurrent with SW II #1.

References:

  • Sharon Friedlander and Tom Corsi also get sucked into Legion's head. They were turned into Native Americans in New Mutants #20 for reasons that i don't really understand.
  • Banshee was kidnapped by Thunderbird II in Uncanny X-Men #193.
  • In the scene with the White Queen and Empath, there's a general reference to the Firestar mini-series, "on sale soon". I'll link to Firestar #2, which is where the White Queen starts training Firestar.
  • Dani Moonstar suggests a mind-merge with Professor X, similar to what they did to free Sunspot from Cloak's power in New Mutants #23-25.
  • Professor X's mental powers are weakened due to the beating he took in Uncanny X-Men #192.
  • Xavier's detection of the Beyonder gets a promotional footnote for Secret Wars II #1.

Cross-over: N/A

Continuity Implant? N

Reprinted In: X-Men Archives #1 (Issues #27-28 are originals)

Inbound References (4): show

Characters Appearing: Banshee, Cypher, Empath, Gabrielle Haller, Lee Forrester, Legion, Madrox the Multiple Man, Magneto, Mirage (Dani Moonstar), Moira MacTaggert, Professor X, Reverend Craig, Sharon Friedlander, Tom Corsi, Warlock, White Queen (Emma Frost), Wolfsbane

Previous:
Firestar #3
Up:
Main
1985/Box 21/EiC: Jim Shooter
Next:
Web of Spider-Man #2

Comments

The strange thing is that Empath isn't mentioned in the remaining issues where Magma and Sunspot are grabbed by the Gladiators and when he shows up again in New Mutants 38, he inexplicably has his powers back. (Presumably, Emma gave him them back because the Club needed him to perform some jobs for them.)
So as this relates to your placement, Firestar 3 could take place either before or after New Mutants 26-28- for all we know, Empath got his powers back a few hours after New Mutants 28.

When I first read these issues, I thought Legion's hair was just a stylistic choice on the part of Sienkiewicz. But no, Secret Wars II #1 showed that his hair does defy gravity for no apparent reason. He did actually have a normal chin, though...

These were my first issues of New Mutants back when I was a kid, and boy, were they ever baffling. I've re-read them recently - boy, are they ever baffling.

I also don't think Bill S's artwork was well-suited for the mindscape stuff. The coloring choices didn't help, either.

My read on Empath offering Magma and Sunspot to the Gladiators wasn't that he was going to capture them, but just that he was providing the information--the dossiers he mentions--that would let the Gladiators nab Roberto and Amara themselves.

The Lee Forrester subplot is important in reforming Magneto. Previously we've seen him regret almost killing Kitty and looking out for mutant interests in GLMK, but this is when he seems to give up on villainy, I guess in part because he's in love with Alytys, though that gets dropped after about Uncanny 199 (unless Lee appears with Mags in some later New Mutants stories I've not yet read).

According to Amazing Heroes #39, Legion's name was suggested by John Byrne. He was also supposed to have more personalities, such as a teleporter and a telaudio(whatever that is).

This story was originally announced as a two-parter.


 
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