New Mutants #30-31
Issue(s): New Mutants #30, New Mutants #31
Magik continues to lose control of her demonic form, causing hell for the other mutants, but Kitty is able to stop Illyana by using her own Soulsword against her.
With that resolved, Cannonball makes a failed but good faith effort to contact the X-Men and the Avengers regarding the Beyonder (which makes him a better man than Magneto last issue) before returning to our current New Mutants plotline, already in progress, regarding Sunspot and Magma as unwilling Gladiators.
Picking up on a theme from (editor Ann Nocenti's) Beauty and the Beast, these focus attention on how the combat in the Gladiator arena is an addicting thrill for Dazzler. I thought it was a weird character trait in the B&B series, and it's still weird here. She eventually overcomes her addiction but doesn't personally feel good about it, even at the end.
The mutants infiltrate the Gladiators to rescue their friends, with Dazzler posing to rejoin the Gladiators, and Kitty applying for a job as a technician.
Kitty is able to confirm (off panel, and she doesn't say how) that the threat of child hostages to hold Sunspot and Magma is a lie. Kitty is subsequently captured...
...and trapped in the body of a strange monster that is pitted against Sunspot and Magma in the arena.
Meanwhile, the Beyonder shows up, apparently to inspect Magik some more.
Instead, Rachel Summers tries to communicate with him telepathically, and gets overwhelmed by the result.
Back inside, the x-mutants fight the the Kittybot and the Gladiators...
...and eventually prevail.
Kitty drops another bit of information she seemingly learned off panel.
Alexander Flynn, the main antagonist of the Beauty and the Beast, "was never more than a holographic illusion, designed to hide the identity of the real 'puppet master'", who we then learn is an extremely overweight Karma.
The revelation about Flynn is an odd one. The implication is that it was actually Karma (and therefore, the Shadow King, as we'll learn), was behind the Gladiators all along. But as the Marvel Appendix points out, that doesn't really fly. And there's really no attempt to explain this revelation or lay out the evidence or anything. It's just a weird off-the-cuff comment that readers might not even realize the repercussions of. Alexander Flynn being Dr. Doom's son was a potentially damaging reveal, and that may be the impulse behind the retcon here, but i'm surprised at how casually it's handled. And if you're going to be retconning things from Beauty and the Beast, you'd think you'd work in the fact that the Dr. Doom that appeared in that series couldn't possibly have been the real deal, since he's supposed to be dead. Finally, it's worth remembering that Ann Nocenti was the writer of B&B but is also the editor here, so this isn't like the little back and forths between Claremont and Byrne that we've seen in the past. Presumably Nocenti is on board with whatever Claremont is trying to do here.
Karma uses hostages to force an escape, but the New Mutants decide to go after her. They leave Kitty and Dazzler behind. This is Bill Sienkiewicz's last arc, and the last story page serves as a good-bye pinup (there are also pin-up pages of the Hellions Empath and Catseye, of all people).
I am a fan of both Claremont and Sienkiewicz, but there were times in this story where i had flashbacks to the comics i read from the 70s, where lesser artists trying to mimic the styles of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan did some very abstract storytelling, matched with some unstructured writing, that resulted in some very messy and hard to follow comics. The opening scene of this arc, in Limbo, is awesome...
...but the subsequent infiltration and battle with the Gladiators should have been more straightforward and yet was depicted in the same style. Part of this is Claremont trying to cram too much into this story (note all that Kitty discovers off panel) and having to deal with the Secret Wars II crossover (the Beyonder's appearance is a weird interruption). I think Sienkiewicz's work on the New Mutants was an interesting experiment that mostly worked but it was starting to wear out its welcome for me, and he's leaving at just the right time.
And to be clear, the fight scenes are still readable and individual panels are still quite good.
I'm just saying that it's a difficult fit that didn't always work. Dialogue often has to carry a lot of additional information (i know it's Claremont, and we were going to get a lot of dialogue no matter what, but i'm talking about expository stuff that explains what's happening between panels) which makes the overall experience a little less enjoyable.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #30 takes place soon after Illyana teleported away during Secret Wars II #1. The Beyonder is still in his Molecule Man body. Kitty and Rachel Summers (and the Beyonder) next appear in Uncanny X-Men #196; while the rest of the New Mutants are leaving, Kitty and Rachel hear from the rest of the X-Men that they are ok after the Beyonder teleported them away, also in Secret Wars II #1.
Cross-over: Secret Wars II
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
This was my very first issue of New Mutants. I was maybe 10 at the time, and just getting into comics. Bought because of the tie in to SW2. This issue made me avoid the New Mutants for many years.
First, my 10 year old self found the art unattractive. I can appreciate it better now, but Sienkiewicz's style in this period was not suited to superheroes.
Second, the writing shows all the Claremontisms that really drove the mutant books away from their theme. My "what tha?" moments included 1) Limbo and occult magic in a mutant book, 2) who was this pseudo-Roman person saying things like Father Jove, and 3) who are these gladiator people and why is the team fighting in the arena? None of it was explained well, and required having a lot of back story.
Nothing about this book made me want to pick up another issue. I learned nothing about the main characters of the book, and liking them enough to want to continue reading their adventures should be a key thing.
"and it's still weird here"
There's a bit of dialogue in I think NM #29 where Dazzler is asked if she misses the gladiator life, and she goes on and on about the roar of the crowd and so on. I think if you look at it like that, and consider her previous life as a singer, it can make sense.
Actually I think she was still a singer at this point, albeit a backup singer for Lila. But the point is it's probably all the same kind of thrill (with added thrills unique to the combat thrown in).
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