New Mutants #48-50
Issue(s): New Mutants #48, New Mutants #49, New Mutants #50
Last issue we saw Magik teleporting the New Mutants away from Medieval Scotland, but it turns out they once again didn't make it home. Instead issues #48-49 show portions of the team in alternate future timelines, and then the double-sized issue #50 shows what's going on in Limbo that caused all the havoc this time and then gets the team back together with a very special reunion while also resolving the threat of Magus.
As usual, i won't go into too much detail on the alternate futures. Issue #48 has half the New Mutants in the Days of Future Past or something similar...
...and helping a future period Cannonball and Mirage rescue Lila Cheney, who, we learn, has been rescuing many of the timeline's mutants and bringing them to her Dyson Sphere.
Butch Guice inked by P. Craig Russell produces art that occasionally looks Image-y.
Sentinels have assimilated Ameridroid!
#49 seems to go even further into the future, after the Days of Future Past period has been resisted and overcome, and now mutants are in charge of the world, with humans relegated to slums.
On the side of the humans is an elderly Katie Power, who now has the powers of all of Power Pack...
...and who is leading a "Bratpack" group of young mutants, fighting the mutant power structure led by an elderly (but, weirdly - unless i missed an explanation - not as old as Katie), Sunspot and Magma.
Back in the present, Magneto continues to hold out hope that the New Mutants are alive somewhere. This gets to the in-story reason for why Xavier passed on the mantle of schoolmaster to Magneto instead of, say, Storm or Cyclops. By doing that, Magneto is becoming more human.
At the same time, though, his inability to protect the students is driving him to consider accepting the Hellfire Club's offer.
We also see a little of his early days in the Holocaust, during a dream sequence.
In issue #50, we find Magik fighting off the demons of Limbo, who have now been infected with the transmode virus.
The good news is that her Soulsword is able to cure her when she gets infected.
And, with her entire realm getting covered in the virus, she stabs her sword into the land itself, with her last thoughts of Professor X.
Next thing we see are the Starjammers, including Professor X, Lilandra, and Binary, on a Fringeworld to buy parts to repair their spaceship. Unfortunately that deal gets interrupted when Xavier detects the thoughts of Illyana, who has appeared near him after her act of desperation in Limbo.
And here we go again. Claremont selling a teenage girl as a sex slave after zapping her with a mind control ray that makes her feel pure pleasure.
The Starjammers rescue Illyana, but have to escape back to their ship with no parts for repair.
Cameo by the Micronauts during the scene with the Starjammers on the Fringeworld. Most likely it shouldn't be considered cannon since the same scenes also show the Herculoids and probably other Easter eggs. But i've listed them.
Xavier is able to restore and calm Illyana, and while it's a happy reunion, it gets Lilandra thinking that she's going to lose him, that he's going to go back to Earth.
Illyana then gives Xavier a synopsis of recent events, and holy crap is it a lot of devastating stuff: the Mutant Massacre, with the Morlocks killed and half the X-Men injured, Karma's apartment blown up and her siblings missing, then getting chased through time by Magus and the other New Mutants lost and Limbo infected.
Xavier says that the mutant massacre is what he always feared: "an outright covert war for mutant supremacy". And from reading Illyana's thoughts (something that he can only do due to her current state; her demonic side is currently not present), he learns that the "Marauders are also mutants whose goal is apparently world domination". I guess it's worth saying that Xavier's observation there is limited by what Illyana has experienced, but it's a good clue when thinking about, say, whether or not Claremont intended Scalphunter to be a mutant.
Xavier, Lilandra, Binary, and Magik return to Limbo, and find that it's now a pleasant place, "what it should have been before Belasco got his scummy claws into it". And that's due to the fact that the Soulsword is present.
And S'ym returns, forcing Magik to pull the sword out of the ground to fight him off again.
Magik is faced with the choice of pursuing S'ym or taking Xavier and company to rescue the time-lost mutants, and she chooses the latter. After happy reunions from both groups of New Mutants (and a scolding for Future Sunspot), the group return to the Starjammer's ship in the present. But there's no rest for them: this is when Magus shows up.
Professor X immediately switches into Danger Room mode, ably showing where Cyclops learned to be a great tactician. Magus had been pounding the local planet apart, so Xavier sends Magma to the planet to hold it together, and he sends Magik to teleport deep into the planet's ocean so she can slice off one of Magus' appendages
Not everyone's powers are suited to fighting a planet-sized robot, but Xavier is in training mode even for them.
Warlock finally finds the courage to fight his father....
...but a direct assault isn't the right idea.
Instead, after getting energy restored by Binary (Xavier is also mentally enhancing the powers of his students, however that works, letting Mirage and Karma distract their foe), Warlock and Doug merge, and they instead attack Magus by sneaking onto him and hitting him with a computer virus.
While they are doing that, there's an opportunity for Sunspot to use his strength.
As Walter notes in the comments, Magus' anti-bodies look the same as Ego the Living Planet's (see Fantastic Four #235).
Doug starts to panic, unable to find the right sequence to shut Magus down. Sunspot suggests that Xavier use his mental powers to help Doug, but despite the crisis, Xavier realizes that if Doug doesn't do this on his own he'll never be able to rely on himself. And he and Warlock do eventually get their virus working. They couldn't bring themselves to kill Magus, but they reduce him to infancy.
It's a great fight sequence, and a nice way to use Xavier as a battle leader. Where it feels a bit cheap, however, is the degree to which the New Mutants, and especially Magik and Warlock, talk about Xavier like he's a father figure.
The rest of the New Mutants Xavier has definitely trained and nurtured. But they've had their share of fights, too. Warlock, however, and Illyana once she was aged to a teen, did not get a lot of on-panel attention prior to Xavier leaving for space. That's due to Claremont juggling a bit more than he could handle in earlier X-Books. And it's always possible that they got more training time than we've really seen. But Doug and Warlock's merger, which is really what allowed the win here, happened while Xavier was in space. Xavier led them through a great battle, and i'd argue that it's really just the heat of the moment that gets them feeling so sentimental. In truth, next issue the illusion of the happy family will be shattered.
As much as i love Warlock, now that the long running plotline of the war with his father is resolved, it might have been good to shunt him off into space. As i said above, Claremont hasn't really done much with Warlock, and his reason for existing as a member of the New Mutants is difficult to see. Another option might have been to send him into Limbo to keep the transmode virus there in check and maybe with that reducing Magik's powers to just teleportation and the Soulsword, with her demon side and problems made dormant (an idea that it seems Claremont briefly toyed with here). Then the New Mutants could have gone back to Earth and continued there as "regular" mutant students under the tutelage of Magneto. It might have helped the book be more focused going forward.
Nonetheless, this was a fun arc. Despite me not devoting much space to the time travel stuff, it's a bit different for mutants going into the future than it is when, say, the West Coast Avengers go on a 7 issue time travel romp. Because the idea is that by showing these dystopian futures, we're seeing what, in theory, the New Mutants are being trained to prevent.
One thing about Butch Guice's art. On his early X-Factor issues it was amazingly detailed with dense panels and great emotional close-ups. It's different here. He's been doing pencils on this book for a while, and sometimes it's just breakdowns, but for these issues the credits say full art. And it's not at all bad but it's not the best he's capable of. And we're seeing a lot more pin-up style art, a hint of the direction he'll be going on.
It's also worth mentioning, and this is not a comment on Guice specifically, that the designs for Warlock and Magus have softened and become more cartoony and, well, comprehensible. They've evolved into something actually quite cute. They are a far cry from the madness of the original Sienkiewicz versions. It's only to be expected considering how wild all of Sienkiewicz's art was, but it is a change. I like the current version of Warlock (and since i suggested sending him away after this story, let me repeat that i like him as a character), but with this being the resolution of his story arc, it's a good time to pause and note how his design has evolved.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As always, i allow for an indefinite period of time between teleportations, so there can be a gap between the end of #47 and the beginning of this arc. Next issue begins with the New Mutants still in space with the Starjammers, but a scene on Earth with Storm and Magneto occurs after X-Men #217, and that arc occurs after X-Factor #13. So there are some indirect dependencies here.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAcroyear, Bug, Cannonball, Carol Danvers, Ch'od, Commander Arcturus Rann, Corsair, Cr'reee, Cypher, Fireflyte III, Hepzibah, Karma, Lilandra, Magik, Magma, Magneto, Magus (Technarchy), Marionette, Mirage (Dani Moonstar), Professor X, Raza Longknife, S'ym, Sikorsky, Stevie Hunter, Sunspot, Waldo, Warlock, Wolfsbane
The idea that Sunspot was destined to turn evil would be a major development for Sunspot. Unfortunately, this would result in a cycle where one writer would put him on the road to finally becoming evil and the next would find a way to revert him back to being a hero.
Posted by: Michael | March 7, 2014 11:34 PM
The "mutants rule" timeline is supposed to be parallel to the days of future past one, rather than after it. Sunspot is listed as "terminated" on the splash page for #48, but is clearly alive in the future seen in #49.
Posted by: Stephen | March 8, 2014 1:28 PM
Notice the Alien reference with Xavier's "Nostromo" shoulder-patch.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 8, 2014 6:35 PM
The hexagon-head guys Sunspot fights in #50 look like Ego the Living Planet's antibodies. Just another sight gag, I guess, that Magus's immune system coughs up the same things.
What are these future "Arbs"? Arbitrators or something?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 8, 2014 10:28 PM
Walter, that's just what anti-bodies look like. Take a science class, huh?
Yes, it's Arbitrators.
@Stephen, i should say it's after "a" days of future past timeline, since per that panel with old Katie it says she survived the sentinels and was a hero of the revolution.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 9, 2014 10:00 AM
Warlock probably remains because it's only in tandem with Cypher that Cypher seems useful in combat. Cypher's power is very interesting (although somewhat contrived since much language is a cultural artifact), but it's very hard for a writer to keep thinking of situations where it can be useful. Sticking him into a battlesuit made by Warlock is an easy fix.
However, despite the interesting visual (and humorous personality), I've never liked Warlock as a member of the New Mutants. It strays too far from the team's concept.
Posted by: Chris | March 9, 2014 11:23 AM
I once attended a comics panel where Bill Sienkiewicz described how interesting it was to see other people's depictions of Warlock. He mostly focused on Art Adams' detailing every piece of metal, but he did expound quite a bit on how neat it was that he created a character whose visual style changed with every artist.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 15, 2014 1:32 PM
"#49 seems to go even further into the future, after the Days of Future Past period has been resisted and overcome, and now mutants are in charge of the world"
"The "mutants rule" timeline is supposed to be parallel to the days of future past one, rather than after it."
Yeah, the premise was that each half of the New Mutants were in different, parallel, mutually-exclusive alternate timelines. One being the timeline we've seen before where Sentinels take over, the other being one where mutants manage to win that particular fight and become just as bad as the humans in the other version.
There was a Marvel Superheroes RPG adventure module that played with that idea - set in the Days of Future Past timeline, the players were mutants who escape from one of the internment camps (or were just never caught), who have to fight back against the Sentinels. One of the "endings" for the storyline involves getting access to a time machine and being able to travel back into the past to change history...but doing so basically shunts the timeline into the OTHER reality from these issues, with mutants on top (led by Sunspot and Magma), and humans being oppressed.
One of of the other endings ties into the New Mutant issues as well, where the players can help Cannonball and Mirage evacuate mutants into Lila's Dyson Sphere (and protect it when the Sentinel's eventually discover it).
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 13, 2014 7:42 PM
Coincidentally or not, the two evil mutant leaders, Sunspot and Magma, happen to be the same two who were kidnapped by Farouk and enlisted in the Gladiators. They're also the two who have Hellfire Club/Nova Roma connections.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 15, 2014 12:18 AM
Oooh, good call. They're also both from Brazil.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 15, 2014 8:54 PM
A nice good storyline, keeping the New Mutants out of the way while the X-Men fall apart and regroup. Like you, I wasn't thrilled with their embrace of Xavier as a father figure (perhaps reacting to the more stern Magneto), but I was very glad he didn't come back with them and stayed in space for a few more years.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 10, 2015 12:36 PM
I don't know if you can call it one of Claremont's overused tropes or if it just feels that way, but I find it a repulsive notion that giving someone help will forever destroy their lives, even if everything we know and love will die if you don't give them help right now, in the next few seconds. "Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men" is the only other place I can think of it being specifically referenced, but it really feels like one of Claremont's overused tropes.
I do see Sienkiewicz influence in the two page spread [which blew me away when I first read the story.] I've also seen a bit of influence in the scene where Illyana teleports one of Magus' limbs, but that's probably because the giant teeth always made me think of Frank Miller's Mutant Leader [!] in "Dark Knight."
Posted by: ChrisW | February 14, 2017 9:35 PM
Having the underage white girl being sold into sex slavery by an ape dressed in African garb adds a decidedly racist tinge to Claremont's icky fetish writing.
Also, Magik is missing from Characters Appearing.
Posted by: Bob | September 10, 2017 6:34 PM
Added Magik. Thanks Bob.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 11, 2017 7:23 PM
I am thinking about how useless has Magneto been as a school leader. He is barely there and barely ever helps in all the issues.
Posted by: Karel | May 27, 2018 4:12 PM
It seems as if Xavier was written out because his powers are too hard to write around, but replacing him with Magneto just creates another version of that problem, so Magneto becomes kind of a do-nothing as well.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 28, 2018 6:57 AM
As much as general pop culture sees the X-books as being a civil rights metaphor battle between Professor X & Magneto, Claremont often seemed much more interested in fantasy genres, with space opera/sci-fi (spacewhales and Starjammers, stargates & Dyson spheres) & sword & sorcery (Arkon, Kulan Gath, Magik & Limbo) all being important parts of the Claremont mythos.
Contrasting to the sword & sorcery stuff, he also seemed to have a liking for cyberpunk, but what started off with cyborgs like Wolverine & Donald Pierce became increasingly darker as the stories continued, perhaps influenced by Sienkiewicz & Windsor-Smith's art. We have other mutant cyborgs like Forge, Jetstream & Scalphunter, but also Magik's armour increasingly covering her body. Then the "tech" aspect darkened with the Magus' living technology, plus Nimrod & later Master Mold being unstoppable self-replicating circuitry, plus Lady Deathstrike & the Reavers looking increasingly dark & weird (particularly when drawn by Windsor-Smith).
And here Limbo & tech gets combined with a "body horror" transformation trope of his - suddenly these Limbo demonsm that Magik could keep under control with a sword, were now indestructible, unstoppable living machines who could turn you into a machine too with a touch, and you would lose your life & humanity. And as well as the Limbo demons, the "machine virus" concept also has Claremont hinting that Doug merging with Warlock has already infected Doug without them realising it.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 20, 2018 8:55 PM
We already had various mutants being able to possess or control your mind, the Brood impregnating you, Masque being able to warp your body, now we have a machine virus, and Mojo creating cyborgs (& also Psylocke’s eyes). Later we’ll have the sadistic Worm of the Savage Land mutates being able to control your body in a way your mind is aware of what he is making you do. (And on the subject of control & transformations, we maybe also have Demon Bear & Mojo both changing characters’ ethnicity, though I don’t know what Claremont intended with either of those, they were never really explored.)
But definitely from the mid-80s, it feels like the increasing darkness of the X-universe is mirrored by some sort of rise of body horror & "unstoppable living circuitry” as an enemy. I'm not familiar enough with cyberpunk to know if there were particular works he was influenced by in all this.
Anyway, I think it’s interesting here how he changes the sword & sorcery concept into living circuitry. I wonder where he would have gone with it if he’d stayed on the book, I doubt he would have wrapped it up quickly if Inferno hadn’t been mandated. With another writer, I might just assume they changed Limbo to keep things moving so it didn't get too samey, but with Claremont I do wonder if there was something psychological there, like his tastes had changed, & he'd moved on from the interest in sword & sorcery. I don't know what it means, exactly, but I feel there's something else going on.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 20, 2018 9:02 PM
One of Claremont's unrecognized strengths was mashing genres together and making them work. We'll never know if Magus taking over Limbo was one of his long-running plans or if it was a neat idea he had as he was writing these particular issues. I think he was trying to make a point about the similarities and differences of magic and science. Safe to say, it wasn't something the editor was pushing on him.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 23, 2018 10:09 PM
I actually disagree. While Claremont obviously liked to mix genres, for the most part I don't think they worked well. In a superhero universe, there is obviously a mix of genres, and many superheroes can cross between them without disrupting things. But at least for my tastes, I think Claremont would go too much to an extreme when he made an excursion into a different genre, and then when he combined them, it too often became a hot mess than something that was compelling.
The idea of demons becoming infected with a techno-virus does not make sense to me. The demons of the realm of Limbo should operate in a different enough physics that something like that cannot happen.
Crossing genres successfully and blending them is something that takes a lot of skill, and for all of Claremont's strengths as a writer he was very bad at killing his darlings. He could become easily self-indulged.
Posted by: Chris | June 24, 2018 12:52 AM
Indeed, @Chris. IMO Claremont introduced a lot of concepts and characters that did not really fit his own favored character ecosystem and ended up shuffling them in the hope that some natural outlet would present itself. It happened with the Shiar and the Starjammers, with Illyanna's demonic limbo, with Warlock, with Madelynne Pryor and Mr. Sinister. It arguably happened even with the Hellfire Club.
One of the reasons why "Inferno" is such a dark story is because it served mainly as a resolution bin for many of those dangling plots. Although the many problems of that crossover go further than just that.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 24, 2018 4:20 AM
@Chris- some demons in the Marvel Universe have been portrayed as not affected by the normal laws of physics, while others can be hurt or killed by normal physical force. There's no reason the latter shouldn't be affected by the techno virus.
Posted by: Michael | June 24, 2018 9:00 AM
Yeah to be fair, the Limbo demons have no problem possessing Earth technology (vacuum cleaners, subway trains, elevators) & warping it with their magic. But Magus' techno-virus is so far beyond any Earth technology (far beyond even beings like Ultron) that I don't have a problem with it being able to infect the demons.
Right from the start with Magus & Warlock, we have creatures that look like robots but are apparently living creatures that can shapeshift & sizeshift immediately, that have offspring, & that feed by transforming other living creatures into circuitry like themselves with a single touch, that they then drain the energy of. Also, Magus can fly through space without harm, appears to have some interdimensional travel ability to get to Limbo in the first place, & in his 1st appearance rips a star in half & throws it, seemingly without any effort. (I did at this point assume Magus was Galactus-level & couldn't see how they could possibly beat him, though he was never portrayed as quite that level again. But if not quite one of Marvel's pantheon, he does at least seem a cosmic brute like Terminus.)
Finally, the techno-organic beings can survive as long as even a molecule of themselves remain, & from that single molecule can rebuild their entire being with mind & memories completely intact. So this really isn't normal "technology" we are talking about, it's basically god-level living tech that (as ChrisW implies) is pretty much already indistinguishable from magic.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 24, 2018 10:29 AM
(S'ym was also shown to be massively powerful in his first appearance, or at least so "magical" that he broke normal laws of physics, being responsible for the death of alternate Colossus, being unharmed by Wolverine's claws, & in fact able to easily snap off one of Wolverine's claws and use it as a toothpick. But he was never shown as quite that powerful again, and his infection with the techno-virus definitely is a power increase for him compared to how he'd been portrayed recently.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 24, 2018 10:41 AM
Good call on S'ym.
Your mileage may vary on how well Claremont mashed genres, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. In "New Mutants" #50, Illyana has lost control of the magical demonic Limbo to her long-time demon servant who has been infected by the Technarch Virus (or whatever it's called) and cast a magic wish that brought her to the space opera Starjammers, Ms. Marvel's current incarnation and the long-exiled Charles Xavier, for a time-travel story, an alternate-universe story and a superhero fight that has nothing to do with earthbound problems and gave all the New Mutants something to do. The Penguin isn't invading magical dimensions and ripping apart planets just to make a point to Batman, right?
There's tons of reasons to not like this story as a genre mash-up, as Claremont's typical mess, any number of reasons. [Why did we just get a history lesson about Robert the Bruce?] But it was a good graduation story for the X-Babies, setting them up for the next 50 issues where they became adults and...
Ok, you're right, it sucked. :D
Posted by: ChrisW | June 25, 2018 9:18 PM
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