Characters Appearing: Cannonball, Cypher, Magik, Magneto, Mirage (Dani Moonstar), Sunspot, Warlock, Wolfsbane
New Mutants #64
Issue(s): New Mutants #64
The story isn't just about Warlock, of course. Both Wolfsbane and Magik are also extremely upset about Doug's death. Wolfsbane perhaps because she's the youngest of the group but also because Simonson had been developing a doomed love interest between her and Doug.
Magik is more focused on the death of her brother, Colossus, and we'll see more of that beginning next issue.
But Warlock and Doug were best friends for a long time, so it makes sense to focus on his alien reaction to all of this. He and Mirage are watching Night of the Living Dead (which seems like the sort of movie you would avoid at a time like this), and Warlock first asks if he should just eat Doug as a way to honor him.
That probably freaks Dani out enough that, when combined with the zombie movie, she loses control of her powers.
I like when she loses control. It doesn't happen often (New Mutants #41 is the last time i remember) but it's good to be reminded that these New Mutants are still ostensibly mutants in training, and their powers should seem like a curse as much as a blessing at times. For some characters that's obvious, but Dani's powers are pretty passive and you don't think of her as someone that needs training until she accidentally manifests someone's worst fear.
In addition to the zombie, she also projects Warlock's worst fear, a transmode-infected version of Doug angry that he did not properly honor him.
Dani tries to explain to Warlock that zombies aren't real but Warlock doesn't properly grok the message.
The next day, the kids all go to the funeral with Magneto, who is still angry at the kids for leaving school grounds without telling him and getting Doug killed, as well as with himself. They meet Doug's family, who are under the impression that Doug was shot by a hunter during a camping trip (and Magneto tells the New Mutants that the Hellfire Club is available to "bolster" that belief if need be). Warlock is confused by the make-up and embalming that has happened to Doug's body, and then Rahne breaks out in tears and runs out of the funeral home, prompting some older attendees to tut-tut about scandalous behavior. Outside the funeral home, Warlock also freaks out when he hears they are going to bury Doug. Cannonball gives him the religious perspective.
So that night, Warlock, with his head all mixed up with zombie movies and religion, sneaks out of the Mansion (against Magneto's orders) and to the funeral home...
...where he tries to transfer his life energy to Doug. When that doesn't work, he decides to take Doug for a walk, to remind him what it's like to be alive.
He first takes Doug to the hotel where his parents are saying, and Doug's mom predictably freaks out and assumes she's going insane. Warlock isn't sure why that didn't work but he can tell that it's not going well, so he decides to try the New Mutants instead and he brings Doug to Rahne.
The other New Mutants run into the room (Magneto must be taking sleeping pills) and Rahne tries to explain things to Warlock (which shows her coming to a kind of acceptance herself) but it's unclear if Warlock even now really understands what's happening. The Mutants then return Doug's body and then go to his funeral the next day. Warlock (disguised in a human form) says that "a piece of Self" is with him, and that will later turn out to be literally true but it's not something we're supposed to be thinking about now.
I've mentioned this before, but it is pretty amazing how Warlock has been allowed to run around loose all this time. He doesn't understand movies. He doesn't understand religion. He doesn't understand death. The only reason he doesn't convert people into energy for food is because he was told not to, not because he understands that it's wrong. No one's been trying to teach him anything and now that Doug, the closest thing he had to a keeper, is dead there's been no special effort to keep track of him. Magneto has issued a blanket edict against using powers or leaving the Mansion but Warlock has already learned from the others that it's ok to ignore that as long as you can come up with a justification. This issue is the closest we've had to a focus on him for a while but i don't think he learns or develops from it. He's generally more of an odd (and fun) attribute of the New Mutants than an actual character, but this issue reminds us how dangerous he really is and how neglectful all of the adult x-characters have been in letting him roam free and unsupervised.
The thing about Bret Blevins's art is that it's very cutesy but it's also (deliberately) warped and unrealistic. It's the cutesy side that gets more attention, especially with his work on teen books like this and Cloak & Dagger. And on top of that, Warlock has evolved into basically a cartoon character. So when you have these scenes of Warlock walking around Doug's corpse and the other super-deformed New Mutants just over-the-top bawling hysterically, it comes across as possibly inappropriate or tonally dissonant. But there's actually a darkness to Blevins' art which was on display even during the Birdboy stuff. It's cartoony, but a weird and creepy sort of cartoony. So i'm kind of on the fence about it. I've said before that i've developed an appreciation for his style that i didn't have in realtime. But what pushes me off the fence and onto the "against" pasture, at least for this issue, is the comedic amount of weeping on display. It's not that people shouldn't be sad that their friend is dead, of course. But the look of it is more "baby's candy is taken away in a Bugs Bunny cartoon" than real tragedy.
Note that this issue contains a Statement of Ownership, only two issues after the one in issue #62.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 223,667. Single issue closest to filing date = 251,826.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: In New Mutants #62 it was said that Doug's funeral was "tomorrow". Issue #63 was largely a dream so it doesn't require much time to have passed, and i'm following the MCP in putting the New Mutants' appearance in Spellbound #4 between New Mutants #62-63 (you can assume that the rest of the Spellbound series takes place earlier and later than this). I've therefore kept all these issues in tight succession despite putting them in individual entries. This issue begins at 2am with the funeral still being "tomorrow" and then takes place over the course of two days. This issue ends with Magik resolving to attack Forge for killing her brother, and next issue begins with the characters still in the same clothes around the television so i'm assuming not too much time has passed, but i'm still putting #65-66 in a separate entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
FNORD - in the Chronological Placement Considerations: there's a word or words missing from this sentence roght after largely -"Issue #63 was largely so it doesn't require much time to have passed,"
Posted by: clyde | June 24, 2014 4:39 PM
Yeah I see what Simonson was going for but the end result is an over-the-top misfire. Blevins' cartoonish artwork just makes matters worse.
Posted by: Robert | June 24, 2014 4:57 PM
In this issue Doug's parents are portrayed as out-of-towners that don't know about the school but Doug's father was previously established as Xavier's lawyer.
Posted by: Michael | June 24, 2014 7:51 PM
Doug also used to live close to the school, right? Kitty used to visit him. But i guess they moved away. I was debating listing the parents as characters appearing but i'm pretty sure they haven't appeared elsewhere. It was in New Mutants #38 that Phillip Ramsey was mentioned as the school's lawyer, but i guess he could have been doing it from afar and wasn't aware of the true nature of the school.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 24, 2014 8:42 PM
Critics at the time began to ignore this book after Claremont, but they did single this issue out for tastelessness due to Doug's corpse walking around.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 28, 2014 4:29 PM
It's rather bizarre that Simonson has effectively marginalized Magneto for some time, given that he's one of the most prominent X-characters of all.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 26, 2015 6:43 AM
Simonson is stuck between a rock and a hard place with Magneto, since she knows Claremont still considers him his character. So she is pushing the team away from Magneto with Cypher's death. Of course, the New Mutants misbehavior isn't enough, Magneto has to start acting like a bad guy as well, once Bob Harras takes over. That culminates in New Mutants 75, that John Byrne made time to draw so Magneto could be used as a villain again, unless he was appearing in X-Men. Of course, if you look at Magneto's actions instead of the art with his helmet making him look all evil, Simonson makes sure he never actually does anything evil, as, indeed, he really doesn't until Jim Lee takes over, despite his appearances in Acts of Vengeance.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | May 26, 2016 7:25 AM
I'm disagreeing on Simonson making sure he never actually does anything evil. Simonson had him trade human lives "like playing cards" with N'astirh during Inferno. Also, if you believe Magneto's claims in New Mutants 75, he left the X-Men to face the Marauders alone during the Mutant Massacre and left the X-Men to die at the hands of the Adversary. (Of course, Simonson's claims that Magneto was Evil All Along in New Mutants 75, like her claims that Maddie was Evil All Along in X-Factor 38, make no sense, as we've discussed previously.
Posted by: Michael | May 26, 2016 7:48 AM
The New Mutants were overhearing a conversation that they stopped listening to before its conclusion. Magneto could have just as easily turned N'astrith down, but the New Mutants don't know because they were left. And we agree that the stuff Magneto said in New Mutants 75 makes no sense either. So, in terms of actual evil doing, Magneto... didn't. He talked to a demon which, everyone in New York was doing during Inferno. In point of fact, the X-Men and Illyana actually shed blood, so aside from his company and the costume he was wearing, Magneto would look like a saint compared what a lot of the other "non-evil" characters did.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | May 26, 2016 8:17 AM
You know, I never thought about it before, but it really doesn't make any sense for Warlock to not understand the concept of death. Literally the entire reason he fled the Magus and came to Earth was to not die. We've been shown, again and again, that he's afraid of the Magus killing him. Right before the Beyonder killed the whole team, Dani manifested everyone's individual visions of death, including Warlock's. And I'm almost positive he's pantomimed a skull or gravestone or something in the past. Why would any of that be the case if he didn't understand death on a conceptual level, or thought you could just revive anything by pumping some lifeglow back into it?
No offense to Weezie, but man I wish Claremont had come back to this book after finishing his novel.
Posted by: Drew | July 9, 2017 10:56 PM
Yeah, X-Men Annual 9 hinges on Warlock understanding that Dani was now an agent of death and Doug not realizing that. That doesn't make sense if he doesn't understand death.
Posted by: Michael | July 9, 2017 11:02 PM
The only way that I can rationalize the idea of Warlock not understanding the concept of death is to think of his appearance in NM#21, when he at first mistakenly thought that electric devices were the living species on Earth. Therefore, he doesn't quite understand how carbon-based lifeforms works...okay, that's a lot of mental gymnastics.
On that note, it's interesting to note that Warlock's personality wasn't childlike in those early appearances, but more young adult-ish. I don't think the childlike Warlock really emerged until, possibly, the New Mutants Special Edition (not coincidentally, the issue when Art Adams started the trend of drawing Warlock as various pop culture icons).
In his early appearances, yes, it's stated that Doug lives in Salem Center. Phillip and Shelia Ramsey did appear once before this issue. I want to say it was around NM #37 or #38 (I don't have my issues handy to check right now), after the team was resurrected by The Beyonder. His parents appear on just one panel, confronting Magneto (as "Michael Xavier") about their son's change in personality. If I remember correctly, Phillip and Shelia Ramsey also look *very* different in their two appearances, practically like other people. It's possible that Louise Simonson and Brett Blevins just didn't know, or forgot, they had appeared once before - it was brief.
Posted by: James | July 11, 2017 7:27 AM
I forgot to mention - the idea of Warlock not understanding movies, like not understanding death, seems to be a convention for just this issue, as well. He's portrayed in earlier stories as understanding, and enjoying, movies and television just fine, if a little too enthusiastically, while knowing that they're not real. His appearance in Web of Spider-Man Annual #2 hinges on this, I think.
Posted by: James | July 11, 2017 7:37 AM
One last thought, and I will step off of the soapbox. In defense of Louise Simonson, while this issue is alternately mawkish and morbid, I think she may have had two motives in writing it. One was to have the team mourn a fallen teammate, of course. The second might have been a "back door" for any writer to bring Cypher back from the dead, due to the technarch virus, if they wanted. Think of the story that way, and Warlock not understanding death makes a little bit more sense. If the Technarch don't quite die the same way as humans, and Doug was infected with the virus, then Warlock understands that his friend might not be dead, after all, or has some means of returning (note Warlock trying to pump Doug with "lifeglow" to bring him back, which wouldn't work if he wasn't infected).
Again, mental gymnastics, and a guess with no evidence on my part, but I do get the idea, reading the story, that this may have been the intention. It does make more sense that way. When Boom-Boom sprinkles Warlock's ashes on Doug's grave many issues later, there's a bit of text implying that they both might return some day, so I assume this idea was in place for quite some time. Ironically, when Doug was brought back from the dead, the virus has nothing to do with it.
Posted by: James | July 11, 2017 8:12 AM
I suppose Warlock might not understand organic death. When Technarchs consume something organic, they infect it with their Transmode virus and drain the energy out of it. It looks like a bit of skeletal wiring after. When Hodge drained Warlock, he collapsed into metallic dust. Since Doug's body did neither, would Warlock recognise Doug's death or even understand it? Had Warlock seen an organic being's dead body before and understood that it was dead and not simply unconscious or asleep? How would he know how death "worked" for for organic beings? Was it ever explained to him in depth before this?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | July 13, 2017 1:37 AM
As with many things involving Warlock, his understanding of death is inconsistent, and varies depending on the story. He definitely seems to understand that Sunspot has died in Annual #2 (though it turns out "Sunspot" is a life-like fake). He saves Doug from death by falling at a great height in the same issue. #64 seems to contradict that story, at least. Then again, Warlock is alternately depicted as a mature, responsible teenager (Annual #1); a truly alien, unknowable entity (NM #22); and a childlike creature (many other stories). I guess you can chalk up all of this to "well, he is an alien, so..."
Posted by: James | July 13, 2017 10:23 AM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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