New Warriors #31
Issue(s): New Warriors #31
This issue has former Hellions Warpath and Firestar, along with Warpath's current X-Force partner Cannonball, traveling down to Nova Roma with Firestar to inform Magma and Empath about the death of the rest of the Hellions.
This is a great idea. The death of the Hellions was casually done and under-explored, so actually taking an issue to deal with it would have been great. Around this time, right after the publication of X-Cutioner's Song, some of the X-books were taking the time to do some character-driven downtime stories, and this could have fit in really nicely with those. However, instead of actually focusing on what should have been the premise, Nicieza uses the opportunity to retroactively do away with the concept of Nova Roma. Now, granted, the concept of Nova Roma is, as Nicieza has Firestar say when introducing it for this issue, "ridiculous", but Marvel's Earth is a place with a Savage Land, a network of underground kingdoms, and a Nexus of All Realities, among many other bizarre, implausible, and fun locations. Among other such places, a secret ancient Roman outpost hidden in the Amazon jungle is no more or less ridiculous. Nova Roma was never one of my favorite concepts, but there's no reason to get rid of it, and more importantly there's no reason to say that it never really existed in the first place, which is basically what happens in this story.
Firestar and the X-Forcers get to Nova Roma. It becomes pretty clear that Empath has taken over, and soon Cannonball and Warpath are possessed by him as well.
The question of whether Empath was really "reformed" and in love with Magma or was just manipulating her is a thread that was left open from the New Mutants series, so at first it feels like Nicieza is closing that here by showing Empath to be the bad guy. But Empath says that he has no choice in the matter.
Firestar uses her powers to scramble his control and free everyone.
But that goes further than Firestar expected. Magma, back in control of herself, doesn't recognize anyone around her. And it turns out that it's because Nova Roma was never really a Roman settlement; it was all a mind-control ploy by Selene.
Magma is not even really Amara Aquilla. She's Allison Crestmere, a teen of British descent that had been living in Rio De Janeiro before she was kidnapped by Selene.
With Selene gone, the spell was fading, and Empath was trying to hold things together since he's in love with Amara.
I think this is crazy, and it has the feel of a drive-by shooting, since it's not like this is done as some sort of deck-cleaning exercise in order to use Magma in this new status quo. Nicieza will do a little more with Magma in next year's Child's Play crossover (between X-Force and New Warriors again) but for the most part the character remains in limbo, and we lose the weird coolness of an ancient Roman city in the Amazon.
Two days later, Firestar, Cannonball, and Warpath go to Massachusetts Academy and burn the White Queen's top secret records on the Hellions. And then Firestar gets help from Namorita in designing a new costume.
I don't hate the new costume, but i continue to find it fascinating how much Firestar was underutilized and then distanced from the character that appeared on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Firestar was probably more known to a mainstream audience than many of Marvel's characters, but Marvel never took advantage of that, and now she doesn't even look like the character from the cartoon anymore. It's quite a contrast from the contortions that Marvel will go through in more recent years to try to make characters more like the versions that appear in films.
Since i mentioned the benefits of Nicieza's cross-continuity, i'll point out a minor (and easily dismiss-able) discrepancy. We saw in X-Men #17 that Professor X was willing to turn a blind eye to Cannonball and Warpath leaving the X-mansion even though they are technically under house arrest, but he wasn't able to lend a Blackbird. So he suggested that Firestar provide the transportation. In this issue, Cannonball says that Xavier raised the fact that the New Warriors stole an Avengers Quinjet in New Warriors #22.
I understand that to mean Xavier wouldn't let them borrow a Blackbird to go with Firestar since her team has a bad reputation with vehicles, but Cannonball drifts off before fully completing the thought, so i guess it could mean something else. But from what we saw of the conversation in X-Men #17, Xavier didn't bring that up at all.
Despite my strong dislike of the plot here, the general direction of the book actually feels pretty good. I like Darick Robertson's art. I think he's really good with the slower character interaction scenes, like the one between Namorita and Firestar at the end. There are also downtime scenes with Rage and Speedball (where they discover a secret basement underneath their current headquarters, but where they're mostly just hanging out) and a scene with Nova on a date with Laura Dunham (they go to a Chinese restaurant and play the "in bed" fortune cookie game, except they replace "in bed" with "in love": "Perhaps the time is right to make things happen... in love."). Robertson's action sequences are good, too. At this point the book is far enough along that Nicieza can put the characters together and let their personalities drive the plot, rather than vice versa. It's just unfortunate that he (or an editor?) apparently had a bee in his bonnet about Nova Roma.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: X-Force learned about the death of the Hellions in X-Men #17, so this takes place after that. Cannonball and Warpath return to the X-Mansion in X-Force #19. Firestar, Cannonball, and Warpath were flown to Rio by Sprocket, the New Warriors' pilot. Sprocket isn't actually seen on panel, but i've listed her as a character appearing. At least two days pass during the course of this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showCannonball, Cyclops, Empath, Firestar, Justin Baldwin, Laura Dunham, Maddie Baldwin, Magma, Namorita, Nova (Rich Rider), Rage, Speedball, Sprocket, Warpath
I always saw this as Nicieza and/or editorial getting rid of Nova Roma because they thought it was too goofy, which I believe was also why they tried getting rid of the Savage for a few years in the 80s.
Chris Claremont undid this retcon years back in his X-treme X-men series.
Posted by: Red Comet | August 29, 2016 6:24 PM
I didn't like Nova Roma either, but this was very disrespectful. The Marvel Universe is a big place. Even if you can't find anything cool about it doesn't mean it may not have fans, or could become cool in the hands of another writer. If you don't like it, it's just incredibly easy to ignore.
Posted by: Chris | August 30, 2016 12:33 AM
Nova Roma was never one of my favorite concepts, but there's no reason to get rid of it, and more importantly there's no reason to say that it never really existed in the first place, which is basically what happens in this story.
Indeed. It also makes you feel as though editorial is spitting in your face, saying you wasted your time reading those issues. See also the "Ben was the REAL Peter!" revelation in the Clone Saga, or the attempts to Doom-bot away Victor's every appearance since FF#6 or whenever. I'll take a retcon to fix something intrinsically damaging (see my Lyja support, or Franklin reverting TeenStark and ChrysalisWasp via Heroes Reborn), but nobody was sitting around being pissed about Nova Roma, at least not to my knowledge. Leave it be, folks, leave it be.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 30, 2016 12:39 AM
Oops, forgot to mention the typo that refers to Speedball hanging out with Cage and exploring the crash-pad. Somehow, I don't think Luke would have much patience with this era's version of Robbie…
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 30, 2016 12:43 AM
I haven't read these stories in over 20 years, but I loved New Warriors. Starting to go back and read all my old comics. This site is awesome for helping that along.
Posted by: mquinn | August 30, 2016 9:47 AM
Yeah, I definitely think Nova Roma is goofy as hell and that its initial arc kinda drags down early NEW MUTANTS issues, but it is what it is, and it doesn't really need to be wiped out. Maybe if Nicieza had done more with the retcon, as you say, using it setup a new status quo for Magma or as the kickoff to a new story, it would go down easier, but as it is, the retcon exists JUST to be a retcon, and that makes it stick out.
And of course, it makes thing overly complicated, because for every retcon that gets left to just lie there, doing nothing, someone will inevitably come along and retcon the retcon out. So Nova Roma went from a goofy but easily ignorable element of the MU as a Roman outpost in the Amazon to "They're Romans/They're not!/No, they really are!", which now draws attention to itself just for the back and forth.
Still, it's nice to see the Hellions' death acknowledged, even if that's not really what this issue turns out to be about.
Posted by: Austin Gorton | August 30, 2016 10:40 AM
I don't think this was "editorial", Dan. Firestar's speech at the beginning was a pretty blantant case of "character as mouthpiece." I suspected that this was a concept that was always bothering Nicieza and once he got in the "director's seat" he figured it was his chance to do "fix" it. (I bet he had similar thoughts about the "Psylocke" situation.) To be fair though, we'll see this type of thing a LOT of the 2000's as a whole generation of readers grow up in time to "correct" 30-year old stories all their own.
Also, I never quite understood what Empath meant about Selene being "gone". I know that eventually she'll be brutally tortured (Uncanny #301), but I don't know if that was happening precisely around the time of this issue. If Manuel simply means that the Black Queen isn't "around", that's been the case since 1984. There was enough sense of the illusion to cause Magma's "father" to demand her to be sent back home. But how was she maintaining the city? Long-range telepathy?
Also I agree with Austin's point about the Hellions' death, although that just raises a further question. Remember that the Hellions' died around the summer of '91, right around the time on the big...er...X-traveganza! This issue has a cover date of Jan. '93. Even accounting for the sliding timeline of comics, that seems like an an absurdly long time to start the mourning process with friends and relatives. It just seems like that should have been acknowledged a lot sooner.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 4, 2016 12:24 AM
Admission: I actually prefer this look for Firestar. I remember seeing it in a Maximum Carnage comic (yeah...that's coming...) and just saw it as a lot better than her "classic outfit", which was basically pajamas with a mask. I think the protective glasses are the key in why I think it works.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 4, 2016 6:43 AM
Uncanny 301 came out 4 months after this issue. And no, there doesn't seem to be a way that Selene's torture could have happened before this story. As fnord points out, Sam and Jimmy deciding to go to Nova Roma takes place during X-Men 17-19. Colossus references his parents' death in Uncanny 299. Then the X-Men fly to Paris in Uncanny 300, fight the Acolytes, Wolverine stabs Fabian Cortez and it takes him a week to recover, during which the events of Uncanny Annual 17 take place and then Uncanny X-Men 301 starts, and the dialogue makes it clear that Fitzroy has just started torturing Selene. And Firestar says in this issue they flew from New York to Rio De Janeiro and it was 3 days' travel from Rio to Nova Roma. So they should have gotten to Nova Roma at least 4 days before Selene was being captured.
Posted by: Michael | September 4, 2016 11:00 AM
Only in a superhero comics is "an immortal telepathic mutant witch brainwashed a bunch of people to think they live in ancient Roman colony in Brazil" somehow a less goofy and more "realistic" explanation than "an ancient Roman colony exists in Brazil".
Posted by: Tuomas | September 5, 2016 4:08 AM
This is quite possibly my second least favorite comic arc of all time.
I recognize that I'm in the minority who think that Nova Roma was a good idea -- specifically, I felt like it was not out of place in New Mutants, where free-wheeling, pulpy adventure was one of the things that separated the book in tone from X-Men. But the way it was done here just felt cruel.
Why was this called for? Maybe it was a goal in this era to try to tie-up every loose end from Chris's stint, and Nicieza had no interest in telling a story about pseudo-Rome, so he saw this is as an convenient way to wrap it up without having to come back here in X-Men. Maybe he felt like it was racist to put a bunch of Europeans in South America when stories could be told about people who looked like actual people from South America. I don't know.
But regardless of the reason, I felt like this could have been done a lot more respectfully. Especially having characters, in character, laugh at the idea as ludicrous seems really harsh to me. The Marvel Universe has pulp roots among it's many different influence: unless you're willing to get rid of basically every idea from Lee and Kirby, you're not going to turn it suddenly into hard science fiction.
Posted by: FF3 | September 6, 2016 8:59 AM
Magma, upon reverting to being just another fire/heat based mutant, falls into obscurity after this. The only unifying characteristic of her appearances is that she's emotionally a wreck. She next shows up in a few issues of X-Force as a villain's lackey, but after talking with Roberto and Cannonball, seems like she might be up for a face turn.
Then, she's found crucified by anti-mutant religious zealots in front of the X-Mansion, in her old New Mutants costume, which no explanation as to why she's dressed that way, in an apparent continuity error. Yay, nineties!
My recollection is at odds with what's said above this in the thread, that Claremont retcons this in Xtreme X-Men. He comes close, but I think it only goes as far as her explaining to someone -- Dani? Kitty? -- that she doesn't really know anymore which is her true past, or, in typically annoyingly cloying late Claremont fashion, that maybe she was somehow both!
Claremont does retcon this outright in the out-of-continuity New Mutants Forever. In fact, it's almost the entire point of the book to show that he did not approve of this, or Douglock's fate.
Posted by: FF3 | September 6, 2016 9:14 AM
But really, I just want to take a moment to mourn the poor New Mutants.
Sure, the Hellions (and eventually the New Warriors) just got slaughtered, but no team had such a variety of hard to undo bad fates that fell the New Mutants. Doug and Warlock die separately, and then get caught up in a smelly pile of dog mess with Douglock; Illyana's soul was saved and given back her childhood only to end up dying to mutant aids, and then has her resurrection danged for a decade, Dani suffers from a constantly mutating power set; this happens to Magma; and Wolfsbane ends up doing some really questionable stuff.
Posted by: FF3 | September 6, 2016 9:37 AM
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