New Mutants #58-61
Issue(s): New Mutants #58, New Mutants #59, New Mutants #60, New Mutants #61
The X-Men have the Adversary, X-Factor has Apocalypse, and the New Mutants have... Birdbrain and an Island of Dr. Moreau rehash.
I've mentioned a few times that it was in the Bret Blevins period that i first picked up the New Mutants book after being scared off of it by the adult themes and strange art of the Bill Sienkiewicz era. I think issue #58 was my first re-try of the book, and the New Mutants were decidedly "younger" this time.
Poor Sam will never learn Calculus by studying a Trigonometry book, and that is one hell of a formula that he thinks he has to memorize.
While this all may seem somewhere between cute and freakishly bizarre, there's a more tragic element here that eventually gets revealed. Birdbrain has friends out on the island in the North Atlantic where he came from, and it turns out that they are going to be culled tonight. His quest for man-ee burg-awrks is so that he can bring food to his friends. The New Mutants, happy for an excuse to not study for upcoming exams, eventually get his message and Magik teleports them to the approximate location.
From there we get into the Dr. Moreau stuff. Luckily the New Mutants aren't familiar with the story, except Sam who "saw this movie once".
We learn that "Paradise Island" is the domain of Dr. Animus, aka the Ani-mator.
And he's actually an employee of The Right, Cameron Hodge's organization. He takes an interest in the arrival of the New Mutants, but wants them for himself.
I think it's funny that the kids are officially called the New Mutants. Of course that's the name of the book and we've seen themselves and the X-Men refer to them that way. But it's not technically a team name or anything. On the other hand, it's difficult to not refer to them that way since collectively they don't have another name.
Meanwhile, Birbrain's arrival in clothes and with humans doesn't win him points with his "Ani-mate" friends...
..but that debate is cut short when the Ani-mator rings the bell that, Pavlov style, causes the Ani-mates to enter the testing grounds. The New Mutants follow and find themselves navigating a maze of death-traps and (admittedly awesome) bad guy Ani-mates.
Note that Magik pulls her sword from Limbo, and also that Mirage, ostensibly the most responsible member of the group, vetoes the idea of going back and getting help from Magneto now that the group has realized that their little adventure is more serious than they first realized.
The group eventually gets captured...
...and from there we just have an excessive amount of monologing from the Ani-mator.
Rahne takes exception with some of his religious talk. I'm surprised to see such an enlightened interpretation of the Bible coming from her Reverend Craig.
Oh, the ranting. The endless, endless ranting.
Ani-mator's greatest fear is Commander Hodge (wearing what i, for very little good reason, call his Star-Lord costume).
Issue #60 is a double-sized issue, but content wise, that's counteracted by the pages and pages of Ani-mator explaining things to his prisoners. There's also a bit about Wolfsbane refusing to turn into her wolf form because she's afraid of giving in to bloodlust.
Meanwhile, Sunspot and Warlock return home from their time in Fallen Angels.
It's then discovered that the rest of the New Mutants are now missing. In a comedy of errors, and a repeat of a scenario from Louise Simonson's Power Pack run (and also one of those plots that would be ruined with the invention of cellphones), Magneto leaves for the Hellfire Club to use its resources to locate the students while Sunspot figures out where they went and heads after them with Warlock, leaving a note that falls under a table to lie unnoticed.
Magik even manages to teleport away and she goes back to the Mansion, which is at this point empty. So she goes back with nothing but a baseball bat. But the New Mutants do manage to break free and begin fighting their way out. That's interrupted when Hodge and the Right show up, though.
This is at least a little more like it. I've actually been surprised that X-Factor didn't go under the Ann Nocenti's editorialship when Louise Simonson took over the book, since the idea was that Simonson and Claremont were more likely to work better together. But now that Simonson is writing New Mutants, we can have some cross-title continuity here, and the use of The Right is the start of that. The idea here is that the Ani-mator was rescued from prison by The Right after he was jailed for ignoring his legitimate medical research for his experiments with mutations, resulting in patient deaths. The Right wanted Dr. Animus working on a way to reverse mutations, but they've left him completely unsupervised on Paradise Island where he's continued his man-animal hybrid experiments instead.
With reports of the New Mutants' arrival, Hodge brought the Right troops to the island, and he doesn't like what he's found. So The Right captures the New Mutants and starts shooting down the Ani-mates.
The New Mutants eventually get free again...
...and are soon joined by Sunspot and Warlock.
During the fight, Cypher finds his language translation power to be worthless...
...but this doesn't result in him learning some new ability. Instead, he makes an unnecessary sacrifice, jumping in front of a bullet from the Ani-mator.
No one even notices that Doug has been shot, so he just lays there dying.
That is some pretty dark stuff. It's so weird to have that in the middle of a fight with cute animal creatures and smiley-faced shock troops.
Hodge decides that the fight is pointless, and he withdraws. He says that the situation confirms that he needs to step up his organization's efforts to wipe out mutants instead of just containing and discrediting them. But Hodge's plane is caught by an Octopus Ani-Man.
Sunspot says the creature is too hideous to live, but he's pretty cute on the cover of issue #61. Let me zoom in on him:
Ladies and gentlemen, is that really the face of a creature "too hideous... too terrible to live"? I grant you he looks a little nervous, but consider what people are saying about him!
Hodge is thought to be dead, but since he used a robot double the last time he put himself in danger, it's hard to believe it.
Birdbrain, meanwhile, wins a hand-to-hand fight with the Ani-mator, proving himself the new ruler of the Ani-mates.
That's when everyone discovers that Doug is dead.
Illyana responds by banishing the Ani-mator to Limbo, something she's also been doing to The Right goons. Only Rahne makes a feeble objection.
From that we go right back into Dr. Moreau stuff. Again, weird to weave Doug's death into that.
Issue #61 opens with Magik advocating for killing the Ani-mator. Mirage responds that they've already allowed her to banish him to Limbo, and "isn't that enough?". Well, actually, isn't eternal damnation worse? We get a glimpse into what's in store for the people she banishes when she drops in a Right trooper that hasn't been subdued yet.
At least we see that doing this is corrupting her, and the other New Mutants do see a problem with it, although they're more concerned for her than the people she's dropping into her hell dimension.
The New Mutants say "*SQUAWK* Good-bye friAWKend" to Birdbrain and teleport home to the X-Mansion with their dead teammate.
I'll tell you right now that i love Bret Blevins' art in the story above. These animal creatures vary between adorable and weird, and i love his hyper energy and the way he draws the teen heroes. And truth be told, his art is twisted enough to fit with the dark elements of this story. I didn't always like his art but i really have to admit it's pretty damn good, just very stylized and a matter of personal preference. But you can definitely get whiplash going from Birdbrain skawking about being a man to watching Doug bleed out on the ground. Storywise, i don't know if i'm being fair. I didn't like this story when i was younger and more willing to accept anything that was presented in a Marvel book, and i've liked it even less the more i've thought about it. And this Birdbrain story definitely has a bad reputation, and i still think deservedly so. But i kind of wonder if it's just an anti-cute animal bias. If the Ani-mator was Mr. Sinister or Dark Beast and the Ani-mates were Morlocks or something, would it have seemed like a cooler story, and Doug's death less inappropriately out of the blue? I'd say yes: to a large degree, the problem here is that the characters are simply ridiculous. They play to Bret Blevins' strengths very well, but they're comedic characters and that's weird when you also want me to be very sad about the deaths of the creatures and especially Doug.
Doug's pointless, non-heroic death is a separate problem, but that's part of a larger trend that we've been seeing. I think it's a waste of a character and that's a hack, obvious move to kill off the weakest character. It's ironic (i think unintentionally) how his death occurs in a story that initially seemed constructed to play to his language abilities, like Simonson was trying to figure out what she could do with this guy, built up this Birdbrain story, and then realized she couldn't keep doing plots like this so she might as well get rid of the guy. Arguably, his death is (again, probably unintentional) a statement about Doug's inclusion on the team to begin with; if the New Mutants were really just students then his membership made sense, but since they're really a super-hero team, Doug really had no business being on it. But that point could have been made by giving him a close call and then shunting him off to the sidelines for occasional use or to just fade away until/unless another writer decided to use him. And ultimately that point is proven because much later he will be brought back by Zeb Wells and, albeit with a reinterpretation of his power and personality (that in part comes from his resurrection), becomes very interesting. I guess that also shows that his death wasn't such a big deal, either, since it didn't prevent his return.
In addition to the death of Cypher (literally, a Fall of a Mutant) and the appearance by Cameron Hodge and the Right (loosely tying into the anti-mutant theme), i guess what makes this a Fall of the Mutants crossover is that when the kids get back, they watch the events of X-Men and X-Factor on television and react to them. In that sense, the New Mutants are less participants than, say, Power Pack or Daredevil.
The Hellfire Club are also watching the events of Fall of the Mutants on television, and when Magneto finally arrives there, he's chided for oversleeping. No one thought to phone him?
Magneto seems to have been demoted, too. When he, jointly with Storm, was inducted into the Hellfire Club, it was as their White King. But now he's a White Bishop. That's what you get for sleeping late.
Magneto's comments about not necessarily being pro-human are interesting. I like it; it shows he's not completely defanged (the overall scripting of that sequence, though, feels like a series of non-sequiturs).
As the Hellfire leaders talk, X-Factor is shown on television. Magneto says that he recognized them long ago (X-Factor #9, and i wonder if he still thinks Jean Grey is Madelyne Pryor), but he still finds their behavior "incomprehensible" and doesn't have time to think about it right now.
Back home at the Mansion, the kids descend into misery over Doug's death.
Warlock doesn't seem to understand death.
Then they see the X-Men die on TV.
Then Magneto comes home.
There's the reference to the Mutant Registration Act.
When Magik finds that Magneto isn't going to try to do anything about the X-Men, she teleports away to find them herself, but find a barrier blocking her. She returns to attack Magneto. This is a turning point for her; prior to this she's said multiple times that she trusts and relies on Magneto after he helped her fight off S'ym in Limbo.
After that the tone shifts weirdly again, with the kids up in the attic having a good time trying new costumes and considering leaving Magneto. It seems to be again trying to put all this seriousness and misery behind them so that they can go back to being happy-go-lucky teens, as depicted on the cover.
Note that these aren't their Art Adams-designed graduation costumes. The group is not graduating, so they need something different. The pull between teen fun and angst and dark storylines is going to continue for this series.
The second half of issue #61, in isolation, works fairly well as an ancillary Fall of the Mutants tie-in, showing what the New Mutants, the Hellfire Club, and Magneto were doing during the big event and their reactions to it. The grief over Doug's death is legitimate as well. Taken as a three-issue whole, though, this really shouldn't have been considered part of Fall of the Mutants.
But let's be clear: even if this didn't have the Fall of the Mutants banner plastered on it, this would be a really weird and oddly toned storyline - the whimsical cuteness of Bret Blevins' animal creatures mixed with the heavy teen angst and especially the death of Doug Ramsey make this kind of a trainwreck of a story.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm not worried about the gap between Sunspot and Warlock's appearance in Power Pack #33 and New Mutants #58; it's clear that Sunspot has been dreading returning home and facing up to Magneto. And Power Pack #35 is part of the Fall of the Mutants, so there has to be some kind of gap anyway. It's not shown here, but Magik has to step away off panel in the middle of issue #58 so that she can bring Colossus to Dallas. Issue #61 takes place during the conclusions of the events in the X-Men and X-Factor Fall of the Mutants issues.
Crossover: Fall of the Mutants
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (27): show
I can see merit in Bret Blevins' art now that I completely missed when these issues came out, but I still don't think he was appropriate for the New Mutants. Partially I blame Louise Simonsen, who despite being nearly a co-creator of the title (to my knowledge) did not handle them well. At least "X-Factor" was tolerable, and drawn by Walt. But I don't think I'd have liked Blevins' art here even if Claremont was still writing. Look at the splash page of #58, Rhane is in exactly the sort of pose that has contaminated comics ever since the late-80s. It's certainly cute, and turns my eye, but very inappropriate for a (what is she?) 14 year-old. The shots of Dani and Illyana were hardly any better.
This would work for a fun teen superhero comedy. I'm not a fan of the way his art looks on a surface level, but it's well-paced, imaginative, and demonstrates talent that comics can use in any era. His contemporaneous work over in "Strange Tales" shows a similar approach to "Cloak and Dagger."
I want to say a lot of good things about him, at least to balance out all the bad things I said when these books were new, but he doesn't fit the title or the overall story. Sad to say, Rob Liefeld at least fit in with where the mutant books were going.
And don't get me started on Bird-Brain. GAAAK!
Posted by: ChrisW | May 13, 2014 8:02 PM
Two characters that look like Leland and Von Roehm appear in issue 61, even though they're supposed to be dead.
Posted by: Michael | May 13, 2014 9:42 PM
To be fair to Magneto, Donald Pierce too was referred to both as the White Bishop and White King. It seems the Hellfire Club gets easily confused.
Killing Cypher was pointless. While not useful in the field, Cypher could have become a great supporting character. An early version of Oracle in Birds of Prey where the guy behind the frontlines provides invaluable support. Certainly doesn't have glamor, but that would have been a good story arc for Doug - realizing his best contribution could be behind the scenes or more as a "sensor" role where he lays out the map of the battlefield so a good field leader could gain an edge.
It's something very much along the lines of what Claremont would do, I think. Very unfortunate that Louise Simonson didn't see any potential.
Posted by: Chris | May 14, 2014 12:50 AM
It seemed to me that Doug's death was foreshadowed since his early apperances in the New Mutants. Many times he would bemoan how 'useless' he felt. Other times members would point how vulnerable he was. He even had Warlock be his own personal 'bodyguard' by letting Doug use him as a suit of armor. When Doug finally died, I was not the least bit surprised and saw it coming issues away.
Posted by: Martin Dent | May 14, 2014 11:50 AM
There is a page in NM 61 where Magneto flies over the city and sees the Empire State building with it's mast broken off and Ship lying on the shore on top of the X-Factor Building. That moment would be during X-Factor #26 before page 17 where a caption tells us it's "Morning" (it's still dark in NM 61 as Magneto heads to the Hellfire Club).
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 15, 2014 2:50 PM
I guess Warlock doesn't seem to understand death and how humans deal with it because the Technarch just seem to eat their dead and "recycle" it into themselves..
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 15, 2014 3:44 PM
When "Fall..." was announced in fanzine newspages, it contained a tagline about the X-Men being hailed as heroes, X-factor losing their secret identities and a New Mutant dying. Evidently Doug's death was planned out for a while, which makes the pointlessness of it all the more puzzling.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 11, 2014 8:28 PM
Since I've already complained a LOT about this art, I'll move on to the story.
The death of Doug Ramsey was very badly handled. He had been developing nicely, finally learning to live without Warlock and starting to romance Rahne, and then he's killed pointlessly and left to die without anyone noticing. And then Rahne goes completely off the deep end. And when they get back, Magneto goes off the deep end.
Aside from that, the kids all act ridiculously childish at the beginning of this story. They're in their mid-to-late teens, they're not 12 (especially Dani).
Then, for Illyana (who has suddenly starting buying her Darkchilde outfits from Victoria's Secret) to go berzerk on Magneto after how well they had been developing together?
And it makes it look the X-Men died in a building explosion.
And, just a few months after the first time, we again have Cameron Hodge, normal human who's impossible to kill.
All of this was a strong contrast to how well everything was done on the X-Men side of Fall of the Mutants (story and art). This was just awful.
bizarre nitpicking: How did The Right know that Magma and Karma were no longer members of the New Mutants? They seem to think Bobby and Warlock are still there and they left first.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 24, 2015 6:04 PM
"if the New Mutants were really just students then his membership made sense, but since they're really a super-hero team, Doug really had no business being on it. But that point could have been made by giving him a close call and then shunting him off to the sidelines for occasional use or to just fade away until/unless another writer decided to use him."
But Prof X, Magneto, and the X-Men do not intend for them to be a superhero team, but the team keeps disobeying them and getting into these situations. It’s one thing when trouble finds them, but another when the New Mutants go against their purpose and do things like pick fights with the Beyonder and go out into the Morlock tunnels during the Mutant Massacre.
I don’t know, I don’t think all fictional deaths have to have a point. We read comics for fun and escapism, but also for some level of art and meaning, and pointless death is a part of life and a source of good fiction. In that respect, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Doug’s death. I didn’t read New Mutants regularly until after Inferno, despite collecting these issues, so I can't speak to how well it was handled in the immediate aftermath, but issue 61 tackled it well enough. His death felt like it cast a shadow over those post Inferno issues, certainly whenever the team ran into old acquaintances like Shadowcat in Excalibur or their reunion with the X-Men during the X-Tinction Agenda.
Regarding their run as a whole, the larger problem with the New Mutants is that no one really took care of them; they weren’t meant to be a superhero team, but Prof X and the X-Men never seemed to really pay them too much attention, while Prof X gambled that Magneto would be able to succeed him and was wrong. A tragedy like Doug’s death was a long time coming for the team, a direct result of their elder’s negligence and their own rebelliousness. Their ultimate fate, falling in with the militant Cable, was a logical outcome of them desperately seeking someone, anyone, to actually take charge of them and make them a priority. Whatever else his faults, Cable did that (at least until I stopped reading X-Force around X-Cutioner’s Song)
Posted by: Charles R | January 20, 2016 12:39 PM
Regarding the killing off of Doug, Simonson has said that she would never "kill off" a character she didn't know how to bring back, & since it had been established that Doug had the transmode virus, he "would just come back in some other form, a Warlockian form", so it seems she would have eventually brought him back as some sort of Douglock, as I think eventually happens anyway.
She also says that they received a lot of letters from readers saying he was boring & they hated him, so she decided to give them what they want (and presumably the death & its aftermath might have made his fans like him more).
I think really she did have to injure or kill someone here, the whole selling point of Fall Of The Mutants was something bad/dark happening to each of the mutant teams (same as the promotion for Mutant Massacre before it & Inferno after it... both fall Of The Mutants & Inferno had advertising art showing lots of seemingly dead or defeated heroes.) In reality, X-Factor end up with a net positive result (Angel alive again, he is temporarily evil but betrays Apocalypse, & the team become heroes of the city). X-Men appear to die as heroes to a wide TV audience but in reality no-one actually dies and they are now invisible to machines etc... so really someone had to die here in order to even partially live up to what the event had been sold as, & the team's reaction to Doug's death & the X-Men's apparent deaths does help steer the next year of the comic leading into Inferno.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 24, 2018 1:15 PM
Incidentally, Fnord says that Doug dies by "jumping in front of a bullet from the Ani-mator that was actually meant for the Right goon that Wolfsbane is fighting", but it seems to me (including from his dialogue) that Ani-Mator is trying to kill Wolfsbane. She doesn't see Ani-Mator, & he would have either injured or killed her, so Doug does have something of a hero's death, even if Rahne doesn't realise what he was doing.
Whether the cute talk-AWK-ing animal story was the right moment for it is a different matter, though I think Blevins carries off a good blend of cuteness & darkness. (Also I think the scans might be in the wrong order or that some other scan was intended, as we see Doug die before he gets shot.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 24, 2018 1:21 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 26, 2018 9:31 AM
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