New Mutants #2 (1983, April)
More New Mutants goodness today, with “Sentinels,” by Claremont and McLeod.
We start with Dani running through a jungle to escape a monster. She manages to climb some rocks and get out of its reach, and then takes a look around. She’s trying to figure out how she got there, and where the door is. A Brood threatens her, and makes her fall off the cliff, and knock herself out.
Meanwhile, in Salem Centre, the rest of the kids have just watched “E.T.” with Stevie Hunter. Rahne’s crying. What’s odd is that none of the others are. Heartless monsters. When they get ice cream, they meet some local kids, and chat a bit. They don’t realize they’re being watched on big screens in a shadowy control centre. Other screens show their ages: Rahne’s 14, Bobby’s 13, Sam’s 16, and Xi’an’s 19. Which actually makes her the same age as Colossus. Seems weird that she still got lumped in with the others as one of “the kids.” Anyway, the kids are being watched by Gyrich and Sebastian Shaw. Gyrich, as head of Project: Wideawake, is concerned about the threat mutants pose, and wants the New Mutants captured and brought in. He actually raises some valid points, but he’s a douche, so it doesn’t really matter. Shaw thinks about approaching Bobby’s father as a prospect for the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle.
Back at the mall, Stevie Hunter is grabbed and dragged into a closet by a man who says he wants to help the kids. It’s Michael Rossi, who was believed dead back in Uncanny X-Men #96. I guess he got better. In the ice cream shop, some federal agents come in to take the Mutants away. Xi’an has everyone cooperate, since a fight would risk injuring people. In the parking garage, a fight breaks out. The Mutants obviously win. But then a Sentinel breaks in. With a fancy new look, too. Cannonball drives him out, but there’s three of them. Sunspot knocks one over, and it crashes into the mall, then Sunspot tears its head off. One of the Sentinels freezes Cannonball solid, then starts flying away. Xi’an takes him over, and reactivates his power, sending them upwards. This leaves her helpless as the final Sentinel moves towards her. Luckily, Sam unfreezes and she releases control back to him. The Sentinel’s still holding on, so he reignites, and smashes right into the third Sentinel.
When the cops arrive, Xi’an makes the leader of the federal goon squad confess, which makes her uncomfortable. Rossi told her to do it, but she doesn’t like it, and she’s not sure he’s a friend. Back at the school, they find Dani unconscious but alive in the Danger Room. They wake her, and she tells them what happened, and Stevie thinks about how the only one who was in the house who could’ve deactivated the safeties on the Danger Room was Xavier. And we see him sleeping, with a Brood image over him.
This issue was actually better than the last one. The focus is spread around more. Dani gets a little bit, but the others get more. Xi’an gets a little more focus than the others, though not that much more. Mostly, we see that her age makes the others follow her, and that she tends to be suspicious of authorities. Sunspot’s arrogant, reckless, and actually a little bit of a misogynist. When Rossi gets gassed by a Sentinel, Sunspot tells the girls to take care of him – basically, telling them to stay back and out of the fight. He would probably consider himself a gentleman, but it comes across as a bit of sexism, thinking of women as the “weaker sex.”
Interestingly, Project: Wideawake largely drops away after this. In New Mutants, especially, it’s a long while before they actually really have to worry about the government again. It’s weird, because this issue made it seem like that was going to be a major thread throughout the series, but nope. I guess Claremont just had some other ideas he wanted to explore, and never really got back to it. Even in Uncanny X-Men, I don’t think Project: Wideawake ends up really getting referenced again. Gyrich does continue to pop up from time to time in UXM, but more often in other, non-X-titles. Rossi makes one more appearance in New Mutants, then another in UXM, and then completely drops away for the rest of the ’80s. Claremont seemed like he had some plan for him, but again, pretty much dropped him. At least he does a little bit more with the kids from town. And he does follow up on Shaw’s thoughts about bringing Bobby’s father into the Inner Circle.
McLeod’s art remains OK. Thinking about it some more, I feel like he was actually trying to do something a little ahead of his time, but wasn’t quite good enough, at that point, to fully pull it off. I get a bit of a ’90s feel from it – not in a bad way – but cruder. Like a proto-Liefeld, almost. Except with a grasp of anatomy and proportion. And capable of drawing feet. The point is that was different than what everyone else was doing, but that it still somehow didn’t stand out.
So the issue’s great. It continues to give a sense of who the characters are. There’s an easy familiarity with them, though I wonder if that’s partly because I’m already so familiar with them all. I think it’s mostly that Claremont gave them all distinct voices and personalities, and was able to let those personalities come through in ways both obvious and subtle. Of course, it does still have Claremont’s characteristic verbosity, but there’s a definite charm to it, in these comics.
And as a final aside, apparently, a letters page later on will actually contradict Rahne’s age here, establishing her as 13, and the youngest of the team.
Today’s awesome song is When the War Ends by Portugal. The Man.