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New Mutants #8 (1983, October)

July 13, 2014

Time for another post. Today, by Claremont and Buscema, “The Road to . . . Rome?”

The Road to . . . Rome?

Poor Sam can’t handle one crazy lady with a spear.

The Mutants are in the Amazon rainforest. Wolfsbane is in wolf form, stalking. Her prey, it turns out, is Dani – the kids are playing hide-n-seek. Rahne is amused at how startled Dani gets, then she starts to pass out. She’s getting overheated. Dani wants to get Rahne undressed. Heh. Sam and Bobby come by to see Rahne rolling around happily in a snowstorm, care of Dani’s illusions. Sam gets some practice with his own powers, now that he can maneuver. He still hits a tree, though, because it turns out he’s kind of an idiot. Bobby gets a bit annoyed at the destruction of the rainforest. Very moralistic. The Mutants call Xavier. He tells them to accept that Xi’an is gone, but to stay where they are, as he’s still training Rogue and Team America.

Dani thinks Xavier’s not telling them something about Xi’an, then she strips off her shirt and shorts and jumps into the water to swim to the boat. She forgot about the piranhas in the water. Sam saves her with his own power, and they crash on the beach, in front of four women with spears and shields. Dani makes three retreat, while Sam captures the fourth.

Back on the boat, some of the crew wants to leave. They don’t want to work with monsters, but they’re told to shut up. Bobby’s mother is trying to figure the girl out. There’s two arrows, from totally different tribes hundreds of miles apart, neither of which the girl belong to, and a modern knife. On the shore, more of the girls are watching the boat, waiting a chance to save the Lady Amara. Yep!

Back in Rio, Bobby’s father is talking with Shaw about exploiting the mineral resources of the area the Mutants are exploring with Bobby’s mom. Then he brings in some whores.

The next day, the expedition reaches the Maderia, some huge mountains that legends say hide a lost civilization. Rahne goes to bring their captive some food, and finds one of the crewmen, Castro, beating her. When Rahne tries to stop him, he slaps her, too. She scares him off by switching to wolf form. She cuts the girl free, then introduces herself as Rahne. The girl is Amara. Rahne starts crying about memories of how people in Scotland reacted to her change. Rahne leaves and finds the captain dead, then gets smacked in the head by Castro.

When she wakes up, she lampshades the fact that she always gets bashed in the head. She gets in some nice self-deprecating humour, too. Very Scottish humour. I approve. Bobby says the rest were taken out by drugged food. He smashes through the door, and finds the boa is going down a tributary the captain warned them about earlier. The ship goes over a waterfall, and is smashed to bits. Sam wakes up and grabs Dani. Then he saves Bobby, but they lose track of Bobby’s mom. Rahne jumps across some rocks to rescue Amara, and finds Amara’s now a blonde girl with white skin – she was in disguise before. Also, she speaks English, which pisses Rahne off, because she never would’ve confessed the things she did on the boat if she’d known.

Once they’re all on shore, they’re arrested by Roman Legionnaires. Speaking English. For some reason.

Amara! She’s been introduced, though not yet a mutant. She’ll be a part of the book for a while, though she does eventually leave. So far, we know nothing of her personality. That’ll be revealed in the next couple issues. Rahne gets a lot of characterization here, between her scene with Dani and her scenes with Amara. Dani diving into piranha-infested waters was kind of a stupid move, but hey, she was always a doer, not a thinker, back in those days. The plot of DaCosta trying to kill his wife in order to keep her from getting in the way of his business was fairly interesting, as was the expedition itself. From here on out, though, this arc just gets weird. I mean, Romans showed up on the last page. Obviously, things are going to get weird.

Sal Buscema’s art continues to be excellent. He gets to draw a forest, which must have been fun, though the forest didn’t really feel alive the way I would expect the real Amazon to. We didn’t really see much in the way of wildlife, even insects. Would’ve been a nice touch. I will say that Rahne in wolf form rolling around in an illusory snowstorm was utterly delightful. She looks so damned happy. It’s adorable.

The New Mutants had a busy month, though – they also appeared in Marvel Team-Up Annual #6, by Bill Mantlo and Ron Frenz, with Spider-Man and Cloak and Dagger.It starts with Spider-Man coming across Cloak and Dagger busting up a car-chop shop. In a back room are some dead kids, killed by drugs. It seems the people who created Cloak and Dagger want to recreate the drug that made them. Elsewhere, the Mutants just finished watching Cats. They head to an arcade, where they get hassled a bit, and Bobby has to use his Sunspot strength. More fighting, blah blah, Sunspot gets slashed and Rahne shot, and the two fall into some shadows where a couple guys grab them. Sam and Dani are forced to retreat, and head into the same church that Cloak and Dagger live in. Spider-Man comes in, and guesses at Sam and Dani being X-Men. They all decide to join forces.

An hour later, Bobby and Rahne are in a meat-packing plant, strapped to a table. They’re injected with a drug, and right after, the heroes bust in. Rahne and Bobby are turned into monsters, their powers out of their control. Wolfsbane bites Dagger, even as Dagger purges the drug from her body. Sunspot lunges at Cloak, ending up in the darkness inside him, then getting thrown out, cured. Cloak and Dagger have their own powers enhanced beyond their control, but they help each other.

It’s a pretty good story, but it’s most notable, to me, for setting up another, better story down the line. Mantlo created Cloak and Dagger, and he made a lot of use of them, which is fine, because I think they’re great characters. They’ve got a really cool concept. Mantlo was never one of my favourite writers – honestly, I think he was actually a really weak writer, with a lot of over-the-top angst and dialogue, even for the time – but Cloak and Dagger as a concept were brilliant. I think they should get a movie, or even a TV show. A pair of teens fighting against criminals preying on other teens is a neat idea. And their powers are visually interesting without being tough to pull off. Avoid being as preachy as Mantlo, and it’d make for fascinating stories.

As for this one, it’s dragged down by Mantlo being a weak writer. The art is strictly OK. Not bad, just nothing particularly special or memorable. Especially since the “sequel” to this story is done by Bill frigging Sienkewicz. When you look at what he does with the overpowered Wolfsbane and Sunspot, and compare it to what Frenz did . . . Frenz just looks lazy or uninspired. This story presumably takes place before Xi’an’s death, but she doesn’t get referenced anywhere. I suppose she was looking after her siblings or something.

Song of the Day: I’ll Have To Dance With Cassie by God Help the Girl.

  1. Shuffle to the left….boogie to the right….

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