New Mutants #9 (1983, November)
My copy of Nelvana of the Northern Lights (available for purchase here!) came in the mail today. I’ll try to read it over the weekend and post a review soon. But for today, by Claremont and Buscema, “Arena.”
The Mutants are taken to Nova Roma (“New Rome,” we’re helpfully told, in case we’re not able to pick that up). Anyway, it’s a Roman city. Despite the cloud cover, it seems to be pretty bright. Just like the Savage Land, in that sense – constant cloud cover, yet it looks like a sunny day. Amara’s feigning unconsciousness, and asks Sam not to fight the Legionnaires. The five of them are thrown in a dungeon, where Amara gives her full name as Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla, daughter of the First Senator Lucius Antonius Aquilla. She explains that the city is made up of a mix of Romans and Incas, and while Nova Roma is a republic, some want to go with the monarchy of the Inca Empire. She opposed that, but fears that if her activities are discovered, it’ll ruin her father’s career. The Mutants talk it over, with Rahne and Bobby not trusting her. Dani accidentally pulls out Amara’s nightmare – being thrown into a volcano. Foreshadowing! Sam and Bobby want out, so Bobby smashes the door, which releases a bunch of darts with a knock-out drug.
We cut to the Senate baths, where everyone speaks Latin, as they logically should. Senator Aquilla is asking a Marcus Domitius (Gallio), commander of the civic guard, about the captured Mutants. Sam and Bobby will be sent to the arena, and the girls will be sold into slavery. Gallio goes home, angry at his plans being thwarted. His wife, Selene, offers to kill Aquilla, but he declines. She brings him into a dungeon to speak with Castro, the guy who drugged the Mutants last issue. Castro offers to broker a deal with his own boss, trading weapons for mining rights.
Later, the girls are at the House of Women, being pampered, to prepare them to be sold into slavery. The girls are enjoying the pampering. They’re given drugged wine, which Dani and Rahne drink, and start acting drunk and giggly. That night, Amara tries to get them to leave with her, but it’s no use. She starts slipping away herself, but starts feeling really hot. Then she’s found by the Black Priestess, the woman who throws girls into a volcano.
Beneath the Circus, a couple gladiators are doing some training, while Bobby and Sam are chained up. Later on, the games are about to start. Sam and Bobby are drugged before being tossed into the arena. Bobby uses his powers to take out the two gladiators in front of him. Sam and Bobby start kicking some ass. Then they attack each other, and wind up hitting so hard they’re both left drained. Rahne is cheering on Sam, calling him her love, and when she sees him in trouble, it causes her to change to wolf form. Her mind-link with Dani winds up snapping Dani out of her drugged stupour. Dani snaps the others back to normal by summoning up a psi-image of Xavier.
Everyone’s ready to tear the Mutants apart, but Gallio has another idea. He declares them heroes and demi-gods, and Rahne as a descendant of Julius Caesar, and of the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus.
A good story, and a fairly important one. We learn more about Amara, and it’s interesting stuff. We get some foreshadowing of her powers. And we’re also introduced to Selene. She, of course, will wind up being a major villain, for both the New Mutants and even more for the X-Men. This issue doesn’t tell us much about her, except that she has “dark powers,” but it hints at quite a bit. The characterization’s good. One interesting thing is that Bobby succumbs to the violence drug immediately, while Sam tries to fight it off. I think that says a lot about both of them. Bobby’s got a lot of anger – especially since he doesn’t know in this issue if his mother’s alive or dead – while Sam’s got a strong moral code. Sam’s also the only one who shows a real willingness to trust Amara, and I have to wonder if it’s because she’s a pretty girl. Bobby’s too angry to care about her looks, Rahne resents Amara for hiding the fact that she speaks English, and Dani . . . Dani actually seems a little overwhelmed. She doesn’t really do much, for the most part. It’s interesting, the way she can switch from headstrong to cautious so much.
Buscema’s art is good. Everything looks appropriately Roman. The amount of light the city seems to get seems odd to me, but I guess it can be marked down to being a comic book. The arena fight is great. It’s exciting and well-choreographed. Buscema does action really, really well.
Song of the day: Brodka by Varsovie.