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New Mutants #20 (1984, October)

October 14, 2014

Now that Thanksgiving’s over, it’s time for a week or so of leftover turkey. But for right, by Claremont and Sienkewicz, “Badlands.”

Badlands

OK, Magma looks really, really weird there. But Illyana looks awesome.

The Demon Bear has transported itself, the New Mutants, and the operating room Dani’s in, into an alternate version of America, one where Europeans haven’t yet arrived. As an aside, throughout the issue, there’s a little grid showing the spread of the Demon Bear’s corruption on the land.

The Demon Bear also has Officer Corsi and Nurse Friedlander as its captives, and it stabs them with its claws, which turns them into Native Americans. Or, rather, into weird, freakish monsters who kinda look like Native Americans. It’s time for a big fight. As the Bear moves around, its shadow touches more places, and the darkness grows, which increases the Bear’s power, and that of its slaves. The Bear slices into the OR, and one of the doctors sees outside, but the wall returns, and he thinks he’s just seeing things. He also questions if it might be more merciful to let Dani die, given the severity of her injuries and likelihood of permanent damage.

Magma tries to blast Corsi, but Sunspot tackles her and says they can’t kill Corsi or Friedlander, since they’re not responsible for their actions. Magma figures that innocent or not, it’s them or the Mutants, and sacrifices sometimes have to be made. I like that she’s got that attitude, coming from a wildly different culture. Then he gets grabbed by Corsi’s rope and thrown away, where he lands in a dark patch, with stars above him. Friedlander grabs him and starts draining his life, but Rahne comes to the rescue. Amara gets clawed by the Bear, and starts turning into another slave. Illyana summons her Soulsword, slices the Bear’s paw, then stabs Amara. Cannonball freaks out, thinking Illyana just killed Amara, and attacks her. Then Amara calls him an idiot, and says Illyana was saving her from being turned into another monster.

The Bear’s taint has filled almost the whole grid. Illyana remembers the Bear’s fear of Dani, and tells Rahne to link back up with Dani to find out more. The Bear resumes its attack on Illyana’s wards around the OR, leaving Illyana helpless as she struggles to maintain them. The other Mutants protect her from the Bear’s slaves. Rahne cries out that she has the answer, then gets knocked on the head from behind. And she’d been doing so well lately. She hadn’t gotten hit in the head for several issues. Anyway, Illyana stabs the demon in the heart, and it reverts to a normal Native American. Rahne says the key was Dani’s knowledge, and the Mutants’ power, especially Illyana’s sword.

Amara lights up the ground at the Bear’s feet, and it gets a hilarious facial expression at it. It’s cartoonish, and reminds me of a Wile E. Coyote look. Anyway, while it’s distracted, Cannonball gets Illyana to its head, and she splits its skull. It splits apart, and disperses, and a pair of Native Americans are seen.

Then the New Mutants  find themselves outside the OR, with everything back to normal. Dani points out that Corsi and Friedlander aren’t demon, but they’re still “Red Indians.” Really, Rahne? “Red Indians”? Is it just me, or does that sound kinda racist? Anyway, another pair of Native Americans say that’s how they’ll remain. These two were the Bear, before they were freed. It’s Dani’s parents! A doctor comes out and says that Dani will live, but is paralyzed.

Luckily, Xavier has Storm call up the Morlock Healer. Dani’s going to recover, though it’ll take some time. By the way, Sienkewicz draws a hot Punk Storm. Seriously hot. Anyway, Dani’s then reunited with her parents.

An epic conclusion to the Demon Bear Saga. The fight is cool and exciting. The issue probably could’ve spent a little more time on Dani’s reunion with her parents. Or, perhaps, a little less time. The moment is dragged down a bit by some exposition. It might’ve been more effective to have multiple silent panels. One of Claremont’s problems, I suppose: He’s never been very good at shutting up. He loves his captions, and his exposition, and all that. Someone should challenge him to do a “silent issue” of Nightcrawler, just to see if he can do it.

Sienkewicz is amazing. There’s a few weird bits that are a bit tough to follow, but for the most part, it’s simple enough to understand what’s going on, and the weirdness of the art style enhances the story. It gives the issue an otherworldly feel that makes it all that much creepier.

One interesting note about the story: At the end, we’re given a little bit of explanation about the Demon Bear. Dani’s parents were transformed into it, enslaved by some greater power that took joy in tormenting them. It’s never said, on-panel who their “master” was. The indications are that it was probably the Adversary, and that is apparently mentioned in a letters page later on. Also, I just now realized that Dani and Forge are both Cheyenne. I never made the connection before. Holy crap, I feel weirdly stupid. It would be cool to see them together at some point. They could be part of a new team, and bond over their shared heritage.

Anyway. Awesome issue, awesome storyline.

Song of the day: The Lion The Beast The Beat by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

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