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New Mutants #38 (1986, April)

June 28, 2015

I’ve finished work today, and can now settle in for a nice three-day weekend. Woot. Today, by Claremone and Rick Leonardi, “Aftermath!”

Aftermath!

Looks like it’ll be a fun little romp of an issue.

The New Mutants are fighting Sentinels while Magneto bemoans his inability to save them. Next up, they’re fighting the Hellions, and the White Queen. Magneto calls an end to the fight. Cypher says they were having fun, and they like almost dying. But Magneto insists it’s time for bed. So the Mutants change into their pajamas and crawl into their graves.

Then Magneto wakes up. As he drinks his coffee, Sharon tries to talk to him, and guesses he had the nightmare. She also guesses the kids had it. There’s a letter from the White Queen, asking about the kids. The Mutants come in, lacking any energy or spark. Tom comes in, and Sharon tells him that she can’t help thinking Xavier would know how to handle it. Magneto thinks the same thing.

That night, he goes into his darkened office and pours himself a glass of something. Emma’s there, waiting for him. She tells him she’s had trouble screening the psychic cries of the Mutants, and that she thinks she can help them. Magneto refuses, but Emma makes the strong case that he can’t do anything to help them, and that he needs to think of the Mutants, not his own pride.

The next day, Magneto puts Sam through a rocket slalom. Sam does poorly, because he doesn’t care at all. Magneto tries to get him to talk about what’s happening, but Sam keeps giving monosyllabic responses. Magneto sends him to do some laps before going to class. Magneto walks past Stevie teaching some of the others in dance class, and they’re doing horribly there, too. He flips out on them, and tells them he expects them to perform to the best of their abilities. Illyana gets annoyed and teleports out, and Stevie chews Magneto out for his outburst.

Out in the stable, Dani is taking care of Brightwind. She’s been as empty as the others, but tending to Brightwind seems to have brought her back to herself a bit, as she’s crying at having seen the others die. She was relieved at her own death, since she feels she failed the others, but then the Beyonder brought them back. Brightwind suddenly bows down to a frog. Dani sees Thor’s head above it, and he gives her a pep talk. It works, and Throg hops off. I should note this issue takes place while Thor was a frog. Yes, that story happened. Yes, it was ridiculous. Yes, it was awesome. Seriously, check out Walter Simonson’s Thor run. The whole thing is gold. Anyway, Dani’s better.

The next weekend, the local high school has a dance. The Mutants are there, not mingling, being miserable. The principal talks to Magneto, offering any help or advice he may need. She also mentions hearing that Dani will be going home. Later on, Magneto thinks that if Dani returns, she might be the only student left at the school. As he ponders, he realizes the chair he’s sitting in isn’t his. It’s Warlock. He wants advice in what he should do about the Mutants. Warlock isn’t suffering any angst about his death. The conversation is interrupted by Doug’s parents arriving.

Empath is secretly spying on Magneto, and manipulating his emotions. He’s spotted by Tom and Sharon, out on a walk. He makes them totally hot for each other, and they’re so caught up in each other that they ignore him.

The next day, Magneto calls the students into his office, to let them know the White Queen will be taking over their instruction. None of the Mutants care, aside from Dani, who refuses to go.

For such a mellow issue, it’s surprisingly intense. The only real action is at the beginning, and that’s a dream. The rest of the issue is really just Magneto seeing how miserable and empty the kids are, and it’s done really well. It’s very dark. Magneto’s narration has occasional moments of melodrama, but mostly, Claremont does a solid job writing someone who has no idea how to help people in his charge. The scene between Magneto and Emma is especially good – Emma is just ambiguous enough that it leaves the reader wondering if she really wants to help them, or just exploit them. That becomes something of a running theme over the next couple years – Emma stops being a straight-up villain, and becomes a more nuanced character. It’s what leads to her eventual heroification. The Dani scene is the only one that stands out a bit, what with the sudden talking frog. It also raises a question of how Throg got from New York City out to Westchester, and then back, all between panels of his own book. He had no magic as a frog. He could only get around by hopping. I feel like even for him, that would be a lot of hopping, and he wasn’t a frog for that long. That’s a minor continuity bug, but the very presence of Throg ends up feeling really, really weird in a story that was otherwise very subdued and grounded. I feel like Claremont could’ve come up with another way of getting Dani a pep talk. Of course, it might just be that Claremont wanted to use Throg because he thought it was an amazing idea. And he was right. But still, it’s a little out of place, a little jarring. I do like that the story doesn’t even try to explain it, though. “Here’s Thor, and he’s a frog.” And they move on.

The art here is really strong. Leonardi’s great. He makes the book dark and tense and moody. It’s a shame he only did this issue, not the whole arc. He does an especially good job capturing how little the Mutants care about anything. They really look apathetic. Solid, solid work.

This is a great issue. Much as Secret Wars II was a steaming pile of crap, this follow-up is really good.

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