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New Mutants #42 (1986, August)

August 16, 2015

Summer sucks. I hate summer. Bleh. Here, by Claremont and Guice, “New Song for Old.”

New Song for Old

An oddly weak cover by Windsor-Smith.

Cannonball and the New Mutants are on some alien world, fighting some dudes, while Lila and her band are playing in an alien temple. The Vrakanin from waaay back in New Mutants Annual #1 is sneaking up on Lila, but the Mutants save her and Sam starts making out with her. Then his mom yells at him. And then he turns around and Lila’s gone.

Turns out it was all a dream! He’s on a bus, on his way back to Cumberland, to visit his folks. He calls Lila on her tour bus to confirm she’s still on for Sunday dinner. She asks him to visit her in Charlotte so she can give him a surprise. He’s scared of what his mom will think of Lila. As he flies home, he thinks about all that’s happened, and wonders if he still belongs in the Mutants. So two issues in a row where a co-leader of the Mutants thinks about leaving. That actually could’ve led to an interesting shake-up (not necessarily having them leave, but a leadership shake-up). Ooh! Doug could’ve become the team leader. It would’ve given him something more interesting to do than angst about how useless he is. He’s young, but he’s smart, so he could’ve been an interesting leader. Oh well, no big deal.

Anyway. He talks to his father’s gravestone, and his mom asks why she wouldn’t like Lila. They head in so Sam can catch up with all his siblings. They’re not all named here, but they’re Josh (who would later join the 2000s New Mutants), Joelle, Paige (who would later join Generation X), Melody (who also actually attended Xavier’s with Josh, though she was never a part of the New Mutants), Jeb, Lewis and Cissie. It’s a big family. Josh gives Sam the brush-off, and their mom says it’s because he’s worried about being a mutant, and that he’ll have to leave. Sam decides to stay in Cumberland to help his family. Of course, we’re not even halfway through the comic yet, so it’s pretty clear that’s not going to stick. I mean, if he really was leaving, then it would be declared at the end of the issue.

Sam heads to Charlotte, says his to Alison, then gets glomped by Lila. She shows her surprise – a Singing Crystal from Ballybran. This is a reference to some stories by Anne McCaffrey, specifically Crystal Singer. I haven’t read any of McCaffrey’s work, but over the course of her career, she’s won a Hugo, a Nebula, and has been inducted in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. So, you know, probably worth checking out if you like sci-fi. Back to the story: The crystal sculpture Lila got is designed so that whenever Sam’s mom sings, the crystal will provide an accompaniment. Sam immediately accuses her of stealing it from somewhere.

She gets pissed off. She accidentally cracks the crystal, then says that if he can’t trust her, there’s no point in continuing. Break-up! Aww. Can’t say I blame her. That was pretty dickish on Sam’s part. You don’t just come out and accuse your girlfriend of stealing something. I mean, you can at least show a little subtlety. Ask her where she got it.

The next morning, he offers to do some chores around the farm, but the family’s already handling them. Mom takes care of the machines, Josh takes care of the house and barn, the others handle the rest. Josh flips Sam off again, so Sam goes to talk to him. Josh is kind of a dick. I guess it runs in the family.

Sam goes around town, filled with ansgt. He wants to cry, but says it’s not proper for a man to cry. He reflects on all his experiences. His mom comes by to talk to him, and says that he was never going to return from school unchanged. Sam’s hungry for knowledge. Josh needs the valley. Sam figures that as oldest, it’s his responsibility to be at home, but his mom reminds him she’s older, and she’s capable of running things herself. Which is a pretty good point. She orders him to live his own life.

Josh runs over to say that there’s a call on the truck CB from one of Lila’s band. She and Alison went up in a little plane, and it crashed. Josh offers to help Sam with the search. The flight seems to help them bond. Because flying is awesome. Unless you’re scared of heights. Then it’s awful.

They find the plane, but Sam can’t get to it. Josh crawls along the tree branches to get to it, and sings to give Alison enough power to blast free. Apparently, singing is his special gift. That’s actually pretty neat. Sam asks Ali how Lila is, and Ali tells him off for how he treated Lila. She tells him she made the sculpture herself – a month to mine the crystal, and longer to carve it. An avalanche starts up, and Sam blasts everyone to safety. He wonders at the trouble he had getting off the ground, and thinks it’s something he’ll have to look into. As far as I can recall, this was never followed up on. Claremont always had a talent for setting up plots he never actually explored.

Lila forgives Sam for being a dick, and then we cut to Sunday night. Lila shows up in an outrageous outfit. She brought the statue, and says that maybe it’s better flawed, since no one else is perfect. Bleh. Ham-handed moral lesson. He invites her inside, and she teleports away. Then she reappears, looking really nice. She changed quickly. Including her hair. Both style and even colour. I’m not sure how she managed it, actually.

There’s also a letter from Susan Pashkoff of the Committee for Palestine, in regards to the first two parts of the Legion storyline. She was not happy. She felt that it demonized Muslims, and especially Palestinians, portraying them as completely in the wrong on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Some of it, arguably, was her reading more into the comic than was there. But the big problem is that she didn’t read the third part of the story. It’s a shame we never found out if she read the third part. It would’ve been interesting to see how she felt about the finale.

But this issue. It’s good. It’s a great spotlight issue for Sam. It was nice seeing his home and his family again, even if most of the family was reduced to a small cameo. At least his mom and Josh got good roles. His mom shows herself as being a strong woman, of the type that I imagine is pretty common for areas like that. She’s a very likable character, showing strength, compassion and wisdom. Josh is a little less likable, coming across as a bit of a tool early on. Once he stops acting like a tool, he’s OK. His behaviour is at least understandable, driven by fear of what being a mutant would mean for him.

And Lila’s back! I always liked Lila. She’s not as great here, though. The glomp was cute. But she doesn’t get much opportunity to be fun. Needs of the story, I suppose, but still disappointing. Also, I have to wonder how she could even get in a plane crash. I mean, as soon as the plane starts going out of control, why wouldn’t she teleport herself and the others to somewhere safe? And naturally, she had to be knocked unconscious by the plane crash, to prevent her from teleporting away after. Also, what the hell was up with her changing her entire look? How did she do that? Changing clothes would take longer than she spent. Add in that she also changed the style and colour of her hair, and I just have no idea how she could’ve done it. Does she have a machine that can change her appearance in a few seconds? I guess we do know that those exist in the Marvel Universe – Kitty used one on a Shi’ar ship – but still. It’s weird to see.

The art was good. Guice and finisher Kyle Baker do a really great job here. This is, ultimately, a quiet issue. It’s all about the characters, and Guice and Baker do a good job showing their emotions. They also do a great job with the settings. Cumberland looks like a really nice small town. It looks like one of those towns that Republicans always go on about as being what Real America is all about.

Good issue all around.

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