New Mutants Annual #2 (1986, October)
More New Mutants goodness. By Claremont and Alan Davis, “Why Do We Do These Things We Do?”
We start a year ago, with Elizabeth Braddock in Switzerland. It’s Elizabeth! Her US debut appearance! She’d been showing up in Marvel UK’s Captain Britain stories for a few years already, but this is the first time she’s appeared in a US comic. Anyway, she has no eyes, but uses her telepathy to compensate. And then she gets attacked by Spiral and Mojo. Spiral calls her the Psylocke, the first use of that name, and now I can keep calling her that because it’s easier than Elizabeth. Psylocke’s broken, and Mojo plans to put her back together.
Then cut to a month ago. Doug is moping about the fact that he can’t tell anyone about the things he’s done. A fair complaint. He should be able to tell people he’s a mutant. But nope, Xavier’s obsessed with secrecy, and he made damned sure that everyone who follows him is going to uphold that obsession, logic be damned. Dani tells him it’s rough for her, too, being mutant and valkyrie.
Now a week ago, and a new cartoon show has swept the world, starring Mojo, Spiral and Psylocke. Captain Britain recognizes his sister. And now last night, where Captain Britain smashes into an abandoned school looking for Betsy. He smashes the place up to frighten whoever’s there, but then gets terrified when his mom and dad start yelling at him from the shadows. Bobby calls a number and says he wants to walk the Wildways, which allows Mojo and Spiral to take him away.
The next day, Sam is getting some Danger Room practice, and gets angry at how poorly he’s doing. Dani says that since the Beyonder killed them, they’ve all regressed back to where they were when they first entered the school. In the kitchen, Illyana’s cleaning up the breakfast mess, and is disgusted. She tries sending it to Limbo so her demons can do it, but that’s about as good an idea as you’d expect. Amara’s writing a letter to her father. Cypher, Warlock and Sunspot head out to clear some dead trees. When they go to lift a tree, it ends up falling and crushing Sunspot. Cypher feels guilty. He goes down to the morgue to talk to Bobby’s corpse. Warlock says there was something strange about Bobby, so they probe him.
He was a fake! Dun dun duuun!
Cut to Mojo. He’s abducted a few kids – in addition to Bobby, he’s got Rahne, Leong and Nga (Karma’s little siblings), and three of the Brat Pack (from the Longshot series). The seven are transformed into adults who still worship Mojo.
The Mutants head to the same school Captain Britain was at. They encounter Butch, now going by Snitch, whose power seems to be making people into dicks. Sunspot and Wolfsbane attack. There’s also Darla, going by Jubilee, whose power is fireworks. Really, Claremont? That’s kinda funny. When he created the more famous Jubilee, I’m not sure if he just forgot he’d already used the name and powers, or if he just liked them so much he decided to use them again. But it’s hilarious. The fight is ended by Leong and Nga, calling themselves Template, and apparently able to control minds. Warlock flies off with Doug. Amara tries to resist, but is regressed back to childhood.
The other Mutants are turned into adults. I have to say, Adult Illyana gets a damned fine costume. Outside, Doug says they need to contact the X-Men. Warlock senses someone else, and they check it out to find Captain Britain as a child. Still a powerhouse.
Inside, Amara once again throws off the control, refusing to be anyone’s slave. It’s pretty awesome, actually. Her experiences with Selene, I suppose, have given her an unusual resistance to the type of control being used on her. She’s turned back into a kid, and she runs away, chased by Mojo’s Bratpack. Doug sends Brian to help her, while Doug and Warlock go after Psylocke. She’s in a chair like Mojo’s, and the lighting in the room makes it look like she has yellow skin. They tap into her brainwaves. They figure out a plan to save her, which involves Doug and Warlock becoming a gestalt, though there’s a risk of it becoming permanent. They do it, and they go back into Psylocke.
It’s a weird, weird mindscape. Cool, though. All the Mutants are horses on a carousel. Spiral is on top, and after trying to convert Douglock, she instead decides to destroy it all. Douglock gets to work saving the mindscape. Warlock catches the bits of mindscape, while Doug tries to free his friends. He frees Captain Britain first, and they free the others. Warlock outs back the final piece of Betsy’s mind. And now she’s back in charge. She kicks Spiral out, and sends the others back to their own bodies.
Betsy still has the artificial eyes, and wants to pluck them out, but can’t. Everyone’s reunited, and Doug’s congratulated for saving the day. Betsy decides to stay at the school. She notices Doug watching her from a window, and she hints that he might love her, and that she might have feelings for him. Keep in mind, she’s not a teenager. She’s Captain Britain’s twin, so she’s as old as he is. He’s a university graduate, and she’s been a model and a spy, so they must be in their 20s. So the possibility of her have romantic feelings for Doug – who’s probably around 16 at the oldest – is wildly inappropriate.
It’s a good comic. It’s fun. Doug gets to be a hero, something that didn’t happen all that often. I would’ve liked if his language power played a bigger role in the climax. It seemed like it was going to go that way, with him comparing what had happened to Betsy to a programming matter. But instead, we got a weird mindscape where Doug basically just grabbed people’s hands to save them. Still, it was done well, and the issue as a whole did highlight Doug’s courage and determination. And of course, it did bring in Psylocke, and she very soon joined the X-Men. In fact, she has probably her greatest moment ever coming up in just a few issues of UXM, during the Mutant Massacre.
This issue is made even more special, though, because it’s Alan Davis on art! He’d been working in the UK for a few years already, of course, and had made a name for himself over there. And he’d just started doing work for US comics a year or so earlier, most notably on Batman and the Outsiders. (He also had a brief stint on Detective Comics, right around this time.) But this was his first work for Marvel’s US comics. Obviously, it would not be his last. I’ve actually talked about Alan Davis’ art on this blog before, because he still does work for Marvel, such as the last Wolverine ongoing, and his recent work with Al Ewing (Ultron Forever, Mighty Defenders). He’s a great artist. He’s got a very distinctive style. He’s immediately recognizable, even more than most artists. Most of that is the faces. He draws faces in a very specific way that very, very few artists do. There’s a softness, even a vagueness, that’s rather pleasant. They have larger mouths than a lot of artists do. It’s nicely expressive. And it’s full of very pretty people. Davis’ worlds are filled with beautiful people. And weird aliens. He does like weird aliens, too, though none appear in this comic.
Anyway! It’s really good. Maybe not a must-read, but a worth-reading.