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New Mutants #49 (1987, March)

December 1, 2015

I also posted a pull list post today. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont and Blevins, “Ashes of the Soul.”

Ashes of the Soul

Yeah, gee, I wonder who that shadowy figure could possibly be.

Doug is riding rocket-skateboard Warlock, being chased by Arbitrators. It’s a futuristic city they’re in. The Arbitrators wear uniforms much like the New Mutants do. During the chase, Warlock and Doug fly off, and the Arbitators’ car goes off the skyway, forcing Doug and Warlock to rescue them. Then they fly off, leaving a spraypainted message on the wall that “Humans are people too.”

Then we go to Heroes Plaza, the former Xavier school, where statues of some of the X-Men are out front. We get a history lesson. After Xavier was killed by federal troops, Magneto took over the school, and he apparently did stuff. Dani is looking at a statue of herself, jealous of how good it looks and wondering if she should change the future when she gets back to her own time. It’s a pretty nice moment. She shares another one with Sam, saying she’d always hoped they’d live to a ripe old age, and the plaques saying most of them don’t. Sam also notes that almost everyone they’ve seen in Uptown is a mutant, and Dani says the only humans they’ve seen are slaves.

Later on, Dani almost gets arrested stealing supplies from a hospital. She escapes, but has to leave the supplies behind. Sam picks her up in a car and they head to Downtown, an old and run-down area. Some Arbitrators come into Downtown and grab a couple kids who’ve been identified as mutants. The mother tries to stop it, but gets knocked out the building, and falls to her doom. But she’s caught by Katie Power! Using the Lightspeed power. She’s old now.

The mysterious Chief Arbitrator gets an update on what’s happening, and decides he and his lady will be accompanying the strike force going into Downtown. Back Downtown, Dani is pissed at the whole situation, feeling it’s similar to Indian Reservations. Katie’s a little more philosophical about the whole thing. Some more young mutants arrive, and Katie introduces them as the New Mutant Bratpack. One of them has wings, and calls himself Archangel. Which is funny, since Archangel hasn’t actually appeared in the comics, yet. We’re still a few months away from that. Just a funny little coincidence. Presumably, in-universe, the character is named after the X-Men’s Archangel, even though that’s probably not what Claremont was going for. Anyway, Dani immediately crushes hard on Archangel. And Katie explains she hopes to reignite Xavier’s dream of coexistence. Then – attack! The attack includes volcanic eruptions. Then a shadowy guy takes down Sam. The Mutants are forced to surrender.

Then, a flashback to a young Magneto and his family being shot by guards and tossed into a grave, and then clawing his way out of it. Magneto in the present wakes with a scream. He reflects that, after his survival, he was sent to Auschwitz. He thinks some more about the Hellfire Club’s invitation to join as White King.

Back in the future, the Chief Arbitrators meet with the captured Mutants. It’s Bobby and Amara. Obviously. Dani yells at Bobby, and Bobby says she doesn’t know what happened. There was a big war, which was won because of the alliance Magneto made with the Hellfire Club. After the war, the Lords Cardinal stopped other mutants from wiping out humanity, and then gave humanity a place to live, Downtown, while mutants built themselves Uptown. While they argue, Warlock – who’d merged with Doug earlier – slips a tiny piece of himself through the force field they’re held in, and severs a wire to disrupt the field. The Mutants tell Katie to get out of there and continue the fight, while the Mutants get recaptured. Then more debate between Dani and Bobby. Bobby says the humans oppress themselves and blame mutants, but Dani doesn’t buy it. So Bobby decides to just have their beliefs altered telepathically. Way to be a villain, Bobby.

This issue is much better than the previous one. Because this issue actually says something. The previous issue was a typical “bad future” where mutants are being wiped out. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But this one? A future where mutants have won, and have become the oppressors? That’s new. That’s fresh. It’s notable that Bobby and Amara are the ones that rule this world. They’re both people born into wealth and power and privilege. They’re the most arrogant of the Mutants. So it makes sense that they would be less interested in the plight of ordinary humans. So while the previous issue didn’t provide much to think about, this one provided a lot to think about, and was just a great issue, with a lot of great Dani stuff going on, too.

So, the writing on this issue was great. How about the art? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. Bret Blevins has a very distinctive, and very unusual, art style. It’s very much a matter of taste. It’s also the kind of art that works better on some books than others. It worked great in Power Pack. But did it work here? I’d say probably not. I actually do like his art. It’s very cartoony, and very expressive, and very fun. The opening splash page is fantastic. I’ll just post it here:

New Mutants #49

That does look like fun.

See, something like that? Blevins is great at moments like that. At capturing sheer fun and joy. So in stories that are supposed to be fun, Blevins is perfect. Which isn’t to say he can’t do drama really well, too, as Power Pack could get pretty dramatic, but that was still a kid-friendly book, so Blevins’ art worked perfectly to match the writing. But this is a bit heavier an issue. And while Blevins does really good work, I’m not sure he was the right match for the issue. He’ll take over as main artist on New Mutants fairly shortly, and I do like his run there. But I think I would’ve gone for a different artist on this issue, someone a little more conventional.

Still, all in all, this is a great issue. Easily the best of the Mutants In Time arc.

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