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New Mutants #51 (1987, May)

January 3, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today’s story is by Claremont, Kevin Nowlan, Glynis Oliver and Tom Orzechowski. “Teacher’s Choice.”

Teacher's Choice

Not the most exciting cover, but hey, always nice to see Binary.

The Starjammers are trying to do repairs on their ship, but can’t do much without a proper repair facility. And the nearest facility just got blown up, along with the entire planet it was on. In the medical bay, Xavier does a mind-link with the Mutants to see what’s been happening with them. So we get a reminder of the fact that they found a whole bunch of dead Morlocks. What a cheerful start to the issue.

New Mutants #51

There are times where Claremont’s purple prose really works.

He also sees the X-Men being injured, and he sees a news report about X-Factor that shows his original students. He tells Lilandra he has to go back to Earth with the Mutants. And I gotta say, the panel after that statement is great. It shows a huge amount of space between Xavier and Lilandra, and it’s really well-done.

Back on Earth, Storm and Magneto are dealing with a huge tidal wave approaching a small seaside town. Well, Magneto deals with it, Storm is just kinda awesomely crazy and wild. Very Yukio-ish. It’s pretty delightful to see. Anyway, Magneto uses a derelict ship to create a new waterbreak, and says bitterly that if the humans knew it was made by mutants, they’d blow it up. The two discuss the Hellfire Club’s offer of membership to Magneto. Storm says it would make sense, and that it would allow them to execute Plan Omega. And on a fun note, Magneto’s power also apparently lets him change the colour of metal. That’s skill! I’m not really sure how it’s supposed to work. I guess by not questioning it. Regardless, it’s little things like that that I always find funny.

Space! The Mutants are helping with repairs, and having a blast. Hepzibah is also a little annoyed at their situation, and says they wouldn’t be in it if they’d stayed pirates, not become rebels. And man, Nowlan draws an awesome Hepzibah. I think it’s actually my favourite version of Hepzibah.

Hepzibah

She looks so skunk-like!

She and Lilandra bicker a little, with Lilandra actually punching Hepzibah. Man, don’t piss off Lilandra.

Them it’s time for Illyana drama! She’s locked herself in her room. She’s hysterical. Xavier has Karma possess her. Dick move, Xavier. Real dick move. He also forces Illyana to explain her freak-out – she doesn’t want her evil half back. Dani is rightfully pissed at Xavier. Seriously, Xavier is a jerk.

And then the ship is attacked. They can’t see their attackers, but Xavier can sense them, cloaked around them. He gives Hepzibah piloting instructions. The only way the Starjammer is going to escape is with Xavier’s help, but Xavier doesn’t want to risk the Mutants’ lives in the fight. He decides to stay. Illyana still doesn’t want to go back to Limbo. Once again, he takes the choice out of her hands, by having Karma possess her. Seriously, Xavier, dude, you’re a dick. I’m also disappointed with Karma for going along with it.

Back on Earth, Illyana is pissed. She’s mad at them all for letting her be controlled. And in Manhattan, Magneto and Storm visit the Hellfire Club, and jointly accept membership.

This is a really good issue, for the most part. Xavier’s the central focus, and he ends up being a jerk. It’s not bad enough that he removes Illyana’s agency twice, he makes Karma do it both times. That’s disappointing. I would’ve at least liked for Karma to be more reluctant about it, and to call Xavier out for having her do it. She’s a good person. She shouldn’t be so willing to control her friends just because her teacher tells her to. So a couple lines from her showing reluctance would’ve been appreciated. But I think part of it comes down to Claremont just never really knowing who Karma was or what to do with her. He created her, but he seemed to have trouble figuring her out. So, yeah, Xavier was a jerk and he turned Karma into a jerk, too, so that was disappointing.

But other than that, there’s lots of good stuff. The argument between Lilandra and Hepzibah was cool. The Storm/Magneto scenes were great – I loved Storm being wild during the storm. That was great. The Hellfire Club alliance doesn’t really end up going anywhere. There’s some pretty cool stuff with it in the meantime, but in the end, it doesn’t mean much. It definitely means more in New Mutants, but even then, it really just means they go to a couple parties at the Club.

The art here is fantastic. I love Nowlan’s style. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Sienkewicz, in that it’s a bit more stylized, but it’s not as abstract. There’s an odd mix of softness and hardness to his work. Faces can be maybe a bit vague at times, but most of the time, they’re very good. And he draws very cool hair. I think that might be what I like about his Hepzibah: That awesome hair. There’s almost a bit of a punk sensibility to the hair. He can go from cartoonish to dramatic really quickly. I just love Nowlan’s art. Oliver’s colours also work really well. She was a fantastic colour artist, a true professional who could adapt to pretty much any art style. She was like the Jordie Bellaire of the ’80s. In every panel in this issue, the colour choices were perfect and brought out the best in Nowlan’s pencils.

So the art elevates this from a good issue to a great one. Sadly, Nowlan didn’t stick around. He’s an artist who can do it all, and he has. He’s done pencils, inks, colours and letters in various titles. He’s most notable as an inker. I wish he’d done more pencils for Marvel, though, because I really do love his style.

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