New Mutants #55 (1987, September)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I saw Deadpool last night. I enjoyed it. I’ll talk about it more in my pull list post on Tuesday. For now, we enter a new era of the New Mutants, with new writer Louise Simonson, along with Bret Blevins, Terry Austin, Glynis Oliver and letters by Lois Bulhalis and Tom Orzechowski, in a story called “Flying Wild!”
We open with Sam rocketing around his room complaining about having nothing to wear. Oh, Sam, you are such a girl. He’s getting dressed for a launch party for Lila’s new album, and he wants to look right. He worries that if he doesn’t look like he fits in with the crowd she runs with, then she’ll realize he doesn’t fit in, and then she’ll leave him. Down the hall, the girls – Dani, Illyana and Rahne – are also getting ready. A radio talks about a Bird Boy in quarantine on Governor’s Island. I’m sure that won’t be relevant. Ugh, Bird Boy. Anyway, Illyana’s looking appropriately sexy, and Dani’s pretty stylish, but Rahne’s just wearing a simple sweater and dress. Green, which actually looks really good on her. She should wear green more often. Dani offers a sequined sweater, which Rahne says is like “dressing a goose in peacock feathers.” What a charming expression. I really like that. A quick Google search doesn’t pull up any results, so it’s not a real expression, but it sounds like it should be one. I think it should be an expression.
Cute phrase aside, Dani pulls Rahne’s dream self out, as a pretty pretty princess, in an orange dress. Which also looks nice. I prefer green on her, though. Illyana heads to Limbo to magically create the dress for Rahne. Rahne initially refuses it, since it comes from Limbo, which angers Illyana, since she also comes from Limbo. Dani plays peacemaker. Then everyone gathers at the front. Sam is all punked out. It’s pretty adorable.
They go to the party, where Lila’s being hassled by some alien loser named Raek. Lila’s looking quite lovely, and finds Sam’s look pretty funny. Doug and Rahne become wallflowers, since neither of them know how to dance. They eavesdrop on Raek and his friends, who are badmouthing Sam.
Raek drops some ball bearings under Sam’s feet, making him fall (and take out a bunch of other people with him). Lila laughs, but Sam feels self-conscious and goes to get something to drink. Raek talks to him, and offers him some drugs. He convinces Sam that he needs to make a good impression on Lila if he wants to keep her from hooking up with someone else. Like an idiot, Sam falls for it, and takes the pills. He goes back to Lila, who jokes that she wants human pyramids at all her parties. The drugs start making Sam feel weird, so he walks away. One of Raek’s friends asks Lila to dance, and reminds her of a time on Alderaan. I do like the pop culture references in this series.
The aliens lead Sam to the balcony, and fly off with him. Sam wakes up and starts blastin’. He feels stupid, falling for Raek’s manipulations. He also smashes through the corner of a building. I’m sure it’s not important. Probably not connected to anything mentioned earlier in the issue. It’ll be fine. Rahne and Doug, who saw Sam being carried away, find Dani and Illyana, dancing with cute boys. Sorry, Illyana, your beards don’t convince us, we know your heart belongs to Kitty. They all see Sam crash into something, and Illyana teleports them over.
Turns out, it’s a garbage barge! Rahne leaps to the attack. She almost gets shot from behind, but Doug hits the guy before he can fire and feels proud of himself. Oh, Doug. Doug, you poor, doomed boy. This is the second time this has happened, where he saved someone from being shot from behind. Knowing what’s coming makes these rescues so damn cruel. (Also, another alien ends up shooting him in the back. Because of course.)
The aliens are subdued, and Lila pops in to let them know what the aliens wanted. The Jewels of Ikerno! They wanted her help to steal them before they’re launched into a sun as a sacrifice to some gods. Illyana sends the aliens to Limbo, which is pretty damn cruel. Like, really cruel. It’s a death sentence. It’s weird that none of the others objected to it.
Rahne feels bad about the dress she ruined when she turned into a wolf. Doug says she doesn’t need a princess dress to look like a princess. Awww. Doug, you little sweetheart! And you’re going to die soon. And Sam realizes he didn’t need drugs to make Lila think he’s cool, because she already thinks he’s cool. And there’s your moral, for this Very Special Episode of New Mutants.
This was Simonson’s first issue on the book. And since she was also writing X-Factor, she was actually writing more X-titles now than Claremont was. This first issue is . . . pretty rough, not gonna lie. On the whole, I do enjoy Simonson’s run. But she didn’t get off to the best start. It doesn’t help that Claremont had kept the bar so consistently high throughout his run. This issue falls far short of that bar. The characterization is a bit weak here – a mix of bland and exaggerated. Sam’s self-consciousness about Lila feels off – they’ve been together for a while, and she’s made it pretty clear how much she loves him, so it’s weird that he’s so worried here. He should know, at this point, that she likes how dorky he is. That she finds it charming. As do the rest of us! We all love you, Sam, you adorably dorky hunk!
The Very Special Episode vibe also hurts the issue. I had to roll my eyes at it. A story about Sam falling prey to the dangers of drugs? Really? Come on. And the aliens were so lame and generic. Their personalities came down to “jerks.” So stupid.
Then, there’s the art. So, OK. Bret Blevins. He is not an artist with universal acclaim. He’s a very divisive artist. It’s not a conventional style he has. It’s extremely cartoony, and very exaggerated. Faces, in particular, look really weird. The upside to his style is that it’s incredibly expressive. The exaggeration works well for that. The downside is that it’s really weird. So it’s definitely not for everyone. For my part, I mostly enjoy it. I find it cute, and I do enjoy how expressive it is. Also, Blevins has a fantastic knack for body language. I love how he handles that stuff. Even when characters are just standing around, they’re standing in ways that make perfect sense for the characters. I’ll give an example.
Look at the way the two of them are standing there. They’re both clearly nervous and uncomfortable, and their stances are tight, minimizing the amount of room they take up. This is how you stand when you’re wallflowers at a big party. Or let’s look at the way Sam dances.
I don’t have a point in posting that image, I just find it hilarious. Look at how he dances! What the hell even is that! It’s adorable. I love it. I wish I danced that well. Anyway, my point is that I absolutely understand why people don’t like Blevins’ art. It’s definitely not for everyone. I like it, I don’t blame anyone who hates it.
And on the whole, this issue is not great. The next few issues aren’t great, either, but it gets better.