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New Mutants #56 (1987, October)

March 5, 2016

MLP returns on March 26! Just 3 weeks! Woot! Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Simonson, Brigman, Austin, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Scavenger Hunt!”

Scavenger Hunt!

Those graduation gifts remain awful, no matter how often I see them.

The Mutants are gathered for breakfast, with Illyana telling Amara about the party Lila threw. (Amara missed it because she was sick.) She gets Dani to create an image of the guys they were dancing with, and Amara says they weren’t that cute, so Illyana suggests they see what Amara’s idea of a cute guy is. Turns out, it’s Empath. Everyone’s naturally surprised, and Amara says Dani must have grabbed Amara’s greatest hate. And also tells Dani off for going into her head without permission. Gotta side with Amara here. The others think Amara’s overreacting, but come on, it was an invasion of privacy. Amara’s totally right to be upset. Illyana also complains about the lack of good boys around. I make jokes about how Illyana only has eyes for Kitty, but honestly, given how much she talks about boys, and how little she actually does with them, it actually start to come across as overcompensation.

Anyway, Amara’s also gotten a letter from her father, telling her to return home. She’s homesick, but too independent to want to be married to some local noble. She figures she doesn’t belong in Nova Roma, but she also doesn’t feel at home with the New Mutants. The Massachusetts Academy appeals to her more, and she also relates to Empath, as a fellow aristocrat. This is really interesting stuff. Claremont didn’t do a whole lot with Amara in general, and especially not with the fact that she is nobility. It’s neat, seeing Simonson address that side of the character. Amara’s at her best when she’s at her most Roman.

Meanwhile, the Hellions are also gathered for breakfast, watching a news report about Bird Boy escaping. There’s also talk of the Lila concert, and Roulette teases Empath for liking Amara, and calls her stuck-up, but Empath sticks up for Amara. They also figure out, from news footage, that Sam is responsible for breaking out Bird Boy, and they decide to hunt the creature. But first, Emma pulls Empath aside for a conversation. She tells him he needs to learn to be more subtle with his power. She notes that he can feel emotions, which is the first time this has been mentioned, but it’s a fairly logical extension of his power, so it’s fine. She also has some task she wants him to accomplish.

Back at Xavier’s, the girls have prepared a Star Wars Danger Room sequence. I’m a bit sad we never get to see it. But instead, they run off to capture the Bird Boy, themselves, since Sam was the one who broke him free. Dani tells everyone to get into their graduation costumes. Ugh. Dammit, Dani, no. Those costumes are awful. (We also get a moment of Amara sniping at Dani, calling back to the breakfast scene, which is cool.)

The Mutants teleport to Manhattan, and immediately spot the Bird Boy, beginning the chase! Dani can actually establish a vague rapport with him, since he’s part animal, but it’s not strong enough to communicate. Dani’s rapport with animals never came up much, aside from letting her communicate with Rahne in wolf form. Then the Hellions show up, and now it’s a competition. Dani and Amara go to distract the Hellions (though Amara doesn’t like Dani taking control), Sam will round up Bird Boy and drive him back towards, Illyana, Doug and Rahne, who will lure him in and teleport him back to the school. As an aside, though, Simonson screws up a bit with the Hellions – she mixes up Roulette and Tarot. Tarot was always one of the quieter Hellions. She seemed really nice. But here, she has Roulette’s sarcastic and cocky personality. It’s distracting.

Anyway, while Dani distracts the Hellions with an illusion of Bird Boy, Illyana has stolen a bunch of fish from a boat.

New Mutants #56

Illyana has a point, and is also funny.

Dani, Amara and the Hellions all end up grounded in an alley. Empath tries to manipulate Amara by making her think she loves him, but she actually resists. Because, of course, she already loves him, and she’s torn about it. The brief confrontation ends peacefully. And then Sam catches Bird Boy and drives him right into Illyana’s teleport circle, and back to the Danger Room. They find a program to calm Bird Boy down. And then Amara says she’s going to the Massachusetts Academy.

This is a good issue. It’s got some interesting stuff going on, especially with Amara. It’s more focus than she’d gotten since the Nova Roma arc. And, of course, it’s the issue that writes her out of the series. Ah, well. It’s true she didn’t really fit in well. Had the series kept a greater focus on the school rivalry, then it would’ve led to some great, compelling stories. Unfortunately, this issue is pretty much the end of the school rivalry plot – we’re heading into Fall of the Mutants, and after that, the stories build towards Inferno. A lot less time for school rivalries, with much bigger and more dramatic stuff going on. Which is a shame, because I really do like the Hellions, even if Simonson screws up with them here.

Hellions aside, this issue a definite step up in terms of Simonson’s writing. It doesn’t have the silly After-School Special tone the previous issue had. She was still getting a handle on the characters, but she was starting to get there. The story itself was fairly reasonable. Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but a pretty good premise for a New Mutants story.

The art is great. I love me some June Brigman line art. The characters always feel like people. The characters are expressive, and they have natural body language that helps to convey moods, as well. And then, of course, you can never go wrong with Austin’s inks and Oliver’s colours. I mean, it’s Austin and Oliver. They were among the very best in the industry at what they did. I should talk a bit about Brigman’s Bird Boy. She draws him very different from how Bret Blevins is going to draw him.

New Mutants #56

Brigman’s Bird Boy.

She gives him a certain nobility. A dignity. This is in huge contrast to how Blevins will draw him. Blevins makes him a cartoon character.

This isn’t a classic issue, by any stretch. But it’s a pretty good one. It’s also probably the last issue that isn’t deeply divisive. Bret Blevins is . . . controversial.

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