New Mutants #57 (1987, November)
The Mutants are trying to get out of a Danger Room session, since they have Bird Boy stashed in there, but Magneto insists. He turns off the tropical hologram, and Bird Boy freaks out, until Illyana teleports down the fridge to calm him down. Rahne starts to dote on Bird Boy a little, which makes Doug jealous and angry. They all go off to study for their mid-terms, where Sam and Dani both think they’ll fail. Also, this panel’s just really cute:
These are the moments I live for with comics. Just superheroes doing completely normal, mundane things. I love that stuff. Anyway, Rahne comes in with Bird Boy, who starts causing some problems. She asks Doug to try talking to Bird Boy, but he gets angry again, and calls him Bird-Brain. That nickname’s going to stick.
A bit later on, they all see of Amara, as Emma picks her up to take her to the Massachusetts Academy. Which means group hug!
But there’s something really notable about the scene, too. Emma says that her school’s more elegant environment suits Amara better, but also adds that Xavier’s school may be a better fit for some of her own students. I love that moment from her. It does show that she’s interested in ensuring students get the best education they can get, and conceding that she might not always be able to provide that. It would’ve been so great if one of the Hellions did join the New Mutants. Had the book kept a focus on the school aspect, I suspect it probably would have happened. And it makes me wish they had kept a school focus. There was so much potential there, increasing the focus on the inter-school rivalry and relations. But alas! It was not to be. Instead, the book increased its focus on things being awful.
The Mutants are feeling down about Amara leaving, so they decide to cheer themselves up by going to the movies. Rahne worries about leaving Bird-Brain alone, so Doug sarcastically suggests they bring him along. Somehow, the others decide it’s a good idea. How? Why? I can see Illyana going along with it because she thinks it’s funny, and she’s always up for mischief and terrible ideas. And Rahne might go along with it because she’s naive and thinks Bird-Brain is smarter than he really is. But how the hell do Dani and Sam decide to take Bird-Brain into town? They do disguise him, and here’s what they come up with:
They teleport to the mall, and go get some burgers. He scorfs down his own, then steals Doug’s. Illyana gets him to drink a shake, and then once again, he goes for Doug’s. Doug tries to get out of the way, and bumps into Rahne, knocking them both off the bench and making Rahne spill her shake on her head. Bird-Brain freaks out, as Illyana laughs her ass off. I do like Illyana as a hell-raiser. Dani and Illyana (who can’t stop laughing) lead Bird-Brain out, Rahne yells at Doug, and Sam apologetically pays for their meal.
I do love Illyana. Rahne suggests they duck into the movie theatre so Illyana can teleport them home. But as soon as they get into the theatre, Bird-Brain sees a burger on the screen, and freaks out. Again. Because that’s about all he ever does. Sam chases him, and Dani spins a lie about it being a preview for a new 3-D movie. Somehow, everyone buys it. Sure. They manage to catch Bird-Brain, and teleport home . . . right into a lecture from Magneto. A well-deserved lecture! He says he’s going to call the authorities to take Bird-Brain away.
Rahne gets upset. She thinks he’s human, just uneducated, and that things would be better if they could just talk to him. Doug insists that he can’t. He does talk himself into giving it a try, though. And he does it! He manages to talk to Bird-Brain! Which gets them both super-excited. I do like how excited Doug is at learning he can talk to Bird-Brain. It’s actually a pretty sweet moment, and the look on his face is great. Rahne gives him a big hug, and it’s really sweet, too. Aww. Young love! Young, doomed love!
Rahne also tells Dani and Illyana it’s what they wanted: For a new boy to join the New Mutants. I honestly can’t tell if she’s being sincere or not here. Either she’s being sincere, and it’s adorable, or she’s teasing them, and it’s hilarious.
This issue is . . . I can’t really call it good. It’s kinda dumb. Bird-Brain is really annoying. And the idea of bringing him out in public is so incomprehensibly stupid that it defies belief that characters as reasonable and responsible as Dani and Sam would do it. But when you push past Bird-Brain, there’s actually some pretty good character stuff going on. Illyana is delightful throughout the issue. And Doug’s crush on Rahne makes his jealousy of Bird-Brain enjoyable. His behaviour is understandable. And Rahne’s protectiveness of Bird-Brain is pretty sweet. And as annoying as Bird-Brain is, there is also some great comedy from how the others react to him. And some good comedy not involving him, too.
The art is even more divisive than the writing. I like Bret Blevins’ style, for the most part. It’s got this cute, exaggerated feel. It lends itself well to comedy. It’s also great at monsters and creepiness, though this issue doesn’t demonstrate that. He’s good at body language and facial expressions, as well. So I do like his work here. But I couldn’t really blame anyone who hates it. It’s very cartoonish and exaggerated, and considering the New Mutants had had a serious tone for a long time – it had Bill frigging Sienkewicz on art! – it’s definitely a huge change.
This isn’t really a great issue. Nor is this a great arc. But we are building to some soul-crushing stuff.