New Mutants #58 (1987, December)
While Dani, Illyana and Sam are studying, Doug and Rahne are trying to teach Bird-Brain some English. Sam complains he’ll never remember some calculus formula, so Dani uses her power to draw it out of his head. That is an incredibly clever use of her power. It’s got a lot of potential. She can draw memories out of people. Not just hopes or fears, but actual memories. That’s really neat. Anyway, they can’t get Bird-Brain to say ‘apple,’ so they try hair, hand, foot and bubble – all with Illyana as an example, until she gets fed up and teleports away. I do actually want to highlight how great Blevins is at body language. Look at this panel:
In particular, take a look at how Dani’s laying, with her head on her books. That’s definitely something teens do. It’s really natural body language. Also, Illyana’s limp hand is kind of amusing. Anyway, when Illyana asks what makes them think Bird-Brain can learn English, Rahne points to parrots, and Doug says ravens can croak “Nevermore.” Um, Doug? You know that was just a story, right? It’s hilarious that Doug is the one using a work of fiction to prove a point.
Regardless, Rahne turns to wolf form, and Bird-Brain freaks out a bit, calling her a “like-creature.” He starts trying to get out by slamming into the window. They decide to sit Bird-Brain down with some Sesame Street and a garbage bag full of popcorn, so they can go back to studying. He sees a tiger, and starts freaking out again. They change the channel to a McBurger commercial, and he says McBurger. Sam suggests Illyana teleport out to get him one. Rahne points out they’re grounded. Because that’s going to convince Illyana. She’s shown so much deference to authority before. Rahne, honey, Illyana doesn’t actually care about being grounded. They start getting him to say words.
The next morning, they’re trying to figure out where he was found, and where he may have come from. And once again, Illyana can’t not steal any scene she’s in:
It’s not just Bird-Brain stealing a bite of her donut, though it’s a good gag. I just love the way Illyana’s reading a map on Dani’s back. Even when she’s just looking at a map, she’s trying to be annoying. By the way, as they look through the National Geographics, Bird-Brain steals another donut. They show him some pictures, and he likes a picture of Greenland, and hates one of a zoo. Then the Mutants go back to studying. Bird-Brain’s speech is progressing reasonably well, so they all decide to go for burgers. Bringing him with them. For some reason. He doesn’t cause any problems this time, fortunately. But still, you’d think they would have learned their lesson.
Later on, a movie with a lion-tamer upsets him. Rahne calms him down by showing him a costume, and helping him put it on. And Doug says he’ll sleep in Doug’s room. That night, while Doug’s sleeping, Bird-Brain smashes through the window and flies off. The Mutants decide to go after them, with Sam asking Dani if she’s bringing Brightwind, which leads to one of those perfect lines that come along only in superhero comics: “Sure is convenient I have a flying horse, isn’t it?” Lines like that make me happy. Lines that make clear the utter absurdity of superhero comics.
Bird-Brain goes to a McBurger’s to get burgers, fries and shakes. The Mutants catch up, and Dani lassos him. Because Dani’s awesome. She’s worked on a ranch, she would know how to do a lasso. And honestly, I can definitely see it being a skill she kept up with. I actually really like Dani as someone who’s good with a variety of weapons. It’s what she became after she lost her powers, of course, with her specializing in a bow and arrow. But she’s the kind of person who probably should be adept with a variety of weapons, lassos among them. Anyway, when he gets lassoed, Bird-Brain drops the burgers. Illyana, riding on Sam’s back, catches them, because Illyana has her priorities straight, dammit.
Dani draws images from Bird-Brain’s mind, and Doug translates the squawks. He comes from an island with other animal-people, and tonight is the night they’re being tested. If they fail, they die. Rahne asks Illyana to teleport them to the island, and Illyana gives the best response:
Illyana really is delightful in this period. She’s so gleefully naughty. She’s a hell-raiser. It’s a lot of fun. So she teleports them out to the island, they land, and they’re surrouned by animal-people. And next up: Fall of the Mutants!
This is actually a really good issue. I remembered hating the Bird-Brain stuff, but re-reading this comic, I enjoyed it a lot. I think a lot of it actually does come down to the art. It’s fun and bright and cheerful, and it just raises my mood. I wasn’t even in the mood to talk about this comic when I started, but after a couple pages, I was totally into it. The exaggerated art style combined with the natural body language made for a really good reading experience. Blevins puts in plenty of visual humour, right from the start. Simonson includes some pretty good jokes, too. The best humour in the issue definitely goes to Illyana, whose grin at any sort of mischief is wonderful. She’s having such a blast, and it’s infectious.
Of course, we do also get drama, with Bird-Brain worrying about his other animal friends. That stuff isn’t quite as effective. He’ll squawk about some stuff that shows he’s worried about his friends, and then he’ll be distracted by something. It makes the threat feel diminished. Once he does decide to go rescue his other friends, it’s much more effective.
On a side note, the pencils in this issue are by Blevins and Off the Wall Studios. I don’t think Off the Wall Studios did anything else at Marvel. I’m wondering if it was just something Blevins tried to set up, which fell through. A quick Google search doesn’t find anything about it. So, yeah, my guess is he was going to start an art studio, and it just ended up falling through.
But yeah, this issue’s actually pretty good.