New Mutants #59 (1988, January)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Simonson, Blevins, Austin, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Fand and Claw!”
The New Mutants land on a big rock, and are soon surrounded by animal-men. The Mutants don’t act at all frightened. Meanwhile, below, a crazy guy is working in a lab, ranting about his latest batch of animal experiments having too much brain. A frog-guy draws his attention to a security screen showing invaders. The Ani-Mator thinks it’s Hodge and the Right, but when he sees it’s the Mutants, he orders the Ani-Mates to kill them. I gotta say, I love this guy. He is so delightfully insane. He pulls up the Right’s database to find out who the kids are, and then calls Hodge to tell him to stay away from the island.
Back on the surface, the Ani-Mates want food, so the Mutants give them the burgers Bird-Brain stole. While the Ani-Mates eat, Illyana offers to teleport everyone home, but Dani and Sam point out they’re mutants and have nothing to be scared of. Wow, guys, way to tempt fate there. It’s like you want something disastrous to happen. Bird-Brain and the Ani-Mates start talking, with the Ani-Mates saying they hate men, and threatening to kill Bird-Brain. Rahne jumps in to protect Bird-Brain and yell at the Ani-Mates, and they accept her.
Meanwhile, Warlock and Bobby return home. Magneto greets them happily, and angrily. I shoudl mention that, before Magneto sees who it is, he does wrap Bobby in umbrellas. Which is a funny image. Warlock goes to see the other New Mutants, but learns they’re gone.
Back on the island, a whistle goes off, and the Ani-Mates start walking off in a daze, to the testing. Bird-Brain says they have to save his friends, and others the Ani-Mator’s made. The Mutants all agree to help, confident that their powers will see them through. Dani even tells Brightwind they’ll probably be back in an hour. Very early in the testing maze, they see a skeleton crushed under a rock. Then Doug almost gets killed by a trap door over spikes. Then they come across another Ani-Mate, freshly killed by some wall spikes. So now the Mutants know it’s not a game. And Rahne is all sad and stuff.
They continue on, and come to a dead end, which opens up to three big-ass Ani-Mates. One seems to be based on a dog, another on a bull, and a third on a snake. Illyana offers again to teleport them all home to get Magneto’s help, but Doug says no. It’s a nice moment, actually, when Illyana suggests getting Magneto’s help. He helped her before, in Limbo, and she now has a lot of trust in him. I like that little moment. The Mutants all fall pretty quickly.
Bird-Brain is brought to him, and his ranting gets really, really messed-up. He yells at Bird-Brain for speaking, and for having a name, saying that one must know evil to earn a name, and that knowing evil makes one a man. He starts getting into some Biblical stuff.
Rahne rejects his interpretation of Genesis, saying that Adam and Eve ate the apple to know Good and Evil, and also says her church taught her it was so people wouldn’t be good automatically, but had to choose it. A couple notes: First, the Bible never actually says they ate an apple. It doesn’t say what kind of fruit they ate. Second, it seems doubtful that Father Craig would have such a positive interpretation of Genesis. He was an asshole who was very much the fire-and-brimstone type. Regardless, Sam gets perhaps the best line of the issue: “Rahne, Ah don’t think the mad scientist is ready ta debate the fine points o’ scriptural interpretation.” Hilarious. Nicely done, Sam.
Anyway, Rahne says Bird-Brain is almost human, and the Ani-Mator yells at one of the Ani-Mates to silence her. Gotta say, it’s a nasty-looking backhand she gets smacked with. The Ani-Mator then says all the Ani-Mates are going to be killed. Bird-Brain starts to pray, echoing a scene from earlier when Rahne was praying. It’s actually a really effective moment, showing Bird-Brain’s further personal development. And is also just really sad. And then the issue ends with a close-up of the Ani-Mator’s screaming face.
This is a great issue. It’s a weird, kinda unsettling mix of humour and creepiness, and it works really well. Early on, the Mutants are bright and optimistic. But as the story goes on, things get darker and darker. The Ani-Mator gets progressively more insane as the story goes, too, ranting and raving like the madman he clearly is. It’s tough to tell exactly what his motivations are, which actually makes him creepier. Once he gets into the religious talk, he’s downright terrifying. The design helps a lot. The weird body, the skull hat, and the glasses. It’s the glasses that complete the look. That little touch of mundaneness makes the weirdness even weirder. He’s awesome.
Blevins’ art works well here. He’s very cartoonish, which works in a story like this. He does monsters really well, and he makes them look weird and creepy. As always, the exaggerated style is also very expressive, and gets across the feelings of the characters well.
Now that we’re passed the Wacky Antics section of the Bird-Brain story, it’s a lot more enjoyable.