New Mutants #64 (1988, June)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Hey, remember how yesterday’s UXM issue was really sweet and nice and lovely and uplifting? Remember that? Those were good times, right? Well, anyway, here’s New Mutants #64, by Simonson, Blevins, Austin, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Instant Replay!”
We open back on the Ani-Mator’s island, with the Anim-Mator about to shoot Rahne, and Doug leaping to her rescue. But Rahne shoves Doug aside while dodging the bullets, then turns the guns of the Smiley-Face she was wrestling with against the Ani-Mator. She saved Doug! Then he fades away, as does the island. Bobby tells her she should go to bed, since they have to view Doug’s body in the morning. Rahne says there shouldn’t be a body, and mentions that she’s found 17 different ways she could have saved him. Which means she’s fought the battle at least 17 times, probably more. And oh, if only that was the saddest thing in this issue. In fact, yes, that’s the saddest part. The rest of the issue is joy and happiness and we don’t have to read it.
Sigh. Fine. Illyana’s in her room, watching the video of the X-Men dying in Dallas. She goes Darkchilde and almost smashes the TV before Sam stops her. She’s been watching the fight over and over, feeling angry and guilty that she couldn’t be there for them.
Then to the kitchen, where Dani and Warlock are watching Night of the Living Dead. That feels a bit morbid, Dani. Warlock wonders if Doug could be returned from the dead, but Danis says it’s just a movie. Then he wonders if he should transform and absorb Doug, but Dani turns that down, too. She then accidentally loses control of her power and summons up a Zombie Doug, which turns into Techno-organic Doug. Dani apologizes for losing control of her power, and says that Doug won’t be coming back.
The next day, they all get into a car to head for the showing of Doug’s body. Magneto’s being really hard on them, as he explains he lied to Doug’s parents, saying they were on a camping trip and a hunter shot Doug accidentally. Rahne freaks out at the showing and runs out, and the Mutants follow to check on her. Dani points out that Doug died a hero so he should be in a better place.
She also cries that his body is going to be buried in the ground, which freaks Warlock out a bit, but Bobby says it’s a sign of respect, and Sam says that on Judgment Day, Doug’s body will rise.
And that night, things get awful. Warlock sneaks into the funeral home, figuring he can give back the energy Doug once gave him, in order to bring Doug back. It’s not working, so he thinks maybe Doug’s just forgotten what it’s like to be alive. And he abducts Doug’s body. He flies it to the motel where his parents are staying, and where his mother is crying.
Doug’s mother reacts as you’d expect, freaking out and thinking she’s seeing a ghost. So then Warlock takes the body to Rahne, who’s initially happy, thinking Doug’s alive after all. She quickly realizes, nope, dead body. And she screams. The other Mutants come in, and are not happy. Warlock tries to explain that he just wanted to bring Doug back by showing people missed him. And Rahne finally realizes that Doug is dead, and won’t be coming back (for about 20 years or so, but we’ll set that aside).
The Mutants bring back Doug’s body. The funeral is the next day. That night, Illyana has everyone meet her upstairs to watch, again, the video of the X-Men dying. She declares Forge responsible for their deaths, and she swears vengeance.
Oh, man, this issue. Jay and Miles of X-Plain the X-Men declared it The Saddest Story Ever, and it’s tough to argue with that. It is really sad. It is brutal. Right from the start, with Rahne and Illyana both torturing themselves by reliving the deaths of people they cared about, over and over and over. Damn. And then Warlock! Warlock learning about death. Poor guy. It is really hard to see. He’s still so naive and happy and goofy about it all, which just makes the whole thing that much worse. There’s moments that would ordinarily be comical, but all the comedy is sucked out by the sense of tragedy. I posted a lot more panels than I normally do. Partly it’s because, if I’m going to cry, I think it’s only fair you have to suffer. But it’s also because Simonson does such an amazing job here, making an incredibly sad comic.
Blevins’ art is obviously going to still be divisive. I’m divided, myself, on how his style works here. It’s arguably more cartoonish than is appropriate for the story. But I think, on the whole, it works. This was a book meant to be appropriate for younger readers, and as such, I think the cartoonish style helps sell the sadness. I can’t blame anyone who hates Blevins’ work here, but for my part, I like it. I think a more conventional style wouldn’t have been as effective.
So, this issue. It will break your heart. You should absolutely read it. And no matter how often you read it, it will break your heart every single time. It’s probably the best issue of Simonson’s entire run. One of the best issues of the entirety of New Mutants, actually.