New Mutants #75 (1989, May)
OK, quick note to start: John Byrne does the pencils for this issue. So hot damn. The guy might be an asshole, but damn if he’s not a fantastic artist. And this would have been his first time drawing any of the New Mutants. (Come to think of it, did he draw any of them after this? I’m not sure he did.) McLeod coming back, even if only to ink, is also pretty cool.
So! The school’s been destroyed. They hear someone groan, and Bobby lifts up a chunk of wall, and Sabretooth pops out, smacks him, and promptly dies. Dani finds it odd that Death doesn’t come to claim him. The truth, of course, is that this Sabretooth is a clone. Magneto and the Hellfire Club – which consists of Shaw, Emma and Selene – float in, and after a brief scuffle, Magneto wraps the Mutants in a steel ball. They explain what’s happened to Illyana, and tell him they don’t want him as their teacher any more.
Shaw decides that Magneto’s become irrelevant and smacks him, so now, it’s a battle for control of the Hellfire Club. Magneto talks about the growing struggle for supremacy among mutant factions. This seems like a good time to re-post this link to a Secrets Behind the X-Men blog post. Anyway, yeah, Magneto explains that he was trying to build a power base – the X-Men, New Mutants and Hellfire Club – that he could use to push for peace among mutants. I don’t really like this. It’s a bit too much of a retcon. He didn’t maneuver his way into the X-Men. Xavier was dying and asked him to look after the New Mutants. This retcon turns a really touching scene into cynical maneuvering. He goes on to say that he soon saw peace wasn’t an option, and that he tried to mold the Mutants into soldiers by making demands on them without explaining things. I still don’t buy that, either.
Regardless, the fight continues. Magneto keeps smacking Shaw with metal, which is an odd choice, since it just powers Shaw up. Magneto does ultimately win the fight, and then Emma and Selene side with him to vote Shaw out of the Club. He lets the Mutants go, and he and Emma expect them to go to Nova Roma to stop whatever Selene has planned there. Spoiler: They don’t go there. It’s another dropped plot point. Which is kind of a shame.
This issue . . . I don’t like it. All the retcons about Magneto’s actions over the past few years are frustrating. It cheapens his arc. I choose to believe he was bullshitting. That it was posturing, putting on a bad guy mask as he prepares for a return to being a public menace. It makes more sense that way. It is unfortunate that the Mutants are sidelined in their own book, in favour of a pissing match between Magneto and Shaw, especially since this Big Change never amounts to anything. The Hellfire Club pretty much disappears for the next little while. They don’t play a role in the New Mutants or in Uncanny X-Men. I’m not sure Magneto being the Grey King even gets referenced again. This whole issue was to set up Mutant Wars, which never happened, which renders this issue totally pointless.
But hey, Byrne on pencils! For a frankly dull fight between Magneto and Shaw. There’s no energy or excitement to it. It’s just Magneto hitting Shaw with metal while monologuing. And it’s so boring. It feels like Byrne completely phoned it in. I mean, look at this shit:
That is so half-assed as to be insulting to the reader. And while this is the most glaring example, the whole issue feels half-assed. Like Byrne didn’t really care about it. So you’ve got massive walls of text paired with boring and half-assed art to set up a story that never happens. This is one of the worst issues of the entirety of New Mutants.
Bleh to the whole thing.