Friday, 24 August 2012

NMU #7: "Flying Down To Rio!"

(Never bring an axe to a sun-fight.)


It's sunrise in California.  Dawn is an uncomfortable thing to experience after you've lost someone.  A reminder of new beginnings is the last thing you need.  No-one wants to stagger from the funeral parlour to be asked "So what's next"? The bruised sky is no help to you at all right then.  "Like seeing it from the wrong side" as a witch once said, before we lost her too.

Roberto DaCosta stands by the ocean and lets it soak him.  If you didn't know him, you could make the mistake of thinking he was using the waves to hide his tears.  I figure as soon as he gets cold and mad enough, he'll try punching the Pacific into submission.

This is very much Roberto's issue, in fact, and that suits me just fine.  Only Rahne Sinclair has any chance of taking his place as the most interesting of the New Mutants, so now that the title has settled in and is ready to start offering us character studies (interlaced with superheroic exploits though they tend to be), Sunspot is an excellent first choice.  Well, first so long as you don't count the Dani-heavy issues that preceded the Brood Queen's awakening, and I'm not going to; Roberto owns this issue far more than Dani did NMU #3 (which reminds me; I really must get around to her piece for SS vs X).

From the ocean onwards, the theme of this issue is "things Roberto cannot punch." After days of searching - and having roped in the X-Men to help - there is no sign of Shan, lost in the detonation of Viper's hideout that everyone else somehow managed to walk away from. On the other hand, his mother has turned up, but that not exactly good news either [1]. An invitation to a archaeological dig in the Amazon doesn't make up for being pushed to the side throughout your life, but Xavier is adamant Roberto go and take the team with him. Why can't he punch Xavier, huh?  Why can't he punch familial resentment?

(Charles mutters to Storm that he's insisting on the trip to get the kids out of danger, what with exploding bases and horrifyingly portentous new mutants - as oppose to New Mutants - to deal with.  This is pretty funny when you realise a thirteen year old Scottish girl has been taken from the spacious outdoors and the protection of the X-Men to an unbearably hot, damp, enclosed place filled with piranhas, poisonous snakes, and the occasional inquisitive bull shark. Plus, her ginger skin will be crackling within 48 hours, guaranteed.)

A week later, and our young heroes are in Rio, staring in disbelief at DaCosta Senior's luxurious mansion (+3 Opulence, re-roll successful saves vs OMG).  But the peaceful exterior is no less a charade than the formal clothes the group are forced to wear for dinner, or the pleasantries Mr and Mrs da Costa exchange with each other before they start going for the throat.  Emmanuel wants his wife to stay home and be safe, whilst he makes enough money to guarantee his family can never be as poor as his past.  Nina wants her husband to realise he has enough money for any ten families, and so rein it in a little with the rainforest-gobbling.

Roberto wants them to shut the fuck up.  They're tearing him apart!  What does a guy have to punch to get a stable domestic life around here, huh?

The next day actually provides an answer, kind of: Hellfire goons.  At least, if he'd managed to punch them when they showed up, they might not have been able to kidnap his mother.  Alas, the team is busy picking out fancy-dress costumes, and the Hellickspittles bundle Senhora DaCosta into a car before speeding away. It only takes the New Mutants a few seconds to work out what's happened, but by then it's already too late; the Hellmooks are having interference run for them by... Axe!

Axe!  His name is Axe!  He has an axe!  His mutant power is an axe, which he has!  I can't tell you any more, since the Marvel Wiki entry on the guy has been deleted, which is only surprising inasmuch as it means someone wrote it in the first place.  The best you can say about all this is that Claremont's come up with so many awesome concepts that the occasional bum note is entirely forgiveable.

(Actually, I'm being cruel: there's more to Axe than just his weapon.  He also has a mean line in pimp-slapping:

so there's that.)

Axe makes short work of his enemies before jumping into the getaway car, but Wolfsbane has his scent.  By the time Rio is in starlight, the New Mutants have found where Sunspot's mum has been stashed.

Roberto is curiously gun-shy, though.  Well, curious is perhaps the wrong word.  It's not like it isn't clear what's going through his head, though since this is 1983, we're told in any case.  His girlfriend died protecting him whilst he was trading punches with their kidnappers back in MGN #4, and his insistence on stomping away from Xavier's plan to aid Team America ultimately cost him Shan.  Actually, in both cases he's being a little hard on himself, but that's how it is with teenagers; even guilt is an expression of self-absorption.  And at least Roberto has flair in his solipsism - this entire issue can be read about how difficult he finds it to be the son of a multimillionaire and also to have kickass superpowers.

Still, it's not like charging straight in and challenging Axe to round two is a particularly brilliant plan, so I don't want to get too down on Sunspot for choosing a more sensible course of action.  Especially since the final scheme is so interesting; using Psyche to pull images of not just fear but of lust from the Hellflunkies (I may be about to run out of synonyms), and alternating between them to scare them senseless.  It seems a little odd that a clandestine organisation of would-be dictators who once prided themselves on hiring the best mercenaries money can buy are now fielding warriors afraid of houses in the dark because they've heard it's haunted and they can hear a wolf somewhere.  Of course, it's not like Axe looks particularly A-list either.  Maybe recruitment took a downturn after Wolverine carved his way through their best and brightest just before Dark Phoenix first took wing.

While the girls are enjoying humiliating Hellunderlings, Cannonball and Sunspot have the job of rescuing Senhora DaCosta.  This time Roberto makes sure he gets things right, distracting Axe for long enough for Sam to get Nina out of range before the real rumble starts.  Last time around Axe got the drop on Sunspot; this time it's the other way round, and Bloke With Axe doesn't last more than two pages against Power Of The Sun Itself.  One can debate whether a story at least loosely based around the idea of Roberto learning he can't solve everything through punching should really end with him solving everything through punching, bu this is an '80s superhero comic, and we shouldn't forget that.

A few days later all is well; the police have finished their investigation of the kidnapping (a giant dude with a mohawk grabbing a woman in broad daylight during a carnival probably helping with gathering witness statements), and the trip to the Amazon headwaters (specifically Manaus) is almost ready to go.

Two people sit in a shadowy car and watch the final preparations at the airport.  One is Sebastian Shaw, Axe's employer.  The other is Roberto's father, who's none too happy that the plan to "deal" with his wife has gone awry.  What interest is he supposed to have in joining the Hellfire Club if it can't even abduct his wife so that... well, I don't know, really.  But he's clearly pissed as hell about something.  No more farming out intra-family business for this tycoon.  Next time, he's going to see to things personally. Even if that means his wife and son never return from the Amazon alive...



This issue stretches over a fair amount of time, actually.  We start off in the California dawn days after the explosion that seemingly cost Shan her life.  It's a week after this that the New Mutants arrive in Rio, another day before Roberto's mother is kidnapped, and a few more days until the Amazon expedition is kitted out and ready to go.

All told, I don't see how all this can fit into fewer than thirteen days.


Wednesday 27th July to Saturday 6th August, 1983.


X+5Y+146 to X+5Y+156.

Contemporary Events

Thomas Sankara becomes President of the Upper Volta, now of course known as Burkino Faso.

The world is given Adhir Kaylan - quite the best thing about Rules of Engagement, though that is not perhaps a particularly feat - but takes away Jobriath, who was both the openly gay performer to be signed to a major record label, but also one of the first internationally known people to die from AIDS.

I confess that this is the only Jobriath song I've heard, but I've always been fond of it.  It sounds like a standard American soft rock ballard (maybe a bit country-tinged) at first, but there's an awful lot more going on here.

Standout Line

"Mess with me, you be chopped down to size -- you dig?!"

Axe's third superpower: the ability to perfectly ape a white guy writing black dialogue in 1983.  Now that's uncanny...

[1] Though we do learn through this that Roberto is of mixed race heritage.  That makes him, I'm pretty sure, the first such character in the X-Books.  I wonder if he's the first in the Marvel universe?

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