Thursday, 11 October 2012
NMU #8: "The Road To... Rome?"
("The Count, with his pyjamas-on!")
Field trip! The four remaining New Mutants have headed off to the Amazon jungle with Roberto's mother, so that whilst she examines the local area for archaeological remains (I didn't realise there were any in the jungle, but what do I know?), they can lark about and generally try to get over the apparent death of their team-mate, Shan.
This provides Claremont with an opportunity to re-introduce the team, which is probably a savvy move coming off the back of the more-or-less three-parter than ran through NMU #5-7 (it also works really well for the Classic New Mutants trades as well, actually). Claremont demonstrates how this should be done (are you listening, John Byrne), by presenting the teenagers' powers and personalities through them larking around, rather than pages of strained flashback. There's a particularly nice (if uncomfortable) moment where Rahne almost faints in the heat, because she refuses to wear anything less than her full uniform whilst there's a chance the boys might see her.
Not that it's all fun and games south of the Equator. Not only do the teens have to send Xavier updates on their training exercises (an Open University kind of deal which is really helping Chuck out, what with Rogue to deal with and Team America still under his tutelage), but there's the occasional bout of carelessly swimming in piranha-infested waters to worry about (not that piranhas are anything like as dangerous as myth would have it, but maybe they're particularly partial to mutant flesh). This might sound harsh, I know, but frankly I say anyone who forgets the river they're on is teeming with killer fish pretty much deserves to be eaten the instant they start their back-stroke.
And apparently someone on the expedition's boat feels the same way, pouring slops into the water on the other side of the craft so as to stir up the fish. You'd think that would make the fish, you know, head for that side, rather than be whipped into such a frenzy they immediately swim in the opposite direction, but then who knows how the brains of fish work? Namor doesn't think redheads are attractive; these things are all lunatics.
Fortunately for Dani (the one stupid enough to try and swim to a boat amid unknown currents, caiman, piranhas and the occasional bull shark), Sam is on hand to save her from an entirely deserved fate. On the other hand, this not only reveals his powers to those on the boat, but he overshoots with his blast and lands both himself and Psyche among a group of natives, who obviously immediately attack because that's what primitives do or something oh God this is racist.
Or is it? Dani and Sam fight off these Amazon women in the mood, but manage to capture one and, once they get back on the boat (following a brief fluttering of mutiny now they're known to be mutants. put down by the very man planning on killing Dani, which is interesting), Roberto's mother can't work out exactly where the warrior has come from at all. One might be tempted to chalk this up to archaeologists making for poor anthropologists, but I guess everyone has to have a hobby.
And in any case, the knife she's carrying isn't anything you'd find out here in the wild. And why do the other warriors call the New Mutant's captive "Lady Amara"?
Meanwhile, back in Rio, Roberto's father and Sebastian Shaw are arguing again. Emanuel is irritated that Castro - the saboteur Shaw sneaked onto the expedition - hasn't done any, you know, sabotaging (Emanuel wants to exploit the area for its resources and for some reason is worried his wife will be able to stop him), and Shaw is fed up of Mr DaCosta not being able to decide whether he wants his estranged wife dead as hell or not. It's a good job they laid some whores on to keep everyone happy, I tell you that.
It's dawn on the Amazon, and the expedition has reached the Maderia, a range of mountains that put the Rockies to shame. The captain of the boat tells his passengers that there are legends of a lost civilisation somewhere amid the peaks, a city of gold ruled by Gods from halfway around the world. Just for once it might be fun if a local legend just turned out to be total bullshit. Not even a little true. Not a misunderstanding, or poetic license, or even a way to scare off interlopers. Just one hundred percent bollocks, made up for the craic by some drunken local. "Yah, ye youngun; 'tis a beast with the head of a badger and the legs of an Irishman! It can turn noodles into gold! It's breath brings on visions a' Pan's People cavorting in a piella! Yah!"
The mysteries of the Maderia will have to wait for a little while, though; there are other problems rather closer. Rahne catches Castro beating their captive for information and, after scaring him away with a quick change into wolf-form, pours her heart out to Amara, confessing her terror that those who fear her for her mutant powers might be in the right after all. I always liked this aspect of Wolfsbane's character, at least when it was treated with some subtlety. The question of how religion would intersect with mutants is an endlessly fascinating one, and Marvel have gotten good mileage out of it with both Rahne and Nightcrawler, though the "right-wing Christian fanatics try to purge mutants" storyline certainly wasn't played out too rarely.
Even for those who haven't read this issue before, the very moment Rahne says "I'm glad [you don't speak English]... 'cause I'd ne'er dared ha' said all that if you did", you can see what's coming down the length of the Amazon. Which makes it a nice little sideswipe when Rahne steps out of the cabin straight into first the captain's dead body, and then Castro's rifle-butt.
Rahne goes down cold, and when she awakes, she finds the captured woman, her New Mutant comrades (recovering from drugged food), and no-one else. Wherever the crew have gone, they left our heroes in a hell of a mess, they've only just smashed out of their cabin when Roberto spots they're moments from tumbling off a waterfall. The resulting free-fall and crash at least throws Sunspot's mother back into view, but she's washed away as Sam is forced to rescue the unconscious Roberto first.
Meanwhile, Rahne is trying desperately to keep Amara from following Mrs DaCosta, but in the process she discovers their former captive was wearing a disguise: she's really a white-skinned blonde!
I gotta say, Europeans blacking up to pass as Amazon natives doesn't really sound like it's too great of an idea in any case, but how exactly is this supposed to work? Did literally no-one in all the time they spent moving Amara, tying her up, watching her and trying to communicate to her at any point notice she was slathered head to foot in stage make-up? A sweaty Sam had to damn near bear-hug her into unconsciousness to get her back to the boat; you're telling me none of this brown shoe polish rubbed off on his arms? Or is it going to turn out she has some kind of image inducer that somehow escaped the notice of the captors who were keen to disarm her and only had to search a skimpy bikini.
Come to think of it, why wasn't the bikini a clue?
Also, how come she can speak English? The issue ends with the bedraggled New Mutants and Amara staggering from the river, Roberto frantic over his missing mother, only to bump into the "4th Maniple, 1st Cohort, Thunderclap Legion". The lost tribe is a bunch of Romans. Who know English... how, exactly? From all the Amazon tribes-people they've been hanging out with?
I guess that's a question for next time around, though. Right now are heroes are slaves of Imperial Rome, and that's presumably going to be taking up a great deal of their time.
It's been two weeks since the expedition started, and this story takes place over around a day.
The opposition leader in the Philippines is assassinated in Manila Airport after returning from exile. The official government report blamed Communists, but Ferdinand Marcos' cousin General Ver is a more likely suspect.
"Why'm I always th' one... t'get her head bashed...?" - Rahne.