Tuesday, 11 December 2012

NMU #12: "Sunstroke"

(The Masochism Tango.)


We're finally out of Nova Roma and back in Rio, where 80% of the New Mutants can get some R&R whilst Roberto goes to face his father over his recent tendency to try and get his family killed.  Naturally, neither plan goes particularly well.

Poor old Roberto.  For all that there's no limit to how many young teenagers would consider super-powers a kind of wish fulfilment, it doesn't half make it difficult to get into heated arguments with your parents (every thirteen year old's God given right, of course).  The fact that Roberto lets everything collapse so quickly by transforming into Sunspot is almost as big a clue that he's not ready for this conversation as his decision to wear a bright green suit for the occasion. 

Actually, I'm being entirely unfair.  Roberto himself blames himself for the conversation going south so quickly, but there's no plausible way to blame this on anyone other than his father, one of those despicable types who insist that not receiving the respect they believe they are due is more worth getting pissed off about than the grotesque nature of the acts they've committed or cheered on  (see also: every American conservative TV pundit in the last eight years).  When your son tells you your employee came within inches of killing him and your wife alongside, you do not bitch about how insufficient deference is being shown.  You certainly don't move to strike your kid.  If superpowers is every child's dream, the ability to be strong enough to stop your father from hitting you is a dream of a much smaller group, though still too large by far, and whilst I can understand why Roberto himself gets tied up in knot thinking himself responsible, I'm a little bit uncomfortable that no-one else is around to point all this out.  Indeed, the only other comment comes from a flashback to Sunspot's farewell to his mother (who's stayed in Nova Roma), who tells him they mustn't abandon DaCosta Sr. because then he'll have no-one to help him stop being the utter shit he's turned into.  That's horribly close to the idea that one shouldn't flee from an abusive spouse/father because they didn't used to be that way, and maybe will magically one day stop sending assassins hitting the people he professes to love.  To call this a problematic idea to present unchallenged is an egregious understatement.

Whilst all of this is going on, Dani and Amara - sent away from her city by her father once more, again for "her own protection" -  are enjoying a day at the beach.  Amara in particular is very fond of her new figure-hugging swimsuit, which she pronounces "very daring".  Not nearly as daring as Dani's, of course (who never passes up an opportunity to get into a skimpy bikini, not that that's any of my business), but it still occurred to me that the daughter of a Roman senator might not be quite so willing to stretch out amongst strangers wearing a costume that might as well be painted on.  Then I remembered that she spent years in a much smaller outfit back when she was blacked up so no-one would suspect she was from an advanced race of Caucasians and dear Gods these comics can be tough to read sometimes.

Where was I?  Yes, at the beach, where some local pretty-boys are giving Amara a hard time.  By which I mean the only one not eyefucking her is the guy who actually steps up and commits sexual assault.  Amara is not particularly pleased by this turn of events, which is why the nearby beach suddenly becomes a volcano.  Naturally, this becomes an issue about the danger Amara poses, as oppose to a reminder that a lot of men out there are disgusting sex criminals.  New Mutants #12: no victim unintentionally allowed to avoid blaming themselves (hell, there's a page-long scene in which Wolfsbane prays for forgiveness from God for being so selfish as to have her own desires and social needs).

That said, the behaviour of men does at least form the secondary message of this issue, namely that they're all pricks.  Emmanuel DaCosta is willing to sacrifice his family in exchange for money he can't possibly need.  Some of the men of Ipanema apparently view the beachfront as a try-before-you-buy delicatessen counter, if instead of meat and cheese you have to pick a number to queue for girls you intend to rape.  Sam's first appearance here is to interrupt Rahne's worried monologue about being ignored in favour of Amara and only of interest to her teammates as a tracker, so that he can tell her to wolf-out so they can find their newest, most nubile comrade.  The first man we see speak to Amara after she flees the beach screams at her and calls her a cow, the second is a policeman who tries to arrest her the instant he learns she's not a local.

This last encounter causes another volcano to burst forth, this time in the middle of a busy road.  As the rest of the New Mutants try to find their friend (Wolfsbane can't track her directly because there's too much sulphur in the air), Amara wanders the street, slowly going mad in the noon heat.  Both my illustrious colleagues have discussed how strange it is that the Brazilian sun is causing Amara so much distress, given she's a) from the Amazon jungle, and b) capable of transforming into a being of pure lava.  I'll admit to being rather less bothered by this than others.  It doesn't seem at all unreasonable to me that someone used to the dark humidity of the rainforest would freak out when the full force of the equatorial sun hit them out in the open, and whilst we know Amara can withstand any temperature once she transforms, that doesn't necessarily translate into being immune under all circumstances - though NMU #10 rather clearly demonstrates she'll transform automatically should things get too tough.  Really, the most critical I'd be inclined to be of what's going on here is that the culture shock angle was working at least as well in screwing around with Amara's head, and keeping that up would probably have made more sense than sidestepping into "also, it's hot as hell".

However Claremont got here, though, the endpoint of Amara's terror and discomfort is a return to her lava-form, and the decision to burn the shit out of all and sundry.  I'm not sure whether "mass murder for the sake of shits and giggles" is one of the known symptoms of heatstroke, but hey; I'm not that kind of doctor.  In any case, her rampage doesn't last for more than a few seconds, when it occurs to her that bathing innocent people in magma is a bit too much of a Selene-style thing to do.  Exhausted, she collapses, and is taken in by some local shantytown dwellers.  Wolfsbane finally manages to catch her scent (leading to a great scene where Sam thoughtlessly strokes her like a dog and she understandably flips right out) and they first find Amara, and then cure her of her sunstroke by bathing her in a literal truckload of ice.  Apparently, medical opinions differ as to whether or not this is the best move to counter heatstroke, but such an argument must mean it can't be totally ineffective, so we should probably give the kids a pass here.


Roberto mentions that he said goodbye to his mother a fortnight ago.  It doesn't seem unreasonable to assume this was after a period of celebration in Nova Roma following the defeat of Gallio and Selene, so we'll place this issue sixteen days after those events.

This story itself takes place over a few hours.


Friday 9th of September, 1983.



Contemporary Events

The Challenger shuttle returns to Kennedy Space Center, four days after it touched down in California, a successful mission despite having to deal with shit like this even before lift-off:

Standout Line

"Amara spoke Latin, these speak Portuguese. Why can't everyone speak English?"  - Editor Louise Jones, who was probably worried that there's not been any racism around in the last couple of issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment