Thursday, 27 December 2012

NMU #13: "School Daysze"

(Inacckurahte spellingsze arehur funne!)


This is another Amara-centred issue, which to be honest is wearing a little thin. A certain degree of focus upon the arrival of a new character is understandable, naturally. This though is the sixth issue since Amara was introduced, and whenever the book hasn't been dealing with her directly, it's been exploring her world, her family, or the effect she has upon the other New Mutants. In other words, Claremont is trying to sell Amara as A Big Fucking Deal, rather than letting us draw our own conclusions.

That's not the only problem with putting Amara front and centre. There's a larger issue here, which is the dullness and cliche of this kind of person-out-of-time approach. It's not that there's nothing original and interesting to be done with such an idea, but Claremont seems to have no interest in taking it above the most obvious and boring level, the kind of "What care angry fire-sprites for the position of rectangular wall fixtures?[1]" style of insight that just comes across as facile. It's particularly irritating when Claremont combines it with obvious slip-ups in dialogue; hearing Amara say she "can't get over" her new room seems wildly anachronistic. It's neither a major complaint nor particularly difficult to explain away (who knows from what sources Amara learnt English, or what Roberto's been teaching her whilst trying to charm her out of the mini-skirt there's no way Amara would agree to wear), it's just symptomatic of the larger problem: Claremont's half-assed attempts to make the situation work, whilst trying to revolve the whole book around it.

All that said, there's certainly not nothing of interest going on here; Amara's discomfort (and probably fear) of Xavier's mind-powers and his habit of poking around uninvited (to the level where he uses her memories of her old bedroom to recreate it perfectly, which is the kind of thing that yells "grooming!" more than it is a nice gesture) is a perfectly fine thread, and something the X-Books should certainly touch on from time to time. The fundamental problem with Xavier, demonstrated well here, is that he puts so much effort into justifying his actions and choices are morally sound that he has massive difficulty in understanding people who instinctively dislike them.  It never occurs to him that Amara would mind him monitoring her thoughts during a training session, because he knows it's the best possible way of helping her control her powers, and because he knows he has no intention of snooping.  Something so simple as Amara having a different definition of snooping never seems to strike him.  And even whilst he's having this disagreement with Amara, he's happily reading the thoughts of his students without their knowledge.  Because he knows what's best.

In later years much is made of Xavier's moral superiority complex, whereby he thinks he tolerates differences of opinion but in reality only believe he has no right to compel them to correct their "mistakes".  It's interesting to see it pop up here, and a great shame that the issue is resolved when Amara catches the professor talking to Lilandra via hologram, leading to a conversation about duty which leads her to stay despite her reservations.  That's pretty much a decision to ignore the issues raised rather than deal with them.  Still, maybe this gets picked up on later; I can't remember,

Those two major points dealt with, what does this issue concern itself with. Well, a lot of involves Amara turning up at a BBQ in formal wear, getting her gown  accidentally ruined by Cannonball, almost killing everyone with another quake, and then running away.  Almost the exact same story as last time round, only on a smaller scale.  There's also a B plot involving Kitty.  This is shown on the front cover, of course, though it's a tad misleading since Kitty has almost no interaction with the junior team whatsoever, just showing up long enough to try to console Amara, only for first the newcomer and then the rest of the team to tell her to piss off: you don't get to try cheering up people from the team you spend your days bitching about.  I quite like this exchange, actually; it's another one of Claremont's better stabs at writing the teenage mindset. The New Mutants have a point, of course, but arguing that anyone who makes fun of you can't care when you're clearly miserable is the kind of childish thinking that insists anyone you dislike can only fake good qualities, rather than having any degree of complexity (some people of course never grow out of this mindset, and are best avoided wherever possible).

Perhaps of more interest though is the slice of Kitty's subplot that seems to have nothing to do with the New Mutants at all, save that it nods to NMU #2.  Kitty and her new friend Doug Ramsey (mentioned already in UXM but making his first appearance on-panel here) have been engaging in a little WarGames style computer hacking ("I can't believe the improvements you've made to my hardware!"), ostensibly to check up on what the Hellfire Club is all about but secretly so Kitty can gather intel on the X-Men's enemy, Sebastian Shaw.  As the result of their fooling around, one of the Sentinels Shaw has slapped together for Project: Wideawake goes crazy, just as Henry Gyrich and Val Cooper are touring the facilities.  The result is something of an egg/face intersection for both Shaw and Gyrich, which I don't think Kitty would lose any sleep over, but Gyrich swears to bring the hackers to justice as enemies of the state, which I think would be rather less well-received.

Not that Kitty has time to waste on such minor details; she has her feud with the "X-Babies" to maintain (through Professor X tells her in no uncertain terms to knock it off later in the book), and her growing friendship with Doug to worry about, in case she ends up feeling for him the same was she does for Peter.  As before, on it's own there's nothing wrong with adding this little twist in, but in a comic where Rahne is already lusting after Sam, and Dani after Roberto, only for both of them to be chasing Amara, we run the risk of soap opera overload, and it rather reinforces the question of what Kitty is doing in this book in any case.


We'll assume it took two days for the team to return from Brazil and get Amara ready to meet Professor Xavier. The issue itself takes place over two days.


Sunday 11th to Monday 12th of September, 1983.


X+5Y+192 to X+5Y+193.

Contemporary Events

Vivian Cheruiyot is born, a Kenyan long-distance runner who becomes champion of the world in 2009.

Standout Line

"I am a not a slave, to be paraded about and made to perform on command!  I am a freeborn citizen of Nova Roma... and I demand to be treated as one!"

[1] The answer is course because of a treaty signed between the mortal world and the Faerie Realm in 1831, in which Michael Faraday extracted key concessions from Queen Mab.  Nikolai Tesla later argued he'd made some of the real breakthroughs behind the scenes, but Faraday insisted right up to his death that Tesla's biggest contribution was to go out for donuts whenever the faeries' blood sugar fell too low.

1 comment:

  1. And then it treats Amara like wallpaper for what, forty issues? The most character development she gets after this is in an issue of Uncanny, of all things.

    soap opera overload

    and it takes how long until the first two New Mutants actually start "going steady", as I believe the American vernacular of the time had it

    what Kitty is doing in this book in any case.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say Claremont was treating it as a twice-a-month title, but it's certainly heading in that direction for a year or so.