Thursday, 15 May 2014

NMU #32: "To The Ends Of The Earth"

("Your first step into a larger world.")


We march now unafraid into the fourth part of the Shadow King/Karma/Gladiators plotline.  Last time we caught up with the junior team, they'd gone rogue in the hopes of hunting down their former teammate, now villain, Xi'an. The decision to go it alone was partly out of a sense of obligation, but mainly because Bobby is convinced Xavier must have known Xi'an - thought by her friends killed months ago - had survived.

Sunspot continues to push this theory throughout this issue, and my Gods is it getting tiresome.  I realise it's a plot point that young master DaCosta is dealing with his frustration and guilt and failing to save Karma by being a hotheaded jerky teenager to all and sundry - Claremont is kind enough to point this out directly in case it wasn't utterly obvious - but the problem here is that no amount of understanding why Bobby is acting out makes up for the fact that it's horrendously dull and repetitive. It's another reminder that writing teenage characters with too sharp an eye for realism just makes them utterly unbearable.

Still, once Sunspot has finished being unbearable in the States, the New Mutants get onboard an overnight flight (on which Sunspot is unbearable), he gets to head to Southeast Asia with the team and be unbearable in... Madripoor.

Madripoor! A thousand Wolverine stories can trace themselves back to the island nation's humble beginnings here in NMU #32. In all honesty, the place is rather sketchily drawn here (pretty much literally; either landscapes aren't really Sienkiewicz's bag, or he has no interest in fleshing this new playground out any). Claremont likens it to various historical and sci-fi locations in which criminals of all breeds can mix safe in the knowledge that any police off-island have no jurisdiction, and those in the local cop shops couldn't possible give less of a damn - though they seem to have a curiously strict visa policy for a country catering to criminals; how fortunate our heroes have access to distracting volcanic eruptions and alien helicopters - but otherwise this is a pretty blank slate right now. MacGuffin as location, if you will.

Once safely in the country, it's time to assault Karma's compound (Doug is left behind, which of course just ends up in him being captured anyway).  It's interesting to see how far the team has come at this point. Sunspot might be characteristically unbearable about it, but Dani has become a pretty solid field leader, and the team is starting to gel together into a decent assault force, something it was clear they were going to become from the very moment they signed up with Xavier (there must be a lot of interesting material written on the tension between drawing vulnerable people together for mutual protection but thereby painting a target on everyone nearby; I wonder if Xavier is basically using his vast wealth and impressive mansion to disguise the fact he's asking mutants to ghettoise themselves).

All the competence in the world doesn't help though if your werewolf goes off half-cocked (a common problem for us all, of course) and pretty much your whole team gets themselves possessed by your enemy (who has clearly been sharpening his/her possession skills recently).  Of the team, only Illyana manages to escape through a stepping disc, dragging Dani with her. When they return, a standard Rasputin overshoot occurs, and they find all of Shadow Karma's henchmen (former LA gladiators apparently prepared to outsource themselves to Madripoor) have been massacred by the New Mutants.  Apparently Shadow Karma has herself some new toys now, and is busy clearing away last week's models.

(This is actually an interesting development, insofar as it highlights the difference between '80s & '90s and contemporary comics. In a contemporary comic, it would be close to unimaginable to have the heroes murder people, even villains and even while brainwashed, at least not without major consequences. Here it's just ignored completely for at least the next two issues. I've mentioned before that the slow spiral downward into the thoughtless violence of the '90s is first evident - in the X-Books at least - in Claremont's mid '80s output, and here is another example of that.)

There's no time to process all this, alas.  The local cops have arrived and are definitely switched to the shoot-first setting. Knowing that the now-departed SK has another base in Cairo, Illyana attempts a long-distance jump.  Fortunately they arrive early enough to set up an ambush for Karma, so long as the materials they build their trap out of can last 5000 years. Fortunately for them, and ludicrously coincidental for us, they've touched down within spitting distance of Ashake, an Egyptian priestess and sorceress, easily identifiable from her white hair and blue eyes.  It doesn't take a genius to wonder whether she's a relation of Storm given those indicators, though I'm not impressed by the idea she could actually be mistaken for Storm. She might have the same hair and eye colour, both of which are pretty much unprecedented in those of African descent, but a 3000BCE Egyptian wouldn't look anything like a 1980s child of a Kenyan and an African American. You might as well say George Bush and Václav Havel would be indistinguishable if they both donned green wigs and violet contact lenses.

They weren't even the same fucking hairstyle
I'm really not sure what purpose this scene serves, other than to remind people Storm exists for the final page (which seems unnecessary), unless it's to introduce Ashake for later use, which if so seems like wasted effort; she's listed as appearing in all of four Marvel issues from this point on. Anyway, as a sorceress Ashake can both understand English and use her powers to get our heroes home.  It turns out she has the same flaws as Illyana, though, if not to the same extent, and our intrepid duo end up a few decades late to SK's homecoming, to discover their teammates are still at her mercy, and busy murdering people in 21st century Cairo on their boss's orders. Fortunately a refreshed Illyana has the energy to make one more trip through time, landing them back in what they hope is the present day.

Unlike their pit-stop in the land of the Pharaohs, this trip to the future at least serves some plot function, in that it shows them what will happen should they fail to rescue their friends.  Which, fine.  Not sure the stakes needed to be clarified, but I get what the point of it is.  Unfortunately, this then leads to a page of Dani freaking out because she's not sure whether what she's just seen is inevitable or not.

Which is utterly goddamn ridiculous. It's only been fifteen issues since this exact same thing happened when the New Mutants were captured by the White Queen. Dani and Illyana jaunted to the future and saw how their friends turned out without being rescued.  And then Mirage and Magick went back in time and changed the future. Dani knows these trips to the future aren't set in stone because she's already changed one.  For fuck's sake, she specifically mentions the White Queen caper here, and then says "and just like then, we don't know If what we saw is the shape of things that will be, or that might?!". Well take a fucking guess, Dani.


Illyana has the presence of mind to start yelling at Dani for being utterly useless, but a promising argument is interrupted when Warlock - safe from Shadow Karma because of his alien mind - arrives with reinforcements.  He's found Storm, somehow and somewhere (how big can East/North-East Africa be, after all?), and she's ready to help out.

Time to bring our children home.


This story takes place over three days, with various flashbacks and time-travel antics.

The arrival of Storm at the end of this issue causes some potential complications, since by our timeline Storm is still in Africa over a week after last issue's story.  But there's no reason why it can't have taken the New Mutants some time to discover "Karma's" base in Madripoor, and of course Illyana and Dani might be a little ahead of the curve due to temporal problems caused by jaunting.

We'll assume the latter isn't true for now, though - next issue this might need revising - and assume the hunt for Karma took a fortnight, thereby giving Ororo time to travel from Kenya to Cairo.


Saturday 19th to Monday 21st January, 1985.


X+6Y+324 to X+6Y+326.

Contemporary Events

The San Francisco 49s beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16 in Superbowl XIX.

Standout Line

"Welcome, fellow students, to Earth's version of Mos Eisley spaceport -- a modern-day Tortuga, haven of world-class pirates, crooks and assorted lesser scoundrels. No extradition, and government security make this the perfect hideout. A sort of Neutral Zone where the deadliest of enemies can hang out in absolute safety, without fear of each other or foreign cops." - Cypher

So now we know. A legend dawns.

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