New Mutants #26 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderI decided to try and use my Marvel Unlimited Plus membership again for this column about an issue of New Mutants. I thought back to my (early) teenage years and the comics that I loved then. I already mentioned how important the mid-1980s were in comics, so I went to that era for this week’s Review of Old Comics.

Legion has gone from his first appearance to a minor supporting character in the X-Men titles, to the catalyst for a major X-Men event. From there he’s gotten his own comic book series and a Fox television series now in its second season. Legion has become an important character, especially as an entry point for new readers drawn in by the television show.

Legion first appeared in New Mutants #25, but his story first started in the very next issue. This is why we’re reviewing New Mutants #26.

New Mutants #26

April 1985
Marvel Comics

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

Synopsis:

Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander are on Muir Island after having their lives becoming irrevocably changed by their experience with the New Mutants battle with the Demon Bear. They have not only been physically transformed into Native Americans, but are peak physical specimens. Tom Corsi can lift nearly a thousand pounds. They are shocked by the sudden appearance on an Arabic boy’s astral projection. When he screams and vanishes, the screams take them down the hall to where David Haller is sleeping. The teenage boy is screaming for his mother and throwing objects around the room telekinetically. He begins laughing with a girl’s voice and just has his hands catch fire, an explosion rocks the entire facility.

The next day, Professor X and four of his New Mutants arrive at Moira MacTaggart’s request. accompanying them is her longtime boyfriend, Sean Cassidy. Her enthusiastic greeting upsets Rahne, who viewed MacTaggart as a surrogate mother. MacTaggart reassures Rahne that she loves her, too, and regards her as a daughter. The alien Warlock begins thanking the X-Men’s jet, Blackbird for the flight, which baffles Dani Moonstar and Doug Ramsey. They go up to the main house and are greeted by James Madrox, the Multiple Man.

MacTaggart briefs Professor X on the situation with David, whose mother is an old girlfriend of Xavier’s, Israeli ambassador Gabrielle Haller. Corsi and Friedlander are comatose and David has returned to being unresponsive. The autistic David had a schizophrenic retreat from reality ten years prior, which ended with the previous night’s incident. Xavier senses that Gabrielle is hiding something from him about David, but won’t use his telepathy on her to determine what.

In Snow Valley, Massachusetts, Emma Frost calls her aristocratic student Empath into her office. She berates him for using his emotion-controlling powers on Firestar, costing the Hellfire Club years of effort grooming her. Empath uses his powers on Emma Frost to force her in love with him, and gloats that he’s in control. Frost reveals that her mental powers are far stronger and uses them to restrict his mutant power.

The New Mutants venture onto the mainland where Warlock uses his powers to absorb the life force of a seagull. Dani Moonstar instinctively grabs his hand, then panics that she will be turned into a techno-organic husk like the gull. Warlock assures her that he only transforms people and creatures if he means to, and she has nothing to fear. Still, the New Mutants remind Warlock to alter his appearance to look human. The Reverend Craig comes by with a mob. He pronounces Rahne and her friends spawns of Satan, to which the New Mutants blow him off and leave the docks.

Back at Muir Isle, Xavier attempts a psychic probe of David but finds a psychic barrier. Soon, the Arabic boy’s face appears in the wall, screaming. Psychic flame erupts from his mouth, sending Xavier’s astral form back into his body with such force that it sends him, MacTaggart, and Gaby Haller out of the room. David laughs during all of this. Just as suddenly goes silent again.

On a secluded tropical island, Lee Forrester is woken up from her sleep by screaming. She rushes in to find Magneto having a nightmare. His powers are lashing out, sending the bed, with Magneto and Lee both still on it, flying out the window. She wakes him up so he can cushion their fall to the seaside below. Magneto thank Lee for saving his life again, and the two share a romantic interlude under the sea spray. As Magneto falls asleep, Lee Forrester wonders if he’s been crying.

Back on Muir Isle, Xavier and Gabrielle Haller reminisce about their time together years ago. She had been a patient of his, and he feels like he abused his position and his powers. He explains how he tries to justify his actions in using his powers as being for a greater good and how  that is exactly what Magneto does. Gabrielle Haller admits that she never tried to contact Xavier because she was scared of what he could do. Unfortunately, David has similar powers and she needs him to help her son.

Rahne sneaks into Moira’s lab, looking for comfort after Reverend Craig’s confrontation. Moira comforts her and assures her she thinks of Rahne as her own child. Suddenly Rahne senses trouble and the Arabic boy’s psychic image appears. Moira signals for Xavier, but before he and Gabrielle can get there, another explosion rocks Muir Isle.

Review:

The story is exceptionally well-written and Claremont uses the subplot cutaways to explore Xavier’s difference in how he refrains from using his telepathic abilities. Right after Xavier explicitly telling the reader how he holds back using his telepathy, we cut to Empath and Emma Frost tying up a loose end from Uncanny X-Men #193. Both of these characters, villains, are very cavalier with using their powers. The first thing Emma Frost does when Empath enters her office is to inflict psychic pain on him. Empath demonstrates his power to his own selfish ends after being called to the carpet for doing just that.

It’s also obvious in hindsight that David is Xavier’s son. Of course, while clues are given, it isn’t said until further issues into the story that this is the case. The X-Men faced many telepathic mutants, none of them related to Xavier. There’s no law that all telepaths must be related to each other, this story set the precedent that almost all of them would be.

The script is very dense, which sometimes crowds the fabulous artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s good that the story unfolds naturally and doesn’t talk down to the readers. At the time this was published, Claremont was putting together some very fine stories, but the ones in New Mutants were possibly the best character studies that had almost nothing to do with mutants.

The artwork is exquisite, but not the best Sienkiewicz would do on his New Mutants run. He does gorgeous work here, don’t get me wrong. There’s obviously panels that took more effort and some that he got to be more free in creating. His artwork also suffers from a printing process that has colors bleeding through the blacks. This sometimes occurs in comics from the earlier eras. I believe that it comes from a black ink that isn’t totally saturated in the printing process. It’s an archaic side effect that comes from coloring artwork that is incredibly artistic, and relying upon black areas for structure, aesthetic and storytelling.

Notes:

As If you want to immediately read a digital copy, you can find it on Marvel Unlimited and Comixology

I copy of this comic in mint condition will cost you more than a few dollars. As I write his a Near Mint copy is valued at around thirty dollars. The previous issue, his first appearance, is at about 2/3 of that. Subsequent issues in this story are much cheaper, and may be in bargain boxes. The story has been reprinted in X-Men: New Mutants Classic, Vol. 4 (ISBN: 0785137283). IDW also put together a collection, The New Mutants: Bill Sienkiewicz Marvel Artist Select Series (ISBN: 827714009859). That last one will cost a few hundred dollars, so it’s only for the most hardcore of collectors.

Final Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)