Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NEW MUTANTS #86 - February 1990

Bang! You’re Dead!
Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Rob Liefeld (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), Joe Rosen (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: The Tinkerer mails the Vulture a replica of his wings, allowing him to escape federal prison. The Vulture refuses to follow the plan established by Tinkerer’s mysterious employers, and instead forces him to develop a device that will free Nitro from his cage. They travel to Nitro’s court hearing, as Rusty and Skids escape prison. Rusty and Skids know of Vulture’s plan, and hope that publicly stopping him will draw attention to their unjust imprisonment. When Vulture does free Nitro, he predictably uses his powers to explode, but is stopped by Skids’ forcefield. Freedom Force arrives to apprehend the mutants. Later, a research facility is hit by the Mutant Liberation Front, who demand Rusty and Skids’ freedom.

Continuity Notes: This issue marks the first appearance of the Mutant Liberation Front. The identifiable members we see are Tempo (incorrectly called “Strobe” here), Wildside, Forearm, Reaper, and Zero. Stryfe gives demands over the phone, but only his arm is seen. Cable also makes a cameo in the “Next Issue” box.

Review: I wonder if Todd McFarlane was asked to ink this cover because it’s an Amazing Spider-Man homage, and this led to him regularly inking Liefeld’s New Mutants covers, or if he was always intended as the regular cover inker. Regardless, McFarlane and Liefeld are both heavily inspired by Arthur Adams at this point, so they mesh together fairly well. McFarlane doesn’t have the strongest anatomy skills in the world, so I guess there wasn’t much he could do to save that drawing of Rusty, but their collaboration on the Vulture looks fine (if you ignore the diaper he seems to be wearing under his costume.)

So, Rob Liefeld’s run on New Mutants officially begins, and it’s an “Acts of Vengeance” crossover issue. Consequently, it has almost no significance to the specific world of the X-titles, even though we already see the Liefeld influence creeping in on the final two pages. I realize that “Acts of Vengeance” was held in pretty low regard for years, but I think there’s a solid concept at the core of it. It’s conceivable that a cabal of villains would unite and switch opponents, and as a reader, it’s just fun to see Wolverine fighting Tiger Shark or Spider-Man facing Graviton. Nominally, Vulture’s mission in this issue to fight Speedball, but Simonson has him ignore his assignment immediately and pursue this Nitro scheme that he’s apparently had since the previous issue. I’m not sure if this was her intention or not, but Vulture comes across as shockingly dumb in this story (he thinks kidnapping a living bomb, one that he can’t control, will somehow make people “respect” him more), so dumb it’s impossible to take him seriously as a threat. Skids does have a nice “heroic sacrifice” scene at the end of the issue, though, and her injuries do have some impact on the future issues, so it’s not a total loss. I’ll also mention that Liefeld’s interpretations of Vulture and Tinkerer are heavily reminiscent of the way Erik Larsen will go on to draw the characters when he takes over Amazing Spider-Man. And Liefeld’s Skids resembles a decent impression of an Art Adams female in a few panels. Many of the Liefeld clichés haven’t appeared yet, which may or not be due to Bob Wiacek’s inking.


Matt said...

Wow, I had no idea Liefeld was influencing this title from day one. That seems odd to me.

"I realize that “Acts of Vengeance” was held in pretty low regard for years..."

Huh, I didn't know that. I've always considered it to be one of the stronger and more enjoyable of the big Marvel crossovers events. At least, the Avengers and Spider-Man chapters still hold up pretty well. I haven't read all of the ancillary stuff.

Teebore said...

Many of the Liefeld clichés haven’t appeared yet, which may or not be due to Bob Wiacek’s inking.

I'd never noticed that Wiacek was inking here, though I really only started paying attention to inkers well after I'd stopped re-reading this issue as part of my then-regular read through of the X-titles.

As Matt says, it is, in hindsight a bit surprising how quickly Liefeld began to influence the title. This book was really his big break at Marvel, but I know he'd done some fill-in work before it.

I wonder if that was enough to build up his popularity to the point that Marvel was comfortable giving him a strong hand in the direction of the series, or if Weezie was just being nice to her new collaborator and working his ideas into the book right away.

Harry Sewalski said...

I realize that “Acts of Vengeance” was held in pretty low regard for years, but I think there’s a solid concept at the core of it.

I think the only AoV issues I've read are the Quasar ones. They don't really tie into the bigger storyline at all, but as you say, it's fun to watch heroes fight different villains to the norm (not that Quasar really had a rogue's gallery at this point...) Gruenwald really got a lot of mileage out of the first issue, with Quasar fighting Absorbing Man and Absorbing Man absorbing the powers of Quasar's Quantum Bands.

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