Monday, October 1, 2012

NEW MUTANTS Annual #5 - October 1989

Here Be Monsters
Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Rob Liefeld (penciler), Tim Dzon (inker), Joe Rosen (letters), Tom Vincent (colors)

Summary: Ghaur frames the New Mutants for the abduction of an Atlantean horn that can summon sea monsters. Namorita and a group of young Atlantean mutants named S.U.R.F. locate the New Mutants on the surface and attack. When she realizes they’re innocent, the heroes team up to stop the monster that Ghaur has summoned. They’re able to bury the monster in the Hudson Canyon, but not before it decimates Atlantis. The New Mutants return to the surface, still looking for a home, but grateful to be alive.

Continuity Notes: The New Mutants are chosen as red herrings by Ghaur because they briefly possessed the horn months earlier in New Mutants #76.

Creative Differences: Looking at the cover, I think it’s obvious that Namorita and the members of S.U.R.F. were added by another artist.

Review: New Mutants annual #5 was never a hot back issue collector’s item, even though it does mark Rob Liefeld’s debut on the title. Considering the massive impact Liefeld’s New Mutants run would have on the entire industry, it’s kind of surprising that so few people seemed to care about tracking this one down. Was Liefeld’s popularity on the title inexorably linked to the debut of Cable? If Liefeld had penciled the entire year of New Mutants stories preceding issue #86 without submitting any of his own ideas, would those issues also languish in obscurity?

My stance when reviewing the early issues of X-Force was that I wouldn’t comb through every panel looking for any artistic shortcoming that could be ridiculed. I wouldn’t ignore the art, either; I just wouldn’t dwell on Liefeld’s weaknesses, since entire websites have already been dedicated to this cause. That’s also my stance on the Liefeld run of New Mutants. Looking through this issue, it seems that Tim Dzon (also credited as “Tom” in the issue) has “mainstreamed” much of the art, even though it’s clearly a Liefeld job. Some of the poses are impossible, many of the facial expressions are inhuman, and occasionally a narrative caption or two has to detail events that simply aren’t depicted by the art. I don’t know if Liefeld is responsible for designing S.U.R.F. (nor do I know what that acronym is supposed to represent), but the team surprisingly doesn’t fall into any of the famous Liefeld clich├ęs…with the exception of Undertow, who might be Liefeld’s first hair-metal warrior figure. (Nice suspenders, bro.)

As a story, this is reasonably comprehensible, even if it is a follow-up to a long-running New Mutants storyline (presumably, this takes place after issue #86, even though it was published months before it), and chapter eleventeen of the endless “Atlantis Attacks” crossover. The premise that Ghaur just so happens to have three followers who look exactly like Sunspot, Warlock, and Wolfsbane is stretching credibility even by 1980’s standards, but the story is still enjoyable as a basic superhero adventure. I purchased this issue as a kid, new to the concept of such things as “annual events,” and I can’t say Liefeld’s art hindered my enjoyment of the story. I certainly thought his style was unusual, but I didn’t think he was killing comics or anything. The next installment of “Atlantis Attacks” is a John Byrne/Walt Simonson collaboration, though, and I easily recognized that issue as one of the “good ones.”

A Case of the Cutes
Credits: Judith Kurzer Bogdanove (writer), Jon Bogdanove (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Joe Rosen (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Summary: In a dream, Boom Boom asks the artist drawing her adventures to hook her up with a cute guy. After rejecting Hulk, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, and more, she asks for someone who’s cute and loveable. He pairs her with Franklin Richards.

I Love the '80s: Boom Boom has posters of Terrance Trent D’Arby, George Michael, and Dirty Dancing on her wall.

Review: No lie, I love all of the late ‘80s annual back-ups that focus on heroines finding dates or ranking the hottest bodies in the Marvel Universe. Jon Bogdanove’s cartooning fits the story perfectly, and it’s a great excuse to see his interpretation of several Marvel heroes. Plus, it’s honestly funny, without coming across as snotty or condescending.


Matt said...

I recently re-read both "Atlantis Attacks" and the previous year's "Evolutionary War" in their entirety, having only read bits of them when I was a kid. Neither was particularly good, but I think "Evolutionary War" was better, storywise. Both events suffered from uneven art, as you had some annuals that were clearly try-outs for new artists or "retirement homes" for aging ones, while at the same time you'd wind up with a Byrne/Simonson collaboration, as you mentioned. It was a little weird.

Brian said...

Can you PLEASE review Joe Kelly's Deadpool?

Teebore said...

I'm glad to see you're reviewing Liefeld's New Mutants. I have a lot of fond (embarrassingly so, in some cases) memories of that run. Do you have any plans to similarly "step back" and look at other X-series prior to the 1991 rebranding? Maybe Claremont and Lee's pre-volume 2 X-Men? Just curious more than anything.

Was Liefeld’s popularity on the title inexorably linked to the debut of Cable?

Good question. I too am surprised that this issue was overlooked during the Liefeld heyday. Maybe it had something to do with Dzon "normalizing" the work too much?

I certainly thought his style was unusual, but I didn’t think he was killing comics or anything.

I'm sure I've said this before, but no lie, I was one of those fans who liked Liefeld's work back in the day. I remember reading New Mutants back issues and getting excited when I hit the Liefeld stuff.

No one ever said I was a smart kid...

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to cast my vote to see more "step-back" reviews. I know you mentioned why you didn't want to do those issues, but now that you've basically covered the 90s X-Books (and any books you haven't finished up to 2000 are about to wrap up anyways), I'd love to see your take on the earlier Lee/Claremont issues, or maybe even step back to when you first started reading during the Outback era?

IDK, it might be interesting to see how that stuff stacks up against the 90s books since I think you've been pretty fair with the schlock, I think you can stay professional about the stuff you may have nostalgia for lol

Plus, you were a fan then, so you seem to know all the rumors going around at the time and I always find those parts of your reviews very fun to read. It'd be worth it just to hear your take on the alternate paths Claremont thought about taking when you get to the later issues he did with Lee.

G. Kendall said...

I don't know if there's a good starting place for the Claremont/Lee issues, although I am considering doing something from that era in the future. I also plan on starting two new review series in the next year, although I'm naturally going to reveal what they are yet.

snowkatt said...

what about reviewing new xmen ?
sooner or later you will hit xmen v2 100 and then new xmen is only 14 issues away

Harry Sewalski said...

Whilst we're on the topic of Liefeld's art, I'd just like to tell everyone about the tumblr It's glorious :D

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