Monday, February 3, 2014

NEW MUTANTS Annual #7 - August 1991


Kings of Pain Part 1 - Pawns of Senescence
Credits:  Fabian Nicieza (writer), Guang Yap (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Brad Vancata (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)

Summary:  The Alliance of Evil breaks into the private school harboring Artie, Leech, and Wiz Kid.  The Alliance is joined by the mysterious Harness and Piecemeal.  Under Harness’ orders, Piecemeal absorbs the residual energy in the area.  Later, as Wiz Kid recovers, he’s visited by X-Force.  They track the Alliance to Niagara Falls, but Harness and Piecemeal teleport away before they can be captured.  Cable forces Tower to reveal that the Alliance is working for the Genetech Research Facility.  X-Force invades the facility looking for answers.  Inside, they discover the New Warriors, ready for battle.  Meanwhile, two mystery figures play chess.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Wiz Kid knows Boom-Boom from the X-Terminators miniseries.
  • This story is set in-between New Mutants #100 and X-Force #1.  Technically, this is the first X-Force story, even if we are reading it as the final New Mutants annual.  For the record, the team never refers to itself as “X-Force” in this issue’s main story but that’s what they are called in future chapters, and in the text piece in the back.  In the main story, Boom-Boom says they’re the “New New Mutants.”
  • Alliance member Timeshadow is missing during the story.  Cable remarks that he doesn’t know or care where he’s gone.
  • Shatterstar tells Cable that channeling energy through his sword is a “tiring act” and advises him not to ask him to do it too often.  I believe this is the only time that’s been established, but it would help to explain why Shatterstar so rarely used his mutant power during these days.

I Love the '90s:  Boom-Boom compares Cable to Major Dad.  She later comments that the interior of Genetech is “more complicated than the insides of my VCR!”

Miscellaneous Note:  According to, “senescence” means aging, but it’s also a term for when a cell is “no longer capable of dividing but still alive and metabolically active.”

Review:  I can vaguely remember a time when “Kings of Pain” was considered kind of a joke amongst fans, but over the years I think it’s simply been forgotten.  I think all of the mini-crossovers of the early ‘90s Marvel annuals have faded from memory.  Theoretically, doing smaller crossovers in the annuals as opposed to the line-wide events should’ve allowed the creators more room to have fun while also giving fans the most basic thing they want in a crossover (heroes meeting and/or fighting each other).  Why exactly the three-year experiment yielded almost nothing memorable is kind of a mystery to me.  (Aside from “Days of Future Present,” have any of the mini-crossovers ever been reprinted?)

“Kings of Pain” begins with a lot of setup and a few mysteries.  Consequently, it isn’t that interesting in its own right, but as the first chapter of a crossover I think it establishes enough intrigue to justify reading the next chapter.  For fans of the oft-forgotten X-Terminators, or the Alliance of Evil, this must’ve been a nostalgia-fest, assuming anyone was nostalgic for 1987 in 1991.  The only real issue with the plot is the New Mutants’ casual arrival as soon as the Alliance hits Niagara Falls.  The story established just a few pages earlier that the team doesn’t know how to find the Alliance, and yet they suddenly do when it’s time for a fight scene.  Guang Yap’s previous work in New Mutants, a fill-in at the end of “X-Tinction Agenda,” committed the fatal sin of being dull, but in this issue he’s able to add some early ‘90s flair while maintaining the basics of silly things like anatomy and storytelling.  

Probably the most intriguing aspect of the issue is seeing how Nicieza handles the future X-Force cast without any input from Rob Liefeld.  Consequently, Cable is still a drill sergeant, but he’s not a Punisher clone, Shatterstar is taciturn but not inhuman, and Feral is…essentially a different character.  She first appears in the issue smiling, something I don’t think she ever did during a Rob Liefeld issue.  She’s playful and “catlike” as in tabby, not tiger.  The distinctive jagged word balloons given to her by Joe Rosen in her initial appearances are also gone, making me wonder if this comic actually went into production before New Mutants #99 and #100.

The Killing Stroke Part 1: The First Cut
Credits:  Fabian Nicieza (writer), Kirk Jarvinin (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)

Summary:  In Kuwait, Freedom Force arrives to rescue nuclear physicist Reinhold Kurtzmann before the Iraqis can kidnap him.  The team discovers Kurtzmann is missing from his safehouse, and are soon attacked.  Super Sabre is killed and the remaining members are injured, with only the Blob left standing.  Suddenly, Desert Sword emerges with Dr. Kurtzmann.

Continuity Notes:  Mystique doesn’t appear in the story, as she’s believed dead at this point in continuity.

Creative Differences:  On page 41, it looks as if Pyro’s “Bloody ‘ell!” has been changed to “Bloody ‘eck!”

Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Super Sabre is decapitated by Desert Sword, although his severed head is only shown in one faraway shot.

I Love the '90s:  The story is set during Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in early 1991.  Desert Sword is also an obvious play on “Desert Storm.”

Review:  You can’t accuse this back-up serial of being filler.  The dissolution of Freedom Force, along with the death and mutilation of many of its members, actually has a larger impact on continuity than anything that happens in the main story.  Nicieza gets a lot out of the ten pages, working in almost a full issue’s worth of material without compressing too much of the story.  Desert Sword are destined to be forgotten at best, or joke characters at worse, but they make an impressive standing in their first appearance.  I’ve always liked Freedom Force, for reasons I probably couldn’t explain, so seeing them taken out like this actually did bother me as a young reader.  By the standards of back-up stories, this is pretty daring, especially when you consider just how rare superhero bloodbaths were in these days.  

Close Encounters of the Mutant Kind
Credits:  Judy Bogdanove (writer), Jon Bogdanove (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)

Summary:  Artie and Leech ride with Wiz Kid in his custom-built UFO.  An elderly neighbor thinks they’re actually aliens and creates a media frenzy.  The mutants join the search for the aliens, not realizing that they’re the cause of the confusion.  Eventually, the mutants meet the neighbor and make peace.  Leech immediately bonds with her because she resembles his Morlock foster-mother, Annalee.

Continuity Notes:  Cyclops and Marvel Girl make a cameo at the beginning of the story, visiting the kids during their school play.

I Love the '90s: Wiz Kid wears British Knights sneakers.

Review:  Wow, X-Terminators fever must’ve been gripping Marvel this month, I guess.  (By the way, has the St. Simon’s school for mutants in New Hampshire established in these old stories ever shown up again?)  There isn’t a lot to say about this one; it’s sappy in all of the ways you expect, but that’s okay if you’re not utterly heartless.  The idea that the kids don’t even realize that they’ve caused the alien craze strains credibility a bit, but then again, it’s a story about small children, so they probably should be a bit oblivious.  Jon Bogdanove’s cartooning suits the story well, so at the very least it looks better than your average annual back-up. 


wwk5d said...

The main problem with the cross-over isn't that it's bad per's just dull and repetitive. Ok, the final part is bad, but there are some good points here and there. The dialogue for the most part is fun and snarky at times, and I do love the Mignola covers, which get more distorted with each part, which fits into who the villain is.

The best part is probably part 2, the team up with the New Warriors. The fight scene with them is done well, and it is nice to see them break off into smaller groups for their individual missions; Niceiza gets a few nice character beats from that.

The back-up story with Freedom Force, while ok in execution, is important as you said for the future continuity it sets up. And while by today's standards killing off and mutilating long standing characters happens every other month, back then it was shocking. Of course, this was the time when many X-villains were being massacred left and right anyhow...

The final part does have a nice Mystique back-up story, so there is that.

dschonbe said...

I've seen Kings of Pain reprinted a few times. In the X-men and X-Factor Essentials and I think also in some New Warriors trades. Which just goes to show Marvel will reprint anything. Which is awesome.

Master Mahan said...

Do people in the Marvel universe still get frenzied about possible alien sightings? You'd think when it's been years since a giant purple demigod parked himself on a New York skyscraper, one old person seeing a flying ship wouldn't raise any eyebrows.

Matt said...

The main "Kings of Pain" story does nothing for me, but I really like the Freedom Force backup. I believe it was covered in a Comic Book Legends Revealed column that "The Killing Stroke" was set-up for Nicieza's pitched X-Factor revamp, but obviously that book went to Peter David instead.

"(Aside from “Days of Future Present,” have any of the mini-crossovers ever been reprinted?)"

I can't speak to black and white reprints, but "Kings of Pain" itself has been inexplicably reprinted three times in recent years: In New Warriors Classic volume 2 (2010), the New Warriors Omnibus (2013), and the X-Force Omnibus (2013). On the one hand I like Marvel's dedication to getting everything out there, but on the other hand this is barely a New Warriors story. It should really only be in the X-related reprint books.

"Spidey's Totally Tiny Adventure" also just received a reprint in the Spider-Man Epic Collection: Cosmic Adventures TPB. I expect, as the "Epic Collection" series goal is to basically cover everything from the beginning of Marvel up through the late nineties, we will see more of these crossovers sooner or later.

Oh, the Spidey/New Warriors annual serial, "The Hero Killers", also received a reprint in its very own self-titled trade in 2012 (and then it also showed up in the New Warriors Omnibus less than a year later). Still no sign, unfortunately, of "The Vibranium Vendetta", the David Michelinie Spider-Man/Iron Man/Black Panther team-up, which was my favorite of those early nineties annual stories.

Austin Gorton said...

I remember liking this story just for the inclusion of the Alliance of Evil and the X-Terminator kids, simply because those were elements of X-lore with which I was familiar at the time (mainly because nobody wanted to read those stories in the early 90s, so their back issues were cheaper).

I’ve always liked Freedom Force, for reasons I probably couldn’t explain, so seeing them taken out like this actually did bother me as a young reader.

I'm right there with you.

@Matt: as the "Epic Collection" series goal is to basically cover everything from the beginning of Marvel up through the late nineties

Have they confirmed the goal is to go up to the late nineties, or is that just your reasonable expectation?

I really like the idea of the Epic collection (even if, personally, I have most of the material they're reprinting already in one form or another), but haven't seen as solid a statement of intent from Marvel regarding them as I'd like.

Austin Gorton said...

Oh, and as far as I know, the St. Simon’s school for mutants in New Hampshire has never been referenced since this issue.

Matt said...

Teebore -- "Have they confirmed the goal is to go up to the late nineties, or is that just your reasonable expectation?"

According to one of the folks who maps these books out, in a post on the message board, the idea is to start at the beginning of the Marvel Age and proceed to the start of the "modern" era. I take this to mean around the time Quesada took over, but certain series presumably have different end points. I doubt the Avengers epics would stop partway through Kurt Busiek's run, for example. And Dan Jurgens started Thor a couple years before Quesada but stayed on it for years after.

So who can say, for certain? But based on the above evidence, I believe the Epics should cover at least up to the "Heroes Return" stuff for most series. Of the Epic lines started or announced so far, I personally would end them all at the following points, which feel the most natural to me:

- Avengers: End of Busiek's run.
- Captain America: End of Jurgens' run.
- Daredevil: Just before the Marvel Knights run (which is, admittedly, much earlier than I'm ending the other series).
- Iron Man: End of Busiek's run.
- Spider-Man: Either right before the Byrne/Mackie reboot (also a little early as with Daredevil), or at Mackie's final issue of volume 2.
- Thor: End of Jurgens' run, though I believe that entire span is already collected.

But that's just me.

Austin Gorton said...

@Matt: I take this to mean around the time Quesada took over, but certain series presumably have different end points.

Makes sense. Thanks for the info. It's always good to hear they have some kind of plan in mind when they start something that is intended to be a comprehensive reprint series.

I wish I could get more excited about the series, because I really like the idea and the presentation, but of the titles they've released or announced so far, I have a lot of what will ultimately be reprinted already in one form or another, be it Essentials, Trades, or single issues, which makes it hard for me to justify the expense of buying it all again.

But I do want to buy at least a few of them, just to support the line and the idea, because I do really like it.

Oh, and don't forget Fantastic Four. I imagine that could end either right before the Waid/Weiringo run or right after it.

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