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Feb 26

New Mutants #16 annotations

Posted on Friday, February 26, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

NEW MUTANTS vol 4 #16
“One Step Behind”
by Vita Ayala & Rob Reis

COVER / PAGE 1: The faces of the New Mutants in a shadowy cloud, presumably the Shadow King. Once again, Scout is shown with the team, somewhat jumping the gun in terms of the actual story.

PAGES 2-3. Some kids sneak into Otherworld.

The Braddock Lighthouse is the headquarters of Excalibur, as seen over in their own book. That’s Rictor hanging around near the gate and being sneaked past, though the character model is a little off (the X-logo on his chest is usually drawn bigger than that).

The three kids are Monica, Josh and Liana. Monica’s the one with the red hair. Technically it’s the first appearance for all three of them, but versions of these characters previously appeared as background prisoners in Ayala’s Age of X-Man: Prisoner X miniseries. We established in the previous issue that the prison in that series included a bunch of filler characters who were copies of real-world mutants but apparently were not simply counterparts of them – from the look of it, Ayala is importing a whole bunch of these background characters into mainstream continuity.

Assuming that Prisoner X is a reliable guide, Liana is a telekinetic, Josh has electrical powers, and Monica is some sort of shapechanger. Prisoner X #4 implied that Liana and Monica had been a couple before they were in the jail.

The guy who meets them is Monarch (Jamie Braddock), the ludicrously powerful ruler of Avalon who was installed as a puppet by Apocalypse but has now been left to just run the place. Despite what the kids seem to think, what they’re doing here is highly dangerous. Aside from the fact that mutants can die permanently in Otherworld (as seen in “X of Swords”), Jamie is a vastly powerful, unpredictable maniac. He’s often played for comic relief and this is a rare example of him being played as intimidating on the level of a conventional authority figure, rather than as someone wacky but dangerously uncontrollable.

PAGE 4. Data page – an extract from the journal that Dani gave to James Proudstar in issue #14. He’s answering the first two  the prompt questions that she gave him to work with. (“How do you view the world and others? Do you think of yourself as optimistic or pessimistic?”) The first question he answers here – “How do you view yourself?” – wasn’t actually in the original list.

Clearly, in this interpretation, James sees himself (or wants to see himself) as a serious and practical type with a commitment to justice and balance. He’s not particularly introspective and doesn’t particularly want to do this exercise, which is why he starts off wilfully misinterpreting the questions.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGES 6-10. Amahl Farouk with his proteges.

Cosmar is upset because she asked Dani last issue to kill her in the Crucible, in the hope of being resurrected in an undistorted body. Dani refused, on the grounds that Cosmar hasn’t actually lost her mutant powers, and she should (apparently) take pride in what her mutant powers have done to her. Note, Cosmar’s appearance is not – at least in her view – an actual feature of her mutant powers. It’s a self-inflicted injury from the time before she could control those powers.

Farouk, working with No-Girl, is able to make them briefly swap bodies. This seems to have serious side effects rather quickly, for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious – it’s not as if we haven’t had body swaps before, which lasted much longer than this. (Ask Psylocke.) Perhaps it’s something that Farouk is doing in the background, or maybe it’s just the corrupting influence of the Shadow King.

Obviously, Cosmar and No-Girl are the two who benefit most from this. No-Girl could make a similar argument that she should be allowed to die and be resurrected, rather than continuing to live in this state just to indulge Krakoa’s notion that all things mutant are marvellous – but she does seem to embrace her current status. Perhaps Farouk’s goal here is to try and get No-Girl and Cosmar firmly on board by offering them an alternative way out, now that the Crucible is clearly denied to them.

Scout reminds us that it’s “maybe not true” that she would be resurrected if she died. As mentioned in previous issues, this ties in to the point that Scout is a clone of X-23/Wolverine (Laura Kinney), and over in Hellions, Madelyne Pryor was deliberately not resurrected on the grounds that she was just a clone of Jean Grey. This seems to be a developing question over in Cable as well, where the title character is casually slaughtering clones of himself at the same time as he’s dating the all-clone Stepford Cuckoos.

PAGE 11. Data page. This is an extract from the Crooked Caller, the excitable newspaper of Otherworld’s Crooked Market realm. We’ve seen it before in Excalibur #14. In both cases, despite the tabloid tone, the actual content has seemed reasonably fair, at least in terms of serving the assumed audience of profit-oriented Crooked Market residents.

Avalon, Sevalith and Blightspoke (and its Sheriff Whitechapel) are all Otherworld locations seen in “X of Swords”. Blightspoke is a domain of detritus from failed realities, which supposedly has vastly useful and valuable stuff buried in there somewhere – hence the suggestion that anyone with access to Whitechapel might be a way in.

“Witchbreed” is a standard term for mutants over in Excalibur, ultimately deriving from the stand-in name for mutants in Neil Gaiman’s 1602.

PAGES 12-14. Magik confronts the bullies.

Self-explanatory, really. Magik argued last issue that destroying property was against the laws of Krakoa (because the property is part of the land, so it’s a failure to respect the land), but she goes for a more principled argument here rather than arguing about the technicality.

PAGES 14-15. Mirage and Karma go looking for Josh.

It’s a bit of a stretch for the kids to come to the New Mutants rather than Excalibur, who are literally the Otherworld specialists, but fair enough, they’re scared of Excalibur (who they wrongly describe as “X-Men”).

Karma’s dreams were mentioned in the previous issue.

Rictor says that powers may be different in Otherworld. That’s not really something we’ve seen, unless you count Shogo’s transformation into a dragon while he’s there.

PAGES 16-17. Wolfsbane visits X-Factor.

This picks up on the storyline from the previous issue about Wolfsbane trying to get her son Tier revived. It turns out that Cerebro thinks Tier is still alive, though there’s something not right about the backups – presumably, as Prodigy says, because he’s only half mutant. Wolfsbane doesn’t exactly find this reassuring: if Tier had been dead then it would have been a simple matter of getting him resurrected (or so she thought), while this suggests that he’s been out there suffering. Or maybe not, of course – maybe he’s just fine – but that’s what’s worrying her.

PAGES 18-19. Mirage and Karma meet Monarch.

According to Monarch, he just let Josh go for a wander around Otherworld. This seems a bit suspect – Josh seemed scared of him, so surely he’d have asked to go home. It seems odd that he’s managed to achieve everything the Crooked Caller reported in just a few hours. But still, he seems in a good enough mood when we see him later.

PAGE 20. They set off across Otherworld.

“More so after being taken by the Shadow King and Tran.” Karma was possessed by the Shadow King back in the original New Mutants series, and by her brother Tran in the miniseries New Mutants: Dead Souls.

The rabbit that leads the way is an obvious Alice in Wonderland reference.

PAGE 21. They get themselves captured.

This is Merlin, the ruler of the dystopian “Holy Republic of Fae”. Dani is slightly overstating matters in claiming that the Krakoans in “X of Swords” were fighting to save him and all of Otherworld; they were fighting to save themselves and Earth, but really, by all appearances Saturnyne could have defended Otherworld just fine on her own, if she was so motivated. Merlin at least has an understandable perspective if he sees it as a mutant/mutant squabble that Saturnyne allowed to disrupt things for everyone else. And this version of Merlyn is (for some reason) big on control, hence the grim nature of his world, as he attempts to impose order on a population designed for Otherworld chaos.

PAGE 22. Rahne gets home to find nobody there for emotional support.

Dani has at least left a letter, which continues into the next page. Dani and Rahne used to be written as especially close back in the original New Mutants run, mainly because of Dani’s largely-forgotten power to make psychic links with animals.

PAGE 23. Josh approaches a city.

To be fair to Monarch, Josh does seem to be enjoying this. No sign of Sheriff Whitechapel, despite the fact that she’s been mentioned twice in this issue. The city he’s approaching, judging from the undead types hanging around outside, is Sevalith, the Otherworld vampire realm.

PAGE 24. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: DANGER AHEAD.


Bring on the comments

  1. Moonstar Logic says:

    Re: powers being different in Otherworld: We might have seen it in play when Rictor observed that Otherworld seemed to be empowering Meggan when she accompanied Excalibur to Otherworld in search of evidence of Betsy’s apparent death in X of Swords. Of course, I’ve lost track of which of her 16 abilities are a result of either of her mutant or faerie heritage, so it still feels like an open question.

    We could also look to another example involving Excalibur in the same issue when they used their mutant/magic synergy to summon the Betsy Corps.

  2. Paul F says:

    “Dani and Rahne used to be written as especially close back in the original New Mutants run, mainly because of Dani’s largely-forgotten power to make psychic links with animals.”

    They’re also a couple in the New Mutants movie.

  3. Loz says:

    Considering how young the OG New Mutants have been written in the last few years I’m finding it a bit weird that they’ve decided to bring back Rahne’s son. I didn’t read that run of X-Factor and just dipped in and out but Rahne seemed to me to be written as in her early twenties, nineteen at a stretch, and the early issues of this run seemed to suggest she was fourteen or fifteen again.

  4. What happened to their mission to find mutants not on Krakao? What about Skids? And why hasn’t Rusty being reincarnated? They were New Mutants members!

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Skids is on Krakoa, she’s just appeared in MODOK Head Games. Of all places.

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