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May 20

New Mutants #25 annotations

Posted on Friday, May 20, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

NEW MUTANTS vol 4 #25
“The Labors of Magik, part 1: Best Laid Plans…”
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artists: Rod Reis (main story) & Jan Duursema (flashbacks)
Colourists: Rod Reis (main story) & Ruth Redmond (flashbacks)
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

COVER / PAGE 1. Magik doing magic.

PAGE 2. Data page. This is indeed a quote from Heracles by the Greek dramatist Euripedes (c.480-c.406 BC), as translated by EP Coleridge. The story takes place after the twelfth labour of Hercules (the capture of Cerberus), and involves Hercules being driven mad by Iris and the personification of Madness, and killing his family in a frenzy. In the passage quoted, he’s lamenting what he has done and observing that he is now a social outcast. The ellipsis makes this rather obscure. The full passage reads:

Last, ah, woe is me! I have dared this labor, to crown the sorrows of my house with my children’s murder. I have come to this point of necessity; no longer may I dwell in Thebes, the city that I love; for suppose I stay, to what temple or gathering of friends shall I go? For mine is no curse that invites greetings.”

A more modern translation has it as:

“And this – ah, this! This here is my last labour! This bloody deed I performed and crowned the miseries of my house with the death of my own sons! And so, here I am! I have now arrived at this sorry state! Piety forbids me from living here, in Thebes, the city I love, because if I do stay here, to which temple or to what friends could I turn? The horror of my curse will not allow for friendly greetings.”

PAGES 3-4. S’ym produces a mace.

S’ym was Belasco’s henchman in Magik’s origin story, and served as Magik’s own highly untrustworthy henchman in New Mutants until he eventually turned on her. He was originally a nod to Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark, hence the waistcoat.

The “master” that he’s answering to isn’t identified. The obvious candidate would be Belasco, except that the silhouette clearly has two arms in the final panel of this scene, and Belasco only has one. It doesn’t seem to be the guy who’s rifling through Illyana’s room later in the issue, either, because that guy has a huge beard, and the silhouette here has a clearly defined chin. It’s also curious that this guy gets S’ym to mix his own potions, suggesting that for some reason he can’t do it himself.

Having S’ym produce the mace from within his own body has echoes of Magik’s Soulsword.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGE 6. The first page of the Little Goblin’s story.

The first of several pages of this story, which are explained towards the end of the issue as coming from a story book that Illyana found in Belasco’s library as a child. There are obvious echoes in here of Illyana being trapped in Limbo as a child and being pursued by Belasco during the period before she fell completely under his control (though again, the silhouette figure shown here has two arms). However, the “little Goblin” apparently represents Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen.

PAGES 7-9. Magik, Dani and Rahne spar before taking Madelyne to Limbo.

Madelyne Pryor was resurrected at the end of Hellions and was approached by Magik in the previous issue (before the season break). She was already wearing her Goblin Queen outfit again in that issue, but seemed mainly to be sulking around the Green Lagoon bar. Magik offered her “a shot at getting everything you’ve ever wanted”. Since Madelyne has been predominantly an insane villain for years now, the other New Mutants are understandably sceptical about putting her in charge of anything.

I’m not sure what the blue thing is that Madelyne brings with her, and hands over to Illyana. But it must have some significance, since it’s such an odd thing to draw for no reason.

PAGE 10. The second page of the Little Goblin’s story.

This is rather more obviously Madelyne with the three companions who’ll accompany her into Limbo – Wolfsbane, Magik and Mirage. The narrator tells us that they “saw the truth of the Little Goblin” (which is a bit therapy-speak for a fairy tale narrator, if you ask me) and “agreed to stand by her side”, but there’s little sign of that from Rahne and Dani in the previous scene. Not so far, anyway.

PAGES 11-15. Illyana takes the group to the Limbo library.

The old guy in Illyana’s bedchamber seems to be a new character, and presumably we’ll find out later in the arc what he’s up to. He insists that he’s helping, but doesn’t explain, and Illyana seems to dismiss the possibility that he might be telling the truth out of hand.

I don’t think the library is given any particular prominence in the Magik miniseries (though it is the first place that Illyana teleports to). However, there’s a lengthy break in the action between Magik #2-3, during which Illyana ages by several years, and much of what this issue is describing seems to happen in that period.

Inferno was the main crossover of 1989, in which Madelyne went mad after the kidnap of her son, wound up making a deal with the demon N’Astirh to become the Goblin Queen, and ended up participating in an insane scheme to merge Limbo with New York. That brought a lot of things to life, hence the sentient mailboxes and flesh-eating elevators. Magik interprets all this behaviour as a mental breakdown.

Reading between the lines, Magik seems to be looking for someone to palm Limbo off on, and only someone with an sufficiently traumatic back story will do. Apparently she thinks Madelyne qualifies. Strictly speaking, we’ve seen people without that sort of history run Limbo (Amanda Sefton did it for a time), but they didn’t last very long, so fair enough. Magik claims to be binding Madelyne to terms that will keep her in line, but there’s a definite sense here that her primary goal here is to unshackle herself from Limbo and that what happens next is secondary.

PAGE 16. Page 3 of the Little Goblin.

This time the narrator is referring to the Limbo versions of Storm, Shadowcat and Colossus from Magik; Madelyne knows all of those characters, but the Goblin seems to be representing Illyana more closely here. Or it might be foreshadowing future chapters.

PAGES 17-18. Dani voices her doubts, and S’ym attacks.

Madelyne died in Hellions #4.

The child-abduction stuff is, again, part of the plot of Inferno.

The “monster who made me” is Mr Sinister, who created Madelyne as a clone of Jean Grey as part of a plan that Madelyne herself was never privy to.

Magik is pretty explicit here that her primary aim is to get away for Limbo, which is part of a traumatic back story that she wants no part of. Madelyne has a point that she’s meant to benefit from the amnesty like any other resurrected mutant, but “Why is Krakoa’s promise not for me?” is pushing it a bit. Krakoa does not offer all citizens their own dimension.

PAGE 19. Page 4 of the Little Goblin.

This seems to be foreshadowing future events in the arc.

PAGES 20-26. The big fight.

Madelyne’s reaction to the demons (“Filthy. Disgusting.”) doesn’t exactly suggest that she’s the perfect choice to run this place.

“Resurrection may be warped here, like in Otherworld.” Mutants who die in the magical dimension of Otherworld can only be brought back as blank slates, as established in “X of Swords.” Dani is (understandably) unsure whether this is specifically an Otherworld thing or whether it applies to magical dimensions in general.

“You can call me Boss.” This is how S’ym used to address Magik and Belasco.

The Soulsword being shattered is a fairly big deal, since it’s, well, linked to Magik’s soul. It’s also linked to her control over Limbo, which presumably explains why she isn’t able to teleport back to Earth as normal – though control over Limbo’s stepping disks is meant to be her mutant power rather than an aspect of her magical abilities.

PAGE 27. Page 5 of the Little Goblin.

Again, this feels like it’s signalling the direction of Madelyne’s arc. Presumably we’re going on a quest to find a way home.

PAGE 28. Data page. The quote is from Macbeth Act 3 Scene 2.

PAGES 29-33. Flashback: Illyana reads about the Little Goblin.

This takes place between Magik #2-3; the splash page is basically recapping the first two issues of that series, as well as Uncanny X-Men #160 (where she got abducted to Limbo in the first place). The X-Men who get corrupted by Limbo are from an alternate timeline where they didn’t make it back to Earth after Uncanny #160.

At the end, we see the actual Little Goblin apparently writing the book for Illyana to read.

PAGE 34. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I read it totally differently, the little Goblin is always Illyana’s representation of herself and Madelyn is the Queen of Echoes.

    The little Goblin was kidnapped as a child, hounded by a shadow demon, and tried to escape.


    I was hoping this was going to be a soft reset for the book where all the characters would actually hang out and do things.

    But it’s pretty much the same as it’s been, lots of self care and friendship and Warpath not mattering.

    It wasn’t a bad issue, but I’m just not sure I care enough to continue.

  2. Douglas says:

    Wow I loved this. Total amazing showcase for Rod Reis, and super good to see Jan Duursema drawing again.

    Now, how this connects to Madelyne’s appearance in the Spider-Man FCBD thing is fairly up in the air, but I expect Ayala and Wells are at least on the same page about it.

    I suspect the “blue thing” that Madelyne is handing Illyana is just a post-workout towel.

  3. Paul says:

    The Goblin feels to me like she’s intended to have parallels with both characters, as is the Queen of Echoes, since Madelyne isn’t really a sorcerer in her own right. Using the Goblin name seems weird otherwise in a story where you’ve got the Goblin Queen right there, and the whole name “Queen of Echoes” seems intended to suggest parallels. Though obviously the art on the QoE is closer to Madelyne.

  4. JD says:

    Eh, the Goblin standing in for Illyana felt fairly clear-cut ; her small horns even mirror the headdress on Magik’s Bachalo-designed costume. And everything the narration mentions makes much more sense as relating to Illyana (i.e. all three others agree to help her, not Madelyne).

    (The Queen of Echoes is Madelyne because she’s a clone, of course.)

    I have a strong suspicion that the mystery figure is actually another version of Illyana (cf. the fourth page showing them as a “possible path” for the Goblin ; yes, that’s Madelyne-related imagery, but I think the point is to further the parallels between her and Magik).

  5. Mike Loughlin says:

    So glad this book is back! The look on Illyana’s face when the Soul sword was shattered was both scary and heartbreaking. I think Illyana is trying to break free of her trauma under the guise of looking benevolent by offering Madeline a second chance. I’m glad we’re getting a story in which she can show some vulnerability and move beyond just being a snarky badass.

  6. Michael says:

    @Douglas- some people on Reddit pointed out that Madelyne’s costume in the FCBD story resembles the Queen of Echoes’s costume in the story and Madelyne is referred to as “Their queen”, not the Goblin Queen.And we saw that Goblin Illyana is real. My guess is that the Queen of Echoes is real too and she’ll absorb all the Goblin Queen evil from Maddie leaving a cured Maddie and an evil Queen. Just like with Kwannon and Psylocke.
    Alternately, Illyana mentioned that Maddie left an imprint behind in Limbo. And we were told that the goo Ben got dropped in is psychoactive. Maybe the goo can somehow bring an imprint to life, so the Maddie with Ben is the imprint, not the Maddie with the New Mutants.
    @JD- agreed it’s Illyana. The master says he knows “their quarry” better than S’ym, who’s known Illyana since childhood- who could that be but Illyana herself? And the cover for issue 28 shows a chained up Illyana and a smiling Maddie – that seems to be suggesting Maddie turning evil again but it could also be Maddie smiling now that they’ve chained up Evil Illyana.

  7. Si says:

    An amusing aside, did Marvel’s Hercules kill his family? It must go one of two ways. Either loveable ole Herc has done a lot of terrible things, or the myths are wrong. If the myths are wrong, I can see Thor just shrugging it off, but Herc would 100% have sat down with a Playboy reporter in the 70s and set the record straight over a rambling three day interview. Which would make studying the classics a waste of everyone’s time.

  8. Michael says:

    It would be nice to get a clear statement on why Maddie seems more rational than in Hellions 1-4. Did the Five fix her when they brought her back to life like they did with Domino? It’s annoying because Dani essentially asks the same question and we don’t get a clear answer.
    Even if teleporting is Illyana’s mutant power, it takes concentration and I imagine having your soul damaged makes it diffficult to concentrate.
    Re Illyana describing Maddie’s actions as madness- We know that Maddie became the Goblin Queen because she was tricked by S’ym in a dream and magically transformed but it’s possible Illyana doesn’t know- I can’t think of a scene where anyone mentions it in front of her. And Maddie seems to allude to it when she says that deals in Limbo are never what they seem. Since S’ym is one of the major villains in this arc, presumably we’ll see a confrontation between her and S’ym. The previews for the upcoming Jane Foster and the Mighty Thor series have S’ym trying to magically steal Jane’s sense of self, so obviously someone at Marvel remembers what S’ym did to Maddie.

  9. Michael says:

    @Si- Hercules DID kill his family in the Marvel Universe but sometimes he tells it like he was under a spell by Hera and sometime he tells it like he just lost his temper. When Amadeus Cho asked him about the contradiction, Herc said “Myths have what meaning you give them.”

  10. Michael says:

    The reason readers were so angry about what was done to Maddie back in the day was that what S’ym did to her was a form of rape. Maddie was magically turned into a completely different person. Maddie was turned from a conservatively dressed “good girl” into a half-naked bad girl seductress. And the story treated it like it was Maddie’s fault. We’re supposed to think “Maddie’s so slutty” when she sleeps with Alex but she was under the influence of a magic spell.
    But there’s another reason why Maddie’s transformation into the Goblin Queen has Unfortunate Implications. Women who suffer from post-partum OCD often have thoughts of trying to harm their babies. In reality, these mothers are no threat to their children. It’s avoiding the thoughts of harming their children that make it worse. In fact, the treatments often involve delibrarely thinking of harming their children. And some people can’t accept this answer. So, having Maddie getting turned into a psycho trying to kill her baby because she THOUGHT about revenge was, in modern terms, like Johnny Storm being turned into a villain after taking a coronavirus vaccine that was demonically tainted. Even if it made sense according to the internal logic of Marvel, it still is sending the wrong message.
    (The elephant in the room is that arguably the reason why postpartum OCD isn’t discussed as much as postpartum depression by feminists is because studies also show that mothers with postpartum OCD have their symptoms go out of control when they try to make SURE their babies don’t get hurt, when they err on the side of caution with respect to their babies’ safety a little too much. And there are also men with kinds of OCD that go out of control when they try to make SURE they have consent.And feminists don’t like talking about men with those conditions.)

  11. Mark Coale says:

    No one tell Hawkeye that Herc killed his family.

    /cross-pod promotion.

  12. Mark Coale says:

    No one tell Hawkeye that Herc killed his family.

    /cross-pod promotion

  13. Bengt says:

    I checked back in with this new arc starting and I quite liked it.

    The bearded guy ran off with a hairbrush with hair clearly drawn on it, so that will be probably be important, since using parts of someones body is often a thing in spells/potions. It also makes Magik seem kind of sloppy letting stuff like that lying around. They keep saying in this issue that she has complete control over Limbo but there have been plenty of uprisings so…

  14. Taibak says:

    Si: I’m not sure this is canon or not, but in JLA/Avengers, Wonder Woman accuses Herc of defiling Hippolyta and he doesn’t exactly deny it.

  15. Evilgus says:

    My reticence on focusing on Madelyne is diminishing returns – her arc is so damn tragic (though not without big problems), it needs to be a strong follow up.

    The challenge of clones, reformed villains etc on Krakoa is a really interesting one. I almost wish we were staying on the island and not zooming off to Limbo. There’s also something strange about Maddie wanting to be taken seriously while in her mad villain underboob get up.

  16. Luis Dantas says:

    I wonder where Vita Ayala is going with Magik and Maddie. This issue makes so many direct references to Inferno (a storyline 33 years old) and to the original Magik miniseries (even older) that I want to believe that she wants to address some of the issues regarding the two characters. It will be nice if she succeeds, although I am not betting on it. They are by now too settled into their perceived roles. In any case, I support character-oriented writing and Ayala is very much a practitioner.

    It is also nice to see some acknowledgement that Limbo is supposed to be littered with alternate and sometimes very twisted versions of past visitors.

    For well over a decade now Magik has been in this weird place: too convoluted a character to truly use, yet also too often used to truly ignore. Hopefully Vita Ayala has conceived some way out of that dilemma.

  17. Drew says:

    Giving Vita Ayala credit that this is part of the plot, but has ‘Yana remembered that her mutant power is intrinsically tied to Limbo? She doesn’t teleport places directly, she teleports first to Limbo, THEN to the destination. What if Maddie becomes queen and just decides, “No visitors”? Could she lock Magik out of using her own mutant power?

    Or maybe Illyana has just convinced herself (perhaps wrongly) that once she’s no longer associated with Limbo, her powers will change and she’ll be able to just teleport places directly? (But since that’s never been the case when other folks were in charge of Limbo, I’m not so sure that’s true.)

    The simplest answer, I suppose, is that the contract contains a provision that Illyana is always welcome to use Limbo while teleporting. She’d better retain a LITTLE magic power, though, or those visits could be dangerous.

  18. Drew says:

    “Si: I’m not sure this is canon or not, but in JLA/Avengers, Wonder Woman accuses Herc of defiling Hippolyta and he doesn’t exactly deny it.”

    If memory serves, he basically confirms he and Hippolyta had a relationship but implies that in the Marvel Universe, it was 100% consensual.

    Whether he’s RIGHT about that, who knows, but Marvel probably isn’t about to let a character they’d like to continue to use as a hero be a rapist, so either he’s right or it was Hera mind control and they’ll never address it again.

  19. Michael says:

    @Drew- Yeah, Busiek was having fun with the differences between Marvel and DC interpretations of Hercules in that sequence. In DC, Hercules raped Hippolyta. In Marvel, Hercules had consensual sex with Hippolyta and later stole a magic girdle from her. So, Wonder Woman is furious at Herc, while Herc unstandably thinks that Dianna’s anger is completely disproportionate to stealing something from an ex.

  20. PP says:

    And there are also men with kinds of OCD that go out of control when they try to make SURE they have consent.And feminists don’t like talking about men with those conditions.


  21. Si says:

    My personal headcanon, which I suspect will soon be invalidated, is that Magik’s mutant power created Limbo, as a simple extradimensional space to step to and from. But the wrinkle is, every Magik across the multiverse uses the *same* Limbo, adding their power to it until it becomes a vast, chaotic space out of the control of any one Magik. As seen in Exiles, some realities experience time at vastly different rates to others, causing Limbo time to be unpredictable.

    So you get other reality versions of Storm living there, and child Illyana being there at the same time as teen Darkchilde, and all the other weirdness. Magik knows this and deliberately avoids all the other versions of herself, as do they.

  22. Michael says:

    @PP- I’m sorry- I realized I should have worded that differently after I wrote it. The point is that women with postpartum OCD become afraid of harming their children and become anxious and guilt ridden when they try to be certain they haven’t or won’t. And men with other kinds of OCD became afraid of harming women sexually and become anxious and guilt ridden when they try to be certain they haven’t or won’t. Now, obviously this doesn’t mean that the man with sexual OCD needs to act like Harvey Weinstein, anymore than it means the woman with postpartum OCD needs to let her child play in traffic. But it does mean that in both cases. they need to take SMALL risks.
    Here’s a blog post describing how OCD works:
    (And relating it back to Maddi, read the section on Imaginal Exposure.)

  23. April Arcus says:

    The AoA version of Illyana is able to teleport directly into the M’kraan Crystal in “X-Men Omega” without passing through Limbo.

    My read is that our Illyana’s connection to Limbo is a post-traumatic artifact of the premature activation of her powers. Limbo is the first place she teleported and the place where she honed her teleportation abilities, so it’s the place she remains best at teleporting to and goes back to under stress, sort of like a muscle cramping up to protect an injured joint.

    AoA Illyana might have developed the same relationship with the White Hot Room, if that version of her had continued to exist.

    I imagine that without her defining trauma, Illyana could have learned to teleport anywhere.

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