Monday, September 13, 2010

New Mutants Forever #2 - Brazilian Carnival and Nazis

I know this book came out last week, but cut me a break. It was hard to find. New Mutants Forever is one of those titles that nobody is giving any attention or going out of their way to promote. In essence, it is the Stephen Baldwin of comic books. Chris Claremont is an X-men writing legend and he's been trying to expand that legend with X-men Forever and this mini, New Mutants Forever. While X-men Forever has the problem of trying to do to much and doing it poorly, New Mutants Forever tries to do just enough and does it right (so far anyways). The first issue was a real treat, bringing the old school New Mutants back into the fold with the Hellfire Club, including Magneto and Emma Frost, and throwing in a twist at the end that was the equivalent of a jackhammer to the eye socket. Amara and Doug, Magma and Cypher for all you codename minded people, were abducted by forces from Amara's home city of Nova Roma and the asshole behind it was none other than the Red Skull. Yeah, that Red Skull. It's a Forever title damn it! It can get away with prying other characters from other Marvel titles!

The next issue has to measure up to a bar that was set pretty damn high. Few probably came into New Mutants Forever expecting a twist like that. With the second issue, it's impossible to pull a twist like that again without revealing the Red Skull is working for fucking Cobra Commander or something. Since that's not Chris Claremont's style, that's not to be expected. However, it does amp up the expectations of this book and this series as a whole. Usually Chris Claremont measures up, especially when it comes to the X-men. But if there's one thing X-men Forever has proven, it's that he is capable of tarnishing his own legacy.

The second issue starts off with some nice eye-candy. In the previous issue, not all the New Mutants participated in the battle against the Red Skull. Roberto and Warlock were not there for the fight. They were down in Roberto's home country of Brazil enjoying the sexy and obscenely suggestive Carnival that is so well known to those who watch Brazilian porn. So the guy blew off the New Mutants for a chance at attending a party of dancing, partying, and shaved pussy. Most honest guys would admit they would have done the same.

While the glorious celebration of debauchery is going on, Roberto's mother is in a bit of trouble. She's being chased by some very non-Brazilian looking thugs and you know they're not Brazilian because they're not all that sexy. Even for a woman who looks old enough to be knitting sweaters in her spare time, Roberto's mom sure can kick ass. Warlock, who is in the disguise of a guy who looks like a cross between Fabio and a gay porn star, traces the signal to find out where she is.

It is probably the only time Warlock can pull off one of this bizarre body/machine contortions and not draw any attention. During Carnival in Brazil where Lady Gaga could probably casually walk down the street and act like she's under-dressed, a stunt like this turns about as much heads as a C-SPAN marathon. With Warlock's help, Roberto arrives to save his mother but not before she gets shot. That's how you know these guys are Nazi thugs. They always do something that earns them no sympathy for when they have to get their asses kicked. Sunspot and Warlock deliver, helping make up for the lack of action they saw in the first issue and beat down on the Nazi's in a style all Call of Duty fans would appreciate.

Once the Nazi's are taken care of, they get Sunspot's mother some needed medical treatment. Since Sunspot's family is rich and all, even by non-Brazilian standards, she gets the kind of care only Dick Cheney would enjoy in a lopsided health care system. She gets a clean bill of health, much to Sunspot's relief. While she's recovering, she makes the connections between this event and what happened in the previous issue.

The last issue introduced an unfolding mystery on Nova Roma, Amara's home city. Amara's father tried to seek help from the New Mutants (which ended up getting completely fucked up, but I already went over that in a previous review) while the DaCosta family tried to get support from the Brazilian government. The bad guys working against them did not like that so like all Nazis, their solution is to exterminate it. That's how she ended up getting chased and shot. So now the burden is on Sunspot and the New Mutants to take care of the rest. It's either that or go to the government. When given the choice between a bunch of super-powered teenagers and the government, it's a pretty clear choice. At least the super-powered teenagers are only emotionally unstable and not completely unstable on top of being grossly incompetent.

The story then finally picks up with Amara and Doug, who were last seen as captives of the Red Skull. This is still the case and the Red Skull is smart enough to give them power suppressing collars as well. They quickly find out that they're not alone in their imprisonment either. A very strapping young man named Tiberius Sum is in the cell with them and he quickly captures Amara's fancy, much to Doug's chagrin. He claims to be another one of the Red Skull's captives, but the man's name is Tiberius. That's the same name of a perverted old Roman Emperor who used to have pre-pubescent boys nibble on his body so he could get his rock off. Not a good name to take, even by liberal Roman standards. But that doesn't stop Amara from trusting him, or wanting to jump is bone either.

Never one to let his prisoners get comfortable, the Red Skull makes his appearance to Doug and Amara. Rather than do the standard evil boasting that often involves blatantly revealing his plan, the Red Skull skips right to his epic douche-baggery. He starts by using the collars to shock Amara and Tiberius (the non perverted version) and then grabs Doug by the neck. He doesn't drop any hints to what he's doing or why he's doing it. He basically comes off as a guy just looking to be an overall asshole. That's not to say he doesn't do a good job of it though. With Doug in his hands, he injects him with a needle that does not seem to contain pure Brazilian cocaine. Instead, it puts Doug through a gruesome transformation, one that turns him into a mini-Red Skull. So in essence Red Skull is making all those around him look just like him. It's a very Nazi thing to do even if it is fucked up.

Al Rio's art really shines here. He goes from something that's very grotesque to some nice scenery to so that readers have a moment to swallow their bile. The story pans out over Nova Roma, which looks like something straight out of the History Channel minus the Peter King narration and shitty sound effects. This is where the events of the first two issues come together. Selene, Sam, and Illyana decided to make their trip to Nova Roma at the end of the first issue while Sunspot and Warlock decided to do the same in this issue. They just happen to appear right next to each other in the same damn alley of the city. Yeah, it's pretty contrived, but it's a comic book. This shit happens no matter who is writing it. At least it brings the team together in a way that feels semi-fluid. Stranger coincidences have happened I guess.

They don't have to go too far to get to the action though. Within a few panels of meeting one another, they find what they're looking for. It's another surprise, but not one nearly as mind-blowing as the end of the previous issue. Just as Selene is about to lead an assault on the palace of Nova Roma, they're confronted by Amara, Doug, and Tiberius. Except they're not exactly happy to see them. They've been indoctrinated as the Nazis would call it. Doug is now his in his new Red Skull look, Tiberius is sporting a swastikas on his toga, and Amara is in a new sexy Nazi get-up that proves once and for all that even assholes like the Red Skull can have some damn sexy fashion sense. It sets the stage for a clash between the New Mutants and their brain washed friends. It's about as exciting as it sounds, even if it seems cliched. Compared to the first issue, it evokes more of a shrug than a gasp. It's still pretty awesome though and gives just enough reason to check out the next issue (if you can find it).

So again, the Forever titles show that it is possible for nostalgia to still be pretty awesome. While New Mutants Forever isn't getting the same attention X-men Forever is, one could make the argument that this is the better book. The art is solid, the story is better structured, and the twists and turns have really set this book apart from other New Mutant stories. Chris Claremont once again shows that when it comes to Marvel's marry band of mutants, he's always going to be one of the best. He still uses some techniques that went out of style before Kurt Cobain overdosed in 1994 like excessive thought bubbles and wordy narration, but it's not overdone here and feels like a real New Mutants story that fits just as well in 2010 as it would have in 1988.

There were some surprises, but nothing compared to the surprises of the first issue. In addition, this issue did nothing to answer any questions or even so much as hint at the answers. The Red Skull's plan is still completely unknown. There wasn't even a hint of what he was after. Everything he did just seemed to have no reason behind it other than being the arrogant jerk he's always been. That's probably the book's greatest shortcoming. The characterization and story of the New Mutants is great, but the story about the challenges they're facing is underdeveloped. There are still three issues to flesh this out, but a few hints sure would have helped.

There's still a lot to enjoy with this book. That's why I give New Mutants Forever #2 a 4.5 out of 5. Chris Claremont still has it! He's outlasted Michael Jackson and Nirvana with his comic book brilliance. Here's to hoping he'll outlast the likes of Lady Gaga and Kanye West as well! Nuff said.

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