Thursday, 25 October 2012

New Mutants #8-#11: Moon and Earth

We've bypassed Manaus, and instead join our New Mutants in the Amazon rainforest in New Mutants #8. SpaceSquid covered this only two days ago, and quotes me calling it "profoundly offensive racist garbage", which I totes stand by.1 By the way, the story does actually use the word "rainforest", which made me look up that on Google Ngram viewer, and yes, it seems that was just before it doubled in popularity in the late 1980s, so well done, Claremont, have a cookie.

Anyway, Rahne is not dealing well with the heat (and, if her skin is as much like mine as it seems, I hope she's wearing sunscreen). Soon enough, they encounter a girl named "Amara", seemingly from a local tribe, but with strange arrows. One is from the Hivoto, from the Peru portrayed in the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and another of Jivaro origin, who Nina identifies as being local but in reality are from Peru/Ecuador. Amara's knife, however, is of steel!

So, there's an incident with the boats, and the New Mutants end up captured by Romans, who are living in a city ("Nova Roma") in an isolated valley (once more, we find something you can't really do these days - if this existed you'd be able to see it on Google Maps), and our captive Amara is revealed to be one of these Romans. She'd been in blackface and a wig, and really is white and blonde - which sigh, if they had to do this, couldn't they just have drawn her as a southern Italian and spared us that disguise crap? And she speaks English after all (to Rahne's great embarrassment), and gives her full name as "Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla", exile and daughter of the first senator, one Lucius Antonius Aquilla. The city is part-Roman (to those the republican aspects are ascribed), but also accepted some Incas centuries again, who brought with them some tendencies towards despotism (because Romans certainly never do that sort of thing). Sigh.

Now, this is profoundly offensive garbage, and it is simply not a defence to say that it was of its time, and they weren't to know better. A letter printed in #19 outlines, with perfect clarity, the problem with this story.

Dear Marvel,

THE NEW MUTANTS is a pretty good book, but the plotline starting in #8 is atrocious. As a black person myself, I'm sick and tired of these storylines that place lost Roman legions or other whites in the jungle whenver it starts to appear that the so-called "savage" tribes have any intelligence. You've turned the clock back decades with that old bull about how the Amazon tribeswoman turn out to be whites wearing some kind of dye because their knives show sophisticated workmanship. I hope in the future you at Marvel will avoid such cliche-ridden worn-out racist stories when the action takes place in a non-Western country or culture (the New Mutants story takes place in an area where Western civilization hasn't arrived yet.)

Quentin Sinclair

(no address)

Do they acknowledge it's a problem and apologise? Nope. They defend the storyline elements, and say they hadn't consciously meant to be racist, as if that makes it any better. They do at least concede that the hybrid nature of the culture was only marginally apparent in the finished story, and note they'll do better in the future. But the hybrid nature, with democratic Romans and despotic Incas is half the problem!

Because it's a Roman story made out of pure condensed trope, and the protagonists have become captives, the boys are taken to Gladiator Academy, while the girls are pampered and drugged prior to be sold off as slaves.

Just as the boys face defeat, Rahne breaks loose from her drugging, shapeshifts, and saves them. This is the cause of some comment - they reckon her lupine abilities come to her from the line of Romulus. Heh. So, having gone through the being-gladiators-and-slaved-tropes, one of their number gets hailed as a living god. They've been saved courtesy of Senator Gallio, who is Lucius's rival and covets the Emperorship. He's married to Selene, who turns out to be an ancient moon sorceress slash living vampire. She wants to recruit Dani and kill Amara.

Amara, having been tossed into a lava pool, is reborn in molten form, and then battles Selene. Lucky, really. I wonder whether she might be a more long-term version of Darwin. If she'd have been drowned, would she have become Hydro?

They all rally round, put a stop to Selene and Gallio's plans, rescue Bobby's mother, and generally huzzah!

I was originally slightly puzzled by Emmanuel's plan: he wants to exploit the mineral wealth of Amazonas, and so therefore is sabotaging his wife's archaeological expedition. Amazonas is, well, a big place, larger than say, Mongolia. Towards the end it's strongly implied that he knew about Nova Roma already, and that it specifically would be a good place for mining, so that clears that up partially.

Having a random Roman colony in Brazil is very weird, even by the standards of X-Men, but this is not given the appropriate level of remarkableness in-comic. How did these people get here? Doesn't this change everything we know about history? Why do they speak English? For that matter, why do they speak classical Latin, anyway, rather than some previously unknown Quechua-Italic contact language? These are questions that are not even asked, let alone answered, in the story. (The letters page for #19 provides a feeble excuse that they'd learned English from previous expeditions, without explaining why, or why not Portuguese.)

1. This of course means I've caught up! At least as far as New Mutants goes. For Uncanny it'll take until the end of the month. I'm cheating by not doing Alpha Flight and Dazzler, but I will be covering everything else I can get my hands on, including the Magik: Storm and Illyana miniseries (coming Saturday), Kitty Pryde & Wolverine (13th November), X-Men & Alpha Flight (19th November), and then eventually doing X-Factor (2nd December) in full when it launches. I cannot find the Nightcrawler limited series, sadly. I fail to care about Longshot but will possibly consider it if recommended. X-Men vs. Fanstatic Four is in Essential, but I need to get hold of X-Men vs. Avengers, which is possibly rare, or at least hard to Google for now, THANK YOU MARVEL. Oh, and I have a copy of Fallen Angels already. Anything else I am missing from my list?

From this you can perhaps tell that I have got a LITTLE BIT AHEAD in my reading and writing, such that I've already started in 2013 posts and have only got five left to complete in 2012. This is good.


  1. Congratulations on overtaking me :) I feel like an old man, weighed down with rocks and horseshoes, staggering up a hill whilst you skip by, waving happily.

    1. Thanks!

      I get the feeling that in a few months you'll still be pottering on carefully, and find me collapsed and burned out by the side of the path.

      (If I carry on at this rate I will have got to 1998 by the end of 2013, I see. Unless I skip the 1990s, which is becoming increasingly tempting.)

  2. I don't think the difference between us is care, so much as brevity. And like you, I am terrified of the idea of tackling the '90s. It was traumatic enough just reading Not Blog X - wonderful as it is - I dread to think how agonising it will be to attempt to replicate the process.

    1. Ooh, I wasn't aware of that blog. I'll have to have a look-see.

      I'm going to have to keep it down to only the core titles (so, Uncanny, X-Men, plus X-Factor, Excalbur, bit of Wolverine, and then Generation X when that starts; so no X-Force, X-Man, Cable, Deadpool beyond perhaps their #1s), and be even more of a grouper than a splitter when it comes to arcs.

      Must not just skip from X-Men #3 to #114. That would be bad.

  3. Anything else I am missing from my list?

    There's the X-Men/Micronauts limited series, which takes right before Secret Wars, but that's probably harder to find than X-Men vs. Avengers.

    And "Not Blog X" is definitely worth a look. It's a fantastic look at the crappy (and not so crappy) 90s.

    1. Ooh, yes. That's probably worthwhile doing if I can find it, if only to talk of those strange-seeming days when you could sell toys by featuring them in comics!

      Hello, and welcome, by the way!

    2. Thanks! And allow me to extend a belated hello and welcome to you as well, something I should have done earlier on my blog.