A flight ends in a fiery crash while a demon runs amok. Some New Mutants escaped the wreck, but will any of them survive the fight to come?
New Mutants Dead Souls #4
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Cover Artists: Ryan Stegman & Michael Garland
Colorist: Michael Garland
What You Need to Know:
Five former students of Charles Xavier, led by Magik, have been gathered together by Karma, a friend-turned-CEO of a major corporation, and hired to solve paranormal mysteries. Called in to stop a riot on an airplane, the New Mutants discover that Karma’s long-dead brother has somehow taken over the body of the pilot. Before Magik could act on this intel, the plane crashed into the countryside while she and Rictor were still inside the cockpit.
What You’ll Find Out:
When the last issue left off, Magik had attempted to save her friends from going down with the wreck by teleporting them to safety. Rictor remained with her, against her wishes, and they attempted to wrangle control of the flight from Tran — the dead demon infesting the body of the pilot.
It didn’t work.
This issue opens with Strong Guy, Prodigy, Wolfsbane, and Boom Boom running towards the fiery remains of the aircraft. There are already rescue workers at hand, and they try to prevent Strong Guy from running into the fire, but Boom Boom tells them to ‘Just let him go.’ He enters the flames.
On the next page, Rahne transforms into her werewolf state, sniffing the air, before shifting into her fully wolf-form and running off into the woods where she finds Magik, curled into a fetal position, among the roots of a tree. Looking down at the ground, Magik says, ‘I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t save Rictor.’
The next page opens with Magik staring, blank-eyed, out of a field of black. She says, ‘Please help me.’
She’s speaking to Kitty, who is helping her get ready for the funeral. Magik is wearing a borrowed black dress. They talk about nothing (Kitty’s trying to goad her into a smile) while Magik tries and fails to apply eyeliner.
Kitty takes over for her friend, applying the cosmetic and telling Magik that she’s a good leader. Illyana weeps off her makeup and says that she got Rictor killed.
Kitty assures her that she is, despite her protests, and pulls her friend into an intimate hug. Illyana asks, ‘Why are you so much better at this than me?’ Smiling, Kitty replies,’I’m better at everything than you.’ It’s an ominous note to end a passage on, but it’s almost in character for the kind of person that Kitty’s become.
The next page opens at the funeral. Shatterstar is speaking. Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Kitty, Strong Guy, Dani Moonstar, and Legion are in the front row. There’s a space between Danie and Legion, and she offers it to Illyana. Illyana refuses and sits alone in an empty row in the back until Shatterstar calls her to the front to speak.
This is unexpected. She isn’t prepared for it.
She walks, awkwardly, to the podium past a full congregation (one which contains a few subtly incongruous faces) and it’s clear that Illyana doesn’t want to do this. She pushes through anyway, talking about what it means to be a leader, before breaking down and running away from the podium.
On the next page, she’s sitting on the steps of the Xavier Institute, her head in her hands. Her brother comes to offer her a drink, but she’s already got half a bottle of whiskey. Colossus quotes Steinbeck (a master of making boxes in which to store your grief) and Illyana shuts him down.
Colossus takes a long swig of the whiskey and asks if she wants to talk about it. Illyana says that she doesn’t, but she tells him what’s bothering her anyway. She tells him that she feels like a failure, that she’s ‘not the strongest X-Man or the fastest. Or smartest.’ but she thought that she was the one you could trust in a crisis. Colossus tells her that she is, that they trust her, and she stalks off saying, ‘Tell that to Rictor.’
The first thing that she encounters on the next page is Rahne, in her werewolf state, attacking Strong Guy for murdering her son when he was out of control of his body. Magik breaks up the fight and sends them both away.
Guido allows himself to be led off by Nightcrawler, but Rahne remains. She confronts Magik about her inadequacy as a leader, stating that it was cruel of her to put Rahne on a team with Guido, knowing what had happened between them. Rahne screams, ‘Don’t ya even care about that? About any of us?’ She follows that up with, ‘No wonder you let Rictor die!’
Dani tries to help, leading Magik into the institute. They start talking about what happened on the plane. Magik tells Dani that Tran is back from the dead and she was planning on sending him to Limbo. Dani asks her if she ever thought about asking Tran what he wanted, and Magik responds by asking why Dani wasn’t involved in this team from the get-go since she was Karma’s closest friend. Sensing something wrong in Dani’s response, Magik repeats her question more aggressively. Rogue accuses her of causing a scene, and Magik draws her soul sword, ready to stab Dani, but Kitty steps between them saying, ‘she’s one of us!’
The next page is a full-page spread. Magik impales both Kitty and Dani with her sword, saying, ‘I know you aren’t here for me now.’ Kitty, now with glowing eyes, responds, ‘You’re very impressive, Illyana.’
And just like that, we’re back on the plane. Illyana has stabbed Tran (and therefore, also, the pilot whose body he’s hijacked) through the heart. Tran says, ‘I hope you understand why I need you dead, now.’ and departs, revealing a shot of the rapidly approaching ground.
Rictor runs through the door asking, ‘Did you kill the +£@&£ pilot?’
Magik hugs him, quickly, but then they get to work trying to pull the plane out of its dive.
Rictor can’t do it, so Illyana opens a stepping disk just above the field and the plane vanishes through it.
The next page tells us that nine days have passed. Karma and Prodigy are searching for them by helicopter. Shan tells Prodigy that Illyana’s teleportation is not linear so the plane might have time traveled, and just as she says it, they find the wreck. It’s landed, relatively safely, in the ocean. The passengers have survived.
Prodigy asks if Illyana’s survival means that he should ask the ‘second team’ (this is the first we’ve heard about that) to stand down. Shan says no because she has some questions for ‘our dear Ms. Rasputin.’
The final two pages of the book represent a radical change from the rest of the story. They shunt the readers back to a hut on the outskirts of Connecticut where a group of mutant-phobic teens have flushed Warlock out from hiding. They have been beating him. One of the teenagers was being abused for being a suspected mutant and when Warlock recognized him as being one, in fact, the boy turned his anger and frustration on the cybernetic mutant. Fending off the attack, Warlock asked, ‘Why do you harm/damage Warlock?’ Terrified, the boy’s powers activated and flames erupted around him, engulfing Warlock, who shorted out and seemed to crumble into dust. The final panel depicts the boy, sitting, baffled and stained, among the ashes of the mechanical mutant.
What Just Happened:
Mainstream comics rarely take deep-dives into the psyches of their heroes, and that’s a shame because it’s amazing when they do. We love these characters as much for their flaws, the weaknesses that they overcome (or fail to overcome) as much as we do for the violent spectacle of explosive full-page spreads or their fantastic powers.
Illyana Rasputin is a complex and complicated person. She’s suffered greatly and, over the years, she has caused much suffering. As a result, she has spent much of her life trying, and often failing, to be a better person. When she was a child, she was kidnapped and her innocence was torn from her, brutally. The people who loved her were unable to protect her. An evil man ripped her open and attempted to carve her body into his own hollow image. Her history, and the armor that she wears (both literally and figuratively) as a response to that history, generates a deep resonance with many wounded people — especially, notably, rape survivors. Including the rape-survivor writing this review.
Illyana wants, more than anything, to be there for people in order to make up for the fact that no one was there for her when she needed it. She says in this issue while talking to the simulacrum of her brother created by the demon Tran, that she wanted to be the X-Man you could depend on in a crisis. And she is that.
She specializes in holding in, in blocking out. She’s skilled in the art of giving strength without taking anything back and this issue did a fantastic job of showing the ways in which that attitude will slowly, inexorably hollow you out.
People who are profoundly wounded in a specific, deeply intimate way often respond by giving everything they have to protecting others while at the same time remaining absolutely incapable of accepting any help or support which is offered to them in return. They refuse because admitting that you need help is a sign of weakness, and they will not be weak, they will never allow themselves to be vulnerable, ever again.
But acting so implacably strong will fundamentally weaken you — unless you learn to drop your armor and open up. In this narrative cycle, Illyana is learning, slowly, to drop her shield. That’s a good thing, even if the breakthrough comes at the hands of a demon who is trying very hard to kill her.
There are many other praiseworthy aspects of this book to cover. I liked the sincere emotion delivered by the fake-out funeral — deliciously undermined, as it was, by slight, intentional visual incongruities. I believed in the illusion, at first, as I was meant to. The revelation of Tran’s trickery was a wonderful relief.
The tone of this book veers carefully between humor and anxiety, easing into terror. This is absolutely appropriate for the story and for the characters involved.
The writing is tight enough, nuanced enough, to draw the readers into the scene and hold them in a delicious state of suspended disbelief. The art is detailed, painterly, and occasionally arresting.
The only flaw, in this issue, that I could see was the two-page inclusion of Warlock’s side-story. I realize that the writer is setting things up for the next part of the story (when Warlock will inevitably reveal himself to be alive and rejoin the team) but the shift was jarring and unpleasant after the emotional tempest on the previous pages. That’s a small quibble, though, and it doesn’t detract from the power of the larger story.
Final Thought: This story balances on the knife-edge between humor and anxiety. It’s a series full of guts, horror, and a lot of heart. Plus a few drunk Russians.
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