What kind of idiots think that it’s a good idea to break into the home of the Sorcerer Supreme? These idiots, that’s who.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #5
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Cover Artists: Ryan Stegman and Michael Garland
Colorists: Michael Garland and Andrew Crossley
What You Need to Know:
Hot on the trail of the evil Tran, the New Mutants are attempting to anticipate where the disembodied devil will strike next.
What You’ll Find Out:
The issue opens with a shot of The New Mutants standing outside of 177A Bleecker Street. They’re all wearing their street clothes and Rictor is complaining about being made to work on his day off. Illyana rings the doorbell and when Dr. Strange fails to answer, she uses her Soul Sword to break the magical seals so they can enter. Guido questions the ethics (and intelligence) of breaking into the home of the Sorcerer Supreme and Illyana deflects the question, saying that since it’s a big house, they’ll have to split up if they want to find the object that Tran needs in order to re-enter the living world.
They each pick a corridor and head down it, Ilyana’s warning not to touch anything echoing in their ears.
The readers follow Rictor, first. He finds himself in an arboretum, talking to a pair of very snarky snakes. These snakes (whose green and black coloring matches Rictor’s clothes, implying that they exist for his benefit) insult his appearance (‘aging hipster Harry Potter’ won zinger of the year, for me) before leaping off of their branches and knocking him to the floor.
The next page follows Rahne and Strong Guy as the latter follows the former down a red-carpeted corridor. Rahne is absolutely out of patience with Guido. He apologizes once again for murdering her son while he was possessed. She (absolutely understandably) isn’t at all ready to forgive him and she sends him away down a different corridor so that she can explore on her own.
While this is going on, Tabitha wanders into the kitchen (typically ignoring everything unusual that falls outside of her ken — including the skulls that sit on the shelves alongside the teragon) and she raids the refrigerator, complaining about how this job is wasting her day.
As for Illyana, as usual, she cuts directly to the heart of the matter. She enters the office of Dr. Strange and the man himself appears, floating over his desk. He asks her what she’s doing here, and when she responds that she had reason to believe that Tran was seeking out an object in Strange’s possession, he asks, ‘Did it never dawn on you that you might have been lied to?’
The next page switches back to Boom Boom who has located a cache of beer (Mystic Ale, natch), chips, and hummus. She’s also located the TV room. Talking to herself, she asks, ‘Where’s the clicker?’ and absolutely misses the fact that some unseen (but apparently friendly spirit) has levitated it to her. She turns on the TV (‘Agent Carter’ is on) and when a clearly spectral basset hound joins her on the sofa, she absolutely fails to notice that it’s very dead. She offers it hummus.
All in all, I think that Boom Boom got the best deal, here. Pity she was totally oblivious to it.
While Tabitha vegges out with a decomposed dachshund, Rhane is having a considerably more terrifying time. She’s running through a montage of her own nightmares, as drawn by Escher. Guido stabs her through the heart with a pitchfork, her former abuser shaves her head and threatens torture, she sees herself, in human form, her mouth bloody. The real Rahne runs as fast as she can, seeing these scenes, the real Guido chases after her. She hurls herself through this hell-scape, seeking an exit, and instead, she finds Guido who breaks down and tells her what it was like to see himself murdering her child, without being able to stop. Guido is a very simple man, ultimately, and he doesn’t know how to handle these brutal metaphysics. He falls at her feet, weeping uncontrollably.
Rahne is a Catholic. She understands the complexity of guilt, and she’s much more moved to ease the pain of others than to wallow in the mire of herself. She takes him in her arms and comforts him and the room stops spinning as the nightmares blackout, washed away to mere walls.
On the next page, Steven Strange and Illyana are engaged in a terse debate about her motives. It feels very similar to her encounter with the pseudo-Dani Moonstar in the previous issue.
Strange asks her if she is certain that her human self is in control. He goads her into drawing her Soul Sword and drawing out the Darkchild. Illyana does it, revealing herself in hooves, horns, and terrible armor, as the Sorcerer taunts her to stab herself with her blade to slaughter her Daemon self once and for all, freeing the girl.
She’s about to strike him with the blade, but before she can complete the action, Guido leaps into the room, knocking her to the floor. He tells her that he won’t let her murder, Dr. Strange. Dr. Strange tells him to fight Illyana because ‘The demon is all that is left!’ Guido is about to comply, but before he can, Rhane (in her werewolf form) stops him. She tells Guido to let her go. Guido says, ‘Look at her. She’s a monster.’ Rahne replies, ‘We all are.’ and Guido lets Illyana stand.
The three of them turn to fight Dr. Strange, and the real monster lets his mask drop, revealing himself to be Tran. He tells them that Illyana let him in herself, breaking the magical seals with her sword, and he tells them that his sister picked them for her crew to serve as a distraction while she engages in her own nefarious plots.
After a brief fight, Tran captures the three mutants with his magic, wrapping Illyana in a magic mirror, leveling a series of knives at Guido, and binding Rhane with fire. Luckily, this is the point when Rictor enters, wrapped in his snarky snakes and carrying a magical gem which binds Tran to a human body. Tran, now a naked human, calls him an idiot, saying that this was the very thing that he wanted to find because he’s even more powerful now that he has a form with which to channel his magic.
Illyana, now human again, herself, opens up a stepping disk which will send him to Limbo. Tran fights it, but Guido (his massive body embedded with swords and knives) grabs him around the waist and holds him while Illyana finishes her spell. Rhane protests at the fact that they have to leave Guido in hell since Illyana can’t open the portal again without letting Tran out. So they leave the Sanctum Sanctorum, collecting Tabby from the living room on their way out.
Tabitha, typically, complains that she missed all of the action and Illyana points out that the dog she was chilling with was totally dead.
As a group, they agree to confront Karma about her brother’s accusations.
The final two pages shift suddenly to Canterbury, Connecticut where the boy we last saw exploding Warlock two issues ago is running into his bathroom, scrubbing madly at his face. He’s got techno-organic matter spreading all over his skin. His mother calls to him, worried, from outside the door, asking him, ‘What’s the matter?’ Before he can answer, his powers ignite. The resulting explosion eradicates half the house.
What Just Happened:
This issue continues its near-perfect balancing act, supporting humor, impeccable action, and shocking psychological depth. This is a horror story wrapped around a therapy session, and I absolutely love it. The New Mutants have been around for a while, as characters. They’ve grown from awkward adolescents to capable (if occasionally goofy) adults, and they all have their share of scars. So many comics are happy to traumatize their characters and then just let them bounce back from their pain, utterly unchanged, and that hasn’t happened here.
Rhane began as a sweet, naive, extraordinarily religious girl who was so traumatized by people’s reaction to her mutation that she hid from any and all shades of emotional or ethical complexity by transforming into a wolf — a creature of instinct and very simple emotions. She’s grown into a capable fighter. She found a parent in Moira, and she’s dealt with the death of that parent. She’s been a mother and she’s lost her child.
She was, understandably, enraged at the loss of that child (even though the murder was not Guido’s fault) but because she is who she is (a deeply loyal person whose personal faith requires her to forgive the people who have harmed her) she was willing to work with the person who had caused her an extraordinary amount of pain.
Because she is who she is, she was incapable of turning away from the chance to comfort a person who was suffering from a spiritual agony that was beyond his ken. This page was absolutely perfect, in its representation of Rhane’s character:
In short, this series is (painfully, slowly) forcing its characters to grow.
All except for Tabby. You can’t plant an oak tree in ten inches of topsoil. She is what she is, and what she shall be forever.
This issue was absolutely packed with wonderful little character moments. Tabby’s interaction with the ghost dog absolutely floored me. Rictor’s confrontation with his own inner insecurity (in the form of those snarky serpents — the mythological bringers of knowledge) was the best kind of awkward, and I loved the fact that Ilyana’s strengths and greatest weaknesses are turning out to be the exact same things. She cannot let anyone in. She is so self-reliant that she is endangering, repeatedly endangering, the people who depend on her to lead and protect them.
One gets the feeling that the final act of this series is going to be absolutely brutal.
As for the art, it’s been impressively executed from the very beginning. The characters are expressive without deteriorating into cartoons and each panel is laden with a full measure of (uncluttered) detail. The layout is absolutely perfect. I was especially impressed with the way that Rhane’s nightmare contorted and branched until she remembered who she was and the world calmed down.
I am very interested in reading the conclusion. I expect it to be very intense.
Final Thought: This issue is a perfect balance of humor, horror, and character development. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.
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