Ahh, the eighties. I think I've gone on record as saying that I think the mid-eighties were the true Golden Age of Comics. Everybody who reads comics probably thinks that the comics they read when they were growing up were the greatest ever - I just happen to be correct.
New Mutants Annual #3 is from one of my favorite eras of X-Men comics, when there was just a relative handful of X-Men books, Magneto was (briefly) the headmaster of Xavier's School, Alan Davis was drawing Excalibur for the first time, and Marvel put out these great "giant-sized" annuals. And you know what? They actually were giant-sized. The X-annuals were all one big-ass story, not a weak sixteen-page inventory story and a bunch of reprints. They were all killer, no filler.
This particular issue features the "classic" New Mutants line-up of 1987, including Warlock, the naive shape-changing alien child with the strange syntax. While headmaster Magneto is away, the New Mutants receive a visit at their school from the nigh-omnipotent Impossible Man, who is sort of the Marvel universe version of the Superman foe Mr. Mxyzptlk (suck on that, Microsoft spellcheck!)
The Impossible Man basically just wants to screw with the X-Men, who are not around. The New Mutants aren't interested in playing his reindeer games, but he goads Warlock into a global shape-shifting contest - and the morphing wackiness begins.
This issue was written by Chris Claremont, naturally, with art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary. Glynis Oliver colored the book, and Tom Orzechowski lettered it. I mention all these people because the production value on this book is very high - it's just a tight, well-illustrated comic created by people who knew what the hell they were doing. Davis and Neary rule, of course, but the coloring and lettering on this book are exceptional.
Okay, enough gushing. Let's make fun of Chris Claremont.
I'm not the first person to point out that Chris Claremont's writing is often characterized by particular recurring idioms, phrases, and gimmicks that are known as "Claremontisms." You know what I'm talking about:
- "I'm the best there is at what I do - and what I do ain't pretty."
- "Your choice - your funeral."
- "This is gonna HURT!"
- "No quarter asked, none received."
- "Body and soul."
- "My psychic knife - the summoned totality of my psi-powers!"
- "With a vengeance!"
- "Mmm... corn!"
Woah. I was supposed to be making fun of Claremont. That last paragraph reads suspiciously like praise. Quick! Let's look at an amusing panel.
The New Mutants follow The Impossible Man and Warlock to Brazil, where they blend in to the beach crowd. As usual in the dialogue-heavy X-books, nearly every character who appears in a panel gets some dialogue, some of which is quite funny. Can you spot the Claremontism?
"Please, Lord, don't let anyone notice how tight my suit is!"
Our bathing-suit clad heroes find Impossible Man and Warlock, who have decided upon a non-violent approach to their shape-shifting contest:
Please note that Impossible Man is wearing flesh-colored make-up during this scene. I have to mention that for reasons that will become clear shortly.
More wackiness ensues, as the New Mutants teleport around the world trying to rein in the two tussling titans. The Impossible Man and Warlock slug it out, changing shape in damn near every panel. It's not exactly funny (which I think was the intention) but it is light-hearted, and the Alan Davis art doesn't hurt matters.
Finally, our heroes figure out a way for Warlock to win the contest. The two shapeshifters are decimating a city in the form of Godzilla and Red Ronin when the mutants figure out that there is one thing that Warlock can do that the Impossible Man can't. Get your mind out of the gutter, this is an all-ages book.
Voila! Warlock changes color and wins the contest. In a lame denouement, the two aliens mention that they fix all the damage they caused during their game. Uh-huh. Riiight.
So there it is. New Mutants Annual #3: a care-free yet incredibly destructive romp from the days when comics were all good and never bad - the eighties.