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47: NM 52 - 61 (Louise Simonson and the Death of Cypher)

What’s Covered?

New Mutants V1 # 52 - 61 (Feb- November '87), NM Annual # 3, Fallen Angels # 1 - 8

Roster Watch


NM # 52: Trouble in Limbo

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Rick Leonardi

The Issue opens up with a danger room scenario where the New Mutants are picked off 1 by 1.

Magneto isn't happy about the team running off during the Mutant Massacre and this kicks off a long running theme of the team being grounded and sneaking out behind his back. Also, the team left this plane of existence because of Magus so I don't really think he should be too angry with them about that.

Also, Magik isn't around to be grounded. She's busy being "naughty" in Limbo.

Meanwhile, in Limbo...things are very unsettled. Sym is still leading an army of techno-organic demons in a revolution against Illyana.

We learn that while the Soulsword is in the ground in Limbo, there is peace, but as soon as she summons it to Earth things start getting messy again.

Magneto offers to come with Illyana to Limbo to see what it's all about. While they are there, Magneto's control over metal is quite helpful against an army of metallic demons. This helps the two of them grow close.

This is a cute moment where the two of them bond. Magneto is basically saying "Well, maybe we ARE evil, but we need to move on and do the best we can regardless." I love that. They are both wondering if history will ultimately label them as evil, but for now they are both just trying to do as much good as possible.

NM # 53: Hellfire Gala

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Rick Leonardi

Magneto lifts the grounding for a night to let the team come with him to a Hellfire Gala.

There are all sorts of hijinx that take place between the team (covered more closely in their individual sections), but the issue ultimately ends with both of them agreeing to a challenge.

Checking in with Karma

Shan pleads with Magneto to look for her missing siblings and he promises her that he is doing everything he can.

We learned a few issues ago that Shan doesn't live with the rest of the team, instead she is an adult living on her own taking care of her two younger siblings (who are missing). Here we see that Shan is also apart from the team working as a type of assistant for Magneto.

She is getting more and more antsy waiting around for Magneto to do the searching for her.

Shan becomes desperate to find her siblings, so she slips away during the Hellfire Gala and possesses Tessa, forcing her to use the Hellfire Club's network to look for her siblings. Unfortunately, she learns that they also have no idea where she could be. Magneto shows up and it turns up that he had asked the Hellfire Club already to complete the search.

Also worth noting that Tessa doesn't seem to be mad or vindictive about Shan. I was expecting her to hold a death grudge or something, but she seems rather understanding and considerate, which is shocking to me.

Shan is very conflicted about what to do.

NM # 54: Bridesmaid's to the Hellions

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Sal Buscema

The New Mutants and Hellions agreed to a superhero challenge. Somehow had sold a counterfeit Selene statue to the man at the party and they decided to both try to get to the bottom of it. Magik spied on the Hellions and learned where to go, setting the New Mutants loose on a bunch of armed goons.

It turns out that the Hellions tricked the team. They knew they were being spied on and let the New Mutants take out all the goons while they went straight for the prize, which ended up being Viper and the Silver Samurai.

We are supposed to believe that all of this happened in the span of a single party, because the team had time to go back to the party before it ended.

Here they find a note from Karma that she is leaving the team to search for her siblings. It appears as though Karma has now been written out for the second time in 54 issues. I didn't personally find myself connecting to her well and the team was rather large, so I guess they felt this was the best way forward. She will be the first of three New Mutants to depart the team by the time this arc is done.

NM # 55: Lila is still around

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Brett Blevins

The team once again gets dressed up and goes to a party, this time it's for an album release for Lila. While at the party, an alien who has a crush on Lila tries to strong arm her, but she rebukes him.

The aliens decide to get revenge on Lila by kidnapping Sam. The team ends up following him, fighting them, and winning. That's pretty much it. Pretty boring filler issue.

Checking in with Amara

We see that two mysterious characters are giving an original "Selene" statue to a rich man who plans to give it to Selene to impress her.

Major bomb dropped here. Amara points out that the statue can't be of Selene because it's actually a family heirloom of hers, representing her grandmother, many times removed. Selene casually says that "both are right." This implies that Amara is actually a descendant of Selene! It also means that Selene killed Amara's mom, who is technically her own progeny. Crazy!

This really shakes Amara to know that the woman she hates, the woman who killed her mother, might be related to her.

NM # 56: Another one bites the duest

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - June Brigman

This panel isn't necessarily impactful on the main storyline, but I do love these slice of life scenes. The team sitting around eating breakfast and hanging out with each other. Love it.

Dani decides to pull out Amara's deepest desire and it turns out to be Empath! She runs off angry (which is on brand for her) and obviously embarassed.

Amara also gets a letter from her dad asking her to come home so she can be married.

She reflects that Empath is an aristocrat, like her. In other words, they are both stuck up. She also thinks fondly about the Massachusetts Academy and how they are all pampered like she is used to.

Back at the Mass academy, we see that the White Queen may have been pushing Empath to manipulate Amara to get her to enroll there. I actually don't like this. Amara being stuck up and feeling more at place with the Hellions is a pretty natural character moment. I don't like how every time someone makes a bad decision (like Magneto sending the kids to the Mass academy), it just turns out that it's Empath's fault.

Rahne and the team had been tracking on TV that there is a mutant bird flying around and the team goes to save him before being interrupted by the Hellions. I don't know if we knew this before, but Tarot has the ability to create giant creatures that they are riding here. This just seems weird and maybe a bit overpowered.

The team does eventually beat the Hellions in this and they are the ones to capture/save Bird Boy, or bird brain, whatever his name is.

This starts a 4 issue arc focusing on this bird creature. It's seriously painful. How in the world could Marvel think this was compelling! Seriously, it's so painful. I'll be breezing past this in my coverage.

I do have one positive story to share about Bird Brain. When I read the above panel, I was struck by a strong memory. I remembered reading this. In fact, I recall thinking of this as I was growing up whenever I saw a bird, assuming they were constantly hungry. I went back through my comic collection and confirmed that I did, in fact, own this comic. It was the only New Mutants comic that I owned as a kid. I really thought this was the first time I had ever read New Mutants, but I guess I had read this one New Mutants comic and probably tried to pry it from my memory.

For now, they are keeping Bird Brain in the danger room with a steady collection of fish.

This issue only got this much coverage because it ends with Magma announcing that she will be leaving the team to transfer to the Massachusetts Academy. Amara is another character that I never felt super invested in and I don't recall ever seeing her in the 90's, so I had a feeling she didn't have a lot of staying power. This the second character written out in this story arc. Hey, at least she didn't die so there's still the possibility she can come back one day.

NM # 57: Bird Brain in the mall...give me a break.

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - June Brigman

This is just a terrible issue where they try to teach Bird Brain to act normal. In the above panel they bring him to the mall in a disguise. No surprise, he creates a scene and Magneto gets angry, re-grounding the team.

NM # 58 & 59: Skip

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Brett Blevins

Even more Bird-Brain stuff leads them to the island where Bird Brain was created and we find out that there are a lot of other animal/human hybrids.

A bit more action in this one, but still more terrible plot. How are we getting so many issues with this crap!? Here we learn that some deranged scientist calling himself the Animator is behind all of the experimentation and he kidnaps the team.

Checkin in on Doug

Doug has actually been very busy in the last few issues. He's had a lot of character moments in the last few issues that I'll cover consecutively here.

So Issue #53 actually starts with a drawn out dream where Doug was turned into a techno-organic being and accidentally killed his entire team. He wakes up freaking out that it might have been real, but luckily it was just a dream...Except that we see a tease that his vision can be magnified to 50, leading us to believe that perhaps he really is transforming.

On the way into the Hellfire Club, Doug almost gets hit by a car but Illyana saves him by teleporting him to safety. She doesn't think it's a big deal, but it sets him off. He's obviously pretty self conscious about his power being useless in a battle and constantly needing to be protected. It almost pushes him to be reckless.

There's a part of this I don't really understand. There is so much focus on this, however Dani and Shan are in a pretty similar boat. Both of them have "mental" powers and would be essentially worthless against a robot, but there is no attention paid do that. Always bothered me.

While at the Hellfire Gala, Doug goes a little wild. Him and Roulette pair off, get a bunch of drinks and win big gambling. It's pretty cool that Roulettes luck skill combined with Doug's ability to read every language, including body language, makes him pretty unstoppable.

The team stumbles across a wasted Doug in a hotel room with Roulette. It is heavily implied that the two of them had sex. Doug is really on a downward spiral this night.

In Issue #54, Doug pushed Mirage out of the way so she didn't get shot by one of Viper and Silver Samurai's goons. He took the shot, but it turns out that his costume protected him. Rahne is thrilled that he is safe!

In Issue #55, Doug uses a lead pipe to stop one of the aliens from hurting his friends and takes a glancing hit by another alien in the process. Two different instances here where Doug comes out of hiding to help his team and has a close call while being shot.

NM # 60: A true tragedy

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Bret Blevins

I'm a little ahead in my blog chronology here, but we're going to learn in the next X-Factor blog that Cameron Hodge is actually the big bad behind an anti-mutant group called "The Right." It turns out that he was the boss of the Animator and he shows up here with his smiley faced commandos to kill all of the creatures.

A fight breaks out...

Doug sees that Rahne is in trouble because the Animator is sneaking up on her with a gun. He once again contemplates coming out of hiding to help a team member.

Doug dives to push Rahne out of the way and takes a bullet to the back.

Rahne doesn't realize what happened and scolds Doug for coming out of hiding.

Doug lays there dying and in his last, tragic words, promises never to come out of hiding again.

Nobody realized what happened until the very end of the battle when they started looking for Doug. This is when they find him dead.

Rahne discovers what happened and is immediately horrified.

NM # 61: Dealing with Grief

Writer - Louise Simonson

Pencils - Bret Blevins

Everybody is beside themselves, but no one more than Rahne since he died saving her. They also put in a bunch of extra panels the last few issues showing these two growing close, but I still feel like the focus should be more on Warlock.

The entire issue is focused on grief and here we see Sam also taking responsibility.

When Magneto finds out, he completely loses it. He is so upset and decides that the best way to react is to condemn the New Mutants to more time being stuck at the mansion.

Illyana, being the rebel that she is, takes off and taunts Magneto.

As of the closing of this issue, the bond shared between Magik and Magneto appears to be severed.

NM Annual # 3

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Alan Davis

SKIP. This Impossible Man character is ridiculous. I learned my lesson when he showed up in an X-Men Annual, and this one was equally dumb. Basically the Impossible Man and Warlock spend the entire giant sized annual trying to out shapeshift each other. Eventually Warlock begins because he can change color.

Fallen Angels # 1 - 8

Writer - Jo Duffy

I'm just going to provide a brief summary of this series. I had heard that it was a bad series and while I agree that it was bad, it wasn't quite as terrible as some comics I have read throughout this journey.

The premise is that Bobby sees some notes from Professor Xavier where he's worried that Bobby's attitude may one day lead him to villainy, so he decides to take that literally and run away to become a villain. He finds himself with the Vanisher's group of petty thieves (the group Boom Boom was with from X-Factor).

For some reason, the New Mutants don't go out looking for them, instead Siryn and Jamie Madrox were sent out from Muir Island to investigate what happened. This is one dynamic I liked because these are two characters who will have a strong presence in 90's teams and I'm happy to get to know them. We also meet other mutants, aliens, and Cyborg's but none of them are too memorable.

A bunch of crazy things go down, but ultimately Bobby has a character arc where he decides to go back home and be a hero again, hopefully learning a lesson. We'll see.

My Connections

I'm starting to find the book a bit boring. I wish I could blame it on Louise Simonson taking over, but it actually started while Claremont was still at the helm. There was clearly a concerted effort to keep the focus on this group being "teenagers, not superheroes" and maybe I just don't find that as compelling. For the time being, I plan on covering more issues in a single blog post because there is less meat on the bones to get into. It's also worth noting that New Mutants is no longer "necessary X-Men reading" like it was at the beginning when there was almost no line drawn between the two books.

While I do find the sum of all the parts less than spectacular in this run, and the Bird Brain story to be the worst I've ever read, that's not to say there isn't some truly great aspects. We will actually say goodbye to three recurring team members by the time this arc is done, with two being written out and the third biting the bullet. I would like to think that this was done to thin out the large cast (9 not including Magneto), I'm pretty sure some of the youngins from X-Factor will be joining the team before long (Boom-Boom and Rictor for sure).


This story arc officially facilitates the transition from Chris Claremont to Louise Simonson. Similar to X-Factor, it made sense for Simonson to take over the comic from Claremont as they had a close working relationship and she was a good shephard for the X-Universe. Simonson had been writing Power Pack, so new editor Ann Nocenti thought she could do a good job of writing kids. In fact, in Comic Creators on X-Men, Wheezy (Louise Simonson) said:

“Ann (Nocenti) wanted me to ‘young’ the characters up. She had been getting a lot of letters that said the characters were acting too old and too mature.”

Character Beats

My take on Doug's death

I have a lot to say about Doug's death. Other than Thunderbird (which basically doesn't count) and Jean Grey (who I knew would be resurrected pretty quickly), this is the first death of a major character from the main series I am reading. While I am about to go through a list of problems I have with this, I do think it was effective because it made me emotional. Even going through this blog right now is making me feel some sadness stirring, and that is exactly what you want if you do this. But here are a few specific complains I have about this...

First...the Bird Brain story!? Really!? The Bird brain story is the spot where they make an impactful death? This is, without question, the worst story arc I have read since I started my journey and they choose this storyline and this character to be what launches us into a major character death? That just seems like a terrible decision and a waste.

Second, it REALLY bothers me that Warlock wasn't more involved. Obviously Warlock typically surrounds Doug in armor during battles, but I'm talking more about their relationship. No one grew closer to Doug than Warlock, so to have him not really being around and barely having a reaction immediately after seems like a major miss here (I recognize he gets his opportunity to grieve in a "unique way" soon, but still).

Third, I liked Doug. He had potential. An argument could be made that this is a good thing. You take a character who you are invested in and it seems like there is more that will happen with him, that makes the death more meaningful and earned. It will clearly make each subsequent battle that much more heightened because we see they are willing to kill off a main character. But I was very interested to see what has happening with him becoming infected by the Techno Organic virus. I was very invested to see if he would eventually be killed by that, or perhaps become a Warlock creature himself, or maybe even permanently fuse with Warlock, but now that won't be happening. To be honest, I have no idea what happens next, maybe this is actually a setup for him to come back in that form, but he sure seems dead as a doornail at the moment.

Finally, I have feelings about how the death happened. Immediately after reading this, I jotted down a note saying "No build up." I was originally thinking that a death scene usually has some foreshadowing and at least that particular issue has some direct build up, but this seemed more like an after thought. At first that bothered me, but now I'm starting to think maybe this is better because it's more real. In the real world, sometimes people just die without any lead up or warning. Also, I didn't realize until I made this blog that Doug actually had two other close calls with being shot at when he risked his neck, so perhaps that is the build up I'm saying was missing. I also dug up this quote from Tom DeFalco about the motivation for Cypher's death:

"We'd gotten a lot of letters from readers who hated him and thought he was boring, thought his powers are stupid and blah blah blah. They wanted us to kill him and there is nothing I like more than pleasing my readers. Lightning is going to strike me!
Also, he was a difficult character to write and to draw. He was not a visual character. His powers were mental. He could translate languages, which meant to get him to use his powers, you had fool around every issue and have him translate something and that gets a little old after a while. So there were a lot of reasons for Doug to go away."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. pp149-150


Magik dances with Empath at the Hellfire Gala and almost makes him pee himself reminding him that at any time she can send him back to Limbo and torture him.

Whenever the team is considering sneaking out and breaking Magneto's rules, you can count on Magik to be behind it.

Dani and Illyana both seem to be extra boy crazed throughout these issues. Believable from Illyana because she's the "rebel."

After Doug's death, Illyana takes her vengeance the furthest, almost shooting the Animator in the head. Instead she sends him to Limbo to be mutilated by Limbo. Is that better?

In a further sign of devilishness, Illyana sends the smiley faces assassins to Limbo as well.


Dani and Warpath (still calling him that even though he goes by Thunderbird right now) hit it off at the Hellfire Gala. On one hand this makes sense because they are both leaders of their respective teams, but it seems kind of like the writer's may be shipping the two Native American characters because of their culture, which seems wrong. Let's not forget they are from different tribes.

Dani and Illyana are boy crazy and obsessed with outfits.

Dani yelling at Rahne about breaking up her dancing, which seems a bit out of character for her.


Rahne and Catseye once again pair off and run around in their animal forms.

Rahne was unwilling to dress up until Dani pulled her dream dress out of her mind and Illyana went and found it (probably stole it).


The only strong character moment for Sam came from when he was at Lila's album release party and he let the alien guy trick him into believing he needed drugs to impress Lila.

My Rating - 1/10


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