New Mutants-vember: Bottom 5 Least Favorite Simonson Plotlines
Most people would list the worst run in any of the X-books to be Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men run, and they’d be right. But for personal reasons (because I have enough sense to avoid stuff written by a dude who rolled up from Penthouse of all places), I find that Louise Simonson’s run on New Mutants to be far more infuriating and upsetting. Her run took a book that proved teen books didn’t have to be just soap opera and could literally do anything, and turned it into a generic mishmash. Worse, it undid a lot of the good that the early days of the book had created.
Granted, some of the stuff isn’t on her head. I really do believe her now that the decision to kill off Doug Ramsey was her trying to call fans’ bluffs. The dropped ideas at the end of her run thanks to the coming of Liefeld, when there were actual interesting new concepts & plots introduced without explanation, are not her fault in the slightest – in fact, if they worked at all, it’s probably because of her. But there’s enough bad in her run for me to name it as one of my least favorite runs in all of comics. Here are the top 5 things that bothered me the most from her run.
DISCLAIMER: I do not hate Louise Simonson’s writing. In fact, I usually like her stuff, especially from this era. She salvaged the trainwreck that was X-Factor and gave the world Power Pack. While she does have a bit of a Silver Age sensibility, she is a dependable writer who has written many stories and titles I enjoy. Please do not mistake my criticisms of this particular run as a declaration of personal or professional hate against her. Think of these as the frustrations directed towards the work of a creator that you know from experience can do so, so much better.
5. De-Aging the Team: Okay, credit where credit was due – Simonson herself said that this was a mistake. The team had varied ages and felt like they were in different phases of maturity; Dani was older than Roberto, so it made sense to portray her as being a bit more mature, and Sam was old enough to be allowed to work an adult job at the series’ start. The decision to age them all down to roughly 13/14 collectively was done largely for the sake of soap-opera style drama, and while I have affectionately referred to the X-books as “my favorite soap”, I appreciate it if the cast doesn’t feel like they have to lose development & variety for the sake of it. Still, like I said, she apologized for this one, so it’s hard to be too annoyed with it.
4. Rahne the Serial Dater: During this run, Rahne had the most love interests – she was dating Doug when he died, later she had a sorta-thing with Cannonball, and finally she had another sorta-thing with Rictor. Normally, this would count as a good character development for the self-loathing, withdrawn girl, but all were done with little real foreshadowing or resonance. The only one that felt like it had any sort of basis was with Cannonball, where Rahne would be extra complimented if he said something or extra hurt if he ignored her. The rest were done just because (a) we needed someone to mourn extra hard when Doug died, and (b) we needed another corner in a Rahne-Rictor-Boom Boom love triangle. With Magma off the table and no other female characters who were as romantically available (Dani & Illyana had their own drama), she was basically forced to take on all the romance roles regardless of actual character & plot sense.
3. Trying to Redeem Empath: Early into this run, we saw Magma run off with Empath after learning that he’s just a wounded little boy lashing out because of his bad family life; this revelation was intended to sweep clear the numerous crimes we had seen earlier. I call bullshit. Even pre-reform Emma said that he was the most evil person she’d ever met and had to keep him in line. If you remember how he basically forced the New Mutants’ two assistant teachers to rape each other, it’s even worse. In a modern comic, he would almost certainly be a rapist himself. He was beyond redemption, and this was made clear numerous times. Out of all of the Hellions, with so many interesting personality bases among them, why would you choose the one that was shown to be an absolute irredeemable monster? I find this choice both baffling and utterly appalling.
2. Undoing Magneto’s Redemption: Speaking of utterly appalling, I adored Magneto’s hero turn. I loved that it started his tendency to do whatever he thinks will most benefit his people, whether it be using force or renouncing that to be a school teacher. And he was a good teacher who was respectful & caring about his staff and genuinely concerned for his students’ well-being. The X-Men’s greatest enemy has always been the concept of prejudice & how that affects people/society, so it makes sense that a former foe would unite against them in the face of ever-escalating hatred. That moment in the Fantastic Four crossover, where Reed Richards basically forgives Magneto for his past & welcomes him into the heroic fold, cemented that this was meant to last. So having him return to being power hungry in his deal with the Hellfire Club (as opposed to the “necessary evil” tone of the initial introduction of that plot point) and slide further & further towards being a villain again until he was dropped from the book was beyond irritating. If you remember the garbage that was “Fatal Attractions”, then you can blame it on this shocking swerve of a reset. Recent writers have tried to balance out his portrayal as a good man dedicated to his people and his periodic switches into cackling villainy, but the damage done that necessitates having to strike that balance at all happened here.
1. The End of Inferno: Or “In Which The Author Throws Up Their Hands and Says, ‘I Don’t Know, Readers, Your Guess Is As Good As Mine’.” The ending of Illyana’s story was always supposed to be an unhappy one; when 3/5ths of your soul are stolen from you, you aren’t exactly likely to walk off into the sunset. Yet, this was a case where Simonson was determined to end her time as Magik on an up note. So we get a highly confusing mess where the team winds up chasing her through space & time, finding the shell of her armor at the end of it, and cracking it open to find adorable six-year-old Illyana. Whatever they did, it had undone all of her time as a prisoner of Limbo. What did they do? Even the characters don’t know. Cannonball flat-out says, “Gee, I guess we’ll never know what happened.” As a writer, as a reader, as a thinking person, this is so insulting & angering that I can’t put it into words. Telling your audience to just roll with the ending because it’s happy and that’s supposedly all we need/want is just... gah. If I ever do this with a creative endeavor, please, slap me.
- Gosamyr: We talked about her in the last Bottom 5. I’m not repeating myself.