Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dani and the Demon Bear


Because my Sims Game crashed after a Saturday at work, I retreated to my comics for some solace. While digging through a box of comics I tried to sell at the flea market once, I looked over at the spinner rack and saw this little gem staring at me, literally.

NOTE: This is a repost of one of my reviews of old comics from a blogger account I set up some time ago. In an effort to consolidate everything I post blog-wise, I'm posting it here.

I had intended on doing a new review of this old comic until I realized that I'd already done it.

New Mutants #18

August 1984

New Mutants #18 was the beginning of a new artist on the Mutant books, Bill Sienkiewicz, who had made a mark on Moon Knight and a few other books. This was a real turn, as Marvel's style was far from artsy, and the comics industry was still recovering from the heavy influence of Neal Adams. Sienkiewicz had developed a style that was based on Illustration and it showed in page layouts that, looking back, set the stage for the modern age manner of irregular panel shapes, overlapping images, and borderless panels.

I remember as a twelve-thirteen year-old young artist being blown away by this new style to comics, and was instantly drawn to it. For Christmas of 1984, I actually copied a panel from this comic and used mixed media to make a Christmas present.

As always, Spoilers abound from here, so don't complain that you weren't warned.

SYNOPSIS:

We open on New Mutant team leader Dani Moonstar having aterrible nightmare of the Demon Bear that killed her parents. We then see the X-Mansion under attack by the military as a young, red-haired girl uses her powers to shield herself as she makes her way to Professor X trying to reason with the troops telepathically only to be killed. It's revealed that these are the memories of a young woman from the future, the girl from the before, just older, and looking much more ragged.

The New Mutants, except Dani and Illyana Rasputin training in the Danger Room, and proving successful, even with some difficulty. Illyana answers the front door to find the red-haired young woman who runs off in tears since she remembers seeing Illyana die.

In space an alien named Warlock is on the run from his brtual father. This Interlude leads into Dani training in the Danger Room against holographic bears. to the confusion of Illyana. That night Dani sets out in the snow to confront her Demon Bear, as she knows it's close. She uses her mutant power on the bear to find its deepest fear is her, and finds the strength to apparently slay it with surpising ease. Until she realizes that's she made a terrible error.

Rahne wakes screaming from the rapport that she shares with Dani and leads the New Mutants to the woods where they find Dani unconscious and lying in a pool of blood.

REVIEW:

If you didn't catch my meaning from the intro, this is a beautifully drawn comic. Glynis Wein must've had a helluva time doing the coloring on this issue. Sienkiewicz made very good use of black areas and each character is unique in their depiction. Illyana is cute as a button. Cannonball is lanky and awkward, a quality no other artist since has been able to capture like Sienkiewicz did. Previously in this series, Dani was sexualized, which is disturbing, given that the character is still in her teens. Sienkiewicz managed to make her attractive and exotic without being sexual about it. The only drawback is the technology of the time, as I sit and think of what this comic would've looked like if it had been printed with today's technology and paper quality. Heck, even thinking about what kind of work he's doing now, if today's Sienkiewicz had drawn this book.

The script is Chris Claremont at his peak, as he foreshadowed a subplot in a way that was intriguing and made time travel seem not quite so hokey as the previous times he used it. Dani's motivations, while a little cliche, are written well enough to be believable.

NOTES:
This issue has been collected twice, first in 1990 and earlier this year in the third part of Marvel's collecting of this series. They are very affordable, and I recommend buying them. You may have luck in finding it in back issue bins, and it should be affordable. I wouldn't pay more than three bucks for a near-mint copy.

If you feel inspried to look for more Sienkiewicz, then look for Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters and even some art books collecting Sienkiewicz's work.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of a possible 10)

Why not higher? It's mutants, and the stretching of suspension of disbelief is too much, from mutants, mysticism, aliens and time travel just being a bit much to ask. If the story kept on the main story of Dani and her Bear, then we'd be in good shape.

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