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New Mutants

Unearthed: New Mutants #20

The saga of the Demon Bear draws to a close!

Holy cats, lookit Amara! What the hell’s going on? This is the end of the Demon Bear saga, y’all, and you better believe it’s epic! I mean, look at Sam in the upper left corner, all gunslingery!

Okay. A lot to unpack here. First, the Demon Bear has teleported the team to his stomping grounds, an idealized midwest America that was never colonized by White people. Second, there’s a red globe that exists as the bridge back to normal reality, in which can be seen the emergency room in which doctors are fighting for Dani’s life.

Thirdly, the cop and nurse from last issue are here too, having been assaulted by the bear. Finally, the bear’s shadow falling across the land seems to increase its power, hence the map in the upper left. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.

Oh, wait, what’s happening? The bear’s turning the cop and the nurse into its minions! The thing about Sienkiewicz’s style is that he does the realism so well that when he abandons it, it’s doubly effective. Scary monsters!

The map tells us the bear’s shadow is rapidly spreading. The team has to put an end to it and soon!

While the team is distracted by its minions, the bear attacks the emergency room, a whole other reality away. This does not go unnoticed.

Fun fact: the names “Bill” and “Ann” refer to the artist and the editor, respectively.

This is the kind of superheroic moralizing that I read Claremont for!

I also love the moment-to-moment action that Claremont writes, something woefully lost to most superhero comics these days.

FREAKY FACE

Just a quick note: the “shadow” effect you see here isn’t just a stylistic choice; that’s called “halftone”, a way to reproduce shading on the page. Remember, this was before computers were in regular use for colorists. I don’t think anyone uses halftone anymore.

Claremont reminds us that Rahne is in constant conflict between her strict religious upbringing and her animal instincts.

Some panels you can’t see without thinking of Ralph Steadman’s work, and that’s awesome.

Look at the strength of this vertical panel!

Okay, here’s a good time to mention something iffy: when the bear turns someone into its minion, they first become a NATIVE AMERICAN, then turn into a demon. What? This is an aspect of Claremont that’s been chewed over so often I won’t go deep into it, but it’s a weird narrative choice. We’ll see it again soon.

Illyana swiping her blade through the bear’s arm is an image that’s stayed with me since I first saw it.

It’s wounded, but it’s healing itself. This action just served as a distraction for Illyana to do this:

She stabs Amara with her soulsword to clean the transformed mutant of her affliction. Sam doesn’t know that’s what’s happening here.

One of the things I love about Sienkiewicz is that he knows when to transcend the boundaries of a panel for effect.

Here’s more of Illyana’s magical armor. What is it? Where does it come from? Not even she knows.

Meanwhile, Amara yells at Sam for blasting Illyana and Sam feels really crappy.

Uh oh, the map is nearly full of black! Rahne rescues Roberto from the shadow, but it’s too late to prevent the demon bear’s realizing its full power!

One of the things that really typifies Sienkiewicz’s style is how emotionally expressive it is. These aren’t drawings of real people, they’re drawings of emotional states. Sometimes the state of a character, but also sometimes the state of the scene itself.

The animosity and fear Rahne feels toward Illyana is apparent in nearly every scene the two characters share, but here Illyana’s not having it.

Sometimes you can just SEE how these scenes would be animated.

The bear takes another swipe at the emergency room, causing immense pain to Illyana.

Illyana reels in agony while Amara defends her. There’s another brief fight, then:

Sienkiewicz’s combat always looks like it HURTS.

Illyana cleanses the soul of Tom Corsi, the cop, who is revealed to be a Native American. WEIRD.

The bear’s scared and on the run! It’s time to deliver the final blow.

Again, modern comics would just have the hero say something bold, maybe have a final quip or something. Claremont’s style lets us dwell within the moment, giving it complete context, making it much more meaningful.

The bear’s bisected and two people pop out! What the?

Suddenly everyone’s back in the hospital, where the cop and nurse are revealed to be “red Indans”. I don’t know that, even during the time of publication, if this would have been an okay phrase to use.

But hey, these guys, who are Native Americans themselves, seem to have no problem with it, so it’s all cool, right? Sure.

By the way, these are Dani’s parents, who she believed to be dead all this time.

That scary floating face is merely Professor X projecting into his student’s minds.

CAMEO TIME! The guy in the second panel is a Morlock (long story) whose power is healing. He’s there at the behest of Storm, who leads the Morlocks ’cause… nevermind, we’ll get to it at some point.

Lookit supercool Storm! Anyway, Dani will make a full recovery, thanks to the Healer. But even more amazing:

N’yawwww.

All’s well that ends well, eh? By the way, it doesn’t go well for Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander. We’ll just leave it at that for now.

Join me on Monday for a look at a brand-new comic!

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