Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: New Warriors #22

New Warriors #22, "The Stolen Children, Nothing But the Truth Part 1" Cover Date April 1992
Written by Fabian Nicieza, Penciled by Mark Bagley, Inked by Larry Mahlstedt

New Warriors 22 Cover

I should preface this review by mentioning that I can't really be objective in my appreciation of the New Warriors. As I mentioned in a previous post, they were the first comic I read that I didn't learn about from TV, and I found the characters, who ranged from high school kids to college students to be pretty much the coolest. I know now that they're more or less Marvel's answer to the Teen Titans, but I love watching characters grow up, and that was the best part of the original series. It was also cool that I felt like I could follow all of the character's appearances, since they rarely popped up in other books. Of course, after years of growth, culminating in Justice and Firestar being added to the Avengers at the height of its resurgence in popularity, somebody at Marvel hit the reset button because the rest of the world wasn't aging, and things have been a bit dire for the team for the past 15 years or so as writers either play up nostalgia or take things in bizarre new directions. But taken on its own, Fabe and Bagley, two nearly unknowns at the time, managed to show everyone how good they could be and told a great, underrated story. Their run is available in hardcover if that's your thing, containing two years of the ongoing series, plus annuals and crossovers. Unfortunately, the book is not available on Marvel Unlimited.

We begin our story in Cambodia, as the "Folding Circle," a mysterious group that appeared last issue, asks Night Thrasher to join them. Thrasher gets smacked around, but eventually joins, since they promise to tell him the truth about his origins.

New Warriors 22 Nova Speedball Darkhawk

In a NYC hospital, Night Thrasher's adopted "mother" Tai meets with Chord, his father figure, in a hospital bed after an apparent suicide attempt. Tai revives Chord, although he is apparently brain-damaged. She tells him to send the New Warriors after Night Thrasher and her, and says that Silhouette was his real daughter. Chord begins crying as he is barely able to say "daud--er--."

At the Crash Pad, an abandoned factory, Nova, Namorita, Firestar, and Speedball watch trial updates of Marvel Boy (not yet Justice)'s murder trial (he accidentally killed his father in issue 20). Foggy Nelson is apparently acting as Vance's lawyer. The team worry about their future, with Night Thrasher announcing they were "disbanded" last issue, when Silhouette "ghosts" through the shadows, near-death. She is revived enough to say Chord is her father, and the one who did this to her was Tai.

New Warriors 22 Nova Namorita Cambodia
Nova: B+ Superhero, C- Student.

After another trip to the hospital, the team frets until Silhouette bursts in and says Chord is awake and they need to talk to him. He tells them that Thrasher's in Cambodia, and that his parents were killed "begauz ob de paggd" (because of the pact). He also admits to killing Dwayne's parents.

New Warriors 22 Rage
Can Rage just not afford adult clothes?

In Brooklyn, a kindly old grandmother answers the door only to find Namorita, Sil, and Firestar at the door. She announces to her grandson that some friends are here to see him. Rage, a 13-year-old with a giant dude's body. The girls announce they need his help... to steal an Avengers Quinjet! In Queens, Darkhawk is called to reports that someone's juggling cars in a nearby junkyard, and finds Nova waiting for him. The world pre-cell phones, everyone!

New Warriors 22 Avengers Mansion Hank Pym
Learn your history, Darkhawk!

The makeshift team meets and convince Rage to help, although Firestar announces she won't go, since she expects to testify at Vance's trial. The team gets into the Mansion, telling an aging "Miss Carter" that they're just there for a workout. When they open the hangar doors, another agent realizes something's wrong. Nova and Namorita are forced to smash the hangar. The team break through and get away in the Quinjet, but look somber about it.

In the meantime, Night Thrasher has been going through the jungle with the Folding Circle, when they're attacked by ninjas. Dwayne shouts to stop killing the ninjas, but the Folding Circle show no mercy, setting dudes on fire, slicing them with claws, and generally murdering everyone. Midnight's Fire says he knows these guys are guardians, and he knew they've been following them. One of the Circle members creates a big napalm-style fire at Fire's command, and the Circle and Night Thrasher find themselves at the entrance to a Tomb Raider-style temple. Midnight's Fire says from this temple the Circle will take over the world, while Night Thrasher wonders why the temple's guards wear armor that looks exactly like his.


As I mentioned in my preamble, I'm a sucker for this book. This is the pay-off story that the book has been building to for two years. This book has always found itself in the somewhat awkward situation of being a team book led and founded by teen Batman; Night Thrasher pushes away his friends, and is as mysterious as a guy that wears a skateboard on his back can be, and here we get the pay-off to Tai's master plan of making him a super hero.

New Warriors 22 Nova Namorita dirty joke
Jokes I didn't get as a child!
Fabe is great at small character beats that really get across the most important aspects of the character at the time in a single issue. In hindsight, is "loves Vance" a great character for Firestar? No, but in the small scenes with Rage and Darkhawk we see the characterization of the rest of the team. I also like how the main action involves a relatively mundane bit of "action," with just a few pages of people actually using their powers, but it drives home that these aren't the Avengers or the FF with huge resources, but kids who are desperate to help their friends. It's also nice knowing that there's a fallout for Rage's actions, namely, him getting kicked off the Avengers, but that's in the future. One of the things I love about these old team books is that you can pick a line of dialogue and pretty much know who says it, even if somebody puts a text balloon the wrong way. I guess another possible complaint is this is a verrrry talky issue, built almost exclusively around standing around. I don't mind it, because it is setting the table for a four-part story, but there is probably enough depth that I wouldn't steer a new New Warriors fan towards this issue.

Bagley doesn't try to imitate  Jim Lee-style splashes with the Folding Circle, a very 90's-style group. He's great at getting character emotion across in faces, which is useful, since it's most of the focus of the issue. A common complaint is that he makes everyone's faces somewhat interchangeable, and while that's somewhat true, he's at least done enough superficially to keep me from really caring. Namorita, for instance, has Namor's thin, super-arched eyebrows. Firestar is just Mary Jane in a mask and bodysuit, but again, that was an actual plot point in Scarlet Spider-New Warriors, so I feel like that's established continuity. I will say this cover doesn't do a lot for me. Maybe it's the orange? Maybe it's that it feels like someone just picked a half-dozen "New Warriors" stickers and put them over an orange background? It's just not a very memorable design.

90's Fashions:

There's actually a bunch of leftover 70's/80's fashions in this book, from Firestar's "Amazing Friends" costume to Rage's luchador mask and leather outfit. The team rocks their original costumes, which by 1992 feel pretty dated, as all are 70's or 80's designs. Speedball out-of-costume has a very nice mullet and sits in a beanbag chair. One of the Folding Circle has sunglasses flipped up, which I will forever associate with Dwayne Wayne. Night Thrasher has brought his skateboard to Cambodia.

Legal Mumbo-Jumbo:

Speedball states that if Firestar stays behind, "anything she says in court would be considered cumulative evidence and [the prosecutor] would leave the rest of us out of it." It actually wouldn't be cumulative evidence unless the whole team testified, Speedball. One person's testimony by definition isn't cumulative. FRE 403 allows an attorney to object to cumulative evidence when it is "a waste of time." The more you know!

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