New Mutants (1st series) #29

Issue Date: 
July 1985
Story Title: 
Meanwhile, back at the mansion…

Chris Claremont (writer), Bill Sienkiewicz (artist), Orzechowski & Rosen (letterers), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Ann Nocenti (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

After Sunspot and Magma are abducted by some gangsters, Magik and Cannonball pursue them to Westchester Airport. However, they are too late to prevent their getaway in a jet. From their sole prisoner, they learn than an outfit called the “Gladiators,” based in Los Angeles, is behind this. Magik teleports them to LA to head the jet off but, unfortunately, she also shifts them in time, meaning they are one week too late. At that point, they contact Sam’s girlfriend, Lila Cheney, who is currently in LA to get some help. One of Lila’s background singers is Alison Blaire, AKA the Dazzler. She knows the Gladiators, as she used to be one of them, and warns them that their friends are in deadly danger. Thanks to Lila’s contacts, they get tickets to the next Gladiators’ bout. As they enter the building, they are unaware that they are being watched by a mysterious being, who seems to know them and gleefully announces that they will join the Gladiators. As the first fight in the arena starts, one of the Gladiators - Dazzler’s friend Ivich – is about to be killed in battle. Dazzler can’t stand the thought and joins the fight, blowing their cover. The next fight pitches several Gladiators against their new additions, Sunspot and Magma, who are fighting in an uncharacteristically brutal manner. The other New Mutants join the fight, until Magneto crashes the party. He’s been contacted by Professor Xavier to lead the X-Men and New Mutants against the threat of the Beyonder and intends to do just that. Cannonball figures this is their way to get out of this mess, but Magma and Sunspot refuse to come along. The Gladiators have blackmailed them: if they leave or refuse to fight, they will murder teenagers, whom they have taken hostage. So, they’ll stay. Angrily, the other New Mutants join Magneto.

Full Summary: 

Westchester County airport on a mid-winter morning. The passengers are treated to a rare sight, as suddenly two teenagers, dressed only in swimming suits, come flying and crashing through the wall. The young man, Cannonball, is in pursuit of some villains who have just kidnapped their teammates, Sunspot and Magma. He’s holding Magik in his arms. She’s complaining that the Professor will love hearing about the stunt they just pulled. They crash-land in the hall but, thankfully, Sam’s forcefield protects them from any harm.

Sam asks the bystanders if they have seen a red-panel truck go by. It’s a matter of life and death! One insecure passenger stutters that it’s out on the flight line. Sam runs outside, following the bus and hollers but suddenly screams in pain. He’s standing barefoot in the snow and is freezing – he never stopped to consider that he is not invulnerable when he stops blasting. He didn’t stop to consider that the bus might now be trying to run him down either, until Illyana gives a warning shout: the truck is heading for him and the plane is taxing for the runway! Sam uses his power again and charges straight through the truck, while silently chiding himself for his absentmindedness.

Sam pulls out the driver and demands to know where their friends are. The driver is playing dumb. They must be on the jet, Illyana figures. He should have thought of that right away, Sam thinks and tells Illyana to hold onto the goon, ignoring her question what he can do – the jet is already airborne, after all. He flies straight after the jet wondering what he can do. He’s never flown so high – suppose he becomes too exhausted to fly? And how can he stop the plane? “Cannonball” into it? That would probably kill his friends.

The pilot finds himself impressed by Sam’s powers, but the boy wasn’t on the “shopping list.” He waits until Sam is close enough to the afterburners and then accelerates. Flame explodes from the engines, startling Sam, shattering his concentration and he falls. Finding himself unable to re-ignite, he believes he’s done for until he falls straight into one of Illyana’s teleportation circles only to end up in Limbo where Illyana and the driver are already waiting.

The man is playing tough guy, not at all impressed by the threats of “two skinny geeks.” Illyana smirks and corrects him. They aren’t going to handle the interrogation, S’ym will. At the sight of the huge, purple demon the man’s tongue is considerably loosened and, while the demon guards him, Sam and Illyana argue about what to do next. Illyana suggest they do this on their own. The Prof. and the X-Men are away. Until they’d rallied them, Amara and Bobby could be anywhere. Their best bet is for Illyana to teleport after them to LA. and head the jet off there. Sam interjects that she cannot control her power at that kind of distance. Yes, she can, she insist stubbornly; She’s been practicing. As they exit, they leave the man to S’ym’s tender care. He cheerfully informs the gangster of what will happen to him should Illyana not come back or, worse, come back mad…

Illyana and Sam teleport to the LA airport. Illyana is ready to cheer until Sam notifies her of the date in the newspaper. She has shifted them in time as well – it’s been one week since the kidnapping! Illyana wants to try again, but Sam’s against that move. As he flies them away, Illyana apologizes. She was so sure she could do this. They can’t do anything about that. Now, they have to pick up the pieces and they need help for that. Luckily, Sam has an idea where to get some. He flies them to a lovely Malibu mansion.

Illyana admires the building and wonders, who lives there? Who does she think, Sam sighs. “Oh. Her,” Illyana realizes coolly. The door is answered by a huge bouncer, who believes them to be fans and is about to throw them out, until Sam mentions his name. Guido’s attitude changes and he tells them to make themselves comfortable. Moments later, Lila Cheney rushes at Sam and smothers him in kisses, much to Illyana’s disgust. Sam asks her to find themselves somewhere private to talk. Unaware that someone is coming up behind them, Lila teleports everybody in the room to her home: a Dyson Sphere in another solar system. The other woman makes her presence known and Lila introduces her as one of her session singers – Alison Blaire.

Later, after the others have learned that Alison is the Alison Blaire, as in the infamous mutant singer Dazzler, Sam and Illyana bring the two women up to speed on how the others were kidnapped: They’d been invited to a swim party at the local High School, which turned out to be a set-up. When they arrived, the gangsters kidnapped Amara and Roberto. They’ve learned from their prisoner that an outfit called the “Gladiators” seems to be behind it. They were hoping that Lila, with her connections in showbiz, might give them a line on who these people are and where they are based. Lila wishes she could help – she knows what it’s like to be stolen and sold – but she only just arrived in town herself. That name means nothing to her. But is does to her, Alison chimes in. She used to be one of the Gladiators and their friends are in deadly danger.

Elsewhere, one of those friends is getting increasingly frustrated. Roberto daCosta, wearing only a skimpy, gladiator armor, is in a cell and shouts that he wants to see Amara or he’ll smash their prison to rubble. Secretly, he wonders if his captors know that he is bluffing. He’s been cut off from sunlight so long he’ll have very little strength left.

Suddenly, a man smashes through the wall. It’s Sunspot’s old foe, Axe, spoiling for a rematch from the last time they fought. He hopes the boy hasn’t forgotten him, he sneers. How could anybody forget so ugly and stupid a lummox, Bobby sarcastically replies, while changing into his solar-powered form. Still fighting with his mouth, is he, Axe mocks, while easily rolling with Sunspot’s punch and then striking at him with his trademark weapon. As Axe holds him in a choke grip, a hologram of “the boss” appears before them. The man introduces himself as Alexander Flynn and welcomes Sunspot to the Gladiators. Roberto shouts that there’s no way they can force him to fight in their filthy games. Yes, they can, Flynn answers and his lovely companion will explain.

Amara joins them, also dressed in skimpy bits of armor. She stoically explains the situation to Roberto. They are to fight in the arena. Kill or be killed for the patrons’ amusement. Flynn has some leverage. He has taken runaway children hostage. If the mutants refuse to fight, those children will be sent to the arena in their stead. For them it would be certain death. The two mutants hug. Those people are as ruthless as the slave-masters of the coliseum in her home, Nova Roma, Amara states. The New Mutants managed to escape back then, Roberto reminds her. This will be no different. Amara hopes so, but there is another problem. Flynn has given them drugs that weaken their control over the powers. The longer they use them, the wilder they will become and they’ll lose their inhibitions in the process as well. Suppose the whole thing is a bluff, Sunspot wonders. Suppose it’s not, Amara replies. Can they take such a risk? Would his hero Thomas Magnum risk the lives of children? No, Roberto admits. Of course not, Flynn interjects as his hologram appears once more. He’s a hero and heroes play by the rules. A tough life lies ahead of them, but he guarantees they will come to love it.

Back at Lila’s place, Alison tells them about her experiences with the Gladiators. She might be with them still, if the Beast and her friends at the Heartbreak Hotel hadn’t saved her, she admits. They’d thought that the Gladiators were out of business afterwards. Apparently, they were wrong. She misses that life, doesn’t she? Lila asks. Alison denies this at first but then admits that she misses the feeling of being the best. Life became so hard for her since she was outed as a mutant. Among the Gladiators, she was accepted. The camaraderie was good. She can’t forget that. The nature of human bloodsports, Lila muses. None become more precious than those beside whom you risk you life. Is she speaking from experience, Sam asks. He’s heard her songs, Lila answers. Lila then states that her record company is sure to get them tickets and asks Guido to make sure the get tickets for the next Gladiators bout.

The Bermuda Triangle; Magneto’s mysterious island:

Magneto has set himself a test: lift up a lying, giant statue up to its former upright position. Lee Forrester stands in the back worrying. He’s nowhere near recovered enough, she fears. But how can she, a human, stop him? Magneto uses all his strength, realizing, like Lee, that he’s not yet up for such a test, but he refuses to fail and as he shouts his denial the statue is lifted upright. Magneto, however, can barely stand and Lee props him up. He could have hurt himself, she chides. He thanks her and admits that he is being a poor patient. He hasn’t been so seriously hurt since childhood. He’s tired of being ill, he’s a man of action. That she stayed by his side throughout his convalescence is a gift he can never repay. Had their positions been reversed he would not have been so noble.

She’s hardly being noble, considering how poorly she treated them the other day, Lee states. But she had good cause, he replies. He imposed his will on her without thinking. He has to break that habit. Lee apologizes for hurting him. Whatever he may have done in the past, he never gave her any reason to be afraid. She doesn’t want to lose his friendship. He replies that he thought they’d moved beyond “friendship?” Why does he think she’s so scared, she admits. So is he, he replies as they kiss. But they can ace those fears and perhaps joys together.

The tender moment is abruptly broken, as an astral image of Xavier appears before them, looking in bad shape. Xavier communicates in half sentences only; the transmission is clearly a horrible strain on him. He tells Magneto that the Beyonder is on Earth. He tried to warn the X-Men, but was too weak. He only reached Magneto and Captain America. He begs Magneto to gather the others and lead the X-Men in his place. The fate of the Earth is in his hands. The transmission fades and Magneto dryly mocks Xavier’s ineffable sense of timing. Either Xavier is the bravest man or an utter fool for entrusting his loved ones to him. Lee asks about the Beyonder. What does this mean? In a word: “Armageddon,” he replies somberly and the Beyonder could perhaps be best described as God.

Los Angeles. in a rundown warehouse neighborhood. Lila and the mutants exit a limousine; they are dressed up, Dazzler is in disguise. Seeing a wall poster with the name “Nazgul” on it, Lila reminisces about the time when she opened for that band. They were the best, she claims, until their lead singer Larry “Hobbit” Hobbins was killed at West Mesa.

The Gladiators’ bouncer refuses to let them in – as they are not on his list. Illyana shoots him a filthy look and suggests he make an exception. Scared, he lets them in. They are unaware that this news is brought to a mysterious, decadent, sadistic individual, who rejoices when he hears that Dazzle has returned. He asks one of his slaves t project a holographic image of the arena, while ordering a celebratory dinner. He is even happier when he spots and recognizes Sam at Lila’s side and announces that after the fight they will join the Gladiators.

In their box, Illyana shakes her head at how pathetic those other thrill-seeking guests are. She inquires whether they have a plan and Sam admits he figured he’d handle this like Indiana Jones – make one up as they go along. Actually, though, he figures they just wait till their teammates turn up in the arena, then grab them and have Lila teleport them all away. Makes sense, Illyana silently admits. After the morning’s debacle, it’ll be a long time till she trust her own teleportation talent again.

Lila and Sam, in the meantime, notice that Alison is badly off. For her, watching the fight is like a junkie being tempted by heroin. She’s their weak link, Lila warns Sam. Alison recognizes one of the two combatants of the first fight: it’s her friend, Ivich, a hollow-cheeked warrior woman, facing Ray, a shapechanger. Ray shifts into a giant snake and eventually disarms Ivich trying to choke her. Alison can’t stand watching anymore. Dropping her disguise she jumps into the arena and dazzles Ray with a light blast. Ivich is happy to see her friend, but business first. As she prepares to kill Ray, Ali is incredulous and grabs her arm. She didn’t save Ivich so she could become a murderer, she cries. Her friend tells her that this is what the show is about, why the “rubes” pay top dollar; this is real. Anyway, the main event is coming up. Ali should wish her luck.

The “main event” is Ivich, Axe and Max (a horselike mutant) against the two kidnapped New Mutants. At first, the teenagers are unsure what to do, but then their training takes over and they fight back with a vengeance. Magma creates a mini volcano next to Ivich, while Sam Guthrie joins the fray tackling Max and wondering why Amara is being so brutal. Then, he remembers when he and Sunspot were trying to kill each other in the arena in Nova Roma because they had been drugged out of their minds. Is the same thing happening here?

Alison blasts Amara, trying to prevent her from hurting any more. The battle abruptly stops as the roof literally flies away, courtesy of the magnetic power of Magneto. Standing in the air, he tells the New Mutants that he has come at the behest of their mentor, to summon them to defend the world. They have not time to waste, so those who choose to join him should now step forward.

That’s their chance for a clean getaway, Sam tells Sunspot and Magma. But they refuse, stating that they have their reasons to stay. With that, the Gladiators – including Sunspot and Magma – steal away. Sam angrily turns towards Magneto. They might have saved them given a decent chance. Whatever is going on had better be good, he announces. He will see, Magneto ominously states.

Characters Involved: 

Cannonball, Magik, Magma, Sunspot (all New Mutants)

Lila Cheney


Guido (Lila’s strongman)


Lee Forrester

Axe, Ivich, Max, Ray (all Gladiators)

The Gladiators’ sadistic mystery backer

As a telepathic projection:

Charles Xavier

As hologram:

Alexander Flynn, leader of the Gladiators

Story Notes: 

This marks the first appearance of Lila’s bouncer and later X-Factor member, Guido Carosella, AKA Strong Guy.

Sunspot first fought Axe when he was an agent of the Hellfire Club sent to kidnap Roberto’s mother in New Mutants #7.

Dazzler outed herself as a mutant in an ill-fated publicity stunt for her movie in Marvel Graphic Novel #10: Dazzler the Movie, effectively destroying her career with that stunt.

Afterwards, Dazzler became a member of the Gladiators, until the Beast and the mutants at Heartbreak Hotel saved her and destroyed the operation. At that point, wanna-be supervillain Alexander Flynn was effectively beaten and found himself mocked by his former employees and Max, Ivich and the other Gladiators decided to replace the Gladiators with a non-killing organization. [Beauty & the Beast LS #1-4]

Magneto’s still suffering from injuries received in New Mutants #21, when Warlock crashed into Asteroid X and sent it hurtling towards Earth.

The X-Men and Magneto fought side-by-side on the Beyonder’s world in the first Secret Wars limited series.

The word “Nazgul” originally refers to the Ring-Wraiths in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “the Lord of the Rings.” The band Nazgul Lila is referring to though - and its ill-fated lead singer Larry Hobbins - are taken from George R. R. Martin’s novel “The Armageddon Rag”

Ivich is colored wrongly in this issue. Actually, she should have green skin. In addition, she looks like a female Frankenstein monster here, while in “Beauty and the Beast” she was a relatively normal-looking woman (apart from her skin color).

Sunspot and Cannonball tried to kill each other in Nova Roma’s arena after they had been drugged into a battle-frenzy in New Mutants #9.

The Beyonder’s confrontation with Magneto, the X-Men and the New Mutants can be seen in Secret Wars II #1

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