New Mutants (1st series) #31

Issue Date: 
September 1985
Story Title: 
Saturday Night Fight

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

Brief Description: 

Sunspot and Magma fight for their lives in the Gladiators’ arena against a hulking monster – actually a robot, which contains the possessed Shadowcat. Both sides are egged on by the mysterious telepath, who leads the Gladiators. Eventually, Shadowcat’s willpower proves too strong and she phases out of the robot. Now, the three of them have to face a still-possessed Dazzler. They are joined by Cannonball, Magik and Rachel. Magik teleports Dazzler into Limbo. Believing she’s dead, the Gladiators angrily attack the mutants. At Kitty’s behest, Illyana returns Alison, who is now free of the possession. With the police arriving, the patrons and the Gladiators make a run for it. The mutants examine the leader’s box and find a tunnel. They once more find themselves attacked telepathically, until Kitty orders Dazzler to light the tunnel and Sam to fly into their foe. Cannonball I shocked to find that the telepath is their old teammate Karma – horribly changed. Karma blackmails them into letting her leave by using her slaves as bargaining chips and the New Mutants decide that it is their job to find her and save her or bring her to justice.

Full Summary: 

In the Gladiators’ arena, Sunspot and Magma are doing their best to survive in a desperate fight against a hulking horror, much to the glee of the audience. The show is accompanied by Dazzler’s lightshow – she’s standing on a dais in the middle of the arena, literally dazzling everyone. In a special box, attended by slaves, the Gladiator’s leader is egging both parties on to kill each other, while madly cackling that the New Mutants have no idea that their friend, Shadowcat, is stuck within the robotic shell. The individual ponders whether it wouldn’t be amusing to have Dazzler execute the victor afterwards. In addition, each member of the audience was secretly photographed as they arrived. How much will they be willing to pay to not be turned over to the authorities?

As the robot almost hits Sunspot, a telepathic voice tells him to be careful. If he dies too quickly the customers won’t get a show. Roberto wonders whether the telepath is friend or foe. He strikes at the creature – only to find that it becomes immaterial as his fist touches it. The next moment, though, it becomes solid again and hits him. Luckily, Roberto manages to roll with the impact.

Magma attacks next by opening a fissure in the ground beneath the monster. To her surprise, the creature doesn’t fall but actually walks on air. Very well, she thinks grimly and wonders how it will cope with flames. Sunspot stops her and urges her to think. They know the powers the creature displays. Mad as it seems, they are fighting Shadowcat. Perceptive brat, the mystery villain snarls to herself and complains that Kitty is proving surprisingly stubborn – still she resists. Charles Xavier taught her well. Nevertheless, the telepath is stronger. With that, the robot grabs Sunspot and brings him close to its face. Sunspot addresses it, urging Kitty to fight and not to let the Gladiators makes her a murderer. He notices that he can barely hear himself over Dazzler’s song. Then, how could Kitty? He believes he is as good as dead.

Magma doesn’t know what to do. Sacrifice one friend for another? That is precisely the point, a telepathic voice tells them. Sunspot wonders why the voice seems so familiar and then notices that the robot is hesitating. The mysterious telepath – for the first time fully seen as an immensely fat Asian woman - screams at the robot to kill. Dazzler takes up the scream, chanting to the crowd that they want blood! “Killkillkill”. Suddenly, an arm appears on the robot’s forehead and Kitty phases out of it. She tells the kids to scoot; without her to animate it the robot will go to pieces - which it does.

The crowd boos, feeling cheated. They want blood. They want them to kill the girl. Amara has had it, even in the coliseum in her home, Nova Roma, the audience wasn’t that bloodthirsty. She intends to give them a taste of her own medicine when she is attacked by a laser blast. Dazzler tells her that, among the Gladiators, only victors survive. Magma counter-attacks with a lava blast, but Alison easily evades it. Turning up her luminescence, she hypnotises Sunspot and Magma. Only Kitty, who already knows the trick, looks away in time. She’s aware that Dazzler is possessed and that the telepath is behind it. She needs something physical to fight back. She grabs one of the robots huge spikes, breaks it off and hurls it towards the box, momentarily breaking the telepath’s concentration.

In addition, the other two New Mutants and Rachel arrive at this very moment as Cannonball blasts straight into the arena. Rachel warns the others that another PSI is present and she has never felt anything so malevolent. The telepath once more possesses Dazzler and has her fire a blast at Kitty, figuring that the noble heroes won’t hurt a friend who is but a victim. Wrong, as far as Illyana is concerned. She opens a teleportation circle and has one of her demons snatch Dazzler away to Limbo. Seeing this, the Gladiators – especially Alison’s friend Ivich - go ballistic and attack the mutants. Using teamwork though - as opposed to the Gladiators, who are used to fighting each other instead of working together - the tide shifts slowly in favor of the New Mutants and X-Men.

Kitty eventually orders Magik to return Dazzler. Illyana protests – she betrayed them. Not her fault, Kitty explains, gambling that Illyana teleporting her to Limbo broke the possession. Illyana accedes but warns Kitty that, if she’s wrong, Ali goes back to Limbo forever. A clearly shaken Ali is returned and apologizes to Kitty, who tells her to save it for later. Now, could she please calm down her bozo friends before somebody gets hurt?

In the meantime, sirens are getting louder and the audience realizes that something is very wrong. They surge for the exit, as do the Gladiators. Ivich realized that she is the only one left and faces Ali, telling her she’s glad she wasn’t killed. Is she busted? She should be, Alison tells her, but who is she to judge? She tells her to leave, ignoring Ivich’s offer to accompany her. She warns her friend to find a gentler line of work… or else.

Kitty tells the others that the Gladiators were just cannon fodder. The organization won’t be fully destroyed until they nail their boss. Not Alexander Flynn, who was just a holographic illusion, but the puppet master behind him. The royal box is empty, their prey gone. Magma realizes that there must be an escape tunnel and blasts walls and floor until she finds it.

As the mutants enter the tunnel, Kitty warns the others that they are facing a telepath - somebody who possesses people. Her warning comes too late. Just as Sam states that this powers sounds just like – Bobby finds himself possessed and punches Sam in the stomach, mocking that Sam speaks more truly than he knows. Rachel telekinetically restrains Sunspot, only to find herself possessed in turn, her telepathic powers making her even more vulnerable. Rachel zaps Illyana. Kitty grimly realizes that their foe knew what she was doing. Rachel was the only one on a par with their enemy and, without Illyana, they can’t break the slave link by teleporting people to Limbo the way they did with Dazzler. Using her training to hide her thoughts, she sneaks up to Rachel from behind and knocks her out. Then, she orders Alison to glow as brightly as she can, illuminating the entire tunnel. She shouts at Cannonball to cut loose as soon as he sees his target.

The “target” - a grossly overweight Asian woman - is momentarily disoriented and Sam flies straight into her. Then he sees her face and realizes, with horror, who his foe is, refusing to believe it. The woman uses his shock and telepathically zaps him, then sarcastically asks the others why they look so shocked. Have they forgotten Karma?

Roberto is as stunned by this revelation as Sam. How can Karma be alive? Karma mockingly asks Roberto if he doesn’t believe in miracles and hints that their beloved teacher, Charles Xavier, knows the truth of what happened.

Kitty admits that she knew their foe’s identity from the moment she found herself possessed but couldn’t tell the boys. They cared too much for Karma. They wouldn’t have believed it. Kitty addresses Karma, telling her that she’s trapped and Sam hit her awfully hard. She’s no longer strong enough to possess all of them. She won’t escape. No? Karma asks. If any of them make the slightest move she will have their slaves cut their own throat. If they allow her safe departure, she will release them. Kitty has no choice and, over Sunspot’s protest, Karma flies away in her private plane, her evil laughter haunting them. The injured Sam gets up, wanting to follow, until Amara chides him that he can hardy stand, much less fly.

A little later, Amara has dug them another tunnel leading to the hills, from where they watch the police searching the mansion and coming out with one prisoner – one of the guests – Karma’s uncle, General Nguyen Ngoc Coy, a San Francisco Crime Czar.

Must run in the family, Illyana states sarcastically. Sam admonishes her: she didn’t know Shan. She has no right to mouth off about her. Roberto angrily lashes out at the next tree. Xavier lied to them! He claimed Karma was dead. Playing devil’s advocate, Kitty points out that he may have been simply wrong. The world’s most powerful telepath make a mistake? Bobby scoffs. Or he was trying to protect them Kitty offers. Amara interjects that Karma was a New Mutant. It falls to their team to put things right, to save Karma or bring her to justice.

Kitty urges them to let the X-Men handle that but the junior team is adamant. Besides, Sam points out, after the Beyonder mess, they don’t even know if the X-Men are alive. He trusts the Professor, but he isn’t well and he isn’t ready to trust Magneto yet. Kitty accedes and turns to Dazzler. She tries to comfort the other woman by telling her that wasn’t her acting tonight, that was Karma forcing her. But that doesn’t go for the other bouts, Alison states. It’s a great excuse, but it won’t wash. Kitty admits that she read her diary and what matters is that Alison faced the demons that drove her to the Gladiators and won over them. She has nothing to be ashamed of.

Rachel interrupts. She senses the X-Men’s thoughts - they are alive. They’ve heard her psi-call and are coming to pick them up. Sam asks Kitty if she is going to turn them in or let them do this. Kitty states that she is going to regret this, but someone has to cover for them with the Professor. Sam assures her they will let the X-Men know if they need help. Roberto wonders if they have a chance. Sam admits he doesn’t know, but Karma was their friend. They have to try.

Characters Involved: 

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

Rachel Summers, Shadowcat (both X-Men)


Ivich and other unnamed Gladiators


General Nguyen Ngoc Coy (Karma’s villainous uncle) and other patrons

Karma’s slaves

One of Illyana’s demons

Story Notes: 

This issue includes two pin-ups by Bill Sienkiewicz plus excerpts from the private Journal of Professor Xavier as well as a student evaluation by Emma Frost:

Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo de la Rocha / Empath:

Xavie notes in his Journal that powerwise this particular member of the Hellions is precisely what his name implies: someone who can manipulate emotions of sentient beings in his vicinity. The effect seems transitory and it is unknown whether he can wreak a permanent change. Regrettably, Xavier notes, Manuel enjoys utilizing his talent. People are no more than servants or toys to him. There is no kindness or generosity in him. If there is a living definition of evil, it may well be he.

Sharon Smith / Catseye

Catseye’s age is unknown though Frost estimates it roughly at 14-15. She is a feral child with no memory of any environment save the Manhattan underground where she grew up with a feline who acted as a surrogate mother. Her IQ is phenomenal and includes total recall. She progressed from total illiteracy to upper-grade school reading levels in less than a year. Still in many ways she is more animal than person. Since it was Frost who found her, Sharon has emotionally attached herself to the White Queen, a relationship that allows further exploitation by the Hellfire Club, though Frost notes that they have to be careful. Catseye is ferociously intelligent and knows when she’s lied to. Furthermore she does not comprehend the distinctions between New Mutants and Hellions and doesn’t understand that she should consider her personal friends her team’s foes.

Karma seemingly died off-panel between New Mutants #6-7 after being contacted by an evil unidentified force, although Charles Xavier even then suspected that things were not quite as they seemed.

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