By Steve Morris
The Exiled crossover between New Mutants and Journey Into Mystery ends with a comedy of errors, with Thor’s grandpops Bor overseeing the wedding of Sigurd and the Disir. The very quickly set-up wedding which ends this storyline gives the creative team chance to have a lot of quick fun moments: Mephisto sits at the back and tries to get Magma’s attention, the Disir put on white dresses, and Dani Moonstar chafes instantly under Bor’s blatant misogyny. Within a page he’s already annoyed the entire (entire?) readership with his chauvinistic “ministering” of the ceremony, and a fight breaks out between everybody who wants to get involved.
Loki pops out, sets up a trap for Bor, and by the end of the issue we get what we want: the Disir are finally freed. It’s all a little easy, with the writers maybe leaning a little too much on the “this is all a bit of fun” crossover energy, which means they don’t have to really think too hard about the ending. We get our ‘happy’ ending, so who really cares how we get there, or the dysfunctional approach to getting Bor out of the picture; the Disir their freedom; and the heroes their victory.
At least we do get another enemy lining up against Loki by the end: just as before, Loki’s managed to sneak his way through things, but his short-term planning is leaving him with a long-term problem. With characters like Surtur already waiting out there for their time to strike, now Loki adds to his worrying future as he really has an enemy in the form of Mephisto, who has lost his handmaidens and is a tad bit miffed. One of the more definitively JiM-ish elements of the issue is Loki’s victory-with-caveats, and it does give us at least something which we can move forwards with.
However, the ending of the issue brings us a resolution which has annoyed me more and more in recent years, and that’s the lack of a satisfying revenge on the character whose chauvinism and prejudice caused the Disir centuries of agonising pain. Bor is sent back where he came from after getting humiliated, sure, but Sigurd simply ends up crying in a bathroom because the Disir have threatened him. It’s hardly a fitting finale for Sigurd in particular, who could have chosen at any point in time to make amends and save the women he cursed to eternal damnation and torture. It’s frustrating because it feels like in recent years comics have experienced a Spider-ification of moral structure, where every character at Marvel now has to comport themselves with the same level of moral grace which Uncle Ben recommends.
It’s understandable for a line of superhero comics to hold the heroes to a code: Spider-Man recognises that with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s why the character has a strict moral code which means he will never go too far and resort to killing his enemies. Over at the other side, you have Superman and Batman as two moral pillars who also work hard to ensure they never cross that line. As time has gone on, characters like Spider-Man have seen their code be adopted by everyone else, though, with heroes seemingly not allowed to do anything which is considered to be morally wrong. And that seems… off.
Batman and Superman don’t kill, fine: but Wonder Woman obviously would. Spider-Man doesn’t punish his enemies… but the Disir? Happy to let the man who surrendered them to the devil escape? It doesn’t sit right, does it? After being set up to have this crossover event which reintroduced a very minor character like Sigurd, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to have the man escape with a warning. It’s not satisfying to read about, and it feels strange to be protecting both Sigurd (who could have been killed, turned into a servant of the Disir, or at least affected in some way) and the Disir themselves (are we supposed to be inspired by their grace?).
Basically: if you give me somebody who is as authentically horrible and unpleasant as Sigurd, then it feels like a major cop-out to let them walk away at the end of the story. Just as heroes are here to set an example, give us something to cheer and feel inspired by; so villains are there to get their arse handed to them at the end of a story. This crossover isn’t a monumentally important story, it doesn’t have a real theme beyond “misogyny is real”, and I don’t see why it couldn’t have been a little more brutal in its resolution. The Disir certainly got punished every chance they could, so is it too much to ask that Sigurd get a bit of the same?
New Mutants #43
Writers: Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artist: Carmine di Giandomenico
Colourist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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