Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dani Moonstar and Xi'an Coy Manh on

Longtime When Comic Books Ruled the Earth readers know my interest in and appreciation of the Marvel mutant characters Dani Moonstar and Xi'an Coy Manh dates back to the early 1950s when I was involved in secret (recently declassified) government comic book testing. As a high-level science operative for the United States government, I was able to study Dani and Xi'an and their superheroic careers at length. The results were enlightening, to say the least.

And yet somehow, in all the hoopla over the new New Mutants title from Marvel, I overlooked last April's "New Mutants Week" over at, the official website for Marvel Comics where some unknown online editor poses the question: "Without her powers, can Dani Moonstar still find a place in the reunited New Mutants?"

To which I might reply, "She's probably better off without powers the way various writers constantly changed them."

From her ability to manifest psychic images of anyone's deepest fears or desires to her non sequitor stint as a Valkyrie and beyond, it seems poor Dani fell under the well-meaning ministrations of writers who just weren't satisfied with whatever set of powers she possessed... that month. She remains a cautionary tale of what happens when too many writers craft a narrative with conflicting views of what a character is all about-- a confused hodgepodge of concepts and nonsense. Frippery and whatnot. Dumping her powers undoes a lot of damage and allows writers to concentrate on the one thing about her that's remained fairly constant-- her edgy personality. With that intact, Dani doesn't need magic arrows or flying horses to demand attention.

Xi'an is like the reverse image of her pal Dani. She's kept her initial powers but has gone through a bewildering array of physical and personality changes. The New Mutants' first leader by virtue of being the oldest and most serious, the retiring Xi'an came forth with a tragic backstory and the burden of younger siblings in her care. In the first volume of New Mutants, Chris Claremont seemed relatively uninterested in Xi'an, giving her mostly the thankless narrative position of resident kill joy while Dani got the juicy role of team rebel and mental case. Then Claremont bumped Xi'an off, only to bring her back as a massively obese parody of her former self. Eventually she came out as a lesbian and went through a stint as a carefree dyed-haired-body-pierced raver (almost a 180-degree switch from her initial characterization). I think she's back to her more conservative appearance and sense of adult responsibility these days, and I have no idea if her sexual identity has been dealt with at any great length since she came out.

In the profiles, New Mutants writer Zeb Wells discusses both characters' pasts as he sets them off on some new adventures. Hopefully this time around, Xi'an will get her due. I can't complain much about Dani's run in the series' first volume because she was its de facto star until Claremont's apparent fascination for Magik placed that character in the forefront, but I want to read some Xi'an-based storylines and really get into her head the way she gets into others'.

Missed New Mutants Week? Around this blog EVERY week is New Mutants Week!

No comments: