The fictional country is a staple of the pulp genre that comic book universes evolved from. Whether the place is a wretched hive of scum and villainy or some idealistic place that cut itself off from the outside world for some reason, these fictional countries allow creators to tell stories without having to worry about whether or not Captain America will try to punch out Chairman Mao when there’s a Madripoor nearby with what is certainly a similar such individual.
And then we get characters that come from these places to help out. One of those would be Magma.
Magma, real name Amara Juliana Ollivans Aquilla (whew!), is a mutant often associated with the X-Men and the New Mutants team from the fictional country of Nova Roma. For those of you who have weak Latin, that translates into “New Rome”. Essentially, Magma came from a place that was supposed to be a long lost colony of the Roman Empire located somewhere in the jungles of South America, cut off from the outside world for centuries. As a mutant, she had power over earthquakes and lava flows, and for some reason flight.
Seriously, why do so many characters with heat-based powers have flight? I’m sure someone somewhere will say something about thermal updrafts and whatnot, but this character’s powers were based on, you know, the ground and not, you know, gravity.
But that’s besides the point. It seems Amara was discovered by the New Mutants early in that team’s existence and opted to join. Yeah, some sort of crush on a bad kid named Empath over in the Hellfire Club’s Hellions’ team got her to switch sides once or twice, but basically she’s been with the X-Men.
But remember what I said about the fictional country? What happens when the fictional country is somehow stated to be, well, fictional? Like, in-universe fictional?
That’s more or less what happened for a period. Magma once found a statue of the moon goddess Selene, and said it was her great to the tenth power grandmother. Selene, of course, is a powerful, immortal mutant sorceress who messes with the various X-teams all the time. This comes after a period when Amara realizes that gods she worshiped are members of the Avengers.
It seems that during an encounter with Selene, Selene revealed that, GASP, there was no such thing as Nova Roma! Yes, the whole thing was a mind control experiment she was conducting by making a bunch of British citizens think they were living in a fake Roman colony! Magma’s real name was Allison Crestmere!
There’s a part of me that thinks, you know, robbing a fictional universe of a fictional Roman colony takes some of the fun and wonder out of a place. Making Magma a victim as opposed to a person still living the Roman lifestyle is just plain screwy and probably hurts the character in all kinds of ways.
But that’s neither here nor there. Allison rejoined the New Mutants for a period and then disappears again.
She resurfaces later when a bad guy group of Human Supremacists calling themselves the Church of Humanity crucify a bunch of young mutants on the X-Men’s front lawn. Wow. Subtle. Yes, that is the work of writer Chuck Austen. Why do you ask?
Among those mutants was Magma, and I gotta say…how the hell does that work? I mean, among the recognized mutants present were former Generation X member Skin, whose mutant power was extra skin. He didn’t make it. They also nabbed Jubilee, and she tosses off sparklers, so I can see that. But how do you subdue someone who can create a volcano on the spot when you have no superpowers of your own? And the Church wasn’t even seen stockpiling Sentinels or anything, so really, I am baffled by this development.
Anyway, Magma doesn’t die because that’s left for losers like Skin apparently. Instead, different mutant healers get to work and she recovers.
Man, does she recover. She recovers so well that she’s back to Amara because Selene’s mind control thing was a lie. Or something. Point is, no more Allison.
Maybe characters like this would stick around more if creators could just pick an origin and stick with it.