Saturday, September 26, 2015

CBR:Quickies Dan Abnett's New Mutants

There has been several generations of "new mutants" over the years in the comics, but only one decided to actually stick with "New Mutants" as a team name.

"Children of the Atom", mutants born with amazing powers that forever set them apart from mankind:

The New Mutants originally started up as a side book of the X-Men series. An off-shoot of the main series featuring the young(er) latest additions to the cast.

Well, of course since then there's been several new generations of young X-Men, from the 90s "Generation X" like Jubilee to our relatively recent students of the Wolverine and the X-Men series.

All these different iterations keep being replaced for newer models, despite barely growing older (that's Marvel Comics' weird "sliding time" at work for ya - comics everyone!). Yet the original team of Cyclops & co barely aged.. Anyway back on the topic, if most of these new generation of mutants are often quite popular thanks to cartoon adaptations and what have you, one team has always been sadly underrated in my eyes - the original New Mutants!

They've always been a very unlikely bunch of heroes. Actual young mutants forced to grow up and face the same type of situations are the original X-Men, with all kinds of weird powers not all based on impressive power sets and neither completing each other, just a weird match of different kids forced to grow up together and becoming friends over the years. You know, like actual kids at school.

And yet it worked perfectly.

The original New Mutants series was created by Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod. They first appeared in 1982 (which is the title were Deadpool originally came from by the by).

A second New Mutants series would be launched in 2003, featuring a brand new group of characters.

After this long-running classic 1980s series and the early 2000s second incarnation, a third volume was created in 2009, featuring the return of the original team all grown up (well, as much as they did anyway). This third New Mutant series was a reunion of sorts, featuring most of the original team.

It featured the leader Mirage/aka Danielle Moonstar, a Cheyenne with the ability to manipulate illusions, Sunspot/Roberto da Costa, a Brazilian that could channel the sunlight into raw power, Wolfsbane/Rahne Sinclair, a Scottish werewolf girl, Magik/Illyana Rasputin, a Russian mutant with hellish powers and sister of the X-Man Colossus, Cypher/Douglas Ramsey, a kid with the ability to quickly learn any language, whether it was human, alien or virtual, Magma/Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla, a girl that can control lava, the goofy original leader Cannonball, and finally Warlock, an extraterrestrial techno-organic creature - no kidding!

The first four story arcs or trade paperbacks were written by Zeb Well (up to issue #28). I won't be reviewing these below, but to summarize the first half of the series: Wolfsbane would soon ditch her friends to join Jamie Madrox' X-Factor again, Cannonball and old New Mutants regular Karma would leave the team as well, the mutant with one of the weirdest most complicated backstories would soon join the team, "X-Man" aka Nate Grey*, and Dani became empowered by the goddess Hela to help Asgardians as a new Valkyrie.

After the events of Fear Itself (more on that below) Schism and Regenesis, most of the X-Men lineup would be restructured (hence the change of logo on all of the X-Men titles). Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning would be put in charge of the book and they were able to pen all-new adventures appealing both to newcomers and long time nostalgic fans. 

Schism split the mutants in half with X-book taking a side in the conflict (X-Factor aside, because no event can stop that book apparently). Cyclops and his team went to Genosha to turn it into a haven for mutants, while Wolverine stayed on the mainland. And what about our New Mutants? They fall off the radar, returning the book to its off-shoot status, taking no affiliation in the conflict. In fact, during this "second half" of this run of the New Mutants other mutants would come and check by on our heroes but they would never truly join any side, preferring to stay aside living amongst the humans.

*And for those that are interested, Nathaniel Grey aka "Nate Grey" or X-Man is sort of an alternate Cable. He also comes from the Age of Apocalypse world, a reality where "the first mutant" Apocalypse actually conquered the world. He's in fact the son of that world's Cyclops and Jean Grey, but he was actually genetically altered by the villain Mr. Sinister to be his weapon against the other villain. Since he was never infected by a "techno-organic" virus unlike Cable, he had fully developed telekinetic powers... that is until he just recently lost most of his powers when fighting alongside our X-Men in the present day. Now? He has to learn from scratch to develop and control his powers again.

Comic title: Fear Itself: Wolverine/New Mutants
Written by Seth Peck, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Roland Boschi & David Lafuente
Format: Trade paperback collecting Fear Itself: Wolverine #1–3 and New Mutants (vol. 3) #29–32.

Let's get this out right away, this first book actually contains two features as the title implies. There's the Fear Itself: Wolverine mini-series tie-in into the main event and Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning's first few issues on the book which loosely tie into Fear Itself but give us a first impression how these characters would be treated in this run.

First off, "Fear Itself: Wolverine". Long story short: this 2011 crossover event saw an old Asgardian deity, "the Serpent" turn a lot of Earth C-list villains into major enemies as he empowered them with terrible powers capable to make even The Mighty Thor fear for his life - thus the famous "fear itself" quote.

Wolverine is trying to help the other heroes protect New York City, kicking the ass of an old Ghost Rider villain nobody remembers, Marvel's own Scarecrow (who is closer to Nolan's Batman Begins Scarecrow when I think about it), when this supervillain faction "S.T.R.I.K.E." comes with a deadly announcement. What is S.T.R.I.K.E., you might ask? One of the worst criminal organizations around, meaning they're down to only these last four remaining crewmembers. They are about to nuke NYC with an old Helicarrier from Norman Osborn's short lived H.A.M.M.E.R. which apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. never recovered. Wolverine gets aboard and simply defeats all these idiots one by one, as they find out their boss was never really honest with them regarding their mission...

In the "Fear Itself: New Mutants" we are introduced to the current roster of the New Mutants and what is currently up with them. Dani Moonstar just lost her mutant abilities, X-Man can't use his powers that well anymore and the rest of the New Mutants are trying to see what is up with their team and if it even needs to exist anymore, shouldn't they just join Cyclops on Genosha instead?

The Asgardian goddess of death, Hela, is in trouble. Using the chaos provoked by the Serpent, all Hel just broke loose! And I mean "Hel" with one "L". Through her connection with Danielle/Mirage she summoned her new champion to help her. She arrives to late, as Hel was already taken over and Hela left for dead.

Meanwhile her friends try to come to rescue her... and end up in Hell, with two "L", all because Cypher messed up reading a word during the incantation - nice going "Ash"! Amara/Magma is forced to make a deal with the devil, Mephisto himself, before they can come to Dani's help.

Overall: This was a pretty fun book. It was kind of messy, since this was part of a much bigger company-wide crossover storyline, but both stories were equally good.

New Mutants were just getting back to shape thanks to a little membership shuffle, it's such a great fun team.

The Wolverine story was kind of generic, despite the huge stakes only having Wolverine involved in it limited the scope of the threat. Wolverine's girlfriend at the time, Melita, is a pretty great character. But I feel Seth Peck didn't really get much the character, at least not as well as her creator Jason Aaron did on the main Wolverine title.

The art is a bit sketchy on both features. While it was pretty neat on the Wolverine story, it reminded me far too much of 90s comic books on the New Mutants story (probably intentionally so).

I wouldn't exactly recommend starting reading New Mutants with this volume (the next book below is a much better entry point for new readers), but it was a nice excuse using this Fear Itself event to get to know where things where at with our heroes.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: New Mutants Vol.5: A Date with the Devil
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by David López
Format: Trade paperback collecting New Mutants issues #33–37.

This was the New Mutant's brand new beginning!

After the events of Schism, the X-Men split up in two. Our New Mutants tried staying on Cyclops' "Utopia" first. But they ended up leaving Karma behind taking (who just lost her left leg in the process) who is now taking care of the mutant Face. While her friends decided to move to San Francisco, California.

Their first mission in the big city is locating the mutant teleporter Blink who has been glimpsed all over the place lately. (This is not the more popular Exiles alternate reality Blink, but the mainstream Marvel Universe Blink who had very little appearances over the years but knows the New Mutants by the way.)

They find Blink facing a mutant rock band. Yeah, I promise you it made a lot more sense in the pages of this comic!

Our heroes try to keep things weird in control to avoid suspicion from the old lady living below in the building.

Finally it's time for Amara's date with Mephisto! And... it turns out Satan's a pretty decent guy if one gets the chance to know him.

Overall: This was a fantastic relaunch for New Mutants. Now this is how you make things interesting and renew interest in characters like this!

It was a pretty great book! With fantastic dialogues that allow the characters to grow on you. They're all very relatable despite the crazy situations they always end up with.

I also really loved the art here. David López is pretty talented, and he did a great job making all characters distinct in both body shape and attitude. Great job all around.

Highly Recommended read for anyone that loves the X-books or who is trying to find a different kind of X-Men title. Enjoyable with a great cast of characters!

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: New Mutants Vol.6: De-Animator
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Leandro Fernandez & David López
Format: Trade paperback collecting New Mutants issues #38-41.

It all begins with Cypher having a nightmare (of these therapy sessions very reminiscent of the Doc Samson scenes from the original X-Factor series). Which is making Self/Friend Warlock really worried about his friend.

And the key to all of his troubles might be on Paradise, an island where the team faced the Ani-Mator some years prior (where Doug sort of..died. But he came back since then - comics! As soon as they hit the place they're all infected by a dangerous virus that plagues all lifeforms. So Warlock's fine. It turns out the bad guy created a self-replicant self-aware virus to bring his consciousness back from the dead (or at the very least, copy it) in case he ever died. Cypher and Warlock team up to form - DougLock! And Doug finds a way to put a stop to him.

After that big epic tale that makes up most of this volume, Blink is back to see her firends. She sees everybody down, so she offers them some time off in Madripoor to celebrate Warlock's birthday. Our young heroes get to mingle around with normal regular people for a change. Sunspot has some real problem hitting on the ladies, but even Warlock manages to meet a nice girl (this weird cyborg lady called Trois).

Overall: Another great volume. This book mostly features one big storyline with the return of Ani-Mator and a lighter more comedic standalone tale.

Another solid entry in the series. The characters are just great, they all work great off each other. The interaction between them is the real heart of this series.

The tone can be kind of tongue-in-cheek, particularly playing off the "New Mutants" team name.

The art was good. Leandro Fernandez did a decent job, but it wasn't as good as to see David López back for the last issue.

While the first story didn't do much for me, I really enjoyed the team's downtime in the town. And could we have more Blink? She is the unofficial 7th member of this incarnation of the team, at this point.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: New Mutants Vol.7: Fight the Future    
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Leandro Fernandez, Felix Ruiz and Klebs
Format: Trade paperback collecting New Mutants issues #44-50.

I skipped over two issues, issues #42 and 43, which were a short crossover with Loki's Journey Into Mystery series.

It all begins with the New Mutants facing some strange monsters. Leftovers from their trip through Hel(l)? Our heroes get some unexpected help from Doctor Strange, Iron Fist and the Silver Surfer. They invite them back to their place (we even get an hilarious panel of the Surfer eating some pizza!). The old Latverian neighbor lady Mrs. Livitz almost catch our heroes in their superhero costumes! Doc Strange feels some danger coming from the time-space continuum.

They go back to enlist the help of the X-Men at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning. Some weird stuff seems to be following them. Canonball and Karma vanish!! They try to track them down and go back to all the places they've been the last few months such as the rock concert area.

They don't find their friends but instead older versions of Canonball and Karma mixed with weird Lock-technology. They came from the future and are trying to prevent a reality where Doug took on Warlock's tech to take over the entire planet! They're trying to correct the timeline, but evil!Doug is able to find them and take over their bodies! How would all these friends be able to even turn on each other like that?

They're all forced to summon all their power to go look into this darkest timeline and put things back how they're supposed to be.

Finally after all this trouble, everybody gets to the New Mutants' place to celebrate the return to normal. Heck, even Mephisto came by the house! But they're forced to cut things short as Warlock is confronted by this Tyro, another Self/Friend that was turned into an evil AI during some catastrophic event in space ("the Fault" as seen in Dan Abnett's Guardians of the Galaxy). Thankfully this time they have more than hands to help put a stop to this threat quickly.

Overall: And this was the last volume in the series. Issue #50 not only marked the end of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning's short run on the series but also the last issue of New Mutants to date. Marvel hasn't decided to continue with this book ever since. No more New Mutants...

It was a pretty consistently good series. It wasn't as much tied into the rest of the X-Men titles, which is probably why Marvel decided to pull the plug of this great book.

This last trade was good. It tied all the themes and ideas of the entire run and played off the different stories seen in Dan Abnett's second half of the book. It even saw a brief return of Canonball and Karma to the roster.

All in all, a solid closure to a great series.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Through all the different incarnations of New Mutants, the roster of the characters changed radically and the tone of the book changed from time to time, but the core concept stayed the same. Young heroes trying to find their place in the (larger Marvel Universe) world.

The modern incarnation of the New Mutants was no different. It put the emphasis back on the original core members of the team and tried going for a more nostalgic angle. Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning's run gave us a much lighter and much more accessible series.

Some things changed, others stayed the same. It was always a fun consistent enjoyable book with great relatable characters. They might not be your popular Wolverines or super-powered Magnetos, and that's precisely why they were great characters. Seriously, think about it, one had the power to understand all kind of languages and used his smarts to defeat baddies? If that's not awesome then I don't know what is!

The team will always be fondly remembered and I seriously Marvel finally decides to bring the book back, even if it might the next time we seem the team it might be All-New All-Different.

Speaking of, 20th Century Fox has apparently they would be making a New Mutants live-action film and the screenplay is apparently already written. I can't wait to see how the concept gets translated into a different medium...

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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