RSS Feed
Jan 9

New Mutants #5 annotations

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER / PAGE 1. Deathbird fights Cannonball and Sunspot… which doesn’t really happen in the issue.

PAGES 2-3. Sunspot recaps the plot.

Two pages of in-story recap is a lot, but it’s been three issues since we were last dealing with this cast and this storyline. In plot terms, at least, there’s still no apparent connection between the two strands of this series. Sunspot’s recap of the plot is basically accurate, despite all the comedy egotism – and note that Sunspot doesn’t actually name any other characters in this entire sequence.

Murd Blurdock. As previously mentioned, Sunspot’s “space lawyer” is a Daredevil parody, but this panel seems to miss the original joke: he’s from a race of blind aliens with radar sense, and instead of a radar sense he has perfectly normal eyesight.

Sunspot and Cannonball. Even Hickman’s rather delusional Sunspot acknowledges that he’s trying to keep himself in Sam’s good graces. Judging from Sam and Izzy’s expressions in the art, he is not being anywhere near as successful at this enterprise as he would like to believe.

“Regardless, space politics is no laughing matter…” The two (unnamed) characters seen in this panel are Oracle and Mentor of the Imperial Guard. We saw them both in issue #2, but they weren’t obviously at odds in that issue. We’ll see later on that Oracle is very much not on board with Gladiator’s plan to bring in Deathbird to train Xandra as empress.

Deathbird. Sunspot manages to spend half a page drooling over her without actually mentioning her name. I think this is indeed the first story where he’s met her, though she’s been around for years. All of the Shi’ar are meant to be bird-aliens, but Deathbird is a mutant who is much more visibly bird-like than the others.

PAGES 4-5. Recap page and credits. This is “Endangered Birds” by Jonathan Hickman and Rod Reis.

PAGES 6-8. Oracle persuades Gladiator to keep Deathbird’s arrival a secret, then instructs the Shi’ar Death Commandos to kill her.

Oracle. Clearly she considers herself among the people who object to Deathbird’s return. Her advice to Gladiator is presumably intended to make it easier to get rid of Deathbird without a big public response, but it’s sensible enough on its own terms. Shi’ar public opinion surely ought to be pretty alarmed at the return of Deathbird. As for the people she’s talking to…

PAGES 9-10. Data page on the Shi’ar Death Commandos. These characters were introduced in a storyline from Uncanny X-Men #466-471 (2006) when they wiped out the Grey family bloodline. A; they’ve shown up occasionally since then, as the Shi’ar Empire’s black ops squad. The characters listed here are all established members, most of whom are somewhat blank slates.

The opening paragraphs contrast them with the Imperial Guard who – following Hickman’s Avengers run – have a whole training programme in place so that fallen members can be replaced by somebody else using the same identity. The Death Commandos are just a bunch of mercenaries to whom that doesn’t apply… except for leader Black Cloak, presumably because he was rather graphically killed by Rachel Grey in War of Kings #5, as revenge for the death of her family. It seems that the Black Cloak seen here is a new one, so conceivably somebody we know might be under the mask.

The Death Commandos are:

  • The aforementioned Black Cloak (sometimes just Blackcloak). The name for his spear is new but otherwise this is familiar information.
  • Flaw. As it says, a Warskrull. The stuff about his meditation and ethics is new, I think.
  • D’Evo. Previously spelled as simply Devo.
  • Hypernova. She’s the one in the ridiculously impractical costume. Hickman suggests that she’s a failed candidate for the role of Hussar in the proper Imperial Guard, which kind of fits with her character design.
  • Krait. The bird guy. I believe he’s never spoken. Hickman reveals him as a regular Shi’ar who underwent years of surgical experiments at the hands of worshippers of Sharra, then turned violently on them and started worshipping K’ythri instead. The Shi’ar gods Sharra and K’ythri are normally presented as a duo – and have been seen as such in Thor – but Krait is apparently a heretic who believes in K’ythri alone.
  • Offset. The insect thing.
  • Sega. A cloud of gas that talks. The author of these data pages really doesn’t like him and the small print reads “Where is Sega”, which suggests we should be looking out for him.
  • Shell. The big rock guy. His back story seems to be all new. I don’t believe we’ve even heard of the Orthoxalith race before.
  • Warshot. A bloke with guns. He wears a mask, and I think this is the first time he’s been identified as Kree.

PAGES 11-14. The New Mutants’ ship arrives back in Shi’ar space, to find the Death Commandos waiting for them.

Chamber and Mondo. The two outsiders get a scene together to talk about what they make of the original New Mutants. Magik understandably freaks them all out. Mondo seems to be worried about Cypher having ulterior motives – perhaps because of Cypher’s experiments with Mondo in issue #1.

“You know she has a kid, right?” Deathbird was pregnant with Vulcan’s child in X-Men vol 4 #18-20, and Deathbird was drawn as heavily pregnant in Spider-Man & The X-Men #5. She was not pregnant when she next appeared, in Mr & Mrs X #3, but the plot thread wasn’t mentioned.

PAGE 15. Black Cloak gives orders.


PAGES 16-25. The Death Commandos board, the New Mutants beat them, Black Cloak blows up the whole ship.

Deathbird believes that the Commandos have been sent by someone who opposes “a return of the Neramani line to the throne”, rather than being opposed to her as an individual. It’s not clear why she thinks this, given that Xandra Neramani is next in line anyway – perhaps she’s under a misapprehension about what Gladiator wants from her.

Magik as a Captain. Magik decides that “this isn’t a fight, it’s a battle”, whatever that means – it’s not like they weren’t fighting the Shi’ar authorities before. Maybe it’s the more immediate threat to life that she has in mind. Either way, this prompts her to pull rank as a Krakoan Captain, a role that’s been mentioned before in other books. Magik’s behaviour towards the Guard is, er, odd, though it seems to have the effect of confusing them, which I guess is a win.

Karma. She appears to be doing telepathic communication here, over and above her normal possession trick.

Chamber is presumably joking about the cocktail, since he told us in issue #1 that he can’t drink coffee.

PAGES 26-27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads “NEXT: BOOM.”

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben says:

    In what will be repeated by me several times in this week’s synopsis, I think I’m done with this.

    Chamber and Mondo abandoning everyone for no reason and the ludicrous Magick stuff gave me a headache.

    Plus the fact that it’s five issues in and I don’t really know or care where the story is going.

  2. Mikey Wayne says:

    I’m kinda lovin this title all over the place. I love Magik’s over-the-top-ness… she SHOULD be scary to others and a little insane. I’m in for an expansion to Karma’s powers, If that’s what it is, bc “possession” powers have limited application in comic book depictions (see also: Jericho). I like Roberto’s personality (including in Hickman’s Avengers), and I’m buying the rhythm of the comedy. I think Doug is shown acting suspiciously at the computers and he might just be up to something… whether he has his own motivations, krakoa’s motivations or some sort of technorganic motivations (or a combination of all 3) remains to be seen, but i’m thinking Doug has a specific purpose for being in space.

    As always, many thanks to Paul, and I especially appreciated the Moira post this week.

  3. Michael says:

    I’d like to think that Illyana’s method of defeating her team of Death Commandos was simply to teleport them into space/another planet/far away. Sweet, simple, to the point.
    I wonder if her willingness to make out with any/all of them was serious, a suggestion that she’s now bi/pansexual, a side-effect of Krakoa, or what. (Remember the last we saw of her before HoX/PoX, in that godawful Rosenberg run, she’d been taken over by her unleashed Darkchylde self and we’ve no idea how that was fixed… or if it’ll ever come up again.) Still, it’s on brand for her to be a little wild and reckless.

    Also on brand for Chamber to not give a fuck… he’s been trying to escape the X-Men fighty-fight thing for a long time. So if he can avoid it, especially after -his- most recent death-and-resurrection, it seems fitting.

    I’m not a huge fan of Hickman’s manic, self-involved take on Bobby, who really plays up his arrogance/carelessness/playboy nature. I miss Ewing’s “master planner/Citizen V” take on Bobby as a debonair adventurer having a lot of fun with things.

    Shan’s use of powers felt a little at odds with how they’re usually depicted… she’s not so much mind control as actual possession of her targets, so telling a guy to hit himself, instead of being in his mind and making him hit himself, felt off.

  4. Ben says:

    If Chamber doesn’t give a fuck, why is he on Krakoa?

    Why did he go into space?

    Why is he even in this book, when he doesn’t seem to like any of the New Mutants much?

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    That’s a very good question. In my opinion, for all of Hickman’s reputation as a master planner, he sometimes puts a character into a book just because he likes them, with zero plans for them. And he has said in interviews he’s a fan of Generation X.

    I think Chamber’s here because Hickman likes him and that’s it. There’s no plan, no justification, just… that. Chamber’s cool so he’s in the book, end of story. Even though there’s no reason for him to be there.

    Apart from that – and whatever Illyana was doing, hookupmurdering the Death Commandos – I enjoyed this issue. It is all over the place, but I kind of went with the flow. There is a manic energy to this book that I can’t help but enjoy – even when stuff doesn’t make sense.

    The use of Death Commandos is very weird here. They get set up, they get two data pages, and all that is… just for them to be jokingly defeated by the New Mutants basically off-panel? Which was funny, sure, but that’s a lot of space to set up one joke.

    Also, Magik being gleeful that she can kill them since they’re not covered by the ‘kill no human’ law didn’t sit right with me. And sure, it’s Illyana, she’s been sending people to Limbo since forever, and those people probably didn’t thrive there among flesh-eating demons, but still it was… off. Though the whole ****-or-fight scene was off, maybe that colors how I reacted to the last line.

    It’s weird. I remember the Death Commandos’ introduction in End of Greys, these are some very bad space people – but at the same time they’re supposed to be highly skilled, dangerous space people, so again, turning them into a punchline is…

    Well, it’s all weird. And despite all that, I enjoyed this issue. Maybe it’s the strength of the art – Reis is carrying a lot of the humor and energy of it all. (I love the panel with happy, victorious Karma).

  6. Moo says:

    “I remember the Death Commandos’ introduction in End of Greys, these are some very bad space people – but at the same time they’re supposed to be highly skilled, dangerous space people, so again, turning them into a punchline is…”

    …par for the course? I never read End of Greys but I recalled Paul not being able to take the Commandos very seriously back then so I dug up the old review…

    “It’s the Shi’ar Death Commandos (as opposed, presumably, to the Shi’ar Polite Warning Commandos). If you yearn for 1993, you’ll be thrilled to learn that they have names like Offset, Warshot, Hypernova and Flaw. And they don’t have a single personality trait to share between them. There is nothing the slightest bit interesting about these bozos. For that matter, given that they ambushed the party and Rachel didn’t notice them until people standing next to her got killed, why didn’t they just kill her first? I don’t think they’re very good at being Death Commandos.”

  7. joshua corum says:

    On the data pages for the Death Commandos, Colony is clearly missing, despite being drawn. He/it is the weird cloud of blackish beetle things.

  8. CJ says:

    I love this series’ art. Big time. It’s the main draw for me at the moment.

    Every time the story mentioned Sega, all I could think of is video gaming in the 1990s. It does what Nintendon’t.

    I think sending the team into space in their opening arc squanders an opportunity to explore what actual non-party life is like on Krakoa. Maybe life there is not interesting, maybe it’s just Mutant Attilan.

    I agree with Ben here about Chamber and Mondo, who come off as complete twats here. Should’ve just stayed home. I like the idea of Generation X members and New Mutants members interacting, though.

    Sunspot, my second favorite X-character after Cypher, is really grating here. I must’ve missed his appearances where he became quite this insufferable, but sounds like I’m the better for it.

    On one hand, Hickman’s humor attempts don’t do anything for me (wow, juxtapose sex and bloodlust, what an original take), but I did chuckle at “punch yourself / say something nice.” Go figure.

    Maybe the next arc will be interesting.

  9. Evilgus says:

    I second CJ. Really enjoying the art on this. The plot is manic, but fun.

    I appreciated Mondo and Chamber’s disquiet. It makes sense that they don’t really know these guys.

    The Death Commandos have been rounded out way more for me now. Excellent use of data pages. It also shows you can take one note villains and dress them up a bit. I didn’t like how quickly they were taken out through – just as I wanted more on panel fight! And the End of Grey’s battle was glorious chaos.

    I like that Karma got a touch of levity that the character often lacks. Even if not quite how her power works. But hey, changes.

    One story best I’ve missed is whatever happened to the Deathbird/Bishop romance?

    And if she had Vulcan’s baby, that’ll be relevant…

  10. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘I must’ve missed his appearances where he became quite this insufferable’

    You really didn’t. When Hickman wrote him previously he was smug, but also scheming, competent and – by the end of Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers run – he was the last actually heroic character in the Avengers’ leadership (or leaderships, considering the team split into at least three factions).

    Afterwards Al Ewing took him even further into ‘scheming mastermind but for good’ territory – Sunspot was fantastic in his New Avengers/USAvengers run, it’s worth checking out for Roberto alone if you missed it.

    And that’s basically it. Sunspot disappears after that run, reappears in Rosenberg’s Uncanny (or was it War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men mini?) to not do anything and then die randomly. And then he’s here, being this way.

  11. YLu says:

    Didn’t Sunspot give away his fortune at the end of the U.S.Avengers to keep it out of bad guys’ hands or something? When did he become rich again?

  12. Dazzler says:

    As far as the “why is Chamber here?” thing. The easy answer is that Hickman likes him (and/or he’s popular), but the thing that I don’t get is that someone like Michael who loves this and is totally buying in not recognizing the irony in his comment about the characterization being on brand for Jono. He didn’t have to join Krakoa and he didn’t have to tag along on this trip to outer space, so obviously we’re not really being “on brand” at all with him if you think his M.O. is extricating himself from X-Men stuff.

  13. Dimitri says:

    Dazzler, stop denigrating everybody who doesn’t have the exact same opinion as you. You are not the center of the universe, and no one is obligated to view things the exact same way you do.

    Take the time to think about that for a second before your next comment.

  14. Col_Fury says:

    Count me among those who are really enjoying this series. The art is fantastic, it’s my kind of humor and something happens each issue (meaning, I think it’s episodic and well paced). New Mutants is my favorite book of DoX (the Boom Boom stuff is fun as well, but I mean this segment of New Mutants).

    As for why Chamber is in Krakoa… well, he was dead and now he’s not. If say, the people who brought me back to life lived in Hackensack, I’d be willing to check the place out for a bit at least (even though, before I died, I had no interest in living anywhere in New Jersey).

    As for why Chamber and Mondo are in space, that was covered in the first issue; it was supposed to be a fun space trip. And in this issue, Chamber and Mondo comment that the supposedly fun space trip put them in jail for a bit and ended up with a bunch of fighting. A “not as advertised” kind of thing, I guess.

    Has anyone seen the new trailer for the New Mutants movie? (looks great!) Each character gets a mini intro in the new trailer, and Illyana’s introduction has her admitting she killed 18 men when her powers first manifested. One by one. Maybe her personality here is inspired by the upcoming movie?

    Anyway, I’m digging it. I cna see why other may not be, though.

  15. Dazzler says:

    Sorry to Dazzle you, Dimitri, but I’m entitled to my opinions. Plus, as an added bonus I actually explain why I feel the way I feel. I’m not just saying “this all sucks,” I’m explaining why I think it sucks and doesn’t make sense.

  16. Dimitri says:

    Yeah, “entitled” sounds about right.

  17. Michael says:

    Oh Dazzler.
    I don’t have time or energy to explain my complicated, life-long love-hate relationship with the X-Books in a way in which you’d understand why certain things amuse me.

    But if I was Jono, and had come back from the dead (again) and was still blasting energy from my face and chest, I’d probably end up hanging out on Krakoa, even if I didn’t want to sign up for the usual X-Men bullshit… (see: every other time Jono stayed with the X-Men simply because he had nowhere better to go/ couldn’t fit in/that’s where all his friends are, even while rejecting the traditional superhero paradigm some of his classmates subscribed to…)

    And when some guys I barely know but seem like fun say “Hey, wanna go to space and party with us?” I might just be like “Sure, whatever.”

    And when those guys get me in all sorts of stupid-ass trouble, like space jail, I might just peace out the next time they got in a fight. Because space vacation is one thing… getting into space battles is another altogether. (Same goes for Mondo: in for the party, but he’s never been a fighter.)

    Oh, and as for Roberto– he did give away his fortune, so no clue how he got it back. Maybe he didn’t give away nearly as much as he said… or he had a way to get it back. This is comics, where rich characters can lose and regain fortunes with almost no effort, while poor characters never keep any wealth they obtain for long.

  18. neutrino says:

    One possible reason for Roberto’s personality reversion is that he’s been brought back with an earlier version of his personality, like Rahne probably was.

  19. Sol says:

    Dunno if I was just in the perfect mood or something, but I really enjoyed this issue. Was a bit shocked to discover it was solely written by Hickman, probably my favorite thing I’ve read by him.

  20. Arrowhead says:

    Dazzler – our of curiosity, which characters do you think multiple consecutive writers have written consistently and in-character, any time over the past 10 years or so?

  21. Chris V says:

    Michael-Exactly. Krakoa is not the X-Men.
    There are special forces set up to do the fighting and adventuring on behalf of Krakoa.

    A lot of the population are living on Krakoa to get away from the constant fighting and violence.
    They may be called upon to defend Krakoa in case of an extreme situation, but otherwise, the majority of the people on Krakoa have been shown to spend most of their time celebrating.

    I can’t speak for Chamber deciding to go in to space with the New Mutants though.

    It also seems like, for whatever reason, it is very important to Moira/Xavier’s plan that all mutants are living on Krakoa.
    That’s probably a mystery to be explained someday by Hickman, I’m sure.

  22. Dazzler says:

    @Arrowhead: That’s an interesting question and I’m not sure what sparked it. Most of my answers would come from Indy titles, because I don’t read all that much Big Two in recent years.

    If you’re trying to say that I’m being unfair by saying the characters and concept are being misused here, my response is that this stuff is all clearly very drastically different from anything we’ve seen before, which has been one of its selling points. The idea that some people hate it all and think it’s idiotic shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s absolutely inevitable when you do something so contrary to what the property has always been about and incorporate a sweeping, all-encompassing retcon to boot.

    There’s plenty of room for interpretation when it comes to these characters. There’s just so much that’s been thrown away or is completely wasted here. Just my opinion. Love the characters and concept and want them back soon. I’ll settle for X-Men Red at this point.

  23. Mikey says:

    Dazzler (the commenter) is welcome to shut the f up already. Jesus Christ.

  24. Alan L says:

    As other writers interject themselves more confidently into the mix of this X-men relaunch, I find I have less to complain about in terms of the issues themselves, though I still find this general status quo is so large an alteration of existing X-men material, and such a plot-driven arrangement that the writers are hardly managing to articulate either the way the status quo works (what are the mutants doing all the time on Krakoa besides feeding the island positive vibes? How can they manage a new country with only one export? Lots of questions here, few answers, even from Hickman) or where the overarching plot could be going (still very few clues how what the X-men are doing now relates to the plot threads established as the ultimate stakes in HoX/PoX––the Phalanx, the future X-men of PoX, the development of Nimrod––none of this seems to be getting developed and advanced––but we have the Golden Girls as new X-men villains, which I guess is meant to be compensatory). Excalibur is finding a very pleasingly old-fashioned compressed pacing, and in spite of plot inconsistencies is so far my favorite book of the line. Marauders has its own tone, and the heroes do actual hero stuff occasionally. Both books use characters we know well, and give them things to do, characterization beats to go through (the blind trust and mistrust between the various heroes of Excalibur gives that series a lot of tension, even though the villains of the series are not yet very substantial; Kate’s journey in Marauders feels like it will be worthwhile character development by the end). I think this last week’s X-force is where I finally got on board with that book; the point where I felt that its sense of purpose, its choice of characters, and its handling of drama and action began to finally cohere. But whenever Hickman takes the reins of a script I’m reminded of what makes this relaunch still so suspect for me. I really don’t believe he, as the architect of this megastory, is going to make the trip worthwhile. And my suspicion comes from the disconnect in his writing between the large–scale world–building and the more ground–based tools of writing (what’s happening in this story, rather than what’s happening in the larger story), which remain the most underdeveloped area of Hickman’s writing practice.

    I’m reminded of that disconnect more than ever when he writes New Mutants, which is a book I feel I should like. The art is gorgeous, like everyone says; and the New Mutants are characters I adore. I can even feel Hickman trying hard not to let longtime readers of the New Mutants down, reaching to give the characters––some of the characters, at least––depth, personality and motivation beyond just blindly following the leader (which is what makes Hickman’s Cyclops such a dispiriting figure to read in the X-men main title). And there should be merit to having a book in which characters we like essentially “hang out” in the Marvel universe, crossing paths with other memorable characters as they shamble awkwardly through a series of relatively low–key conflicts. But I think the mistakes Hickman makes on this series (different in some ways from his more plot–driven series like the main X-men title) are in emphasis and tone. I feel that he focuses on the development of the least–sophisticated members of the team––or perhaps they are less-sophisticated because of Hickman’s take on them. I would rather spend more time with the potentially much richer characters of Dani and Rahne, and I’d like to see some consistent development for the much-neglected Karma. These three are so far just along for the ride, unusually passive in the background of the team, given that Dani and Karma used to lead the team, Dani at least leading it in several incarnations. By contrast, Sunspot and Ilyana are front and center, with Chamber a ways behind them but more prominent than the all the classic New Mutants women standing inert in the backgrounds of the issues. Hickman’s Sunspot is all obnoxious preening, with no balancing element of his characterization. Sunspot’s demand for attention from his buddy Sam is shrill and exasperating, as it seems to negate his growth as a character through his Al Ewing books, and what’s more it makes Bobby seem blind to his friend’s other, more important–seeming life concerns. As the main character in the book, it makes Sunspot hard to identify with, because his position seems so forced and unnatural. Hickman’s Ilyana is a bloodthirsty, aggressive fantasy dom, with no interior monolog that might give us a more balanced view of her characterization (the fact that Sunspot does get an interior monolog and still doesn’t get any balancing element to his characterization through it shows, I think, how mechanistically Hickman views characters in general as they are stuck in the morass of his plots). His Chamber is a hipster gastronome who can’t imbibe the beverages he creates––but this irony is glossed over in a way that feels at least careless on the part of the writer. Though this comic is clearly intended to be “fun,” none of these characters feel fun, and this contributes to what I think is a generally unhappy tone for this series.

    The humor as well is strained and overwrought, especially Ilyana’s “do you want to make out with me” routine with the Death Commandoes. This bit made me especially uncomfortable when I read it––it’s offhanded sexualization of Ilyana feels dishonest in a way that the mildly boy-crazy character of the Louise Simonson era never did. That may be weak logic on my part, but I only got a weak feeling of queasiness from this exchange, rather than full–on disgust. If Ilyana is going to be presented as pan-sexual going forward, I really wouldn’t mind––I just hope it will mean something in the development of her character, and I doubt that Hickman plans to do anything with this beyond this one joke. Throughout the series, Hickman’s humor has been delivered in exactly this way––the joke comes out of nowhere, or out of the situation (the execrable coffee joke in the first issue), or out of Hickman’s head in the way of a non sequitur, and then he assigns it to a character he thinks is or should be read as funny. The humor never comes from character as that character is being written, because on the page the characters have precious little consistency and are paper-thin. Ilyana has only rarely been a sexual being since the Simonson era (and then only notionally so), so this joke really seems to come from Hickman’s feeling that this should be a funny book, more than from his insufficient analysis of Ilyana’s character.

    People have described this book as “manic” in tone, but I think Hickman only means it to feel manic, and that in truth that’s a tone that has not been earned. Nothing in the narrative moves any faster than in the X-force book. The jumps from story beat to story beat seem eminently logical and clear. The grand narrative of this book is a standard-level space adventure plot which occasionally features scenes of the New Mutants playing cards (another lame joke; Hickman has them reveal they don’t know what card game they’re even playing, as if it would be fun enough to continue such a ruse for any length of time) or hanging out in one way or another. I never feel like events are spiraling out of control, and I don’t feel as if the characters are confronting each other with anything serious or galvanizing from moment to moment. It bothers me as well that the characters are not progressing through this plot. Sunspot is a self-involved ass in the beginning of this story, and he remains a self–involved ass at this point as well. The encounters of the story so far have not changed his outlook, even temporarily. It’s as if they have had no effect upon him. So I never feel the onset of any manic energy, any heightened pace of events developing, nor do I feel any sense that the closely-controlled plot is raising the stakes, or losing its logic to frantic events, or leaping from understanding to understanding at a compressed pace or with an exaggerated tone. Rather, my feeling is that the art, combined with Hickman’s impression of loopy, free-wheeling adventure, is creating a false feeling of manic energy, the way that actors endeavor to create the feeling of increased tension by raising the pitch of their voices and goggling their eyes around frantically.

    I guess I’m most exercised by this book rather than the others because it feels like this one could be much better than it is. Adjectiveless X-men is burdened with delivering the world–building payload of the line, and I think it never promises to be anything more absorbing than that overarching plot allows for. Fallen Angels has steadfastly insisted on being hackneyed and lifeless, objectively the “worst” book of the line. But I think the premise of New Mutants could be really good. There’s nothing wrong with them having hijinks in space––but the draw of that concept is that it will be the New Mutants having hijinks in space––that is, the characters we like so much already, going on quirky adventures together, learning and growing, etc. In their early trip to Asgard, the New Mutants delivered on this premise in the most creative and rewarding way of any Marvel comic––the characters grew and changed and interacted with one another and with the Asguardians in genuine ways, and they distinguished themselves as heroes and as disparate personalities as that story moved along. In that adventure characterization was front and center––though the New Mutants did have various effects upon their surroundings via the plot they were enmeshed within; effects intimate and grand, depending on their individual situations. It made the “hanging out” that frequently occurred in that narrative meaningful, because we learned how the characters felt about their experiences. That could be the case in this current book, and Hickman does seem to intend that same effect, because he has put the characters front and center (some of them; most of the really interesting ones are curiously left in the background). But he doesn’t make their characterization important to his story––the story, instead, is currently heading in the direction of boilerplate Hickman: succession in a royal family, and the starbound intrigue it entails. This is the grandiose level at which he perceives dramatic stakes––not at the intimate, personal level which has distinguished the New Mutants as a story in most of their previous incarnations (discounting X-force to some extent). The characters choices don’t make this story happen or lead it from one complication to the next. Most of our lead characters don’t make any decisions at all. We never know how the New Mutants feel about what’s happening to them, except for moments during Sunspot’s disingenuous comic narration, and in Mondo and Chamber’s aside in this issue. And I think that’s what makes this book feel bad; for me this makes it the worst of all in the line. It wastes some of the best advantages of this new relaunch: it has a wonderful artist, and it is not a book expected to drive forward the larger plot of the new status quo. It has characters really primed for audience-identification and meaningful interactions. It has a potentially rich and fun setting, which in fairness Hickman does strive to develop, and does just fine with even as he strands his characters on one spaceship or another. But because he never moors this setting to any intimate character interaction, it fails to catch fire; at least, for me. So to my mind it remains the biggest disappointment so far.

  25. David says:

    Since her return, this version of Illyana has always been violent and a bit evil. From when she was introduced in New X-men: Academy X, to her runs in Zeb Wells’ New Mutants, then Fraction’s and Gillen’s UXM runs. Bendis took a bit off the edge off her in his UXM, so did Guggenheim in Gold, but this is that same Illyana. It’s not really out of character.

  26. Emmanuel says:

    Sadly, Roberto Da Costa does not autocomplete to “is an ass” or “is incredibly arrogant” on google.

  27. Dazzler says:

    For the record, rudeness makes me more chatty.

  28. Dazzler says:

    Also I’m nervous for the firestorm of hatred Alan L has just brought upon himself with that insightful critical analysis. Please remember he’s a person with feelings before you tear into him too harshly for having a dissenting opinion.

  29. Dimitri says:

    Alan L, I’m sorry Dazzler is manipulatively using your name as a shield to excuse his own nasty behavior.

    From your comment, you seem like a thoughtful person, and your post doesn’t deserve to be tied up in the transparent manipulations of a hateful individual.

  30. Dimitri says:

    @Alan L

    My previous comment aside, it was a pleasure reading your thoughts on the line so far.

    I am curious, though, how do you personally define manic? I ask because I suspect we use the terms slightly differently, as I don’t really differentiate between a story feeling manic and being manic, so I was wondering where you draw the line between the two. (To be clear, genuine question, not a debate strategy on my part)

  31. Alan L says:

    I’d say there’s a a discrepancy between the manic tone Hickman is maybe going for in the story and the tone he achieves. In other words, the mania I feel rising in the story is not the mania that creeps up on you reading, say of Mr. Toad’s escape from jail in “The Wind and the Willows”––which emerges from a natural–seeming confluence of character and event–a mania earned through thorough character work. Rather, it is the mania of, say, Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys,” where manic energy is a personal style of mis en scene––a direction to the actors and cameraman, overlaid upon a story whose elements don’t really match to it in an organic–seeming way. That’s not to say that Terry Gilliam’s film isn’t engaging––I certainly had a good time watching it as a teenager––but I would say watching “La Jetee,” the Chris Marker short film from which “Twelve Monkeys” is extrapolated, it’s very clear that the meditative style of that film, where pictures fade one into the other like a heartbeat, and where a split second of moving film––the only such movement in a picture composed primarily of still images––delivers stunning effect from its control, isolation, and its fitting deployment within the narrative (taking place at the point when the main character’s romantic emotional dizzyness reaches its most pronounced point)––it is the more fitting approach for that solemn, nostalgic subject matter, making the story and its concurrent emotional narratives clearer and more impactful because the tone and the subject matter meet harmoniously. And it reveals Gilliam’s stage directions as fussy and ultimately detachable from the story.

    Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows” derives its manic passages from the characters that supply that energy, resulting in a more solid merger of manic tone with appropriate subject matter. So in Mr. Toad’s escape from jail, he is disguised as a washerwoman, but mania arises as he finds himself unable to deny his anarchic nature. Humiliated by the disguise, he plans to go straight and avoid the law in future, but when he is picked up by a motorist, and given increasing reign first to ride in the front of the car with him and then ultimately to drive the car, Mr. Toad’s natural personality can no longer be repressed, and so it bursts forth unrestrained. He drives at top speeds, and when the motorist tells the washerwoman to slow down, he bellows at the top of his lungs that he isn’t the washerwoman at all, but the infamous Mr. Toad. That mounting mania in the story is the natural result of Mr. Toad’s attempts to repress his own nature, and the ultimate bursting forth of his true personality and mania when that suppression can no longer be maintained.

    Another example of manic energy well married to subject and character is “Noises Off,” a play which builds to mania through the repetition of the mundane. As the play-within-the-play is rehearsed and rehearsed, more and more elements go awry, in large part because the personalities of the players begin to emerge and guide our vision away from the drama the actors are presenting and towards the inner drama of the actors themselves––their own battle against the tedium of rehearsing a play which is ultimately so much less than they are capable of presenting. Again, mania emerges from repression, specifically repression of true nature.

    The feel of mania, the feel of a pace and pitch of events stealthily increasing out of control, is not what I feel when I’m reading this New Mutants book. The pace of events is not quickening at any point. The Game of Thrones–style succession plot doesn’t speed up as a result of character–motivated action, and so far the New Mutants presence within the plot is as detachable as Gilliam’s manic style; any characters could be in this story, and the same events would occur, in the same way. The characters act goofy, but this is, I feel, a facade designed to create the feeling that events are giddily out of control, or even just excitedly unpredictable. But this faux-manic energy doesn’t come from characters acting in their nature, because Hickman doesn’t really give any of the characters their own individual nature. They don’t have feelings or predilections they hide or suppress. They don’t have strong desires that motivate them. The characters in this book merely have attitudes they strike, and that’s to me the difference between a book that really deals with character and one that only intends to be a character–driven book. So in answer to another couple of comments here, I’m not complaining that the characters are behaving off–model, but that they are treated like props, with nothing behind them, driving them forward. Ilyana’s violence in the story is fine, and it may be consistent behavior as observed in her last few appearances, but what motivates it? I don’t see any evidence that Hickman has a clue, or that he’s at all interested. His grasp of character is always superficial, unless that character is a king, or a super-scientist, or some kind of authority figure, at which point he seems to have infinite patience to invest their actions with deeper meanings (though he still does it poorly––those figures give their background motivations through monologue, as in Hickman’s New Avengers comic––brilliant, powerful men, justifying themselves in endless speechifying––the whole “everybody dies” intro of many of the issues of that comic). The young adults who are the main characters in this story––and the women most especially––are given no space to become characters. They are present because Hickman wants a character to do something to advance his plot, and he choses the characters to be there for these different story beats almost at random.

    That’s partly why people are objecting to Mondo and Chamber deciding that their space trip sucks and that they don’t trust the other New Mutants––it’s not that those aren’t valid takes on those characters, but those takes emerge in this scene out of nowhere. We don’t get either of them reacting to previous events with reluctance; we don’t see them bothered by their space jaunt or their fellow voyagers before they have this chat. So we have no evidence that their discontent has been growing. It just arrives, in full bloom, for this scene. So the characters don’t develop in a way that makes this scene both natural and necessary; they just appear with the attitude Hickman wants them to have for his scene to play the way it does in his mind. As a writer, he doesn’t develop characters. He manifests them like sprites in a video game, leaning against a wall and talking sexy, or talking about violence, or acting disappointed in an adventure they’d so far had hardly any reaction to at all. And it’s not just Chamber and Mondo; that Dani Moonstar has nothing to say about anything that’s happening in this story is baffling. Pick up any comic she’s in in the 80s, she has a take on what’s going on. She has strong instincts about what tack to take in different scenarios; she has misgivings, yearnings, anxieties, moments of triumph. In the 80s most of these characters did (Karma did initially, but then that character started to get written out like in a soap opera, walking into buildings right before they exploded, suddenly deciding to take care of her siblings instead of being a new Mutant, etc.––but she is an outlier in this group; part of why the New Mutants are such a vivid team is that every other one of them has been developed in the way Dani had been). It’s true that this kind of character development has fallen by the wayside for most Big 2 comic writers, but I thought Zeb Wells and then DnA did a good job of incorporating some of it into the previous New Mutants ongoing. I think it’s clear that Hickman wants to do that with this series, because good character development is a hallmark of the New Mutants, and it really is, I think, what many people want from these characters. But that kind of consistent character development is so far from Hickman’s strengths as a writer. He plots with an unusual eye for detail. But those plots generally don’t account for characters, and how their feelings and their reactions can shape and reshape events around them. And because he’s mostly taken up with a complex plot, Hickman is I think much less interested in tone. So the tone of this book, while allegedly manic, is another facade, like the characters, designed to make the issue feel like a whole piece. But I don’t think the tone is ever really developed. It doesn’t evolve out of the materials––character, plot, setting––at hand. It’s as detachable as the other elements of Hickman’s writing scheme, because the New Mutants themselves don’t have any attitude to the events unfolding before them. The same events could have unfolded in the exact same way even if this issue were given the dour tone of the Fallen Angels book. The weave of elements that compose this book is just too loose for it to feel natural, or necessary.

    Just my opinion, though, as people should know. I mostly write here to develop my own thinking about these books, process and explain my own disappointment and such. I think that’s what most of us who appear as cranky about the new X-men books are doing, really. But I could certainly be wrong.

  32. Pasquale says:

    As a long-time lurker, I’ve pretty much stopped reading the usually thoughtful comments on Paul’s posts (including the ones I disagree with) because of Dazzler. Hateful stuff being dressed up as “criticism”.

  33. Adrian says:

    I haven’t commented for some time as I have lost interest in the line’s current direction and cannot look past the absurd premise. There are some bright moments like Kitty’s characterization and the art on titles like New Mutants. But not enough to keep me engaged. I haven’t really followed the line since Carey left tbh. AlanL, as always, captures my misgivings about this title perfectly. Beyond that though, I am not particularly enamored with the Shiar who always have the same tired royal plotline with the same 2 dimensional characters trotted out. This feels like War of Kings, the D grade Comedy.

    As an aside, what is with all the Dazzler hate? Dazzler can be a little condescending but surely not hateful. Then again, perhaps I am more understanding because I broadly agree with Dazzler’s opinions so I feel less of a need to be defensive. Besides, a little aggression in a debate is not a bad thing to me but different strokes I guess.

  34. Dazzler says:

    I don’t get it either. I’m not even trying to be condescending, I’m just trying to be colorful, and I’m passionate about these characters like you guys. My best guess is that people are insecure about their own mixed feelings towards this run and they want it to be good and are afraid that when all is said and done there might be a lot of truth to my criticism and misgivings? I’m certainly not being mean, so that’s my best guess?

  35. Dimitri says:

    Really. He’s not trying to be condescending in the same breath that he calls everyone who disagrees with him insecure and too afraid of *His Truth*.

    But, you know, everyone else is the problem.

  36. Moo says:

    “My best guess is that people are insecure about their own mixed feelings towards this run and they want it to be good and are afraid that when all is said and done there might be a lot of truth to my criticism and misgivings? ”

    Trust me, It isn’t that. I’m not even reading the books and therefore have no feelings about them, mixed or otherwise, and I don’t like you either. This kind of smug shit you’ve written (quoted above) is why, and it’s your usual routine.

  37. Dimitri says:

    @ Alan L

    I think I understand. “Being manic” is when the mania stems from the plot content and informs the storytelling. “Feeling manic” is when the mania is a storytelling affectation that isn’t reflected in the plot content. And, if I understand correctly, that disconnect makes the story less enjoyable to you. Thank you for explaining!

    On the subject of La Jetée and Twelve Monkeys, your first examples, I too love La Jetée and much prefer it to Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, though I do consider them different animals to some extent. La Jetée is like a perfect audiovisual poem about our relationship to time–past, present, and future–while Twelve Monkeys feels more like a very pretty ramble on fate and madness.

    As an aside, have you watched the television series? This one is more about breaking self-destructive cycles and the importance of actions on the micro level in a world where we only focus on the macro. Still, it’s got its own (perhaps a bit muted) sense of poetry, like the two previous incarnations, and I really enjoyed it. Not as evocative as La Jetée, but I prefer it to Gilliam’s film.

  38. Dazzler says:

    Sorry for thinking your absurd aggression towards me comes from a place of insecurity, but it’s just how I feel. Nothing else makes sense. You know it’s actually possible to dislike someone without attacking them? Or that it’s possible to just ignore them? These things are possibilities you might explore if I’m too dazzling for your tastes.

  39. Dimitri says:

    As predicted, everyone else is the problem. Rinse and repeat.

  40. Alan L says:


    I haven’t seen that 12 Monkeys TV show. I’ll try and watch it.

  41. Dazzler says:

    Dimitri, you are acting like a jerk. Quit it.

  42. Luke says:

    Can we all just get back to being nice on here again?
    I don’t think it’s difficult and personal attacks – no matter who started it – have never been part of the comments on here. If you don’t have anything new to say… does it need to be said?

    I enjoyed this issue, especially the art which – not sure if it’s coming from Reis or the colourist – feels quite deliberately like it’s going for something halfway between Bachalo and Sienkiewicz.

    The attitude from many of the chararacters feels pretty meta to me – like this is what happens when you’ve been around for 30 years, when you’ve adventured all over the galaxy and now, you know that there’s no real peril for you because the resurrection protocols will bring you back and… you’re all over it. How do you keep life being fun?

  43. Karl_H says:

    A modest suggestion? Before posting something, look it over and take out anything that assigns motivations to other people here, or makes value judgments about them or their opinions. Stick to talking about the comics; we’re here to discuss our opinions about them, not about each other.

  44. Dazzler says:

    Cosign the above two people. Everybody needs to lay off me and if you hate me so much just don’t read my comments!

  45. Rybread says:

    I’m not sure if Dazzler’s appeals to civility are intentionally ironic or if he seriously lacks that much self-awareness…

  46. Col_Fury says:

    Honestly, I think Dazzler’s kind of funny (meaning amusing, not “what’s wrong with that person?”).

    Think of Dazzler like Hawkeye (Clint Barton) or U.S.Agent. They both often make comments to get a rise out of others. Neither one’s a bad guy, but they like to press people’s buttons. Roy Thomas has said he loved writing Hawkeye for exactly this reason.

    I don’t think there’s any malicious intent on Dazzler’s part, but rather that’s just Dazzler’s sense of humor. Does it work for everybody? Apparently not. 🙂

  47. Dazzler says:

    THANK YOU, Col_Fury. This guy gets it.

Leave a Reply