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Oct 23

New Mutants #25-30

Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

NEW MUTANTS vol 4 #25-30
Writers: Vita Ayala (#25-28 and #30), Danny Lore (#29) & Alyssa Wong (#30, Deadpool story)
Artists: Rod Reis & Jan Duursema (#25-28), Guillermo Sanna (#29), Alex Lins, Justin Mason, Jason Loo, Emma Kubert, Roberto Poggi & Geoff Shaw (#30)
Colourists: Rod Reis & Ruth Redmond (#25-28), Dan Brown (#29), Bryan Valenza, Jason Loo, Antonio Fabela & Nolan Woodard (#30)
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

It’s past time I started making inroads on the reviews, and what better place to start than the closing stretch of Vita Ayala’s New Mutants? To be honest, I was initially going to do the “Labors of Magik” arc separately, but the queue is building up, so let’s just bring the whole series up to date. We’ve got Ayala’s final arc, a fill-in issue, and a farewell anniversary anthology.

Taking them together does bring out one point: viewed as an ongoing series, there’s not much sense of direction here. Which is odd, since the earlier parts of Ayala’s run seemed to know well enough where they were going. There’s a built-in challenge in finding a role for the New Mutants, since they were the original trainee team. Promoting them all to the X-Men kind of misses the point, but at the same time, the characters are 40 years old and they haven’t been written as rookies since 1990 or so. Ayala’s approach was to make them into the mentors for the next batch of kids, which isn’t novel – it was basically the approach taken by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir in their New Mutants series from the early 2000s, where the original team had become the teachers at Xavier’s School. But it makes sense as a way to give them a foot in both camps.

Having concluded the Shadow King/Lost Club arc, though, the book sidelines most of its cast in favour of a Magik spotlight arc; Dani and Rahne are here too, but they’re hardly essential. And Ayala never gets back to the other material before their run ends, so instead of a detour, this winds up feeling more like a slightly curious coda. Still, the basic idea makes sense. Illyana is defined by her traumatic childhood in Limbo, and even though she gets her triumph by defeating Belasco to become ruler of Limbo, it’s an inherently tainted triumph because Limbo is a curse and a burden. So it makes sense that Illyana would, ultimately, prefer to get shot of the place altogether.

Detaching Magik from Limbo seems dubious at first, but ultimately, why not? It’s been a long time since anyone really did much with Limbo, and Illyana herself is a character much in need of some healing. “Labors of Magik” sees her plan to offload the unwanted hellscape on Madelyne Pryor, and you can see the logic – Madelyne has a prior connection to Limbo, but her own arc is largely about rejecting her status as a pawn and trying to carve out her own identity. So, at least on the surface, Limbo seems like an opportunity for her.

That plan gets comprehensively sidetracked, and instead, thanks to Limbo’s wonky rules of time, we get a quest through Illyana’s past, present and future so that she can come to terms with herself before moving on. The mechanics of this don’t altogether make sense but… well, that’s the point, surely. Limbo doesn’t entirely make sense. Rob Reis’ art remains a star attraction of the book, and he does a great job of bringing a bit more variation back to Limbo. Back in the Magik miniseries it had gardens, castles and the like; over time it’s drifted into a rather generic hellscape. Visual fireworks have been part of the New Mutants identity from the Bill Sienkiewicz days and he sits perfectly in that tradition. Alongside that, we have more traditional flashbacks to the young Illyana, done by Jan Duursema in something closer to the style of the Magik mini. I’m all for using artists with different art styles on a book when it actually plays into the scenes, and this is absolutely the way to do it.

I’m not quite so sold on the details of the individual episodes, where the mini-stories feel a bit rushed. Then again, the alternative would be to stretch this out to something like six issues, which feels too many. It’s nice to bring Colossus back into the fold again, too, since he’s been conspicuous by his absence from most Illyana stories in recent years. The contrast between young Illyana idolising him and the current version barely talking to him comes across nicely. And it makes sense to build to a showdown with an alt-Illyana who did embrace Limbo, though she isn’t really present in most of the story.

What feels a bit odd in all this is the Madelyne Pryor subplot. While she hangs around to offer commentary on Illyana, it’s not really her story; in a way, she feels bolted on. And hanging over all this is the fact that we already know Madelyne winds up as a villain in the upcoming “Dark Web” arc – they’ve already published a lead-in to that story. It rather hangs over the story, since it means Illyana really is handing over the reins to the bad guy. It’s hard to tell whether this is something that Ayala is studiously trying to ignore because it’s inconvenient to their story, or whether it’s deliberately laying the groundwork for future stories; I’m leaning towards the latter, because it actually works quite well that way. Illyana’s escape is tainted and gives her a direction in the medium term; Madelyne, ironically, gets her ascent to Limbo in, once again, a marginal development in somebody else’s story.

Rounding out this block, we have two standalone issues. Issue #29 is a Daken and Warpath story by Danny Lore and Guillermo Sanna. It looks gorgeous, but the story doesn’t really work. The basic idea that Daken feels guilty about overlooking Gabby in a previous arc is fine, but it pushes it too hard by having him blame the New Mutants. The idea is that James can help Daken understand the perspective of the younger sibling, but the main problem is that Daken just doesn’t feel in character; this doesn’t read like the character seen in Marauders or X-Factor.

Issue #30 is  40th anniversary issue in the form of an anthology, with vignettes focussing on different characters at various points in the past – two from the early New Mutants, plus a Karma story from the era of Moore/Pollina X-Force (which was effectively New Mutants at that point). The Dani story is probably the best one; Bobby damaging her belt does feel like an early New Mutants plot, though it’s a weird choice to put Kitty in the friend role when her main interaction with the New Mutants in the early days consisted of loud disdain. The Karma story is perfectly okay but very straightforward. And there’s a Warlock/Wolfsbane story that just doesn’t work for me at all, with a gimmicky approach of putting all Warlock’s dialogue in pictograms. Aside from the fact that that’s not how it worked back in the day (and doesn’t fit with Rahne being able to understand him perfectly), it just makes the story a chore to read. Emma Kubert’s Warlock is sweet, though.

All told, it’s a slightly random assemblage. It doesn’t feel like a resolution to Ayala’s run, so much as a diversion that wound up being the end. But the main arc does look fantastic, and I appreciate what it’s doing to move Illyana on.


Bring on the comments

  1. The Other Michael says:

    The New Mutants exist in a really odd space in terms of their role within the larger Xavier community, if just because they’ve been succeeded by so many generations of newer students since, and none of them have been New in a very long time.

    Their only real defining characteristic then IS that they’re a tight-knit band of friends who came into the school at the same time, and grew close through shared experiences and the virtue of being a small, tight-knit group as opposed to the full-fledged student bodies which followed in later years.

    (Generation X is in much the same boat, but as a group, they really seemed to fall apart after their title ended, and we haven’t seen anywhere near the same amount of solidarity or writer nostalgia which would have reunited the surviving members pre-Krakoa with the same frequency we get for the New Mutants.)

    And when you actually have characters younger than the New Mutants joining the X-Men on a regular basis, it’s hard to say, define them to being a junior/training squad. Not when so many characters get to jump the line and go straight to the bigtime.

    And of course seeing New Mutants and Generation X grow up and graduate to joining the X-Men (or Avengers, or Defenders, or whatever) doesn’t feel all that predictable a course either.

    So in the end, the New Mutants–the originals–are just a generation of Xavier students who define themselves by their time together, and who get back together with a frequency not matched by any of the following generations. (Especially not the Academy X-era New Mutants or equivalent squads.)

    And this title meandered horribly because of that lack of focus and definition, though it came close in trying to pivot some of the New Mutants into becoming teachers and mentors for younger generations, something desperately needed on Krakoa. I just feel like there was a lot of potential and yet it rarely hit the right mark to justify why it existed as a title beyond trademark and character familiarity.

    I’d love to see it focus more on, say, Dani, Rahne, Xi’an, James, Amara, and whatever guest-starring friends want to appear, teaching and mentoring younger mutants. Maybe actually bring in a few of the lesser-used but better-trained characters from Generation X (Jono and Paige? Angelo?) to also act as mentors. (Since Sam, Bobby, Illyana, Doug, Warlock seem to be spoken for in other title…)

  2. Dave says:

    “viewed as an ongoing series, there’s not much sense of direction here”

    I’m fine with that. In fact, I’d like to see more of it. It makes an ongoing feel more like it isn’t just ‘this writer’s current run with the characters’.

  3. Michael says:

    I have a feeling that Ayala didn’t know about the Dark Web crossover and that Illyana was joining the X-Men until she’d already written most of the story.Illyana’s reason for wanting to be free of Limbo is to start a magic school on Krakoa, which we’ve seen nothing of in Duggan’s X-Men and Illyana’s stepping disks are mentioned to have changed, which also hasn’t been mentioned in Duggan’s X-Men. There’s the magical contract that prevents Maddie or her demons from attacking Krakoans, like the X-Men,,which will probably have to be written around in Dark Web, unless Ben, Janine and Eddie spend the whole crossover running interference for Maddie. Plus, Illyana’s new costume looks like a New Mutants costume.
    Remember, these issues were delayed due to supply chain issues- we don’t know when they were plotted out. I have a feeling the next arc was going to be Maddie and Illyana having to work together to help Rahne with Tier, since Tier’s problem was never resolved.

  4. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    What a strange, ambling book.

    Can’t say I missed it after I dropped it during the Magik arc.

    Dani, Karma and sometimes Magik hang out and do whatever, Rayne is mostly off being ignored, and occasionally they show Warpath training students off by himself. Doug, Sunspot, and Cannonball might as well not exist.

    Did Karma’s brother ever show back up?

    It feels like a book dedicated to cleaning up character continuity stuff that never gets around to actually having a story beyond the Shadow King arc.

    Which went on way too long and ended with a child murderer punished with… friendship?


  5. Josie says:

    I’d love for a more talented writer to come in and . . . without being in any way explicit, tell a story about the X-Men as being a stand-in for boomers, New Mutants representing gen x, Generation X as the millennial group, and, I don’t know, the Jason Aaron class/Generation Hope kids as zoomers.

    Again, none of this would be explicit, because it would have to be expressed through generational attitudes and ideologies rather than the characters’ actual ages (or aging the characters).

    I don’t know if a writer capable of such nuance is working in comics, though.

  6. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m sorry to see Ayala go – their run was the first that promised actual direction for the book. (Brisson wanted ‘young mutants as ambassadors of Krakoa’, but that was derailed immediately by the bizarro ‘and here’s Hickman with unfunny space hijinks’ approach).

    As it is, New Mutants is almost a second anthology title alongside Unlimited. Which isn’t bad per se, maybe they should lean into that more. Change the cast more, give space to characters who had nothing to do so far. (Remember when Chamber and Mondo were part of the cast of this book?).

    Anyway, the magical girl transformation sequence when Magik got the new armor was fantastic.

  7. Thom H. says:

    I liked that the New Mutants traveled a lot during Claremont’s early run: Brazil, Ireland, Limbo, Asgard, astral plane(s). Now that Sam and Bobby have ties to the Shi’ar empire, not to mention Sam’s past relationship with Lila Cheney, they could go even farther. So I think the NM should go on the road together.

    They could star in a mutant road trip book, which would give them a believable reason to be together and provide opportunities for personal growth. That seemed to be what Hickman was going for in his original arc on this volume of NM, but it got lost in all the “comedy.”

    Going on the road would also remove the “why aren’t they in the X-Men?” question. Or one or two of them could break way, join an X-team for a while, and then come back.

    You could also tailor stories to focus on different characters based on location. Something focusing on Amara and Nova Roma would be nice, for example.

    Anyway, I’m full of ideas for these characters because I’m so fond of them. It would be nice to see them as a remote team so they could really shine, away from the other 10,000 “young trainee” characters.

  8. Thom H. says:

    And of course I mean Scotland above. Sorry!

  9. Ryan T says:

    Kinda sad that I see ‘issue 30’ and on a 3rd or 4th creative team and I’m surprised it’s not been renumbered yet

  10. Donnacha says:

    Where the hell are Skids and Rusty?

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