Comic Christmas Shopping Suggestions: Day Seven

Between now and Christmas, every day we’ll highlight a suggestion for gift giving. All of these suggestions will be comics-themed, and every day will see one featured.

For Day Seven, I’m going to a series of issues that blew fans away for how much of an artistic departure it was for a Marvel title, and it redefined what a comic book artist could do, New Mutants: The Demon Bear Saga

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NEW MUTANTS/X-FORCE: DEMON BEAR TPB

Written by CHRIS CLAREMONT, JOHN FRANCIS MOORE, CRAIG KYLE & CHRIS YOST
Penciled by BILL SIENKIEWICZ, JIM CHEUNG & MIKE CHOI
Cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ

SOLICITATION:

The visionary talents of legendary illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz bring the Demon Bear that has haunted Danielle Moonstar’s dreams to horrifying life! It took her parents, and now it has returned for Dani — and only the combined efforts of her fellow New Mutants can stop it from finishing the job! Sink your teeth into a true classic! Then, Dani’s nightmare returns years later as San Francisco — and her new team, X-Force — come under attack from a similarly unholy ursine! And when the Apache mutant Warpath faces his own Demon Bear, he must forge an unlikely alliance with Ghost Rider — and embrace his birthright — to discover the truth. It’s a trilogy of terror, featuring a threat far scarier than the average bear! Collecting NEW MUTANTS (1983) #18-20, X-FORCE (1991) #99 and material from X-FORCE (2008) #7-10.

RECOMMENDATION:

Published in the mid-1980s, the spin-off of Uncanny X-Men seems to flounder in its first sixteen issues.Nothing changed between those issues and the first storyline illustrated by former Moon Knight artist Bill Sienkiewicz except for the artist. Chris Claremont’s stories had the teen mutants face off against Viper and the Silver Samurai and find a hidden Roman colony in the Amazon jungle where they rescued a young mutant that would go on to join their team. Those types of stories are not very different from what followed, but when Bill Sienkiewicz started illustrating, everything seemed to change.

Sienkiewicz seems like the only artist capable of interweaving a story about a gigantic magical bear spirit with tense, drama-filled hospital scenes. He also created a character almost unlike any that had come from Marvel before in Warlock, and later reditions of the character and his race, the Phalanx never live up to the chaotic portrayal of a truly alien creature.

He also transformed the characters already established in the New Mutants and made them into consistent renditions that carried with a glance a true identity. Dani Moonstar actually carried a maturity that defied her age, but coupled with a truly ethnic look that other artists never quite could capture without horribly stereotyped accessories. Rahne and Sunspot were the youngest members, and looked every bit of it. Rahne’s transitional form was turned from an anthropomorphic wolf into a were-creature that was almost terrifying. Cannonball looked every bit as awkard and clumsy as the stories related. Amara was a gorgeous and regal young lady and Magik became a brooding teenager whose soulsword transformed from a lightsaber rip-off into a magical blade. Every change he made made perfect sense.

This collection ties that story into the more recent storyline that modern fans of X-Force might remember, but threaten to overshadow it. After reading the first three issues of Sienkiewicz’s run, expect to be asked where they can find more like that.

144 PGS./Parental Advisory …$24.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9001-1