Marvel Graphic Novel #4: The New Mutants – Reviews Of Old Comics

It’s time for another edition of me reviewing old comics, this time with the first appearance of the New Mutants. I know that the last Marvel comic I reviewed three weeks ago was another New Mutants comic, but I have a fondness for the concept that Xavier’s School should have actual students at it. In 1982, Marvel felt the same way, introducing five new youngsters to become students of Charles Xavier, even wearing the original X-Men uniforms that Kitty Pryde had eschewed in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

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the-new-mutantts-001Marvel Graphic Novel #4

(November) 1982

Story: Chris Claremont
Art: Bob McLeod
Colors: Glynis Wein

SYNOPSIS:

Moira MacTaggart  is surprised by a wolf who turns into an unconscious girl she recognizes as Rahne Sinclair. Moira holds off a mob chasing Rahne for being possessed by the devil. She then carries off Rahne to fly her to New York to see Charles Xavier.

In Brazil, young Roberto DaCosta manifests super-strength while in a fight during a soccer match. In Kentucky sixteen year-old Sam Guthrie saves a miner during a cave-in when his mutant power of rocket-like flight manifests. In Colorado, young Danielle Moonstar is told by her grandfather that she needs to go train in her special abilities with Charles Xavier. Danielle has a demonstrated rapport with animals and an ability to manifest illusions of someone’s deepest fears. All of these occurrences are observed remotely by Donald Pierce, who plans to kill Xavier and then strike against the X-Men. He his holding Sebastian Shaw’s aide, Tessa as prisoner. His men kill Danielle’s grandfather.

Charles Xavier is studying a young mutant named Karma at the request of Reed Richards after Moira arrives with Rahne. Karma has the ability to possess people and control them, something she fears. After some encouragement from Moira that he has to continue training mutants like Karma and Rahne, Xavier offers Karma a job so she can train with her powers and support her younger siblings. He then receives the message from Danielle’s grandfather and the four of them go to Colorado.

In Colorado, Xavier explains that he served in the military with Danielle’s father. Pierce’s armored soldiers attack, and are defeated by the young mutants and Danielle. Xavier insists on training Danielle, as he pulls information of Pierce hunting two mutant boys in Brazil and Kentucky.

In Brazil, Moira , Danielle and Karma are detained by police. Karma’s powers enable her and Danielle to get away and find Roberto and his girlfriend Juliana , captives of Pierce’s goons, cyborgs after being mauled by Wolverine. Roberto’s powers begin to fade, but Karma and Danielle uses their powers to rescue them. Unfortunately, Juliana is killed when one of Pierce’s men opens fire in a last-ditch attempt to keep this prisoners. Danielle’s powers shatter his mind and Roberto, guilty that his pride led to Juliana’s death, joins Karma and Danielle.

In Kentucky Xavier and Rahne are attacked by Sam Guthrie, now in the employ of Donald Pierce. Rahne escapes but Xavier is taken captive. Rahne sneaks into Pierce’s base and observes him explain his plan to Xavier. He plans to use a device to extract information from first Xavier’s mind, then Tessa’s to use to take over the Hellfire Club. Sam comes across Rahne and is surprised by her transformation. Then Karma, Danielle and Roberto arrive and proceed to attempt a rescue. while the others attack Pierce and his soldiers, Rahne, badly injured, turns off Pierce’s device. When Sam refuses to kill Xavier’s new pupils, Pierce attempts to shoot him but is stopped by Xavier. Tessa will take Pierce to the Hellfire Club as Xavier and his new students leave. Sam Guthrie is left behind, ashamed of his role as Pierce’s lackey.

Back at the school, the New Mutants don their uniforms, and Xavier introduces them to their newest classmate, Sam Guthrie. His New Mutants assembled, Xavier smiles from nearby.

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REVIEW:

This story is pretty standard, although the belief that the X-Men are dead is faulty, as any reader of this story would know, already reading Uncanny X-Men. The villain isn’t introduced completely until after he is revealed, which is a minor flaw in the scripting. It seems generally assumed that readers will know who everyone is, despite Pierce’s background being rooted in X-Men stories from two years before. However, he works as a villain given the relatively low power levels of the New Mutants. Those reduced levels are refreshing, as it shows that not all mutants are at the levels of Colossus, Storm and Wolverine. The story resolves rather easily, but not without several supporting cast members dying that provide motivation for members to join the team. Thankfully, it’s not the only method used, giving the team members a variety of motivation.

Bob McLeod provides probably the best artwork I have ever seen from him here. Inking his own work, he shows a mastery of spotting blacks to create atmosphere, environment and mood. After reading this, I find the inkers of his work not doing it justice at all. It’s not to say that it’s without its flaws. He simply does not render Rahne’s transitional form very well, even defying anatomy. I’m not certain what he was going for, but suspect it was the horror-movie special effects of the time. All characters have unique looks, but I find his Charles Xavier to be somewhat less commanding than I would like. All of this is a matter of personal preference, and I find his artwork satisfactory overall.

Glynis Wein cannot go unmentioned in her coloring. It is exquisite and makes the story truly worthy of the special format. she uses subtleties that are missing from the cheaper, mass-market format of the day. I recommend taking time to study what she does here after enjoying the story as a whole. She truly is the standout on this creative team, and saying so is a huge complement, given how taken I was with Bob McLeod’s artwork.

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NOTES:

The last panel shows a decidedly sinister smile on Charles Xavier and it was revealed in Uncanny X-Men #167, published four months later that Xavier had been implanted with a Brood Queen that was subtly influencing his decisions and gathering the New Mutants to serve as super-powered hosts for Brood after she hatched, transforming Xavier into a Brood Queen.

It was also later retconned that Tessa was secretly working with Xavier, making the resolution of Tessa taking custody  of Pierce more interesting in how easily Xavier allowed her to take him where presumably he would be tortured. Tessa being Xavier’s operative makes this conversation a little more sinister, especially with Xavier under the subtle influence of a Brood Queen.

A Near Mint copy will run you quite a few dollars, so looking to read this, digitally or collections are the way to go. It’s available on Comixology. It’s being included in next year’s New Mutants Epic Collection, which might be the best way to get the early New Mutants stories, unless you find a copy of New Mutants Classic Vol. 1 in a comic shop for cover price. It’s out of print, so finding it online means forking out enough that you might as well just buy a copy of the Graphic Novel.

FINAL RATING: 8.0 (out of 10)