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A New Mutants Retrospective

Growing up, I was a HUGE X-Force reader, but I had very little exposure to the New Mutants. For this reason, I was incredibly interested to learn more about them. Overall, I would say the series is good, not great. There was really high points and too many low points.

According to Comics Creators on X-Men, Claremont had the following to say:

“We heard rumours that Mark Gruenwald wanted to do a new X-Men book that was based on the West Coast. He felt we had lost sight of the whole school aspect of the series and wanted to fill the vacuum. Louise Simonson and I basically said ‘Screw that, we’ll do our own X-title that focuses on the school.’”
“We could do stories about kids without putting them in the high level of jeopardy that we used in X-Men.”

So with that Chris Claremont, and his editor Louise Simonson, created the New Mutants to capture the energy of the original series when you had students in the mansion. When New Mutants first started, it was mandatory reading for X-Men enthusiasts because stories would literally bounce back and forth between titles. In retrospect, I think the series missed out on a lot of opportunities to have the Senior and Junior team interact with each other. It was very fun when it happened earlier on but then it pretty much stopped. I recognize that the X-Men were believed to be dead for much of the run, but still a missed opportunity.

As with other X-Men spinoffs, Claremont eventually left the series and it was taken over by his editor, Louis Simonson (who also took over X-Factor). Simonson was responsible for some of the most boring storylines (Asgard, Bird Brain, Spyder/Gossymer), but she also had some high points such as beautifully ended Magik's story.

The most famous headline in regards to the creative team is the rise of Rob Leifeld, pushing Louise Simonson out of Marvel and converting the team to X-Force.

I also think the series missed some opportunities in regards to relationships. I'll start with some positives as the friendship between Roberto and Sam is absolutely a high point. In addition, I loved the moments between Dani and Illyana. There weren't a lot of them, but early on the two of them would go off and be amazing together. I really love those two characters. I also really adored the relationship between Warlock and Doug, however I was pissed that we didn't get a bigger reaction out of Warlock when Doug died (except for know...pulling a Weekend at Bernies stunt a few issues later). This biggest misses came in the form of romantic relationships. I'm not a big Young Adult readers and it's not like I'm pining for teenage drama, but we pretty much got none. I had the hardest time keeping up with who had crushes on each other (especially Rahne) because as soon as they would hint about a crush, it wouldn't go anywhere and then there would be hints about new crushes. You would expect at least one intra-couple to emerge, but nah. I'm not counting Rahne and Rictor because by that point she had pretty much liked everyone and then as soon as they "got together," it was over.

Speed Round - Quick thoughts on each character.

Cannonball - I liked Sam. I never really loved him until X-Force. Also, you can't forget that he's invulnerable while blasting.

Karma - I was actually glad when she got written out. She didn't seem to fit as the team leader. Her personality and power were both a big boring. I was happy when she came back because I was ready to give her a second chance, but when she got booted again I was ready for it again. Her best moment was when she took over Sam while he was shaving, had him write the location of a meeting place, then stopped taking him over.

Mirage - I love me some Dani. She was spunky. I always considered her the true leader. I liked how they kept powering her up. I'm still pissed Leifeld gave her the boot!

Wolfsbane - My least admired character. She was young, whiny, too uptight. I don't hate her, and I am liking her better in X-Factor so far, but definitely my least favorite.

Sunspot - He's ok to me. I feel like the series could have done more with him. He was a hothead, but other than being a jerk from time to time, nothing much ever happened. And don't forget that while his power gives him super strength, it doesn't make him invulnerable.

Magma - Yea, she's ok. The Nova Roma storyline was dumb. She was kind of interesting. Didn't miss her when she transfered out.

Magik - One of my favorite characters in the X-Men world. This was relationships done right. Her and her brother (Colossus), best friend (Kitty), second best friend (Dani), and her general antagonism with the rest of the team. She's a character I was SUPER interested in and I love that she had a complete arc.

Warlock - I really like Warlock. I like that he gave us something different in a whacky, mutant alien. I'm ready for more Warlock.

Cypher - Doug, lol. I loved when Magneto was like "Why don't you just watch this danger room session." I think they got the most out of him. I didn't dislike him, he was just a bit boring.

Boom - Boom - She cracks me up. I like the spunk she brings to the series. Her story isn't done because I'm still learning more about her in X-Force.

Rictor, Rusty, and Skids - They are all right. Didn't mind that they got written out.

Domino/Warpath/Shatterstar/Feral - We'll learn more about them in X-Force, so I'm not ready for a retrospective yet. Most looking forward to getting to know Warpath.

Let's take a look at each era.

New Mutants Graphic Novel & New Mutants # 1 - 3

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Paul Smith (1 - 3), Bob McLeod (OGN)

Full blog of this era.

So here we are, the start of the New Mutants run. It's crazy to think that other than Cannonball and Sunspot (due to my X-Force obsession as a kid), I had never heard of Karma, Mirage, or Wolfsbane.

These first three issues (plus the OGN) were a bit vanilla. The writing wasn't bad and the art was average. Claremont tried to take the winning formula for the X-Men and show us what it would be like as a kid growing up with powers. This seems like a common thing nowadays in X-Men media, but in 1983 this was a new concept for the most part. The goal was to have them going through lower stakes, however they often found themselves in danger fighting villains.

Dani (Psyche/Mirage) is being set up as the clear leader (even though she technically only served as co-leader throughout the run). She has a spunky attitude with clear leadership chops. In the beginning, she gets the most character development. Her ability is kind of weak with only being able to project people's fears, so the writing team continues to find ways to level her up. She is eventually able to manifest those projected thoughts as into corporeal items (like a spear) and she even joins the Valkyries getting a winged horse and archery skills.

The rest of the team is a bit one dimensional. Rahne (Wolfsbane) is the youngest team member (I believe she's 13 at the start) and comes from a strict fundamentalist Catholic upbringing, making her experiences limited and nervous/guilty about just about everything and the ability to shapeshift into a wolf form problematic. Roberto (Sunspot) is a rich, macho, ladies man who has the ability to harness the sun and become super strong. Sam (Cannonball) is a simple boy from Kentucky with the ability to fly surrounded by a force field which makes him "nigh invulnerable." Karma is the oldest student, a Vietnamese survivor of the war, with the ability to control people with her mind.

New Mutants # 4 - 12 (Nova Roma)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Sal Buscema

Full blog of this era.

The art gets a bit better with Sal Buscema but the writing gets bad in a hurry. We spend several issues in a hidden roman empire in south America called Nova Roma. It didn't take long to figure out that audiences weren't connecting with Karma and she was replaced with a pretty white girl, Amara (Magma). I doubt that would fly today.

New Mutants # 13 - 17 (Do you believe in Magik?)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Sal Buscema

full blog

Things start to pick up a little with Illyana Rasputin, AKA Magik, officially joining the squad. Illyana is hands down one of my favorite mutants of all time, so her sad story of being raised in Limbo is able to carry the entire book for a while. She also offers a more direct connection to the Senior X-Men team with her brother being Colossus and being best friends (and roommates) with Kitty.

This also gives us the first appearance of the Hellions. I typically hate when the heroes fight evil versions of themselves (Hulk and Abombination, Spider-Man and Venom, Ant-Man and Yellowjacket, etc.) but I felt like this was something done right. A rival school with their own superhero team was a perfect idea. I had never met any of those characters other than Warpath so I found it super interesting.

New Mutants # 18 - 21 (The Demon Bear Saga)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Bill Sienkiewicz

Demon Bear Blog

Bill Sienkiewicz takes over on pencils and delivers one of the most notable Mutant Storylines there is, the Demon Bear Saga. People rave about Bill Sienkiewicz, but truthfully his surreal art just makes it too hard for me to follow what's going on. I like that Claremont leans into the style and creates trippy storylines for him to draw, but it just doesn't work for me.

This story arc does give us two new recruits. The first is Doug Ramsey, AKA Cypher, a straightforward teenage boy with the ability to learn and translate any language (including computer code). The second newb is Warlock, and alien with the ability to shapeshift to almost any size and shape imaginable.

New Mutants # 22 - 25 (Cloak and Dagger)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Bill Sienkiewicz

C & D Blog

I could have done without this story line. You would think it's cool to see some Cloak & Dagger mixed in, and with Rahne and Roberto potentially taking their place...but it all falls pretty flat. The abstract art makes it harder to follow the story as well. I'm SURE people will rip on me in the comments for not praising Sienkiewicz, but it's just not for me.

New Mutants # 26 - 31 (Legion and Karma)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Bill Sienkiewicz

Full blog.

More Sienkiewicz fun as we enter the mind of Xavier's son Legion and his multiple personalities. Following that, Karma shows back as a 500 pound slave of the Shadow King. This does give us the first of several jaunts between Magik and Dani traveling through time and space. Their dynamic is super fun throughout the series. But again, this is all interesting, but not fantastic.

New Mutants Special Edition in Asgard

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Arthur Adams

Full blog

The best thing about this first trip to Asgard was that it only took 1 issue, unlike when they revisit Asgard and are there for 9 agonizing issues. Karma conveniently gets sent back in time so she can wander for 3 months starving in the desert and go back to her trim form. Dani gets one of her first level ups by becoming a Valkyrie and being able to bring her flying horse back with her. This is a fun little crossover with the X-Men, but again nothing great.

New Mutants # 35 -37 (Secret Wars 2)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Mary Wilshire

Trial of Magneto

SW Vol 2 Blog

There is some pretty messed up stuff that happens during Secret Wars V2. For some reason, the Beyond gets really pissed at the New Mutants and ends up killing them all. They all get brought back, of course, but this was kind of depressing.

New Mutants # 38-40

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Rick Leonardi, Keith Pollard, and Jackson Guice

Dead-ish blog

And so the Magneto era begins. I really didn't mind seeing Magneto take over and shake things up. It was a bit odd, but I wasn't loving the series so this brought something new to it. Plus, I never knew that he truly became a good guy for a while so him taking over the school was quite a shock.

New Mutants # 41-44 (One Shots and Psylocke)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Jackson Guice

Full blog

A bunch of pretty average one shots and one great introduction to Psylocke!

New Mutants # 45 - 46 (The Mutant Massacre)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Jackson Guice

The Mutant Massacre Blog

The very first X-Men crossover! The New Mutants were mostly on the sideline, but it was fun watching the three teams (X-Factor included) intermix.

New Mutants # 47-51 (Magus)

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - Jackson Guice & Kevin Nowlan

Magus Blog

The art gets weird, Magik gets a bit more evil, Doug starts merging with his buddy, and Warlock takes on his pops. Not bad, not bad.

New Mutants # 52-61 (Simonson shakes things up)

Writer - Chris Claremont (52 - 55), Louis Simons (56 - 61)

Pencils - Rick Leonardi (52 - 54), Sal Buscema (55), Bret Blevins (56, 58-61) June Brigman (57)

Full blog

Chris Claremont had a solid 55 issues to get things right. He did ok, he didn't do great. He was great at X-Men. He tried to make the New Mutants YA, and kind of failed. He focused on making Wolverine Noir and that was really just boring until he left. He only wanted Excalibur to be whimsy and that was just weird until he left. He's good at the main genre.

As Chris leaves and Louis Simonson takes over, we have the death of Doug, Karma is written out (looking for her siblings which I don't think ever got resolved, and Magma decides to transfer to the Massachussets Academy, which is something that actually makes a lot of sense for the character.

It might sound like the comic turned around, but it actually got much worse before it got better. We spent multiple issues with Bird Brain for crying out loud. Kill me now.

New Mutants # 62-70 (The SpyderSam Chronicles)

Writer - Louis Simonsom

Pencils - Jon J. Muth (62, 70), Bo Hampton (63), Bret Blevins (64 - 69)

Full blog

Gosymer, Spyder, and more terrible stories. Yuck.

New Mutants # 71-73 (Inferno)

Writer - Louis Simonson

Pencils - Bret Blevins

Inferno Part 2 Blog

I LOVED Inferno. You all know this. I've been gushing over Illyana forever and this really broke my heart. Magik died (for all intents and purposes), but damn did she get the perfect ending. Most characters never get a finite ending. They just keep existing and solving smaller problems until nothing happens. Magik saw the culmination of her story come to a head and it ended brilliantly. We also got the teenage X-Factor wards (The X-Terminators) joining the New Mutants, which was nice. Why was Gosymer still here!?

New Mutants # 74-76 (Atlantis Attacks)

Writer - Louis Simonson

Pencils - Bret Blevins (74), John Byrne (75), Rich Buckler (76)

Full Blog

Gosymer finally leaves. Finally. Why, Wheezie, why did it take this long?

This is also where the team finally breaks with Magneto. He had been slowly going back evil and this is where they officially leave him and go off on their own (which means staying with X-Factor, but only kind of).

New Mutants # 77-86 (Asgard Again)

Writer - Louis Simonson

Pencils - Rich Buckler (77), Rick Leonard (78), Bret Blevins (79, 82 -83), Terry Shoemaker (80, 84), Geof Isherwood (85), Rob Leifeld (86)

Full blog

Oh kill me. I am still pissed that after the amazing momentum from Inferno, all of the satellite X-Men lines spent the entire year of 1989 floating around in an endless terrible story. For the New Mutants, they spent all of 1989 in Asgard in a story that could have been told in 1 or 2 issues. This also signaled the end of Dani's time with the team, which is a real bummer because I loved Dani. Rusty and Skids left too but no one cares.

This is the start of the Leifeld era. He's only on pencils for now, but he slowly started to exert his influence until he took the comic over altogether and pushed Wheezy out altogether, eventually re-launching the title as X-Force.

New Mutants # 87-94 (Cable and Leifeld)

Writer - Louis Simonson (87 - 91, 93 - 94), Dwight Zimmerman (92)

Pencils - Rob Leifeld (87 - 91, 93 - 94), Bob Hall (92)

Cable blog.

The transformation begins. Rob Leifeld's influence is exerted before him taking over completely in a few issues. The team had been floating around without a mentor, so in comes Cable, one of my favorite all time characters. I was a big X-Force reader as a kid, but I had never read much of New Mutants. This is when the team really started to transform into that X-Force team that I know.

Rusty and Skids have left, Rictor and Boom-Boom have stuck around. Leifeld will play around with making Rahne more savage, but when it doesn't work out he'll just write her out and and replace her with Feral, a virtual copycat. Lol, copycat.

New Mutants # 95-97 (X-Tinction Agenda)

Writer - Louis Simonson

Pencils - Rob Leifeld (94-96), Guang Yap (97)

X-Tinction Agenda blog.

Loved me some X-Tinction Agenda. All 3 team's back together, Cable is interacting with as much gravitas as Cyclops and Storm. Great stuff.

This is also where we see Wolfsbane officially written out and the "death" of Warlock. Leifeld is moving the chess pieces into position.

New Mutants # 98-100 (Formation of X-Force)

Writer - Rob Leifeld

Scripter -Fabian Nicieza

Pencils - Rob Leifeld

Full blog.

So this is it. Leifeld is completely in charge. Sunspot and Rictor are the last two members to be written out and Domino, Shatterstar, and Feral are brought in. Gideon is another character introduced who burned hot in the 90's with X-Force but seems to mostly have fizzled.

A lot can be said about Leifeld (and I sure say a lot in my X-Force blogs), but you can't take Deadpool away from him. Few Marvel characters are as popular as Deadpool today, and Leifeld gets credit for creating him. (Obviously Cable was created by him and Leifeld gets credit for his creation too).

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