By Steve Morris
New Mutants was advertised as the second X-Men comic series running as part of the whole “Dawn of X” thing, with Jonathan Hickman writing parts of the series and Ed Brisson stepping in for other issues. At first, it wasn’t quite sure how their co-writing thing was going to come together, but having had a chance now to read ahead, it’s a bit more clear: Hickman is going to write the issues which are interesting and have a story to tell, and Ed Brisson is also going to write comics.
Perhaps that’s a little bit harsh, but there’s a sharp difference between the two different writers and the stories they’re telling: with Hickman leading the New Mutants off into outer space on a mission to find their friend Cannonball whilst Brisson has a random cast of the remaining mutants who weren’t picked for any of the other comics and is doing his best to keep them all lukewarm in case somebody else needs them later. This is issue #1, however, so let’s jump onto it as the X-Men office intend.
This is the comic with the actual New Mutants in it, which means Hickman has the chance to return to some of his storylines from back in the Avengers days: Cannonball is now married and has a child, and lives as part of the Shi’Ar Empire in the far depths of space. Sunspot, who pines as ever for his “best friend”, decides that Krakoa’s formation sure would be a cool thing to show to his ol’ pal – so he convinces all the others to get on the nearest spaceship and fly off to the Empire for a bit. That nearest spaceship happens to belong to the Starjammers, continuing on their appearance from X-Men #1, and thus we have our story.
If X-Men #1 is about how the main X-Men are having a grand old time consolidating their power, then New Mutants is about the younger generation pissing around a whole bunch and having adventures under the radar, where people like Magneto and Xavier can’t see what they’re doing. It speaks to the current power structures in the world rather well: age gets a premium, and so the longest-tenured mutants get all the positions of power whilst younger mutants have to find a place for themselves and wait out until they’re needed. There’s a line drawn between the establishment and the next-gen throughout the issue – the issue starts with Storm and Xavier readily bringing Wolfsbane back to life, and letting her wander off to do whatever she wants with that opportunity.
Although the New Mutants are now old enough to enjoy drinking coffee, they’re still childish about it: an early scene sees Illyana hoarding a giant pot of coffee just for herself, merrily swigging from it. Sunspot later wins a bottle of alcohol in a bet because Corsair underestimates Magik, writing her off as a kid. Hepzibah calls Chamber a “little kid”, and Raza calls Magik a “child”. It’s crucial to the comic that you remember that the central characters are not the older, established mutants: these are the kids of the future.
It helps that artist Rod Reis also knows the difference between the face of a forty-year old and a twenty-year old, which means the characters all look younger than they have for a long time. Doug Ramsey is a mere child here, and Sunspot and Moonstar and Karma are all brilliantly devised to look like they stand on the brink of increased adulthood. It’s a fact everybody learns that age is just a number: everybody constantly “matures” only to find that they’re still basically a child, and that process goes on forever. Maturity doesn’t actually exist. It’s simply a way to construct divides across the age gap. As the New Mutants hang out with the Starjammers, who are older and more “established” in their identities, that gets thrown into relief for comedic effect: at the end of the issue Sunspot wants to set up a daring rescue, only to get thrown off the ship for a variety of petty reasons. The Starjammers might be older, but that doesn’t make them mature.
Earlier, Doug and Mondo (yep, Mondo is back!) find out how disruptive they are to the established and “mature” generation when they plant some flowers in the Starjammers’ garden. The plant rapidly messes up the carefully arranged ecosystem, and everything that’d been planted before. Threatened to get jettisoned out the airlock if they don’t fix things, the pair have to absorb their flowers back into their bodies. There’s metaphor there, if you dig for it: the ideas of the young can’t bloom in the gardens planted by their forebears: the gardens simply aren’t capable of sustaining these new plants and concepts. Again, the comic subtly offers an element of anarchy from the younger generation simply because they exist. One day this will all be theirs, but for now they need to keep their ideas to themselves and bury them deep.
By the end of the issue the Starjammers are gone and the New Mutants are left behind to fend for themselves. If the older generation have a choice between saving someone young or saving themselves? You can bet they’re going to save themselves. Off you go, kids. Have fun on your gap year to the Shi’Ar Empire, hope you enjoy the experience.
New Mutants #1: The Sextant
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brisson
Artist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Designer: Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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