We move away from the New Mutants so we can take a look at some of the new-er mutants, as Ed Brisson collects several of his favourites from the last few years and puts them together into a story which is at least a million miles away from the previous issue. New Mutants is split into two separate threads: one follows the original New Mutants whilst they’re mucking around in the far reaches of space, and the other is the one which starts here, and is set in, um, Nebraska.
Armor, Glob Herman and the twins Manon & Maxime are all returning Brisson all-stars, who here decide to do something similar to Kate Pryde and go find some of the mutants who haven’t reported for Krakoa. Unlike Kate, however, they’re working through their mutant Yellow Pages and tracking down mutants they already know about rather than any and all people in need of help. After tracking through the first few letters of the alphabet they arrive at “B”, which is for “Beak”, and the rest of his family. Beak and his partner Angel Salvador are Grant Morrison creations who were lost to the wilds of fourth-tier comics in the years since he left the franchise, and here they show up on a farm in Nebraska, where they’re living as a family and caring for Beak’s father. That’s the reason they haven’t been seen in years, the comic (fairly) suggests, and also why they didn’t head to Krakoa.
There were many different ideas which flickered up in HoXPoX and were explained to various levels of detail, but the one about “mutant medicine” is the one which Brisson seems most interested in addressing. Armor and her gang head across with one such medicine, which cures the fictional level of dementia which is afflicting Beak’s dad – thankfully they do “cure” a fictional illness rather than a real one, but it does still raise the thought. Have mutants cured cancer? Malaria? It’s probably not something which should really be brought up for readers to think about, but here it forms part of the core story in the issue.
With the dad cured, they’d all be free to go see Krakoa and find out what it’s like – only a gang of humans shows up at the barn, with the kids hostage, and demanding some of the magical mutant medicines for their town. That’s the dynamic which closes the issue and will be looked at further next time round, but it’s a strange cliffhanger which maybe inadvertently gives the Marvel Universe a bit more character to it. You see, it’s previously stated that the US is one of the countries which absolutely accepted mutant medicine in exchange for Krakoa’s sovereignty, so Nebraska shouldn’t be struggling for medicines. The threat here has no reason to exist… until you remember America’s unique approach to medicine.
In America, medicine belongs to the people who can afford it, and that doesn’t necessarily mean individuals: it means entire areas. Living in a rural part of the country, Beak’s family – and the gang who show up – presumably are less likely to receive these medicines because they aren’t in areas of wealth. It’s one thing for Krakoa to give away medicines, but that doesn’t meant people will actually get them.
This is, sure, a lot to read into things, but it’s good to see the X-Men books are potentially leaning into this sort of political commentary. We won’t find out until next issue if this is actually the case, though, so let’s come back to it then, but there’s certainly a lot of merit in the franchise taking on ideas like mutant medicine and delving into the political conflict they might create.
The “completist” angle to Krakoa is a really interesting one, and something which HoXPoX was also thematically interested in. Armor’s instinct is that mutants should of course want to move to Krakoa, to the extent that she’s willing to flick through a book of names and check anybody who hasn’t shown up. Rather than thinking mutants might have very good reasons not to move (it’s not like we can forget Genosha) she instead decides that she needs to go door-to-door with the good word. That’s a little surprising from someone like Armor in particular, and it speaks to the way people view Krakoa. In Excalibur’s third issue, it was shown how mutants had tried to reach out telepathically to Rictor to find out where he was and to bring him to Krakoa; and obviously the last two issues of New Mutants were all about tracking down Cannonball and getting him on the island. The instinct of everybody is to try and complete their sticker album, so to speak, rather than accepting the world they’ve been given.
In that there’s a curious comparison between the on-panel mutants here and the comic book readers themselves. There’s a quote from Reggie Fils-Aime, who was the President of Nintendo for a while:
It really feels like you can compare that to this situation too. Are we gathering all the mutants together because it’s the most interesting story Hickman has set up for all the other writers, or is it because we all suffered through years of X-Position questions checking up on the status of Wither and Hellion?
Keeping it within the comics themselves, though, there’s another subtext which could easily be read into things. The X-Men comics are now suggesting a huge mutant paradise where anybody will have everything they want… and yet there are so many characters who won’t be happy until they get all their friends around the campfire. The Marauders, the New Mutants, and now Armor and her small team of young characters. There’s a feeling that Krakoa isn’t perfect unless everybody can enjoy it, and the concept of “completing a whole” was something which was so important in HoXPoX. If Beak never steps foot on Krakoa, will he appear in the mutant library of the far future which we saw in Powers of X? Is there a reason so many stories are following this particular path? Maybe it’s not that mutants want to bring everybody back to the party – maybe it’s that they’re being compelled to?
New Mutants #3: To The Grave
Writers: Ed Brisson
Colourist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Designer: Tom Muller
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