Marvel Graphic Novel – The New Mutants (1982, October)
Ooh, here’s a very, very big deal. Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod bring The New Mutants!
We start in the Scottish Highlands, where a red wolf jumps over Moira’s head, and in mid-air begins to transform. She lands, then finishes transforming into a 14-year-old girl, Rahne Sinclair, who Moira actually delivered years ago. An angry mob finds Moira and Rahne, and plans to kill Rahne, but Moira kicks them off her land. Moira decides to take Rahne to Xavier.
Then we go to Rio de Janeiro, and a school soccer match. Roberto da Costa is his team’s star player. A couple opposing players smash into him, but the ref didn’t notice how rough they were. Roberto tackles one of them, and the guy starts beating on him while making racist comments about the fact that Roberto’s half-black. Then Roberto turns completely black and gets surrounded by some Kirby dots, and everyone freaks out. His girlfriend rushes to the field and holds him as he passes out.
Then to Kentucky. Sam Guthrie, 16, is going for his first day of work in the coal mines. His father just died of “Black Lung,” and now Sam’s the man of the house, and that means bringing in some money. There’s a cave-in, and Sam goes to help another miner who got pinned. As the roof comes down on them, Sam blasts out, saving them both.
Then the Colorado Rockies. A mountain lion rushes up to a young woman, then rushes away when it senses men. The girl’s grandfather shows up, and calls her Moonstar. He says he’s sending her to Xavier. She doesn’t want to go, especially not with a white. She accidentally calls up an image of her grandfather being beaten by men in armour. He says this is why she has to go to Xavier, who was her father’s blood brother.
And now we learn that these last three scenes were being watched by Pierce, of the Hellfire Club. He has Tessa chained up, and plans on killing Xavier, and all mutants.
Dani has a nightmare, and rushes out on her pony to find her grandfather dead. She swears vengeance.
Then to the Xavier School. Moira and Rahne have been there for a week, and are helping run some tests on Xi’an Coy Mahn, making her return from Marvel Team-Up #100. Xavier asks for a demonstration of her power, and Moira volunteers. Rahne freaks out a bit about the possession. We briefly get Xi’an’s backstory – leaving out the stuff she logically wouldn’t want to talk about – and we get Rahne talking about gifts from Satan. Xavier is reluctant to train them, because he’s tired of sending kids off to their deaths. Moira convinces him to change his mind in a telepathic conversation. He gives Xi’an a job at the school, so she can support her brother and sister while studying.
They go out to Colorado, but arrive to find the grandfather’s body on a funeral pier. The area around them suddenly looks like the Vietnam War, which freaks Xi’an out. Then an explosion takes everyone out. Moonstar is running from guys in armour on flying platforms. The mountain lion gets killed trying to defend her, and one of the guys grabs her. Then gets possessed by Karma. Yay for Karma saving the day! Anyway, we learn Moonstar’s first name is Danielle. And that she takes being Cheyenne really, really seriously. Xavier then splits the group.
Moira, Dani and Xi’an go to RIo, and are arrested. Xi’an slips away with Dani, because Xi’an is actually a great character who deserves way more use than she gets. They find Roberto, and track him to a slum, where his girlfriend is being held. He attacks some Hellfire goons, ones who happened to be cut up by Wolverine and turned into cyborgs. There’s a fight, and Roberto’s girlfriend ends up getting killed taking a bullet for him.
Then we head up to Kentucky, where Xavier and Rahne are driving along when Sam slams into their truck. Rahne changes to wolf form and slips into the shadows. Sam – called Cannonball by the Hellfire goons who come by – is now working for them, though he’s not being told much. They take Xavier, and Rahne follows, using her transitional form to jump the two fences and get on top of the building so she can spy.
Then the other New Mutants show up, and we find Dani and Rahne have a psionic rapport. That rapport ends up actually being one of the more heart-warming aspects of this series. Anyway, figth time. Xi’an scatters some soldiers with an assault rifle, because seriously, Xi’an is awesome. Anyway, they fight Pierce, but he kicks their asses easily. Rahne’s seriously injured in the fight, but manages to turn off the device blocking Xavier’s power, and he takes over Pierce’s mind. The day is saved.
A week later, at the school, the four of them get into their uniforms – with Dani adding some personal touches that work well. Then Sam arrives, and the others are willing to forgive him.
It’s a great story, though I’m not keen on McLeod’s artwork. Faces often look really weird. But it’s a great story, introducing a bunch of great characters. The New Mutants are the first real X-Men spin-off (not counting the Wolverine mini, which was only four issues, after all). This is the beginning of the X-Men turning into a franchise, though that’s still years away. They were the first X-Men “junior” team, and began the long tradition of “junior” teams. They would be followed by Generation X in the ’90s, and the New X-Men in the 2000s, both awesome groups.
The team starts at five, but once the series starts, it soon grows. Of these original five, all are still alive. Sam and Roberto are best friends and now working in the Avengers, Dani Moonstar is in Fearless Defenders as a valkyrie, Rahne has recently taken up residence in a church with John Madrox (and is no longer appearing in an ongoing book) – Xi’an is actually the only one who’s still associated with the X-Men, in Astonishing X-Men, though that book is ending soon. I really, really hope she gets picked up by another book.
Claremont gave them all interesting and unique personalities. He gives most of them an edge that teen heroes often lacked. Dani and Roberto both wanted to kill people. Xi’an and Dani are both orphans, with Xi’an having to be the caretaker for her younger siblings. Sam was likewise willing to be the breadwinner for his family, showing a lot of maturity and responsibility for a 16-year-old. Rahne’s strict Protestant upbringing gives her a different view of things, and leaves her feeling very conflicted about her own feelings.
This comic also gave a slightly larger than average role to Tessa. Which was nice. Tessa’s kinda cool. Which reminds me, Sage needs to land somewhere soon. She’s cool, she deserves to get used.
Anyway. Great book.