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New Mutants #1 (1983, March)

June 13, 2014

Here’s where things start getting exciting, as the X-Men franchise begins to expand. This post, and the next two, will be for New Mutants. Today’s story, by Claremont and Bob McLeod, is “Initiation!”

Initiation!

Sadly, Karma’s place at the back is pretty indicative of how her entire publication history turns out.

We start with Stevie Hunter washing Xi’an’s hair in order to style it, while the other Mutants watch. Rahne complains about how her hair never grows, and Roberto flirts with her. Because that’s the kind of guy he is. Dani then plays melodramatic about wishing Bobby would pay attention to her. And then she accidentally starts drawing out Xi’an’s memories and showing them to everyone. The deaths of her parents, her rape on the sea. Xi’an freaks out and attacks Dani and has to be dragged off. A reminder that we’re only five pages into this series, and already we’ve got rape and death threats.

Dani goes wandering, and winds up in the wing of the house the X-Men live in. She checks out Kitty’s room, then goes up to the attic and wanders Storm’s plants. She even talks to them, the way Storm does. By the time she finishes, Xavier summons the students for a training session.

We get an interlude in London, as Moira and Illyana visit the Israeli ambassador, Gabrielle Haller. You know what that means! She tells Moira about her son, an autistic. She wants Moira’s help, and she wants Xavier kept out of it. Because Xavier’s the father.

Back to the mansion, Xavier shows the kids the Danger Room (while they admire Xi’an’s new haircut). Sunspot asks if they’re going to be the new X-Men, and Xavier snaps at him and says no. He then returns to explaining the Danger Room, saying that in order for them to master their powers, they’re going to have to work very hard at honing their bodies. He also turns on the holograms to change the environment and impress them. Then he turns it off and tells them to cross the room.

Cannonball goes first, hits a wall, and then gets sucked into a fan. Wolfsbane goes next, and falls down a hole. Then Sunspot gets caught by a robot. Next up is Karma, who gets a real test. She’s given ruined streets, and the other students are set to ambush her. She beats Cannonball and Sunspot, but Wolfsbane tackles her and licks her face. Then it’s Dani’s turn, and she’s supposed to fight the others, but she’s terrified and runs away. Rahne tracks her down, while mentioning that she likes Dani’s scent. Because Claremont, by this point, was pretty well into his “every woman is gay” tendencies. Dani explains about her parents dying hunting a bear. Then Rahne joins the others on a trip to Salem Centre, not realizing they’re being tailed by agents working for Gyrich.

With everyone gone, Dani heads back to the Danger Room, and activates a program. She’s determined to be a proud Cheyenne. Her test pits her against robots, and she moves through them to reach the exit. Then she gets knocked out, left in the Danger Room, and the X-Men-level program from earlier is activated.

This issue doesn’t bother spending much time rehashing how the team came together, which is probably a good thing, since that would’ve taken up space, and it’s not really that important to know. It just gets right into the story, with the team assembled and already friends. We see each character’s power, mostly only briefly as they attempt to cross the Danger Room. Their personalities are established quickly and easily: Bobby’s a confident flirt, Sam’s a responsible kid from the country, Rahne’s young, naive and inexperienced, Xi’an’s fairly serious. Dani has a lot more sides of her shown here than the others, and is the main focus of the issue. Which is fine by me, because Dani’s a great character. She gets the drama here, first with Xi’an, and then with the Danger Room, and finally with Rahne. Speaking of Rahne, her comments about how much she loves being a wolf are really interesting. Her description of what it’s like do make it sound fun.

The characters are all great, and they’re immediately compelling. You want to read more about them. I do like that Xi’an, as the one with the most experience with her powers, and Dani, as a warrior, are both given tests that pit them against the others (even if Dani ran away from hers). It’s a very nice touch that establishes those two as already being at a higher level than the others.

The art is competent, though it’s not great. It’s a bit different from the normal style of the time, but not in a way that makes it more interesting. It doesn’t necessarily make it less interesting, either. It just doesn’t really end up making much difference either way. There are certain panels here and there that look a bit odd. His Xavier looks very weird. There’s not a lot of action, but what we see is choreographed well enough. One interesting touch was the pirates who raped Xi’an looked, in her memories, like inhuman beasts. That added just that little extra touch of drama to those memories.

It’s a great first issue. The series gets off to a good start. It gets better, too.

For today’s awesome song, I’m going to go with You Could Have Both by the Long Blondes.

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3 Comments
  1. This series has long been one I’ve been interested in checking out. It seems that for the most part, X-Men titles focused on younger mutants are of higher quality than the titles about adult X-Men running at the same time. And considering Wolverine and the X-Men was more about the staff than the students half the time, it cannot count for an exception.

    • I generally prefer the teen-oriented books, myself. New Mutants was a great title, especially when Bill Sienkewicz came in for art duties – the Demon Bear arc is great stuff. In the ’90s, Generation X was great. In the 2000s, New X-Men: Academy X was really great.

      But New Mutants was the first of the teen X-book spin-offs. So it did set the standard for the later books to follow. In fact, I would say it set the standard for all of Marvel’s teen superhero team books to follow, including books like Young Avengers or Avengers Academy.

  2. Really glad you’re getting into the New Mutants run now. That was definitely my favorite series when I was reading through the backlog several years ago (I maintained an attachment to the series long after it peaked; the early Louise Simonson issues were still fun, but when it reached the point where she was collaborating with Liefeld everything just got bogged down and the art was just so ugly.

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