I’m not quite sure what made me make a Swap for the first two volumes of The New Mutants Classic. I’m not a big fan of the X-Men and I’ve been known to downright loath Chris Claremont’s writing, so how did I find myself reading these books? Well, I try to keep an open mind and besides, Swaps don’t cost a lot of money and I wanted to make this one work for some reason. I also have an affinity for comics starring teens. Each generation of comic fans has had their own from the Teen Titans to Gen 13 (my personal teen team) and on to the Runaways.
I had a few worries before cracking the first volume open. First of all, even though I like teen superhero comics, you oftentimes run into problems where the stories that were so beloved when they were originally written have been retreaded to death. I had this problem when I tried reading the first New Teen Titans archive. Around that same time, I’d read all of Geoff Johns’ run on the book, Judd Winick’s Outsiders, Booster Gold and Titans, all of which went back to the well or were influenced by those original stories. So, by the time I got to reading about how the team first met Deathstroke, I felt like I’d seen it from a hundred different angles already and there wouldn’t be a lot for me to be surprised by. My other worry was that Claremont would be Claremont and I’d be overwhelmed by an obscene number of text boxes.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the former wasn’t a problem for me. Maybe it’s because I barely know these characters, but I had no idea where anything was going, so I was along for the ride. This got me pretty jazzed. And then the ride got kind of boring. I found myself struggling to finish both of these books only spurred on by the desire to write this post and get to the Bill Sienkiewicz stuff which my pal Brett White not only loves, but also featured on an episode of his podcast Matt and Brett Love Comics. I was able to score those trades in another swap, so I soldiered on.
After liking the Marvel Graphic Novel that introduced the characters and team, I was surprised to feel a little jerked around between issues of the ongoing series. One would end on a note and then the next would start as if ten things had happened and it wasn’t the usual comic book thing of showing what happens, then going back and showing HOW it happened. There’s also a lot of those text boxes that get on my nerves. Most of them explain the characters’ powers which I understand because, back then, the idea was for every issue to be accessible to every new reader. The problem I had with them was that, while I completely understood Cannonball’s powers (he can fly fast and can’t be hurt while doing so) I didn’t quite get a grip on Sunspot’s. He gets his powers from the sun and turns into this dark energy being, but he can still get knocked out or shot? What’s the point of the energy form, then? I thought it was kind of a Human Torch thing where his body turned into energy or was at least covered by it, so shouldn’t a bullet burn away? I don’t like being confused about things like that while reading a comic.
I’m just going to keep on with the critique of the series overall as I go here because the problems I had were not confined to just the first or second volume. I also didn’t care about any non-team member that was brought into the book aside from the local kids they met at the mall. I’m talking specifically here about Team America (motorcycle-riding mutants, not the ass-kicking puppets) or most of the Nova Roma folks. While I did like how the team went traveling around the Marvel U a bit, I wasn’t super interested in many of their stops and couldn’t believe they would just let their friend and teammate Karma, but they’ll run off after everyone else at the drop of a hat. That just didn’t seem consistent.
Man, I’m starting to sound like a message board poster, but I swear, I’m going to get to the stuff I like in a second. While I haven’t read many New Mutants appearances, I did really like the teen-oriented New X-Men series. One of the cool aspects of that book was how well connected it was to the other X-books, but there’s very little of that here. The only real crossover is an issue of Uncanny that features the kids, a few random appearances and Professor X constantly talking about how the other team was off in space or on a mission or something. I know this was the first X-Men spinoff book and maybe that’s just what was going on in the main title at the time, but it felt lacking.
Okay, complain-fest is done. I didn’t fully hate these books. If I did, I wouldn’t have bothered writing about them. One thing that Claremont did do really well in these issues was get into the heads of these kids and write about their insecurities and worries as much as their burgeoning superheroics. While I was getting bored with over a year’s worth of Cannonball being not the best flyer, it was cool how towards the end of the second volume, one of the characters wondered to herself if it was because he manifested his powers later than the rest of them. I hadn’t thought of that, but it was a nice touch. I also like how Claremont tried to work in characters like Kitty Pryde and Ilyiana Rasputin to this group of younger characters. It makes sense that there would be some camaraderie and tension between the “vets” and the rookies. That could have been played with more and probably is in the coming issues.
At the end of the day, these two books feel like a long movie that could have used some serious editing. There’s a really solid 8 or 9 issues in here, but there’s also a lot of other stuff cluttering things up and slowing them down at the same time. I don’t know if I can honestly recommend these books to anyone who’s not already an X or Claremont fan, but if you want to give them a whirl, head on over to my Sequential Swap page. I’m sure we can make a deal.