New Mutants Trade Post: Classic Volume 1 and 2

The New Mutants Classic: Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Bob McLeod, Paul Smith & Sal Buscema
Collects Marvel Graphic Novel #4, New Mutants #1-7 and Uncanny X-Men #167

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.

The New Mutants Classic: Volume 2 (Marvel)
Written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Sal Buscema
Collects New Mutants #8-17

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.

Trade Post: Thor & Dark Phoenix Saga

2009-02-13
4:45:30 pm

Today we’ve got a pair of Marvel trade reviews for your reading pleasure:

THOR VOL. 1 (Marvel)

Written J. Michael Straczynski & drawn by Oliver Coipel

On paper, I didn’t think I’d like JMS’s Thor. I’ve never been a big fan of the character and JMS disappointed me with Rising Stars after which I kind of stopped reading his stuff (also because I’m not a big FF or Spidey fan, though his Midnight Nation is rad). Also, I remember reading in Wizard a bunch of years back (I think right before I got my job) that Mark Millar and Steve McNiven were going to work on a Thor book where all these different Asgardian weapons started falling to Earth and new people were picking them up and becoming Don Blake/Thor-like pairings. That sounded pretty rad, but it never happened. Then that Thor clone thing happened in Civil War, so I was pretty much done with the idea of Thor.

Even with all that, I still started reading Thor when it came out and I was shocked to realize that I really liked it. I can’t even really describe why I like it so much. I think it’s the basic simplicity of a character that’s been around for decades. Even though Thor’s trying to find his fellow Asgardians in human form, it doesn’t feel too bogged down in continuity. I also really like how he just decided to set up shop in Oklahoma as a floating castle-city. It’s a really cool visual which is made all the cooler by Coipel’s slick art. I can’t remember if I’ve read any books he’s drawn before, but I’d definitely make a point from here on out.

Unfortunately, I missed one issue in the first six and got off the story, which is a bummer because now I’ll either have to find all the issues in the Wizard library (a veritable wasteland) or just read the trades as they come out which will take a while. Oh well, I’m still down with the book and from what I hear it’s still doing well, so hopefully it’ll be around for a while.

X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA (Marvel)

Written by Chris Claremont, co-plotted and drawn by John Byrne

I’ve talked a lot of X-Men trash over the years. Partly it’s because I’m a dyed in the wool DC fan. Part of it is that I’m not a big Chris Claremont fan because of his run on Gen 13 (I was a HUGE fan of that book back in the day). And partly because I’m kind of sick of people saying how great it is.

But, all that being said, I figured I should at least give it a shot and see how it is so I can make an educated argument as to why I don’t like the book (if in fact I don’t). Well, I was surprised that I didn’t hate the book. I don’t think it’s anywhere near the level of Dark Knight or Watchmen, books that I’ve heard it compared to before, but it’s pretty good for a comic from 1979-1980.

Part of the problem is that I knew exactly what was going to happen and there were very few if any surprises. I guess I can thank my beloved X-Men animated series and reading various reviews and write-ups in Wizard for that. Anyway, sometimes you know how something’s going to end, but the ride is still fun. Unfortunately, I kept getting let down by moments that I’ve heard were supposed to be awesome. The one that really sticks out in my mind is the couple of issues in which Wolverine gets knocked through the floor of the Hellfire Club and then comes back and kicks ass to save his teammates. Sure there are a couple of cool moments, but most of the issue is spent watching a Revolutionary War era Cyclops fighting in mind space or something. The final fight with the Imperial Guard is kind of boring as well. Plus John Byrne’s very pretty art is often covered with dialogue that explains exactly what you’re seeing the characters do on the page.

Like I said the story’s not bad, especially if you haven’t had nearly every beat of the story ruined for you and also if you have a predilection for Silver Age-type stories, but it doesn’t really make me want to read the rest of this era of X-Men, though X-fanatic and Wizard World guru Brett White suggested I read From the Ashes which is on my list. We shall see I guess.