When Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over “New Mutants” with #25, one of the first things they did was pare down the team’s numbers. Three of the eight characters stepped down, either due to their time in Limbo (Karma and Magik) or in the Age of X (Cannonball). So with that in mind, it’s much to my surprise just three issues later to see them getting the spotlight.
Abnett and Lanning introduce Gus Grim here, a cognitive therapist brought in to work with the three inactive members of the team (along with new member, X-Man) to get inside their heads in a non-telepathic way. It’s not the first comic (or even the first mutant title) to bring in a shrink to work with some of the characters, but it’s still a solid idea, and it makes sense to have someone talk to these four.
What keeps the script from shifting from good to great, though, is that it feels like Abnett and Lanning aren’t allowing enough time to touch on each character. With each of them, Gus has barely scratched the surface before we move on, and while (understandably) therapy isn’t an instant discovery or cure process, it feels like the idea to have a full-page splash to introduce each character would have been better used to have more panels to move the story along instead. (Cannonball and Karma, in particular, only get three and two pages each, including those splashes.) Still, as a tip of the iceberg it’s not bad, but a lot will depend on if Abnett and Lanning follow up on this or not in the near future.
Michael Ryan steps on board to pencil this issue, and it’s perfectly average art. He’s ironically at his best in the character splashes mentioned earlier, which do a good job of creating a portrait of the different characters. The other pages are serviceable but there’s a lack of particular spark or excitement to a lot of them. Things pick up a bit toward the end; his drawings of Magik in her cell are pleasantly dark and worrisome, and the final interactions between Hope and X-Man are good. While Hope’s proliferation among the X-Men titles is getting slightly wearisome, it’s a rare guest-appearance that actually makes sense for the pair to talk, considering their quasi-connection.
“New Mutants” #28 is a good enough issue, but a lot will depend on how much and soon Abnett and Lanning follow-up. Only time will ultimately tell if this is just a one-issue stalling technique, or truly part of something greater. With the title jumping into the depths of “Fear Itself” next month, though, that’s an answer that will have to wait for now.