If you assembled a list of storylines from the original 100-issue run of “New Mutants” and asked fans to give each a rating, there is no doubt in my mind what would end up rock-bottom. Louise Simonson and Bret Blevins’ Bird-Brain story, which culminated in the death of Cypher during “Fall of the Mutants,” is understandably still reviled some 25 years later. The squawking, fast-food binge-eating animal/human mutate (or Ani-Mate) was the most annoying character ever introduced in the series and having Cypher die because of a mission to help Bird-Brain and his people stung for almost every single reader.
So naturally, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have decided we need a sequel story about a character so bad that no one’s touched him since his appearance in “New Mutants” #61.
To be fair, the idea behind Abnett and Lanning’s new story isn’t that bad. They’re finally dealing with Cypher’s resurrection, something that’s been quietly swept under the rug ever since the “Necrosha” storyline. Gamely, the team is heading off to the island of the Ani-Mates (which is called Paradise Island — isn’t the same one that Wonder Woman hails from over at DC Comics?) to give Cypher some closure. Simultaneously, Abnett and Lanning juggle sub-plots involving Mephisto’s appearance last month, strange sleepwalking and calendar-staring on the part of Nate Gray and Nate and Dani’s relationship. This is a smart thing if nothing else because at this point there isn’t enough involving the Ani-Mates to sustain a full story.
In some ways, it feels like “Re:Ani-Mator” is more of a contagion-style story than one about dealing with coming back to life or the general horribleness of the Ani-Mates and the last-seen-banished-to-Limbo Ani-Mator (who one hopes won’t be retrieved to help find a cure for the contagion introduced at the end of the issue). With any luck that’s what we’re in for but it’s hard to keep from feeling like the least-loved characters in “New Mutants” history are about to take center stage. For now, one can hesitantly nod and say, “All right, let’s see what’s next.”
An added salve is the return of Leandro Fernandez, who drew the first Abnett and Lanning storyline in “New Mutants” a year ago. His art looks great here; strong uses of inks and blacks, overall great character designs for the main cast, and a positively terrifying looking Ani-Mator. (Shocking, yet true.) If there’s one thing to look forward to in this return to the Ani-Mates, it’s getting some choice Fernandez art.
I’m willing to give Abnett and Lanning a chance here, but of all the abandoned storylines that “New Mutants” promised to close off, it’s hard to keep from feeling like this was one that should have stayed abandoned. Still, for now, there are enough strengths to make one not run screaming in the other direction. It’s a start.