If you’d told me that a “New Mutants” story featuring the return of the Ani-Mator (quite possibly the worst “New Mutants” villain from the original series, no small feat) was going to be fun, I’d have laughed in your face — and yet, that’s just what Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Leandro Fernandez have turned out for readers.
For this final chapter, the spotlight is firmly on Cypher and Warlock; the rest of the team shunted into the background, Abnett and Lanning address Cypher’s fear of the Ani-Mator (having killed him years ago) as well as his increasing power structure. This results in an awfully dialogue-heavy issue, and those expecting a punch-out between the Douglock synthesis and the ever-growing Ani-Mator are going to be awfully disappointed. It works here, though; not just because Cypher’s power is after all linguistics, but because of the smooth narration patter as Warlock and Cypher untangle what’s going on with the Ani-Mator.
Cypher and Warlock’s relationship also takes up a lot of this issue and it’s nice to see both of them working so well on the page with one another. Warlock’s “voice” in particular is great, with the “Tra-la-las” continuing and making Warlock more than someone who just happens to say “self” instead of “I” in his vocabulary. The Cypher/Warlock combination was in no small part what made both characters work back in Chris Claremont’s original “New Mutants” run and that continues here.
Fernandez’s art is solid as ever here. The before-and-after glimpses of Paradise Island are excellently drawn and Fernandez has helped do the impossible by making the Ani-Mator (an older man with glasses with an animal skin on his head) look creepy. Everything else at that point is gravy and while Fernandez gets the benefit of being able to skip backgrounds for the mental conversations between Cypher and Warlock, he more than makes up for it on the other pages with lush drawings to make every scene pop.
It’s nice to be proven wrong in a good way and I feel like the return of the Ani-Mator in “New Mutants” absolutely applies to that category. This should have been a horrible comic, but instead we’ve gotten a fun storyline. “New Mutants” is continuing with a strong voice and a real direction and that’s a pleasant thing month after month.