New Mutants is working far better than it ought to. What appeared, on the surface, to be a last-ditch attempt at making a junior X-Men book after “Young X-Men” failed has actually turned out to be a much deeper and complex book reminiscent not only of the original “New Mutants,” but of “X-Men” in its heyday.
This issue sees the return of Warlock, one of the zanier ideas that “New Mutants” ever came up with. The character’s cartoonish, distorted look demands a lot of any artist, and thankfully, Zachary Baldus proves himself more than capable of the task. Baldus’ work has an ethereal, expressionist style, but at the same time, he retains a solid grip on storytelling. It harkens back to the days when Bill Sienkiewicz was bending minds on the original “New Mutants” run, and seems an appropriate fit for an issue with a heavy presence for Warlock.
The story itself is a transitional one, partly dealing with the fallout from Utopia, partly delivering an epilogue for the Legion storyline, and partly leading into the forthcoming Necrosha arc. A strong focus is given to Danni and Sam’s tense relationship with one another, building off the first storyline, but it’s odd that Danni’s acquisition of Valkyrie powers in Utopia should be such a major factor without being explicitly shown in the series, even in flashback. Similarly, it’s strange that it’s not made clear whether the return of her powers was permanent or temporary — she does still have a Pegasus, but the references to her “Asgardian supercharge” are past tense. I’m not opposed to the matter being dealt with, but there’s a little too much reading between the lines going on here.
Legion’s interment at the X-Men base is an interesting development, but it’s a pity that no scene with Xavier could be worked into the issue if they’re going to show Legion explicitly part of the X-Men’s setup, because that’s probably the biggest question his return raises and we, as readers, will feel cheated if it isn’t dealt with — particularly because the longer Legion stays with the team, the harder it becomes to believe Xavier hasn’t visited him. Clearly, there’s no problem using the rest of the X-characters as Rogue, Danger, and Dr. Rao all have scenes in the book. Exploiting the shared landscape of the X-verse was something that the original “New Mutants” did well, so it’s good to see the current incarnation having a stab at it too.
Overall, there’s little to complain about. Baldus’ art may turn off those looking for a more traditional look alongside the more traditional superheroics, but every other element of the book lines up nicely. New Mutants does feel a bit retro, but it doesn’t rely on that alone to carry the story — and that’s why it succeeds even though it shouldn’t.