The ‘junior’ X-Men books have taken a bit of a pounding over the last few years. While the original “New Mutants” and its spiritual successor, “Generation X,” both enjoyed healthy runs, the current incarnations of the ‘X-Men in training’ concept have struggled through multiple relaunch and retools. The most recent of these — “Young X-Men” — tanked after 12 issues. Arguably, a new approach was needed.
And apparently, everything old is new again. Rather than go for a book strictly about the X-Men’s students, Marvel has launched a team that re-unites the original New Mutants. Or at least, those left alive. The issue kicks off with the return of Magik, loosely playing off the climax to the recent “X-Infernus” miniseries, and moves swiftly into a plot that sees former members of the New Mutants team rescuing their captured friends.
Things move at an oddly brisk pace, but that’s a compliment. In an age where first issues are often a lot of setup designed to be read as the first chapter of a trade, Wells turns in a story that actually covers a lot of ground in a short space of time. That said, there’s plenty of time for some good character moments — Magik gets all the best lines, but a conversation between Cyclops and Cannonball plays beautifully off the years of history between the two.
Artist Diogenes Neves turns in some solid superheroics with a timeless look and strong storytelling. It helps give the title an accessible, inclusive feel, harking back to the days of the original New Mutants book while simultaneously looking modern. Neves particularly excels in his depictions of Illyana and Magma – although the two are both blonde, of a similar age and wearing the same costume, they are easy to distinguish from one another. It may sound trivial, but there are plenty of artists around who wouldn’t be able to manage that.
Praise aside, It’s hard to tell whether the title is supposed to be aimed at nostalgists or a new audience. The last page reveal brings back an X-villain familiar to readers of the original “New Mutants,” but that anyone who started reading X-Men titles within, say, the last 15 years, could easily have no clue about. There’s no denying, however, that this is an X-Men comic for X-Men readers and by the climax it has already assumed a lot about its readership, so maybe, in this case, they can get away with it. A pleasingly strong opening for a concept that could’ve been so much worse.