For those expecting the New Mutants to appear in their own title this month… surprise! They’re nowhere to be found. Aside from Pixie appearing in two panels, there’s none of the various X-Men squad members to be seen this month. Instead, Zeb Wells takes the opportunity to finally explain Project Purgatory, and in the process revive an old “New Mutants” and “X-Factor” dangling plot thread that I suspect most people had long forgotten.
The bad news about this issue isn’t the absence of New Mutants, but rather, the fact that readers are going to need a strong working knowledge of Limbo and some of its major storylines (its original introduction, “X-Terminators,” “Inferno,” and “X-Infernus” in particular). Without it, while readers might not be entirely lost, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the characters, references, and objects might come across as under-explained or coming out of the blue. There’s so much crammed into this issue that you can see why Wells shuffled the cast out of their book for a month to try and explain it all, but I think that Wells assumes a little too much that everyone will be ultra-familiar with everything.
Then again, “New Mutants” has been operating on an uber-nostalgia trip since its latest inception, so that might not be too bad of an assumption. There are so many constant references to past “New Mutants” stories and events in the entire run on this series that it’s probably a fair assessment that this is aimed strictly at the older fan, with the occasional younger fan who isn’t afraid to do the extra reading assignments on their own.
The one big problem I did have with the flashback and exposition fest that is “New Mutants” #16 is that none of the characters in Project Purgatory come across as interesting. They’re all one-dimensional plot devices, there to move the story forward but without anything interesting attached to them. I may have enjoyed “New Mutants” #16 but I couldn’t tell you a single character’s name five minutes after it was all over.
“New Mutants” #16 does great on the art front, though; Leonard Kirk’s pencils and inks are strong and consistent from the first page to the last. His smooth, rounded forms are attractive and slightly realistic at the same time, but Kirk shows with the denizens of Limbo that he’s able to draw the gross and disgusting as well. This is probably one of the goriest comics I’ve seen Kirk draw, and he handles it with aplomb. The new characters at the end of the comic also have some strong looking character designs, and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action a bit more next month.
“New Mutants” #16 is almost certainly what you’re expecting this month, and while it manages to both give a lot of information and at the same time not enough, it’s an interesting read and ultimately an important step in the new storyline. I’m looking more forward to “New Mutants” getting its own cast back next month, though.