I have to hand it to Marvel Comics; of all the “Fear Itself” tie-ins that I’ve read, none of them have felt like I was missing something by not reading “Fear Itself,” but all of them have been entertaining. It’s rare to find a big event mini-series of that nature.
In the case of “New Mutants” #29, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning follow up on events from the “Utopia” crossover, the “New Mutants” issue of “Siege,” and old “New Mutants” history. All three of those have one big thing in common, of course, and that’s Dani Moonstar’s former history as a Valkyrie. With the Juggernaut bearing down on San Francisco and his connection to ancient Asgardian gods, it makes perfect sense for Dani to head back to Las Vegas for another chat with Hela, ruler of the Asgardian realm of Hel. They’d worked together in the past, why not do so again?
But of course, things are never that easily, and as things go wildly wrong in Hel before Dani can even arrive, a simple plan collapses under its own weight and the rest of the New Mutants team gets dragged into the mess. It’s a fun story, one that brings to mind past classic “New Mutants” stories like their “Mutant Massacre” tie-in issue, where one character gets dragged into the mess of another larger story and it propels the New Mutants team into their own, tangential problems.
It’s nice to continue to see the inactive members of the team getting used in a lesser capacity. The group consulting with Magik is a smart step on their part, and at the same time it’s nice to see Abnett and Lanning not simply breaking Illyana out for a plot convenience. And where the plot goes from there? Well, let’s just say that it’s a lovely little twist that I didn’t see coming, even as it makes perfect sense. Definitely one of the better “gotcha!” moments in comics I’ve read this month; Abnett and Lanning have a nice sense of humor and it’s nice to see it on display here.
What truly makes this comic work, even more than Abnett and Lanning’s strong script, is Dave Lafuente’s gorgeous art. I adored his work on “Patsy Walker: Hellcat” (one of those rare comics that just gets better every time you look at it) and he’s continued to raise his game since then. The cloud of ravens looks wonderfully creepy and instills a sense of dread over the scenes with Dani and Hela. Also in the creepy zone is the close up on Illyana’s face when the team is asking her for help, and she tilts her head to one side as she says, “Who is this delightfully aggressive new friend?” It raises the menace and uncertainty of whose side Illyana is on in one sharp moment, with her hard eyes and non-cheery smile. And when the team ends up at their final destination? As the five of them are huddled together, the end result is marvelous, from Warlock’s bugging out eyes, to Magma and Cypher’s huddling together and X-Man’s stoic look.
“New Mutants” under Abnett, Lanning, and Lafuente is a winning combination and then some. If this trio kept making comics this good every month, I know I wouldn’t be complaining. Once again, don’t be scared off by that big “Fear Itself” logo. It’s just an excuse for a different but still great comic.