New Mutants Forever #5

Story by
Art by
Bob McLeod, Al Rio
Colors by
Letters by
Tom Orzechowski
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Have you ever gotten the sneaking feeling that a mini-series wasn't necessarily envisioned as such by the creators? There's no hard evidence pointing to this being the case with "New Mutants Forever," the conclusion of which shipped this week. But there's such a "to be continued" moment here, coupled with a rather unsatisfying ending, that it makes you wonder if Chris Claremont had written this script with the intention that "New Mutants Forever" #6 would be out the following month.

After several issues of conflict in the colony of Nova Roma, Claremont starts to wrap things up here, in a manner of speaking. We see the end of Selene and Magma's conflict, if you can call a single narration box saying that everything is now peachy serves as a wrap-up. The insurrection comes to an end (not that it's much of a surprise to anyone reading the comic), of course. And as for Doug Ramsey being transformed into a younger version of the Red Skull?

Well, that's where things really start to fall apart.

For now, we'll put aside the general oddity of the New Mutants facing off against the Red Skull, or that we're yet again getting a Claremont script where someone is violated and physically transformed into a hated outer form that threatens to affect their very mind and soul as a result. We're told when it happens that this change is permanent, that Cypher will forever be Red Skull Jr.

Instead of giving us an unhappy ending for the character, though, Claremont offers up a solution to the problem that feels like such a cheat that I'll be startled if any readers are satisfied with it. I suppose it's a good thing that this is technically in an alternate timeline, because giving a team member this much ability completely destabilizes the balance of power for the book. Why worry about any problems that can happen to the team when this character can wave a proverbial magic wand and fix things? Sure, there's a final panel which seems to hint that things are not going so well (although I'm going off of the text box there, because visually it doesn't come across as anything understandable), but with this being the end of the mini-series we're not left with any real consequences. Problem solved, end of story, good job team. It violates most rules of how to write an ending for a story, and it makes the reader wonder why they bothered in the first place. It also makes the comic feel like it doesn't end, but rather just stops with a quick two-page hand-wave. It's a lousy way to end a mini-series.

I am still at least amused by the collaboration of Al Rio and Bob McLeod, if only because of how strongly McLeod's inks dominate the overall look of the book, making it look like McLeod's art on the first year and a half of "New Mutants." It's a good choice for the book, a back-to-basics approach that is founded on clean lines and character designs. The only time it doesn't work is when drawing the savage Red Skull form of Cypher, which feels like what a "Sesame Street" muppet version of the Red Skull would look like. Then again, considering how much the Red Skull doesn't seem to fit in with this story to begin with, I suppose that's somewhat appropriate.

"New Mutants Forever" was initially a nice walk down memory lane for people who still remember the old run on "New Mutants" from Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, Bill Sienkiewicz, and company. This ending, though, is such a disappointment that I find myself no longer hoping for a follow-up. Maybe Claremont had hoped for more issues, and had to wind things down in a hurry. I like to think he still could have done something better than this, though.

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