New Mutants-Vember: Let the Festivities Commence!

Looking back on my history with the X-books, I realized that pretty much both of the seminal gateways to the world of the X-Men were bound to the New Mutants.  The very first comic I picked up was Uncanny #281, that atrocious issue where the Hellions (among many other established characters) were killed off by the failed villain team the Upstarts.  Later, when I discovered the franchise’s golden age in the 80s, it was through the storyline where Kulan Gath turned New York into a fantasy land thanks to Classic X-Men; in that story, most of the New Mutants were his minions, while Warlock was among the handful of heroes fighting to free the city.  Probably not the best place for a newbie to come into the X-books in either case, but these two initial intros were what led to my fascination with the New Mutants.

But being fond of something for its place as an early introduction is one thing; my love of New Mutants is more than nostalgia.  During Chris Claremont’s run on the title, I saw a comic where literally anything could happen.

You could have a story involving a giant Demon Bear in another dimension; you could have a hidden city that still thought it was the days of Ancient Rome; you could have a super-school rivalry story; you could have a story where the teacher’s illegitimate son with several DID has to be contained; you could have a story where a slumber party is crashed by an alien, who then joins the team; you could have a story where said alien gets in a big, goofy, globetrotting fight with another shapeshifting alien; you could have a story where all of these kids died, then were revived with the full memory of how it felt to die.  It was everything – sci-fi, fantasy, drama, humor, EVERYTHING.  And the characters were always solid, providing foundations in this narrative upheaval.  Even the characters I didn’t like (looking at you, Sunspot) were at least still interesting in their jerkdom.  It was a title that was wholly unpredictable for plots but had such wonderful characters that I couldn’t wait to come back and see what happened next.

Needless to say, when Claremont left, this was lost.  But we’ll get into my complaints with Simonson’s run another time, because my feelings are detailed & complicated.  And while I read every issue of DeFilippis & Weir’s series & enjoyed elements of it, I find it to be hit or miss at best.  Still, since it was positioned both promotionally & diagetically as an heir to the classic series and has some elements I want to address, I am including it.  Can't be the All Claremont Show, y'know?

So in celebration of this book’s influence on my tastes & writing (as well as warping my sanity at an impressionable age), I have decided that November will be New Mutants Month.  Festivities include:
- Top 5 Members tonight on the 2nd;
- Bottom 5 Members on the 9th;
- X-Nonsense impressions of the classic & “new” Hellions on the 16th;
- An examination of why I dislike Simonson’s run via a Bottom 5 on the 23rd;
- And finally, a review of New Mutants Forever for the 30th.

So grab your alien best bud and switch off the Magnum PI reruns every Saturday this month while I ramble about 80s comics.  Cuz you know, in your heart of hearts, that’s exactly what you wanna do on a Saturday.

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Well, enough preamble. Time for my Top 5 New Mutants Members

5. Prodigy:  On the whole, I found the actual New Mutants team in the D/W run to be somewhat flat and existing largely for the sake of bad soap opera.  But I’ve always had a soft spot for smart guys, and the very nature of his powers made David Alleyne THE smart guy.  It always annoyed me that his spotlight story had the appalling Aesop of “being too smart makes you a monster”, since that runs entirely opposite to (a) my personal philosophy and (b) the character himself.  David was responsible, sensible, knew how to utilize his abilities in & out of combat well, and was basically the only member of his squad I didn’t want to periodically smack.  I’m glad he’s getting a chance to find new fans and a better spotlight via Young Avengers, since I’m sure Kieron Gillen isn’t as hostile to intelligence as David’s creators apparently were.

4. Magik: Yeah, yeah, I know – everyone likes Illyana.  She had cool armor, a cool sword, a tragic backstory, and a neat power set.  Also, she died, and if twenty years of reading comics has taught me anything, it’s that everyone loves the characters that die, even if they hated them before.  But here’s the thing that I liked about Illyana – she wasn’t an angst basket.  Yeah, she had her dour moments, but unlike so many designated tragic characters after her, she wasn’t constantly fretting about whether was soulless or evil; in fact, there were moments that she actually enjoyed being 3/5ths evil and used that to her advantage.  While I like her “calmly evil & wearing Hela’s cast-offs” persona right now & appreciate that she still shows glimmers of her supposedly-lost humanity (witness the recent “Battle of the Atom” scene where she is thrilled to see her brother again), I will always remember her as the girl who scared Empath nearly to death and teleported her team to medieval Scotland by accident.

3. Warlock: The characters comic fans choose to hate always baffles me sometimes.  Why Matter-Eater Lad is the butt of jokes while still being as crazy awesome as Deadpool in his own way is a prime example, and naturally, that brings us to Warlock.  Yes, he had a Classic Claremont Dialogue Tic, and yes, he was largely comedic, but he also provided an interesting perspective.  He was one of those non-mutant characters who stands alongside the X-Men as an equal, and he was a comic relief figure that still could be a heavy hitter when he needed to be in the serious moments.  I’ve liked him since my first New Mutants encounter, where he started to rally the scattered heroes to restore New York, and his role in the two Alan Davis-drawn annuals only made me like him more.  If you can’t get past a weird look or the occasional “selffriend” to see a fun & versatile character, I can’t help you.

2. Dani Moonstar: Okay, let’s get it right out of the way right up front – yes, I know she is very, very, very stereotypical, especially in the earliest parts of the series.  And her “psychic bond with animals” power that has thankfully slipped by the wayside made her feel like Action Disney’s Pocahontas at times.  But Dani Moonstar still had a lot for me to like.  She started out doubting herself & fearing for her sanity at times, found a support network, and blossomed & matured to the point that she was found worthy of being a Valkyrie.  In fact, nowadays, her Valkyrie status is what defines her.  She suffered from Claremont Favorite Character Skill Inflation (her original powers expanded, her animal telepathy, her Valkyrie-hood & death visions, her flying horse), it only got worse as others added abilities (physical manifestations, arrows that caused intense fear/desire stupors in targets, being a SHIELD agent), and now even with her mutant powers lost, she’s basically a demigoddess.  But she was another “role model” figure for impressionable young me, and she’s still one of my favorite female team leaders in all of comics.

1. Cypher: Yeah, I know, another character who died at one point.  Another smart character.  Another character that fanboys hated until he died.  Another character who makes those “stupid powers” lists that brodudes online find so amusing.  Another character I adore.  Doug was a guy who had everything to lose by joining a superhero team and knew it; he knew he wasn’t a fighter, yet he still wanted to serve a purpose.  He was almost like the Legion philosophy of “everyone has something to contribute to making the world better” being applied to the X-Men.  Add to it his uncanny ability to charm the ladies (even Psylocke was a little smitten with him, despite a decade’s age difference), factor in the fact that his powers would be anything but lame in the modern era, and put it in an adorably dorky package, and you have my favorite New Mutant.  I used to think Louise Simonson’s claim that fans wanted him dead for being “lame” was an excuse, but the longer I’m online, the more I believe her.  And now that he’s back (thanks, Zeb Wells), people are starting to realize that maybe his fans were on to something.

Honorable Mentions: Because I always have characters I like & want to talk about but can’t quite put in the Elite Five.
- Rusty & Skids: I always think of these two as a team, since they don’t really work apart from each other.  Like I said, I’m not a fan of Louise Simonson’s run, but I think that she did a great job with the kids she carried over from X-Factor, with these two especially benefiting.  He was sensible & driven to be a good leader; she was emotional & driven by empathy.  They became the epitome of dependable background players until the Liefeld era began, and they were charming enough in their perfectly balanced couplehood that they were always welcomed.
- Wind Dancer: If I had to pick a least-smackable character from the D/W run along with Prodigy, I’d pick her.  Sofia was basically a Cinderella story, with a tragic & lonely background in poverty leading to a new life at the school living in comfort & surrounded by friends.  She didn’t have any other real facets other than being really, sincerely nice, but in a franchise overrun by angst baskets & Wolver-wannabes, I’ll take a Pollyana character for a change of pace.

Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! I love this post, and I love this idea! I've never been into the New Mutants very much, for some reason I couldn't even begin to explain, but your brain has always fascinated me, so I lose my shit when you go on about your favorite (or least favorite) characters like this! Can't wait for your Bottom Five tomorrow!

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