Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Second Coming New Mutants 13: A Step Back Towards Awesome

As you may recall, my last report on Second Coming portrayed a harsh bump in the road for what is supposed to be the biggest X-men crossover in decades. Uncanny X-men #524 was the first major pothole in what had been a smooth path towards legendary awesome. Matt Fraction did the crossover a disservice with his latest installment and Zeb Wells was forced to get the train back on the track with New Mutant's #13. It's kind of unfair, like having to clean up a hotel room that had been the stage of an after party by Led Zeppelin. Wells had to wade through his share of semen stained filth to clean up the series and his efforts were solid for the most part.

The issue starts off a bit more disjointed than the others. It takes the action to Domino and Vanisher of X-Force, who are just learning who had been killed in action. Naturally, Cyclops wants a teleporter back into the mix and Vanisher is the only one left. Unfortunately, Vanisher lost his balls somewhere and wanted no part of it. He preferred to go on a brothel run in Portugal, which may seem smart to some guys. Unfortunately, those same guys were waiting for him with guns and he got wacked Sopranos style.

It was an inglorious way to go. Compared to the deaths of Nightcrawler and Ariel, Vanisher's demise was kind of cheap. This is a guy who fought alongside X-Force. For him to just die like this felt contrived, like the man had an expiration date and rather than enjoy the rest of what he had to offer the writers just cut their losses and threw him in the trash. It may work for milk, but not here. He may be a lesser character, but still. He's a character. It's a shame he has to go out like this.

The death of Vanisher isn't really dwelled on. In fact, that's the last he's heard of in this whole issue. The next scene takes us to Donald Pierce, who escaped from captivity and is ready to implement the next stage of Bastion's plan. In this the plot of Second Coming really shines because it shows some strategy behind the madness. This isn't some ultimate evil looking to attack the good guys with brunt force. This is a foe who doesn't have their head too far up their ass. They've clearly read Sun Tzu's "Art of War" and are employing a vital strategy that will become a big factor later on.

The New Mutants get some moments next. Each are still pretty devastated by what happened to Karma and many are having doubts. But not much is made of this at first because more focus is placed on Cyclops and Beast. They're still in the infirmary looking over the wounded and here it seems Wells is making up for some of the bullshit Matt Fraction unloaded in the previous issue.

One big criticism of Uncanny 524 was that Beast showed up and he came off as a flaming asshole, chastising Cyclops while he was holding the grave of his dead friend on his shoulders. Here, he's a bit more tame. He still is as comfortable around Cyclops as a gay, Jewish, black guy around a card carrying member of the KKK, but he's a lot more respectful this time around. The two men have a civilized conversation and Beast agrees to stay on board with the X-men until the end. It's a good thing too because an event this big without Beast is like demolition derby without the crashes.

There's nothing wrong with this scene, but it just feels like it wouldn't have been necessary had Fraction not turned Beast into a raging asshole in the last issue. This scene could have been used for something more useful, but Wells seemed obligated to address it so that Beast wouldn't come off as too great a douche bag. It seemed as though this scene should have expanded on the earlier scene with the New Mutants (because it is their comic after all). However, that scene got cut short and because there's so much going on in Second Coming they're basically left on the back burner like undercooked flanks steaks.

The next few scenes don't help them as they focus on the science team's expedition to an offshore oil rig. Given the news oil rigs have been getting lately, it's only fitting that they would be the sight of Bastion's next demonstration in douche-baggery. The team uncovers what looks like glorified wall clocks from a 70s disco bar, but they turn out to be these bombs that explode with manifestations of pink clouds. If that sounds fucked up, don't be afraid. Your brain is still working. There are just few words to describe it and that's par for the course with Bastion.

While this is going on, the New Mutants finally get some more screen time as Cable leads Hope to the cafeteria to get some much needed nourishment. It makes sense considering from her perspective, she just came from the future and has only had time to gorge on candy bars for nourishment. And that can't be healthy for a teenage mutant messiah.

This is where she comes face to face with Danielle Moonstar, who wasn't too happy about what happened to her friends earlier. She seems to echo the same sentiment Wolverine did at the end of Uncanny X-men 524. She has doubts that all these sacrifices they're making in the name of this teenage girl are really worth it. And who could blame her? One of her friends lost a leg. She has a right to be a little pissed so she takes it out on Hope. That would seem smart if this wasn't a girl who was raised by Cable.

An old fashioned food fight erupts. It's like a scene out of an old teen comedy. Danielle is the stupid jock bully and Hope is the undersized yet ballsy upstart looking to prove herself. She definitely shows some grit here in taking on Moonstar. While this is going on, Cyclops comes rushing in and tries to break it up. But Cable stops him. As far as he's concerned, it's better to just let them fight. Apparently, that's how all the world's problems get solved. It's worked for him plenty of times before and it's pretty awesome. So who are we to argue?

This leads to a heated conversation with Cyclops that forebodes on Cable's fate. He says at one point he has one last time jump to the future and he can use it to take him and Hope away from this madness. Now based on the solicitations of future issues, that's probably not going to happen. Hope will likely stay, but it seems more likely now that Cable is going to get stuck in the future again and Hope is going to be left behind. It's not the same as killing a character off, but considering how Vanisher died earlier that's a nice alternative if they go that route.

What's strange here is that the food fight is probably the most drawn out fight scene in this issue. That's kind of a shame because there was potential for more and it came in the very next scene.

Remember how Pierce was snooping around earlier? Well he made good use of his snooping and managed to blow up the X-men's jets and transports. This way they're stranded on Utopia and without any teleporters, they're basically boxed in. As far as tactics go, Bastion deserves a gold star here. This is pretty solid planning and there isn't much the X-men can do.

From here, it seems a fight is going to break out. Namor and X-23 show up to vent their frustrations on Pierce. But if you were hoping for a more drawn out struggle, you'll be disappointed. Pierce goes down faster than a Vietnamese hooker. Cyclops finishes him off before the fight can become truly awesome. It has the same problems with the fight against Vanisher. You get excited about what it could lead to, but it's over too soon. It's the comic book equivalent of premature ejaculation.

So the X-men are royally screwed and boxed in. Naturally, Danielle is going to feel vindicated while Hope is going to be beating herself up. This leads to one of the most powerful scenes in the issue. Hope confesses to Cable that she lied when she said she was ready to come back. She had no idea her presence would cause this kind of death and the guilt is eating her up inside like a flesh eating disease. Who can blame her for feeling a little guilty? For the sad predicament she finds herself in, it's a very human and very understandable reaction. The mere fact she isn't puking out of disgust shows just how strong a character she is.

The end of the issue is the strength of the issue. It helps tie together some of the dangling plot lines left over from Uncanny X-men 524 and makes for a nice moment before X-men Legacy picks it up. This issue has much more going for it than the previous issue and Zeb Wells succeeds in many of the areas where Fraction fell short. It doesn't completely rebound from the previous issue and some of that is beyond Wells's control. The contrived action scenes in conjunction with the deep character moments simply didn't mesh well. It leaves the reader wanting more in the same way you want more potato chips upon finding out the other half of the bag was eaten by a greedy roommate. It's still as solid as can be. The dialogue is great and the art is beautiful, fitting in nicely with the rest of saga thus far.

So what kind of score does New Mutants 13 get? For having to deal with the shortcomings of Matt Fraction's previous installment, Zeb Wells deserves a little bonus. As such, the issue earns a 4 out of 5. It has action, but of the limited variety. It has solid character moments and it moves the plot along in a clear and meaningful way. Overall, it is a worthy and solid installment in the Second Coming saga. It sets the stage for what promises to be an action packed Act 2, which begins with X-men Legacy. To that all I can say is bring it on! Second Coming is still awesome and hopefully it can stay that way through the final two acts!


  1. "Contrived" - the reason I quit reading X-Men. That said, you've got me interested; I'm going to check out the "Second Coming" trades and see what the deal is.
    Keep it up.

  2. Thanks Murphy! You have the honor of being the first comment on this whole blog! I really appreciate it. It's good to know that someone is following my various rants and criticisms. I'll be sure to keep posting so long as there are people here to read it.