Wednesday, August 11, 2010
New Mutants Forever #1 - Surprising Awesome
Here we go again. Another Forever title has hit the racks. After the end of X-Factor Forever (a book that so perfected the concept that I'm still picking piece of my mind up off the floor), there was a powerful void left on the racks. X-men Forever is still going on, but the title remains hit-or-miss and still suffers from some atrocious characterization and questionable plots that make about as much sense as Steve Jobs applying for food stamps. So never one to leave a decent concept to mediocrity, Marvel has gone back to the source. That's right, they've given Chris Claremont another X-title to leave his unique Forever stamp on. This time it's the New Mutants, another title he stopped working on in the late 80s. Now he's doubling down, looking to fill the void left by Louise Simonson.
Now no one could be blamed for looking at this title with a healthy bit of skepticism. Chris Claremont's writing has been wildly inconsistent since his glory days. X-men Forever has the dubious honor of vindicating the editors in 1991 for letting him go because if he had stayed on, some very messed up twists could have befell the X-men (killing Wolverine is at the top of that list. Then he comes out with a book like X-women, which took an entertaining story with European style art and made it sexy. It was by far one of the best X-men one-shots in a very long time. So which is it going to be for New Mutants Forever? Well the first issue of this 5-part mini has plenty of surprises and I'm not talking about the kind that will make you regret putting tabasco sauce on your tacos.
The first issue opens up right at the end of New Mutants #57, a book that came out during the Reagan Bush era. It's a little confusing because on the first page you see Magneto as the White King of the Hellfire Club along with Emma Frost, Selene, and Sebastian Shaw. Now if you've only read the recent comics lately this may seem like one of those cray What If stories, but you'd be wrong and possibly high. This is actually in continuity with respect to the New Mutants as they were back in the late 80s. The team that consisted of Cannonball, Mirage, Magma, Cypher, Sunspot, Magik, Warlock, and Wolfsbane had just finished a bout with Emma Frost's Hellions. In wake of this fight they came under new leadership in Magneto, who had just accepted a part in the Inner Circle. There's a full fledged recap of all these events at the end of the book so it is possible for the reader to catch up, but they really don't have to in order to follow what's going on. It's just going to be jarring for some who don't understand the history of the New Mutants comic (which is more sizable than most X-fans would care to admit).
Now aside from Selene and Emma looking ridiculously hot for a formal meeting, the topic of discussion is serious. Now that Magneto is the White King he's looking to put a stop to the petty squabbling that has made the Hellfire Club the Dick Cheny of the mutant world. It may seem somewhat out of character to hear Magneto talk about reconciliation, but he backs his plan up by reminding everybody that he's a holocaust survivor and he's not about to experience that shit again. That doesn't bother the rest of the Inner Circle, provided they can make money off it, still come off as winners, and ensure the women keep dressing in exceedingly hot clothes.
The New Mutants are certainly part of this plan. They remain under Magneto's thumb and since he's with the Hellfire Club, this is where they have to operate from. Now staying in a fancy mansion with an army of butlers and women dressed in shit Victoria's Secret finds too hot seems plenty appealing for some, but for others like Amara Aquiall, Selene's grand-daughter (which I guess makes her a GGILF), is about as comfortable as Glenn Beck in bathroom stall next to Hugo Chavez.
They debate briefly on whether it's a good idea to trust Magneto, which is usually a debate that's painfully one-sided. But there's not too much talking to be done. Right outside Hellfire Manor in Central Park, an all out war breaks out between some masked soldiers and some Men In Black knock-offs. If it seems a little random, don't worry. That just means your brain isn't fried yet from ink fumes. Claremont is already playing a dangerous game here if he's looking to avoid the mistakes of X-men Forever, but there's still plenty of room to put purpose behind the madness. Plus, it makes for a kick-ass fight scene that gets the New Mutants into the action and even gives them new uniforms in the process. Because let's face it, you can't kick ass in comics without looking good.
The New Mutants show their worth and take down the attackers. This is where some of that purpose I mentioned earlier shows. Among those hurt in the fight is Amara's father. He's alive, but looking like he blacked out from a cocaine binge and wound up at ground zero for the world's worst bar fight. In addition Mirage, who some may recall has some stint as Valkyrie with Hela, has some unpleasant visions that are asking her to claim souls the same way that little voice asks the sober guys at a party to feel up the drunk girls passed out in a bedroom. She's able to resist the temptation (unlike far too many victims of an ill-planned kegger) and follows the others as Magneto and Selene show up to collect the wounded.
The New Mutants are understandably confused and Amara understandably pissed. This attack begins the underlying mystery of the comic, which at the moment is a simple whodunit ordeal. Amara's father survives, but somebody is clearly fucking with them so Amara enlists Doug's hacking skills to do a little investigating. All the while Sam is flexing his thought bubbles, which seem a little redundant because he's just narrating in some parts. But that's to be expected from a Chris Claremont comic. Since it doesn't cover entire corners of the page, it doesn't count as excessive this time.
But the New Mutants don't get to channel their inner Scooby Doo for very long. Just as Amara and Doug are getting busy in a totally non-sexual way, yet another attack by a bunch of guys with guns takes place unexpectedly. Are you starting to sense a pattern? If not, your short-term memory may be in serious need of surgical repairs. But you don't need a terrible amount of brain capacity to enjoy what happens here. This fight is a lot more action packed than the one before. The guys with the guns are much better armed, taking out Hellfire's dumb-looking masked guards with ease and even giving Magneto, Shaw, Emma, and Selene a run for their money. In terms of faceless thugs, these guys are the premium brand in the world of comic villains.
They don't just hit the Inner Circle either. They take on the New Mutants simultaneously and take them on quite well. This time they're the ones taken by surprise and they get taken down a peg the same way Donald Rumsfeld gets taken down a peg when he negates the little things in his job (that is to say claiming victory when the bad guys still have plenty of fight left). Most of the New Mutants are just bitch slapped around a bit. Cypher and Magma are the targets. They get the Princess Zelda treatment in that they're captured, abducted, and flown away in a helicopter before the others can even try to save them.
Once the dust from the fight clears, the Inner Circle and the New Mutants are pissed. Selene is especially upset. Even though she's got about as good a relationship with Amara as the United States does with North Korea, she operates under the Mr. Burns style outrage in that nobody steals from her whether it be her Sunday newspaper or her granddaughter that's she's done more than enough to torment. So while Magneto and the rest of the Inner Circle twiddle their thumbs, Selene takes the New Mutants to Limbo (courtesy of Magik) where she does her own special brand of interrogation. And by interrogation, I mean she sucks he fucking live energy out of one of the attackers and not in the sexy True Blood way. It still works though. Selene figures out who is behind this and who she has to torment next.
While Selene's getting her answers, Amara and Doug are getting answers of their own. When they wake up, they're in Nova Roma or at least a very perverse mock-up of it. Because for some reason there are Nazi banners all over the place like the whole area got design ideas from watching too many History Channel documentaries. It's here where those seemingly contrived attacks from earlier in the book cease to be contrived. At the very end, the face of the figure behind these attacks is revealed and in one page the entire first issue of New Mutants Forever goes from being an uncertainty to a new standard in awesome. Who is his you ask and how does he make this comic awesome? It's because he's the Red fucking Skull damn it! If this isn't enough to blow the mind of your casual comic reader, get a new fucking mind because the one you have now isn't working!
This final reveal takes New Mutants Forever from being just another X-men offshoot into a genuinely awesome title with plenty of potential. Chris Claremont doesn't just avoid the pitfalls of X-men Forever. He flies over them in a rocket and sets off an A-bomb (A standing for awesome in this case). Even if you don't know jack shit about the New Mutants, the story here is compelling and told well enough for anybody to just leap in and indulge. It's like ice cream. You don't need to know much about it. You just need to know it tastes great.
And for those of you who do know a thing or two about New Mutants, but need a refresher course on events to this point the end of the first issue offers a good seven-page recap of all the New Mutant series to this point. There are even some nice shots of the old art with detailed explanations that anybody can follow. It won't make you an expert in New Mutant comics, but it will help the rest of this book make more sense. What's truly remarkable though is that you really don't have to read this part to truly enjoy how awesome this issue is. The recap is like a bonus, that extra line of blow that you didn't know you had. It's a great addition to a great comic.
New Mutants Forever #1 is Chris Claremont at his best. He showed he could still hack it with X-women and with this title, he's set up a very intriguing mini with all sorts of potential that simply cannot fit into one comic. He's 1/5 of the way towards matching the awesome of Louise Simonson's X-Factor Forever. The story is great, the writing is great, the art by Al Rio is like dark chocolate mousse for the eyes. This along with the bonus at the end makes this first issue well-deserving of a perfect 5 out of 5. Claremont has done it! He's shown once again why he is one of the best X-writers of all time and he's got four full issues to further reinforce his point. Nuff said.