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Everything New Is New Again

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The X-Men spin-off, The New Mutants, is 27 years old. But to a whole generation of fans, they are still “new.” Now Marvel is bringing them back. 

Unlike most of the comic fans in the known universe, my first experience with Marvel’s merry band of mutants wasn’t through the X-Men. Yes, when I started reading comics in the early 1980s, the Uncanny X-Men was at the height of its creative glory days. But that didn’t bring me into the mutant universe.

The book that brought me in was one that featured a cast not far off from my age at the time. The cast were mutants just learning about their powers and were flush in the growing pains of adolescence. The book that introduced me to Marvel’s mutants and eventually led me to the X-Men was The New Mutants.

The team debuted in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (an oversized format Marvel used for “special” stories, not to be confused with the graphic novels prevalent today). It was a return to basics for the mutantverse. While the X-Men started out as young mutants being taught to use their powers, by this time the series morphed into experienced heroes going on adventures. The New Mutants were fresh youngsters whose powers were just developing and needed training in how to use them.

The team soon got their own series, and it became a sterling example of Claremont’s genius for writing teenagers. The team was composed of teens from all over the world united only by the fact that they had superpowers. Claremont showed how their alienation turned into real and lasting friendship. They grew closer not only through the dangerous adventures they went on, but also from their animosity toward Kitty Pryde (who called them X-Babies) and their regular viewings of Magnum, P.I. They appeared to be realistic teens who behaved in a realistic fashion.

Over time, the team gained members (including Colossus’ sister Illyana, known as Magik and the flame-powered Magma) and lost members (both founding member Karma and later Cypher were killed in action, the former has returned, the latter, as of yet, hasn’t). Creatively, the book also changed with changes to the creative team. Artist Bill Sienkiewicz joined on with issue #18 and the book took on a trippy, hallucinatory feel, a style that would have been right at home several years later in DC’s Vertigo imprint.

Louise Simonson and Bret Blevins took over the title in 1987 and moved it back to a more conventional, yet no less engaging teen soap opera. Several years later, Simonson was joined by Rob Liefeld and the series took on a glitzier, slicker bombastic style that the 1990s were known for. Eventually, Liefeld took over sole writing on the title, and the series morphed into X-Force.  

While the first New Mutants series ended as a result of the prevailing trends of the day, the concept wasn’t forgotten about completely. In 1997, Marvel published a three-issue flashback miniseries focusing on the original cast. A new New Mutants series arrived in 2003, featuring an entirely new group of mutants coming to the Xavier Academy to learn to deal with their powers. This series morphed into New X-Men and then eventually became Young X-Men.

It’s during Young X-Men’s run, along with the X-Infernus miniseries, that the stage was set for the return of the original cast of the New Mutants. Of course, the characters have changed quite a bit over the almost three decades, and the writer is Zeb Wells instead of Claremont or Simonson at the helm. So what was so great in the 80s might not work as well in the 2000s. I hope they can recapture some of the magic that made the original series so great. Because, as the new series’ tagline says, the world still needs the New Mutants.

Also out this week:


Fin Fang Four Return! #1

During Marvel’s experiment with a series of monster themed one-shots a few years back, one title caught the eye of a lot of people. That would be Fin Fang Four. Many fell in love with the quirky humor of the concept.

The issue focused on Fin Fang Foom, the enormous dragon like creature that was a major Iron Man baddie, who had been rehabilitated (and shrunk down) and was now working as a cook in a Chinese restaurant in the Baxter Building (see what I mean by quirky humor?). He is forced to work with three others—Electro (the robot not Spidey villain), Gorgilla, and Googam to defeat a bad monster by the name of Tim Boo Ba.

Well, the team worked out so well that they are back again for a one issue engagement. If the above sounds like it might be up your alley, then you might want to check this one out.

Scott Gray & Roger Langridge (W), Roger Langridge (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Pherone

Eve has a problem. Her knowledge of her past has some gaping holes in it. All she knows is that she is really good at killing. However, she is slightly less than sane and insanity and being a great killer are not a good mix. This propensity towards violence mixed with a lack of a sense of remorse makes her quest to find out answers a bloody one.

True crime fans bemoaning the loss of 100 Bullets and the long wait for Vertigo’s Crime Noir line to kick in might do well to turn their attention to this graphic novel. Judging by the preview pages I’ve seen, the artwork is in a stark, European style and the story is grim and gritty to the max. If Noir is your thing, check this one out.

Viktor Kalvachev, Patrick Baggatta, & Jim Sink (W), Viktor Kalvachev (A), Image Comics, $24.99. Original Graphic Novel.


Cerebus Archive #1

Like his personal views or not, you cannot deny that Dave Sim is one of the most unique and exemplary artists in comic book history. But he didn’t become a great artist and writer overnight. The development of an extraordinary talent takes place over years, which is what this new series sets out to represent.

This series will trace Sim’s career over its 37 year life time, starting way back in 1972 with his first published professional work. You will see how Cerebus morphed from a mascot to one of the most important characters in comic book history and how Sim’s style evolved into what it is today. Fans of the famous aardvark or his creator should pick this one up.
 
Dave Sim & Various (W/A), Aardvark Vanaheim, $3.00. Ongoing Series.

Power Girl #1

There have been few characters as intriguing as Power Girl. Created in the 1970s as an Earth-2 version of Supergirl, she was interesting enough to survive the onslaught of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, while she may have survived, her history quickly became contradictory and confused, as different writers tried to make her fit in with post-Crisis continuity.

Now, thanks to Geoff Johns, the character has been all straightened out and given a new lease on life. The executors of this lease are the all-star team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner, who will be bringing us the new, ongoing series.

Power Girl is starting her new life in New York City. It’s all smooth sailing until a villain from her past holds her new hometown hostage. And now her new life is in danger of ending before it even begins!

Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (W), Amanda Conner (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #25

Buffy’s sister Dawn has had a wicked spell put on her. A Thricewise demon has cursed her to keep on transforming into different things. First was a giant. If that wasn’t bad enough, next up was a half-human, half-horse centaur. Now, she is about to make a transformation that will make her sister put aside her slaying for the time being, because this latest change could be the most dangerous one yet.

This latest story is written by Doug Petrie, a man no stranger to Buffy. He wrote for Buffy and even worked as a director on the TV show. This series is treated as if it was season eight of the TV series, so using Petrie makes perfect sense. It will be interesting to see if any more creators from Buffy’s TV life make the jump to the comic version.

Doug Petrie (W), Georges Jeanty (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Astro City Dark Age Book 3 #1


The Williams brothers have always been on opposing sides. It’s got so that it seemed that the cop Charles and the criminal Royal would never find anything that could possibly unite them. But when an opportunity to get revenge on the man who killed their father presents itself to them, they find that they have something in common after all—making the culprit pay.

This has been Astro City’s biggest epic to date, but don’t let that “Book 3” scare you off. Busiek is such a master that this new miniseries acts as a continuation of the sweeping storyline and the perfect jumping on point for new readers. If you haven’t visited Astro City yet, there’s no time like the present.
 
Kurt Busiek (W), Brent Anderson (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver May 5, 2009 at 8:17am

    Fin Fang Four Return! #1 certainly looks set to be a highlight of this week's releases. Love Roger Langridge's art!

  • Frederik Hautain

    Frederik Hautain May 6, 2009 at 1:24pm

    Yeah, it's my favorite cover of the week. :)

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg May 6, 2009 at 5:12pm

    Definitely a quirky idea but I'm much more excited for Power Girl, Buffy, and Astro City. Looks like a good week.

  • Lee Newman

    Lee Newman May 6, 2009 at 10:32pm

    Cerebus Archives and Atomic Robo for my dollar!!!

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