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New Mutants #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir (w); Keron Grant (p)
When I first read this book, I must say, I was a little disappointed. Then I took a second to stop and sort of put things in perspective in regards to what both the book in general and issue in particular are supposed to do. And when I did that, New Mutants seemed like a much more worthwhile endeavor. But I’ll explain that in a bit.
Sofia Mantega is a mutant. She is also an adolescent girl. In her home country of Venezuela, her family shelters her from the harsh reality that being born with the power to control the wind (and, additionally, to hear the sounds of voices that the wind carries) will not be accepted in the world at large. However, when random violence takes the life of her doting mother, Sofia is sent to America to live with her father, Mr. Barrett, a wealthy businessman who resents the intrusion of an illegitimate daughter on his life, choosing to perceive her mere presence (much less her inborn abilities) as an embarrassment. Although she struggles valiantly to fit in, both in the world of her father and that of her peers, Sofia eventually snaps, using her powers to escape the confines of her prep school and, in an attempt to claim some fraction of her remaining parent’s attention for herself, destroy one of Barrett’s stores.
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And while she does succeed to drawing her father’s eye, she also draws his ire, resulting in his declaration to allow her to spend the night in jail while he arranges for a paternity test to “prove” that she is not in fact his daughter. When things look at their bleakest (which, considering the barrage of tragic mishaps that have befallen Sofia so far, is an accomplishment), Dani Moonstar intervenes, whisking the young homo superior away to Xavier’s School and ending the issue.
So the question then is why I disliked the issue initially, as well as why I changed my mind.
To begin with, I was irritated that a) this story of teenage isolationism, masquerading not-so-subtly as a tale of a mutant out of place, has been done too many times already and b) it doesn’t feel like anything happens, particularly in light of the fact that only two characters of the book’s new roster are introduced and only one properly. Valid complaints, I felt. I enjoyed the book, don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t feel all that special to me. Valid arguments, that is, until I remembered one thing.
I’m not exactly the target audience for this book.
The whole gist of the Tsunami initiative was to draw in new, younger readers. Presumably, at least some portion of those new readers are hoped to be female ones (a rare commodity in the comics industry, to say the least). With that in mind, New Mutants is a nearly-perfect opening issue. It doesn’t assume a foreknowledge of the book’s core concept (and even with a veteran audience, that would be a mistake, since the original New Mutants concept has technically been absent from the Marvel Universe for over ten years). It doesn’t open with a “widescreen” fight scene with a team of do-gooders spewing testosterone-charged hyperbole at an equally ridiculously-clad villain. And it doesn’t, at least at this point, appear to be a “boys club” sort of title, as the only protagonists in the issue are female.
It’s gender-inclusive, interesting without being overly complex, stream-lined without being simplified. This book, along with Runaways, is probably the Tsunami title most likely to attract and retain a new comic book reader. However, the difference is that, by virtue of the familiar concept and title, New Mutants is more likely to attract veteran readers, making this book, at least on paper, the best idea the imprint has produced thus far (in my opinion).
There are, however, some issues with the manga-tinged artwork by Grant. While overall the panels are clear and accessible to those unfamiliar with the workings of comic book storytelling, periodically, figures are drawn with their heads at angles that would normally be less than comfortable. That is to say, their heads appear to be balancing on their over-long necks, rather than being physically connected to them. In addition, some characters’ arms are clearly too long in relation to the rest of their bodies. Again though, overall, the art is more than adequate, anatomical issues aside.
As a closing testimonial, I’ll say this. I enjoyed New Mutants. If Marvel is going to insist on producing a glut of X-Men-related books (and who can blame them?), then New Mutants serves a purpose, that’s for sure. At the same time, I bought an extra copy for my 13-year old, female cousin, to go along with her much-awaited monthly copy of Spider-Girl. She took a quick flip through it and immediately pronounced, with wide-eyed interest, “Cool…” How many other books on the shelf can say that, satisfying two such totally different audiences?