New Mutants #2
Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Travis Lanham (Letterer), Tom Muller (Designer), Rod Reis (Artist)
November 27, 2019
This issue contains spoilers for New Mutants #2.
New Mutants #2 is a delight. The New Mutants are stuck in space jail, bound for space court, with only Roberto’s wildly incompetent space lawyer in between the team and a lifelong sentence in the custody of the Shi’ar space empire. Like they always have, the New Mutants make it out more or less okay, but only with a lot of help from a friend.
This is that rare beast of a superhero comic that is a full issue without a single fight. The closest glimpses of action this issue offers are moments of violence; a warning shot taken on a diplomatic mission and a single punch thrown in a courtroom. Instead of fighting, the New Mutants spend the issue together as a team, with brief interludes featuring the Shi’ar Imperial Guard and members of the royal Neramani line advancing a political plotline concerning the welfare of the Shi’ar empire.
Reis’s art is as gorgeous as it was in the first issue. He gives static panels a sense of motion that prevents an issue that’s busy with dialogue from feeling still. In moments like imperial Superguardian Smasher punching Sunspot in a space courtroom, or a space judge giving an unwelcome verdict, implied motion prevents the story from feeling static. Reis complements the lively figures he draws with vivid colors which give every page an energy independent of implied motion. Colors this bright aren’t the right choice for every book, but in New Mutants the buoyant colors build up the sense of excitement and adventure of old friends on a new adventure.
While the first issue took time to give each member of the cast a moment in the sun, the second issue, eight full pages shorter, narrows its focus. Roberto da Costa and Sam Guthrie’s friendship is the heart of the issue. There are moments for the rest of the team, a poker rivalry between Dani and Jono the best of them, but between Roberto achieving the first half of his quest by reuniting with Sam, and the beckoning political intrigue of the Shi’ar throne, the issue feels less balanced among its large cast than the first. Each of the original New Mutants are thrilled to see Sam, especially under the circumstances of their reunion. But a clever panel layout reminds readers that Chamber and Mondo may have gone to space prison with the rest, yet are still one step removed from a team that’s been together since high school.
The shift in focus to Cannonball and Sunspot is hardly a surprise; Hickman has openly been a fan of the duo from the start. When he wrote Avengers (2013), he brought them onto the team despite having no prior affiliation with the Avengers, and elevated Sunspot into a global power player. Even before, in Astonishing Tales (2009), Hickman wrote a buddy comedy called “Bobby and Sam in Mojoworld” about a vacation the pair took together that went disastrously wrong. Going into this story, a four issue arc featuring an issue with a cover and solicit featuring only Roberto and Sam facing off against Deathbird, it’s no surprise to see their friendship centered.
This could have been frustrating after the first issue highlighted the full cast so well. But Hickman and Reis do such a great job pulling on Roberto and Sam’s nearly forty year publishing history of friendship, that their reunion is incredible fun to read. Reis’s art is so emotive in the ways he depicts the reunions of this episode; the facial expressions and body language of characters interacting do half of the storytelling. And in Hickman’s development of Roberto’s voice, details like his reference to losing his financial assets twice before or his role leading X-Corp are fantastic. The opening monologue, while rephrasing the events of the first issue, gives readers new to the characters a clear sense of Roberto’s personality and the attitude he brings to Sam’s “rescue,” while giving longtime readers nods to the history of the character.
This focus on Roberto and on his relationship with Sam is rewarding because their friendship rings true. Their friendship, and Roberto’s melodrama in the face of realizing their separation was harder on him than it was on Sam, is the next story in a long thirty year run of stories about the duo. For years, they followed each other from one book to the next, appearing together more often than either of them have ever appeared apart, but in this book their friendship grows up a little. They are friends in the way that they have always been friends, but Sam’s marriage has changed things, and now Roberto’s the one feeling left behind.
Still, this book has an incredibly strong cast of characters outside of these two, and going forward, I hope to see some more time for characters like Mirage and Karma to shine, and further explanation of why Chamber and Mondo joined a team they feel removed from. A plot involving the Shi’ar throne is brewing quickly, and while a foreshadowing variant to House of X #6 gives a hint as to where this story might be going, the events between Sunspot getting out of space jail and taking a space throne feel impossible to predict. In just two issues, New Mutants has built up fantastic momentum, and feels assured to be building into something great.