New Mutants #3: Newer than New Mutants

Armor, Glob, Maxime, and Manon survey the unknown territory of Nebraska.

Writer Ed Brisson takes the wheel from Jonathan Hickman in New Mutants #3, kicking off the first earthbound arc of the book with Flaviano, Carlos Lopez, Travis Lanham, and Tom Muller. While Sunspot and the original New Mutants stumble into intergalactic political intrigue off-world, Armor assembles a Krakoan team drawing from multiple generations of newer mutants to bring mutants still living outside of Krakoa to the island. With the assistance of Glob Herman, Boom Boom (Tabitha Smith), and young twins Maxime and Manon, Armor decides their first mission is to find Beak and Angel Salvadore, and invite them and their children to Krakoa.

New Mutants #3

Ed Brisson (writer), Flaviano (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Carlos Lopez (colorist), Tom Muller (designer)
December 11, 2019

Armor, Glob, Maxime, and Manon stand in an open doorway, bringing a Krakoan flower.

Over time, the X-Men franchise has introduced generation after generation of newer, younger mutants. By nature of a limited publishing slate, there is only room for so many X-Men students to appear in books at any one time, and so the logical ramification has been that each new generation of young X-Men that steps into the spotlight pushes older generations of young heroes out, with the exceptions of popular individual characters, like Laura Kinney or Quentin Quire, who graduate to the main line. In that respect, the cast of this book is a welcome breath of fresh air.

With Armor and Glob, Brisson builds on a dynamic he has developed throughout Uncanny X-Men (2018) and Age of X-Man: Next Gen, adding Boom Boom, Maxime, and Manon to the mix, each bringing their own perspectives shaped by the generation of X-Men students they grew up with. Boom Boom is a founding Fallen Angel and X-Terminator, and was a late addition to the original New Mutants roster. Glob was a student introduced in Morrison’s New X-Men (2001) and a member of the Omega Gang, and Armor joined the ranks of the X-Men’s students in Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men (2004). Maxime and Manon were introduced by Brisson and Pepe Larraz in last year’s Extermination event, and have become part of the newest generation of young Krakoan mutants.

Armor, Glob, Maxime, and Manon survey the unknown territory of Nebraska.
A page from New Mutants #3, art by Flaviano and Carlos Gomez (Marvel, December 2019).

The concept behind this roster is fantastic: many generations of new mutants who followed the first generation coming together and stepping into that team’s title now that the original New Mutants have gone to space. Yet in terms of execution, this roster feels a bit like Brisson is playing favorites, as each of these characters are ones he has already written or introduced in books published within the past year, while many young X-Men still languish in recent obscurity. The concept of multiple generations of new mutants is incredibly engaging, but could have been strengthened by paying mind to other generations of young mutants.

In one of this issue’s data pages, the Sextant living quarters, first mentioned in New Mutants #1, are elaborated upon, to distinguish the different communal living situations shared by various generations of younger mutants. In the future, it would be exciting to see the roster of this book grow to include mutants from more of these eras, such as the young X-Men of New X-Men: Academy X, of the Five Lights, or of either version of Generation X. Young mutants aren’t a monolithic group, and no doubt Prodigy’s perspective on Krakoa would be different from Transonic’s or Synch’s. The intergenerational cast of young mutants on Armor’s team creates an exciting opportunity to tell stories about the different experiences young X-Men have had of growing older in a world that has changed for mutants so drastically so many times, which is a story that the franchise hasn’t yet made space to tell.

It’s exciting to see Armor anchor her own title, as the next step of her character arc. Stepping forward to address a need she sees unmet on Krakoa is a great direction to take her. Particularly after the growing pains of Uncanny X-Men (2018), where she felt ready to take on a more active role but clashed with older, established X-Men over that desire, it’s nice to see Armor take the lead.

Armor sets herself a mission.
A page from New Mutants #3, art by Flaviano and Carlos Gomez (Marvel, December 2019).

Her mission as it’s presented in New Mutants #3, however, lacks the same direction. If Captain Kate and her team established in Marauders #1 that they are already looking for mutants who can’t make it to Krakoa and helping them make it there safely, Armor’s mission, established weeks later, becomes redundant and repetitive. One of the strengths of Dawn of X as a line is how articulated and unique the mission statement of each book has been, but as the earthbound arc of New Mutants begins, the clear variation the book had from other titles becomes muddied.

Similarly, while the threat posed by the villains introduced at the end of this issue does indeed feel pressing, it also feels familiar. Although the tactics of the villains, introduced at the end of the issue, are undeniably wrong, their motives are more understandable. Of course there are humans in grave need of Krakoan medicine, and it’s believable that some of those in desperate need would become desperate in their tactics. But motives aside, it is hard to look past the similarities presented between the villains introduced this issue and those introduced the week before in X-Men #3, the Hordeculture. Both groups seek out Krakoan flowers for their own agenda and both groups are armed with advanced mutant neutralizing technology, leading the villains of this story arc to feel like an echo of an established threat. In an otherwise cohesive line, this is another instance where the story started this issue feels derivative of issues of other Dawn of X titles which have come before.

Everyone seems to have mutation neutralizing technology these days, even in Nebraska.
A page from New Mutants #3, art by Flaviano and Carlos Gomez (Marvel, December 2019).

The art in this issue is bold and fun, with excellent character acting that conveys a sense of each team member, and redesigned costumes that each look unique, but call back to the redesigned uniforms of the first two issues. Tonally, the art this issue from artist Flaviano and colorist Carlos Lopez is a significant shift from Rod Reis’s art in the first two issues. Gone is the nearly pop-art energy, the halftone accents and characters popping from backgrounds as if cut out from somewhere else, as artist Flavano’s pencils much more closely resemble the current Marvel house style. Flaviano’s art is unquestionably strong, but nonetheless, the tonal shift between the two artists is jarring, particularly with Reis still drawing covers for this arc.

As the third issue of New Mutants introduces an entirely new cast, location, and story line, perhaps the alternation between the first and second story arcs could have been smoothed by a continuity of artistic style. Lopez does a great job imbuing Flaviano’s clean, buoyant art with bright hues that are as rich as the colors of the first two issues, which helps to ease some of the stylistic shift from between issues #2 and #3.

On the whole, New Mutants #3 effectively establishes the premise and direction of the arc, while giving each character in the story a distinct voice. But even as it sets the stage, it struggles to stand apart from Dawn of X titles that have come before. It’s so removed from the events of the first two issues—tied in primarily by Boom Boom feeling sore at being left behind by her former teammates—that it operates much like first issue. In isolation, this is a strong start to a story anchored well by Armor’s clearly identified voice. But in the context of the issues that have come before, this issue fumbles, not yet able to define itself.

Emma Snape

Emma Snape

Emma is an Ohio native who has worked in film production and education, and writes about comics on the side. She loves thinking about the role of visuals in narrative storytelling, both in film and comics, reading comics set in cities she's lived in, and telling people to read X-Force (1991).