New Mutants #8: When in Nova Roma…

Magma keeps a horde of monsters back with her magma powers on this cover to New Mutants #8

Following the conclusions of the first two story arcs, New Mutants returns with an issue that stands on its own, while sparking a larger, ongoing story. Amara Aquilla, the New Mutant known as Magma, takes center stage as the New Mutants back on Earth find themselves shifting gears following their mishaps in Nebraska. This has been one of the most exciting X-Men titles in the Dawn of X so far, and this issue turns a new corner, keeping the title fresh and interesting as the team roster and creative team change.

New Mutants #8

Ed Brisson (Writer), Marco Failla (Artist), Travis Lanham (Letterer), Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Tom Muller (Designer).
February 26, 2020

Magma keeps a horde of monsters back with her magma powers on this cover to New Mutants #8
Rod Reis’s cover to New Mutants #8 (Marvel, February 2020).

Magma, one of the classic New Mutants, had been one of only two members of the original team yet to appear in this new title. New Mutants #8 sees Magma (while the rest of her old New Mutants teammates are on Chandilar) call on Boom Boom and Armor for help addressing a crisis in her home of Nova Roma. Nova Roma, a Roman colony in the Amazon rainforest, is a hidden city that still reflects imperial Roman culture and social norms. This is a piece of X-Men lore with a frankly confusing backstory, but it’s introduced succinctly by way of a neatly designed data page and map. The data page, courtesy of designer Tom Muller, cleverly acknowledges the most convoluted turns the backstory of this undeveloped Roman colony, to largely dismiss them.

This issue is a fun change of pace, an effective palette cleanser that sets the scene for the next phase of the title. After the New Mutants’ disappointing show of force in Nebraska and the lackluster story itself, this issue gives the title a win. It stands on its own and transitions the story effectively. While the main story with Magma, Boom Boom, and Armor features a mission to help mutants unable to access a Krakoan gate near Nova Roma, a side story in which Maxime and Manon report back to Sebastian Shaw ties up the first arc, while the threat introduced in this issue lays groundwork for the next.

Magma introduces Boom Boom and Armor to Nova Roma in this page from New Mutants #8, art by Marco Failla and Carlos Lopez (Marvel Comics, December 2019).
New Mutants #8, art by Marco Failla and Carlos Lopez (Marvel Comics, December 2019).

Pacing is one of the issue’s most commendable strengths. New Mutants as a book has felt intrinsically splintered by its focus on two unrelated story arcs. Here, Brisson gathers up threads to bring the story back together. This issue lets the book take a pause to regroup and focus on one capsule story, while tying that one-off narrative into a larger, longer plot.

Magma and Boom Boom, two characters with relatively little history together, interact in interesting ways this issue, and a team-up with the two of them and Armor proves engaging and fun. The women clash directly over sore feelings left from the gaffe in Nebraska, and the issue does a good job at probing the emotional state of Boom Boom in particular. The scenes with Sebastian Shaw are ultimately forgettable compared to the Magma, Boom Boom, and Armor team-up, which brings the issue enthusiastic energy.

Armor, Boom Boom, and Magma flex their mutations in New Mutants #4, art by Marco Failla and Carlos Lopez (Marvel Comics, December 2019).
New Mutants #8, art by Marco Failla and Carlos Lopez (Marvel Comics, December 2019).

Action scenes are dynamic and vibrant, with Marco Failla and Carlos Lopez’s depiction of the three mutants’ powers particularly eye-catching. Boom Boom, Armor, and Magma all have mutations with visually interesting expressions, and the two artists do a great job capitalizing on that. The creature design this issue is unsettlingly inorganic in shape and poisonously bright in color, and is an example of the importance of design strength. Just the visuals of the creatures this issue was enough to make readers uncomfortable, even without the context of the actions taken by the creatures, looking at them is just disquieting.

New Mutants has been an uneven book for me, with the Hickman and Reis issues consistently delivering my favorite story of the Dawn of X so far, while the Brisson, Flaviano, Failla, and Lopez arc has struggled to engage me in the same way. But with this new issue, Brisson, Failla, and Lopez caught my attention again, preserving my interest in the title after New Mutants #7 brought the title’s space arc to a close. I’m curious to see how Armor and Boom Boom interact with Mirage, Karma, and the other New Mutants when they return from space, and how the new threat introduced at the end of this issue will come back to haunt the team. Things may have gone poorly in Nebraska for the New Mutants, but after their visit to Nova Roma, the future seems bright for the team and the title.

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).