The New Mutants are no stranger to horror as a genre, from classic stories involving hauntings to modern nightmares of the technarchy. In issue #9, the team plunges directly into a young mutant’s fearscape in an attempt to help, but quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the unexpected. New Mutants brings the Dawn of X a dose of horror, in a strong start to this new arc.
New Mutants #9
Ed Brisson (Writer), Flaviano (Artist), Travis Lanham (Letterer), Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Tom Muller (Designer).
March 11, 2020
It was a big week for the New Mutants, between the first issue of New Mutants that unites members of the title who had been in Shi’ar space with those who’d remained earthbound, and an issue of X-Men [link to Kayleigh’s review] that picks up the plot from the New Mutants’ space adventure. [Ed. note: And Josh Boone’s New Mutants was pushed back yet again and remains in movie purgatory. Whoops!]
The New Mutants do what they’ve always done best: hurtle into unknown danger headfirst. Ever since the early days of their first title, the New Mutants have been a team that can never turn down a call for help, no matter the risks. The young mutant the team goes to retrieve this issue presents a really interesting story. With this new character’s mutation, this issue answers the question of how, in a status quo where death is no longer a fear, can storytellers create dramatic stakes that feel real? Ed Brisson and Tom Muller use one of the issue’s two data pages extremely well to introduce this new character, humanizing a scared child with a terrifying mutation by giving her a face and a name, Natashia. With this new threat, Brisson cleverly finds a way to tell a story that has high stakes and doesn’t leverage death for shock value.
This is a strong character issue. The New Mutants have distinct voices that speak to their diverse personalities. Interactions between characters are clear and communicate the dynamics between different team members: Magma is thrilled to see Mirage return from space, but doesn’t even acknowledge Chamber standing beside her; Boom Boom pouts dramatically to make a point; Magik stands up in stubborn defense of her team when questioned by Cyclops, her supervising authority. All throughout this issue, the way characters speak to each other paints a picture of a team that is fiercely defensive of each other, with a group mentality that’s not necessarily quick to admit new members to their closed ranks.
Another interesting element of this issue is the glimpse of social dynamics on Krakoa. Cypher, Armor, and Mondo take a detour to visit the living quarters of the Mutant Liberation Front (MLF), classic opponents of the iteration of X-Force that was born from the original New Mutants lineup, and the antagonism their visit is met with is telling. All mutants might have a home on Krakoa, but by no means does this mean all mutants have become friends. Members of the MLF have a specific dislike of the New Mutants, and that sustained distaste and rivalry is interesting to read and goes to show that life isn’t one big beach party on Krakoa.
Artist Flaviano and colorist Carlos Lopez do solid work all issue, but in scenes where Natashia begins manifesting her powers, the art in this issue really astounds. Panels of the New Mutants coming under the influence of Natashia’s mutant ability are mind-bending, with colors that pop aggressively. A full-page spread of Karma employing her own mutation, while coming under the effects of this younger mutant’s abilities, is shocking: the perfect illustration of a nightmare. Flaviano and Lopez really capture the grotesqueness of this new mutant’s ability, her fear in the face of her own mutation all the more palpable to audiences because of the strong visual horror the art conveys.
This issue marks Mike del Mundo’s first on the title, and he comes on board with a visually arresting cover. The cover is a fantastic match for Flaviano and Lopez’s equally unsettling illustrations of the mutation this issue is built around. At first glance, it’s an unsettling cover, the New Mutants distorted into disquieting, monstrous new shapes. After reading the issue, it’s clear how well the cover illustrates what lies in store for the New Mutants this issue, but without that context, the cover stands on its own as a striking cover that catches the eye, while not giving away the issue’s events.
New Mutants #9 ends with a surprise, as Cypher recruits an unexpected ally to the New Mutants’ cause. This was my favorite issue so far from this creative team because of its surprises: this was an issue that kept me on my toes. The consistency of pacing that’s emerging now that the title doesn’t alternate arcs from week to week is a satisfying change, and this issue’s ending left me anxious for more. No doubt the New Mutants will make it out of this story, but it’s too soon to tell if they’ll make it out unscathed.