New Mutants #10: Welcome to the Nightmare Zone

The New Mutants grimace in a nightmarish cover that reimagines their faces stuck in the braces of a monstrous, distorted face.

It’s been a long few months since New Mutants #9, but as the comics industry is waking back up after a forced slumber, the New Mutants find themselves dragged down into a waking nightmare. In an issue rich with lurid visuals, Ed Brisson, Flaviano, Carlos Lopez, and Travis Lanham bring the New Mutants back to comic stands, just in time for them to fall deeper into trouble.

New Mutants #10

Ed Brisson (Writer), Flaviano (Artist), Travis Lanham (Letterer), Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Tom Muller (Designer).
June 10, 2020

The New Mutants grimace in a nightmarish cover that reimagines their faces stuck in the braces of a monstrous, distorted face.

New Mutants #10 resumes the first arc that unites the earthbound and space-faring teams of New Mutants who alternated story arcs for the book’s first two arcs. In Karnelia, a fictional eastern European nation which has rejected Krakoan sovereignty, a teenager woke up with a mutation she couldn’t control, which began absorbing the world around her into an uncontrollable nightmare. Following their mission of bringing young mutants safely to Krakoa, the New Mutants arrived in Karnelia and Karma, Magma, and Chamber were all pulled into the young mutant’s nightmare as they tried to wake her from it. To save their teammates, the people of Karnelia, and the mutant herself, the New Mutants bring in a wild card: the hallucination-inducing former Mutant Liberation Front member, Wildside.

After the long, unexpected hiatus between issues, I’ll admit that I’d lost track of what happened most recently in this story arc, but this issue made it easy to jump back in. The opening pages set the scene perfectly, with widescreen panels heavy with blacks, purples, and blues reminding me immediately of the threat the New Mutants face, and putting readers as deep in the mind of this newly emerged mutant as the people trapped within her psychic sphere of influence.

Cypher, Boom Boom, and Mirage talk about the latest danger the New Mutants face, in New Mutants #10.
Interior art from New Mutants #10, by artist Flaviano, Colorist Carlos Lopez, and letterer Travis Lanham (Marvel, June 2020).

While the story is easy to follow, even after such a long, unexpected hiatus in between issues, it falls somewhat flat in its characterization. The most interesting character moments of the issue are with Boom Boom and Glob, who have taken on the comic relief role in this book. Most of the rest of the expansive cast of this book feel like they’re competing for panel time, with the exception of Cypher, who takes on a great deal of exposition delivery, or “Dougsplaining,” and Armor, who spearheads Mirage’s plan. While it’s clear that Glob and Boom Boom are favorites of the creative team, as a reader, I find myself a little frustrated that this new arc still centers the voices of characters who were central to Brisson’s first arc (or, in Cypher’s case, Powers of X), while relegating Karma, Chamber, and Magma, none of whom have had any substantive role to play in the series thus far, into the role of unconscious victims.

It’s refreshing to see Mirage stepping back into a leadership role, and her Poltergeist-inspired plan was a fun reference from an 80’s character who has dealt with a few ghosts of her own in the past. Her differing rapports with Cypher and Boom Boom hint at unsteady team dynamic, that would be interesting to see explored further in the future. However, Mirage’s writing in this issue brings another instance of the characters as Brisson writes them feeling oddly disconnected from their own history. Dani Moonstar, who was formerly Wildside’s teammate while working undercover within the MLF for SHIELD during X-Force (1991), seems to know less about Wildside than Cypher, who was deceased for the MLF’s heyday. This doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story, but Cypher’s explanation of Wildside’s presence verges on exposition, and for readers who are familiar with Mirage’s past appearances, the conversation stands out as somewhat detached from the rich history of X-Men continuity.

The New Mutants float adrift in a nightmare in this fantastic interior page from New Mutants #10.
Interior art from New Mutants #10, by artist Flaviano, Colorist Carlos Lopez, and letterer Travis Lanham (Marvel, June 2020).

The highlight of this issue is the art — particularly in the nightmarish sequences of distorted reality. The dark-hued panels are rich with detail, popping in garish colors against the dark blues, purples, and blacks. Panel composition within the nightmare zone is consistently good, with some excellent panels that stand out in particular by incorporating the distorted reality of the nightmare sphere into the physical layout of the page: some panels show characters in the nightmare multiple times in different locations in the same panel to communicate the confusion of movement, others illustrate how expansive the interior of such a small zone stretches due to the distorted reality. Colorist Carlos Lopez does a phenomenal job bringing artist Flaviano’s line-art to life, and the panels within the nightmare zone are the best work this art team has done so far in this book. Panels are mindbending and visually arresting.

It’s been a long time without a new issue of New Mutants, and issue #10 picks up where the story left off seamlessly. As the New Mutants fight to save themselves from the mutant they’ve come to save, the stakes are incredibly high, and this arc cleverly makes the danger posed to the team in this new Krakoan world feel pressing and relevant. The New Mutants are long accustomed to helping friends whose powers feel out of control, and as this arc hurtles forward, there is no team better suited to helping a young mutant in trouble.

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).