REVIEW: New Mutants #15 – Passages to Krakoa

Anole, No-Girl, Cosmar, and Rain Boy fight in the forest. Rod Reis, New Mutants #15, Marvel, February 2021.

New Mutants continues to pick at the seams that hold Krakoa together in #15. The issue is titled, “Out of the Shadows,” but it’s questionable what is actually being exposed here—the motivations of some young mutants, or the limitations of the current resurrection protocols?

New Mutants #15

Vita Ayala (writer), Rod Reis (artist),  VC’s Travis Lanham (letterer)
Marvel
January 27, 2021

The New Mutants team is ready for battle in a neon blue and pink battle. Dani rides Warlock, who is shaped like an angry pegasus. New Mutants #15 (Marvel, January 2021).

The issue kicks off with Rain Boy, Cosmar, Anole, and No-Girl training in the woods—perfectly normal, until you realize they’re under the tutelage of Amahl Farouk. He tells Cosmar she will do well in The Crucible, which is a pretty grim event for a healthy 13-year-old to be training for. Devised as a way for mutants depowered by M-Day to earn their way onto Krakoa, The Crucible involves getting beaten to death. After all, in order to be resurrected into your mutant body, your human one has to die.

Rod Reis takes Farouk from kindly to sinister with a splash of pop art pink, the way a dream can turn on a dime into a nightmare. Of course, the kids are oblivious as they head off to more synergy training. We get a glimpse of a few entries from a young Farouk’s journal, illustrating his decline under the Shadow’s influence and how his motivations are slowly corrupted, replaced with delusions of grandeur. It’s an effective, if slightly on-the-nose, parallel to the machinations around them, a reminder that the desire to do good is easily pushed in less scrupulous or more megalomaniac directions.

The number of students in training is growing, and the crowd shots give a glimpse of a wide array of mutants with a variety of visible mutations. But it’s easy to see how Cosmar’s ungainly proportions make her stand out even among her furry, scaled, and shark-headed classmates. (As an aside, it’s nice to see Tempest/Angel Salvadore kicking around).

Gabby/Scout is distracted in training despite earlier boasts, and she spends the rest of the issue just as preoccupied, determined to get some time alone to speak with Daken. As someone not reading every single X-title (not for lack of trying), the first scene of Daken and Gabby made me worried that I might have missed something important in their relationship in X-Factor, but that’s not the case. Aurora might be distracting Daken from family matters, but Gabby is presumably still stewing over the knowledge that Madelyne Pryor’s status as a mutant clone kept her from resurrection and not something that happened off screen. I did miss these two being buddies, so I hope she manages to pin him down next month.

Rahne and Moonstar hug, two panels. The first is them hugging in front of a bright pink background The second is a muted green background. Dani says, "I'm always with you." and Rahne says, "Thank you, Dani." New Mutants #15 (Marvel, January 2021).

Wolfsbane is having her own crisis of faith in the Krakoan resurrection protocols—one of the text pages is a letter from her former X-Force teammate Elixir, telling Rahne her deceased child Tier can’t be jumped ahead in the queue—he’s not in the queue at all. She cries on Moonstar’s shoulder, because resurrection requires proof of death; Tier was killed by a magical weapon and left no remains behind. Reis summarizes the saga of the Wolf Prince, Hela, and Tier’s death around a portrait of a crying Rahne in an effective full page spread, the gray-washed colors bringing us into her depression. Bright pink pops up again but this time it’s for comfort, love, friendship. (Okay I’m not not shipping it but I’m also content enjoying the Moonstar-and-friends emotional labor tour that Vita Ayala is giving me).

Reis’ characters are well-grounded in place this issue—Dani’s bedroom is full of details in the background, and he uses our new familiarity with the homey space to great contrasting effect. It’s full of warmth with Dani inside, but cold and strange as she leaves with Karma to head to Doug’s wedding reception.

Krakoa loves a party, and Doug getting married in X of Swords was the perfect opportunity for another shindig. The New Mutants love to give speeches (and noogies), but thankfully Ayala spares us from too much monologuing. In a few panels, Reis simplifies the featured speakers like they’re in a crowd scene, bringing you the reader right into the crowd. And while the island celebrates, Cosmar is getting ready to give a speech of her own. Her friends gas her up, and Rahne and Dani have another moment interrupted. Cosmar starts with compliments, formally requesting that Moonstar be her partner in the Crucible.

Now, the possibility of mutants who were not depowered using the Crucible to regain a newer, better body or situation is discussed in X-Men #7, when the ritual was introduced. But while we’ve only seen a couple rituals on panel, Prodigy and other repowered mutants have popped up around Krakoa, and the spectacle of the first was such that they are probably well-attended affairs. I wish I knew whether this was the first request of its kind on Krakoa, beyond just writing in your will that you want new powers when you come back.

Regardless, when Anole, bartending, announces to the party what Cosmar has done, it looks like he’s expecting cheers, not the party-goers to continue their own conversations. And of course, Moonstar is caught off-guard by being asked, kindly and politely, to kill a 13-year-old girl. Color drains from Cosmar’s panel, her face and the background, as Dani tries to explain that there’s nothing wrong with her body. Cosmar sees her current body as a mistake of her powers gone awry, that her powers have “warped” her. And the visual contrast of her lack of symmetry is clear in every scene she’s in—while not all her classmates can “pass” as human, neither would they be considered “grotesque.”

But there’s no one quite like Cosmar, and it’s notable that her companions with Farouk are Anole, Rain Boy, and No-Girl — three other mutants who will never be mistaken for human. And Cosmar isn’t wrong when she says that Moonstar cannot understand what it’s like; there’s feeling like a monster because of your powers and there’s seeing one when you look in the mirror, knowing that somewhere a better you existed once. Or could exist again in the future. It’s a deft use of the mutant metaphor and an interesting examination of mutant society and their own beauty standards. Moonstar insists that Cosmar is perfect the way she is, but do the other mutants think so? Her own cohorts seem to think the Crucible is a worthy goal…but we see the way Farouk lingers at the edges, his pink bleeding into the bright lights of the dancefloor at the end of the issue. His non-normative body, fat and racialized, is also an outlier among the lithe and young X-Men in a way that’s very disarming—is the way fatness is used as a shorthand for evil or immorality in media going to be critiqued here? I’m not certain a few journal entries humanizes him enough to make up for the caricature.

That said, Ayala’s three-tiered examination of resurrection and the nascent mutant culture fits together with the emotional punch of Reis’ art and the result is a very satisfying comic that has me very eager to see where these critiques and questions go.

Kat Overland

Kat Overland

Small press editor Kat Overland is a displaced Texan now living in Washington, DC, where she is perpetually behind on reading her pull list. She's a millennial, Latina, exhausted, and can often be spotted casually cosplaying America Chavez and complaining.

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