The word of the arc is synergy, both in power sets and community. New Mutants has a broad cast of characters it follows: members of the titular New Mutants team, the younger generations of mutants who have been around for years but never allowed to age, and actual new-new mutants, like Cosmar (both newly powered and newly created) and a gaggle of trouble-making teens that sharp-eyed readers will recognized from Vita Ayala’s previous title with artist German Peralta, Age of X-Man: Prisoner X.
New Mutants #16
Vita Ayala (writer), Rod Reis (artist), VC’s Travis Lanham (letterer) Christian Ward (cover)
February 24, 2021
Issue #16 opens with some of these new-new kids, or at least their 616 counterparts. Here, they don’t have to be the unfriendly teen mutants in the Danger Room Detention Center and are free to get into more normal teen shenanigans, like trashing the kids’ area last issue, or playing a dangerous game of truth or dare in this one. Three giggling teens sneak through the gate to Otherworld to complete a dare of taking a selfie on the throne. Unfortunately, they end up with King Jamie Braddock (presumably) himself, and scramble back to the gate, but only Monica and Liana make it thru — leaving Josh, their blue, pointy-horned friend behind in the only place known to be lethal to mutants. It’s tough to be a teen these days.
Monica and Liana find an early-rising Magik is lording over the teens and tweens of Krakoa with an iron fist (heh), after rousting more Prisoner X kids out of bed to pay for their sins. In an incredibly rendered sequence, Magik puts the fear of her in them, snarling gleefully in anticipation when they decide to attack in a gorgeous red and black panel. It’s a great way for these two groups to interact and to put the responsibility onto what was a young team, less used to being mentors.
Those reds follow Magik to the sunrise as the kids are put to work rebuilding the treehouses they destroyed, despite the fact that they can be grown anew. The panicked pair of Monica and Liana get Dani and Karma’s attention, and they agree to find the wayward kid by venturing to Otherworld. While Jamie Braddock is little help, he does offer them a magical gift basket and a steed, which leads to an amazing sequence of Karma and Moonstar riding tandem in a wash of greys and browns. Rod Reis’ inks grow sketchier, the weight less even, and images float in a white sky (I’m curious who the person in the feathers headdress superimposed over the mounts is supposed to be). Pops of color are integrated into daytime constellations of cave paintings. It’s an enormous flex, honestly, and I just want their Western adventures and costumes to last a few more meandering issues.
In the wee hours before all these adventures, however, the small team of Anole, Rain Boy, and No-Girl, joined by Scout, followed Cosmar to the Wild Hunt after her painful rejection by Moonstar, and of course the Shadow King is waiting for them. Riled up and eager to comfort their friend, he entices them into trying something new…and dangerous.
Gabby at least looks skeptical at the prospect but Shadow King goes ahead and forcibly swaps their consciousnesses, synergizing with No-Girl’s telepathy. Gabby, and everyone else, gets too swept up in the novelty of experiencing new powers (and seeing their own in action) to offer a complaint. No-Girl in Anole’s body, experience a body for the first time in ages, is particularly poignant. But the joy is tempered by the dangerous reds and muddy purples Reis uses to keep the atmosphere ominous, like a ghost story.
And of course any gift from the Shadow King, or maybe any king, has a sharp edge to it. Everyone starts to glitch out, their bodies hurting or degrading in strange and alarming ways. Gabby is the responsible one here, another role shift for her, and stalks off after yelling at the Shadow King.
It’s a very busy day, but that’s not the only plot being woven into this title. Later in the day we see Rahne gets more news about Tier, this time from Eyeboy and Prodigy — the reason he isn’t in the resurrection queues is because he’s still alive, or at least Cerebro thinks so. Rahne is surrounded by deep blues when she learns of this, her shock a bright yellow and her loneliness a greener oceanic color, consuming her even though Dani remembered to leave a note.
It feels like New Mutants is trying to encompass possibly too many mutants — or here’s where my preference for trade waiting shines through. There’s so many characters shown here beyond just the titular team, plus we have some new background characters to learn as well. The first arc of the title juggled the expansive cast by splitting authorial duties between Ed Brisson and Jonathan Hickman, and art duties between Rod Reis, F Flaviano, and Marco Failla. It’s not that Ayala can’t handle weaving the threads together here, or that Reis can’t impart a distinct visual sense to each group of mutants — it’s that I want each segment to get more breathing room. I want to learn the names of these rowdy new teams, and I want to know more about how No-Girl is feeling about all this, and I definitely want more gorgeous double-page spreads.