Robot 6

The Fifth Color | A new approach from the New Mutants

New Mutants #33 - Doug and WarlockAs the wordwide protests continue, Occupy Wall Street becomes more and more a part of our popular culture. Whether you’re holding a sign, reading about people holding signs or complaining about those signs, protests of this intensity are weighing in our thoughts. There’s a lot to ponder by questioning the establishment, finding a personal connection with hot-button social issues, and the division and unity in all of us.

See, now you just know I’m going to talk about the X-Men!

How can you not, when they are the go-to comic book metaphor to play and experiment with all sorts of social issues. Fear of the future, minority oppression, youth activism, why there’s even this MAJOR SCHISM that divides their public on how to achieve their goals. In the blue states- I mean, Wolverine’s camp, we have a return to the foundation of education and the protection of the next generation. In the red visor camp, we have a more aggressive approach, the idea that war is inevitable and the way to meet a world that hates and fears you is with heavy hitters, young and old. They even have a handy chart to know whose side you’re on (ooh, deja vu).

If you take a look at Cyclops and his Extinction Team (Really? What a terrible name), Dani Moonstar and her friends are listed as “Clean-up,” which one would think means some kind of X-Force-like hit squad (X-Force being mysteriously absent from these breakdowns). It’s a strange sort of listing, and once you read New Mutants #33 and understand what exactly these characters want to do, you’ll see how this might just be the answer for an entire out-of-place generation.

WARNING: We’ll be talking about New Mutants #33, so spoilers and nostalgia to follow. Grab a copy and read along!

New Mutants vol. 1 #61

to be so young...

It’s weird how a very generic term has, in my mind at least, come to represent a very specific era in time: the original New Mutants were the first all-youth team that followed the older X-Men. The X-Men weren’t always the Fab Five, but they didn’t really set about creating that same sort of team again until Sam, Dani, Rahne, Xi’an and Roberto. While possibly not the most exciting bunch of teens ever to hit the four-color page, they were thrown into adventures and teenage angst that could easily become a cipher for ’80s teens as the generation grew older and bolder. Heck, they even got a character named Cypher. While Kitty Pryde called them X-Babies and they feuded with a rival school, got new members, lost their faith in the school & mentors and tried to force a new look and an extreme point of view, the characters from that first second class changed with the times and always rolled with the punches. They split off and took a new direction plenty of times, returning to the school, moving out west, going on road trips, all in search of that elusive answer to what they want out of life. Dani Moonstar alone has been a student, a Valkyrie, a SHIELD agent, a member of the Mutant Liberation Front and not just on a whim. These characters have been allowed to adapt and grow through the ’80s and ’90s and they really do feel like different people. Like all these characters are friends and have an amount of experience equal to their back issues. I’m not saying all of it was great, but it certainly feels like a lifetime.

All that experience allowed into continuity makes for some fine adults who can now come to these big Schism-y decisions with more than a personality trait and a list drawn up in editorial. New Mutants #33 sees some some people leave (Sam & Xi’an want to head back to the school for personal rather than ideological reasons) and some have nowhere to go, but all of them seem to have that alienated feeling. Heck, one of them is an alien.

Which brings us to now and New Mutants #33. In one issue, they move forward into a new direction, avoid the military feel of the powers-that-be, let some friends go, understand who they are and take up residence in what looks like the old Real World house in San Francisco proper. They have moved out into their community to make a stand and a difference in a way that understands that past attempts have not worked.

Dani Moonstar brings it all home by not just having a belief in the powers that be, but an understanding that the old guard isn’t working. That you can’t promote mutant equality by falling back to old tactics. “I believe in the struggle for mutant rights,” she says, “but I also believe that part of that fight is interacting with that world so you can change it.”

New Mutants #33 2011 - Dani Moonstar

Heaven forbid I compare X-Men Schism to the political divide or class warfare or anything of the sort; however steeped in metaphor, it’s also entertainment. However, this idea that one could agree with a point of view and not live in that encampment, that the New Mutants-era guys continue to grow and have their own unique perspective because of how they grew up, that a diverse group of characters who could never be considered the poster children of the mutant cause are taking to the streets to make a difference on behalf of tolerance, well… it makes for good storytelling.

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7 Comments

They brought back Warlock, too?!!!

Warlcoks’s been back since #5! Cypher came back right after during “Necrosha”.

I was really down on most of the NM run, especially the stupid Limbo and Hel/Hell arcs, but this new issue made me appreciate the team again. Dani seems to be one of the most mature characters in ANY of the X-books, and it’s refreshing to read about someone who actually seems like a functional adult, rather than a cariacature.

A nice little read. I’ve always felt that, over the years, New Mutants tended to get the shaft in the court of public opinion. As the first legitimate spin-off from the original X-Men, it deserved far more attention and respect than it ever got. Being a junior version of the core team, it was probably both convenient and easy for naysayers to simply label them as Marvel’s answer to the Teen Titans, but nothing could be further from the truth.

New Mutants was, is, and probably will always be about people who just so happen to be mutants. This is an important thing to note, as many x-books tend to be about characters who tend to be mutants first and people second. While the X-Men are worrying about the likes of Juggernaut, Sabretooth, and the Marauders, the New Mutants were worried about issues that many of us can relate to.

Over the years, New Mutants has dealt with first love, suicide, friendship, familial legacies and so on. Even framed in the most outrageous and quirky way, they always dealt with stuff that spoke to us the reader. As these kids grew up and wanted to step out of the shadow of the senior team, one could even relate it to our own desires to define ourselves as adults and on our own terms.

Friends left. Friends died. Friends simply changed. At every step, Marvel has allowed the readers to be there. Having read New Mutants since the OGN, I feel as if Marvel did with them what Stan & Jack always wanted to do with the first generation of X-Men. They gave us people who both lived in the mutant condition and actively spoke for the human one.

A part of me doesn’t look at this most recent issue as just #33. It’s impossible to. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Did Marvel ever really give up on the New Mutants as either a concept or a series? I’m not so sure. Although volume one stopped at issue #100, the series didn’t really end. The machine just kept on chugging along a scant few months later under the new name “X-Force”. Same cast. Same creators. As is par for the course in any book, rosters shifted now and then, but never so far from the original New Mutants.

And when X-Force (the book) got co-opted by Milligan and Allred, the character simply moved on to a limited series or two to tide them over until volume two came along. We got to see these characters in a new light once again, helping mentor a new class which would soon be called the New/Young X-Men. And when volume two ended, Marvel was quick to launch with volume three. And here we are.

We look at this most recent issue and simply say, “#33″, but the fact is something far more profound. It’s yet another chapter in the lives of people (not characters) we’ve been privileged to grow up with over the past almost 30 years.

I wish more readers would pick up this title. You’re not just buying another X-title. You’re buying into a legacy. You’re buying into a family. Like any family, some days were happier and smoother than others. However, like family, New Mutants has always been there. They did the teen thing. They did the rebellious youth thing. Now, they’re trying to take control of their destiny. Not just as part of the X-world, but as part of the world.

New Mutants has always been a title that has danced to its own beat lo these past 30 years, but that’s part of the charm. It may not be the flashiest X-book, but it has always been the one with the most heart. If you even remotely consider yourself a true X-fan then you owe it to yourself to jump on to New Mutants now. Team blue and gold be damned.

“While possibly not the most exciting bunch of teens ever to hit the four-color page”

I disagree. From the original graphic novel through the Legion arc, New Mutants was one of the most exciting groundbreaking titles out there for a teenaged me to read. Stuff like Dani becoming a Valkyrie, the Beyonder killing them, and X-Force kind of ruined alot of the fun. I tried to latch on to the most recent run but the excessive crossovers pushed me away.

Actually I was still a pre-teen during the first two or three years of the run,

Cooke, now that was an impassioned response and one I wholeheartedly agree with. And when you look at major X-Storylines, it always seems to be the New Mutants / X-Force that gets the shaft. In terms of growth, Dani, Sam, Roberto, et al seem to be stuck right with Iceman and Gambit i.e. “growth what growth?”

I loved this issue and it echoed the classic Sam / Professor X “open hand – closed fist” encounter long ago. I too hope the young men and ladies get more support.

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