Monday, May 25, 2015

NEW MUTANTS FOREVER #1 – October 2010


Shadows in the Night!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Al Rio (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Guru eFX (colorist)

Summary:  The New Mutants reluctantly spend the night at the Hellfire Club’s mansion.  Wolfsbane detects conflict nearby in Central Park.  The team soon stops a group of soldiers from killing men in business suits.  Wolfsbane realizes that one of the injured men is Magma’s father.  The team returns to the mansion, and in minutes, armored men attack the Inner Circle.  Selene ends their assault, but the armored men die as soon as Emma Frost psi-probes them.  Nearby, more men kidnap Magma and Cypher.  Wolfsbane is injured in the confrontation.  One of the men is grabbed by Magik and transported to Limbo.  Magik and Cannonball accompany Selene to Limbo, where she interrogates him.  Elsewhere, Magma and Cypher arrive in Nova Roma.  They’re greeted by Nova Roma’s new leader, the Red Skull.

Continuity Notes:   
  • New Mutants Forever is a miniseries set immediately after New Mutants #54, Chris Claremont’s final issue of the series.  Like X-Men Forever, the series was promoted as Claremont’s next chapter in the story.  According to Claremont’s comments online, New Mutants Forever is its own entity and doesn’t take place in X-Men Forever continuity.
  • The New Mutants at this time consist of Cannonball, Cypher, Wolfsbane, Magik, Mirage, and Magma.  Magneto is the headmaster, following Xavier’s injuries in Uncanny X-Men #200.  Sunspot and Warlock are missing at this point, due to events in the Fallen Angels miniseries, and Karma has left to take care of her siblings.
  • Mirage, who is now a Valkyrie, has visions of Hela, who wants to take Wolfsbane away to Valhalla.
  • The team is staying at the Hellfire Club’s mansion following the events of New Mutants #54.  Magneto has followed Storm’s advice and joined the Inner Circle, in an effort to protect the X-Men from the Marauders and other threats.
  • New costumes for the team debut after Magik teleports them to Central Park.  She’s conjured them up on a whim.  The Hellfire Club guards are also wearing slightly altered outfits that look more like armor than spandex.
  • Cannonball’s Southern accent has been toned down, to the point that he says “I” instead of “Ah.”
  • Magma’s father looks around twenty years younger and several pounds lighter than I recall from his initial appearances.
  • A text piece in the back of the issue recaps the events of the New Mutants series up until this point in continuity.  The piece is a nice summary of the book, but I’m going to “um, actually…” and note that it incorrectly states that Xavier and Moira MacTaggart are Legion’s parents.  (It’s Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, for the record.)

“Huh?” Moment:  On the opening page, Magneto is doing a presentation on the New Mutants for the Inner Circle, one that features the team in the new costumes Magik hasn’t created yet.

Gimmicks:  The opening issues of this miniseries have a variant cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.  All of the variants are archived at comics.org.

Review:  Strange to think that X-Men Forever is only a few months away from cancellation while spinoff projects like this are still emerging.  I don’t recall much of a response to New Mutants Forever, but based on the first issue, it does seem as if Claremont’s making an effort to avoid the reader complaints that plagued X-Men Forever in its early days.  The first issue of the series does honestly pick up right where Claremont’s final New Mutants storyline left off, and Claremont’s taken care to make sure the often-fluctuating team line-up is correct.  (I recall him asking online why exactly Sunspot and Warlock were missing from his final New Mutants issues.)  The only moments that don’t fully connect with the original series are the new Hellfire guard designs, the debut of the new team uniforms, and Cannonball’s subdued accent.  The new costumes are at least given a quickie explanation, and the designs aren’t a total departure from how the audience expects to see the characters (as opposed to the arbitrary redesigns in X-Men Forever).  The Hellfire Club’s goons are also recognizable, and it’s not a stretch to imagine their outfits getting an upgrade in-between issues.  Cannonball’s accent only stands out if you’ve spent the past few weeks rereading old New Mutants comics; it’s possible Claremont’s toned it down due to years of online mockery of his phonetic accents, so I have a hard time getting upset over the change.

The story takes its inspiration from an exchange between Selene and Magma in Claremont’s next-to-last New Mutants issue.  Selene casually revealed to Magma that she is her direct descendant, a plot point that seems to have been forgotten over the years.  New Mutants Forever picks up on the thread and rescues Senator Aquilla from obscurity.  He’s come to New York to warn Magma of…something, and is attacked.  Selene discovers he’s been injured and declares vengeance for her son, confirming that she is in fact Magma’s grandmother.  In the meantime, Magneto is still adjusting to his new role in the Hellfire Club, the team is uneasy with Magik’s demonic nature, Cypher’s too naïve for his own good, and Mirage is defying Hela in order to spare Wolfsbane’s life.  The plot’s dense, and it’s arguable that the story assumes you know a little too much New Mutants continuity, but I think that’s excusable given the nature of the project.  This is a comic for the hardcore fans and any new readers that have discovered the original issues in trade form.  If it’s staying true to the premise, it should read like a “next issue” instead of a “first issue.”  

I know that Claremont’s ideal choice for this miniseries was Bill Sienkiewicz, but his schedule (or Marvel’s pocketbook) only allowed him to illustrate variant covers for the series.  Instead, the pencils are handled by Al Rio, with New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod onboard as inker.  Al Rio would occasionally show up on random assignments like this, and I can’t say I’m disappointed.  I always thought he was one of the better Wildstorm artists, and he meshes well with Bob McLeod.  A few of the figures look a little stiff, but overall the storytelling is clear and the cast is attractively rendered.  New Mutants always seemed to alternate between mainstream, traditional pencilers (McLeod, Buscema, Guice), and experimental surrealists like Sienkiewicz.  Rio is much closer to the first group, and to his credit, he isn’t bringing any influences from the post-1980s into the series.  This honestly looks like a comic that could’ve been published in the mid-‘80s, only with better colors and production techniques.  While the appeal of the series might be somewhat limited to a niche audience, so far, it’s serving that audience very well.

5 comments:

Mela said...

This series is... interesting. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago, and while it's not as "off the rails" as X-Men Forever, it turns a tad dull near the mid point. I do strangely like the treatment of Selene, however, since it finally gives the character who was Claremont's only real one-note villain some shading.

Never noticed the change in Cannonball's accent, though; I guess with future writers softening it, I assumed it was an in-story attempt to show it fading the longer he lived in the North.

Anonymous said...

"Strange to think that X-Men Forever is only a few months away from cancellation while spinoff projects like this are still emerging"

My impression is the whole "Forever" concept was sales driven and once that department realized it wasn't working everything imploded.

I base this on the debacle that was Iron Man Forever.

David Michelinie and Bob Layton were commissioned to do "Iron Man Forever" around the same time as this mini. They completed work on it but it got shelved. This was a few months before X-Men Forever 2 was cancelled so I doubt it was a coincidence.

Dave Ross (penciler on the book) started posting the art because he was told it might never see print.

As a result of this Bob Layton swore off Marvel for good. In his Facebook post on the subject he said...

"To clarify my last statement, my decision is more about individual expression and to not become a contributor to “units sold”. The pervasive corporate atmosphere felt like the #1 goal was to crank out grist for the stockholder mill. In other words, it seemed to me that pumping out endless, poorly conceived mini-series to make sales figures has become that driving force at Marvel/Mouse. To confess, in no way, shape or form does this last Iron Man mini-series resemble what David Michelinie and I had intended it to be. Christ, we went through two editorial teams and it took over a year just to get the four measly issues to be the mess that it currently is. The story was edited and approved by a faceless committee, then run past the sales department for its approval. The sales department? Really? Well, my primary concern as a storyteller is not assuring that the Disney corporation makes its quarterly projections. "

This is not a description I have heard come from the writers/artists on Marvel on-going series. There it seems like editorial is very firmly running the show.

So my theory has always been the Forever series was driven by sales. Which makes sense. From a business perspective the comic industry is not growing. They can increase units sold with crossovers but they can't seem to draw new readers in (Star Wars being a recent, notable exception).

Given that it makes sense to try and draw old customers back. That's Retail Strategy 101.

(For the record, thanks to Marvel needing any Iron Man material they could get their hands on to promote the third movie "Iron Man Forever" did see print as Iron Man 258.1-258.4)

Jason said...

I agree that this first issue is promising. But oh, how it all falls apart ...

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about the behind-the-scenes on the Forever series, but Mark Paniccia's editorial office in the '00s was kind of a freewheeling place that did things differently and hired different people from the rest of Marvel. Paniccia had the Marvel Adventures line, the X-Men: First Class books, and some quirky projects with writers who weren't considered A-list (like a lot of Jeff Parker's stuff, or Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente on Hercules).

The idea behind the Forever series - revisit old series with older writers who aren't being used by the bigger editors - seems right in line with some of the other Paniccia projects, and I doubt sales expectations were sky-high for them.

But Marvel editorial changed quite a bit after Disney bought the company, and a lot of the wackier under-the-radar projects of the '00s fell away. If Layton and Michelinie pitched "Iron Man Forever" to the pre-Disney regime and wound up making it for the post-Disney editorial structure, that would explain a lot.

People argue a lot about which era of Marvel was best, and all of them have their partisans (even the '90s) but the '00s - after Bill Jemas left and before the Disney sale - are underrated in my opinion. Everyone argues about Bendis's Avengers revamp and the Spider-Man marriage thing, but overall, Marvel was open to more diversity of styles than in the Bill Jemas era or the current era. Some writers wrote in a Bendis-influenced style, others more old-fashioned and continuity-heavy, and it didn't seem like there was as much of a "house style" of Marvel writing as there usually is.

Matt said...

The thing that bugged me most about this series was that Claremont didn't bother to check the Red Skull's status quo at the time. The Skull was very firmly dead and buried at this point, as of 1984's CAPTAIN AMERICA #300, and wouldn't return until CAPTAIN AMERICA #350 in 1989 -- while this series takes place during the continuity of 1987. Granted, in NM FOREVER's world perhaps he came back earlier, but if that's the case, it should've been explained.

(It occurs to me that the above statement may seem unnecessarily anal and obsessive, but as a fan of Captain America -- in particular Mark Gruenwald's contemporaneous CAPTAIN AMERICA -- it irritates me that this wasn't acknowledged. Plus, it's another example of what we saw ad nauseum in X-MEN FOREVER, with regards to Claremont playing far too loosely with the retro-continuity he claimed he was working in.)