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.
- 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.