There are so many reasons not to let myself get too excited about the just-announced New Mutants Forever miniseries by Chris Claremont, Al Rio, and Bob McLeod. But I can’t help it. My inner thirteen-year-old (not known for his discretion at the best of times) is squealing with glee.
The New Mutants hold a place of honour in my pubescent pantheon of imaginary friends (of which there were plenty, I assure you), and I have fantastized more than once that Claremont might return to write the team exactly as they were when he left them back in the ’80s.
Dani, Sam, Roberto, Rahne, Shan, Amara, Illyana, Doug, and Warlock: alongside Wolfman and Perez’s New Teen Titans, you remain the most perfect super-powered teenagers ever conceived. Perfect, not because you were cool, better-looking, more capable versions of me, but precisely because you were geeky, average-looking, and sort of dopey replicas of me–only with mutant abilities and more interesting problems.
I loved the dark tone of the series, which captured the terror of being a teenager with unerring accuracy. I also loved the art, which was fabulous under McLeod and Sal Buscema, but which reached levels of expressiveness and visual sophistication I had not even dreamt possible when Bill Sienkiewicz took over. Claremont could not have asked for a better interpreter of his sinister-offbeat sensibility, and I could not have imagined a headier pleasure than seeing my fellow mutant-geeks shed their X-Babies skin:
This poster, which I first ran across in the old Marvel Age Magazine, was… I don’t even have a metaphor for what it did to me. I guess it somehow gave form to the enticing promise that I, too, might one day graduate to the level of extreme ass-kicking awesomeness on display here. So much for that. But it was a sustaining idea at the time!
And don’t think that my romance with the New Mutants ended with Claremont’s departure. In fact, in a curious way, his departure led to a renewal of my ardor. Lousie Simonson’s New Mutants rivited me, and so, too, did the post-Sienkiewicz artists: Mary Wilshire (inked by Sienkiewicz), Butch Guice (already excellent), and Bret Belvins (his self-inked pages are among the most beautiful of the entire series).
Despite my immense nostalgia for the entire series now, I was a fairly inconsistent reader of the New Mutants until the Simonson era. I had read the first dozen issues or so religiously, then lost track of things in the ‘teens (for some reason; I’m not sure why), renewed my obsession during the Sienkiewicz-era, and bought sporadically through the Magneto’s-in-charge period (I was not a fan of that idea at the time). By the time Simonson took over as writer, I was ready to be hooked again, and she made it easy. It all turned to mud in the 90s, of course, when he-who-shall-not-be-named was given the keys to dad’s Ferrari, but so ended many great series (New Titans *cough* *cough*). I don’t hold a grudge.
That isn’t to say that I’ve enjoyed all of the attempts to continue the stories of the original New Mutants since, but I have enjoyed many of them and have followed most. I am unabashedly enjoying the current New Mutants revival by Zeb Wells, which has made a point of trying to recapture the characterization of the original series–and has succeeded quite well in this regard. The new series is fun and one of the first things I read the week it comes out. I am thrilled that Leonard Kirk is coming aboard as (possibly permanent?) series artist, as Diogenes Neves’s capable but unremarkable art has been the one thing I have not loved about the relaunch.
And now, never one to be given pause by the adage that there can be too much of a good thing, Marvel has magnanimously decided to double my pleasure by giving Claremont the chance to pick up where he left off in issue #54 of the original series, at least for the duration of five new issues that focus on Nova Roma and a recently fractured team that finds itself under the tutelage of Selene. This is obviously an opportunity for Claremont to revisit some of his trademark obsessions: powerful evil women, lost civilizations, morally ambiguous mentors, and teenaged angst. I look forward to all of it. But mostly I look forward to the sheer weirdness that only Claremont can bring. I look forward to dialogue like this:
It took me several years to figure out what the hell “Kayo” meant–a neologism that was ubiquitous in Claremont’s mutant titles in the ’80s. (It is short for “knock-out,” in case you are as dense as was/am.) Yet this delay in “translating” Claremont’s ludicrous writerly ticks reflects so much of what made his writing so wonderful to me back then: its sense of mystery and portent, the way its concluding scenes so often suggested that a terrible price would be paid for some nebulously defined transgression, its habitual style of coating violence with a kind of zany jocularity that gave the whole affair the savour of an exotic sour candy. “Oz poppies, Rahne–we’ve got to out of here, fast, before their scent kayos us!”
Yes, yes. That was then. This is now. Be sensible, Jim. You can never go home again.
But you know what I say to that. Bring on the damn Oz poppies!