With the Contest of Swords now over, the second class of X-Men are back on Krakoa in this week’s New Mutants #14, but it seems they won’t be given much time to relax as a familiar adversary lurks in the shadows…
Since returning from Otherworld, the Not-So-New-Anymore Mutants have decided that the youth of Krakoa have grown aimless and bored, lacking any propulsive motivation to develop their powers and learn how to work with one another. Their solution? To become the gym teachers of Krakoa (they don’t identify as such, but that’s basically what’s happening here, even down to Warpath rocking some short-shorts and a whistle). But despite their efforts to keep the kids of Krakoa engaged and focused, a small group of them has seemingly been seduced by none other than the Shadow King, and we all know that’s bad news for everybody.
Among the current X-Men titles, I have to admit that I’ve felt New Mutants has been one of the weaker ones, or at least the most inconsistent. Frequent creative team changes, a revolving cast of characters, and unfocused plotting have made it hard to settle into. With new writer Vita Ayala onboard, however, hopefully New Mutants can settle into a groove and figure out its place in the extended X-Men line. Based on their first issue, I think we’re on the right track.
Presenting the characters as gym teachers, of a sort, is a very fun angle that serves a function largely missing from the X-Line lately, effectively replacing what the Xavier School was. But it’s also thematically appropriate to them, since they’re old enough to be mentors now, but not quite seasoned enough for institutional leadership positions like Magneto or even Kate Pryde. It also gives Ayala an opportunity to play with some of the younger, newer mutants who are often underserved, like Anole and Nature Girl (Gabby Kinney is also back! It’s been ages). Additionally, this issue benefits from fortuitous timing with an entire section dedicated to “synergies,” which basically riffs on the concept of “mutant technology” discussed in last week’s S.W.O.R.D. #1.
Along with the incoming Ayala, ongoing artist Rod Reis returns for this week’s issue, and it’s more than welcome. His Sienkiewicz-esque style has been a huge part of the book’s appeal since it began last year, and the issues without him have really suffered from his absence. His work here is especially fitting since this issue also features the return of the Shadow King, who notably appeared in the original New Mutants run drawn by the aforementioned Bill Sienkiewicz, which makes for a full-circle revelation. I hope Reis remains the regular artist moving forward, because his art is just too gorgeous and expressive to miss out on (his Warlock is spot-on and presents exactly the kind of weirdness you want for the character).