Welcome, dear readers, to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that strives to answer the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?"
Each week, we aim to recap what happened in all of the X-books that come out that week, praise the things we like about them, and complain about the things we don't. This week, there are seven X-Books in stores, which will make a dent in your wallet. But are these comics worth taking out a second mortgage to read?
Let's look at New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 and find out…
NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 (OF 6)
MATTHEW ROSENBERG (W) • ADAM GORHAM (A)
Cover by RYAN STEGMAN
TRADING CARD VARIANT COVER BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
MIGHTY THOR VARIANT COVER BY CHRIS STEVENS
VARIANT COVER BY Marcos Martin
YOUNG VARIANT COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
Dead Souls Part 1
THEY AREN'T JUST THE X-MEN IN TRAINING ANYMORE!
The New Mutants are launching themselves headfirst into some of the creepiest corners of the Marvel Universe, going on the missions no one else will. But does the team know what they are really hunting for? And what are they willing to do to get it? The enigmatic MAGIK will lead her team of WOLFSBANE, RICTOR, BOOM-BOOM and STRONG GUY and bring them face-to-face with paranormal threats that they may not be prepared for, and that might just tear them apart! Rising-star writer Matthew Rosenberg (PHOENIX RESURRECTION) teams up with future superstars Adam Gorham and Michael Garland (ROCKET) to bring you the next chapter in the lives of Marvel's underdog team. Welcome to the new class of New Mutants — hope you make it out alive.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
The New Mutants are back, just in time for their major motion picture debut, in a new mini-series written by Matthew Rosenberg, the second time he's been asked to bring back an X-property with a mini-series. Last time, the reward of writing the new ongoing third core X-book that sprang out of Phoenix: Resurrection went to Tom Taylor. With New Mutants set as a mini, we can probably expect the same thing to happen once again. Poor Matty Rosenberg. Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride.
Rosenberg is joined by artist Adam Gorham for this, colorist Michael Garland, and letterer Clayton Cowles. The issue opens with a single page scene set at the Hatchi Corporation Relief Center in Alabama following a devastating hurricane (more on Hatchi later). An unnamed man is counting dead bodies lined up in a field when one of them moves in their body bag. The man calls for a medic but is overtaken by a shadowy figure with glowing eyes and presumably killed.
We're then treated to a double-page spread of the title, credits, and character lineup before launching into the main story, which begins with our new New Mutants: Rictor, Strong Guy (for some reason), Magick, Wolfsbane, and Boom Boom. Rictor has ditched his soul patch and mustache from his previous appearance in Iceman for a clean-shaven look, sadly.
On the very first page, despite him being listed on the title page, we get a caption box introduction to Rictor giving us a basic synopsis of his character. X-pository dialogue between Rictor, Strong Guy, and Magick reveal that Magick is the leader of the team. The team has been brought by Magick to Alabama 18 hours after the opening scene. They're walking through a ruined town. Magick hasn't told the others why they're there.
Strong Guy found a kitten and is carrying it around. Rictor and Magick want him to get rid of it. Boom-Boom thinks he should be allowed to keep it. Magick lets Wolfsbane break the tie, and we're treated to her caption bio, which notes she doesn't like cats. Magick opens one of her stepping disks and teleports the kitten away as we're treated to her caption introduction. We also get an explanation of how her power works, which is by transporting people to Limbo, the dimension in which she was raised for several years as a young child to be the protege to the demon Belasco. Time works differently there. As a result, she pulls the cat back out of the dimension as a full-grown adult cat and sets it loose.
Wolfsbane sniffs out some survivors in the wreckage of a home, and Strong Guy lifts the rubble to set them free. Anti-mutant sentiment rears its ugly head though, as the survivors are scared of the New Mutants and run away, calling them monsters. A corpse inside the rival looks like it's been half eaten. As they're discussing this, a zombie is creeping up behind Magick, but she whips out her glowing soul-sword, which she can summon out of thin air when needed and which can be used to destroy magical entities, and slices its head off.
As they continue to walk through the town, Rictor reveals that The Walking Dead airs on television in the Marvel Universe. Then he gets hit by a bottle in the side of the head, probably thrown by Robert Kirkman himself. The mutants are confronted by a good old-fashioned angry mob. A battle ensues, with the New Mutants doing their best not to hurt the people. Boom-Boom users her powers, which create plasma time bombs of varying size and power, to get the crowd's attention and stop the fight. We get Boom-Boom's caption introduction here too.
A man explains that the townspeople are trying to take their town back from the dead. He leads them back to the camp from the first scene, which is covered in bodies. He says that all but 100 of the people who were living at the camp after the hurricane are dead, while the Hatchi Corporation staff has locked itself inside a building and won't let the survivors in. Strong Guy busts open the door, only to take a shotgun blast to the chest. That's okay though, because in addition to near-invulnerability and super-strength, Strong Guy can also absorb kinetic energy, which he then uses to become even stronger (though it hurts him, and he must expend the energy lest it mess up his body).
The person who fired it apologizes profusely. A brief time-jump later and Strong Guy has refrained from hurting the guy, though we don't see how he expended that energy. You were doing so well, book! The man, an employee of Hatchi, presumably, explains that he doesn't know where the zombies came from. He thinks the Hatchi corporation hired the New Mutants to come and save them, but Magick says that's not true. They stop to admire one particular corpse on the ground that's in one piece, instead of being ripped to shreds ore decapitated. It's an old woman.
Just then, a crowd of survivors is seen running away from something. The mutants spring into action to find a horde of zombies. They power up, including switching into costume magically, and violence ensues. Magick also names the team out loud, probably to reassure everyone reading up to this point that this Walking Dead/X-Factor mashup is actually called New Mutants.
Though they fight valiantly, the mutants are being overwhelmed by too many zombies. Magick teleports away, but she hasn't abandoned them. She returns a moment later, with… er… magic flies?
Nope, it turns out it's the soul of the old woman corpse from earlier, we guess. Magick explains that the corpse wants a ring that the Hatchi employee had stolen from her. He gives it back, and all the zombies go away. The woman calms down and walks away. Magick tells the man that she's going to make sure "our" employer holds him accountable for all of this, revealing that the Mutants seem to also be working for Hatchi. The man stole the ring from the woman's corpse, but she was a witch, X-pository dialogue reveals.
Back at Hatchi headquarters, we learn that the New Mutants' boss is original New Mutants member Karma. How did that happen? Sadly, the comic contains no references to past stories (boo), but we can give you a brief summary. Back in Astonishing X-Men #56 (the 2004 series), Susan Hatchi, founded of the Hatchi corporation, who was also secretly Da'o Coy Manh, Karma's half-sister, and also an X-Men antagonist. In that issue, the culmination of the storyline, Karma shares a mind-link with her evil sister and manages to reconcile with her, but then their father shoots Hatchi, killing her. So now Karma is in charge, and these New Mutants work for her.
Karma wants to know why Magick let the witch go. Magick explains that she tried to save the town, as Magick noticed protective magic symbols on her house earlier in the town. A quick glance back earlier in the issue, and sure enough, Magick did notice those things… but we didn't! Sly, creative team.
Even though the New Mutants seemed to save the day, Karma is asking a lot of questions. She's highly critical of their performance, and also reveals that they weren't her first choice for this team — they were just the only mutants with nothing better to do. Damn!
Rictor is glad for all of this X-pository dialogue, and also asks Karma to explain what their jobs are. Karma reveals that the New Mutants investigate paranormal occurrences. The conversation is interrupted by Prodigy, who like Karma earlier, also gets a caption introduction explaining that he used to be a mutant with genius powers, but he isn't a mutant anymore (but he's still smart). He has another job for the team. Magic grabs the team and quickly teleports them on their way.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, some kids are beating up another kid for being a mutant. The kid insists he isn't a mutant, so the bullies demand he prove it by visiting someone called "The Alone Man" in the woods, who apparently eats mutants. They head to the woods, where they find a cabin with a bunch of decapitated baby dolls outside. TO BE CONTINUED!
This comic hit all the right notes. It introduced and explained all the characters, as well as the premise of the book and the purpose of the team. It contained a satisfying, complete story which was itself part of a larger story. It ended with a cliffhanger enticing people to want to read that next story. We're not smart enough to evaluate the artistic merit of these comics, but we do recognize and appreciate when a comic nails most or all of the fundamentals. This one did a good job on that front, which is really all we ask of superhero comics.