One of my favourite comic books growing up in the 80s was The New Mutants. As a very young kid who fell in love with the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde thanks to Marvel’s Secret Wars II and Uncanny X-Men 196 (“What Was That?”), I loved seeing how the two teams interacted with one another, and reading about a team of teenagers who were older than me, but somehow still relatable. And when (SPOILER) The Beyonder killed them off in issue 37, it actually scared the hell out of me.
Co-created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod, the New Mutants was an easy access point for young mutant lovers, especially as the original X-Men were growing up, marrying and having children. When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the original series, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Angel and Iceman were teens themselves, while the All-New, All-Different line-up was full of older and, in some case, most battle-hardened characters. With the New Mutants, Claremont and McLeod were able to bring being a teenage mutant into the 1980s, exploring all the angst that came along with it.
Marvel recently released the first New Mutant Epic Collection, Renewal. The massive book, available both physically and as a digital collection, brings together the first 12 issues of the original series, along with the original New Mutants Graphic Novel, the 4-issue Magik limited series and Marvel Team-Up 100, which introduced the character of Karma to the Marvel Universe.
Rereading these issues brought back a wonderful feeling for me. As is, was, and will always will be his wont, Claremont uses a lot of words when sometimes lesser would have been more, but these characters were his creation, and you can feel the sense of devotion he had to making them as relatable as possible. Not only did Wolfsbane, Psyche (later Mirage), Cannonball, Sunspot, Karma and Magik have to deal with their new mutant powers, but there was also the onset of puberty and the emotions that come with it that they had to contend with. Meanwhile, their teacher, Professor Xavier, is dealing with the seeming death of the X-Men and his own reluctance to train his new students to follow in their footsteps. It’s all very complex, but some 35 years later, also highly entertaining.
Alongside Claremont’s words are the work of some legendary artists, including McLeod, Sal Buscema, Paul Smith, Frank Miller, Ron Frenz and Bill Mantlo, who all put their spin on the various New Mutants. As the artist and co-creator of team, McLeod and his work is particularly in sync with Claremont in those early issues – they made a great duo.
With a rumoured New Mutants film supposedly set to start filming some time this year under the auspices of director Josh Boone, the New Mutants Epic Collection: Renewal is an extremely excellent (and cost-effective) way to renew your own relationship with one of the great teams of the 1980s.