Today’s Super Comic — Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (1982)

Back in 1982, Marvel launched a majority-female team whose members were all of different ethnicities, and as far as I’m aware, there was no special fanfare or controversy surrounding the diversity. The big deal was that this was a spinoff of the super-popular X-Men. Also, it was good and the characters were interesting. That’s what readers cared about.

Professor Xavier and Moira McTaggart assemble a new class of teenage mutants in Marvel Graphic Novel #4. It’s your standard team-gathering issue—we meet the New Mutants one at a time in their respective situations, and a shared threat gradually pulls them all together. We see that each one has much to learn, but also strong potential.

Writer Chris Claremont makes sure we get to know these new characters as people first, not as superhero personas. By the end of the graphic novel, we’re still thinking of them primarily as Xi’an Coy Manh, Samuel Guthrie, Danielle Moonstar, Roberto da Costa, and Rahne Sinclair, not Karma, Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot, and Wolfsbane. I can’t even remember if they all acquired their codenames in this first appearance or in New Mutants #1, which goes to show how this was more YA fantasy/sci-fi than straight-up superheroes (though they qualify as both super and heroic). The main idea was a group of young people learning to cope with a dangerous world, not necessarily save it.

The X-Men were superheroes. The New Mutants were students who sometimes had to be heroic. If you’re going to do a spinoff, such distinctions are important.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Bob McLeod

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Mutants Classic Vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — New Mutants #27 (2011)

While it can be lots of fun to mix and match various members of the X-Men’s extended cast, there are some established groupings that are always great together. One, naturally, is the X-Men’s original spinoff team, the New Mutants. The ‘80s lineup made a comeback in the last decade, and the cast chemistry remained intact.

Of course, they’re not kids anymore, nor are they Xavier’s students. When Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took over the writing, they laid out a new mission statement for the team: Cyclops has tasked the New Mutants with taking care of the X-Men’s numerous loose ends (Cyclops was basically the X-Men’s general in this era).

Their first order of business is to find X-Man, an alternate-reality version of Cable from the “Age of Apocalypse” timeline who migrated to the main Marvel timeline (you can see why the X-Men might have a few loose ends here and there). To prevent things from being too easy, X-Man is a captive of the amoral Sugar Man, another “Age of Apocalypse” émigré, but one who just wants to find his way back.

In #27, we get to see the grown-up classic team in action, but one founding member in particular gets to shine. Dani Moonstar, depowered mutant and current team leader, has a lengthy one-on-one (and interdimensional) battle with the vicious Sugar Man, proving she’s a formidable fighter even without the aid of super-powers.

Much of the issue’s appeal boils down to “likeable character being awesome.” It’s not deep, but it absolutely works.

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

Artist: Leandro Fernandez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover: Marko Djurdjevic

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in New Mutants vol. 4: Unfinished Business (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic: New Mutants Special #1 (1985)

In which I review one comic a day, every day — but only the good ones. If you don’t have anything nice to say…

New_Mutants_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1_WraparoundTaking characters out of their element can yield great results when executed properly. And New Mutants Special #1 nails it.

The X-Men have had many spinoffs over the years, but the New Mutants were the first “second” team of mutant characters at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. And they were meant to be students first and foremost, not superheroes. These were young teenagers learning to control their powers in a world that fears and hates them.

So this story scatters them across an entirely different world…Asgard. Yes—Thor’s Asgard, the mythical Norse realm full of gods and goddesses. In this extra-sized special, writer Chris Claremont gives each individual New Mutant ample focus as they’re separated across different regions of this fantastical realm full of creatures and characters they never expected to meet. Some of the mutants initially enjoy the experience while others find themselves in troublesome predicaments, but strong characterization drives everything.

And Arthur Adams’s pencils and layouts provide a suitably epic feel to the proceedings. The book is a treat to both look at and read.

This was a special that earned the label. Classic stuff. My favorite New Mutants story.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Arthur Adams

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; included in X-Men: The Asgardian Wars (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up