Since their first appearance in MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #4 (December 1982), the NEW MUTANTS have inspired a huge following. The diverse team of characters battled their way through stories both mainstream and strange.
In one issue, the team may have fought a typical supervillain; the next, a demon bear accosted them. With this history of strangeness, the influences for Marvel’s newest series are obvious. NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 falls into this history of mutants against the strangeness of the world, and it does so with a brand new take on the fan-favorite team.
NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 opens two days after Hurricane Elena rocked Baldwin County, Alabama. At a Hatchi Corporation Relief Center, the many dead left behind by the hurricane quickly rise and devour any nearby. Illyana Rasputin and her team of Hatchi sponsored mutants are the first on the scene. As they investigate and rescue other survivors, the zombie hordes fall upon them. Before long, the New Mutants become the last line of defense between Baldwin’s survivors and the walking dead.
Mutants Vs. Zombies
The strongest aspect of NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 is its plot. While I doubted the viability of another MARVEL ZOMBIES style story, this issue manages to rack up the tension. It isn’t a horror story, by any means. It also doesn’t quite have the dark intensity of THE WALKING DEAD comics. However, it does manage to keep the intensity up. The action sequences are many and near between, giving the story a focused and fast-paced feel. Writer Matthew Rosenberg constantly pushes the reader forward.
I will say this fast pace keeps this comic from greatness at times. While the constant action sequences give the story momentum, it muddies some of the later revelations. Without any impetus at all, Illyana discovers the reason behind the infestation and stops it. I enjoyed the fact that the team didn’t ponder it for pages on end. However, I think a few sections could have benefited from deeper exposition and dialogue. It would have made NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 a more well-rounded story.
An Ogre and a Werewolf
While NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 shines in its plot, its characterization could use some work. This version of the New Mutants has five known characters from the X-Men mythos. Strong Guy, Rictor, Boom-Boom, Wolfsbane, and Magik all have long histories in the comics. As such, I can understand Rosenberg’s desire to delay focus on their personalities. Myself and many other readers, though, may be new to this world. Rosenberg does give some cool moments to Strong Guy and Wolfsbane, moments that showcase their kindheartedness, but otherwise, I felt like he could have taken more time in fleshing them out.
I also have to bring up Rictor. Throughout the story, he is presented as the team jerk, and for a while, this works. The opening, where Rictor forces Strong Guy to get rid of a stray cat, gives him a hard edge. However, one line of dialogue near the story’s end has me concerned. After learning that the New Mutants have formed to deal with supernatural threats, Rictor lists off a number of more qualified parties. This includes “that twink from the Young Avengers,” in reference to Billy Kaplan. If Rosenberg were purposefully putting Rictor at odds with his teammates, this regressive dialogue could work. However, no one reacts to his word choice. At this point, I’m willing to give Rosenberg the benefit of the doubt. However, I will be keeping my eye on that in future issues.
Painting the Apocalypse
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Adam Gorham’s art in comics before. After NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1, though, I am going to do some research. His pencils and inks fill each and every page with a huge amount of energy. I especially enjoyed his take on the action sequences, as none of the characters feel washed out or forced into the background. Also, Gorham managed to include a sick costume transition for each character. This call back to old Saturday Morning Cartoons worked. There are a few visual hiccups, like the fact that Magik’s eyebrows pop in and out of existence, but otherwise, Gorham’s work shines.
Michael Garland’s work on colors only enhanced Gorham’s lines. The special effects of the characters’ powers popped off the page thanks to Garland’s careful eye for detail. I also enjoyed the dichotomy between NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1’s opening and the sudden onslaught of the undead. When our characters first arrive in Alabama, everything has a very muted color palette. It fits the more realistic and creepy air of the story. Then, when the zombies appear, everything takes on a more saturated look. It’s almost as if we transition between genres, with horror coming before the superheroics.
NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 Final Thoughts
NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1 is an enjoyable read and one that I will probably pick again in the future. There is just something so unique and captivating about superheroes taking on the paranormal. The plot is a bit rushed at times, and the characterization needs work. However, the action sequences and the art should excite any reader, new or old. Besides, with the sudden rush of popularity around the undead, why wouldn’t you want to see the New Mutants in a zombie apocalypse?