The New Mutants are back, but not like they've ever been before. The New Mutants have always had a dark side, but New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 presents a new team lineup with a new mission statement that dives into that darkness more directly than ever before.
The new series, written by Matthew Rosenberg with art by Adam Gorham, hits the ground running with this version of the New Mutants team – Magik, Wolfsbane, Rictor, Boom Boom, and Strong Guy – already on a mission to a region hit recently by a strong hurricane. The team isn't there to provide relief to the locals, though there's some entanglement with those who are, but to investigate some weirder happenings in the locale.
Gorham's art complements the slightly eerie, supernatural-themed tone of the story well. Characters are slightly exaggerated, appearing just a bit thinner and lankier than you might expect. Heavy landscapes are covered in shadows that could hide any number of horrors. Color artist Michael Garland uses mossy green and damp blues to help sell the misty, spooky atmosphere in a town already badly hurt by a natural disaster and now facing a supernatural aftermath.
While Gorhan's characters and atmosphere are strong, his storytelling is a bit uneven. In some cases, he does a great job of using varying panel sizes to emphasize important moments of action, but there also instances where he loses control of the reader's eyes. This is usually due to panels being stacked on the left side when there are word balloons placed high in the next panel to the right. After reading the top-most panel on the left, it isn't immediately clear whether the reader should continue right or down, and this ends up breaking the flow of the story as the reader tries to figure out what to do next.
The story itself feels like Rosenberg and Gorhan attempting to do a Mignolaverse short story with a cast of mutants. By the end of the issue, when more of the team's origin is revealed, the series' elevator pitch could be summed up as "BPRD meets X-Factor," which is actually quite fascinating. As stories in the past have shown, giving superheroes corporate masters creates instant tension and can offer some deep stories. That this New Mutants team is specifically specializing in dealing with supernatural threats helps differentiate it from others that have utilized a similar setup.
In the first issue, Rosenberg seems primarily concerned with the idea of growing up. Not in a traditional "coming of age" kind of a way, but in a "maturing out of your childish dreams and getting a real job" kind of way. Some might call it "selling out," including a few on the team itself. Whether the New Mutants are doing the right thing by focusing on the mission instead of helping survivors is a point of tension within the group. There are multiple moments where Rosenberg uses dialogue to remind readers that these New Mutants aren't just talking about leaving their own dreams behind, but "The Dream," that dream that drove Charles Xavier to create the X-Men in the first place and that has served as the team's mission statement for years. Whether they can really leave it all behind seems to be something that may be explored as the series continues.
Rosenberg does a stellar job of establishing the team's interpersonal dynamics, even if most of them aren't fully fleshed out just yet. Wolfsbane is particularly underserved, but Strong Guy, who was only recently reunited with his soul, comes off as particularly innocent at this point, and Boom Boom and Rictor are constantly trying to out-snark one another. Magik takes the lead of the series easily and, given the themes, that make sense. She's always been more mature than her peers, and the one most attuned to the darkness. The conflict between Magik and Karma – the former New Mutant who is sponsoring this team – is where all of the thematic tension is most focus in this issue.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 is a fun and thematically rich concept that, despite struggling with some storytelling fundamentals, still manages to entertain and intrigue. There's a lot of potential in the groundwork laid here for what could be a fun and engrossing mutant monster hunt.
Published by Marvel Comics
On March 14, 2018
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Adam Gorham
Colors by Michael Garland
Lettering by VC's Clayton Cowles