Phoenix Resurrection concluded in February with X-Men fans across the country clamoring for an ongoing X-Men series from writer Matthew Rosenberg. Hell, even those who disliked the Jean Grey event seemed to acknowledge Rosenberg’s affinity for writing misfit mutants. For now, The New Mutants: Dead Souls is the closest fans are getting to an ongoing X-Men book from the mind behind Phoenix Resurrection and while it may not be exactly what fans asked for, it is an entertaining debut to a quirky mutant series.
This six-part mini-series takes the New Mutants back to their “Demon Bear” roots, investigating paranormal phenomenon while the old mutants and magical Avengers are tied up elsewhere. Unfortunately, this book isn’t as spooky or frightening as readers might hope. It’s a bit different from other Marvel books, but I still would not call this a horror comic- it’s an X-Men comic with zombies and other ghoulish fiends, which doesn’t feel that out of the ordinary.
I was most surprised by how bloody this issue is. When the New Mutants discover a small town overrun by zombies, artist Adam Gorham riddles the pages with decaying carcasses and rotting flesh. When it comes time to face the zombies head on, heads are split in half, eyeballs pop out, and re-animated corpses are atomized. The art from Gorham never truly feels scary, but it does manage to give out a creepy vibe like walking through an empty house in the dark.
What really makes this first issue an enjoyable read is the eclectic cast of mutants reminiscent of the kids from Stranger Things, only more mature and with less bickering. Each team member has their own role in the group, clarified by quick, funny introductions in the first few pages. There’s Rictor and Boom-Boom who serve as the comic relief for the group, Strong Guy as the lovable behemoth with a Lennie vibe to him, the quite yet warm-hearted Wolfsbane, and the stoic and stern leader of the crew Magik.
The team’s constant banter while investigating the ruins of a natural disaster are naturally youthful without being over-the-top. A lot of times when writers try to write younger characters the resulting dialogue is cringeworthy, since older folks seem to think young people say the word “fam” all the time. Luckily for the reader, Rosenberg isn’t one of those older folks and writes genuine dialogue that feels modern without being forced.
While the main plot isn’t anything spectacular, it does allow Magik to truly assert herself as the team’s leader with her unwavering confidence in her own decision making and situational awareness. Marvel promised each issue of this series would focus on a specific character, and this book is clearly Magik’s spotlight. She’s two steps ahead of the rest of the team throughout and makes tough decisions without the slightest regrets, even when angrily confronted by her superiors. While Kitty Pryde struggles with leadership in X-Men Gold, Magik is a bad ass who knows she should be in charge.
This first issue is a fine start to a promising series featuring some often overlooked characters within Marvel’s mutant family. Although The New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 isn’t as “paranormal” as I had hoped, it is nonetheless a good read rife with colorful characters that will keep me coming back for more.
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