Vita Ayala, Travis Lanham, and Rod Reis started working together on New Mutants #14, and since have made the book into one of the if not the best book of the Krakoan era, and they continued to do so in this volume, with the help of Alex Lins, Matt Milla, Danilo Beyruth, Dan Brown, and Joe Caramagna. Typically, three line artists in six issues is something I would side eye, but they each used their specific skill sets to deliver the story in a way that the other couldn’t.
Alex Lins’s work here is almost revelatory, especially as colored by Matt Milla, which feels like a perfect match. I’ve only just started noticing Milla’s work, but I love the rich pinks and oranges he frequently uses, and he’s able to really help define the page along Lins’s more minimalist style.
Danilo Beyruth and Dan Brown occupy a completely different style, with more earthy naturalistic colors, alongside some emotive deep purples. The way Beyruth draws and utilizes faces is of particular interest, as they are constantly the focal point of a given scene or page. He leans into the emotions of a page, and does so expertly throughout his issue.
But, of course, the real star of the series is Rod Reis, who is doing career work in here, which is especially impressive given the material he’s working with: New Mutants is mostly a book about communicating rather than punching things.
Superhero comics tend to be about punching, oftentimes about minor or silly disagreements. When Iron Man and Captain America don’t see eye-to-eye, they don’t find a relaxing place to discuss their perspectives. They punch each other, and probably each other’s friends, and it’s sold weekly for $5.99. New Mutants, though, is about fighting that urge, or more specifically, growing beyond it.
All of the plots of this volume are about communication, whether it’s one of a failure to do so, failure to do so clearly, or a new opportunity to do so. One is about old friends who know when to pry and when to shut up. Another is about being crushed by a mentor not understanding your needs. And of course, there’s the guy who’s literally always been evil who’s given a new chance to be understood. All of the ideas here are handled with a maturity that isn’t typical of American comics and it’s genuinely impressive.
Though, it’s not all perfect. While this is a unique book amongst mainstream superhero comics, “unique” comes with a bit of an asterisk, especially where the pacing and dialogue are concerned.
Being so focused on conversations means the story often takes longer to develop than is common, which leads to a more reasonable plot in the long run, but means that the characters need more interactions to get to a boiling point. This is something that’s greatly helped by being collected, but still, it took two collections to build to a meaningful conclusion. It’s not a huge problem, but the pacing is atypical.
Maybe a bigger problem is one I have with the dialogue, though even that isn’t a big deal. The maturity with which characters speak feels anything other than natural, which wouldn’t be a problem if it were a little more poetic. In a lot of places, it feels like the characters are lacking emotion in their discussing their feelings, which is almost dissonant. Ultimately, though, all of these choices are in service of a genuinely wonderful story.
New Mutants may be my favorite X-Men comic, and it is one of the most unique and beautiful comics releasing monthly.
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