New Mutants

Unearthed: The New Mutants Graphic Novel, Part One

If you only know the New Mutants from the movie, this will be a surprise.

I remember when this came out in 1982. I’d seen an advertisement but knew nothing about what it was going to be. I was so excited about something brand new! And visually, these characters were just so different.

The story begins with Moira Mactaggart, geneticist and former lover of Professor X, hanging out on the heath in her native Scotland. A red wolf suddenly leaps over her, and it’s not clear how to “hear” Moira’s exclamation. Is it “What the blazes” or “What the”, followed by “Blazes!”.

In mid-air, the wolf transforms, and Moira rightly assumes it’s a shape-changer, though she doesn’t automatically assume it’s a mutant.

I really like the way the transformation is shown here, as multiple poses within the same panel.

Moira watches the transformation and recognizes Rahne Sinclair, who she delivered at her birth.

One of the great things about Bob McLeod’s art is the way he draws teenagers. His style is reminiscent of the “realistic” style of Neal Adams. It’s a style you don’t see often these days.

Here we see who Rahne was running from: an angry mob, led by Reverend Craig, who is convinced Rahne is of the Devil. He’s the guy from the movie who we see branding her with the letter “M” for mutant.

Moira doesn’t back down. She’s the lord of this land and she doesn’t truck with bible-thumpers.

Moira decides to taker Rahne to Xavier, on the possibility that she’s a mutant.

Immediately we see the huge difference between the comic and the movie, which cast each mutant as having killed someone.

We shift to Brazil, where we see Roberto da Costa scoring a goal for his futbol team. I’ll say that I’m not quite sure where McLeod got the inspiration for what these figures are doing. The kid behind Roberto… did he just trip? The kid diving into goal… is he the keeper? Why isn’t he wearing gloves and is way off his line?

One of the things I appreciated about Claremont’s writing is that he doesn’t shy away from racial issues, as you’d hope for someone writing about mutants.

Roberto’s a hothead, which you don’t get from the movie.

HOOOO. Claremont lays it on THICK.

Due to this stress, Roberto’s power manifests itself, resulting in one of the cooler looks in the Marvel universe.

‘Berto’s power is super strength, which is powered by solar energy.

Yeah. This is a cool look, but you can understand why everyone around him would freak out.

In the meantime, Juliana, ‘Berto’s girlfriend, rushes down from the stands to comfort him. He collapses after his initial burst of energy.

Unknown to anyone, they’re being monitored by a sinister figure.

We continue our globetrotting, heading all the way across the world to Kentucky, where we meet Sam Guthrie, heading to the coal mines.

In the movie, Sam accidentally kills his father. In this, his dad’s already passed on due to pneumoconiosis.

Sam’s a good kid, and this is a trait that continues throughout the series.

As the cave collapses, Sam ignores the entreaties for him to leave and goes back for the foreman.

I really miss the narrative captioning comics used to have, and no one did it better than Claremont.

The event triggers his mutant power for the first time, as he smashes through tons of solid rock to reach the outside.

This is one of the more natural occurrences of a superhero name coming up.

Who is this mysterious figure, and why does he hate mutants?

Not too much farther away, we meet Danielle Moonstar, Cheyenne teenager. Claremont does succumb a little bit to the usual Hollywood painting of Native Americans as mystical in nature. It’s not great, but one does get the sense that he has genuine respect for the culture.

I want to reiterate just what a weird 360-degree turn the movie makes from the comic origins of these characters. In an effort to be dark and edgy, the film does away with the charm and interest of the actual written characters.

Her grandfather is the only family Dani has, which we’ll learn more about in the upcoming Demon Bear storyline. Witness, however, how Claremont plays with racial subjects again here.

At this time, Dani’s power is to visually manifest a person’s fear. You know what I miss? I miss when new mutant characters would be introduced whose powers weren’t necessarily combat-oriented.

This is the first time we’re hearing of this ‘blood brother’ aspect of Charles Xavier.

Claremont doesn’t hold back with his villains. He really wants you to hate them.

This is Donald Pierce, who readers of the Uncanny X-Men will know from his introduction as part of the Hellfire Club. His prisoner here, Tessa, is a junior member of that club, and it’s not clear exactly why she’s been kidnapped, except that presumably, she would have alerted the rest of the Hellfire Club to Pierce’s anti-mutant plans.

Dani is woken from sleep by a premonition…

… and she discovers her grandfather dead. She reasons that her power earlier manifested Black Eagle’s fear of being assaulted by Pierce’s minions, an event that was revealed to him in a dream.

Dani swears vengeance on the killers. This headstrong, action-oriented girl is leagues away from the timid mouse we got from the movie, which just sucks.

Join us on Friday for Part Two of the New Mutants Graphic Novel!