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New Mutants #4

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir
Artists: Keron Grant (p), Rob Stull and Rich Perotta (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens by introducing us to a young mutant named David, who lives in Chicago and his mutant gift is to absorb the knowledge from anyone in his immediate vicinity. We then see he's using this ability to work his way through school, as he's able to draw the answers to the questions being asked of him directly from the heads of the instructors that are asking them. What's more given this isn't an visible mutant ability he's able to enjoy a relatively normal life, in spite of the fact that the campus is also home to a fairly aggressive anti-mutant group. After looking in on Dani, as she is sent by Xavier to make contact with David, and let him know about the school, we see that a familiar face is also living in Chicago, and is regularly interacting with David, as Dani stops in to say hello to her old teammate Xi'an Coy Mahn (aka. Karma), who has gotten a job as the campus librarian. However when Dani makes contact with David he makes it clear that he's rather happy with his life the way it is, and is not looking to join a school that is regularly targeted by anti-mutant groups. However his happy little life is disrupted when the anti-mutant groups on campus become aware he's a mutant, and begin to express their desire that he leave. While he's able to use his mutant gift to escape a rather dangerous encounter, we see he decides that it's for the best that he leave home, and head to Xavier's school, to protect his family.

Comments:
This issue introduces us to the latest young mutant who is set to become a member of the next generation of New Mutants, and I have to say his mutant ability is rather clever. Now it's a fairly simple telepathic ability in that he essentially shares knowledge with anyone in his immediate vicinity, so if he's in a room with a heart surgeon, he could perform heart surgery. Now on the battle field he might very well end up being like Doug, and his language speaking ability, but with a little imagination I can think of several ways that David could be useful, such as ferreting out the deactivation codes that are locked away in the head of the evil villain who has unleashed a wave of reprogrammed Sentinels upon humanity, and the team is protected from the wolf in sheep's clothing, as David would pick up on any duplicitous personalities. This issue also plays up the idea that David can become a formidable fighting force if he's in the general vicinity of a skilled hand to hand combatant, as he can become a black belt, or a expert marksman as long as he's in the general vicinity of someone who already possesses these abilities. In the end though I imagine he'll serve the same purpose that Doug did in the original New Mutants, in that he provides a handy means of bridging the language barrier, and the easy method of smoothing out any misunderstandings that might've results from a lack of communication.

This issue also brings in yet another member of the original New Mutants cast, as Xi'an Coy Manh (aka. Karma) emerges out of comic limbo with her younger brother and sister still in tow, and by the end of the issue it would appear that she is going to be a regular cast member. Now speaking as a fan of the original series I never really warmed to this character, as she left rather early on in the first year, and didn't return to the cast until after the best period of stories had already come and gone, and while there are still some real gems to be found after Bill Sienkiewicz left the book, I find that it's the stories that were produced during his time on the book that really cemented my devotion to this cast, and with her absence Karma missed out. Now I like her ability to take possession of the bodies of others, and it's used to good effect in this issue as our heroes face a band of generic mutant haters. Plus, I also rather like the idea that this book does seem to be gathering together the cast members of the original book, and here's hoping that this pattern continues through this opening arc, as I'd love to see Bobby, Rahne and especially Sam on a regular basis again, even if it is only to serve in a mentor/teacher capacity. I would caution this book from spending too much longer of building it's cast though, as it's been four issues and the team is still coming together. Simply put, this slow pace may very well kill this title before it can get all its horses in a row.

Keron Grant is quite simply a poor match for this book, as this issue really left me with the sense that the writing is going to be fairly low key, while Keron Grant's work is high energy, and this clash of styles is hurting the book. It's a real shame that cover artist Josh Middleton was pulled away from this book to become the regular artist on the pet project NYX, as his soft, almost dreamlike covers would've made for a perfect pairing, but it simply wasn't meant to be. I do hope that he's still able to provide the cover art though, as while they may be largely generic action shots, they are easily the most visually engaging aspect of the book. Now Keron Grant's work isn't all that bad, as it tells the story in a clear enough fashion, and the various powers of the characters are quite solid, as Karma's mind control ability is clearly detailed, as is Dani's nightmare power when she calls forth the X-Men. However, the art does seem to really struggle when it comes to delivering the quieter moments, as there's a scene in this issue where Dani essentially lets David know that she knows about his mutant ability, and the art does a very poor job of conveying his concern as he hurries away. The same goes for the scene where David's family learns he's a mutant, as this scene begs for a close up of the father face, but instead the art decides the best angle when the father is struggling to ask the question is the back of the character's head.

Final Word:
I do have the question the logic of getting off to such a slow start, as while I'm all for character development, and getting to know the cast before throwing them to the wolves, in today's comic market there is something to be said to going after the audience with some razzle-dazzle action, before you lay out the groundwork. Now I know writers will probably respond by saying you have to lay the foundation before you build the house, but offering up four issues of the same plot is not the best way to win over the audience this book needs to survive. This issue is also hurt by its rather weak construction as the book never explains how the mutant haters became aware that David is a mutant, and they are such a generic band of villains that they come across as feeling like a plot device instead of a genuine bit of story telling. I do like David's mutant ability though, and it's great to see the original cast being reassembled.



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