New Mutants: Dead Souls #1 Review
Balancing superhero and horror tropes, the brand-new New Mutants: Dead Souls series, deftly written by Matthew Rosenberg with fantastically moody art by Adam Gorham and Michael Garland, takes a unique mix of classic mutants and gives them a fresh mandate as a horror clean-up squad, in a world where their own team leader runs a hell dimension where she can (apparently) age cats to maturity in an instant.
Sent to deal with an attack by the undead that strangely springs up in the wake of a hurricane, this incarnation of the New Mutants seems less interested in mutant relations than they are in humanitarian endeavors, in this case at the behest of a former New Mutant. Led by Illyana Rasputin, the enigmatic Magik, the team is made up of one original member, Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair; two former X-Factor Trainees who later joined the team, Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith and Julio “Rictor” Richter; and Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella, whose first appearance is in New Mutants and who was a member of both of Peter David’s X-Factor teams. This odd assembly may not make much sense as a New Mutants line-up, but most of the characters have history together and they make for a tight, powerful superhero unit.
Rosenberg obviously has a fair amount of affection for this cast, who each have a history of membership on various X-teams through the years. Drawing heavily from this era of comics, a golden age for the X-Men in particular, is a smart move for this book, and shaping an original line-up like this under that constraint is quite a feat. The team interacts easily, riffs off each other, makes witty pop culture references, even as they face down a horde of zombies. The dialogue shows off the same strengths that made his last Black Mask title, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, so great, with banter that feels both natural and breezy, with a fair portion of humor that makes the characters highly relatable, even as they are dropped into absurd, supernatural scenarios. One drawback, however, is that the book doesn’t feel like it’s made much of a case for its own existence. There is no unified threat, no indication of a clear vision for where the series is going. That’s not to say that Rosenberg doesn’t have one, but it doesn’t come through in this issue; there is no sense of urgency to these events or necessity in focusing on them. Hopefully it will find one soon, because, otherwise, this is a great start.
Despite the excellent work Rosenberg is doing, the real stars of this book are the art team. Adam Gorham brings a broad set of skills to this book that deeply enhance the experience, from the youthful and realistic fashion choices for the cast in their civilian identities to the menacing horror elements to the big superheroics. Similar to Kris Anka or Adrian Alphona, Gorham gives these young(er) characters a realistic look that informs the characterization while also setting them apart well, breathing a ton of life into this ensemble cast. He is also able to channel some of the best horror comic art with the gruesome zombies, which look like they would fit right into an old EC issue of Tales from the Crypt, while also being able to make the reveal of the teams more traditional superhero uniforms really sing. All this is enhanced by Michael Garland’s color choices, which balance all the elements Gorham brings to the table with a flair that keeps the book cohesive while also leaning into what each panel needs to make it stand out.
While the creation of this comic was obviously informed by the now-delayed Fox New Mutants film, which has been billed as a superhero horror film, it’s done an outstanding job of carving out a unique place in the Marvel universe and publishing line. While it certainly has room to improve and grow, it’s definitely off to a strong start that should be pleasing to both long term and new readers.