New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
“Chapter 1: New Dawn Fades”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colors: Michael Garland
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Ryan Stegman (regular)/Marcos Martin, Billy Martin and John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Marvel appears to be pushing something of a renaissance of its mutant hero team titles as of late, so it comes as no surprise the publisher has revived this spinoff property as well, especially since there’s a New Mutants movie on the way. I was drawn in by Matthew Rosenberg’s script and its accessibility, and Adam Gorham’s art suits the eerie tone of the plot. But that plot feels like a rather familiar one, something even the script seems to acknowledge. Marvel has tried many times to revive the New Mutants concept over the years, and this one, while fleetingly entertaining, seems just as likely to be as forgettable of those that came before it.
A team of mutants — former members of the New Mutants and X-Factor, led by Magik — are dispatched to Alabama by a corporation aiding in hurricane relief there because something unexplained has occurred. The site’s become overrun by zombies, and it’s up to the team to rescue the survivors and get to the bottom of the unexplained epidemic.
Gorham tells the story fairly clearly, and his art at times seems like an interesting cross between the styles of Phil Noto and Sean Phillips. There’s a loose, gritty quality to his linework that works well with the zombie-genre plot. Strong Guy is still a ridiculous looking character, especially when he’s alongside others who appear rather normal, in both appearance and anatomy; I’m surprised we haven’t seen a major redesign for the character.
20th Century Fox is releasing its another installment of its Marvel mutant movies next year with New Mutants, and the trailers we’ve seen so far make it clear that instead of a traditional super-hero flick, it’ll be something of a horror movie, making the manifestation of mutant powers seem more like supernatural fare. It’s an intriguing approach and an interesting way to distinguish it from yet another super-hero movie. Given that impending theatrical release, I can’t help but approach this limited series from a cynical perspective. It seems as though Marvel’s comics-publishing arm decided it needed something to coincide with the movie’s release, featuring some of the same characters with a paranormal flair. Dead Souls certainly fits the bill, but the result is something that doesn’t really seem to flow from what we’ve seen of these characters in the past. It feels a little forced, and the generic nature of the plot reinforces that impression.
That being said, writer Matthew Rosenberg delivers a script that’s full of personality. The dialogue among the titular heroes is quite snappy and a lot of fun. Magik’s distant nature and refusal to communicate make for interesting dynamics, and I found her character all the more alluring given that attitude. She does seem a little too powerful here, bordering on omnipotent, though some of them stems from the incredible confidence she exudes in this story. I think Rosenberg makes one noticeable though fleeting misstep in the script, though, when he makes a dismissive and derogatory reference to one of Marvel’s few gay characters as a “twink.” It struck me as an ugly moment that really didn’t contribute anything to the story.
Despite the long, convoluted histories of the characters in this comic, Rosenberg delivers a rather accessible read. It helps that the plot — a zombie outbreak — is a familiar trope. I’m also pleased to find this issue delivers a self-contained story, but it’s such standard fare, it doesn’t come across as all that memorable. Other than Magik, it doesn’t feel as though this experience in the employment of a former teammate’s corporation is going to be a noteworthy aspect of their backstory. 6/10