NEW MUTANTS Vol. 1: RETURN OF LEGION collects the first five issues of the new series, reunites the original members, makes me happy. I've got fond memories of Claremont's 1980s series, and it's great seeing these guys back together again and in new costumes. Writer Zeb Wells doesn't baby them either, setting the New Mutants up against Legion, an omega-level mutant threat. And Legion is more dangerous than ever, this time actually living up to his name. David Haller's fractured mutant psyche now hosts hundreds, if not thousands, of personalities, and some of these boast extraordinarily lethal abilities. The more evil contingents in David's mind are intent on killing off the New Mutants, and specifically Dani Moonstar. Dani, if you remember, was primarily instrumental in first defeating Legion way back. The last thing craved by these malignant slivers of David's psyche is a second serving from Dani.
Zeb Wells sets a charged pace. Most of the action takes place in tiny Westcliffe, Colorado, and so we get that trope in which the locals act sinister and nurse a dark secret. Wells does a nice bit of juggling as, predominantly, the story and the battles take place in two venues, out in the real world streets of Westcliffe and simultaneously in David Haller's mind (where several of the New Mutants get trapped and must fend off hordes of the murderous personalities; a raggedy doll named Morrie plays a significant role).
I gave up reading NEW MUTANTS years ago when Rob Liefeld took over and the team metamorphosed into X-FORCE, and I've kept only the most sporadic of touches with this bunch of characters since then. It's nice to see that I still recognize this team, even though they've done some growing up, and even though the formerly stuffy Sunspot and Magma seemed to have finally let their hair down. I immediately felt at home here, and Zeb Wells's storytelling plays an integral part in this. It allows even new readers to easily find a comfort level. He establishes character traits and fills in enough backstory that you don't feel like scratching your head. In a neat continuity touch, the Young X-Men even appear early on and that they harbor immediate antagonism towards the new team is mostly because of Magik's presence (Magik and Pixie have a nasty history).
It wasn't that too long ago when Illyana Rasputin was effing with the New X-Men. Still, she remains one of my favorite New Mutants - and I guess her being off and on evil is part of the allure - and her being on the roster spices things up. Trust issues, trust issues. It's not too long before she's playing mean mind games with her teammates. Issue #5 is when the team finally gets some much needed down time, but part of it is spent in debriefing sessions. This is when we learn even more disquieting things about Magik and her dark influence. Obviously she's got something up her sleeve.
Danielle Moonstar was one of those affected by the House of M arc. In Cannonball's eyes, the loss of her mutant power makes her a liability out in the field. But you can imagine how it sits with Dani when, in the heat of battle, she's ordered to run away and be safe. The fierce Cheyenne may now be a mere mortal, but she's still far more fiery and take charge than Sam Guthrie could ever be. Of course, there's a clash of will. Of course, there's a showdown. I know that Cannonball is the current caller of shots, and yet I can't help but feel that it's Dani, and not Sam, who makes the more dynamic leader. But I'm biased. I think Sam Guthrie is a bland so-and-so.
Diogenes Neves draws the first four issues, and I like his stuff and I like the new costumes designed for the New Mutants. These threads really go a ways in establishing the notion that these characters aren't exactly kids anymore. Zachary Baldus steps in for issue #5 and his art takes a bit of getting used to, and I'm afraid I really didn't get used to it. There's something flat and static about his illustrations, and I'm not digging the at times muddy coloring, either. It doesn't keep me from getting stoked about this new series. I'm hopeful that Zeb Wells can maintain what he's got going right now. Issue #5 also reintroduces another old favorite of mine, although his self is only in the story for half a mo. And if that's not enough, the next trade offers the promise of yet another possible member turning up. But let's just keep the identity of that one a cypher.