New Mutants #21

September 18th, 2008 by

This isn’t really a review of a 24 year old comic, it’s more of a reminiscence. New Mutants #21 was the first issue of New Mutants I ever read, and possibly the first Marvel comic that got added to my collection. I was 13, and living in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Prior to that, I was mostly a DC reader, and really didn’t know anything about Marvel other than random Spider-Man comics that I’d read at the barber shop. It was the cover that drew me in for this issue of New Mutants. I didn’t know who the characters were, and I didn’t even really know the X-Men at that point. Not even Wolverine.

I bought the comic and started reading it. There were all these new characters who were about my age, and they had powers. The girls were having a slumber party, and the boys had been to a ball game. It was set at some boarding school, and there were a bunch of other characters who I also didn’t know. There were references to past events that I had no idea about, like Dani being in a wheelchair.  And then the weird stuff really started happening.  Some really strange looking black and white alien robot shows up and starts acting like a vampire, draining the life from organic things.  The blond girl materializes a sword and armor and pops in and out of holes that appear in the air.  One of the girls turns into lava and another turns into a wolf.  And there was a dragon!  And I loved it.  I couldn’t wait to read the next issue and then go back and find the back issues.  I think I ended up getting a package containing the first 20 issues for Christmas that year.  I had no idea who these people were or what was going on, but that just excited me to find out more.  It was expected that I would catch on by jumping into the deep end of this book, even though I was only 13.

There is no way this comic could make it out the door today. There is no synopsis page telling the “story so far”.  It’s not a “jumping on point.”  I guess my point is this: give people, and specifically kids more credit and don’t worry so much about comics being accessible to new readers.  If the stories are good, if they’re well-written, if they’re compelling, if the characters are intriguing, readers will yearn to learn more.  You don’t have to give it all to them on the first page.  When I bought New Mutants #21, there were no trade paperbacks collecting the issues virtually as fast as they came out.  There was no wikipedia to look things up on.  I suppose you could argue that there were message boards in the form of a BBS, but not the way there is today.  There was virtually no way for me to find out who these characters were aside from learning more about them each month, and seeing if I could find the back issues someplace.  But I didn’t care!  I loved learning about them bit by bit, and filling in the missing puzzle pieces where I could.

At some point, the comics industry lost sight of this, and it seems like they now feel that the only way to sell people on comics is to make sure no one ever gets lost, no one feels like they won’t know what’s going on from the beginning.  I constantly hear people complain about continuity, and how it’s impossible to know what’s going on unless you’ve read 20 years of this or that comic.  I’d say that’s only true if the writer isn’t doing their job, and by that, I don’t mean filling the reader in on 20 years of continuity.  I mean the writer isn’t telling a good story in that issue which makes the reader more interested in finding out more about who all these characters are and their histories.  It’s so easy to find that out today, too.  It’s practically impossible to find a comic character that doesn’t have their own page someplace on the Internet.  A friend recently linked me to a website devoted to international super-heroes (he loves the Phillipino ones).  Everything you need to know to follow along with Final Crisis, or Secret Invasion, or even the latest happenings in Duckburg is all there.  Maybe along the way, we as readers got a bit lazy too, after having everything spoonfed to us.

If anything comes of this mild rant, I hope that people will go and find a random comic on the shelf, doesn’t matter what issue number and give it a chance.  Find one where you like the cover, where something speaks to you, and pick it up and read it.  Even though you’ve never heard of these characters, even though you don’t know everything that’s happened to them.  Read it.  And hopefully you’ll feel what I felt reading New Mutants #21 when I was 13.


One Response to “New Mutants #21”

  1. florence Says:

    I agree with you, Jason. When I was in high school I sat in the back of the comic shop to read the latest Sandman while my friends bought comics up front. It wasn’t until college that I dated someone with the full Sandman collection and I was able to read everything I had missed. It never occurred to me to complain at the time, since I was thrilled with the stories and the art that I was seeing, and I never felt alienated by the fact that I did not show up on day 1 of the first issue.