New Mutants: Dead Souls #6
The conclusion to the New Mutants: Dead Souls comes with a bang (so much better than a whimper) after Ilyana finally unwinds the not-so-wholesome details behind Karma’s plan to weaponize magical items and sell them to various shady government officials. Magik summons Tran from Limbo and confronts her friend with the fact that being separated from her evil twin has fractured Karma’s psyche. Karma responds by revealing that Dani has been infected by an injured Warlock. The new symbiotic entity attacks Magik and, in desperation, Magik summons Guido from limbo, but although he has only been gone for 36-hours from Magik’s perspective, it’s been years for him, and he suffers a heart attack. Luckily, Moonlock still cares for her friend (techno-organic Dani remains Dani) and she saves Guido by infecting him with Warlock. The rest of the New Mutants hear the ruckus and join the fight, but they are infected one by one. Finally, Magik is overwhelmed and joins the hive-mind. The issue concludes with Shan about to contact the government about some new techno-organic ‘test subjects’ but before Karma can complete the call, Magik slides her hand over her mouth and infects her as well. The New Mutants welcome their ‘enemyself’ to the team, and the issue concludes.
The greatest strength of this (sadly) limited series has been the writing, but that is a statement which does a terrible disservice to the extraordinarily high quality of the art. Ultimately, the reason that this book was such a tremendous success hinges on the fact that everything, both the writing and the art, focuses on the characters they feature. Dead Souls was, in many ways, an extended character study with a tacked-on plot – and that has made it one of the best X-Books produced in recent memory.
Let’s take a closer look at this.
In our day-to-day lives, we are as much defined by our small actions as by our larger failures or heroism. Our natures are as much revealed by how we treat the postman as they are by what we’d do if we saw someone take a swipe at a child, and (because of this) the humanity of superheroes is conveyed more by what they do in their downtime than by the quips they fire off in the middle of battle.
So, here, we see Tabby sleeping in until noon. We see Rhane knitting (of COURSE she is a knitter – she’s basically a young, hairy aunty-in-waiting); we see Shatterstar cooking, naked (oblivious as always to societal norms) while Rictor sits back and enjoys the way that this irritates Shan while reveling in the view of his boyfriend’s ass. Dani, even infected by Warlock, radiates warmth and strength. Shan acts like an addict who cannot reach her drug. Ilyana reveals that so much of her confidence is a cover for her terrible self-doubt.
Rosenberg revels in these little moments. And he has the skill to insert them, seamlessly, into the story without altering the pace of the plot. But the writing really represents only half of the brilliance, here. It was Rosenberg’s script, Rosenberg’s dialogue, but there is a brutal nuance to Gorham’s art that intensifies the impact of the writing. Gorham is unafraid to allow his female characters to be ugly in moments of strong emotion – and that’s both vital to producing the effect required by the writing and vanishingly rare. Women, real women, cannot look pretty when they are frightened or in pain. Because they are human. Because they are animals.
In terms of plot, the series basically boiled down to Shan being corrupted by the spirit of the brother she absorbed and becoming obsessed with rejoining him. It was a simple plot, not much of a mystery (it was clear from the beginning that all was not well in the house of Karma) but it wasn’t intended to be complex. It was an excuse for the writer, the artist (and therefore, us) to examine these characters closely and through a slightly different lens. As such, it was a rousing success. And the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger (one which will have serious repercussions for the characters, but which can be resolved fairly easily by Rosenberg or any other writer) will bait the hook – either for a sequel or for events in future books.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #6 is a thoughtful, beautifully-wrought character study coupled to a flash-bang plot and seasoned with cursing and the promise of nudity. Along with X-Men Red, Astonishing X-Men, and Extermination, it is one of the best books that Marvel has produced this year.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #6: Love is a Virus; Love is a Drug
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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