Teenagers and Zombies Are a Good Mix in ‘New Mutants Dead Souls #1’

Matthew Rosenburg reminds us why teenagers and paranormal monsters are a potent combination.

The New Mutants: Dead Souls #1
Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Gorham
14 Mar 2018

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, teenagers are uniquely qualified to take on paranormal threats. Most adults, be they ordinary people or iconic superheroes, have a certain level of life experience to forge what they see as a sense of normal. It’s part of the basic maturation process. As kids grow into adults, they refine their perspectives into what they consider rational, balanced, and proper.

That may serve them well in function within an ordinary, civilized society. As soon as demons and paranormal monsters enter the picture, however, those mature people are more likely to buckle under the pressure. Teenagers can be irrational and melodramatic, but by lacking a secure grasp on the real world, they can also be more capable when it comes to facing paranormal threats. This plays out in many memorable ways throughout Chris Claremont’s initial foray into the New Mutants. Matthew Rosenberg now attempts to do the same with New Mutants Dead Souls.

Regarding timing, the market is ripe for teen mutants fighting paranormal threats. Rosenberg is coming off a successful stint with Phoenix Resurrection and with the cancellation of Christina Strain’s Generation X series, there’s an opening for stories centered around teenage mutants taking on the kinds of threats that would overwhelm functioning adults. If those threats involve paranormal creatures that require the leadership of Magik, a teenage girl with a colorful history that involves demons, then the potential entertainment value is beyond dispute.

X-men comics are well-known for providing unique opportunities for young mutants to establish themselves. In a world still populated by time travelers and refugees from dystopian futures, those opportunities are important. New Mutants Dead Souls #1 establishes a new team with familiar faces to take on the kind of threats that often pass under the radar for most X-men. That doesn’t imply that paranormal threats are less important. It just acknowledges that mutants are more likely to get attacked by killer robots than demons.

The makeup of the team also acknowledges that some X-men that attract paranormal threats more than others. The fact the team is led by Magik proves that Rosenberg understands what makes the New Mutants unique. Any team of mutants can come together and fight giant robots. It takes a special team with a demon-loving teenage girl as leader to come together and fight paranormal threats. New Mutants Dead Souls #1 doesn’t attempt to complicate the concept or overlook the appeal. Anyone just looking to see mutants fighting monsters will get what they want.

Magik’s team, which consists of Rictor, Boom-Boom, Strong Guy, and Wolfsbane, is full of familiar names for New Mutants. They’re young, immature, and don’t hesitate to fight back when someone throws an empty bottle at them. When the threats are paranormal and there’s more room for recklessness, that’s both expected and refreshing. In the case of New Mutants Dead Souls #1 the threat involves zombies and when it comes to the undead, reckless is most prudent approach, even though it tends to get messy.

The specifics of the threat start off basic. There’s a small town in Alabama that sustained heavy casualties from a hurricane. Some of those casualties died — but didn’t stay dead. It’s a localized issue that isn’t quite on the level of requiring the Avengers to assemble in full force, but it warrants enough concern to send a team of team of teenage mutants right into the heart of the conflict. It’s simple enough to challenge the New Mutants while also maximizing their youthful recklessness.

It’s not too simple in terms of story, though. This zombie attack doesn’t just happen because those corpses all made deals with Mephisto. There’s a reason why the dead are rising and that’s what the New Mutants have to figure out, but not before battling a horde of zombies that allows Adam Gorham’s art to maximize the paranormal ambience. It has the feel of both a horror story and a superhero story, which proves to be a potent combination in terms of raw entertainment value.

There’s plenty of setup and tense exchanges, but there’s plenty of memorable action-packed moments that are every bit as satisfying as the best moments on The Walking Dead. There’s Magik slicing zombies with her sword, Boom-Boom blowing them up with cherry bombs, and Strong Guy ripping them apart. It’s visceral and brutal, but what makes it uniquely satisfying is how it gets resolved.

It’s not one of those conflicts that only ends when the last zombie gets its head blown off. There are other forces at work driving the attack, and those forces aren’t as obvious as someone having worked for the Umbrella Corporation. It’s a mystery, but not one that requires much sleuthing. When one of the members on that team spends much of her spare time with demons, the traditional sleuthing process is both tedious and unnecessary.

While the final resolution comes off as a bit rushed, as do other parts of the story, New Mutants Dead Souls #1 is one of those stories that doesn’t try too hard to set up future conflicts or over-emphasize the first. It still takes some time to do a little world-building, establishing some infrastructure with the team. They have a base of operations. They have a larger mission and that mission is something even a team of teenage mutants can get behind.

It makes for a story that feels complete and dense. A lot happens quickly. Even when it’s a bit too quick in some areas, it still comes together in a concise, coherent manner. It’s less an origin story and more a reminder, one that belabors how Chris Claremont’s idea of having teenage mutants take on paranormal threats can be fun and entertaining. Rosenberg and Gorham take that idea and run with it, establishing a unique appeal with a colorful cast of characters that is sure to attract more than just zombies. Teenage mutants or not, that appeals to every age group on some levels.

RATING 8 / 10