Marvel Spotlight: New Mutants – John Rhett Thomas

5 out of 5

While I recognize that this Spotlight issue is essentially a sales pitch for then-up and coming volume 3 of New Mutants, by Zeb Wells -and I haven’t read a modern era Spotlight ever, but glancing at other issues published, that looks to be exactly how these are used, as promotional pushes – it’s actually good at what it does, providing good reasons to be hyped about the title, both for new and returning NM readers.

Kicking off with a Wells interview, this is the most blatant advertising out of the included text, but it keeps the baiting – i.e. “You won’t believe what we’ve got in store!” – to a minimum, and instead keeps the focus on Wells’ familiarity with the Mutants, and more generally how / if he plans to shake things up. What’s nice about this is that it’s pretty honest: it doesn’t try to convince us that Zeb knows everything, or has wild, world-shaking arcs set up; he knows the beats, and is more concerned with finding a good balance between stories that are entertaining, but also have some of the social relevance value that original writer Chris Claremont brought to things, without leaving behind the soap opera drama, which he believes to be a key element of X-Men stuff. (I reluctantly agree, even though I wish it wasn’t.) Reading the interview in 2022, there are some dated concepts expressed, but not nearly as much as one may’ve supposed; Well comes across as sincere in his general comic fandom, as well as his dedication to keep things focused on character and story over strict fan service – he’s aware the book may not find an audience.

Next up we go to Chris Claremont, for a Q & A over the series’ origins and the direction he took it with various artists over 100 issues. I’ve never been a big fan of Chris’ writing, but it’s clear, in interviews, that he’s an intelligent dude, and also why his writing took off: the DNA of a more grounded POV versus DCs heroes-as-gods approach is seeded throughout his answers, even if that gets welded to a an often (to my eye / ear) campy flavor of dialogue. The way he blends outlandish comic book concepts with social commentary is intriguing, and he’s also appreciably humble, making sure to give plenty of credit to his artists.

The last main section gives us 10 important events from New Mutants’ history, which is either a fun trip down memory lane for returners, or a good way to set the stage for newbies like me. Probably more importantly, the way these summaries are written makes me want to read the old series, and I promise you that’s not just because the What Happeneds of comic books are often more compelling than their month-to-month versions – having read plenty of Wiki summaries, that’s really not the case. Rather, the storylines and characters actually sound pretty cool, and there’s a helpful lil’ page pointing me to the trades that contain this stuff, so maybe it’s time to try Claremont’s writing once again…

Breaking up the text, we have some one page focuses on New Mutants’-related bits and bobs, including some coverage on the first arc’s artists, Diogenes Neves, and small character profiles for a slew of both A- and B-listers. These are spaced out appropriately, and written with an informative, but not dry tone. Finally, the layout / design of the book drives it home: page backings alternate between black and yellow and white, so there’s variation when you flip through, and while there’re some consistent templates used – which is a plus – things are also varied by going from 2-pages to single page layouts.

If I’m reading the cover price of images correctly, this retailed for a dollar less than a regular comic of the time, for more pages and a good amount of valid content. Quite a deal, and a nice complement to Wells’ run, read either before or after it.