New Mutants by Zeb Wells: The Complete Collection – Zeb Wells

3 out of 5

Contains vol. 3 of New Mutants, #1 11, 15 – 21, Marvel Spotlight: New Mutants

Firstly, a big knock right up front: we shouldn’t really be calling this a complete collection when it is, indeed, missing some issues. True, New Mutants #12 – 14 – the “Second Coming” crossover issues – were maybe skipped for a cleaner reading experience, since they don’t directly impact the storyline (though some minimal details do carry over), but still, I’m rather surprised at the blatant lie on the cover, not to be too hyperbolic. Just calling it “The Zeb Wells” collection or somesuch would’ve been fine.

Secondly, I should clarify that some of my nits here may only be present in digital, which is how I read this. I have some standards I prefer for collections, and Marvel missed out on those, but again, perhaps they’re instated in the print version. The preview pages I looked at on Amazon suggest the formats match, though those previews may also be from digital.

Let’s start with positives, though: a starting cover price of $40 is still a great deal – working out to about $2.15 for 18.5 issues plus a Marvel Spotlight issue – not to mention it’s easier to get it cheaper now, digital or print. And, “Complete” criticisms aside, I do think the eye here was on a complete storyline, so the relevant bits of the Necrosha one-shot were also included, and little blurbs are given on the covers which can set up some other Marvel U context as needed. The covers are also nice: included as interstitials between the issues, alternate covers are sprinkled throughout as a bonus. This is a good way to break the pages up without distraction, considering that it’s 400+ pages of reading material. Lastly, the Marvel Spotlight inclusion is an appreciated “bonus” – this isn’t written by Wells, but it has interviews with him, and also provides some history on the team; it’s a nice rewind once you’ve made it through the set.

As to the negatives, my main problem here is the lack of page numbers, twice over. I appreciate that there’s a chapter list, with credits per chapter clarified, but that definitely loses relevant when those chapters have no page numbers. And the pages themselves have no page numbers, which isn’t as relevant without the chapter page numbers to which to refer, and I guess isn’t a big deal digitally, or if you have a bookmark on a physical, but I still think it’s a design thing that helps. The chapter bit is more important, though, whereas the latter is, admittedly, opinion.

Also opinion: the miss of only including those credits on that listing page. There are pluses and minuses to removing the credit boxes from the in-issue artwork, but especially when a series changes artists every single arc, it’s nice to precede the chapter with credits again, such as on thse inserted cover pages.

And to that last bit about changing artists, just as a reading experience, while the constant crossovers and changing art teams probably was less noticeable month to month, reading Zeb Wells’ run in one go makes it more obvious how disruptive that is, to the storyline and in terms of establishing a consistent look for a series. When changing artists is somewhat tied into the concept, it can work, but here it just feels like musical chairs of obligations / limited timelines, and the series never gets a chance to settle into an identity, excepting what Wells can instill with his narrative voice. Which is palpable, for sure, but there was something that much greater here, had we not had to pause for, like, Siege, and swap in a new look every issue.

The value is there, and the printing quality would seem to be there as well (excepting one corrupted page in my digital copy, but maybe that was just me). As a front-to-back read, the series shows the faults of the usual Marvel / DC crossover game, but more directly, some quality of life improvements to the collection – and maybe some better phrasing in its title – could’ve made this feel more essential.