New Mutants: Fall of the New Mutants (#15 – 19) / Rise of the New Mutants (#20 – 21) – Zeb Wells

4 out of 5

Heavy and mean, Fall / Rise of the New Mutants literally sends the NMs to Hell – or Limbo, I suppose – as hinted at umpteen filler and crossover issues ago, and brings Zeb Wells’ run on the title to a full circle close. The nature of this, which politely fully clears the plate for the next writer, does necessitate sort of a too-clean ending, but this is still a properly expansive arc that gives that cleanliness some excellent, tense buildup. Because the New Mutants could be said to be “expendable” to a degree, or at least some of them, there really is a sense of danger, here; plus, the presence of a time-traveling character – Magik – means we get some promises up front that do seem viable. Twists are expected, sure, but more of a bait-and-switch type, where Character Death A is swapped for B instead. But instead of preying on that, Wells just tosses everyone in the deep end, and keeps twisting the knife. The bad guys are also appreciably bad, despite having intentions that one might be tempted to paint sympathetically – these are soldiers who’ve been twisted by their time in Limbo, and are now revenging for that in various forms, including taking advantage of some leftover X-title detritus. So again, our writer is successfully mixing in lore without losing readers like me – a new audience, who can only learn about this stuff from wiki. There’s enough context there for me to understand the gist, and I can fill in the details later; meanwhile, I’m caught up in just how nasty things get for our crew, not able to catch a break – except for the bone kind, hyuck – as they pursue the villains and try to stop them from world-ending shenanigans.

The cutaways to other X-Men members during Zeb Wells run have occasionally seemed off topic, but this being the end of his run, bringing everyone in for the “Rise” issues makes sense. Even here, though, Wells makes sure to not turn it into Cyclops and crew saving the day; the focus is still on the New Mutants. The final, lingering shots are relevant to them.

Leonard Kirk handles art duties on Fall very effectively, selling the brutality of the various scuffles without excessive blood ‘n’ guts on screen. Andrew Currie takes over for Rise, and maybe can’t scale up to some of the crazier sights of Limbo, possibly adding to why the ending feels slightly less impactful than the beginning, but the general pacing keeps the story alive, and the satisfaction of Wells tying things together nudges it back up into a top tier arc.