THE NEW MUTANTS was one of the few comics I read regularly back in the early to mid-1980s (along with X-MEN and ALPHA FLIGHT), so with a film adaptation on the horizon I thought I’d revisit one of the comic’s best-known story arcs. I’m sure I read it in issues back in the day, but I was surprised how little of it I remembered. For example, I remembered all the members of the New Mutants except Magma, whom I had completely forgotten existed! I was also surprised to see just how small a role Dani Moonstar plays in the overall story, despite the Demon Bear being her personal nemesis. After the first issue, Dani spends the rest of the time in the hospital while her teammates battle the Demon Bear on her behalf. These aren’t necessarily bad things, by the way, just things I didn’t remember. The story is actually quite exciting!
It’s also a reminder of what an efficient writer Chris Claremont is. Not only does he pack an epic, mystical battle into just three issues, he also takes the time within those issues to set up significant future plot lines. We briefly see Rachel Summers, the daughter of an alternate-future Cyclops and Phoenix, looking for Professor X at the mansion before her story takes off in the pages of X-MEN. We also get a few interludes setting up Warlock’s imminent arrival on Earth, including a small cameo by the Starjammers and Binary, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, the Captain Marvel we know from the MCU. As for Bill Sienkiewicz’s art, I remember thinking at the time that it was “weird,” but now I think it’s pretty great. I also appreciate that he draws our young heroes as realistic teenagers rather than giant-boobed pin-ups like other artists.
This volume also features two re-appearances of the Demon Bear in later issues of X-FORCE, but neither adds much to the story, in my opinion, although it’s nice to catch up with an adult Dani Moonstar in the first of them. Overall, I found THE NEW MUTANTS: DEMON BEAR to be a highly enjoyable blast from the past (with no bigger blast, perhaps, than seeing Storm’s 1980s mohawk again!). I don’t think I was fully conscious of it at the time, but THE NEW MUTANTS spoke to me in a way no other comics did because the characters were all around my age at the time and shared many of my insecurities, which helped me see that those insecurities were universal. I’m older now — much older — but the New Mutants still have a special place in my heart, and I enjoyed spending some time with them again.