Best Shots review: New Mutants #14 gives "a new, yet familiar, purpose for this team"

New Mutants #14
(Image credit: Rod Reis (Marvel Comics))

A new chapter begins for New Mutants as incoming writer Vita Ayala takes a look inside the habitats on Krakoa. With the Quiet Council concerned with ensuring the success of the new mutant nation, it falls to the younger mutants to handle their own schooling. New Mutants #14 sees Marvel's second generation of mutants take on more responsibilities as Ayala and artist Rod Reis develop and grow the series' cast.

New Mutants #14 credits

Written by Vita Ayala
Art by Rod Reis
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

New Mutants #14 opens with a letter penned by Moonstar, Wolfsbane, Warpath, Karma, and Magik to the Quiet Council, petitioning a solution to the growing boredom amongst the younger mutants on Krakoa. The letter is followed up by a response from Professor X, who signs off on the young squad's ideas "with gratitude and admiration." From here, it becomes clear that the new course Ayala and Reis have planned for the New Mutants is a somewhat familiar one – that of a school for gifted youngsters. This is an idea that has always been at the core of the X-Men franchise, but with the current X-Men titles occupying a grander narrative space, this aspect had looked like it could have been lost and forgotten. By putting this responsibility on the 'New Mutants' squad, Ayala and Reis succeed not only in maintaining an essential part of the franchise but also graduate some of Professor Xavier's younger students into the role of instructor.

(Image credit: Rod Reis (Marvel Comics))

Rod Reis' artwork here is sublime, with a vibrant pattern that highlights the paradisal nature of Krakoa. An early morning meeting between the instructors takes on a honeyed glow. This early sequence helps introduce the cast in a realistic way. Ayala's dialogue nicely balances the scene – if you're new, you get a good sense of who Karma, Moonstar, and Magik are – and if you're already familiar with these characters, it's still a humorous scene. As part of their new regimen, the new teachers pit the younger students against one another in a team battle to practice using their powers. Reis' creates some really dynamic action shots, and letterer Travis Lanham does a great job of progressing the dialogue through the scenes in a way that enhances the sense of movement. In particular, a splash page depicts a single moment in the battle, but Lanham, Reis, and Ayala keep the reader's eye moving along the page in a way that turns a single moment into a true sequence.

The issue kicks into another level when Vita Ayala reveals the instructors' next lesson: mutant synergy. This section feels like a video game, in a good way (we even get a nice 'vs.' panel between the two teams of instructors). Ayala and Reis show off the way that mutants can combine their powers for new effects, and the results are spectacular enough that spoiling them here would be a disservice. It's also in this sequence that we see instruction and guidance beyond combat prowess and control of mutant powers, as Gabrielle Kinney questions what would happen if they accidentally hurt or even killed one another in training. 

For the older instructors, this is a simple answer: use the Resurrection protocols and bring that person back to life. But that doesn't fully comfort the young mutant, who points out that some of the mutants haven't been brought back, such as Madelyne Pryor. It's a nice way for Ayala to touch on some of the newer status quo changes and continuity in a way that feels natural and helps highlight the vulnerability many of these students still feel, even in this supposed utopia.

While New Mutants #14 doesn't offer a complete restart of the series, it still presents a new, yet familiar, purpose for this team of mutants. Vita Ayala and Rod Reis craft an issue that shows off mutant powers in some dynamic ways that will hopefully get even more creative as the story progresses.  For those fans that are looking for a traditional X-Men experience to anchor the journey Jonathan Hickman has put the franchise on, Ayala and Reis offer an exciting refuge.

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Robert Reed
Freelance Writer

Robert is a Los Angeles-based comics journalist and writer (formerly Omaha, Nebraska). He currently writes for Newsarama and Adventures in Poor Taste.