New Mutants: The Demon Bear Saga


By Chris Claremont & Bill Sienkiewicz (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-87135-673-4

New Mutants was the first regular X-Men spin-off series (unless the you count the brief but brilliant saga of The Beast in Amazing Adventures #11-17 (all six-and-a-half tales are reprinted in Essential Classic X-Men volume 3) and the return to grass roots of powerful alienated kids in training offered many opportunities for slightly different tales that resonated with teen-aged readers.

The team – or perhaps class – gradually expanded as scripter Claremont explored his twin pet themes of alienation and female empowerment and by the time of this collection (reprinting issues #18-21, August-November 1984) his original kid cast – Scottish lupine metamorph Rahne (Wolfsbane) Sinclair, Brazilian solar powerhouse Roberto (Sunspot)DaCosta, human Cannonball Sam Guthrie and projecting psionic Dani (Psyche) Moonstar - had been joined by two new pupils whilst the older Vietnamese Xi’an Coy Manh AKA Karma had been sidelined in the ensuing months.

New additions included Amara Aquilla, a living volcano codenamed Magma who hailed from a lost colony of the Roman Empire and Ilyana (Magik) Rasputin, little sister of Russian X-Man Colossus and recently returned after ten years trapped in a sorcerous, timeless nether-dimension…

With #18, iconoclastic artist Bill Sienkiewicz began a stellar and controversial run pushing the illustrative narrative envelope with his expressionistic, multi-disciplinary range of styles: a perfect place to begin a new kind of adventure for the mutant Next Generation…

‘Death-Hunt’ begins with a fearsome flash forward of horrors to come before Psyche reveals her own precognitive talents have been warning her of the approach of a legendary animal spirit inimical to her tribe. However, whilst training in the Danger Room she gains her first inkling that the threat might be more than myth…

Meanwhile in deep space, a young alien mutant technological organism is fleeing from a catastrophic threat… his own murderous paranoid father.

With Professor X absent and a blizzard hitting, Dani roams the snowy grounds of the school when an impossible ursine monster attacks…

The action switches to the local hospital for ‘Siege’ as Moonstar’s broken body is rushed into emergency surgery. Her personal bogeyman is terrifyingly real and not of this Earth; a magical foe of her people determined to invade this plane and convert Earth into a realm of dark spirits.

In space the alien fugitive flees unheedingly towards Earth, disastrously encountering the swashbuckling Starjammers, before plunging onward. In the hospital, doctors struggle to save Dani, and Magik gleans some useful information with her mystic powers. The Bear needs to destroy Psyche because she holds the secret of defeating it and preventing the poisoning of our world with its malign influence.

With her classmates desperately guarding her dying body during the operation, the Bear’s next attack transports the entire medical centre to its mystical dimension, the metaphysical ‘Badlands’

On its home turf it is unstoppable, warping a cop and nurse into Native American archetypes to attack the kids whilst slowly tainting the soul of the planet with its evil. Fighting back with all they have, the valiant kids stumble onto a last-ditch plan of attack to defeat the Bear and when returned to Earth they discover a shocking secret about the permanently transformed nurse and policeman…

The book ends with the extra-long ‘Slumber Party’ as the girls of Xavier’s School indulge in a relatively normal part of growing up. With the boys – including new recruit Doug Ramsey – banished for the night, a group of girls from Salem Centre stay over for the time-honoured festivities, but when dying techno-organic parasite Warlock crashes the party – fleeing from his homicidally destructive sire The Magus – the frolics dissolve into planet-threatening horror…

With the introduction of the weirdly warped Warlock and down-to-Earth Doug, the New Mutants cast was relatively complete and an era of superb storytelling and sublime experimentation began…

Fast-paced, evocative, thought-provoking, funny and scary, this book epitomises the very best of Marvel’s second renaissance and these compelling tales are amongst the most impressive and enjoyable of the vast Mutant canon.
© 1984, 1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. All rights reserved.