ComicsVerse is celebrating the 12 Days of X-Mas by taking a look at some of our favorite X-Men holiday-themed issues! Today, we’re talking about how the X-Kids celebrated (or failed to celebrate) Christmas in NEW MUTANTS #38.

As a kid, there is no greater time of the year than Christmas. Stacked presents, plates full of cookies, and houses adorned with thousands of lights make up the winter wonderland that lives within the minds of children during the holiday season. Or, at least, most children. In our last X-Mas installment, we looked at the difficulties surrounding superhero life in two X-FACTOR holiday issues. Depressing as these issues were, they weren’t about kids. A twenty-something Cyclops wallowing in misery on Christmas Eve isn’t easy to read, but there’s something intrinsically worse about kids losing holiday cheer.

The characters that made up the original New Mutants team weren’t really kids — they were teens. Teens who, like most other teenagers in the world, enjoy the parties, gifts, and general joy that goes along with the Christmas season. Ordinarily, the New Mutants would love Christmas, but in NEW MUTANTS #38, something changes. A deadly encounter robs them of their capacity for happiness.

NEW MUTANTS #38
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Losing the Spirit

In NEW MUTANTS #38, Wolfsbane, Magik and the other New Mutants are reeling after their deadly encounter with Beyonder. Like the characters in X-FACTOR, their epic battle left sizable wounds. Beyonder killed them and then resurrected them, but the resurrection wasn’t perfect. The young mutants became lifeless zombies. Their at-the-time teacher, Magneto, is helpless against their vegetative state. He sends them to a high-school Christmas dance where they mope around, apathetic and lethargic. The issue ends without resolve as Magneto sends the kids off to stay with Emma Frost who promises that she can “fix” them.

NEW MUTANTS #38
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Haunted Holidays

This issue, from cover to cover, is weirdly creepy, especially for a holiday issue. The cover shows the New Mutants crawling out of their own graves — an image that appears inside the issue as one of Magneto’s nightmares. Artist Rick Leonardi’s signature sparse style adds another layer of eeriness, as does Magneto’s depressing inner dialogue. Where X-FACTOR had moments of merriment, NEW MUTANTS refuses to be brought out of its own abyss.  

NEW MUTANTS #38
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Chris Claremont (who also wrote two of the other X-Mas holiday issues) isn’t one to write gooey holiday issues about how wonderful life as a superhero is. Still, NEW MUTANTS #38 is almost too much. Nothing positive happens in this issue. It seems like Claremont wrote it solely just to show how detrimental the New Mutants’ encounter with the Beyonder really was. In the comic world, where writers rarely take into consideration real consequences, I can respect that.

Still, this is a holiday issue that takes place during Christmas. The question then becomes why? Why would Claremont want to have his characters sitting in a pool of depression during the holidays?

NEW MUTANTS #38
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

No Place For Kids (or Teens)

Claremont loved the New Mutants. He loved the idea of a new generation of mutants coming up and taking over for the old. With the NEW MUTANTS series, he was hoping to show how capable these characters were of becoming the new X-Men leaders and yet, at the same time, he ironically also showed just how incapable these characters were. The Beyonder killed them almost instantly in SECRET WARS II. They’re powerful but they aren’t grown adults, nor are any of them Omega-level mutants. They’re just kids wearing uniforms, forcibly pushing themselves closer and closer to death. Magneto’s dream in NEW MUTANTS #38 makes it clear: the superhero world isn’t for children.  

NEW MUTANTS #38
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The place for kids is Christmas. The fact that the New Mutants stoically deny any involvement in the holiday season highlights the juxtaposition between them and “normal” teens. Because of their dangerous jobs as superheroes, they can’t enjoy the thing all kids should enjoy. The last few panels, which see Emma Frost leading the New Mutants out of the school, is scarily symbolic of their descent.

The world of the X-Men is a dangerous place and, unlike Kitty, the New Mutants couldn’t pass the test. It wasn’t because they weren’t good enough. Rather, it was because they’re kids, who’re supposed to be socializing with other kids at Christmas parties instead of trying to save the world. 

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