The New Mutants: Demon Bear
Writers: Chris Claremont, John Francis Moore, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Pencilers: Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Cheung & Mike Choi
Inkers: Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Morales & Mike Choi
Colorists: Glynis Wein, Marie Javins & Sonia Oback
Letterers: Tom Orzechowski, Chris Eliopoulos & VC’s Cory Petit
Assistant Editors: Peter Sanderson, Lysa Kraiger & Jody Leheup
Editors: Ann Nocenti, Jason Liebig & John Barber
Rating: 6/10 Picnic Baskets
Summer fast approaches and time out in nature calls to me more each passing day. But what about the book I’m supposed to be reading this week? I felt little worry, as I knew a walk through the woods and the support of the comic community’s votes on Instagram would help me find my way. I donned my yellow and black (maybe blue) jumpsuit and set off. Suddenly, out of nowhere, The New Mutants: Demon Bear appeared. I couldn’t go under it, I couldn’t go around it. I knew I could skim over it, but I knew I wanted to read through it. Here’s what I took away from my encounter with the Demon Bear.
The “Bear” Necessities
The book’s comprised of three different stories; New Mutants (1983) #18-20, X-Force (1991) #99 and X-Force (2008) #7-10. The New Mutants story follows little league X-Men as one of them is being hunted by a demonic bear from her dreams. The dream bear also killed her parents and if these X-Ceptional youths don’t work fast, they will all be in some trouble. X-Force #99 follows some of the characters from New Mutants sometime in the future. Older now and heavily influenced by the 90’s era of comics. Dani, the girl who the bear was after the first time, reappears to her in a park where she is doing tai chi. He is bigger and badder than ever and the rematch begins. The final story in this book follows a different character, Warpath who encounters his own bear looking to take some bodies over some nice lovely picnic baskets.
Meet The Cub Scouts
I began reading this book looking forward to the New Mutants story the most. While I never read the comics when I was younger, I remember seeing them on TV. The New Mutants were introduced as minor characters in season 2 of X-Men Evolution. I didn’t know who they were when they appeared, but I liked their powers. As a result of curiosity, I began my dive into Wikipedia to learn more about them. For this story we have:
Illyana (Magik): Teleportation Powers and magic.
Rahne (Wolfsbane): Teen Wolf.
Amara (Magma): Lava powers.
Roberto (Sunspot): Solar absorption that gives him super strength aka my favorite.
Sam (Cannonball): Can propel himself at high velocities and is invulnerable when doing so.
Dani (Psyche): Can create illusions of peoples fears.
Grim and “Bear” IT
Recurring nightmares continue to haunt Dani. She lost her parents to this bear after telling them about a dream she had where she saw it kill them. Though she escaped the same fate, the awful ursine has found her again. Since none of her peers listen to her troubles she decides to do the next best thing and set out alone into the woods to fight it. I loved the difference in the appearance of the bear to when we see it. The bear’s first appearance is shown wearing a mask in her nightmare. Once removed, kinda looks like an angry old bear. Dani even spends time fighting simulation bears to prepare for her encounter. It’s the first sight of the actual bear that set the tone. Taller, crazier and more menacing than your average bear. Dani faces her fear and wins, but also loses?
After the remaining New Mutants arrive just a little late they rush her to the hospital where doctors operate to save her life. Sam, becoming the voice of reason, suggests setting a trap for the bear in the hospital. After suiting up the kids begin to face off against the bear and begin getting the upper hand before it decides it wants the home field advantage. The setting changes to an America before it was colonized thousands of years ago. This makes the bear stronger. On top of this, he also transforms two civilians into Native American demon warriors.
“Bear”ly Hanging On
I really enjoyed how this climactic battle’s set up. While they are in this new dimension, there is still a way back to the hospital in the form of a floating sphere. We see through it the doctors operating on Dani, none the wiser to what’s going on. The bear’s whole objective is getting to Dani to kill her. The New Mutants have to get between him and the sphere while keeping their heads on their shoulders. There is a great panel moment where the bear swipes at the sphere and tears part of it open. As a result, the following panel shows the claws tear and one of the surgeons catches a brief glimpse of what is happening before dismissing it as his mind playing tricks.
Despite this group being a team they still have a lot of kinks to work out. Mistrust of some and the classic young teen “I’m invincible” mindset (looking at you Roberto). Sam has good intuition but crushes on girls distract him. Illyana keeps her cool and head in the game more than the others in combat. Might be from all the stress from being trapped in a daemonic limbo. Either way, she also is the least liked and trusted among the group. It doesn’t stop her from being a total warrior and cleaving the bear in half. Dani wakes up making a full recovery thanks to the doctors and one mutant who shows up to one-up them.
Return of the “Fur”monger
So the second story takes place sometime later for the New Mutants. They are older and have moved on to new endeavors. Dani and Sam are now part of X-Force (Cable’s or Deadpool’s X-Men depending on comics and movies) and the others are off elsewhere. Roberto joined the BDSM colonial dressed villain group, Hellfire Club for some reason. No idea where Rahne and Illyana are. It takes the combined efforts of X-Force and others to fight this “fur”some enemy in this story. The defeat of the bear comes at the hands of Dani and a girl named Arcadia who through some series of events in X-Force shares Dani’s powers as well as the bear’s murderous attention.
Once again the Demon Bear has such an “ur”some look. The sheer size and void like blackness displayed along with ferocious red eyes is absolutely intimidating. Not as hilarious and whacky as the first appearance but still something to behold. While I enjoyed the more current art, I found myself with more questions as to what was going on in this story. Each story gives a little set up beforehand but during this issue, it would jump to moments out of place from the Demon Bear that felt like they were completely unnecessary. Some girl goes to a pawn shop and tries on a necklace. As a result, my attention was more focused away from the main plot. What was all this background plot?
Contrary to the first two bears in this story, not all Demon Bears are dimensional nightmare hell beasts. The final X-Force story features Warpath, a mutant whose power is never really explained here. The whole time he is in the book he kinda just fights with some knives and has some connection to the spiritual plane due to his ancestry. He’s on his way to talk to his brother after some questionable stuff went down with his team. What that is who knows. On his way, he gets attacked by a new Demon Bear. This one is more bear-like, as it actually has fur, and isn’t a terrifying black mass of chaos. It’s angrier than your average bear too. The fight isn’t going in Warpath’s favor and a Ghost Rider swoops in to save him for round two.
After a little chat with a flaming skull head biker and some body paint, Warpath teams up with Ghost Rider to take down this “bear”ror. The reveal is that something trapped the spirit guides from Warpath’s tribe in the form of an angry bear. The end of this story is just dramatic staging. Some character has done Warpath and his people wrong, as result setting up for some payback. This would mean more to me if I had a background on who this character they are mad at was and if it didn’t end the whole book on a cliffhanger.
“Bear”ing My Thoughts
Overall I would say the bulk of the enjoyment comes from the New Mutants story. It’s the largest chunk of the book and feels like a complete arc. There is a better amount of time to get to know the characters and see their personalities. The second story wasn’t bad as it operates as a sequel. It was basically a one-shot with an appearance from the Demon Bear that set up whatever arc was going at the time. I found myself just too distracted trying to track the relevance of the cuts to other characters and locations that didn’t tie back to the bear.
This brings us to the final story. While having the edgiest art, it felt like an easter egg to the Demon Bear story and used its four issues to set up a completely different story with no conclusion. If you are looking forward to the upcoming New Mutants movie in 2020 then I would check out this read. Do I think it’s a complete work worth the additional X-Force stories? “Bear”ely.