Up until now, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's "New Mutants" run has been fairly straightforward. With each new storyline, the main thrust has been instantly clear, usually related to a dangling plot thread from a past "X-Men" or "New Mutants" storyline. That's not the case with "New Mutants" #44, the first part of the Leandro Fernandez-drawn "Fear the Future." And that's a good thing.
Abnett and Lanning have set up "Fear the Future" as a ticking time bomb of a mystery. Something bad is going to happen in the next 72 hours, only no one's entirely sure what that bad thing is. It's bad enough to alert guest stars Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer and Iron Fist, but beyond that, Abnett and Lanning have kept it wonderfully vague, leaving the reader the chance to try and muddle through the story with the rest of the cast.
So far, that strategy is paying off. Even as the trail takes the team back to where former members Cannonball and Karma are staying in Westchester, Abnett and Lanning lay down clues that aren't easily understandable, instead cloaking the entire issue in mystery. It's fun to try and figure out what's happening, and how it connects the team to their former members; Abnett and Lanning also manage to touch on how these two members have been all but forgotten in "New Mutants" since the split, a nice touch. It runs at a smooth pace and it's intriguing enough to make you want to read the next chapter.
Fernandez returns to the artist rotation of "New Mutants" with his usual strengths; easy-to-follow panel layouts, nice character designs and an overall attractive nature of his pages. I found myself especially taken by some of the individual moments drawn by Fernandez this month; the "We came for you" panel with Doctor Strange and Dani, for instance, is nicely composed and is a good portrait of Strange. Silver Surfer eating pizza is a nice moment of non-verbal comedy. And every time Mrs. Livitz shows up, it's just an adorable moment.
"New Mutants" continues to be a dependable comic, and now free of its crossover with "Journey into Mystery" (and also not getting yanked into "Avengers vs. X-Men," for those who need a break of those tie-ins), it's a nice moment to check the book out for yourself if you're interested. It might not be overly flashy or attention-grabbing, but "New Mutants" is fun to read, and that's just what the doctor ordered.