The first time I saw Bill Sienkiewicz’s art was several years ago in a collected trade paperback for Elektra Assassin. It was a very detailed and surreal art style that more than matched Frank Miller’s equally strange story.
At first I didn’t know what to make of the art; it was classical in some scenes, then very experimental and bombastic the next. Bottom line was that the art kept my attention and interest.
By the end of the book, I was a full fledged Sienkiewicz fan and proceeded to re-read the collection, catching all the different nuances and details that I missed in the art.
I had come across Sienkiewicz’s art afterwards in a couple of New Mutants comics and promised myself that I would eventually get his whole run on the series. Well, it took a while for me to get around to that, but I’m glad I waited since IDW Limited just released Sienkiewicz’s entire run in a glorious oversized edition complete with a tray case and a piece of original art composed by the artist himself.
First thing I noticed was that this book is pretty tall, at about 13 inches, and heavy!
The collection is kept in a hardbound tray case with one side depicting Magik and the other showing Cannonball, with magnets insuring the contents are kept in a sealed condition. The book has a slipcover featuring all the New Mutants in Sienkiewicz’s run. Just looking at this piece makes me wish Sienkiewicz would take another crack at the title given how much his art has evolved since his early 1980s run.
Speaking of which, IDW Limited got Sienkiewicz to draw up a limited number of unique original art depicting characters from the series. The unique pieces were placed in a number of the collections, and of course were quickly snatched up, although I was lucky enough to get one with two of my favorite characters.
It took me a long, long time to get to the actual book because I spent so much time looking at the original piece featuring Mirage and Warlock. The vast amount of detail that Sienkiewicz put into this pencil and ink piece is just amazing. I think I would’ve been content with his signature (which is included in all editions with a unique, small rendering of Warlock) in the collection, but an original done by the master himself…let’s just say it wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it…must put piece down…put down!
The original piece came with a separate case to make sure that it’s protected by the elements and also fits perfectly in the tray case.
For the uninitiated, the New Mutants were a group of mutant teenagers under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men. Chris Claremont was the writer of both titles and teamed up with Sienkiewicz in 1984 on New Mutants #18 starting a run that would last 14 issues.
Sienkiewicz’s art style brought a dark, weird and twisted tone to the comic series.
It helped that the main characters were in the same vein as Sienkiewicz’s sensibilities like Magik, a sorceress of demonic nature using Eldritch armor, and Warlock, a bizarre looking “techno-organic” creature that can be funny one moment, and creepy the next.
There were also the down-to-earth characters that balanced the strange members of the ensemble like Mirage, the Cheyenne leader of the group who nearly gets killed in Sienkiewicz’s dramatic opening arc “The Demon Bear Saga.”
Claremont’s stories, like the aforementioned Demon Bear Saga and Legion, would be the highlights of Sienkiewicz’s run allowing the artist to really let loose and run with complex images that play up to the odd, otherworldly and mysterious plots. For instance in Legion the team must enter the mind of Xavier’s son where they find different versions of the tormented young mutant.
It’s great to experience the stories and art in such a big way with this oversized edition where you can truly see Sienkiewicz’s art in full glory with the stellar color reproduction.
The collection also includes a story from X-Men Unlimited #3 reuniting Claremont and Sienkiewicz in a 2003 New Mutants tale, new color inserts, all the covers reproduced, an introduction by Claremont and a lengthy, insightful interview with Sienkiewicz.
The Master Artist Series: Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants is a wonderful collection showcasing an artist who pushed the boundaries of comic book art and “hurt the page.”
“And I’m not saying this with any kind of aggressive sense or destruction or inflicting pain on anything. I’m talking about metaphorically, like, push it, like hurt the page, hurt the pen point. There’s something beautiful that’s gonna come from this sort of extremity of playing with expectations of yourself as well.” – From IDW’s Master Artist Series: Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants