Talk about your drastic artistic changes! Like Cannonball himself, The New Mutants (as a series) takes a violent, sharp turn (more like a jagged veer) in direction. Don't get me wrong, I think it is quite good and helps give the New Mutants a distinctive artistic identity (not that McLeod's or Buscema's initial work were inferior), it's just a stark, sudden shift. Sienkiewicz's artistry gives the New Mutants what they needed: a revitalization into maturity. Considering all the serious ground Claremont is trying to cover with this series, it's about time the artwork supported that somewhat dark territory: Dani is trying to wreak vengeance on the Demon Bear that killed her parents, Rachel Summers is trying to adjust from transferring into this reality (something those of us who grew up without reading Excalibur never really saw), Illyana is still adapting to her role and new life after Limbo, Sunspot is still on his dad's hit list (and his girlfriend was murdered), Rahne is still coping with being a wolf, Cannonball is learning how to use his powers (and is infatuated with Magma and his dad was killed at the beginning - a decision the editors may not have made, had they realized how big the Guthrie family would become in the X-Universe), Magma was a Roman princess cast into lava as a sacrifice ... they've got a lot of problems for a bunch of teenage mutants. With all the mythic/demonic penumbra of the series (not to say demons are myths, of course), Claremont must have been relieved to get a hard-edged visual component to his stories.
The issue itself is good, though the beginning is a bit hard to follow, since Rachel Summers looks a lot like Rahne Sinclair, and if one is reading this issue without having read Days of Future Past, one could be rather confused. The New Mutants demanded a fairly strong attention span, as Claremont basically assumes the reader is keeping up with all of his comics (not as difficult to do back then as it is now, admittedly). The rewards, though, for such a focus are high. The tensions in the team with Illyana are still palpable, made more bizarre by the absence of Professor Xavier and the recent run-in with the Hellions (and the vision of what may be/could have been with the New Mutants and Hellions as one). The initial appearance of Warlock is likewise inscrutable, but by now we should be confident Chris Claremont will deliver on his thaumaturgey. The panel of the Demon Bear's first appearance over Dani is impressively frightening; so is the final panel of the other New Mutants' discovery of Dani's body. This is going to be an interesting new ride.