In “Permanent Sleepover,” the backstory of Marvel’s newest mutant is shown through a series of short strips with a familiar tone and artstyle.
This article contains spoilers for Marvel’s Voices: Pride, available now from Marvel comics.
Marvel’s Voices: Pride (2022) continues the trend started last year of debuting a new character into the Marvel universe whose story will be picked up later in an ongoing series. This year, that character is Shela Sexton / Escape, introduced alongside her best friend Morgan Reed and their pet flying turtle Hibbert. Their story, “Permanent Sleepover” (by Charlie Jane Anders, Ro Stein, Ted Brant, and Tamra Bonvillain), is one of lifelong friendship and it features several flashbacks to their pasts depicted in a recognizable comic strip artstyle.
The story focuses on Shela going on a heist, with Morgan communicating with her via an earpiece. All the while, unknown to Morgan, Shela is dealing with her own anxieties following an encounter with Destiny, a precognitive mutant who can see the future, and the X-Men’s Emma Frost. In Destiny’s vision, Shela accidentally kills Morgan through an unintended use of her powers. Shela doesn’t want to hurt Morgan – physically or emotionally – but also does not want to work with the X-Men to learn how to control her powers, as Frost and Destiny suggest.
Throughout all of this, there several short flashbacks drawn in the recognizable art style of Charles Shultz’s Peanuts that explore Shela’s history as both a mutant and a trans woman. These flashbacks show Shela and Morgan developing their life philosophy (and their somewhat confused understanding of what being a “super villain” traditionally entails) as well as how they came out as both trans people and mutants, with Shela having to leave her home and move in with Morgan’s family as a result of her parents’ transphobia.
These Peanuts-style interludes provide a good break from the action of the story by showing brief moments of Shela and Morgan’s past. By placing them in the Peanuts artstyle, the characters feel especially nostalgic and warm, helping cement them as naive friends prior to their meeting with Destiny and Frost. Additionally, as Peanuts is known for its heartwarming specials and celebration of holidays, it fits the tone of Marvel’s Pride issue perfectly.
These flashbacks also help further the connection between queerness and being a mutant, while also making it very distinct. Since their inception, one of the key storylines regarding mutants has been the way their community interacts with humanity, frequently facing discrimination and bigotry along the way.
Shela’s story contains two different coming-out moments, with her revealing herself as a mutant and also as transgender. While the former is met with positivity from her family, the latter is met with vitriol. These two different moments emphasize that although the mutant experience and the real-world queer experience share some elements, they should not be viewed as a one-to-one allegory.
Shela’s debut story is an interesting twist on familiar mutant storylines, presented in an unique and exciting way. Through these flashbacks, they expand upon these new characters and explore what made them into the people they are in the present day. The story of Shela and Morgan is expected to continue later this year in Marvel’s New Mutants #31.