Heroes Never Rust #38 by Sean Ironman
The Next Generation
I love the X-Men. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve read new comics, when I come back, I read X-Men comics. I follow them even when I’m not reading comics. One of the reasons I like them is that they aren’t just fighting to fight or fighting to save the world (even though that does happen as a byproduct many times). They fight to live. They fight for equality. In 2001, Marvel Comics brought on Grant Morrison, one of the industry’s leading creators, to write New X-Men. At once, Morrison brought the X-Men into the 21st century, by not only bringing in new concepts, but by taking the characters back to basics. It’s one of my favorite runs on an X-Men title. While some stories are better than others, I find all to be great and worth reading. I’ll be taking a look at the strongest X-Men story Morrison wrote over the next few weeks, “Riot at Xavier’s.”
Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning is the focus of the story arc, and for much of Morrison’s run. While it may be difficult for fans of the X-Men movies to grasp this, but the X-Men’s school was not really used for many years before Morrison focused on it. It may have still been referred to as a school, but other than the danger room, it had long stopped feeling like any learning was going on there. In New X-Men, the school acted like a private boarding school, just focused on mutants. The students, especially a young telepath named Quentin Quire, are the focus of “Riot at Xavier’s.”
If the purpose of a school is to get students to think critically, then what happens when students come to different conclusions that their professors? That’s the basic idea behind the story arc. It opens with Jumbo Carnation, the best mutant designer in the world, being murdered by five men. The students hear about it and tension begins to build.
Quentin has a run-in with another student, Slick, who wrote a song about Jumbo. Quentin doesn’t understand how writing a song about the man’s death will help in anyway. And quite honestly, I don’t either. I’m with Quentin on this. He’s very easy to relate to, and that makes the story more powerful. He wants action, He’s tired of the world he lives in. He’s tired of just accepting things the way they are. He gets called into Professor X’s office, and, by then, he’s fed up. “Well, I livein the brave new world and it’s not as shiny and perfect as you’d like to think. You’re always selling this future that never arrives, you preach Utopia but you never deliver on this “dream” we keep hearing about.” It can be easy to think like Quentin. How many times have we heard someone say racism doesn’t exist in the United States today? Of course, it still exists. Everyday people experience racism in this country. We hear that things are getting better. And they are, in a way. But things still aren’t great. It can be easy to get fed up with the world. And Quentin does. He’s tired of waiting for this world he was promised. He’s going to take it.
In the end, at least as of the first issue, he doesn’t attack anyone. He doesn’t strike out against the world. He gets a haircut. It might not sound that bad, and in the end it isn’t. But it’s a start. He gets his hair cut to match an article that was in the Daily Bugle many years before, when the mutant “problem” was just beginning. The article is titled “Mutant Menace! Are they for real?” It features a picture of mutants with whips in a destroyed city. A threatening image of the future. Quentin starts his rebellion by taking back the offensive imagery and making it his own. It’s an empowering act for the young man. The first issue is just the build-up to the riot. Other than Jumbo Carnation’s death in the opening two pages, there’s no violence, no big villain fights. Just a boy who’s tired of being told the world is a better place.
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.