Heroes Never Rust #42 by Sean Ironman
There’s only so long a person can hide from their failures. Even though the X-Men put an end to Quentin Quire’s rebellion, failures (both personal and professional) are the focus of each story in New X-Men #138. The issue begins with the X-Men flawlessly taking down the last of Quentin’s gang, Glob Herman, a mutant made of wax who set himself on fire in the last issue and ran toward town. Cyclops shoots Glob with his optic blast and Xorn covers Glob in wet cement, capturing him. The scene has no dialogue or sound effects, which shows the precision and talent the X-Men have in battle. They work together as a team without talking to one another. They just know. But, eventually, soldiers must return home.
With all their talent in the field, the X-Men are failing at home. The cover of New X-Men features a weary Professor X removing the Cerebro helmet. During a banquet speech, Professor X announces that at the end of the summer he’ll be stepping down as headmaster of the school. “My goal is integration with humankind, through peaceful coexistence and mutual self-development. My methods are non-violent and require time and patience. In light of recent events, I’m willing to consider that my approach may be in error.” How long can a person go without seeing their work pay off? It’s a big step for the professor. At least, he’s willing to accept his failures. While I think I’d be more on Magneto’s side of humans and mutants will never get along, I can respect Professor X in this issue. He wants things to be better. He wants his students to have a full life, one not spent in fear of who they are.
The other characters here are not so noble. We get a short scene between Beak and Angel, two members of Xorn’s Special Class at Xavier’s Institute. Angel is pregnant. I guess their failure is that of a failure to use birth control. Not quite the same as Xavier’s failure, but still a very serious one. They’re afraid they’ll be thrown out of the institute once the teachers find out. I went to a Catholic high school, so, for me, that would be a real fear. But, what I like here is that the reader is given no clue as to whether Angel and Beak’s fear could happen. I don’t think the X-Men would throw out students in need—I doubt they would. But, from a student’s view, it’s quite terrifying. This also shows another failure of Xavier’s. He seems so caught up in the mutant/human debate that normal life never seems to get discussed. Maybe his beliefs are just fine, but now mutants need to start living. Maybe if he didn’t preach at the students, they wouldn’t be afraid to come to him when they need help.
The biggest, or most shocking, failure revolves around Emma Frost and Cyclops, who’s married to Jean Grey (Phoenix). One of Emma’s students was killed stopping Quentin Quire, a member of a five-telepath group called the Stepford Cuckoos. The remaining four tell Emma off. Emma tells them that she loves her students and the remaining four respond, “If you love them so much, then why do you let them die all the time, you silly old woman?” It wasn’t Emma’s fault one of their own died. In fact, the Stepford Cuckoos took it upon themselves to stop Quentin. But, they’re children. They’re lashing out. They even rat out Emma and Cyclops to Jean.
This is a gray area that to me isn’t that gray, although others disagree. Cyclops is married to Jean. Cyclops has been sharing sexual thoughts with Emma, who is a telepath. Technically, they have done nothing physically, but they have done a lot in each other’s minds. Jean mentally walks in on the two right before they have sex. Some people don’t think what Cyclops did is that bad because they never actually touched. But, I still consider it cheating. The worst part about being cheated on isn’t that your partner has sex with someone else. Quite honestly, I care very little about that part. It’s the broken trust, the other person hiding. Cyclops still did that part. yclops cheated.
Some may find this a shocking turn for someone they consider to be a boy scout: for him to cheat on his wife. But it’s very fitting with his character. When Jean Grey returned from the dead, Cyclops left his pregnant wife to return to Jean. He’s a good field leader, but not very good with women. I don’t think he wanted to hurt Jean. Jean is his childhood love. They met as teenagers and have been in love for years. Emma challenges Cyclops. I actually think she’s a better fit for him than Jean. Him and Jean love each other, but I think they pretend to be other people. They pretend to be better than they are. In a way, Emma brings Cyclops down to Earth, gets him to accept who he really is. He can still be the hero. He can still save the day and lead the X-Men, but he gets the okay to fail, to not have to pretend to be the boy scout. He gets to take some of the weight off his shoulders. This is a man who can’t open his eyes without being worried he’ll kill whoever he’s looking at. Emma gets him to relax.
There’s a lot of people failing in this issue, some accepting their failures, others not so much. But I don’t think the failures here are meant to be bad. Professor X will change his ways. At least, we hope so. He’ll become better. Beak and Angel will become parents. Cyclops will have to face what he’s done to Jean. Things are changing, and for change to come, some things must fail so that other things can be built up. But you’ll have to read those stories on your own. This is the end of “Riot at Xavier’s,” and even though Quentin lost his rebellion, he changed the school from here on out.
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.