By Steve Morris
The first issue of New Mutants spent its time showing us how the characters were still, essentially, children. They may have spent a lot of time over the last few decades being forced to grow in, but at heart they’re still very young, and they’re still set within their own generation. They’ve died, resurrected, and changed in so many ways – but the New Mutants, we were firmly reminded, are New. With the older generation running Krakoa, it seemed pretty clear that the team had nothing to do but hang out until it was their time to take charge of the island.
Instead, they flew away with the Starjammers into outer space, the equivalent of sneaking out your bedroom to go to a party at your friend’s house. That leads to them getting into trouble and, of course, spending the night in jail. Space jail. For several weeks. You get the idea though – the rebellious kids rushing off into a situation they think is all grown up and cool. This issue is one Molly Ringwald cameo away from being a John Hughes story.
What’s so interesting is how that childhood silliness gets brought into sharp relief just as soon as Sam Guthrie makes his heroic return to the series. Now living as part of the Shi’Ar Empire, Sam is married with a daughter, and is immediately one of the most grown-up characters in the story. His wife, Smasher, is similarly mature in that way – spending most of the issue complaining about lost nights’ sleep and problems with getting a babysitter. When you take the escapist fantasies of the New Mutants and throw them up against the relative normalcy of Sam’s new life, the clash in styles is immediate: and it chafes for Sunspot.
The series up to this point has quietly put Roberto into the role of leading man: he narrates the opening pages of the story with a wry and knowing tone which winks at the reader whilst earnestly positioning ‘Berto as the centre of everything. He’s cool, he’s calm, he’s funny and he knows everything that’s going on… and then in walks Sam Guthrie to steal all the attention away and stride effortlessly back into that leading role as “main man” of the team. Berto bristles, seeing his narrative get away from him: the idea was meant to be that Sam would need rescuing from his boring adult life and race back into the life he used to have! But instead Sam has actually, happily, moved on, and is living the next phase of his life.
You can see from Hickman’s script – and more notably from Reis’ use of posture and expression – all that weighing down on Sunspot as he watches the story flip completely. He goes from heroic rescuer to childish rescue…ee in a mere moment. On top of that, Smasher punches him in the nose and leaves him on the floor, needing to be picked up and brushed off by Cannonball. It’s one form of parenting, for sure, but it seems to snap Berto out of things a bit. The team leave space jail in the foster care of Cannonball, the cool dad who bails everyone out after a rough party. As they fly out presumably to Cannonball’s house (just saying it sounds so grown up! Cannonball has a house!) most of the team play cards whilst Berto and Sam sit and chat.
Wolfsbane has a nap, because of course she does: she’s Wolfsbane.
Their chat is a curious one because Sam doesn’t relive old glories with his friend, or ask about how the New Mutants are doing – he instead asks about the power structure of Krakoa. Doug is a part of that power structure, Cannonball reasons: Doug has a seat at the table, and is part of the “silent council” we previously saw during HoXPoX. Where, then, does that leave Sunspot?
It’s a very strange thing to bring up, because it’s basically asking why Sunspot isn’t powerful or notable enough to be considered part of the “establishment”. There’s also an inherent suggestion in the comment…. that if Cannonball were still on Earth, he’d have been part of that table. Given how Sam previously saw Sunspot join the Avengers with him and go on to buy AIM and run it himself, you can see the idea that perhaps now Sam is wondering if his friend is sliding away from the progress he’s made. Sam thinks his life is a progression and he’s now achieved something more, whilst Roberto was with him every step of the way – until he then stepped backwards and into life with the New Mutants, being told what to do again by Professor Xavier.
This idea of babysitting keeps recurring through the issue. There’s a cutaway moment (I know I’m going chronologically through the issue in this essay, but indulge me this once) where we see Gladiator and Xandra – the child of Xavier and Lilandra, who first appeared in the Mr & Mrs X series – talk about who should be on the throne. They agree that Xandra is too young for the role, but Gladiator decides that all she needs is a proper mentor to help her through: enter Deathbird, the latest of a series of extremely poor decisions Gladiator has been making recently. Xandra mirrors Sunspot in the way she stands on the precipice of something greater and further: is she ready for it, and does she actually want it? In Xandra’s case, the answer is: no. In Sunspot’s case, the answer is… to be seen.
But we’ve got a few terrible issues to work through first, before Hickman and Reis return. Onwards, to Brisson we ride!
New Mutants #2: Space Jail
Writers: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Designer: Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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