New X-Men (1st series) #135

Issue Date: 
February 2003
Story Title: 
Teaching Children about Fractals

Grant Morrison (writer), Frank Quitely (pencils), Tim Townsend (inks), Chris Chuckry (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Saida (letters), Nova Ren Suma & Mike Raicht (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

After being assigned to a "special class" of students at the Institute, Xorn takes the group into the woods outside the campus ground for a journey into nature. Back in the Institute, Xavier finds himself at odds with the young prodigy, Quentin Quire, who has taken to wearing a politically and socially provocative outfit and who has become belligerent in his demeanor. Also on Xavier's mind is the recent discovery of an inhaler, containing the mutant drug, Hypercortisone D, also called "Kick." Having developed a following due to his actions, Quentin attires his new gang in clothes matching his, and dispenses the "Kick" drug. Journeying out into the night, they find and assault the street gang that killed Jumbo Carnation, killing several of them. The next day, Xavier conducts a telepathic meeting with his senior staff, where they discuss how to handle Quentin and the mutant drug. Out in the forest, Xorn continues his lessons on nature, while Angel and Beak sneak away for private time. All are unaware that they are being watched. In the city, Quentin has convinced the rest of this group to get tattoos: an omega symbol with an X below it. Explaining to them that they are the next generation - the improved version, he announces that they are the new X-Men.

Full Summary: 

Standing before five students of the Xavier Institute (and a brain, enclosed in a gravity-defying bubble), all disinterested in being where they are, the instructor of the class welcomes them to the special class.

Introducing himself, the instructor tells the class that his name is Xorn. As if in illustration to Xorn's words, his name is spelled in large letters in the blackboard behind him. Finishing his introduction, Xorn tells the class that while he is to be their teacher, he also wishes to learn from each of them.

Speaking up, a teenager with pink, shapeless features and a small, single, mechanical-looking eye, Basilisk, informs Xorn that he can "learn him to count." He forgot No-Girl in the roll call. "Just 'cuz she's totally conceptual," Basilisk points out, "don't mean it's right to ignore her." Surveying the room once more, Xorn calls out the roll... Angel, Basilisk, Beak, Martha, Ernst, Dummy. Noting that there is still no No-Girl, Xorn apologizes and suggests that perhaps she has gone ahead and waits for them outside. Grabbing his backpack, Xorn calls the students on. Let them learn from one another as they share the beauty and mystery of this great world together! As the students chuckle at the note taped to Xorn's back, which reads "jackass," Basilisk can barely manage to utter a mischievous "you bet, Mister Xorn!"

In the wooded hills, away from the Institute, the special class hikes through the trees. Huffing through the strain of the trek, the diminutive and aged-looking Ernst points out to Xorn that this is awful hard work. Concurring, Angel asks why everyone else gets to sit in class and watch mind movies? Speaking up, Beak suggests to Angel that maybe "special" equals "garbage." All of the freaks and losers, he adds, are now halfway up the mountain so no human has to throw up when the school's "Open Day" happens! Still moving, undeterred by the students' grumbling, Xorn replies that he is sure that he explained that they will be back long before Open Day. The hardest part of their climb, he tells them, is almost done now.

Trailing closely behind Xorn, Ernst asks if it is true that he was locked away for years and years? Martha, she informs him, said that he was locked in jail for something. Emerging onto the plateau at the top of the hill, Xorn replies that he was... once. Men chained him down in a great iron dungeon for many years - until the X-Men found him. Now, he says, it is his joy to walk these hills with their radiant stones and fertile living systems. Inside his head, where she and the others have a brain, he has a little star. He was bound in darkness but he never lost the freedom to dream. Replying that she knew, Ernst asks Xorn simply how did he pee? As Xorn considers this question, Basilisk, at the back of the line, manages a barely audible chuckle.

Addressing one of his students, Xavier agrees that, certainly, stereotypical portrayals of mutants have come a long way since he founded the Xavier Institute. But, Xavier adds to the student, in light of their efforts to heal the split between humans and mutants and, especially in the context of the upcoming Open Day for both races, let them says that his mode of dress seems somewhat deliberately... provocative. That's all.

Quentin, the focus of Xavier's carefully worded assessment, explains that his clothes, the red and black striped sweater over a buttoned shirt, matched with blue pants, are part of a creative history project. He thinks, Quentin continues, that it is time young mutants reclaimed some of the offensive imagery produced by bigots and propagandists in the mass media. Standing up, Quentin adds that he wanted to use Open Day to make a strong, confrontational statement about how far they've all come from those dark days of persecution. That's all.

His countenance belying no true response, Xavier admits to Quentin that his look certainly has the desired effect. Where possible, however, he declares that they prefer to examine non-confrontational pathways. Interjecting with a snide comment, Emma Frost informs the Professor that their young Mister Quire thinks ten million brilliant thoughts per second. The rest of them can't seem to keep him distracted with their shallow and grubby paddlings through the minds of the rich and undignified.

Replying that Miss Frost is correct, Xavier tells Quentin that he has changed considerably in recent weeks. Replying innocently, Quentin asks if that isn't the point of their education? Butterflies and caterpillars and all that stuff from their very first lecture. All he's done, Quentin explains, is see things from a higher perspective. All he's done is grow up a little. Countering that they are all very proud of him, Xavier tells Quentin that, in three days time, the Institute is opening its doors to humans and mutants alike and he would prefer to avoid confrontations. But, he says, changing the subject, this is actually not why he stopped by.

Holding up an inhaler, with a red, circled X on it, Emma replies that this is the reason. Instructing the class to own up, Emma tells them the Professor wants to know if any of them naughty Bohemian boys and girls have been "on the puff," as they say in the local discos. After a moment of stark silence, Quentin, more stone-faced than before, tells Xavier and Emma that this is ridiculous. He actually has a more important question. If his clothes are provocative, doesn't it follow that it's more provocative to invite humans into a school filled with vulnerable mutants? Didn't humans provide the weapons which just killed sixteen million of their people in Genosha? Didn't they just murder one of their greatest artists, Jumbo Carnation? They live under constant threat, he concludes.

Borrowing the inhaler from Emma, Xavier holds it up and informs Quentin that this is an immediate threat to all of them. He is not there to tell him or anyone else what to do, Xavier tells Quentin. However, they all have reason to believe that this stimulant known as "kick" is a neuro-toxin. Using these inhalers may irreparably damage the mutant X-Gene. Arm yourselves with information, Xavier concludes. Think before you act.

Not finished himself, Quentin tells the Professor that there's one more thing. He doesn't know if he realizes it or not, but his clothes are based on designs by the late, afore-mentioned Jumbo Carnation. Tired of the exchange, another student tells Quentin to shut up. He was having the best day of his life in Hugh Hefner's head until he started up! Not turning to address his critic, Quentin informs him that, as maybe he has not heard, Jumbo was murdered in the street the other night. Addressing the whole class now, Quentin informs them that Jumbo dreamed of seeing mutant models on the Paris fashion catwalks. He dreamed of having his talent accepted. Just like he dreams of a world where he doesn't have to live side-by-side with Jumbo's human murderer.

Still unmoved, Xavier points out that just because some birds are irrefutably black... it does not follow that all birds are blackbirds. He, Xavier tells Quentin, is falling into a logical error. Replying that he was just testing, Quentin claims that he was only playing devil's advocate. Pointing out to Xavier that he has always encouraged them to dream, Quentin wonders aloud what would happen if one of them had a dream that he didn't like?

Later, lounging in a dorm room, a group of students converse with Quentin. Referring to Quentin's bravado with Xavier, Glob Herman asks the two other guys about the "basketballs" on this midget. Holding an outfit exactly the same as Quentin's, Radian asks what's up? Glob's been telling him what he did in the Professor's telepathy class. Dismissing the incident as nothing, Quentin replies that Xavier's just a bald guy. "Some birds are blackbirds," he repeats, mockingly.

Holding out another red and black striped outfit, another student, Redneck, asks Quentin if he's trying to humiliate him with this getup. Bluntly telling his classmate to shut up, Quentin informs him that they are a gang. They all wear the same clothes. They want others to copy them. Ask Tattoo, he then adds, she's cool. Cool? Tattoo asks striding in the room with presence. Super zeitgeist, she says, she is that Blackbird! Already adorned in the same "uniform" as Quentin, the striped sweater, blue pants and bullwhip, Tattoo lacks only the dress shirt beneath the sweater. Telling Quentin that he's gone to the next level, she exclaims that he scores!

Pointing to his prized newspaper article clipping, Quentin points to the picture their uniform reproduces. The uniforms are based on what humans thought mutants might wear, when they were most scared of them, he informs the group. That's where Jumbo got the idea and that's where he got his ideas. Squinting his eyes in cold rage, Quentin tells the others that they are going ahead with this. They are going to make people scared again. In dramatic punctuation to his speech, Quentin takes a deep breath from a "Kick" inhaler he has been handling for the last few minutes.

Reeling from the drug's effect, Quentin informs the others that it lasts for five hours. One puff enhances your mutant talent up to five times. Excited by the idea, Tattoo asks for the inhaler and Quentin tosses it without a thought. Examining the look of satisfaction and power on Quentin's face, Radian asks what it is like. He's never done anything like this before. Gritting his teeth in a wild grin and clenching his fists in a show of strength, Quentin replies that it rots your X-Gene and kills you dead. As Radian voices his wish to try it, Quentin repeats the question. What's it like? It's like breathing the electric air of the future!

It is night in the section of New York City called Mutant Town. Five youths, the same who killed Jumbo Carnation days earlier, walk through the light rain. Continuing in their conversation, one youth informs his friend that "Juggernaut" is a mutant band... he hates mutants. Yeah, the second agrees, but they have some cool bands. Interjecting, a third agrees, pointing out that mutants have some great bands. They've got "Sentinel Bait" and "Cerebrastorm"... A fourth, the leader of the group, interrupts, telling them that he hates mutants, okay? Before the conversation can go further, the group stops dead in their tracks, having noticed something in the alley they were passing.

Standing in the alley are four teens and a large creature, whose transparent, globular body shows it's skeleton and internal organs. All are wearing red and black striped sweaters and blue pants. The apparent leader of the group, a young man with his head shaved, except for a pink-dyed mop on top, purses his lips in a sneer. Breaking the silence with a "now then," the leader, Quentin Quire, asks what's that they hear?

After a few snide comments from the gang, Quentin dismisses it all as low opinionating and disrespect from apes who can barely think in their own language. You know when you had that big idea in your head to walk past this alley? Quentin asks. He put it there. Goading the thugs on, Quentin tells them when they're all buried they'll bulldoze their houses and call it Mutantville.

Suddenly, the street gang runs forward, its leader screaming a battle cry, calling Quentin's gang dead. Calmly, Quentin raises a leg, kicking the gang leader in the stomach. Simultaneously, Tattoo and Radian tackle two others, pulling them down. Breaking out his bullwhip, Quentin whips the gang leader, who recoils in pain. Nearby, Glob Herman suffocates another thug with his massive hands, while Redneck applies his heated hands on another. Asking the youth if he can feel that, Redneck informs him that it's a full-on, six bar, electric heater! Tattoo, having moved behind the fifth and final gang member, phases her hand through the youth's back, which emerges through his chest. As the youth's eye widen in silent pain, Tattoo tells him to shhh! It's a heart attack, baby, she informs him. Shhh...

Dealing with the final standing thug, Quentin unleashes a very radiant telepathic assault, informing his victim it is for Jumbo. Examining the remains of Quentin's unconscious prey, Redneck asks Quentin what did he do to this guy? What did they just do? Opening a can of spray paint, Quentin replies that he carved his name right across his memory. Snuggling up against Quentin's shoulder, Tattoo tries to get his attention. As he spray paints a large Omega symbol on the alley wall, followed by a large X beneath it, Tattoo asks Quentin if he would like to go somewhere warm. "Like Hell?" he asks. They've only started, he tells Tattoo. They avenged one mutant with sixteen million to go. Exiting the alley, Quentin points out that that's more than just a five-hour trip.

Standing before a podium, Xavier addresses the Institute's student body. The surviving youths, he tells them, say a gang of young mutants were responsible for this appalling attack. The survivors reported "odd" clothing. Striped shirts. Informing the students that he knows how some of them feel about this "Jumbo Carnation" case, the Professor tells them that the Xavier Institute does not tolerate vigilante assault. The aura of unrest in the school is becoming unacceptable. Certain fashion items will no longer be welcome there.

Speaking up, Quentin, wearing a "Magneto Was Right" T-shirt, points out to the Professor that he taught them to think outside the box. They all receive two hours of martial arts instruction every day. Surely they can be trusted to express themselves without hurting anyone?

In the Headmaster's Office of the Xavier Institute, a meeting has been called. The office, lacking walls, ceiling or floor, sits amid a sea of white calculations, notes and doodles, written against an infinite blue background. Within this office, the only thing of substance, with the exception of the assembled faculty, is the desk upon which's front Xavier is sitting. In attendance are Emma Frost, Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops (all sitting in non-existent chairs) and the Beast, who has chosen to stand.

Addressing his staff, Xavier informs them that Quentin Quire discovered he was adopted and the news appears to have shaken his sense of identity somewhat. From prize student to agitator, he comments. And his telepathic talents are deep, subtle and he's able to influence minds around him. These clothes and these angry slogans are just the outward signs - he's developing a small cult following with a dangerous anti-human undercurrent. If any of our students are found to be involved in these latest killings... Xavier trails.

Speaking up, Cyclops remarks that he can't believe that they're seriously talking about rewriting the new mutant charter to give kids a vote. Interjecting next, Emma comments that she'd give them a slap! Discipline is disintegrating, Charles, she declares. Leaning forward on his absent chair, Wolverine notes that the kids are just testing their limits. If they want his advice, Wolverine tells them, contain the damage, wait until they grow out of it and don't act like a jerk. Maybe, Cyclops states, adding that he's more concerned they could be watching the birth of a super-criminal right before their eyes. Children need rules. They need role models and limits before they can rebel. They'll have no respect for them if they just let them do whatever they want. Or, he concludes, they could just let Wolverine counsel them.

Jumping back in, Wolverine retorts that he's only talking about life. Trust him, he tells the group. People don't change much from one generation to the next. He doesn't need telepathy or a psychology degree. He watches people. He stalks them. They've got habits, same as every other beast that ever lived. The kid's feeling raw and vulnerable - he doesn't know who he is anymore, so he's recreating himself, complete with some half-baked manifesto.

Across the room, Jean agrees, adding that she will be back from Hong Kong as soon as she can. Compassion is all very well, Emma proposes, but shouldn't they just attribute young Mister Quire's "re-creation" to the most obvious source? Holding up an inhaler, Emma informs the group that it is Hypercortisone D. Also called "Kick" by the kids, God bless the little dears, it makes them feel like movie starts being directed by God on location in Heaven. Reporting his own experience with the drug, the Beast informs the group that it's been linked to six deaths in the mutant community. Verifying McCoy's statement, Emma remarks that they found this dispenser outside the common room window. She's tried it, of course, Emma admits, in the interest of science. After placing it on the desk and considering it for a moment, Emma tells them that she felt angelic and violently insane for five hours. She foresees trouble if this becomes widespread.

At their camp in the woods, Ernst, trailed by the floating Martha, returns with a pile of branches. Her task completed, Ernst asks Mister Xorn if they can't go home to the mansion now. Placing some of her branches onto a mound of others, Xorn points out that they have only just gathered their dead wood. Telling her to step back, Xorn ignites the mound with a blast of energy from his helmet. The fire now burning, Xorn warms his hands by the blaze. They are the heat and the light in the forest, he tells the class. Without them, this is only a place. With them, it becomes an adventure.

Calling out to Mister Xorn again, Ernst tells him that No-Girl says she needs to go into the bushes, so somebody else better keep Dummy moving before she blends in to the environment. Apropos of nothing, Basilisk tells Xorn that he looks like a total serial killer. Innocently toasting his marshmallow, he asks Xorn what crime did he commit to get slung into jail? Nearby, Angel taps Beak on the shoulder and motions with her head and thumb to follow her into the woods.

Crime? There was no crime, Xorn states. Staring into the star-filled sky, he tells them that he became strange and different. Like them, his difference made him a target of ignorance and fear. Different, Basilisk mutters. Chuckling to himself, Basilisk adds that Xorn probably means "gay."
Some distance away in the hills above them, Xorn and the students are being watched through night vision goggles. Viewing the group as brightly as if it were day, their watcher rhetorically asks what they have there?

In a parlor shop called "Mutatoo" in Mutant Town, the shop keep puts the final touches on his work. It is the omega symbol over a wide "X." Now finished, the shop keep asks them to let him guess... they're some sissy, Emo band. Walking away from his stool, he then postulates they're suburban Neo-Nazis or frat boys on dope. Examining his freshly inked tattoo on his left forearm, Redneck exclaims that he told them this is what they'd look like! What did he say? They're gonna look like a bunch of frat boys!

Dismissing Redneck's fears, Quentin replies that he will tell him who they are. Everyone's heard of the X-Men, right? Well, they're the next generation, like on TV. Pulling out his Kick inhaler, Quentin adds that they are the improved version and then takes a deep breath of the inhaler's contents. They, he tells the group, are the new X-Men.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV, Professor X, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Angel, Basilisk, Beak, Dummy, Ernst, Glob Herman, Martha Johansson, No-Girl?, Quentin Quire, Radian, Redneck, Slick, Spike, Stepford Cuckoos, Tattoo (all Xavier Institute students

Unnamed Xavier Institute students

Unnamed youth gang
Mutatoo shop keeper

Story Notes: 

While the story title of this issue is something different, the cover of the issue notes this story to be Riot at Xavier's, part One.

This is the first mention of No-Girl, though it is unclear whether she actually exists or is just part of an elaborate prank the class is playing on Xorn

The entire island of Genosha, along with its population, was destroyed by Cassandra Nova's Mega-Sentinel in New X-Men #115-116.

Hugh Hefner is the founder and publisher of the adult magazine, Playboy. As he lives in the "Playboy mansion," which is also inhabited by models of his magazine, many heterosexual men find his life awe-inspiring.

Emo bands are musical troupes that play "emo" music, a style with minimalist drums and guitars, quiet singing building up to a large racket. The term "emo" is short for "emotional," which describes the manner of singing, which others call "whiney."

Quentin's quip about the next generation on TV undoubtedly refers to Star Trek the Next Generation, which supplanted the original, 1960s program.

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