As I continue to teach online, the paradigm of the student weighs most pressingly on my mind.
You see, most kids don’t realize that the word ‘student’ is not just a descriptor, but a title. It’s a title that historically used to hold great weight in society. When individuals identified themselves as students, then they were afforded a great deal of respect. Not today. We use ‘student’ to simply describe young people who are forced to enlist in public education without a thought to the responsibilities that title entails.
Well, to be frank, that’s been the case for the last sixty years, I suppose.
Still, the importance of the student is what I’m looking for this week in my comics, and this is what I’ve found. Let’s get to the list.
Deadly Class #45
(Rick Remender, Wes Craig)
After what feels like a long absence, Rick Remender brings back the most anti-social grouping of students to the forefront of comics. As an owner of the hardcover collections of this book and a long-time reader, it’s a title that I’ve followed not just from a comic-reading perspective, but related to as a teacher. I mean, if you’ve ever been curious about the extremes that a teacher can go to within the confines of a formalized classroom environment, albeit, even one set in such a fantastic world as this, I don’t think you could ever get a more story-believable format.
I think it’s the dialogue. It seems to just effortlessly lure the reader into a given topic, lulling the sense of anticipation until the action happens! Before you know it, our protagonist, Marcus, finds himself in a situation where he has to use his wits and what he’s learned to survive.
In this issue, we see Marcus’s over-developed sense of musical snobbery carefully cultivated to seduce a target of romantic attentions. It looks like musical elitism, as he describes the 90’s music scene to this new person who has wandered into his life and who clearly wants to know the real ‘him’ under this veneer. But it’s all an act – a shield that he has learned to create from his time in school now being applied to continue his life after class.
Sort of post-grad studies, I suppose.
The cancelling of the television show was a major mistake, in my humble opinion. But at least the entire creative gang is back together and I can now look forward to completing my collection of hardcovers of this wonderfully warped story.
If I was Marcus’s teacher, I’d probably be pretty proud that he’s survived this long.
Great book … glad to see it back.
The New Mutants #17
(Vita Ayala, Rod Reis)
I have issues with the Shadow King as no longer an “overt” villain. I loved his original incarnation as a corruptor of children. Taking street urchins and turning them into his own private shadow army, existing only as a disembodied psychic force the rival of Charles Xavier. He was literally Xavier’s opposite in every way including the antithesis of what a teacher of students should be.
However, in Jonathan Hickman’s re-imagining of the mutant diaspora, all mutants are essentially united in a spirit of mutual defence of their species. Humanity is the only enemy, not their own kind.
At least in theory.
But some mutants were meant to be villains. Maybe I’m just too “black & white”? If so, then there’s some character growth for me to work on in the future.
While this definitely can’t all be laid at the feet of Hickman – I mean, I know there has been previous “undermining” in the past – and I know the Shadow King isn’t as pure as I’m making him out to be, but the fact that he still gets acceptance in this new world … well, let’s just say I’m still having issues accepting this new infrastructure.
However, I do like that the New Mutants have moved from being students themselves to teachers of the younger generation of Mutants; the New, NEW Mutants, if you like. As there are now so many of them, Hickman’s world of mutantdom needs more teachers.
As Rahne tries to navigate her way with the Shadow King’s attempted manipulations and Dani and Shan deal with Lady Roma in the Otherworld in rescuing one of their younger students, we are given a story that, despite my moaning and whinging, does speak to the original spirit of the New Mutants book that I loved reading in my youth.
I miss these students. They were peers, of a sort. They had camaraderie and loyalty to each other and it was like a study group of talented students with unique abilities. When I was a kid, I was one of these kids so I felt like I had a kinship to this comic.
Vita Ayala returned me to a bit of that place for a little while.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #11
(Greg Pak, Raffaele Ienco)
What happens when the student outstrips the teacher?
I’ve had to deal with that a few times. As I get older and my former kids start to make their own career pathways happen, I see former students obtain more advanced degrees, travel to exciting places and accomplish great things of their own. For me, that’s a great reward because that’s really all a teacher wants to see happen to their students.
Well, except the Emperor.
In Part VI of Exegol, Vader returns to face his master after being taught some harsh lessons. Of course, in this issue he has a few lessons to show Palpatine.
What I love about Pak’s telling of this segment of the Emperor and Vader’s relationship is the insight. We can see why Vader – despite his own great power and that the Emperor has foreseen his apprentice destroying him – would willingly submit to Palpatine. The Sith have strange ways, and Pak explains them for us.
In order to rise, Vader must first submit.
Raffaele Ienco’s artwork continues to knock it out of the park. I’ve become a fan of this artist’s work in these last few issues and what is really striking about it is the way Vader’s emotionality manages to be conveyed so poignantly despite the masking of his cybernetic helmet. It’s gifted work.
I really respect Pak’s reverence for the learning process in this story. While Palpatine thinks that he is teaching Vader one lesson, he is actually learning another. It was one that he didn’t learn as Anakin Skywalker, and that’s patience.
It takes a lot of character to learn that critical lesson, fundamental to one’s growth. In this case, Pak has hit on a thread that not only provides greater context for Vader’s hesitation in Episode VI (Return of the Jedi) in saving his son, but augments Anakin’s growth in the Episodes II, III and even in The Clone Wars. It’s actually staggering when you consider how much Pak has connected in this issue for the franchise. But, when you also consider the ramifications in this issue for Episodes VIII and IX, then that sense of overwhelming becomes easier to handle and in my case, is replaced by a wave of gratification. Vader becomes a sort of a Rosetta Stone in this story and for me, is not only the perfect student despite his villainous ways, he’s the successful student that all teachers want to see.
Yeah, the greatest literary villain of the 20th century, and arguably, the 21st century. But, Greg Pak makes him the most worthy student.
Star Wars: Darth Vader # 11 is my pick of the week for this comic run. I hope it’s yours as well and that it was some way educational!
Until next week.