Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

Rachel & Miles Review the X-Men, Episode 34

Week of April 22, 2015:

In which Black Vortex and Amazing X-Men wrap up, Juan Doe is the best at what he does, we are certainly not raising cyborg bees, and there is a lot to say about All-New X-Men #40.


  • Black Vortex: Omega #1 (0:44)
  • Wolverines #15 (2:55)
  • Amazing X-Men #19 (5:02)
  • *All-New X-Men #40 (6:55)
  • All-New X-Men #40 extended discussion (spoilers!) (9:53)

*Pick of the Week (15:52)

You can read Rachel’s Playboy.com op-ed about All-New X-Men #40 here (and now also at rachelandmiles.com!).

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men is 100% ad-free and listener supported. These video reviews–and everything else here–are made possible by the support of our Patreon subscribers. If you want to help support the podcast–and unlock more cool stuff–you can do that right here!


  1. Great job on the reviews this week, especially on the “big” one. I’ve read Rachel’s article and a lot of the online discussion surrounding this comic all week, but I liked the summary in the video review the best. Namely that it’s one story, and hopefully one of many more to come.

    I recall way back in Episode 7 with Greg Rucka that Cyclops was the guy from 616 who was pals with Magneto, while the kid in space with his space pirate dad was Scott. But now that Scott is back from space, we can still distinguish them. 616 guy is Cyclops, time displaced teen is Tyke-lops!! Thank you so much for this Illyana!

    Lastly, there are lines in every single video review or podcast episode that always make laugh. You both have a great sense of humor! This week, describing the finale of the Black Vortex as “Our long national tragedy is finally over” was hilarious!

    I’m just concerned about the next national tragedy:


  2. Maybe this is a dumb question but is Rachel visually impaired? I just discovered the site and I just had to ask. Keep up the good work 🙂

    1. If you’re trying to get me to admit that I’m Daredevil, you’re going to have to fish harder than that.

      1. I REALLY want you to be wearing Matt Murdock’s famous ‘I’m not Daredevil’ shirt in your next review.

  3. First, I’d just like to thank you guys for being! You always make my week!

    There is no group of paragraphs that can encapsulate the joy I’ve been feeling this week and how grateful I am for X-Men. This is a character that I’ve identified with beginning at the age of 8! For his powers first (ice powers own!) and Bobby’s wanting to belong, second. My exposure to him was through Spidey & His Amazing Friends, he was so quippy and who wouldn’t want to soar the air on iceslides!? Also, I was the class clown from elementary school up until my teen years, using humor to deflect the maelstrom of confusion I had within me. Confusion about why I didn’t care for competing for the girls’ affection, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with one of my best friends. A friend who happened to also be a boy.

    Anyway, once I hit high school I became more withdrawn and eventually a loner. This was a major turning point for me: It was here that I dove into X-Men. I felt comforted by this diverse crew of misfits, and while Bobby was almost never around as much as I’d like, at least I always had the X-Men comics and the animated series. After only a year into Uncanny and ‘Adjective-Less X-Men’, I came out to my little brother and friends in a group as Bi first. I think 3 days passed before I just took a chance and pridefully identified as gay. I couldn’t believe the result, it was really polarized, one extreme or the other. My little brother had my back though, as did my older brother. My aunts? A total disaster. My parents took a long time to come around but they have, thankfully so. I was content with that.

    Eventually, I started writing Bobby slash-fic, as the romances these writers would concoct were so tedious and…off for Bobby. Either he lacked common sense in some of these relationships or maybe something else was up. After running into a few awesome slash stories by Jane St. Clair (my favorites being Bobby/Hank) it became perfectly clear that the only thing I didn’t relate to with Iceman was: He liked a-the-ladies, but often pined for those who became disinterested or by chance a writer got tired of developing.

    Between Zelda, Lorna, Opal, Cloud (a whole ‘nother issue) and Kitty, there was always this…defeatist attitude Bobby had when these relationships came to an end. Turning inward. It was something I definitely empathized with because it was always easier for me to shut down and grow angry than to face things such as they were.

    I’m going on too long but I just wanted to say that with this story, and with the endless possibilities of the time-displaced Original Five; I feel genuinely grateful that I did withdraw those years and opened my first issue.

    Much love to you guys, I’m sorry I went on so long and if this seemed a little incoherent. I’m working on getting a second job so I can donate because this is one of my Happy Places, I just wanted you to know that.

    Best wishes,


  4. Great video as usual, but what I really wanted to say to Rachel was that was an amazing job in the playboy piece. it’s a great article about this actual event but the context and commentary you provide is outstanding.

    By far the best piece I’ve read about iceman all week, it hits a lot of notes that other writers on all sides of the issue have missed. Beyond that, there’s parts of this – about being a teenager, parenting or relating to a teenager, about there not being such as thing as a ‘typical’ coming-out story – that I plan to share with colleagues at school next week. (I’m a high school teacher and love to come back with other sources when my co-workers start in on those ‘I heard on NPR’ or ‘I read in the New York Times’ moments.)

    Keep up the great work, y’all.

    1. Thank you, so much–that means a lot to read. (And we’ll have that up on the site today, so, linkable in a SFW form.)

  5. Thanks for the reviews and commentary. All-New X-Men #40 made me so happy. I had not seen the leaked pages, so the story/revelation was genuinely a surprise. One of the reasons I love the X-Men is the minority metaphor, and so for one of the main five to come out and add more real-world diversity in the series is a big deal. I always wish more queer characters in stories, and I cherish the stories that include them. (Seriously, I used to even wish the Power Rangers were queer as a kid.) Plus, I’ve read and written slash fan fiction with Bobby, so for that reason, this made me even more cheerful.

    Rachel, your article was great. Whenever it comes to portrayals of characters, I try to keep in mind that even if I can’t relate to a story, someone else might be able to, and I wish more people kept that in mind as well. And I definitely agree about the importance of more queer characters and how we feel desperate for representation. There are so many experiences. One of the (many) great parts of reading more female characters in comics during this past year has been not feeling (as) desperate for each female character to be exactly like me, and even being able to appreciate those with different experiences and values, since there’s not just one female character. I really hope that this trend continues with increased diversity and representation for marginalized demographics. Getting into comics at a time when this is all happening has been so wonderful.

  6. Man, that panel is amazing. It’s not just really good art, within the story it’s also so very cathartic. Cain Marko is finally himself and he really wants to let you know.

  7. For me, it was always a little weird that a superhero team that was conceptualized as a metaphor for civil rights of minorities were a team of 4 straight white guys and 1 straight white girl. All of them American. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the civil rights movement is done, we still have a long way to go; however the fight of today seems to be on the LGBT front. Somehow it just seems so RIGHT that the original team would be updated a bit to reflect this new fight.

    I’m a straight white male. Bobby’s story doesn’t really reflect mine. That’s okay, there are so many stories that don’t reflect my life. Really, the persecution of mutants doesn’t reflect my life (unless you talk to some seriously delusional people). That’s okay. I still like Bobby as a character. I still think one of the best ‘downtime’ issues is Bobby’s date with Kitty. Him being gay doesn’t change that he is the X-men’s immature, sometimes annoying, little brother.

    I’m a little frustrated that so many X-men fans feel so hurt a betrayed about this character change. A big theme of X-men is working with people who are different than you to accomplish great things. But now that one of the characters is different in this way, it’s bad?

    I guess to some people, X-men was just about cool characters with awesome powers punching other people. No deeper message here.

    1. See, that last part is what baffles me–if X-Men is really just about cool characters with awesome powers, then this development shouldn’t make any difference, right?

      1. Maybe they got upset that something they thought didn’t have any message or agenda other than punching actually has a message. Or it at least shouldn’t have a message that they disagree with. Inclusion is great… until it comes to sexual orientation. Because nothing is more terrible than two consenting adults deciding they are attracted to anything other than the opposite gender. It’s madness! MADNESS! And you certainly couldn’t take racist rhetoric from around the civil rights era and see that anti-LGBT groups are saying things that are pretty parallel with ‘gay’ instead of ‘black’. I wonder who history is going to look back upon and be ashamed of?

        X-men is the perfect platform to talk about these issues. It was created by Stan Lee as a statement about bigotry. Extending the anti-bigotry message to include sexuality is within the spirit of the original series. You can’t run around saying ‘I didn’t want this in MY X-men comics!’ Because this is always what X-men has been about.

        Well, that and going to space. Because space is cool.

  8. Hey R&M

    It’s a fascinating and insightful article, I expected no less.

    While I don’t know if I was the letter writer you specifically called out to “Don’t do that” the continuity damage, and identity issues you mentioned echoed some of my sentiments. Honestly, I’m duly and rightly chastised.

    It’s funny because the reason that it bugs me and the possessiveness I feel towards Current-Bobby’s continuity is because I identified so closely with him when I was a teen. You always ask guests who their definitive X-man and x-team are, and my answers are Bobby Drake and X-Factor.

    Bobby wasn’t comfortable around women, even as he (seemingly at least) desired them. Unlike Angel who was a classic playboy trope, and Scott and Jean who had been paired up for decades by the time I got into comics, Bobby was still earnestly, but clumsily trying to get good girls. He wasn’t skeezy, he didn’t want a harem, he just wanted a relationship. At 16, I identified with that. As much as you shouldn’t guide your life by comics, x-men in particular, Bobby was a guidepost. He treated women well, he was awkward but still endearing. As someone who aimed to match the awkward to the endearing in his dealings with women, I looked to him as a solid touchstone. So the idea that the reason he wasn’t successful with those women, and the reason his relationships didn’t work is because he’s actually gay chafes a bit. Even if it does help the bigger metaphor.

    I love the idea of the spectrum, and would love to see Marvel do that right. I also want kids reading comics today to have the same identification options I did when I was reading them. I just didn’t want to give up my touchstone in the process.

    That said, it’s probably more important that new kids, kids on that liminal edge have their touchstones than that I, almost 20 years later can keep mine. So I’ll retract my complaint, and merely keep watching in hopes they treat both past-Bobby and current-Bobby respectfully, regardless of his/their orientation.

    1. FWIW, that wasn’t in response to any individual person–it’s an argument I’d seen popping up a lot.

      I get where you’re coming from as far as how hard it can be to see points of identification change–that’s something I’ve found myself chafing against with both Cyclops and Shadowcat over the years. The important thing to remember, I think, is that a) these are characters who’ve been written with incredible variation by a lot of people, over a very long time and many different media; so the parts we identify with are still just parts of a much more varied whole; and b) the introduction of new factors doesn’t mean that those important touchstones go away.

      That the way Bobby interacted with women was the result of what are turning out to be maybe more internally complex motives than were played in the original comics doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good date, or isn’t worth emulating in the ways you brought up. Bobby is a really good guy in a lot of ways, and most of those seem like they’d be minimally mediated by whom he wants to sleep with. You can change the pronouns in what you wrote about why you liked Bobby, and still have it ring pretty true; and approaching and treating people with humor, humility, and mutual respect is a pretty good set of values for *any* relationships, romantic or otherwise.

  9. Great review and loved the article. (I actually emailed it to my ex-wife, who kicked me out of the closet (I was taking up space that could be used for shoes) with a note saying “The way you didn’t was nowhere on the best practices list, but it’s exactly what I needed. And I’ll always be grateful for that.” She and I are still very close friends)

    The X-Men have been identification figures for me since I was in high school and clinging deeply to the closet walls and remain to be. There’s a reason I wear the X to Pride events.

    Hopefully, with this, they’ll continue to be identification figures for a whole new generation of LGBT kids. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere as comfortable as I am with who I am if not for growing up with the idea of Mutant and Proud.

    And wow, I am rambling like hell today, aren’t I?

  10. I actually wound up asking a question for this potentially to be used in the show, and this wound up literally being posted a few minutes after I hit submit – go figure.

    I have to say, I don’t actually have a problem with the concept, and I think it’s kinda cool (pun intended). As so many others above have said, the X-Men are all about diversity and having awesome powers. Making someone a better representation of normal people beyond straight white males by simply revealing (or retconning, i seems to be up to the person’s interpretation) an aspect of a person is not a bad thing.
    I’d been spoiled on this reveal thanks to the hubub online, and that did make my reading of All-New X-Men #40 a little colored by online disgust/outrage. But when I read the issue, I really only felt the execution was a little hamfisted, as Bendis tends to be from time to time.

    In my reading of the X-Men through the past, which admittedly skimmed over much of the Silver Age, and only puts me up through the gap between Inferno and the X-Tinction Agenda. This leaves out a lot of Iceman, and has him only showing up a few times before X-Factor… but I never got any sort of impression on his sexuality from those appearances.
    While I know that he does have romances in the 90s and 2000s I’ve not gotten to yet, the revelation actually does click on a high level.

    I’m actually now trying to keep an eye out for moments that could tie into this, much like Northstar’s “eww, girl, eww” face when Rogue kisses him several episodes back. I’m even considering actually reading THROUGH the entirety of the Silver Age, despite how dated it feels.
    And anything that makes me want to look back through the tangled mess of continuity that is X-Men another time really cannot be that bad.

    Gotta wonder if there could be another choice that would have made sense, though. Or other revelations/retcons that would expand the diversity of X-Men without being awkward as hell.

    I mean, aside from Storm being potentially pan-sexual. She’s had chemistry with anyone and everyone. And Kitty Pryde being “more than friends” with several ladies. Which is also subtext that I enjoyed as an inside joke on several levels in these old issues.

    But still. Anyone else that would make sense, I wonder?

    1. Forgot to add: I do hope some writers beyond Bendis pick up this characterization and make use of it. Even if it’s modifying it to be that “I thought I was gay, I thought I was straight, turns out I just like people in general” is more what Modern Bobby is.

      It’d just be a shame to relegate it to the corner of continuity that Chuck Austen’s run is inhabiting. Nothing deserves that.
      Except Austen’s work.

  11. Cybog bees? This sounds like some Man-Thing villain. Tell me they have a ridiculously convoluted backstory.

  12. I currently have a bit of a cold, so I’m not thinking very clearly. When you said giant space Kitty I did take it to mean a giant space feline until you clarified. Whoops! Well, it is the X-men, anything can happen.
    Now off to draw a giant space feline.

  13. It’s so interesting to come across this video 6 months later, when everything is a little bit less charged (and with Uncanny #600 having just come out). I’d heard and seen the Bobby pages of ANXM40 before, so I was struck by how well done so many OTHER parts of the book were – Warren & Laura, the Utopia bits, Maria Hill, Magik (“You save the galaxy you get a hamburger”). Just a really great issue overall, even if it was action-lite.

    A great week overall, actually. The character beats for Laura/Mystique in Wolverines were really on-point this week (especially their showdown at the end), and I’ve LOVED the end of the Juggernaut story in AXM18-19. A great reminder of what a fun, peripheral X-Men story can and should be. It’s sad to see the book finally hit its stride right as it’s ending.

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