Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

56 – Death by Crossover

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 5/17/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available until 5/17/2015 in the shop, or contact David for the original.

In which nothing comes between Sam Guthrie and his classic sci-fi allusions; Sunspot tries; the Beyonder is really scary; you can have Danielle Moonstar’s agency when you pry it from her cold, dead hands; Empath remains the worst kid; Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander just cannot catch a break; Emma Frost gets nuanced; Magneto does the wrong things for the right reasons; Rachel and Miles like liking things; and we finally wrap up Secret Wars II.


  • Soulsword custody
  • New Mutants #36-40
  • The best Secret Wars II tie-in
  • Several Beyonder-triggered crises of confidence
  • A literal derailment in the midst of a metaphorical derailment
  • The Greek tragedy of Illyana Rasputin
  • Personal personifications of death
  • Counting coup
  • The death of the New Mutants
  • Crossover-related PTSD
  • A pep talk from a frog
  • Art style as a component of narrative
  • The Hellions (again)
  • Sadneto
  • Madneto
  • A completely avoidable fight
  • Rachel’s definitive Emma Frost moment
  • Emma Frost, Charles Xavier, and moral culpability

NEXT WEEK: The dubious debut of Apocalypse!

You can find a visual companion to this episode on our blog!

Find us on iTunes or Stitcher!

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men is 100% ad-free and listener supported. If you want to help support the podcast–and unlock more cool stuff–you can do that right here!

Buy prints of this week’s illustration at our shop, or contact David Wynne for the original!


  1. Rachel, Miles,

    I have been listening to every single episode and finally just want to tell you how happy this show makes me. To think there is a show out there that will name drop Cameron Hodge or Peter Corbeau randomly means the world to me. For the last six months I have been attempting the impossible, rereading every issue of X-men and related titles as you go through them. I am keeping pace, but barely, and rediscovering great stories I haven’t though of in decades. SO thank you both, please keep up the awesome work.

  2. The setup for these issues sounds like an X-men math problem:
    Kitty is at the library waiting for Illyana. Illyana is on a train going 55 mph heading toward the library. How long until an omnipotent being abducts Illyana and transfers her demon-powers to Kitty?

  3. I haven’t read enough New Mutants to answer this question, so I’ll leave it to the X-Perts and my fellow commenters. With Doug and Warlock, I’m wondering, are they best friends or could there be a bit of interspecies queer subtext there, too?

    My first thought was, yeah, they’re totally best buddies forever, which is cool, because like Rachel said in a previous episode, that’s something we don’t see often enough in fiction.

    But then things like that dream sequence throw me off. I mean, they’re wearing each other’s skins. That sounds a bit like Illyana/Kitty’s soulsword connection to me. Plus, there’s the whole Douglock thing.

    What think you, Dr. Internet? Am I imagining this? Are Doug and Warlock just friends? Or is there some Claremontian subtext going on here?

    1. As the Official Arbiter of Queer Subtext: Yeah, it’s totally there, although I’m not sure it’s deliberate in the way that a lot of the stuff between women in Claremont’s run was.

  4. Two Things:

    1. It blows my mind to look back at all of this, because New Mutants was one of my favorite titles as a teen. I read this as it happened and I never even blinked at just how dark it was, and yet I typically veer away so hard from anything described as “very dark.” Mileage always varies, huh?

    2. Empath was always the best justification for a guest appearance by the Punisher. I’m just sayin’.

    1. Yeah; I was disappointed that in Illyana’s personal journey back from Death, stomping on Empath along the way wasn’t mentioned in the podcast.

      (Although the intro covering the SoulSword might have used up Magik’s quota, also taking up time that could have mentioning her plucking Captain America’s shield out of the air via Stepping Disk, saving Magneto etc.)

      Like Mirage and Warlock’s recoveries without Emma’s machinations, Magik, due to her impenetrable mental shields, did all her own heavy lifting along the way, including her first instance of counter-bullying that vile professional psycho-rapist, Empath, whom we all love to hate (except for Magma, that is.)

  5. I know that it’s not really appropriate for Rahne, but visually? I’m fairly sure that her specter is supposed to be St. Brigit.

    Possibly an error on the artist’s part? Assuming that Rahne was Irish Catholic? I dunno how detailed Claremont’s scripts were, but that’s my guess.

  6. From the “Timing!” department: last Thursday, Marvel Unlimited added another year of New Mutants v1 (plus 98-100) to the Unlimited archive…so it now stops at #40, just past where you left off. C’est la vie.

    They tend to go in waves of adding 80s stuff for a few weeks and then forgetting about it for six months; hopefully this time they’ll at least get us some more pre-PAD X-Factor before they stop adding any non-Star Wars retro stuff for half a year. And West Coast Avengers and Vanilla Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.


      Seriously, before this update New Mutants just cut off in the middle of the Legion storyline. I am EAGER to pick it back up.

  7. I still remember buying this off the stands when it came out. In all the years I’ve bought comics, I can’t remember a cover that filled me with such dread, or an issue that better delivered on that promise.

  8. While Secret Wars II is something that I know is weird and messed up, it does have a special place in my heart. It’s the series that got me into Marvel comics proper and the X-books in particular. I thought the power effects of Cannonball in Secret Wars II #9 was neat, so I tracked down some issues of New Mutants with #37 and 38 being my first X-books.

  9. First off, thank you for inspiring me to read New Mutants again. Second, concerning the vision of DEATH over Rahne, I remember being confused by this one as well every time I’ve read issue #37. This is purely conjecture, but my take on it is this character’s particular religion is both one that is intentionally difficult to translate into icons and one with which the character clearly has a horrific and negative personal experience, so despite believing in it at this point Rahne probably has no like or love for it either. It is a faith of FEAR to her, not one of reverence. Therefore, I think the image Mirage sees is drawn from her personal and cultural past in that it is an amalgam of her dead mother/Moria merged with the historical legends and myths of Celtic warrior queens and Goddesses. Also important, Rahne’s recent experiences at this time have probably irrevocably altered her fundamental take on her spirituality.

    The bottom or the cross is covered and has an Ankh-like seeming, suggesting a blending of Christianity and “paganism”; the figure is holding a harp reminiscent of the bards of old as well as being a child-friendly accessory of representations of Christian souls of the dead in Heaven; Rahne at this point has a mostly negative experience with males specifically from the view-point of her religion, where as strong women have been her protectors and source of positive reinforcement so that might explain why the figure is female…

    Also, her recent experiences with other mutants, Asguardian divine beings, the Beyonder, and one of her peers being a sorceress (note: what seems to be the hair coming out from below the female icon’s “hat” is totally Illiana’s distinct linear reverse-rising sun hairstyle while being all bad-a$$ arch-magus as depicted in this time) so her faith being shaken and evolving at this point makes a lot of sense out of her view of the afterlife being extremely specific. In my humble opinion.

    1. …in short, it is representational of the faith Rahne with which was brought up, mixed with the fantastic and specifically “Divine” beings she has encountered since her time with the New Mutants. Basically, it is a symbol of her growth as a character trying to sort out the terms of “good and evil” she was taught verses the her experiences that radically challenge this in the world she has found herself in as she has been growing into adulthood.

      1. That’s a really cool take on it! I suspect Claremont (or maybe Mary Wilshire; not sure who came up with that saint-figure’s design) wasn’t thinking it through that thoroughly, but I’m more than willing to accept your logic as my personal headcanon.

  10. I had also been tracking this complete series down in floppies. I slowed down after college because, well, broke. When I had a job and money again, issue #98 had jumped from ~$25 to closer to $200, and hasn’t dropped in the six years since. I have no intention of ever paying $200 for a Liefeld comic, so that remains the only issue I don’t have.

  11. I’m sorry for such a late reply but I only got into your podcast one month ago! I am marathoning to catch up. Honestly it provides such a point of stability for my mental health but I digress. I think I recognize Rahne’s death specter as it were. Despite the cross like halo behind it, the figure looks like one of two of the old Gael-Celtic gods. It could be Éire or the Dagda. Both are represented with harps and are seen as patrental, nurturing figures. They are also sovereign gods of the Scot-Irish Celts (Éire or Erin’s Land= Ireland). I may be wrong but this may from the naturalistic element of Rahne’s mutation and the connection it brings to the old gods of her homeland. She also had no good nurturer before Moira and was constantly abused by Christianity. I may be projected on to this but as a Celtic Pagan of Scottish roots who had to by a much lesser degree deal with a Christian upbringing and the fallout of being ‘sinful’ by my birth (Queer rather than mutant) this really speaks to me.

  12. Have you read Emma’s origin series? Her father and sister Adrienne are……well they make Emma from the original stories seem nice and cuddly by comparison

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *