Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

57 – Apocalypse Soon

Art by David Wynne. We're not selling prints of this one, but you can still hit David up for the original!
Art by David Wynne. We’re not selling prints of this one, but you can still hit David up for the original!

In which Miles tries to find things to like about Bob Layton’s X-Factor run; Cyclops’s life is literally an anxiety dream; X-Factor is very Leverage; Layton’s Angel is just godawful; Rachel is all about the Red Scare; Frenzy is awesome; and we bid a fond farewell to producer Bobby Roberts.


  • An Apocalypse that might have been
  • Mid-80s X-title thematic disambiguation
  • The limited value of nostalgia
  • Creative history of X-Factor
  • X-Factor #2-5 and Annual #1
  • The baffling reinvention of Vera Cantor
  • Tower (Edward Pasternak)
  • Dubious didactic strategies
  • Carl Maddicks
  • Artie Maddicks
  • Muffin the kitten
  • Bad timing
  • Soviet mutant policy
  • Soviet robot disambiguation
  • The Doppelganger (Wolfgang Heinreich)
  • A ruse
  • Alexei Garnov, Mentac the Living Computer, Concussion, Iron Curtain, and Siberian Tiger
  • The worst phonetic accent we have ever seen.
  • The Alliance of Evil
  • Frenzy (Joanna Cargill)
  • The color of Beast’s fur
  • Our favorite X-Men toys

NEXT WEEK: Miniseries Mayhem!

Many thanks to Bobby Roberts for 57 spectacular episodes of production, advice, and boundless patience. You are the best, and we love you forever.

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

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We’re not selling prints of this week’s illustration, but you can contact David Wynne for the original!


  1. I remember seeing how they reverted Beast to his pre-furry look and facepalming a bit. I mean, I love Silver Age nostalgia, but Layton’s X-Factor was doomed because it tried to take away everything all the growth these characters had had since the early comics (which I assume was the point of taking away Jean’s telepathy), but simultaneously had to deal with all the continuity these characters had built up.

    Oddly it makes me more sympathetic to the ’00s reboot of Spider-Man. If you want a character to revert back to the way he was when you were a kid, selling his marriage to the devil and wiping out his past is really the only way to do it.

  2. Oh God…listening to your discussion about Layton’s Scott Summers and suddenly I realized that Scott Summers is Don Draper.

    – Gary A

      1. It really does feel like Layton runs out of ideas after “let’s re-set everything back to the Silver Age,” and the Ghostbusters angle, and then totally spins out.

        I really like the Alliance of Evil: they’re perfect mid-80s mooks for when you need a “Title Characters Fight Some Guys” kinda story. Dd they ever explain why Timeshadow vanishes and never returned? It seems weird that that thread never got tugged on.

        It’s a shame, because I really like Layton’s Iron Man work (which he homages by dropping in the Crimson Dynamo in the ANNUAL) and some of the stuff he did for Valiant after, but he just has NOTHING to say here. I don’t know whether it’s because of Shooter’s interference or what.

        That said, as a bit of trivia, I’m very glad Cyclops didn’t get the X-Factor suit Layton designed that showed up in THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE DELUXE EDITION. Bullet: dodged.

  3. Ahhh I got the biggest grin on my face when you mentioned Mage: the Ascension. Cause that was just so true for my group in college, the CoX was entirely the same people that played the Toreadors. Do you guys still do any RPGing?

  4. Dunno why my other comment nested in the wrong place. Hm.

    I liked that the Soviet mutants from the ANNUAL turned up in that weird SOVIET SUPER-SOLDIERS special Fabian Nicieza years later (because Nicieza leaves no continuity thread unplucked) but I kinda hated that most of them got killed within that story.

    That was a weird book that screamed “mini-series squished into one book.”

    1. Because Nicieza leaves no minor character from a past era unkilled.

      You suck, Fabian. Heart, Super Sabre.

  5. I think Rachel’s description of Scott’s anxiety dream that is X-Factor weirded me out a lot when I first started reading X-Factor, and then I just never quite shook that weirdness out, even after X-Factor got a lot better.

  6. Senyaka (I have no idea if that’s spelled out right)? As in Senyaka from Sri Lanka? Damn, that takes me back–specifically, to a letter, sent to either Wizard or ToyFare, about the character, mentioning, I think, how his action figure had made a particular fan enthused enough about the character to write about him. This is all I know about him, and yet, this is a thing that’s still on my memory banks when countless classmates and co-workers’ names are not. Senyaka. A thing like that!

  7. Thanks for answering my question about Beast’s fur color! I guess if someone wanted to take the time to explain it in canon, then they could just say that Beast’s fur spontaneously changed color to black, but then slowly lightened up to blue in the weeks that followed as he shed the black hairs and they slowly got replaced with blue hairs.

    Minor pet peeve: the reference to Beast’s hairstyle as “Wolverine hair”. Beast actually had that hairstyle two years before Wolverine was even created. So, if anything, Wolverine has “Beast hair”. 🙂

  8. I know you’ve mentioned the Power Pack. I was wondering, have you guys read all of it? What do you think? I know both the X-Men and New Mutants have sporadically guest appeared in it and plenty of crossovers abounded with Inferno, etc. I guess it’s not X-Men-y enough to get it’s own episode, but I was wondering if you guys are going to talk in more in-depth about it? It is a fascinating franchise to me, because of how sparse it is post it’s original series. Have you read the Power Pack/X-Men mini series from like ten years ago? Perhaps you can have an Elle Collins-esque non sequitur where you talk about the Power Pack?

  9. Something just occurred to me: Are you going to deal with the short stories in the back of the Classic X-Men issues? I think it launched around the time that X-Factor did but the stories usually would take place around the time of the stories that they backed up.

    1. That reminds me: has Marvel ever reprinted the Classic X-Men stuff where they would actually drop in newly-made pages to the reprints to bulk them out?

      They didn’t do it very often–probably only as far as the #120s, but I remember one from the Alpha Flight intro story.

      The back-up stories were . . .interesting. The Havok/Polaris car wreck one is wonderfully crazy with some gorgeous John Bolton art.

      1. There were a couple of “X-Men Vignettes” trades in the 00s.

        Don’t be fooled by the existence of an “Essential Classic X-Men” line – that’s just reprints of the pre-Giant Size adventures, rather than of the Classic X-Men series.

  10. I’m glad you’ve said this series gets better and that the Layton run is pretty much over, because I gotta tell yam this first issues were a slog to get through! I don’t think I could keep going if they were all going to be like these ones.

  11. Well, Hank McCoy is obviosuly bones XD

    Speaking of, will you ever cover the X-Men/Star Trek crossovers?

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