Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

93 – The Discreet Charm of the Brood

Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.
Art by David Wynne. Prints and cards available at the shop, or contact David to purchase the original.

In which airplanes are really dangerous if you’re a mutant, Magik remembers that time she dreamed about remembering a dream, those who live by mystically bad judgment die by mystically bad judgment, It’s Always Mystique (TM), and everything leads to Inferno.



  • Forge’s moral compass
  • New Mutants #62-63 and #65-66
  • Empath and irredeemable vs. sympathetic villains
  • Magical postal eagles
  • Nova Roma
  • Jag-u-ars
  • Art as era signifier
  • Time travel nightmare logic
  • Sharpiemancy
  • The “last” Brood
  • Jerk headmasters who won’t even let you commit murder
  • A long-awaited roomie reunion
  • Bret Blevins’s mad Limbo skillz
  • Claremont / Simonson character maturity equilibrium
  • Astrally furry pants
  • Loyalty to the living versus loyalty to the dead
  • The Ultimate Darkchilde
  • Wolverine’s surprisingly non-metallic teeth
  • Partying with the New Mutants

NEXT WEEK: Pryde of the X-Men.

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  1. I do like the greater complexity given to Empath. Still a shame that, of all the Hellions, he was one of the only ones who didn’t die. I feel like he never really suffered the consequences of his actions. I did also like his relationship with Amara, even if there were always uncomfortable undertones that just got worse later on. But given his power, and how he’s used it, everything involving him has uncomfortable undertones.

    Illyana going after Forge was really cool, but also really sad, because she was on such a downward spiral, and you want things to turn around for her, but they don’t. They just get worse and worse.

    The Gossamyr arc is next. Ugh. That was not a good story.

  2. I just rewatched Pryde of the X-Men (available free on YouTube) last week. MAN is it hilarious and bad and awesome and great. I cannot WAIT to hear that discussion!

  3. I am soooooo pumped about the Pryde of the X-Men episode! That was my first introduction to the X-Men back in 1991 or so.


  4. I always enjoy the cold open, and loved this one about Forge and Ultimate Forge. I forgot he wanted Magneto to give him Canada! The main thing I remember him doing was making a collar that would strangle the Hulk. When Wolverine asked how strong it would be, Forge’s reply was something akin to “It can withstand 11 billion tons of pressure. That’s how much the Moon weighs. He can’t…lift the Moon…can he?” And then there’s a couple of beat panels before Wolverine replies “Nah, probably not.” (source: Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk miniseries).

    You are rapidly approaching Inferno, and I’m curious how you plan to tackle it. Will it be by series (X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, X-Terminators, plus maybe one for crossovers, including Excalibur)? Or will you mirror the reading order in the OHC? Or something else?

    1. We’re still working on that. Inferno’s tricky since some stories (New Mutants, X-Terminators) stand mostly but not entirely alone, and some (Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor) overlap heavily but aren’t exactly a sequential crossover. Thankfully, we have a few weeks to figure it out…

  5. Ah yes, the Empath retcon… and it really did seem to be a retcon.

    We already had plenty of Hellions who had interesting conflict between their nature/backstory and their actions; Jetstream serving the Hellfire Clube ONLY because they saved his life and given him his cybernetic implants, Tarot being there because her cards told her to be, Catseye for fun and personal loyalty to Emma, Warpath because they offered a chance of revenge, and then loyalty to his team.

    Empath was different because he was the one who was clearly enjoying doing things that people would class as cruel (Roulette had a cruel streak, but seemed to lack Empath’s… work ethic in that regard)

    This was the kids whose dreams in New Mutants 43 were; “Full of fire, and blood and pain. In them he is absolute master and he is utterly without pity. The Grand Inquisitor of Old, Torquemada, is nothing compared to Empath”… and these are his HAPPY dreams!

    He makes small children scared of their best friend because it amuses him to do so.

    A sad “little boy lost” storyline for him seems a poor fit. This was not a kid who has built a wall up to protect himself from others, this is a kid who has actually chosen to act in cruel sadistic ways and enjoys that. He has agency and power, but he is an active sadist who use that agency and power to serve himself alone.

    So he IS the hero in his own story without the sympathetic side being tacked on, it’s just his story is something by the Marquis de Sade.

    The “new” Empath here seems to have a power he never had before, the power to actually _sense_ emotions whether he wanted to or not.

    I might be wrong on this, but whilst we’d seen he could make anyone feel any emotion he wanted them to, I don’t think we ever got any indication that he was receptive to other emotions. He was a broadcaster, not a receiver.

    In general, whilst he might have seemed a more complex character as a result of this, I never found him particularly interesting. Empath as the active, KEEN, amoral, aspiring member of the Inner Circle made him unique in the Hellions, and he lost that edge from this point on I think.

    1. I actually think the explanation for Empath was the best character work that Louise Simonson did on the New Mutants. Looking at it from the present point in the franchise, I can’t say that anything Empath did compared to the actions of silver age Magneto or the Claremont-written Emma Frost. Both of them got redeemed, why not Empath?

      I do think that Louise Simonson wrote the Hellions as being closer to the mean; Jetstream/James Proudstar/etc. were not as good or noble, while Roulette/Empath were not as mean or cruel.

      1. I dunno, there are those who would say that both Magneto and Frost got away with a LOT due to writers fiat.

        Yes, Magneto was cleared by an international court, but I’m pretty sure there are still more than a few countries who would not accept the more than slightly dubious “I appear physically younger now than I did then” defence that flew there.

        Likewise Frost has a lot of blood on her hands which she rarely acknowledges unless angst is requireed or she needs reasons to say “I take responsibility for my actions”, but which she has never faced actual legal repercussions for; the casual murder of more than one Hellfire employee because it suited her plan, or amused her. The torture of Storm, the emotional manipulation of Firestar, and those are just a few of the ones we know about. Yes, she suffered to get where she is, but others suffered more to get her there.

        Empath was a trainee at the time so was learning about what he could do, but already by this pointed done particularly twisted mojo on Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander.

        Even Emma was impressed by just how much potential he had as a member of the Inner Circle (and she, of all people, would have known if he was covering up insecurities). There was nothing to suggest that he would be any less vile than say, the Purple Man, but with the power of the Hellfire Club behind him.

        So it’s not that he had done less (but what he had done was frankly repellent) but perhaps that the comparators were too easily forgiven more.

        (Gosh, that went on a bit, sorry)

  6. I also still call “Nuh-uh” on Dani’s explanation about why her death perception failed as regards Doug.

    Previously she’d seen the death-sign over people a good while before the event. A Valkyrie doesn’t hang around battlefields (their natural habitat so to speak) waiting to see who dies based on probabilities and chance, they are the one’s who already KNOW who dies, that’s what makes them Valkyrie.

    If Dani had known and never told, because she knew it wouldn’t do any good (To this day she’s never won an argument with Death AFAIK) it would have added a certain unique horror/sadness to her situation, rather than what sounds like a patch to try and explain a plot oversight.

  7. It’s quick and easy to watch Pryde of the X-men on Youtube, but if you blow the dust off your 20+ year old videotape, you get to start your viewing experience with this spectacular PSA from your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man:


    It raises a lot of interesting questions, like ‘What age group is this cartoon aimed at?’ (Answer: Mine, at any age) and ‘Does it counts as registering to vote if you use your superhero name?’

    1. Oh, right! I remember watching that PSA – it seemed weird that Spider-Man was encouraging 18-year-olds to vote in front of a cartoon clearly intended for kids. (Maybe they knew that a bunch of grown-ups were going to watch it too?) Awesome artifact.

  8. Thanks for another great episode! I’m excited for the upcoming review of “Pryde of the X-Men” not only because it was my first exposure to the X-Men – even before the beloved animated ’90s series – but also because a book I have talks about the reason behind Wolverine’s Australian accent: namely, that Marvel planned to reveal that Wolverine was an Australian!

    I can’t wait for all the great comics that are coming up!

    1. The book you refer to, is that the big-ass X-Men coffee table book, that looks like it’s leather? I loved that book! It’s filled with spelling errors and is horribly out of date, but I loved it all the same, including that Wolverine reference (wasn’t it something like how they wanted to jump on the post-Crocodile Dundee “Everything from Australia is cool” bandwagon and made a movie where Wolverine was Australian?)

        1. Brian Cronin does awesome work – we’ve regularly referred to it when doing research for the podcast. I wish I’d found that article in particular when I was researching and writing Episode 94 with Elisabeth Allie; it would have saved me a ton of time!

  9. I loved the blatant, yet quiet, MST3K/Pumaman shout-out! One of my favorite episodes! ‘Pu–maman, he flies like a moron!’

  10. It’s probably worth mentioning that New Mutants 63 is most likely an inventory story, like the one with Magma meeting Hercules.

    1. Now THAT was an interesting story, addressing faith and respect for faiths (or not) of other people, without either side being diminished.

  11. Yeah, the one thing that REALLY threw me for this story was that it takes place during NM 21 and yet Illyana keeps being in the POV of post-NM 61 (thinking about dead Cypher and dead X-Men in Dallas). But the dream logic explanation (and that it’s a series of dreams within flashbacks within dreams) helps (i.e. she’s reliving it, but with her current POV). Thanks for successfully XPlaining, you two!

  12. Man, revisiting this from 2021 makes me wonder if the phrase “What if Stryfe was the Darkchild” really WAS our realities breaking point.

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