Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

181 – Badgers Everywhere

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which X-Force is the cotton candy of comics; Jay & Miles overanalyze; eye spots are not the new domino masks; Feral is all about some murder; Black Tom and Juggernaut remain a delightful criminal power couple; Siryn’s costume is on point; over the edge is where we live; Jay gets briefly and intensely into Todd McFarlane; nothing will convince us that Fabian Nicieza did not know exactly what he was doing; and Kelly Thompson is a national treasure.


  • Rumekistan
  • X-Force #1-4
  • Spider-Man #16
  • Leaping, both literal and metaphorical
  • Cannonball
  • Boom Boom
  • Cable
  • Domino
  • Warpath
  • Feral
  • Shatterstar
  • Siryn (Theresa Cassidy) (again)
  • MLF
  • The second and third-best-selling issues of all time
  • The Profit$
  • A very violent catchphrase
  • Chalet Shwartzkopf
  • Power Poses™ with Gideon™
  • The All-New, All-Different Weapon X (Garrison Kane)
  • 6-Pack
  • Good vs. Awesome
  • George Washington Bridge
  • A moment so dramatic that it produces a second Shatterstar in a single panel
  • Some sports stuff, kind of
  • Uncomfortable anachronism
  • The stylistic necessity of healing factors
  • Marvel Unlimited view options
  • Rogue and Gambit

NEXT EPISODE: The not remotely triumphant return of Technet!

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  1. Okay, only halfway through this one (Short commuting time, stab it’s eyes!) and it’ll be another eight hours before I can listen to the rest, but I wonder if you’re going to address perhaps the most egregious crime of X-Force #1, and that’s that the most visually coherent part of the issue is swiped directly from George Perez. The first three pages are a direct riff on the opening pages of New Teen Titans #39, it’s not even a subtle swipe, and there’s absolutely no acknowledgement, which is just bad manners.

    Oh and a double-bladed sword like ol’ Shattybuns uses is a genuinely more dangerous weapon in combat than a single bladed one since two parallel cuts close together are more or less impossible to stitch closed properly without really bad scarring. (Glasgow gangs were famous for using what was essentially two exacto-knife blades separated by a matchstick as a weapon, because it left a much more visible scar)

    1. Liefeld clearly had those pages of Teen Titans in mind (and probably open in front of him) when he drew the first three pages, but comparing them riffing, rather than swiping seems fairer. ‘Egregious crime’seems hyperbolic to me. To my recollection it’s only about this time that it became established etiquette to acknowledge swipes as ‘homages’. Certainly into the 80’s you could see respected figures like Gil Kane lift Kirby panel compositions without any nods, or even winks.

  2. I know the pod is comics focused. But any thoughts on the new mutants being pushed back to next year? I really just want to see a live action demon bear

    1. Every time I see that trailer I get more and more disappointed by the lack of bears. Although I do wonder if Smiley Face Mask Guy is a member of The Right.

  3. In case anyone is interested, each baseball position is assigned a number for the purpose of tracking plays. So a 5-4-3 double play is when a ball is caught by the shortstop (5) is thrown to the second baseman (4) and then thrown to the first baseman (3). Bingo bango bongo.

  4. Nick Fury, Agent of Shield: Empyre

    This came out just over a year before 9-11. It features Hydra flying planes into the Twin Towers. If I remember correctly, Hydra was acting out of a vaguely middle eastern base.

    Please don’t consider this a promotion in favor of this book. My inability to locate my own copy is probably related to the many times it was thrown across the room before I finished reading it. I remember it ending in a fishy/suspicious author about page. A qualified thank you, Will Murray, for co-creating Squirrel Girl with Steve Ditko. Like Deadpool, it took other people to make her awesome, and I’m not even sure your heart was in the right place.

    Oooh! That run of Excalibur I have from when I was a kid! I copied so many of those Meghans and Shadowcats into my notebook! Prettiest, funniest, yas! I’m excited! Why does this run show up in dollar bins all the time?

  5. Shocked to hear Jay liked this.

    This arc continues the 90’s trend of jobbing out old school bad guys. It’s not over either.

    1. If I recall correctly, everyone’s a clone of everyone. Cuz Time Travel means that Longshot is a clone of Shatterstar, and Shatterstar is maybe an upgraded clone/child of Longshot? I’m not sure if Shatterstar has a mother, much less who she is.

  6. Scattered thoughts:-

    – I missed Cable completely when I skipped the ‘90s, and as a result when I came back to superhero comics, my first extensive exposure to the character was in Cable & Deadpool. Therefore for me, the enlightened, thoughtful, and peace-loving individual who sorted out Rumekistan is not a “WHAT?!!!” but the *real* Cable.

    – These comics had a moment that was one of the saddest moments that there has ever been for me reading comics. The thing is, I can’t be as generous about them as our hosts. I can agree that Fabian Nicieza knows what comic he’s dialoguing and… yeah, best not to say too much more. It is amazing to compare this endless stream of macho posturing lines with the sensitive character work he was doing on New Warriors at around the same time.

    But there was one moment where I grudgingly, despite myself, somehow was driven into feeling that there might be something here that was … good? It was, I’m afraid, something that our hosts hated. It was when Cable announces that he’s going to kill Black Tom Cassidy.

    You see, if I had to defend Liefeld’s X-Force, it’s that at least you could say that it’s not about doing the static same-old, same-old Claremont thing. It says, you know what? I don’t care if you loved all those characters, we’re going to have something different, and if you don’t like it, you can stuff it, Grandpa.

    And that Cable moment felt like it was about that: it was Cable saying to Cassidy, we’re not going to have this merry-go-round in which you keep coming back for another story. I’m going to kill you with your ridiculous collar and silly power and absence of pouches and then I’ll go and fight someone new that the reader has never heard of before. Because, let’s face it, who really gives a [expletive deleted] about Black Tom Cassidy?

    And then Deadpool rescues him, and it turned out that none of that was there, and it was just yet more macho posturing, and I wanted to cry.

    – I can defend Cable’s bite being worse than his team’s bark. Domino has compared the team to performing dogs, implicitly lesser and other than Cable and herself. Cable responds by defining himself as another dog, and thus denies Domino’s claim that he sees himself as other and superior. Instead, once one unpacks his metaphor, one sees that Cable is saying that any superiority that he has as leader must be founded on a recognition of his essential commonality with his team.

    Cable is a subtle thinker, who often makes his points obliquely like this. One may compare the moment when he divided all mutants into an ostensibly exhaustive five-part schema, and then immediately destabilized his own categorization by adding his team as a sixth category: pointing to the simultaneous necessity and inadequacy of all such categorizations and (as so often with Cable) alerting us to the way in which we have been imprisoned within the sterile Xavier/Magneto binary.

  7. I agree completely with Jay on X-Force. I came in expecting to hate it and was pleasantly surprised by it being relatively inoffensive fluff. And it does get better – I’d argue by the time of X-Cutioner’s Song, but certainly by the issue where Theresa is exploring her relationship with Black Tom.

    Regarding guided view: I think it works best with recent comics. For the most part, it’s awkward to read on a laptop with Marvel Unlimited unless the zoom option zooms exactly the right amount (typically so you see about half a page). If it zooms too much, it’s tough to read. The best way to read it on a cellphone is to flip your phone sideways to turn it landscape and read the top half of the page followed by the bottom half.

  8. I feel compelled to note at this point that a “body slide” is in fact something one might ask for at the less reputable sort of massage parlor…

    1. Awww man, and I meant to mention that too! Yes, I suspect Mr Liefeld had a Baron Karza or Force Commander in his time. Giving your characters action figure powers seems par for the course (Just like weapons accessories in action figure packs are usually way bigger than they should be)

  9. My understanding and Wikipedia’s seems to match Miles’ initial take: “Juggernaut is able to generate a mystical force field that grants him additional invulnerability to any physical attack when it is at its maximum.[56] Even when the force field is temporarily absorbed by Thor’s hammer, the Juggernaut’s natural durability still proves to be great enough to withstand blows from Thor.” Stabbing him in the eyes almost certainly should not work — if it did, the X-men have been attacking him the wrong way for decades!

    1. Hey maybe the sword didn’t actually do any damage, just the idea of Shatterstar touching his eye freaked Juggernaut the hell out. It wasn’t blood spatters you could see, it was tears.

      1. Again, it’s a moment where Liefeld almost gets me to like this comic, because it does feel like he’s deliberately saying who the [expletive deleted] cares about how Juggernaut’s powers worked in the [expletive deleted[] ‘60s?

        After all, Juggernaut’s powers were, originally, just there to set up a puzzle to be solved to drive the plot – how do we bring Professor X’s ridiculously powerful plot-ending power to bear on an opponent whose magic helmet blocks it and who is defined explicitly within the text as otherwise “unstoppable”? It’s a very Silver Age kind of story — you can compare all those Superman stories that are built around the idea of something that the person whose powers can solve almost anything can’t deal with until he solves the puzzle. Juggernaut’s not a character who seems like he was really designed to recur. That he became a staple, is I think, a combination of him being Xavier’s stepbrother and, of course, a fabulous visual design.

        There’s no reason, Liefeld might be saying, to stay imprisoned within things that exist solely to tell a type of superhero story that doesn’t dominate the way it did back then. That this confronts the Silver Age character with Liefeld’s super-Liefeldy creation Shatterstar seems like it might be significant.

        I can’t say that I enjoy reading these comics, but I am fascinated with the way in which they taunt me with my inability to decide how much is Liefeld knowing exactly what he is doing.

        1. I think you might be granting rather too much of a crusading, innovative writing approach to the then 25 year old Mr Liefeld, whose underlying drive seemed to be less “Let’s actively liberate our narrative by deconstructing Silver Age tropes” and more “Make it kewl and stabby and if it doesn’t make sense, so what?” given his general trend towards narrative incoherence if he doesn’t have a very talented scripter.

          1. Oh, I don’t think there’s any case for him *deconstructing* the tropes. That would involve writing on a far more sophisticated level than this.

            But sometimes I think there’s a case for Liefeld rebelling against the tropes in a punk-rock sort of way: that he wants to do something new and appeal to new teenage audiences. That new thing is to be Kewl and Stabby, and not to care about the fundamentals of drawing, but I think there’s a case for thinking that when one says that, one is like someone in the ‘70s complaining that punk bands were just shouting and couldn’t play their instruments properly.

            Liefeld does communicate to me a sense that he’s on the side of youth, change, and energy. I have some sympathy for that, looking back on it from the perspective of an era in which superhero comics are a luxury item consumed primarily by thirty- and fortysomethings who are steeped in the history of the genre. 1991 was, in hindsight, a time when American superhero comics were in transition away from the assumption that had powered them since 1938 (through their various ups and downs): that the genre’s primary audience was the new readers who would pick comics up and keep them alive as older readers drifted away.

            But obviously, what you gain from that transition is that modern superhero readers read in a more sophisticated way than Liefeld’s implied reader (and I’m pretty damn sure, actual target audience), which is a teenage boy.

            On the other hand, as I’ve said before, this kind of ‘90s comic feels like it jibes with the ‘80s, not where the rest of pop culture was going in the ‘90s. If I had to pick films that Liefeld’s work resembles, it’s the Rambo series. In 1991, Liefeld wanted to drag the X-books kicking and screaming into 1985. That’s a problem.

            1. I suppose you could make a case for Liefeld being the Sex Pistols. It was all fun! fast! empty! get your kicks and forget about it! which ushered in profound change but wasn’t actually intended to. I doubt he ever set out to challenge the system or break the rules or anything, the time was simply right for someone with the storytelling mentality of a kid smashing his action figures into each other.

              1. I think, to be fair to Liefeld, one doesn’t have to attribute to him a conscious manifesto or anything like that to say that he must have known that the direction in which he was taking X-Force was radically different from what long-term X-fans wanted. And when he has “X-Force created by Rob Liefeld” plastered on the book, he clearly has the confidence/arrogance to celebrate that he’s erasing the past.

                I think the contrast with Jim Lee is interesting. Lee drove Claremont off X-Men by insisting on nostalgia, on a return to an (imagined) past in which Magneto was a villain and the X-Men fought Sentinels. And while I take Claremont’s side in that argument, I don’t actually think that Claremont was bringing anything significantly new to the X-books at the time: his work is horribly static, plugging new characters and new settings into the same recurrent plot ideas, told in the same style, at this point a parody of itself. One thing that I think no-one can say about these X-Force issues is that they’re trying to push the nostalgia button.

                Liefeld is, I think, genuinely trying to do something new. The problem is, just because something is new doesn’t make it good.

  10. Todd McFarlane always impressed me as an artist way more than most of his contemporaries.

    His are is incredibly stylised, but he knows the rules of visual storytelling and perspective and leading the reader through the panels, which means when he chooses which rules he’s going to break (or at least play with) he’s made his choice very carefully.

    In his Infinity Inc days, his page layouts were amongst the most creative I’d ever seen, and without breaking the story in the process.

    …as opposed to certain other artists not a million miles from this episode who never seemed entirely clear on what the rules were in the first place, which makes them breaking them a very different thing.

    1. Peak Todd was an amazing penciler but a really bad writer, IMO. What made him an easy target for Comics Snobs in the 90s was that a lot of us had read his fairly incoherent Spawn and Spidey where flashy art obscured a near total lack of substance (Spawn is such a great base concept but most of the issues he wrote are just ass) but were less familiar with his collaborations with Peter David or Roy Thomas or other writers who could give him a solid structure to work his magic from. He needs a talented collaborator to shine, but when you give him one he does great work.

      1. Honest question from someone who read 0 Spidey during Macfarlene’s run, is he the guy that makes Spidey’s face lose all flesh under the mask? I wandered into some back issues of unknown origin and Spidey was drawn as a skull with some cloth pulled over it.

          1. I like the big eyepieces, but the Skull Head Problem has bugged me for years. Especially since I’ve seen so many other artists mimic it over the years.

  11. So in some googling to check details, I noticed that apparently Black Tom Cassidy is apparently the villain in Deadpool 2. Does…does this mean it may be based loosely off some of this content? (As this is where Deadpool was introduced & Cable is around).

    More importantly: Could we get Villain Life Partners Black Tom & Juggernaut on screen with lots of commented on undertones?

    1. There’s a strong connection between X-Force/Theresa Cassidy and Black Tom. I haven’t heard any reports that she’s in the story and I wouldn’t say that Deadpool or even Cable have much connection to them.

  12. I’ll admit when I first saw Garrison Kane (file this under under “Count_Zero contextualizes the X-Men through Anime & Manga”), my first thought was of Mazinger Z – particularly the Rocket Punch.

    I blame the fact that this year Go Nagai’s 50th anniversary, so all the anime news sites are talking about new adaptations of his work in honor of the anniversary.

  13. I really didn’t care for the insulting of Dragon Ball Z. You know…the second highest selling manga in the world.

    Yeah it’s a fighting series with a lot of yelling and fighting but what is up with all the elitism that precludes it from being nothing but that or codifying that as innately bad.

    The show has shittons of character work too but the lazy ‘it’s just yelling and charging and hitting each other’ dismisses all of that.


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