Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

192 – Meet the N-Men

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

In which Alan Davis’s Excalibur is a spiritual sibling to The Muppet Show; Captain Britain gets a Captain Britain lesson; Opal Luna Saturnyne has no time for your nonsense; Meggan and Rachel take a brief detour into a Hammer film; Earth-148 is extra heroic; no member of Excalibur will ever use a bathroom in peace; Cerise joins the team; Technet embraces the future; and the end of the world is nigh.


  • Pixie’s powers and parentage
  • Several eccentricities of Jay’s apartment
  • Excalibur #45-47
  • Earth-148 (Ee’rath)
  • Comics pacing vs. podcast pacing
  • Technet (more) (again)
  • Amelia Witherspoon and several references related thereto
  • The N-Men
  • How to Captain Britain
  • The multiversal significance of the lighthouse
  • A portentous chess game
  • A particularly aggressive retcon
  • The return of the Neuri
  • The real Meggan
  • Necrom
  • A heroic death
  • The true curse of Excalibur
  • Some very specific citations
  • A reunion
  • Kylun (Colin McKay)
  • A blessed event
  • Cerise
  • Whether Rogue can control Cyclops’s powers
  • Laura Kinney’s upcoming reversion to X-23

NEXT EPISODE: Bishop joins the X-Men!

ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT UPDATE: The wall on which Jay was attempting to mount a desk turned out to be plaster over sheetrock. Office plans are being revised accordingly.

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  1. Well, aside from blushing at the name check, for which my thanks, as token old Brit I want to add that there’s another Alan Davis trademark throwaway reference here in the opening sequence.

    The “Major Mainwaring Museum” at Warmington-on-Sea is a nod to classic UK sitcom “Dad’s Army” which was about a Home Guard unit in WWII. There, Captain Mainwaring (With the usual eccentrically British approach to surname’s it’s actually pronounced “Mannering” for some reason) led the Home Guard for Walmington-on-Sea. 🙂

  2. Other thoughts on this.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Alan Davis is my “comfort food” artist, as well as being a superb clear storyteller, there’s always the vibe of a favourite childhood cartoon to the style (No idea what cartoon, I imagine most people bring their own context there, with the possible exception of Ren and Stimpy fans, they’re on their own) which dials every emotion up to 10 1/2 (11 would be gauche) in the most charming way possible.

    I adore everything about Cerise unreservedly and some day I might forgive Scott Lobdell (I think you said it was) for turning her into a Shi’ar of some sort. Some day but not, I think, today. Her hair isn’t even feathers darnit, it’s Neapolitan ice-cream hair and is a thing of genuine beauty. I vastly preferred her as the completely alien with no ties to anyone else who’d come before.

    I also love the moment of her asking which of the assembled beings looks most like the dominant species of this world and Kurt looks down at himself, and then across at the Technet and then turns to her and has to admit “Actually, that would be _you_!”

    Oh, and Kylun is fab too.

    1. This is some of the best writing that I’ve seen from Alan Davis as well.

      On the art, I do feel that we give Davis a pass on cheesecake sometimes when we wouldn’t be so forgiving of a lesser artist. Look at how Meggan is posed on the cover of #42, for instance — unlike the standard superhero-comics version of That Pose, one can imagine her achieving it without breaking her spine. But it is still a version of That Pose.

      He’s selective about the cheesecake: one can contrast how Rachel and Kitty are posed on the same cover. And it’s doing something – all of the characters look scared (which is the joke), but they express that fear in varied body postures, but with subtle mirroring in details.

      In fact, the cheesecake in Excalibur is mostly just Meggan. It’s definitely very, very welcome that it’s not Kitty. But Meggan has a touch of the stereotyped “childlike” blonde woman about her (it’s one of the problems with her relationship with Brian), and I’m a bit weirded out by this aspect of Davis’s presentation of her in that context.

      1. This is not to contradict any of this but it does seem like a good opportunity to point out one of my favorite things about Alan Davis, which is that he draws very, very sexy men. Brian in his green pajama pants in this arc was a major part of my gay awakening. And Nightcrawler in his little bath towel is pretty hot too. (I also like that he’s able to make them both hot, but to present them with relatively different body types– for super hero comics, at least.)

          1. If we’re praising Alan Davis art, then there’s no jinxing involved, we’re all blessed!

            There’s a line in the Wildways New Mutants annual, where Doug and Lock see the “aged to adulthood” New Mutants and Doug notes that they are all beautiful “like Michaelangelo statues come to life”, and there’s a lot of truth to that.

            Davis draws not just beautiful women, but beautiful people. He takes a buff musclebound guy and makes him a beautiful buff musclebound guy, or a lithe acrobatic guy and draws a beautiful lithe acrobatic guy, or a slightly flat-chested young woman, and makes her a beautiful, slightly flat-chested young woman.

            The cartoony expressiveness of his faces (The smiles for pities sake, it’s impossible not to want to smile back, dopey as that may seem) and the near 80’s-anime qualty of the hair he draws, are the icing on the cake IMHO.

  3. You know that resetting Wolverine to Logan is indeed a reset back to white dudes since “diversity doesn’t sell” in their eyes, despite what actual sales figures say. I have a very tenuous interest in Marvel these days thanks to things like that and their recent Nazi love, even putting them into an all ages book like Squirrel Girl (Brain Drain having been a Nazi scientist that made a lot of the Nazi supers in WW2. Great villain to redeem there, guys.)

  4. Reading these issues (ahead of the podcast for once, because they were that good), the sense I get (which may be belied by later issues (I haven’t read past #50) is that Davis was trying consciously to dial back on Brian being reduced to a buffoon.

    I’m not saying that he’s going full Paul Cornell (here: https://www.cbr.com/super-spy-weekend-captain-britain/). It’s dialing Claremont’s Brian down, not removing those aspects completely and doing so in a way that preserves continuity with those issues.

    But I do think that the choice to say, “All those pratfalls? Captain Britain was *jinxed*,” is an important one, as is presenting Nightcrawler (for Claremont generally the most sane, competent, and well-adjusted person imaginable and his main foil for Brian) as doubting his own capacity to lead and deal with Technet. There are other little touches that indicate that Brian is being a little more heroized, and also a little more central, than he was in the Claremont era.

    I have some sympathy with this. Our hosts made some good points early in their Excalibur coverage about how Claremont’s depiction of Brian as the butt of every joke serves to compensate for the fact that otherwise, Brian is ridiculously privileged: gorgeous, intelligent, highly educated, and upper-class. Oh and now he has superpowers, too, and ones with a definitely whiff of Chosen One-ism about them.

    I think that’s correct. But one can overdo it, and there is a problem here: this is an American cultural product depicting a character who is literally the symbol of another country. Britain is, compared to most places in the world, comparatively rich and powerful. But on the axis British-*American*, British is not the privileged position. Done by an American* for a largely American readership (as distinct from if this was a British property), this is punching down. It’s not punching very far down, but that is the direction in which it is punching. Claremont shows no sign of recognizing that.

    Even if I think Paul Cornell overdoes all the fighting-them-on-the-beaches stuff, his reference to Steve Rogers is well taken. It’s not easy to imagine Claremont ever treating Captain America like this. In fact, there’s an interesting quasi-parallel in how some people reacted with intense hostility when a British writer, Mark Millar, created Ultimate Captain America and didn’t treat him with the same reverence that writers treat 616 Captain America. This despite the fact that Millar’s Steve Rogers is still basically a positive figure. He’s just a positive figure who’s not the perfect national icon, who’s recognizably not an abstract symbol but a specific individual from the ‘40s who’s a little too confident in the effectiveness of solving problems with his fists.**

    *Claremont was born in Britain, but he left when he was three, so I think it’s fair enough to call him American.

    **OK, “You think this ‘A’ on my forehead stands for ‘France’?” does go too far — although it is a type of American swagger that in the “axis of weasels” era no-one could say that a guy like Ultimate Captain America would be incapable of coming out with. On the other hand, the images of Steve laboriously going through record stores putting together his old collection again, hanging out with people who are biologically sixty years older because he can relate to them — these get across the idea of the “man out of time” far more effectively to me than anything that’s been done with 616 Steve, because they take seriously the possibility that he really is a person from a very different era.

    1. I have a tendency to forgive Davis (like George Perez) his cheescake indulgences because he’s entirely equal opportunities and we get a lot of VERY nice beefcake too, drawn to make it attractive to those interested in such things as possible.

      So yes we have Brian in ridiculously buff form (which appeals to some, but not all), but we also have Kurt, who’s built like a gymnast crossed with a dancer.

    2. There’s a scene in the Ellis Excalibur run where Meggan and Brian are watching TV coverage of the hysteria in the US after the apparent death of Captain America and the Avengers in “Onslaught”, and Brian notes that he doubts there would be the same reaction in the UK if he or Excalibur were killed.

      The British pubilc aren’t nearly invested in their heroes, even “Captain Britain”, and that means that the reaction, positive or negative, to superheroes isn’t as extreme.

      (Of course that issue came out the year before the UK saw the extreme public reaction to Diana Princess of Wales death, though the extent to which that situation was media manipulated is one for the journalistic historians I think)

  5. Some notes:
    In the excellent Rocket heist comic Joyboy is still baby-shaped, though maybe much bigger. This is presumably set years after their appearances in Excalibur, so maybe that’s just what he looks like. Of course, Rocket theorises that Joyboy is in fact the devil, which is a bit weird but it does put a new slant on things.

    My favourite Muppet Show was the one with Alice Cooper. He was also the devil. He stole some souls and almost married a demonic Miss Piggy. He definitely had sex with her, because that’s what a song he performed is about.

    Finally, the multiple baby half-dragons is a lot like what happened in Shreck years later, with all the half donkey half dragon babies. Actually Numbers is probably the result of generations of interspecies breeding himself, which is why he looks part frog, part turtle, part insect, et cetera.

  6. The way you describe the multiversal stuff in Excalibur reminds me of the way the Neverending Story book does its worldbuilding. Every time the book brings up some interesting nugget of potential story it dismisses it with “But that is another story, and shall be told another time.”

  7. I will admit that the description of the “Hammer Horror Haunted House” in the thunderstorm *immediately* sent my brain to the song “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)” from Rocky Horror Picture Show (especially since the manor used for the exteriors of the Frankenstein place was used in several Hammer films).

  8. Has Pixie been seen to take on her “Nightmare” form from Age of X since the end of that event? I know Megan asked Emma if she could keep her “fake” memories, and Emma agreed, so she could/should be able to assume that appearance again, I think.

    1. I don’t know that it was all that long after that Pixie was shoved back into the background as a character in general.

      One thought that the introduction to this episode prompted was just how much development was put into Pixie a decade or so ago, and how radically she was then dropped in the Jason Aaron and Brian Michael Bendis era. A shame, as she’s one of my favorite recentish X-characters. In general I think writers could be less quick to try to introduce new younger X-characters, given the vast library of existing ones that have at one point or another had a lot of work put into them and then forgotten about.

      Always ask yourself “Could I tell this story with Hellion?” 🙂

      1. See, Hellion would make a fantastic Magneto figure against whatever Young/New/Blue X-Men is around at the time. It would really highlight the generations concept. And you just know Hellion would sign his name in cursive with iron filings in the sky.

  9. Would pay ridiculous amounts of money to see Gonzo playing the Angry Claremontian narrator (a la his Dickens In Muppet Christmas Carol)….

  10. Rogue doesn’t just absorb powers, though. She also absorbs personality. It’s been established that Cyclops’s inability to control his power is partially psychological as well as physical. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for Rogue to be unable to control his powers and I think a case can be made that the inconsistencies are explained by how much or what aspects of Scott she absorbed in a given instance.

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