Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

210 – The End of Tomorrow: X-Cutioner’s Song (Part 1 of 3)

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

In which you may or may not have your own Black Bug Room; FlameCon was in fact every bit as wonderful as we projected (and more); Caliban hates true love; no one will ever be as extra as Mister Sinister; X-Cutioner’s Song is secretly a farce; we achieve Peak Cable; and the quintessential ’90s crossover event begins!


  • The Black Bug Room
  • A good deal of pre-event status quo
  • Uncanny X-Men #294
  • X-Factor #84
  • X-Men #14
  • X-Force #16
  • Trading card taxonomy
  • The opening strains of a crossover event
  • A concert that worked out better in theory than in practice
  • An abduction
  • Several attempted murders
  • A large number of awkward reunions
  • An even larger number of inter-team brawls
  • Two villains pretending to be other villains
  • Cape logistics
  • Peak Cable
  • Many pouches
  • Many guns
  • The origin of Hope Summers
  • Our hopes for mutants in the MCU

NEXT EPISODE: Aw, Stryfe, no.

NOTE: At one point in this episode, Miles said “X-Force” when he actually meant “X-Factor.” If you can tell us where, you win the prize of eternal smugness (not as much smugness as Sinister, but still a lot).

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  1. Looking forward to many quips about Stryfe’s Livejournal from the future on the backs of the trading cards.

  2. Oooh ooh, I was thinking about how to integrate the X-Men – do a Mojo movie, which would unpack some of the complicated issues with the X-Men films and Superhero films in general as part of its story/metastory, that takes place mostly in the Mojoverse and is a saga of the characters trying to escape home; towards the end as they’re portalling back to their dimension we see other dimensions sliding by – the alternate timeline of X3, maybe a bit from Runaways, and an iconic scene from the MCU, establishing that the MCU is one universe in a Multiverse, setting up, down the line, a Crossdimensional Crossover Movie. That way the X-line and the MCU can exist in their own corners of the Multiverse, but jump back and forth when the plot needs them to.

    1. YES, this. Though, I’d do it in Deadpool 3, have Mojo be played by Kevin Feige, and have him talk about needing a reboot/recast, and bring back Shaterstar. Just let it be as meta and 4th wall breaking as you’d want.

  3. I owe Stryfe’s trading card rambles a thank you for teaching me the word “ichor” years before SAT prep. It’s no vocabulary builder like the Claremont run, but it’s pretty rare you learn new words from a card.

  4. Having listened to the podcast, scattered thoughts:-

    – The only thing that I knew about this was that it was supposed to be Not Good. Like our hosts, I didn’t think so. But now I’m very curious as to what was supposed to be so bad about it. Can anyone fill me in?

    (I appreciate that this may be related to the rest of the crossover, which I haven’t read yet. Feel free to tell me that you don’t want to spoil the Not Good things coming up, and want me to experience the sheer horror of them for myself.)

    – On the other hand, unlike our hosts, I can’t say that I’m loving The X-Cutioner’s Song either. It’s falling into “solidly alright but nothing amazing” territory for me. Nothing to hate, but while I like it well enough and don’t mind spending time in its company, I wouldn’t call it love.

    I think a lot of this is because, to me, it feels like there’s a much better story in here struggling to come out and failing to do.

    Basically, there’s one fight too many between X-Force and members of (an)other team(s) in these issues. What should have taken its place is a conversation. Because the interesting stuff here is about the conflicts between the different approaches that the teams take to mutant issues: you have X-Factor at one end of the spectrum, X-Force at the other, and the X-Men in the middle. And the conversation shouldn’t be only between these teams, but within them — we’ve seen in X-Factor that the relationship with the government isn’t an entirely easy one.

    There is, admittedly, the snag that the crossover is poorly timed, not for X-Factor (despite Peter David’s protestations) but for X-Force. X-Force, at the moment, are in this sort of limbo where their identity is not settled – to what extent are they a continuation of Cable’s X-Force, and to what extent are they the New Mutants redux?

    But one could easily have made lemonade there. In fact, this crossover would be a good place in which to dive right into that question, pitting as it does loyalty to Xavier (= identifying as a New Mutant) versus loyalty to Cable (= identifying as a member of X-Force)? This is an area where you’d expect that Shatterstar would have a very different attitude to Roberto DaCosta. You could even give Feral an opinion, a first step towards making her an actual character.

    And, hell, you could have clarified what Cable’s vision actually was in the course of having characters debate the extent to which they still subscribed to it. That’s right, I still want Fabian Nicieza to come clean about the hidden far-right agenda behind his use of “dirty war.” 🙂

    – It follows from this that I was really disappointed to hear that their capture means that X-Force doesn’t do much in the rest of this. That seems to me to be a definite problem, because the whole use of “Cable” attempting to kill Xavier should be something that puts X-Force at the center of the story.

    – I was amused to see how Wolverine reveals how attuned he is to his environment by kicking up his macho posturing several notches when he’s in X-Force, despite the fact that he was being written by the same writer in the immediately previous X-Men. In general, I rather like the fact that Nicieza doesn’t come across as being anything like as in love with Logan as Claremont was in later years. This Wolverine is a bit of a [expletive deleted], isn’t he, like an older version of the Wolverine in the early (new) UXM?

    – I think this is the first time that Apocalypse is tied to ancient Egypt in particular (as distinct from having been around for a very long time in multiple historic cultures, as Simonson’s Apocalypse was). It’s a shame, really. I prefer the original conception, and the Egyptian stuff doesn’t really seem to be more than window-dressing here. It’s not thematically relevant in any way that I can detect.

    – “I do not have time to suffer the amenities of hallways!” Best Bishop line so far. Toad would approve of the collocation of “suffer” with “amenities.”

    1. From what I recall, it suffered from the problem with many “comic events”, inasmuch as it derailed each of the four main series’ for a quarter of a year (Which when you’re buying momthly is a bugger of a long time), for a story which required purchasing titles you weren’t necessarily buying to follow, and the story didn’t seem to justify that level of disruption.

  5. My personal experience with X-Cutioner’s Song is that, aside from the X-Force vs. X-Factor fight & the initial kick off, it doesn’t become the 90s ride of fun until Stryfe appears. For all his ridiculousness, his planning is pretty amazing. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading along with the show, but he set everything up so that even if he loses, he still makes sure that they don’t really win.

    I don’t have any ideas myself for how to integrate the X-Men & mutants into the MCU, but I liked the treatment from Pop Arena on Twitter, so I’ll just link to that thread: https://twitter.com/pop_arena/status/1029236498535604224

    1. If I were a Disney executive*, I’m pretty sure I’d say “I’ll let you know after I see the box office numbers for X-Men: Dark Phoenix.” Because you probably have to redo the X-Men so thoroughly to fit them into the MCU that you’re effectively starting from scratch = deciding to write off all the work that’s been done since 2000 to establish a certain set of baseline assumptions (many of them involving black leather, obviously) as familiar to audiences across the world, including many people who are not familiar with the comics.

      It’s more than a financial cost. Those broad background assumptions have made the televisual X-stuff unusually able to support variant continuities. They make it possible for Legion, Logan, The Gifted, Deadpool, and I suspect soon The New Mutants all “sort of” to exist in the same vague space as the X-men movies (themselves a glorious continuity mess, as everyone knows). Because you say “mutants,” and people generally know where they are, even if the details are going to vary.

      In this sense, although much less consistent in literal terms, the televisual X-films are more constrained in style and content than the comics. The problem with doing Dark Phoenix is that there’s not a lot of room in the televisual X-stuff for the space opera stuff that was so prominent in the comics. (I know Legion referenced the Shi’ar, but it was a brief Easter egg.) But you’re missing something if she doesn’t destroy an entire planet. Similarly, Apocalypse wasn’t a great success, and I think that might have been because Apocalypse is simply too big and Kirbyesque a character for the televisual X-stuff. (I’ll be curious to see how far The New Mutants goes towards redefining the element of magic in the stories on which it’s based as psychic powers.)

      So you have problems with trying to inject some of the more fantastic things from the comics into the televisual X-stuff as it stands. Integrating it into the MCU, which is *full* of that sort of thing, raises the problem to another level. It’s very probably something that calls for a full reboot and starting the X-Men from scratch as a coherent part of this very different thing, confusing the hell out of non-comics-reading viewers who know what the X-Men (on screen) are supposed to be.

      But it’s probably doable. It will still irritate me, but that’s because I’m one of those forlorn, lonely watchers of Agents of SHIELD who thinks it did a good job of slotting Inhumans into the mutants position.

      *I’m really not, before someone decides to ask me for a large sum of money and/or cocaine.

  6. *The Black Bug Room: “Glitches ‘N’ Bugs” (by The Shortwave Set). In my head. On an almost infinite loop. Every time I read/remember those issues of “new” and “Astonishing”.

    *”Don’t flip the switches, don’t pull the plugs, ’cause it’s just glitches, it’s glitches and bugs…”

    *Mutants in the MCU: I really hope they don’t make the X-men and the avengers share a universe. ‘Cause, you know, the moment you see them sharing the universe it’s the moment the avengers (and all the other flatscans of the MU) become kinda racist.

  7. So, If I was the marvel exec in charge of integrating mutants into the MCU, here’s what I’d do:

    Skip movies and make a big budget TV show. Marvel’s got so much going on with their MCU movies that the X men would get lost in the shuffle. But at the same time, their TV offerings are niche or lackluster–and a big part of that is because the TV division doesn’t have access to any well-known characters.

    The X men solve that problem. They’re well know characters–and since they’re comic’s greatest superhero soap opera, they’re actually super-well suited the sort of storytelling that works in TV and doesn’t work in movies–a straightforward high concept that can support episodes week after week, with a sprawling ensemble cast of characters that can change and grow without upsetting that concept.

    (Also, I’d make a sequel to Logan called “Wolverines” featuring Laura leading a band of teenage mutants through the dystopian USA, but that’s a separate project)

    1. I think that’s very sound, but it’s very sound independent of whether or not you’re approaching it as a way to integrate the X-Men into the MCU.

      In other words, if one imagines a choice not between a film and a TV series, but between two TV series, one that is in the MCU and one that’s in an X-specific continuity — I think one finds that all the problems are still there with shoehorning the X-Men into a universe that was never designed to fit them, and even to some extent was consciously designed around their absence.

      A TV series can maybe help a little with those problems, because it could in principle be like the Netflix shows and be off to the side. But I’m not sure about that, because the Netflix shows have certain advantages that help them finesse the way they effectively exist in a universe where only certain MCU things happened. They’re geographically very restricted, and the threats are small-scale. Even then, there’s a fair amount of griping about the fact that the Netflix shows are so loosely connected to the MCU of which they are ostensibly a part.

      X-Men: The TV series would be more like Agents of SHIELD, I think, where the fact that the movies don’t acknowledge it stands out a lot more, and it finds itself much more constrained by the movies. I think the X-Men in any version have to be built around the idea that the emergence of mutants is a big global development that’s controversial.

      So, on the whole, while I think a reboot TV series is a great idea, especially if it has a nice large budget for special effects to allow it really to show the larger-than-life superhero ridiculousness that contrasts so effectively in the X-Men with the small-scale emotional melodrama, I’d favor one that was in its own continuity. Except that if it were happening right now (which it obviously isn’t), I’d like it to be carefully ambiguous whether or not it was a prequel to The Gifted.

      Flipping the perspective: what is the positive argument in favor of bringing the X-Men into the MCU? Beyond “It’s that way in the comics” — what does the MCU gain as the MCU, and what do the X-Men gain?

  8. The first comics I bought off the newsstand were “The Last Morlock Story”. Therefore, X-cutioner’s Song was one of the first major story arcs I read. It was a thrilling introduction into the broader X-men family, and the high-drama world they inhabited. I remember tearing through each chapter of the story, beside myself in anticipation of the next installment.

    At 14 and new to comics, my enjoyment of the story probably benefited from my naivete. But even today, the plot is fairly easy to follow, and mostly makes sense. It’s driven by character decisions by both heroes and villains that are mostly consistent with their established motives and personalities. This is something that seems rare in subsequent events, which have characters acting wildly against type in order to advance the plot.

    And the art. I was mesmerized by the styles on display in these four titles. Judged against his father, Kubert could be seen as substituting flash for fundamentals; but on his own merits, he can compose a good, readable comic that’s exciting to look at. Peterson is really good at capturing character’s moods and can deliver some very emotionally compelling pages, although his figures can be a bit stiff (and baby Nathan Christopher in the next round is a monstrosity). Capullo delivers on solid anatomy, dynamic action, and excellent storytelling, in a style that is much less derivative than most artists of the era. But Jae Lee left me flabbergasted! His issues were my favorites, and the ones that I would come back to again and again, just to drool over the pages. Storytelling is not his strong suit, and he often depicts the X-folk with out-of-character reactions and facial expressions, but to the young me, all i could see was his incredible style which amps up the excitement of everything going on.

    Anyway, I think this crossover is actually a solid one. These X-men are all recognizable as the ones we had already grown to love. The X-cutioner’s Song may have earned its bad rap from the payoff perhaps being a bit underwhelming (we will get to that later…) and a plot legacy that was poorly handled in subsequent years. My two cents.

  9. So, honestly, I kinda love how much of a continuity mess the X-Men movies are. They feel more like comics in that way and just interest me more than the MCU, which is a little too manicured for my taste (and which is a little too invested in the forest rather than the trees). The XCU is a mess, but a delightful one. (Also, I’m loving Gifted)

    I think my solution would be to introduce the multiverse, keep some of the extant X-Men franchises alive, while still bringing in the X-Men if Marvel really wants that into their universe.

    Aside from the overall monopoly horror of Disney getting Fox and me not being a huge fan of the MCU, I will say I’m excited over finally getting some X-Men in Disney Parks. As I’ve posted before, an X-Men ride pretty much writes itself from queue to safety video to everything else.

    1. You’re really tempting me to write a comment about how the MCU is neoclassical and the X-films are Romantic.

      I prefer the MCU, on the whole, although I can’t put my finger quite on why. It might be that there is a wider range of tones, styles, and genres in the MCU, which I think might be a gain that the MCU gets from having the overall architecture in place: you can do variations that work better.

      But I think my preference for the MCU probably has a lot to do with the fact that the films overall rise to a stronger level on average (which, given that there are more of them, is not a small feat). Logan is the one X-Film that’s really good, and I’d have to agree that it’s probably better than any MCU film. Although, while it’s very good, I tend to feel that Logan gets a little extra praise because it has a lot of the markers that (especially American) film critics look for, in particular the combination of extensive visual and thematic reference to Westerns with a sombre tone.

      1. I think the best lit comparison I’ve heard for the MCU is 1001 Arabian Nights..in that it works off the logic of “next time you’ll get what the real story.”

        Part of me thinks the MCU is a little stuck in the logic of a Petrarchan sonnet: there’s definitely room for play and definitely some things enabled by doing the same concept ad nauseum (and indeed, there’s a logic to an MCU film that works as neatly as ABAB, etc.), but heavens, it’s a lot of the same redeemed by brief glimpses of really cool potential.

        (Granted, I”m NOT a huge Logan fan, and agree with your assessemnt that it gets too much praise for hitting those obvious marks.)

        I’m not sure what X-Men would be in my analogy? It’s not cool enough to be revenge tragedy? Ben Jonson’s WTF poetry about poop?

  10. Just started listening! The X-Cutioner’s Song tweet caught my eye. Anyhow, if they want to introduce the X-Men into the MCU seamlessly, you put Nick Fury in a Fred Duncan type role with Xavier, around the time of the Captain Marvel movie, probable. A five-minute flashback would do it. Then, first movie is the Original Five, with Chuck deciding it’s finally time, in the wake of the Infinity War and the approaching threat of Magneto.

    Anyhow, that’s how I would do it.

  11. I love the X-Force/X-Factor fight, especially how Sam is worried about Rhane fighting Feral, and then Rhane absolutely wipes the floor with her, to Boom-Boom’s complete lack of surprise. Then jerk-ass Feral is like, “Nevermind! retreat sounds great!”

  12. Just for posterity’s sake (since this episode is now over 3 years old):

    -The X-Men writers of the time struggled with either “X-Ecutioner’s Song” as it would make more sense or “X-Cutioner’s Song” the way that Tom DeFalco pronounced it.

    -The original title of the crossover according to some news article put out about 6 months earlier was “Sins of the Father.”

    -Fabian Nicieza was the one that blocked out the story for each issue, creating the spine of the event.

    Some of this was in the original X-Cutioner’s Song TPB, while the rest came from a magazine or industry paper that I no longer recall the name of.

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