Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

212 – Drumbeats of Despair: X-Cutioner’s Song (Part 3 or 3)

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

In which nobody but Stryfe’s diary understands him; Apocalypse is the best at what he does (and what he does is remarkably versatile); Scott and Jean weaponize their clichés; Jae Lee does his best Patrick Nagel; Apocalypse is poisonous; Cable goes full T-800; nothing good ever happens to Cyclops on the moon; Stryfe dies as passive-aggressively as he lived; and X-Cutioner’s Song finally concludes.


  • How Cable dies
  • The Story So Far
  • Still more trading-card taxonomy
  • Uncanny X-Men #296
  • X-Factor #86
  • X-Men #16
  • X-Force #18
  • An AU we’d like to read
  • The not-Stüssy S
  • How to effectively reference X-Men #137
  • A decoy baby
  • An abortive escape
  • Moon gravity
  • Revelatory vandalism
  • A trip to the moon
  • A probably excessive number of hawk facts
  • Various daring rescues
  • How to kill time in space
  • Cathexes
  • A very fancy moon base
  • The cavalry, kind of
  • Stryfe vs. Cable
  • An X-Cellent epilogue
  • Several Silent Hill 2 references
  • Stryfe’s Legacy
  • Pawnee, Indiana vs. Marvel
  • Sexy high-security prisons of the future

NEXT EPISODE: Live from FlameCon, featuring Sina Grace, Magdalene Visaggio, and Leah Williams!

Special thanks to Matt for the subject of this episode’s cold open; and to the Protomen for use of their cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Check out the visual companion to this episode on our blog!

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  1. Unfair, using your evil time manipulation to absolutely uncoincidentally record a Hello Muddah Hello Faddah parody about a week before yesterday, when I was ensnared in writing one myself for my own comic project! Avast ye mangy currs…>ahem<

    Sorry. Well played. On the bright side, 130 pages out of roughly 140 are thumbnailed and written, 44 penciled, 13 inked. I'm hoping I'll have Jen's first comic done less than a year from now. You on my list of people who need copies sent come time in thanks for helping reignite my love of the medium. Working hard, so hopefully I don't need to cross my fingers.

  2. Having listened to the podcast, (with bonus Bonnie Tyler *and* a reference to a Duran Duran album cover — I know we’re all missing the Claremont era, but isn’t it time to embrace the ‘90s?*)

    OK, so I’m back to “quite liking” this again. I really feel that it’s the meandering middle section that lets it down. There’s a decentish opening with the other teams hunting down X-Force, there’s a decentish conclusion with what might be described as “the X-Men plus” confronting Stryfe — it’s the stuff in the middle that desperately needed someone to say, “Actually, is there some way to cut this?”

    What do we call those people again? Oh yes, “editors.” I do think that a lot of the failures here are failures of editing. One feels the absence of a strong central perspective pulling this whole thing together and co-ordinating the contributions of the individual writers and artists.

    This is especially so in how Stryfe is handled. He’s the central character of this whole story, so it’s a serious problem that his characterization is so random. Supposedly, he has this big revelation that Scott and Jean aren’t the monsters that he has always unquestioningly assumed, leaving him with “doubt” and nothing but his “hatred.” None of that is visible in his next interaction with them. It’s perfectly credible that he might double-down and proceed with his intention to destroy them rather than accept the collapse of his entire sense of self. But that’s not how it’s presented. Instead, Peter David writes Stryfe, pretty much, as if Scott Lobdell’s comic has not actually happened.

    Another thing that I think an editor might have caught is that the character’s voices seem off sometimes. Would Warren really say “I loathe to admit” in place of the normal “I hate to admit”? That sort of slight artful variation sounds more like Hank. I definitely think that Logan would not express the thought of “Something I have been known to use successfully now and then” in those exact words.

    In theory, I think this is also true of the new, calm, deadpan, snarky Cable that our hosts pointed out — it’s a sudden radical shift in a character’s established voice. But I like the new Cable rather a lot, especially when he says “If I do it myself, twenty, twenty-five minutes” for no intelligible reason except that he must want to trick Wolverine and Bishop up into offering their help, just so that he can be a [expletive deleted] to them.

    In fact, I had the revelation while reading these that I am much, much more interested in both Cable and Bishop than I am in Wolverine. Isn’t he completely played out at this point? Time to kill him off, surely. There’s no way this character will still be around at the end of the ‘90s, right?

    Other scattered thoughts:

    – It feels odd to praise these issues for subtlety, but the whole revelation of Stryfe’s origin is handled in quite an interesting way. There’s no single “My God, Jean, you don’t mean?” “Yes, Scott – – Stryfe is YOUR SON!” moment. Instead it becomes more and more obvious until by the end of the comic not only the reader, but also the characters, are taking it as read that Stryfe is the grown-up baby.

    Of course, I can’t be sure that the answer isn’t that each writer thought that one of the others was supposed to write that scene, and Harras simply didn’t catch that nobody did. Still, it reinforces the whole “fathers and sons” theme that Xavier announces nicely, in a way that suggests that yes, the opening arc really was supposed to be about Xavier and Cable as rival “fathers.”

    – I sort of felt that Havok was maybe being pushed into the leader role at Storm’s expense a little too much.

    – Bishop reminiscing about his childhood in the future and mutant-human relations there seems to be dialing down his Dredd-analogue-ness in favor of a different impression than he gave at first.

    – “Star-crossed soldiers of fortune.”? OK, Cable actually was one and there’s room in Wolverine’s Mysterious Past for him to have been, whether or not that had been stated at some point before this. But Bishop wasn’t a soldier of fortune. Words mean things, Mr. Nicieza.

    *Although, thinking about it, the fact that our hosts went straight for Total Eclipse of the Heart is solid evidence for my belief that stereotypically “‘90s” superhero comics like these are only *chronologically* ‘90s — they’re more in tune with the ‘80s than the rest of ‘90s pop culture.

  3. So as someone who was born in the late 90’s, 99 to be precise, I feel it’s important to note that we also use the S as a thing to draw. We don’t know where it came from either, as I was never taught it, and I don’t know anyone who was taught it from their parents either. Just something to note

  4. Just thought I would mention that the sequence where Cable, Bishop, and Wolverine decide to go to the moon is a reference to the 1969 Western the Wild Bunch. In fact, the subplot of Cable being hunted by former “Wild Pack” member G.W. Bridge also parallels the plot of the film. Come to think of it Cabel’s character development in Blood and Metal is very similar to William Holden’s transformation as a character in the Wild Bunch.

  5. I actually really like the idea that Cable would be the clone…with everything else more or less staying the same. In a way, it’s more touching that Scott and Jean would grow to see the “lesser” option as theirs and no less deserving of their love. I think it’d be a nice bridging of the whole Summers family nonsense with the idea of “found family” (though we will get that eventually with Hope). Also, there’d be a weird kind of parallel to the genesis of Cable to begin with (after all, one of the parents was a clone).

    Anyway, great ep, as always! Loved the hawk digression so much.

    1. Honestly, I feel the same way. Superhero comics have a tendency to treat characters as instantly “lesser” once people realize they’re a clone (see: Madelyne Pryor, the tone/reaction to the Clone Saga), so having Cable – not the nicest person but still much more heroic & noble than Stryfe – be “just” the clone would be a refreshing change. Ah, well.

  6. I love the idea of Warren being all hawk-like in the most embarassing possible ways.

    In my neck of the woods we have had a recent attempt to reintroduce a near extinct ird of prey which has worked beautrifully, so we now have skies full of red kites.

    This is a species of raptor which looks magnificent with full blown, giant wingspan and soaring movements, sound EXACTLY like every hawk sound effect you’ve ever heard on any movie or TV show ever and… well, are actually just a bit crap at being predators.

    They can catch small prey, but their beaks aren’t particularly sharp or long, so they tend to go for already dead animals because they put up less of a fight.. probably.

    It reassures me somehow, to know that nature can produce magnificent looking birds of prey which are just really bad at their job.


    Waiiitaaa, waita, waita second. Were you (Jay) suggesting that Wolves skeleton has adamantium in the hollow cores of the bones (where bone marrow would be)?
    U often hear the term ‘laced’. That’s probably a purposely ambiguous chosen term. I always took it as he has a thin coating of adamantium over ALL of his bones. Except at all the necessary spots, and obviously at the joints to not impede his knees hinging, shoulders moving, etc..
    In reality, he should be all heavy and barely able to move. I mean it’s not like he has super strength to overcome that extra weight etc. imagine how agile u’d be with all that shit stuffed in you and weighing u down!:P

  8. It just dawned on me why, even tho everything you guys have gone over for YEARS has been very very familiar seeing as how I remember reading it from my own collection, none of your coverage of this event has rang a bell AT ALL:
    My brother & I never opened the sealed bags that X-Cutioner’s Song came in! So this is the first of the comics you’ve covered that I’m learning about initially from you since the silver age. Totally different experience. Thank you.

    1. That might be another reason why this has the (IMO) exaggerated reputation for being downright awful?

      I imagine that there must have been many people who bought two copies (keep/read), and had the not unreasonable expectation that they would get something that was, if not twice as good as usual, at least at a noticeably higher level. I can certainly see that readers might expect something special, not something that’s basically an OK crossover that’s doing pretty much what The X-Tinction Agenda did at greater length.

  9. It felt awful at the time for me because there was not a trace of Claremont’s influence in it. Just no good character work. That was the straw that broke my back after Harris forced him out. After this cross over was done I didn’t read X-Men again until 2003.

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