Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

217 – Piotr the Obscure

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

In which it sucks to be a Rasputin; X-Men and Uncanny X-Men muddy the waters; Cyclops and Psylocke’s weird flirtation somehow manages to get even more awkward; Colossus has a long series of bad days; and you should totally come see us at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival.


  • An atypical curriculum
  • Jay & Miles at Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival
  • X-Men #17-19
  • What Colossus and Magik have been up to
  • X-Men title disambiguation
  • The terrible fate of the town of Neftelensk
  • Blind Faith (Alexi Garnov)
  • Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna)
  • Darkstar
  • Beard auras
  • Cathartic interdimensional landscaping
  • Flagwatch 113
  • Red Flag 113
  • An awkward encounter
  • The Soul Skinner
  • The tactical value of cute little ears
  • Dubious cold-weather apparel
  • Jude the Obscure
  • Weaponized angst
  • An inopportune coloring error
  • Lack of pants
  • Whether Pyro could control Jubilee’s “fireworks”
  • How to enjoy dated comics

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  1. Jay was absolutely on fire this episode. At one point I did one of those loud snorts as I tried not to belly-laugh in the office.

  2. I love the fact that Cyclops casually generates enough angst to give chronic indigestion to a creature who lived off angst AND WAS USED TO FEEDING IN THE SOVIET RUSSIA, a country which counts despair as a fundamental character trait and major export!

    That’s probably why they didn’t use D’Spayre, he’s been around long enough to know where to avoid if he wants to eat healthily.

  3. I hated this story so much precisely the reasons Jay said. This story felt unnecessarily mean in killing of Colossus’s family. Some deaths serve for good stories. This one was just a bummer.

    1. Agreed. Especially after giving us the sweet family scenes in #17 (like Jubilee teaching Illyana about makeup or Bobby & Mama Rasputin bridging their language gap), it felt cruel & arbitrary. Colossus’s story as it goes from this point could have continued with his parents alive, at least.

    2. I wonder if it’s better because we knew the characters, so their deaths were at least impactful if not meaningful? Or would something like End of Greys be preferable, since most of the characters killed there were created specifically for that story to be killed-off, so at least… um… it less harm was done… in a way?

      (For the record, I don’t like either of those stories, I’m just wondering which might be more or less aggravating).

  4. An attempt by one physics teacher here – A bit of cursory research to supplement my memory…

    Pyro controls fire. How? Who knows, but lets start with him. Fire is the result of combustion, which at a basic level, is the rearrangement of oxygen atoms with other molecules. Oxygen typically starts bonded with itself (as O2). Breaking those bonds requires a bit of input energy, but then greater energy is released when that oxygen bonds with carbon from whatever fuel source. Since Pyro seems to require a starting source of fire for his powers, I assume they have nothing to do with the actual combustion reaction or the molecules involved.

    The light and heat of a flame is the human-sized total effect of the release of energy from combustion. In general, that energy exists in the form of light, which is released as electrons on atoms shift down into lower energy orbits, as well as when larger groups of molecules release heat energy (in a related way). That energy also exists as kinetic energy, as atoms and molecules are vibrating.

    Flame consists of many things – some of it consists of unburned fuel molecules. These hot molecules release most of the light of a flame due to a process called Blackbody radiation. Basically, this process is the conversion of heat energy into light. It largely governs the color of the flame – red tends to be a bit lower energy, orange is hotter, yellow is hotter still. This same process governs the color of incandescent light bulbs, electric stovetops and stars (cold stars are redder, warmer stars are yellow, and the hottest stars are white or blue).

    Some of the light of the flame comes from the light released by electrons, as they relax into lower energy states, as mentioned earlier. This light might come from ionized atoms/molecules regaining their electrons, and is more common in really good, or efficient, reactions. This light tends to be beyond our ability to see (ultraviolet light or higher), which is why really hot fire tends to be clear or blue – which you might recall from a Bunsen burner in your last science class. Though different chemicals might have different spectrums (that is, they release different colors of light), which might be more visible.

    Fire moves up because the energy released gives the surrounding molecules a lot of kinetic energy. This causes them to vibrate a lot, and spread out, which lowers their density. This patch of hot air then floats up, in the same way a helium balloon floats. Flame tends to whip and curl because this patch of hot air has a very nebulous and inconsistent boundary, and is very chaotic. The burning Blackbody-emitting bits of fuel and other material follows these rising convection currents, whichever way they flow, giving visual cues to that fluctuating density boundary.

    So, what does Pyro control? Maybe he controls the density of the air? Maybe he creates pockets of varying density that forces the glowing Blackbody-emitting particles into locations (and shapes) that he wants? It’s hard to see how he keeps the fire going without fuel, though. Perhaps a control over density can force those partially burned fuel particles to keep burning – but that would only last so long. He could ignite other fuel sources, of course, but we typically see him control flames in the air, and I don’t think there is a lot of combustible fuel in normal air. Also, this idea makes his power more akin to Storms (though, since there is some noted overlap between Iceman’s and Storm’s powers, and thematic relation between Iceman and Pyro, perhaps this is okay…).

    Jubilee creates plasmoids (maybe). This would likely be referring to plasma, which is basically ionized material – atoms separated from their electrons. This is similar to really efficient, Bunsen burner-style fire. If she can spontaneously rip all the electrons off atoms in small localized pockets of air, then this would release a lot of energy – light. It would also create rapidly fluctuating pockets of density, as surrounding air might be rapidly pushed out of the way and then collapses back again. Like dropping a pebble in water, this would create the PAF! and popping sounds.

    Due to the overlap in the products released by really efficient fire, it is possible Pyro could control these plasmoids – but it would be very unlike the flame we typically see him control. There would also be even less starting fuel particles for his flame control to subsist on… If his powers have something to do with controlling air density surrounding fire, then he might be able to redirect her fireworks. However, if his powers really do have something directly to do with combustion – well, this interpretation of Jubilee’s powers is not combustion, so he presumably would not be able to control them.

    But, then, there’s the idea that she is some how igniting matter at a molecular level. Not sure what this is referring to exactly, but breaking molecular bonds typically absorbs energy, not release it. Though, if she is spontaneously ripping molecular bonds apart and letting them reform, that reformation would release energy. At an atomic level, this ability maybe sounds like fission, which is where energy in a nuclear reactor comes from. She would only release energy in this way if she started with atoms lower down in the periodic table than iron (which includes many metals). However, both of these processes are even further removed from the flames Pyro is typically shown controlling…

    So, could Pyro control Jubilee’s fireworks? Possibly, but I would lean towards no…

    Though, pitch the right story reason for it, and sure!

      1. Absolutely. That was fabulous. And making the basis of Pyro’s power similar to Storm’s is definitely a feature, not a bug.

  5. Really great episode – I ended up listening to this episode while I was driving my aunt to a doctor’s appointment, we both got a really good laugh at Cyclops giving heartburn to the Skinner of Souls, like someone who likes spicy food taking the One Chip Challenge.

    So, a brief bit of Count Zero Contextualizes Comics Through Anime – while this is not the first time that Omega Red’s “Death Factor” has come up – this is the first time it’s come up since I watched Tsukihime and Garden of Sinners, I feel like Kinoko Nasu (the creator of both those works and Fate/Stay Night) looked at Omega Red’s Death Factor, turned to the rest of Type/Moon and said “Hold my beer” when he came up with the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception.

  6. Our hosts made me feel guilty and ashamed this week, with their responses at the end about finding the good in things and the importance of reading things as artifacts of their historical context.

    Because I just can’t do it for these issues! I’m just not a good enough person! These really are, to me, those terrible early-90s X-Men comics that everyone talks about. It seems as if Fabian Nicieza only has so much good sensitive writing in him at any one time, and now that he’s using it on X-Force, this becomes full of the equivalent of the godawful macho posturing that he used to have characters do there. Except that here, this manifests as everyone speaking in horribly overwrought Claremont-pastiche dialogue. I can see that a little bit of it might have a certain camp appeal, but page after page, I can’t help but find it monotonous. And when your brightly-colored action comic about people in ridiculous outfits becomes monotonous, there’s a problem.

    And then there’s Psylocke.

    But, to make sure that I follow our hosts’ example to a tiny little extent, I continue to appreciate that Fabian Nicieza doesn’t seem all that impressed by Wolverine.

    1. It’s okay! Not everything has to be your thing; and the great thing about comics is that–barring exceptional circumstances–you can absolutely skip the parts that don’t grab you and find summaries (or listen to a podcast) to fill in the gaps!

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