Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

221 – Better Than LEGO

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

In which Miles stops worrying and learns to love X-Force; you should absolutely not google the phrase “face jam”; the kids take a field trip to Graymalkin; Jay reverse-engineers Shatterstar’s hair; Donald Pierce gets a new job; Sam Guthrie is the most trustworthy man in the Marvel Universe; Cable is your guns grandma; Professor earns its name; X-Force really only has one setting; and not every Sluggo is lit.


  • A bunch of stuff Quicksilver did
  • Several cats
  • X-Force #20-23
  • The Externals (more) (again)
  • A deeply unlikely hairstyle
  • Graymalkin / Ship / Professor
  • A somewhat one-sided reunion
  • Yahoos
  • Inaccurate arithmetic
  • Why Feral sounds like that
  • Neither Tom, Dick, nor Harry
  • War Machine (James Rhodes)
  • Salvage
  • Sam Guthrie’s long trail of dead father figures
  • Shatterstar
  • How to fight an External
  • The seventh plague
  • What Domino’s been up to
  • Hammer’s mom
  • Tigerstryke (more) (again)
  • Sluggo (but not that Sluggo)
  • Learning to appreciate the ’90s

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  1. I haven’t even started to listen to the episode yet, but I have to say that David Wynne’s art this week is AMAZING! 🙂

  2. This was my favorite run of X-Force. Really loved seeing Sam take the leader role without Cable. I yeah ’90s so big guns are cool, even if they’re not necessary when you have energy blasts, or are invulnerable when you’re blastin’.

    Was just sad to see Cable rejoin X-Force and Sam join the X-men at the end of Age of Apocalypse.

    But no mention of them dropping Crule (still in the bodycast) in the ocean at the end of the story?

  3. Your comments about Sam and his place in the world make me wonder how he would get on with Dick Grayson, both natural leaders, both have overdeveloped senses of responsibility, both the most trusted heroes around, both have paternal authority figure issues… yeah, I think they could probably enjoy a beer or two whilst having a good moan about their respective teams’ latest hijinks.

  4. Probably shouldn’t post this comment, because I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, and for all I know our hosts devoted fifteen minutes to talking about it. (It’s been a busy week.)

    But I’m getting round to reading these issues in preparation for listening, although I haven’t finished. (It’s been a busy week.)

    And I just reached “When the charges in the electromagnetic field surrounding Graymalkin ignited the plasma releases of our downloading process.


  5. Having found the time to listen to the podcast, a few scattered thoughts:

    – I really do wish the Fabian Nicieza who is writing this book would give the Fabian Nicieza who is writing X-Men a few tips.

    – But that’s a little unfair. Our hosts are right, though (at least from my perspective) – this is easily the best X-book at the moment. (I don’t think Excalibur counts as an X-book at this point.) I think the problem is, at least in part, that the two “real” X-Men books are trapped by Claremont. There’s that terrible sense of lifelessness about them, of doing things solely because this is what the X-Men are supposed to be like.

    Meanwhile, this is recognizably an X-book in the Claremont tradition – sprawling plotlines and an interest in character combined with traditional superheroics – but it’s not constrained by the need to *replicate* Chris Claremont in the way that the two real X-books are.

    -The “You never asked” bit with Shatterstar nicely underlines this, as a reference to Logan-turning-out-to-speak-Japanese. It speaks to all the ways in which the existence of a character like Shatterstar is a product, among other things, of the turn in Claremont/Byrne UXM to Wolverine being top character, and the way in which that’s intertwined with taking a new and more admiring attitude to his stabbiness. Shatterstar’s growing on me in general.

    – On the other hand, Feral, for me, remains an annoying and pointless collection of mannerisms, and I can’t wait for her to be gone. And Siryn is a blank space where a personality should be, just a hilarious version of a dialect and a hair color. She has no defining traits beyond “She’s Irish.

    In general, I think there are a few too many characters here for the story to serve. Which makes the amount of dialogue and panel space that Feral gets very irritating to me. She’s not worth writing about even if you have the space!

    – Our hosts, in criticizing the Externals and their old-people self-regard, talked me into liking them. There’s something that works about the collection of twentysomething “new adults” having as their adversaries these people who embody the concept of the old who refuse to get out of the way, in that heightened, super-literal way, that superhero comics can get away with. You can see Jack Kirby coming up with this as an idea, if the concept of (this era of) X-Force were presented to him.

    Note that Vampire: The Masquerade came out this year. See also all the “change of generation” rhetoric surrounding the election of Clinton the next year. This feels right for the early ‘90s to me in a way that contrasts strikingly with how the main X-Men books can’t seem to let go of the Cold War.

    (While we’re on it — goddamn millennials! Stop calling things “radical”! Stop trying to turn the ‘90s into the ‘80s! How many things does your generation have to destroy? Wasn’t Toys R’Us enough? Let us aging members of Gen X clutch our alternative rock, goatees, and overdeveloped pride in our sense of knowing irony to our hearts in peace, damn you. Do you have any idea how important it was to us that we weren’t the ‘80s? It’s the only thing that makes up for the fact that we can’t believe that we never noticed how few people there were on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who weren’t white.)

    – This also makes the Externals function as a mirror of Cable, who obviously is defined by being really old, but still taking up a lot of space, not only physically but also in how he tends to dominate scenes in which he’s in. That makes the second story feel like a natural continuation of the first story: having resolved their relationship with Cable and become his true heirs in a generational-succession sort of way (all very coming-of-age narrative), X-Force then confront people who won’t allow them to be adults and try to force them into the role of children.

    – Mind you, I can’t bring myself to say that this does anything to salvage the single worst flaw of the second story for me, which is the ridiculous moral “dilemma” that it chooses to make the basis of its plot. “If Ah don’t keep a promise extracted from me under duress, that I made because it was the only way to save my friend’s life, does that make me as bad as Gideon?” No, Sam, it really doesn’t, and no-one who’s older than about five would ever think otherwise. The “victory” of finding a narrow literal interpretation that gets Sam out of this “dilemma” has the impact of a light breeze, because the premise is so dumb. I do hope that Sam Guthrie has no career plans to go into contract law.

    – There’s something about the moment when Professor informs everyone in the first story that while they’ve been wasting time fighting, they haven’t bothered to notics that the station that they’ve been fighting on has been suffering (rather strangely defined) damage that is now irretrievable, that feels in hindsight like a metaphor for what was happening in the North American comics market at this time.

    1. For Buffy, one vampire does note the lack of anyone other than white folk in Sunnydale, but I always took that to mean the non-white folk saw the writing on the wall and got the hellmouth out of town and if the white folk wanted to stick around for whatever was doubtless coming then that was their dumbass choice.

    2. Additionally, I think it’s ridiculous to expect Sam to uphold a promise to not interfere in External affairs, when the Externals have kidnapped his friends.

  6. Getting to this a week late, but thank you for referencing Avengers Academy in the cold open. IMO that’s the most underrated semi-long-running Marvel book of the last ten years.

  7. Whilst I personally sort of agree about the promise being null and void, Sam feeling he HAS to honour a promise, even one given under duress, is what makes Sam the best kid, and us… not. 🙂

    It’s the sort of thing that would probably nag at him late at night, worrying about whether breaking a promise should ever be that easy.

  8. Popping into the comments 2 years later to say Dismal Nitch won’t work for an Oregon coastal town as it is Washington State.
    I rather like the visuals of them being in Seaside, Oregon. Especially in peak tourist season with the cacophony of games and music and food vendors.

    1. Huh; I guess we never checked where Dismal Nitch actually was! Well, Washington’s not too far from Portland.

      I feel like X-Force would have a good time in Seaside. Boom-Boom would buy or steal WAY too much from the taffy store.

      (Hey, I know you! Good to see you here!)

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