Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

271 – Abs for Days (The Phalanx Covenant, Part 1 of 3)

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

In which we’re finally both back in the virtual studio; Generation X is the new Inferno; the Phalanx Covenant begins; we’re not talking about Hickman in our coverage of this story; Banshee is the adult in the room; the Phalanx is pretty sexist; and gross powers are cool.


  • Blink
  • Peter Sís
  • The Phalanx Covenant
  • “Generation Next” (but not Generation Next)
  • Uncanny X-Men #316-317
  • X-Men #36-37
  • Yet another way to do a crossover event
  • Some very good visual branding
  • What we’re not covering
  • Sexy Banshee
  • Retired Colonel Gayle Cordbecker
  • Monet St. Croix (kind of)
  • Coaxing
  • Early days of the Internets
  • Everett Thomas (Synch)
  • The fate of Sara Grey
  • Phalanx Phashion
  • Angelo Espinosa (Skin)
  • Clarice Ferguson (Blink)
  • Some guy allegedly named Gregor
  • Harvest
  • A very expensive house
  • An apparent death

NEXT EPISODE: Forge does not get a puppy.

NOTE: Jay was right: LiveJournal first launched in 1999.

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  1. I baby duck imprinted on this Uncanny art so hard. I still have the comic issue I created several years later that features me copying figures and reclothing them and giving them new hair and collaging them into a new plot…

    There’s that Banshee ab shot…there’s that profile of Monet picking at her techno organic suit. Yeah…learning isn’t embarrassing at all.

  2. I have really been looking forward to you guys reaching this arc. The Phalanx Covenant wasn’t the first X-Men comics I read – that honor goes to some old comics my uncle had from the early 80s – but this is where I started reading the books as they were coming out. This arc led to years of uninterrupted X-Men content in my life and I have a strong emotional attachment to them as a result.

  3. My first exposure I had to the Phalanx was an action figure I had of Harvest as a kid. I owned no other X-Men action figures, and indeed all the other action figures I had were either Kenner Star Wars or Playmates Star Trek, and I wasn’t reading the comics at the time, so I had exactly *no* context for the character.

    It’s nice to finally get that context now. (I may post my usual contextualization through anime later.)

  4. Well the good news chaps, is that there isn’t a single issue where Warren wears that red and white Angel outfit.

    The bad news chaps (unless I was woefully misunderstanding the discussion, which is possible on a Monday morning) is that there are MANY issues where he wore it. It was his standard costume for most of the late 70’s (Well, after his Champions run) to the mid 1980’s, including his appearance in the Dark Phoenix saga, his tenure in the Defenders and other appearances in the 80’s (Like his rare solo outing in a 1980’s Marvel Team-Up with the Thing where he fights Toad in a re-decoed Murderworld).

    So it’s a snafu he’s wearing an old costume, but it was definitely a costume he wore, and wore a lot.

    1. I’d thought that costume was always blue and white when he wore it in the past, though – wasn’t the red and white variation new as of the Phalanx doppelgänger? (I could totally be misremembering!)

      EDIT: Nope, you’re right – he wore the red variant for quite a while before this too. I’d just had the blue version stuck in my head.

      1. If it’s any consolation, tne only reason I was pretty sure it had been seen before (prior to checking) was that it was the first of his costumes I remember seeing in colour in the late 1970’s.

        I’d seen black and white reprints of older X-Men and Champions showing him in other costumes, but pre Internet that didn’t help much in knowing what the colours SHOULD be.

    2. Yup, I was coming to say the same, he wore the red one as a member of the Champions and Defenders, and I THINK his second tenure as an X-Man, right after Kitty joined?

      At any rate, from here until Grant Morrison/Joe Casey, Warren is back in the blue and white variant of this costume, which is about 7 years real world time.

      So Miles, and Jay, speaking of costumes, you guys taught me something new this episode. I have read 316 DOZENS of times, and I didn’t get that the costumes were wrong as a clue. I just thought Joe Mad didn’t know how to draw them yet. I had caught the Psylocke thing and the “Shugah” thing, but the wrong costume thing was so subtle I cannot believe I overlooked it.

      Speaking of Joe Mad’s art, Banshee HAS to be well over 40, and it’s just Mad’s habit of drawing everyone exactly the same that makes him look older. After all, he was treated as Xavier’s contemporary since the ORIGINAL X-Men 28, which was 1966 or 1967 … he’s clearly got age lines on his face as drawn by Cockrum and Byrne, he’s got a teenage daughter roughly the New Mutants age or older (I think Siryn is one of the few X-Men whose relative age is never quantified), he’s been a cop and an Interpol agent … but there’s no way, in my opinion, that Banshee is in his 30s at this point, he’s gotta be way older.

      Miles — just like you this was the height of me collecting X-Men. In fact, this might be the last X-Men crossover I bought every issue of in real time. But I was 14 in ’94 and devoured EVERYTHING X-Men at this point. So this is the most nostalgic period for me, I think.

      1. Banshee here was trying out a new application of his powers, in which he sends sonic vibrations through his skin to smooth out his wrinkles and make himself look twenty years younger. Nobody mentioned it, but there was actually a barely-audible humming noise coming from him in every one of these panels.

  5. I was so happy to hear Miles talk about sexy Banshee during this arc. No joke, Madureira Banshee is what prompted me to first realize I was gay. And the abs and the floopy hair are what did it 🙂

  6. This is something I’ve been both looking forward to and not. Since I came back to superhero comics in the 2000’s, the Phalanx have been the basis for one excellent one (that Kieron Gillen single-issue story) and one pretty damn good and fun one (Annihilation Colon! Conquest). So I know that I can like Phalanx stories an awful lot.

    Plus, the Fabian Nicieza interview that our hosts did revealed that this was what Scott Lobdell and Bob Harras were really excited about — the chance to do something new. So maybe this was not going to be as lazy as so much of what they’d been producing.

    Plus, something new sounds good in itself. One basic problem with the X-books remains what it has been for a few years at this point — they are being written to a joyless imagined template of what the X-Men “should” be like. I’m not sure that the Phalanx are as new a thing within the X-books as apparently Harras and Lobdell thought. (This is separate from them being derivative of things outside the X-books.) Continuity-wise, they’ve been thoroughly positioned as an outgrowth of established elements. But more importantly, thematically they’re very Claremont, with a particular affinity with the Brood.

    But if Lobdell and Harras *think* they’re doing something new, maybe that will push them to do new things with it.

    On the other hand, it’s Harras and Lobdell doing a story with Claremonty personal-violation mind-control themes, and the burned hand really does fear the fire at this point.

    Anyway, how did this part go for me? Well, this really is just the first four issues of Generation X, isn’t it? Still, in a way that’s a bold move, denying the readers the “real” X-characters. One wonders if it was part of the process by which Harras and co. came up with the idea for Age of Apocalypse.

    I suspect that for readers at the time who were invested in the usual casts of UXM and XM, this was an effective device to create suspense. That’s not me, though — for me it was a relief to get away from the lifeless, angst-ridden main cast of X-Men for a little bit. So I liked these issues a fair bit, but I’m afraid that it was partly because they underlined for me how dreary I’m finding UXM and XM as a whole at this point.

    Anyway, scattered thoughts:-

    – I liked calling out how completely daft Sean’s supposed biography is. Incidentally, this whole spell as a New York police detective — how is that supposed to fit into his life history? How often *does* the NYPD recruit members of the Irish landed aristocracy?

    -Paige’s bit about how she knows farming. If I recall Sam’s first appearance correctly, isn’t the fact that his family depended on coal-mining for its income significant? I wonder if, over time, the Guthries have maybe drifted from being located in a specific eastern Kentucky milieu into being generically and vaguely rural and sort of Southern-ish, and have lazily been assumed to be farmers because isn’t that what all those people down there in those sorts of place do, right?. (I haven’t tracked their appearances looking out for this, so it’s quite possible that I’ve missed something.)

    (Incidentally, the original New Mutants graphic novel does not appear to be on Marvel Unlimited, although the notoriously arbitrary and random indexing may mean that I missed it. That’s an odd gap.)

    -Watchmen is an overpraised comic with a lot of problems, but still, I’m not sure that it was the most sensible comparison for the writers of these issues to invite. Unless Angelo was meant to be consciously quoting Watchmen, which would be funny.

  7. I only read this story a couple years ago when the New Mutants movie was in pre-production. At the time, they talked about how they had ideas for three New Mutants movies each with a different horror style. Now I have no idea what styles they had planned (and, sadly, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the two sequels), but it occurred to me that it would work perfectly as Demon Bear (psychological/surreal horror), Inferno (as sort of an Evil Dead horror-comedy), and the Phalanx Covenant. I still maintain that this event is some of the best horror in Marvel comics.

    1. Agreed, though I think it would be too early for the Phalanx to be introduced.

      I think that the triology would have been

      Demon Bear – Psychological horror

      Magus – Body horror (also introduces Warlock (and hopefullly Cypher) and might lead into a Phalanx story in a future trilogy.

      Inferno – All out demonic invasion horror and culminates Magik’s arc.

      1. I hate to say it, but I wonder if doing both the Technarchy and the Phalanx is the sort of thing that works in long-running superhero comics but not so well in a series of films aimed at a broader audience. If I were a studio executive, I might well look up from my pile of cocaine and say, “Yeah, we’re going to have to combine those into one concept.”

        Not that it matters much, as Mike Murdock is sadly right about our chances of seeing more than the one film. Still, at least we’re getting that one.

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