Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

272 – Children of the Phalanx (the Phalanx Covenant, Part 2 of 3)

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

In which Ship was inside Cable all along; Life Signs is the Two Towers of the Phalanx Covenant (but only in the bad ways), it’s lucky that the Phalanx doesn’t have WiFi; Nightcrawler embraces chaos; and we promise the crossover gets better next chapter.


  • How Cable got his Ship back
  • Miles’s official stance on candy corn
  • The Two Towers of the Phalanx Covenant
  • X-Factor #106
  • X-Force #38
  • Excalibur #82
  • A monastery party
  • Douglock (more) (again)
  • Forge-O-Vision
  • How Steven Lang got mixed up with the Phalanx
  • Stages of Phalanx development
  • Babel
  • Giuseppe Russo, shepherd
  • The Phalanx, but dogs
  • Shinar
  • What you get when you meet a stranger in the Alps
  • Whom we’d like to see draw the Phalanx
  • Mindwifery
  • Adulthood
  • “Stealth”
  • Where baby Phalanxes come from
  • Teamwork
  • Good stories about Hope Summers
  • What happened to Paul Bailey

NEXT EPISODE: Rock climbing with the Summers Family

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

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    1. Yeah, I had that problem when I tried to download. Ended up streaming it this time. But I realise not everyone can do that.

    2. Fixed! It’s now working on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and should work on everything else as soon as those podcatchers re-poll our feed.

      I blame the Phalanx.

  1. So, Children of the Corn also had people sent out to the cornfield to be eaten by He Who Walks Between The Rows when they got over a certain age as well.

    Also, I think what Nightcrawler has is less a strategy and more a “Cunning Plan” – like what Blackadder would think up. Or maybe Baldrick.

    As a side note – Disney didn’t get *all* of Ghibli’s catalog – they didn’t get Grave of the Fireflies, which stayed with Central Park Media until their demise, and then went to Sentai Filmworks (I’m still shocked that The Criterion Collection didn’t jump all over that – well, that and Akira after Geneon USA bit the dust).

  2. Ironically, “Life Signs” was the only part of the crossover I intended to pick up, as it included Excalibur which I was already buying (since the Douglock Chronicles). I ended up getting Generation Next too, but that was an afterthought.

    I remember the weirdness of Douglock shackling HIMSELF to the wall and then just absorbing it all back into himself. (Performative bondage seems a very Claremont idea! 🙂 ) as well as his sudden one-off manifestation of teleportation.

    And Shinar, this crossover’s equivalent of Nastirh (and almost an anagram too) a randomly created villain to make up numbers for the crossover with no real resonance to the over-arcing plots. I actually didn’t mind him being canine, since the Phalanx would absorb ALL life on Earth, and canines would be part of that. Plus just imagine how much more effective their infestation strategy would have been if they had simply taken the form of adorabe puppies and kittens. They’d have overrun the Earth within days.

    Forge’s utter fascination with the Phalanx makes a lot of sense to me; someone whose power sees potential in technology, being presented with a life-form who are infinitely variable technology, would be several fantasies all in one. (It does make one wonder how he looked at Warlock back in the day. I think the met up once or twice) and someone who is a cyborg himself would perhaps have a natural sympathy towards a technorganic species.

    Douglock being more cavalier about infecting Sam and Rahne might be down to him just not considering the implications the way Warlock did for Doug. Warlock was always concerned about risks to his beloved selfsoulfriend. Douglock, at this stage probably saw Sam and Rahne as “People I met… through work”.

    As ever, the Phalanx inability to absorb mutants makes no sense, as they had mutant genetic material in the midst of them from the outset (hint, independence, hairswoop).

    I do love the later retcon about the true purpose of the Babel Spire.

    1. I think the lack of concern with the merging process is arguably the editors and writers: they’re just not interested in that sort of thing.

      On the whole, I think this is the best thing so far to come out of the Harras X-office. But for me, that’s a very low bar. And there’s an awful lot of stuff that’s remarkably underexploited: the body horror aspects, the question of what it psychologically feels like to be assimilated, how does being part of a hive mind affect one, etc. The closest we get is the infection of Paige last week (viewed largely from the outside, not in terms of her experience) and this week Forge’s Forge-O-Vision making him vulnerable to the allure of the Phalanx — more fully developed, but very much presented as an idiosyncratic vulnerability of that particular character.

      In contrast, what these stories do want to exploit is the paranoid Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers feel of it all, the idea that the Phalanx could be anyone or anything and attack you at a moment’s notice. I have a crazy theory about that, but I’ll leave it till next week, in case reading the final part of the PhC shows me that it’s wrong. But the lack of interest in the possibility that Douglock might infect the others seems to me to be part of that larger pattern — he won’t, because that’s not what this story is interested in.

      1. You probably have a point about the it not being a focus, but it IS kind of a big thing in this story, as infection by the Transmode virus is what EVERYONE is trying to avoid.

        So to have Douglock casually infect a couple of (relatively) major players with it should definitely be a bigger deal.

        And I don’t think I expected Douglock to die at this point. If he’s been intro’d here, yes quite possibly, but not after a multiple issue introduction in Excalibur.

    2. I was thinking about it during listening to the podcast, but I don’t think Forge did ever meet Warlock, he was on Muir Isle and then the sewers of New York, didn’t he only join up with the X-Men after the Xtinction Agenda, and Warlock’s death? I never bought the whole thing about Forge’s powers reacting to the Phalanx they way they do, it’s like a chef walking into a McDonalds and getting captivated by all that food. But then, this whole arc is desperately trying to find something, anything for spare characters to do to justify the crossover.

      1. He didn’t join before then, but he’d be in and around the X-Men for years before that, I’m not sure if the New Mutants even showed up in the Dire Wraith storyline with Rom, but it seems possible.

        And I think Forge reacting to the Phalanx is less like a chef walking into McDonalds and being captivated by the food, so much as it’s a chef discovering, for the first time, a number of completely new spices and ingredients AND a recipe book that he can use to create absolutely any dish imaginable, including an entirely new type of taste, beyond the five normal ones.

        And now I’m hungry!

  3. Scattered thoughts:-

    -Todd DeZago’s X-Factor achieves a new level in clunky dialogue. “I bade Moira to initiate the ship’s self-destruct program.” I was relieved to get to Nicieza. I don’t care if “two oars shy of rowing the boat” is all wrong from a dialect standpoint — in gratitude I will try to use it in conversation as often as I can.

    -I get that Sam and especially Rahne are going to go on about Doug when they see Douglock. It makes sense. But what about their equally dead friend Warlock?

    -I cannot agree strongly enough with our hosts’ comments on Tony Daniel’s depiction of women. In comparison, the following complaint is minor.

    But still, why has Daniel drawn all the signs in this village in the Italian Alps in English? I’d suppose that Daniel didn’t realize where the story was set, except that he clearly does know, because he puts a picturesque mountain in the background. I actually thought at first that this was going to be like Gregor’s dialogue last week, a clue that the Phalanx had made a clumsy attempt to fabricate something. But no — it’s not the Phalanx’s mistake.

    -At the time, I think a reader could have been in very genuine suspense as to whether Douglock was dead — he could quite credibly have been created precisely to die at this point.

    1. I totally agree!
      When I read these as they came out, I had the same thought about which dead friends the New Mutants chose to mourn over. Why Doug and not Warlock?? It seemed very speciesist. I know that’s not a word, but that’s what I felt back then.

  4. I’m a little surprised that our indefatigable hosts haven’t mentioned the Borg as a precedent for the Phalanx. I wonder if calling one of the segments of the crossover “Generation Next” is a Freudian Star Trek reference. I remember the Phalanx as terrifying villains, even if this crossover was a bit of a muddled mess.

    1. Yeah, I’m a little surprised at that omission too, though the “Alien” notion of Phalanx-eggs being referenced is.

      As a separate issue, at this point the writers never address _why_ the Phalanx are a hive mind when the Transmode virus they’re created from is sourced from the fiercely individualistic Tehcnarch’s like Warlock and Magus.

      They also have the same issue that Trek realised about the Borg, you can only use them as a hive mind with a disembodied voice for so long before it becomes a bit… boring from a story point of view, and you need someone to use as a focus, like a Locutus or a Borg Queen.

      So the hive mind has multiple individualistic individuals to take centre stage as required, which seems a contradiction in terms; Hodge and Lang now being joined by the likes of Harvest and Shinar.

  5. I have a big soft spot in my heart for these issues. The Phalanx Covenant was where I first got into the X-Men books and these issues were my introduction to the extended franchise and I very vividly remember piecing together the full arc from the big wall of comics in the back of K-Mart. These issues are a big part of why I’ve always really liked Rahne and Sam.

  6. 1) I’m still upset about Kieron Gillen leaving Generation Hope
    2) I’m still upset about Marvel cancelling Generation Hope
    3) I’m still upset about Marvel throwing away all the good phoenix stuff that Generation Hope built in white straight savio… in avengers vs X-men
    4) I’m still upset about not having a monthly mutant book by Spurrier since his X-Force
    5) I’m still upset about Jan-Michael Vinc… Oh my Moore, we’re gonna have the first Generation X episode this year!
    6) And the first episode covering the Warren Ellis run on Excalibur!
    7) And The Age Of Apocalypse next year!
    8) Which gonna let us closer to Onslaught!!!
    9) Number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine number nine
    10) The design/idea of the demon/doggy Phalanx is the only thing I liked of this issues

  7. I recall always being fascinated with the way this story presented how Forge perceives technology. It was a nice way of clarifying how his power works (though still leaving a bit open to interpretation as demonstrated by the various ways it’s depicted in this one story). I always thought to have the mutant power to be good with machines was kind of weird. Are there mutants whose powers make them exceptionally good knitters, amazing at data entry, uncanny baristas? But having his powers be tied to how he perceives machines on a different level than others is a great way to separate him from someone like, say, Reed Richards who is just as good or better at engineering but was born an ordinary human. I’ve missed a huge chunk of 2000s X-Men, but as far as I know, this was the only time they really described his power in this manner which seems kind of odd. It’s way cooler and lends itself to more storytelling opportunities than him just being inherently good with machines.

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