Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

286 – Family Before Continuity

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

In which Sunspot is a bad enough dude to save the president; Black Air is nowhere near as fun as WHO; we reach the end of Fabian Nicieza’s X-Force run; Rictor and Shatterstar talk about feelings; Gambit does not go gently into that good night; Scott and Jean choose family over continuity; Legion Quest comes to a close, along with Earth-616; the heart of Dawn of X is its margins; you should come see us at ECCC; and we announce a new schedule.


  • The Maker (Reed Richards of Earth-1610)
  • Jay & Miles at ECCC and FlameCon 2020
  • Stuff Jay writes
  • Excalibur #86
  • X-Force #43
  • Cable #20
  • Black Air
  • Pete Wisdom
  • What’s been up in Genosha
  • The Midnight Runner
  • Navigating Kitty Pryde’s age in Excalibur
  • A very abrupt ending
  • The ongoing evolution of X-Force
  • Locus’s new look
  • Clubbing with Rictor and Shatterstar
  • Legion Quest so far
  • Complicated feelings at the end of the world
  • A reunion
  • Where it all started
  • Vague power sets
  • Complicated feelings about Dawn of X
  • The new podcast schedule

NEXT EPISODE: The Age of Apocalypse

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Come see us at ECCC, March 12-15!


  1. No contextualizing through Anime this time – just a minor note that the first song I 100%ed on vocals in Rock Band was when I did vocals for Sabotage by the Beastie Boys at a Ground Kontrol Rock Band night. 😉

    Well, maybe a little contextualization through anime – I’ve seen a few works of anime with an explicit everyone’s dead[1] apocalypse – and I will say that I do find this style interesting compared to the versions that stick out more in my mind (which is not to say that it’s the more common version) – which is either the Ideon/Elric of Melnibone style apocalypse – where yes everyone’s dead, but everyone tends to actually be dead prior to the ending, with maybe only one protagonist or point of view character standing prior to the end.

    The other apocalyptic ending I’ve seen that has stuck out in my mind more (again, considering I’ve seen more anime than a lot of other things) – is the Ragnarok-ending, where everything is destroyed, but with a heavy sense of rebirth – stuff like Kaneda and company riding off into the ruins of Tokyo at the end of Akira. Things are destroyed, but the world will be reborn.

    The end of Legion Quest is neither of those things – everyone is (generally) alive and in a position to react as the wave crashes over them – but neither is there any rebirth. The world is ending and there’s nothing our heroes can do to stop it, but there’s no sense of rebirth either. It’s still somewhat nihilistic – but not as pervasively so as Ideon or Elric.

    [1] although yes they do come back

  2. I forgot how much the creative teams behind the scenes changed around this time. Nicieza leaving X-Force, Ellis starting Excalibur, Loeb on Cable, plus with Age of Apocalypse taking over it must have seemed like such a crazy time for X-Men fans.

    I recall being pretty overwhelmed at first when it was announced, but at the time I was getting a mail-order comics catalog monthly that made a note that the X-titles were being put on *hiatus* and didn’t use the word “cancel” which was likely one of the few ways someone to get advance info like that prior to the internet being a common thing.

    While I’m super excited for Age of Apocalypse taking over the podcast for the next several months, but I’m really interested in seeing you guys eventually revisit Ellis’ run on Excalibur. I recall it being comparatively really dark to the rest of X-line, but also pretty good. But Excalibur was one of the titles I was least familiar with at the time so a lot of Ellis’ continuity hiccups mostly missed me.

  3. My problem with Dawn of X is that I can’t divorce myself from the fact that it’s all going to end. At some point the big red reset button will be hit and the X-Men will be back in the mansion and hated by humans. And given how much has changed the reset is going to be extreme.

    As far as your guys new schedule. Good luck. I’m sure I speak for most the listeners when I say we’d rather have a little less content then you guys burning out.

  4. Scattered thoughts:-

    – Ah, Warren Ellis’s insecurities about the US. Certainly, Black Air are meant to be sinister, But they are also meant to be just so much better:

    “They’re not loud, like the CIA, and they have no truck with the clumsy viciousness the KGB once peddled.”

    “They are quiet.”

    “And certain.”

    – On this point, I’m going to, not exactly push back against our hosts, but frame things a little differently. They emphasized that Ellis is redeeming Brian from the immediately previous characterization by Lobdell. But I think Ellis’s agenda here reaches much further back in time than that: ” for so long just a buffoon in costume… ” “Buffoon,” especially, is surely about *Claremont’s* Brian (and “costume” is about Ellis’s difficult relationship with superheroes as a genre).

    It’s worth looking at what we have here. For Claremont, Brian was a hotheaded, incompetent figure of fun who served as a foil to show how much more mature other characters, especially Kurt, were. This Brian is by far the most competent person in any room that he’s in.

    -Which brings us to Pete Wisdom. On the one hand, he’s a Constantine expy,, on the other hand, he can’t be. Because the traditional characterization of Constantine (at least at this time – I haven’t read every comic with Constantine in it since the mid-90s) is that he’s the most competent person in any room that he’s in, whether the other people in the room know that or not. Often (going back to Jamie Delano, though not all the way to Moore) based a thin facade of bluff over internal desperation, but still, Constantine is not a character who can easily inhabit the same comic as this Brian Braddock.

    You can see that in Wisdom’s exchange with “Katherine” Pryde. Yes, “body fascist” is Ellis hitting back at American puritanism, but it also has a definite overtone of ineffectual bluster.

    The thing is, when American Gothic came out, one of the things that made Constantine so striking was that this character was at the one time occupying a very recognizable mysterious authoritative mentor-y sort of role for Swamp Thing *and* was detectably a product of the English working class. Englishness has authority all the time in cultural products for an American readership – that was nothing new – but in the 1980’s. (and still to some extent today) the specific type of Englishness was generally rather more, well, Brian Braddock.

    So I’ll be really interested to find out where this goes, because Brian’s being given all the authority so far, but Wisdom’s a character that’s supposed to have it, and I can’t see Ellis not being attentive to the class dimensions of this conflict.

    – Part of Ellis’s particular form of having a chip on the shoulder about Britishness vs. Americanness is defining Britishness as “European.” Note that Excalibur are now “the European X-Men.” (History has not been kind to Mr. Ellis, unfortunately.). It would be nice to see Kurt given some aspects (seriously, name one) that root him in some way in the actuality of modern Germany, so I’m hopeful here.

    1. Re Brian and Wisdom both being the most capable person in the room, I think both can be provided it’s for different things.

      I think Brian is the most capable in terms of intellectual challenge and superhero situation experience, but Wisdom is the most capable in terms of experience with the dirtier side of covert ops.

      The two areas of expertise haven’t intersected that much in either of their pasts (as far as we know), and that’s going to change and that’s where their conflict comes from.

      1. I’ll be interested to see how that conflict develops.

        I do think that there’s also something interesting, though, about putting a character who’s so immediately recognizable as modelled on John Constantine next to this Brian Braddock. Because the equivalent of Brian Braddock in a contemporary Hellblazer story would have been there so that in the end he would be humiliated. Constantine is probably the single most important character to come out of the British Invasion, so he’s a really interesting character to play with in the context of an American superhero comic set in Britain.

        Obviously, when Warren Ellis did write Hellblazer, his main agenda turned out to be going on about how great London is. One senses someone who never forgave Jamie Delano for making Constantine originally from Liverpool.

        1. I certainly remember some of Ellis’s ‘London’s daaark’ riffs being irritating having grown up in and around Belfast. There’s some fun in his work, but the posturing’s not part of it.

  5. At first I didn’t recall reading this, but I must have drifted back into Excalibur at some point around this time because I definitely remember reading that Pete Wisdom intro and liking it a lot. I stuck around through Dream Nails at least, which I quite enjoyed — probably for the Ellis voice, though the name didn’t mean anything to me at the time. (Also, I wasn’t reading DC at the time so I never had any idea that he was a Constantine knockoff until much later.)

    And regarding Kitty’s age: I’d assumed she was 20 or so by this point, regardless of Marvel’s official stance on her was.

    The Kitty-as-minor concept worked while she was at a school. Once all her schoolmates “die” and the school gets blown up and she jets off to live overseas with a bunch of random grownups — well, that’s clearly more than just a gap year; she’s functioning as a full adult practically from the start of Excalibur. While Ellis surely had problems sticking with continuity, I think he was right on this one.

    1. The other thing about Kitty aging is that she was always supposed to be about the same age as New Mutants like Sam and Dani, and Rahne was supposed to be younger than them. Given that Sam and Dani are now functioning as adults (for, admittedly, a ‘90s comics definition of “adults”) in X-Force, and even Rahne has been holding down an official government job in X-Factor – if one objects to Ellis’s depiction of Kitty as vaguely in her early twentiesish, one should acknowledge, I think, that it was consistent with where the rest of the line was at this point.

      Basically, I think that it’s best to frame this question as there being only three ages, defined by the kinds of stories to which they are relevant: teenager (once Kitty and the New Mutants, now Generation X), adult-but-not-as-old-as-Mom-and-Dad (Kitty, former New Mutants), adult-and-as-old-as-Mom-and-Dad (the X-Men). The moment you introduce Jubilee, and in due course Generation X, that pushes the previously teenaged characters like Kitty into the adult-but-not-all-that-old category in one discrete and indivisible step as a narrative matter, not a matter of trying to square the Marvel universe with any kind of coherent (let alone consistent!) temporal progression.

  6. RE: DoX-
    I’m having a hard time getting into Dawn of X for the same reason I struggled with Cyclops’ mutant revolution. The X-Men as I know them “protect a world that hates and fears them”, not just fight for self preservation. Even villains and cowards will do that, and after all these decades, for Xavier to be wrong and Magneto to have won, is a tough pill to swallow. Sure some of the books are fun, but they don’t feel at all like my X-Men, ya know?

  7. Which issues will be covered in the next episode? I downloaded the AoA trades and am rereading.

    Also, I thought SyfyWire’s oral history of AoA was interesting.

  8. My favourite part of all the X-men is when all the allegories fall apart and the reader becomes the Robin-slapped-by-Batman meme with any of our favourite mutant characters in the role of Batman telling us “This is not about you, flatscan!. We’re glad that you can empathize or identify with our situation, but THIS. IS. NOT. ABOUT. YOU.”
    And this is why I love so fucking much what Hickman is doing right now (like the issue that came this week).

    Also, for me, this is the first fucking time that the X-men allegories are not being written by someone who, conscious o not, is just telling “this is how you annoying minorities should behave”.

    BUT, the BIGGEST weakness of this is that without real-life diverse characters (in main -mainstream superheroes comic books- roles, not just as… “ambient music”? “decoration”?) all this can become a really fucking big fucking mess really fucking fast.

    PS: English is not my natural language. I’m an amazing reader, a good listener, a messy talker and a totally shitty writer. Sorry if I fucked up.

    And you’re all welcome to bat-bitchslapping me if I said something stupid or insensitive.

  9. Listening to this episode on 20/03/20 added a level of irony about impending apocalypse which was clearly unintended. Listening to your discussion of the depiction of loss in this and the last episode brought me to tears as well. That, shortly before I listened to the previous episode, I’d dreamt of my late wife being distraught because her death would be so hard on me did make me think there can be something these fantastical treatments of loss.

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