Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

304 – Explosive Ops

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

In which Jay discovers a continuity loop; phonetic spelling reaches a new level of implausibility; it’s always already Onslaught; X-Force’s roster gets shaken up; Siryn goes undercover; and the Upstarts remain vaguely plot-relevant despite our fervent wishes.


  • Mimic (Calvin Rankin)
  • Wing problems
  • X-Force #45-47
  • One of Adam Pollina’s more remarkable non-Marvel art credits
  • One of many homages to the cover of X-Men #138
  • X-Force, its members, and its recent history
  • Phonetic spelling
  • Warpath’s hair
  • Baffling managerial decisions
  • Whether Reed Richards is machine washable
  • Many pouches
  • An unlikely friendship
  • Sabretooth’s state of mind
  • Rutland, VT
  • The Weisman Institute for the Criminally Insane
  • Dr. Rachel Weisman
  • Jeremy Stevens
  • Part of why we like following X-books over time
  • Character redesigns

CORRECTION: In addition to being the setting of a number of 1970s Marvel and DC stories, Rutland, VT is actually a real place with a famous annual (and largely superhero-themed) Halloween parade!

NEXT EPISODE: What X-Factor’s been up to

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  1. I started reading X-Force in the period where Cable had gone missing and Sam had taken lead of the team. I later went back and read a lot of the earlier issues and then the later ones when Cable came back.

    But I still really liked Cannonball as the team lead.
    I had skipped reading Age of Apocalypse, mostly out of annoyance at how abruptly storylines were cut off.

    So I came back with this issue and to find Sam leaving the team to go be a junior X-man rather than a leader, and essentially I rage quit comics for a decade. (I was headed off to college at the time, so was partly a free time issue, as well).

  2. Rutland Vermont is an actual real city. Marvel and DC both set stories and unofficial crossovers there because the annual Halloween parade was superhero themed. Plus Tom Fagan, one of the parade founders, was friends with a lot of comic book writers and artists

    1. That’s really cool – I had no idea! I added a correction to the post. Thanks for the heads up (and sorry to residents of Actually-A-Real-Place-Rutland)!

    1. And oh yeah, if you happened to mention that in the episode already…I’m saving it for the drive to work tomorrow, so… =P

  3. I had this no-prize idea that I wanted to share about the transition between Nicenza’s X-Force and Loeb X-Force. All of this is Onslaught’s doing.

    If I was planning out a take over of the superhero community and I wanted to eliminate any Wild Cards, I’d do what seems to be happening with X-Force.

    Instead of letting them go off in New YOrk, I’d tie them back to the main X-Man team.

    I would take away their capable leader in Sam, and put him under my thumb…making him “happy” to be an X-Man. He was the first to rebel against Xavier. I’d use my mental control to push him into being “happy.”

    I would make Cable stop using his telepathy and TK beyond my capabilities, to seek me out.

    I would keep Boom Boom and Sam separate, and tie Boom Boom to someone who could potentially harm her by bringing up her trauma…thus making Sam more of my pawn.

    Proudstar is another person who would defy me openly. I’d do what military people do and strip him of his individuality…shave off his rebellious, Native American heritage, and leave him more docile.

    I’d deprogram Roberto, another rebellious X-Force member. Revert him back to a previous state. Make him more reckless.

    I’d place Teresa on a secret mission, taking her off the board. She’s another wild card that is smart enough to figure things out. Put her on a mission, one where she is over her head, one where she can take out another powerful telepath that could potentially screw up Onslaught Plans.

    And I’d put Caliban on the team. If it ever came to it, I would trigger Caliban to kill the rest of X-Force if and when I needed to pull the trigger. He’s easily manipulated and has no love for X-Force. He’d be perfect as an assassin. Especially if the X-Force’s guard is down, believing he’s not capable of being against them.

    That’s how I tend to see the X-Force leading up to Onslaught: Xavier is manipu

  4. I remember picking up X-Force after AoA, just to see what was happening and being utterly baffled at the choices being made.

    The “rebel” team was now going to be in the X-Mansion, Cannonball was leaving for the X-Men, a uniform colour scheme?

    I hadn’t been a fan of X-Force, but I could at least respect it for going it’s own way, at a tangent to the X-Men.

    Every possible step forward here seemed to me to be, instead, a step back, making the title safer and less intersting.

    And, in case you hadn’t guessed, I will defend to the hilt Cypher’s graduation costume with the protective padding all over, and a padded jacket that could absorb the brunt of assorted energy blasts. Given his lack of protective powers, the question is not why did he have it, so much as WHY DIDN’T EVERYONE ELSE? 🙂

  5. I really dislike this era of X-Force, and you went through most of the reasons why. In addition to all the ways you described the characters regressing, it seems to me that Cable has regressed too, back to the authoritarian and uncommunicative jackass he was before his return to the team in “Fatal Attractions”.

    It really bothers me how Rictor leaves the team. I’ve seen Jeph Loeb get a lot of credit online for putting Rictor and Shatterstar together – and I don’t know, maybe that’s deserved to some extent – but it’s much easier to do so when one person in the relationship is absent for all but four issues of the run. There’s also the fact that he leaves to go back to his family, when he had a very emotionally-charged falling-out with them only ten issues ago.

    There’s also the way Cannonball seems so starstruck when he meets Cyclops after “graduating” to the X-Men. By this point he and Scott would have been at least acquaintances for years, and he may have attended Scott’s first wedding.

  6. Wait, you’re saying that a comic written by Loeb is ignoring existing continuity and characterisation to fit what he wants to write, with little to no explanation as to why?

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!

  7. Back when this run began I absolutely hated Pollina’s art. I was all over Tony Daniel’s more generic Image-y 90s style style the time and thought this was a huge downgrade. I’m not sure when that changed, but at some point Pollina really won me over. Not my favorite artist ever, but I always look back on his work fondly now. Maybe not the costume design element, but definitely the characters, the action, and the ornate visual emphasis flair.

    The writing for this era, though, not a fan. The downgrade to the X-Men JV squad robbed the book of a lot of its identity and some of the plot decisions were very… I think “Benjamin Russel-y” is a good adjective here.

  8. Glad to see it’s not just me who had real problems with this era.

    Generally, I’m not a real big fan of skipping ahead to paper over plot points which you continually refer to happening in the skipped over timeline (looking at you, One Year Later, and the skip that happens after The Twelve/Ages of Apocalypse) Either say “OK, for awhile, nothing happened” and pick up as normal, or just spell it out.

    But yeah, this was enough to start the process of tapping out on the X-Books for a bit. The build Nicieza had been doing wherein it seemed Cannonball and Sunspot were going to become the Xavier and Magneto of the next generation gets chucked as Cannonball gets promoted to the X-Men and everything gets re-set to late-model New Mutants and that’s just not what I was interested in reading, and nothing that replaced it was anything I found interesting.

  9. @11:10 – The comic cover of Jubilee leaving the X-Men was Uncanny X-Men #318, not #381. Sorry for nit-picking!

    But X-cellent podcasting and commentary as usual! This was the period where I start collecting the single issue floppies regularly (#300-#340), until recently where I returned with Omnibuses.


  10. I can’t say that I hated reading these, but it was for all the wrong reasons. Because, as our hosts and other commentators here note, this is all surplus to requirements.

    X-Force has completely flipped. It started as Liefeld doing something new that I didn’t like, but also also didn’t *care* whether ‘80s readers like myself liked it or not. Now it’s essentially doing a tribute act to Claremont soap opera, and not just in the general approach, but also in the specific plot points, especially all the Siryn stuff. Which in a way, is interesting, from the perspective of the shift towards nostalgia as a (the?) main appeal of superhero comics.

    Other scattered thoughts:-

    Obviously, using captions to present the reader with a letter written in Claremontesque phonetic dialogue functions as a sophisticated commentary on how extradiegetic narrative first person captions had become dominant in the genre by the mid-90s and had displaced allegedly less “realistic” intradiegetic thought balloons.

    – Speaking of amusingly terrible ways to represent how people who aren’t Generican talk… Wow, and I thought Scott Lobdell was confused on the distinction between Scotland and Ireland. Bonus point to Loeb for making Theresa use the Scots word “ken” *and* using “ken” as an Oirish version of “can” in the same sentence!

    – “Iceman’s sub-zero energy” just makes it sound like Iceman is really lazy.

  11. Regarding Jean Grey’s outfits, I really liked the one Time-Displaced Jean wore in X-Men Blue, with the high-cut jacket. (I liked all five of their costumes in Blue, for that matter.)

    The ones from All-New were nice, but I just couldn’t deal with the little X all alone in the center of the belly. If they had belts with that as the buckle, yes, but with just the little lonely X hanging out in the middle of the white, it looks like a weird belly button.

  12. After buying everything for the 4 months of AOA I became a bit more picky afterwards and only bought the first of these issues… and not much X-Force after this at all until the transformation to X-Statix. I think it was the “back to school” feel?

    I hated the way Sam acted on the X-Men as a complete rookie but I must stay though that Sam joining the X-Men led to my first ship (I don’t think we call it that back then though?) between him and Iceman. I particularly liked how that thread got picked up by Mike Carey when Sam came back to the X-Men much later.

    I love Gary’s no-prize above, but can I offer one too? This is around the time that Rictor is having/acknowledging a homosexual attraction for the first time. The last thing he would have wanted was for his mentor/leader being in his head and the risk of being outed by thinking the wrong thought about Shatterstar at the wrong time. I know I wouldn’t have wanted anyone reading my mind when I was Rictor’s age and in the same position!

    1. Sam acting like a rookie was my biggest problem with this era. At this point, we had already seen him leading two different teams with great success through some harrowing times. Then he gets shunted over to the X-Men and suddenly he’s the earnest back woods hick again? This would have made sense if this story had happened before, say, Inferno. I also would have appreciated if there had been some pushback from the rest of X-Force on merging back into the school. I blame Bob Harras more than I do Loeb and the other writers. It sounds like Harras was all about maintaining the original status quo of the X-Men.

    2. I hope I’m not being rude by commenting 4 years after the original conversation, but I just listened to this episode and wanted to say that AS SOON as Rictor’s objection to telepathic instructions was discussed, I had the exact same thought that you suggested- that he is afraid of Cable picking up his gay thoughts. I have OCD, and when I was young part of how it manifested was constant fear my internal monolog was being overheard- that I was speaking it out loud with out noticing, or that the people around me could read my mind and see my private thoughts. When I realized I was gay, the idea of my thoughts outing me was terrifying, to the point that I tried to refuse nitrous oxide for a medical procedure because I was worried I would say something while intoxicated. So I immediately went to that memory when Rictor pushed back so hard against telepathy.

  13. Wasn’t there a Rogue from somewhere else in the multiverse (in new Exiles I think) Who was introduced as Anna Marie Rankin? I always just assumed they were trying to link her to being Mimic’s daughter based on the power similarities.

    and the Cable/Sam similarities always made sense to me, because if you listen to interviews with Rob Liefeld his initial plan was to make Cable Sam from the future, until Marvel took over with all of the Nathan Christopher Askani stuff.

      1. I’ll have to check it out. I have since remembered where I saw her – on a card in the mobile BotA game. So much for my hardcore geek cred. Sheesh…

          1. heh heh heh
            I appreciate the vote of confidence. The gatekeeper nerds in my old comic shop would be looking down their noses at me for that.

            Which is why it’s my OLD comic shop.

  14. Shatterstar “comes from a dimension obsessed with media, run by a gigantic megalomaniac.” One can’t help but wonder if that dimension is “the Mojoverse” or “America in 2020” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  15. My Itunes review

    Clear they genuinely love the subject matter.
    -Extremely knowledgable on it.
    -High production value.
    -If you can get past the cons, this IS one of the best X-Pods.

    Easily triggered, social justice warrior, know-it-all, uber virtue signalers…is how I would describe them. This applies more-so to Jay. Miles is more chill.

      Clear they genuinely love the subject matter.
      -Extremely knowledgable on it.
      -High production value.
      -If you can get past the cons, this IS one of the best X-Pods.
      Easily triggered, social justice warrior, know-it-all, uber virtue signalers…is how I would describe them. This applies more-so to Jay. Miles is more chill.

      1. CHOOSING to use all those minutes out of a 1-hour (max) scripted/preplanned episodes to spend on calling out & discussing SJW stuff…you are using those minutes of listener’s time that tuned in to hear talk of X-Comics, not a podcast discussing SJW topics.
        In saying this is bad, that is bad…I just hear the inverse in my head and hear them saying “I have such high values. Look how high my values are.” I’m going to peacock my values so you think highly of me, & my civilized lofty morals.
        It’s just like to me…the gall/ego of you guys…you hold themselves in such (undeserved) high regard. Like, who are you, to be acting like they are the be-all-end-all of deciding what is right & wrong in the world, upon a high ivory pedestal, passing judgment & publicly shaming people. Putting Jeff Loeb on blast, & publicly calling him out. Maybe enough time has already passed & he’s already paid enough of a price, & his wife & kids don’t need to hear their husband\dad called out for his sexual misdeeds that happened a ton of years ago, or some past shit, u know.


  16. I was late getting to this episode because it came out the week of SGDQ 2020 Online – so I wasn’t able to contact on this earlier but – one of the things that mangaka Kenjiro Hata did in Hayate the Combat Butler with the character of Hinagiku – who wears bike shorts under her skirt to avoid wardrobe malfunctions when she’s doing athletic stuff.

    When they introduced the character Hata introduced first that she is a tomboy (with her doing a particularly athletic action), followed by second setting up the bike shorts, with a 4th wall breaking aside (because Hayate the Combat Butler breaks the 4th wall regularly) with Hinagiku reproaching the reader for expecting that kind of fanservice.

    (The manga does get into fanservice later on, but that’s a separate unfortunate issue – and considering how manga publishing works, I can’t say if that’s the choice of the creator or something that happened through editorial pressure at the magazine.)

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