Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

320 – The Accountability Wagon

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

In which Pete Wisdom is the guy you love to glare at; Nightcrawler is right (and a delightfully complex individual); Colossus has a lot of issues; and Wolfsbane gets the confrontation we’ve been waiting for since the New Mutants graphic novel.

X-PLAINED:

  • Wolfsbane’s powers
  • Excalibur #91-93
  • The somewhat nebulous age of Kitty Pryde
  • Betrayal
  • What’s been up on Muir Isle
  • Organized sports, Excalibur-style
  • Pubs and what happens in them
  • Drinking with Excalibur
  • Shovel talks
  • Phonetic accents, redeemed
  • A fairly one-sided fight
  • Colossus’s issues (more) (again)
  • Anatomy and physiology of organic steel
  • Accountability, trauma, and their intersections
  • An exceptionally cathartic confrontation
  • A hoodie Jay desperately wants
  • Where cold opens come from
  • Whether and how Gambit passes for human

NEXT EPISODE: Same Sabretooth, different day


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21 comments

  1. I’m so glad you covered these three together, because they remain three of my favourite comics of the whole 90’s.

    The night out at the pub is just the sort of thing I adore, the characters interacting as people rather than costumed heroes. Whether it’s the X-Men playing baseball, the Teen Titans going on a camping trip to just hang out as people, the New Mutants watching Magnum PI in the TV lounge or finding out that the Legion of Super-Heroes has a holographic D&D game going on in the background.

    The legal drinking age in licensed premises in the UK is 18, though you can be served beer, cider or wine if you are eating in at a table AND you are 16 or over AND someone aged 18 places the order on your behalf.

    I will note though, that they go to a pub in Scotland and order “whiskey”. Now I’m going to be charitable and assume that it’s down to a lettering miscommunication because “whiskey” is from Ireland or America. If it’s from Scotland it’s “whisky” and I’m pretty sure fights might break out if you order anything else without a VERY good reason. 🙂

    Douglock’s general air of confusion about the whole thing is very cute (“Can-Can – High kicking dance performed by female chorus…. Stress analysis on very old bar table follows”), and as a life-long non-drinker (because I never liked the taste and would much rather keep a clear head, fuddy-duddy that I am) I share his sentiments about such things much of the time.

    “Trebles and stark incomprehension all ’round then lads?” is also a highpoint.

    Moira’s phonetic accent as she get’s drunker is great (And I love the subtitles), though as is so often the case, she’s using the WRONG accent. She’s written here as Glaswegian, when she’s not, she’s from West Coast Islands (“Gi ye sam laldy” is a very Glaswegian turn of phrase, though in fairness most Scots would know the meaning).

    I did once momentarily consider giving a shovel talk when I was much, much younger. But then I remembered that not only was the person I was thinking of addressing it to one of the kindest, most decent men I’d ever met AND completely devoted to my sister, but my sister is a darn sight more capable of burying a body than I am, should the need arise, so I kept quiet and have always been grateful for that, because many, MANY years later you’ve STILL rarely seen a more solid couple and I don’t have to wince reflexively whenever we meet.

    I believe Alan Davis was a little less than impressed by Brian being depicted as having an alcohol problem here, because he never intended that to be the case. Brian getting blind drunk when he thought Betsy had died in The Fall of the Mutants was, in his eyes, a response to the emotional stress of losing his twin sister, rather than indicative of a recurring problem with alcohol. But at least it’s addressed sensibly and maturely here.

    And speaking of maturity, Colossus being called on his creepy stalkerish bullshit in #92 by Kitty is SO refreshing, and it’s one reason I have never been able to see them as a viable romantic pairing ever since (So thank you SO effing much Joss Whedon for making it canon years later. Grrrr!) Pretty much everything you said I completely agree with about that issue. And I’m so glad you mentioned the quote about the effects of being punched by Meggan and Brian at the same time!

    I think I’ve always assumed Colossus kept his organs in steel form, because it’s simpler that way. It’s just in steel form they don’t actually DO anything because he doesn’t have to breathe etc, and his body is animated because of some sort of telekinesis rather than metallic biology, but damage to the metal organs transfers to the squishy organs should he switch back. (I mean, his skin and hair transformers, so why not his liver?)

    And #93 is just… SO GOOD! (I share Miles’ reservations about that being an outfit which would be comfortable to wear, but I can absolutely see it being a conscious choice on Rahne’s part, knowing who she was going to confront). Defintiely a pinnacle of Rahne’s character development.

    And her calm, methodical dissection and destruction of Craig is magnificent. She never switches to wolf form to freak him out because she has nothing to prove to him. She doesn’t even raise her voice because she doesn’t need to. As Jay said, it’s a punch-the-air catharsis scene! And that last line has stuck with me for years: “The woman, Rahne Sinclair, turns and leaves the church” because that’s exactly who she is, not the scared little girl, but the grown woman who knows she has all the power she needs and isn’t going to give any to Craig any more.

    And how I wish it HAD been left there, because the godawful mess that was the “Rahne ends up literally eating Reverend Craig because Purifiers are assholes and we need some grossout angst” is something the world could definitely have lived without in my humble opinion.

    Pete as Prof X still makes me smile too, and remember also, that Patrick Stewart as Prof X was effectively fan-casting at this point, the first X-Men movie was still five years away, so the “We know who we’re mocking with the “Make it so” seems VERY on point”

    Ahem, sorry long ramble again, but these were three VERY ramble-worthy issues

    1. – I think pretty much anyone from the British Isles would know *that* phrase. I mean, I do, and I haven’t been to Glasgow since I was seven. (Was going to visit a friend there last August, but a massive global pandemic had other ideas.)

      – I think the “whiskey” mistake can probably be blamed on editing by an American, because Moira says “whesky,” suggesting that it was probably correct elsewhere in the script.

      – I have a feeling that the drinking problem might have been attributed to Brian already well before this point, specifically in that rather not good Michael Higgins(?) story in which Peter Parker shows him what a true hero is. I don’t care to revisit that story to remind myself of the details, so my memory may be failing me. But I think that Ellis was probably trying to fix that without contradicting it, rather than inventing it himself.

      1. I don’t know the Michael Higgins story and therefore when it came out, but the way Brian’s drinking by Captain Britain #7 looks problematic to me. That’s from July 1985 and was by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. Brian is confronted by Betsy dealing with a traumatic experience and when Megan asks ‘What do we do now, Captain?’ he says ‘Well first I’m going to have a stiff drink. Then, since I seem to have run out of enemies to fight, I think I’ll have another.’ The episode ends with Mastermind (other Mastermind) warning him about the damaging effects of alcohol to temprament and physique. If he was my friend I’d be concerned by how he’s using alcohol in this story.

    2. I’m not a fan of the ‘shovel talk’ either. In the comic I don’t believe either Brian or Kurt would do what they say. It seems to me they’re unable to face their fear that someone they love may get hurt and hiding from that fear by running some dominance bullshit.
      For any ‘shovel talkers’ reading this, I hope none of your loved ones have ever been hurt. You may believe your violent threats helped the people involved create a healthy relationship. If some of them were hurt, I can see two possibilities: You committed an illegal assault or your threats were all about you.

  2. I ain’t never been to Scotland, but as a non-drinker who lived in England for 15 years, boy do I understand Brian’s reservations. At first, I wouldn’t go to the pub because why would I? I don’t drink. Eventually I realised it’s impossible to socialise before your mid thirties if you skip out the pub.

    So I’d go and friends would ask why I don’t drink, if it’s religion or something. If you don’t drink in the UK, it’s assumed that it’s because something happened. The natural order is alcohol. Binge drinking if you’re younger.

    Not my favourite part of British culture.

  3. I was dreading this episode. I’ve read these issuse a year ago and Pioter violent attack was very hard to read. On a non reltaed note. I would just like to add to the important sceintific disucssion and say that when Pioter turns into collussus he becomes bigger, taller and wider. So that goes to each part of his body.

  4. So I have one big problem with this era of Excalibur and it has to do with the art. Issue 92 is Casey Jones’ first issue on the book and he’d do most of the rest of Ellis’s run. But that never really gets acknowledged because Carlos Pacheco was the book’s official penciller, despite only doing a handful of largely nonconsecutive issues; he even got a tribute in the letter pages when he and Ellis left. It’s something that always annoyed because I really like Jones’s art: it’s got this clean, more cartoony look that I really liked. Nothing against Pacheco, but this feels like a case where the big name gets all the credit even when he didn’t do most of the work.

  5. Kitty was ABSOLUTELY not 18 yet in these issues, and it bothers me so much that Warren Ellis just didn’t care about what came before him to even bother doing the research. Or worse, he knew she was underage and didn’t care and he’s normalizing inappropriate relationships.

    At any rate, she had barely turned 16 before X-Men #1 and Marvel time is roughly 4 real years:1 Marvel year. Case in point — Franklin Richards being born in 1968 but only 5 in 1992; Peter Parker starting college in 1965 and graduating in 1978; and Kitty herself, who was 14 for the first half of the ’80s and 15 for the second half. Even after this, she didn’t start college until comics from 2001 or 2002.

    At any rate.. she’s absolutely underage here and it’s skeevy. And it’s skeeved me out for 20 years. It was different with Colossus, it was like a freshman dating a junior or senior and it barely got past the puppy love thing before he dumped her for an alien (how many times did they kiss, twice?). The Pete Wisdom thing is grossly inappropriate and Harras or whoever really should have shut that down hard.

    1. Saying Kitty couldn’t be 18 doesn’t really work in a comic book situation where character ages are more of an amusing passtime between writers and editors, and the narrative has more power than temporal mechanics.

      So if the writer of the only book she was featuring in said she was over 18 now she is and, basically, what they say goes.

      It’s not like there’s anything to particularly contradict that decision either: Kitty’s last birthday had been years before and I had much more of an issue believing she was only JUST turning fifteen in that one (specially as Claremont had also said she was already fifteen in an X-Men issue five years earlier than THAT). So consistency had long since left the building.

      The “four years equals one year” thing has never been set in stone (was it ever stated as formal policy?), especially for younger characters (Franklin Richards, Power Pack, Archie and Leech being prime examples though also the New Mutants, Generation X and the X-Men in general) so, in the words of Captain Barbossa; “the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”

      Whatever her internal aging timeline, Kitty exists in a world where several clearly younger characters are now the age she was previously, and who have also existed for years. Jubilee obviously, but also now Generation X and some of X-Force (Kitty is a couple of years older than, say, Sunspot, who is also now an adult)

      1. Everyone knows that at the Big Two, the younger the character, the faster they age. They slow down in their late teens/early 20s, and then become immortal in their endless 30s.

        1. Said it before, will say it again.

          I once for an exercise tried to fit all of Matt Murdock’s legal career into the relatively few years available for someone who is old enough to have a JD and still young enough to be able to do extreme gymnastics at what has to be the equivalent of Olympic level. I gave up before I got to the end, but it was already absolutely hilarious how improbable it would be that any rational person would hire this flaky red-hot disaster as their lawyer.

    2. Warren Ellis gets a lot of flack for aging but most people forget that she was married in Generation Next which came out before Ellis got Kitty and Wisdom together.

      1. That’s also creepy, dystopia or not because again, up to that point, she had been portrayed as an underage girl. My personal opinion is Harras was asleep at the wheel. Trying to edit the entire X-Men line through a massive crossover and writing the Avengers (and of course, Avengers suffered for it).

        Of course, I also may be a tad biased because I seem to be the only person who actively hates “Age of Apocalypse” on the whole.

  6. Mostly a good set of issues — although Ellis is not really convincing me that if you make Brian Braddock this well-adjusted, competent, and level-headed, you don’t end up with a character who’s more than a little bland.

    I have mixed feeling about the Colossus story. I have to agree with our hosts that it’s entirely credible, given what has happened to the character, that he might end up in this place and snap — but I wonder if it’s a type of psychological realism that isn’t suited for superhero comics? Because despite the best efforts of writer and artist, I simply could not accept that Wisdom would survive that at all. One accepts as a convention of the genre that violence in superhero comics isn’t violence that obeys real physics and biology, especially when it comes to real consequences. Which is fine, because there’s a certain distance from reality in general.

    But if you go to a place like this — no, calibrating the realism of the violence so that it goes only so far feels like fiat to bring Colossus into the book in a particular role. And I share Jay Edidin’s concerns about Kurt’s actions. Frame this as Person A covers this up for Person B because Person B is a personal friend — without any way to evaluate how likely it is to happen again — and then add to that that Person B is someone who can bludgeon others with superhuman force with solid steel.

    Moira is omnicompetent and I can accept that she might among her many areas of expertise be a person who can give Peter appropriate professional help, which he certainly needs. I can’t accept that it’s responsible of Kurt to have that take place anywhere close to either Wisdom or Kitty.

    1. Agreed on the Peter vs. Pete matchup; even accounting for the occasional hand-waving about mutants being somehow more durable than baseline humans, Colossus would simply pulp him.

      Moreover, it’s not necessary for Colossus to be in steel form for this story to work. A flesh-and-blood Peter is still very strong and could easily do fatal damage — especially if his opponent is too drunk to defend himself properly. (Going this route would also make it unnecessary for Moira to have invented new tech to fix Colossus.)

    2. Voord99, I’ve always been right there with you on Colossus’s attack on Pete Wisdom. It’s credible enough based on what we’ve seen before, but I’d still rather Piotr’s trauma had been recognized in other ways. The level of toxic masculinity and possessiveness on display makes it hard for me to continue caring about him as a character. It’s absolutely true to how many people behave in life. It’s absolutely consistent with aspects of Piotr’s past, particularly with Kitty. But that doesn’t mean it’s someone I want to root for.

      The Piotr I love reading about is the kind, gentle soul who agrees to a violent life only because he cannot bear to stand by when he can prevent another’s pain. That conversation with his father in Giant Size #1, about his heart vs. his conscience, is a perfect piece of superhero writing in my book.

      And while the issue here does a thoughtful job calling out Piotr’s behavior, I still wonder how much it normalizes the toxic thought process behind it. I wonder how many young dudes will read a story like this, where a character who is ostensibly a hero behaves this way, and think that it’s inevitable for a man to feel like this when watching someone they love or desire kiss somebody else? That while acting on the feeling is wrong, the emotions or thoughts can’t be helped, because even the “good guys” have them?

  7. The story about the Reverend Craig reveals either that the Presbyterian church in Scotland is organised very differently from the Presbyterian church in Scotland or that Warren Ellis couldn’t be bothered to check if his story points were credible. Certainly in Northern Ireland there is no central authority that can send Presbyterian ministers anywhere. When your minister leaves or dies the congregation sends out a ‘call’ and ministers apply. Some get invited to audition and a short list turn up and preach. The congregation decides who gets hired. That’s how it was when I was growing up, anyway.

    1. Given all the weird little ultraconservative Presbyterian offshoots* that exist in real life, I’d be fine with saying that Warren Ellis unknowingly invented one for the Marvel Universe that worked in whatever way the story needed.. 🙂 That’s a miniseries waiting to happen, a deep dive into a fictional history of minor Scottish divines over the last five centuries. The Even More Wee Frees.

      But, yes, it does sound as if he transferred a classic trope of stories about Catholic priests (one not unfounded in reality) to a context that is, umm, pretty much defined by not being that.

      *The fact that any of them ever thought it was a good idea to attach the word “United” to their denominations suggests that they were either entirely oblivious to irony or else very good at it..

      1. Made me laugh. One of the more unfortunate aspects of my protestant heritage was making it a moral imperative to leave or expel people who disagreed with you. When divide and rule is a handy tool of domination it’s convenient that people keep dividing themselves.

  8. I regret to inform you that the issue of the size of Colossus’ genitalia has been mentioned in Dawn of X. There’s a scene in X-Force #10 where Logan and Jean are in a swampy hot tub and the dialog goes:

    Jean: “And ..maybe you should reach out to Colossus? He’s got as big heart.”

    Logan: “He’s got a big everything.”

    While I am not sure I needed to know that, I do approve of the growing body of evidence of Logan being extremely bi.

  9. Also, seeing the range and complexity that Ellis puts into relationships and how and why Peter fucks up so badly, the Rev. Craig stuff… Like, clearly Ellis understands how and why his real world behavior was so awful. He has no grounds to claim he didn’t know what he was doing, and that makes it feel so much worse when I think about how much I used to enjoy his work.

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