Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

329 – Scheming and Argument

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

In which Nate Grey has the soul of a man in a mesh shirt; Black Air is somehow even worse than you thought it was; Hulk does not want to be x-treme teen from alternate dimension; we are excited as hell for the upcoming Frasier/Ewing Gamma Flight; and Moira MacTaggert is (sometimes) the adult we need.


  • Nate Grey’s (possible) demon zombie baby
  • What Excalibur’s been up to lately
  • Excalibur #94-95
  • X-Man #12
  • Yet another take on roughly the same dark future
  • Dark-future disambiguation
  • Bangs
  • The Black Wall
  • Leather vs. vinyl
  • Sentinels pooping sentinels
  • Nate Grey (more) (again)
  • Gamma Flight
  • Excessively silly diagnostic technology
  • Squeezits(TM)
  • A minor intervention
  • X-characters most likely to lead a successful book club
  • Warlock on Krakoa

NEXT EPISODE: The Herald of Onslaught (for real, this time, we promise)!

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  1. You guys ran through the entire roster of Excalibur at the start, but you never mentioned Douglock! You even mentioned Dr Rory “Ahab-to-be” Campbell but not our favourite wide-eyed technorganic enigma? Shame on you, shaaaaame.

    Blackwall is also the name of a part of London’s East End, along the Thames, so my guess is the name is a Warren Ellis style pun.

    The Matrix is strong with this timeline indeed, and total agreement that Tangerine without the crazy hairstyle is hardly worth the bother of showing up.

    Monty Python references in the visual companion to one side, that machine that Nate is in probably converts into Moira’s homebrew set up, I mean it has to serve more than one function because otherwise… wow.

    Nate Grey I remains pretty much indifferent to, no matter how much they try to push him, though having Excliabur, usually one of the slightly less violence prone X-Teams around, default to attacking him right away seems a little weird.

  2. The Matrix didn’t come out until 1999, so these issues predate it by about 3 years or so.

    Also, you answered my book club question! I’m sure that Nightcrawler has tried to start a German book club multiple times, and despite his efforts at finding English translations, nobody has ever attended more than two meetings.

    1. I could see Cannonball starting a book club, given his love of science fiction novels.

      He’d probably get a few of the old gang showing up for it out of loyalty (Doug, Xian (I’m not sure why, but I see her as a keen reader), maybe Hank McCoy) but we’re talking Sam Guthrie here, who radiates “supportive older brother” vibes in the megawatt range, so I’d think a good number of younger Krakoan mutants would glom on to him by default and show up, and he’d gear the reading list appropriately.

      He might start a second one for older members too.

      1. I can imagine Beast and Colossus sforming a Russian literature club that would have three meetings before Collossus started feeling out of his depth and started making polite excuses to stop attending before Beast finally gave up on it.

      2. I can imagine Cannonball’s sci-fi book club being hijacked by Beast when they eventually decides to read the Dune series. Hank McCoy comes across like one of those guys who loves Dune a little too much, to the point of being annoying about it. Eventually he’d lose control of the club during the 4th book, after someone points out that Leto II is just a mouthpiece for Frank Herbert’s opinions, which makes him the Dune equivalent of Brian Griffin, and then Hank goes on a “how dare you compare this literary masterpiece to Family Guy, go fuck yourself” rant and angrily storms out of the club meeting.

  3. I remember that black leather was becoming ubiquitous in the 90s even before The Matrix. I know my own love for the aesthetic was brought about by The Crow and Tim Burton movies. I was also huge into Shadow Run. I was stoked when I got my first leather trench coat.

    I was absolutely loving both Excalibur and X-Man at this time. Aside from the inconsistent art Excalibur still holds up pretty well. Nate Grey on the other hand? Not so much. I think that may just be me having outgrown the character and I now find him tedious in this era.

    I did like this mini crossover a great deal, even if Excalibur is a little too aggressive. It’s certainly a more satisfying story than the Cable/X-Man crossover soon after.

    Excalibur #94 is a personal favorite. I found it a lot of fun and was intrigued by Tangerine. I didn’t know that this wasn’t her first appearance and what that meant. I just remember being disappointed later on because I thought this meant she was a new character who would eventually show up in this title.

  4. Thank you, gang, for the new and reliably entertaining episode. If you have ever read John Ostrander’s classic series Grimjack, you would know that Mr. Ostrander is DEFINATELY from a dark alternate timeline, if not specifically Earth 295.

    I’m wondering which favorite Star Wars comic Miles referenced during this episode. I absolutely love Ostrander’s 80s works, but I’m less familiar with his more recent material. If you could please tell me through this comment thread which Star Wars comic that was, I would like to read it too. Thanks!

    1. I believe he’s referring to Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Legacy series. Ostrander wrote the first volume and Dursema did the art. I don’t know where to read it online but I believe Marvel has released it in their Epic format.

      1. That’s the one! Ostrander and Duursema also did Dawn of the Jedi a bit later, which was pretty good, but I loved Legacy.

  5. Karma wasn’t that random of a guest star. It had been announced in the letters pages around this time that she would be joining the book’s cast. This never happened, presumably because Ellis hit the same “I don’t know what to do with this character” wall that everyone hits with Karma. I think being dropped from the book before she was even added to it is a record, though, even by Xi’an’s standards.

    1. #88: “I heard Karma may reach the pages of Excalibur. Is this true?”
      “It’s a possibility.”

      #90: “Someone mentioned Karma joining the team in a previous Sword Strokes, and you said it was in the works. Is this still true?”
      “Yep, it’s still in the works.”

      Not sure where else this might have been mentioned.

      1. The intended addition of Karma possibly connects to something I found interesting about these issues: Ellis does not seem to have a very stable conception of the book that he wants to write. (I rather suspect that may have something to do with it being a book that he didn’t particularly want to write at all.)

        Back pre-AoA, he had made a move to redefine Excalibur as the “European X-team.” That struck me as interesting, and in tune with where a certain strain of British liberal opinion was in the ‘90s — we were about three years from Will Hutton’s famous “Goodbye, xenophobia” headline in the Observer after the 1997 general election. I.e. Ellis took, Excalibur, defined strongly as the British (=comic, twee, a bit crap but charming) X-book from an American perspective when Claremont created it, and repurposed it as an assertion that a team whose members were disproportionately British could damn well *also* be European. Fair enough — as I commented before, ‘90s British liberal optimism on that point has proven, well, optimistic — but I personally sympathize with it all the same. At any rate, it works.

        But now, Ellis wants Excalibur to be“the international X-group.” And that really doesn’t work at“international X-group.” Excalibur is not remotely credible as the “international” anything. This becomes obvious when Ellis does his roll-call, and registers nationalities for some of the people on the top half of the page, and leaves them out for the people on the bottom half — and even then it’s painful how much it sticks out that this group contains three people from Scotland alone and the closest thing that it contains to someone not from Europe or America is a Russian from Siberia.

        So I can see that looking around for an unused character like Karma who was from *somewhere* else might have seemed like a good idea. And that Ellis didn’t stick with the plan — well, he didn’t stick with the whole “European” thing, either.

        Similarly, I don’t get the sense that Ellis has much interest in any of these characters. (with the possible exception of this book’s Ellis self-insert character, Wisdom — but even there it’s not the kind of interest that he was to bring to his later self-insert characters). This seemed most clear to me in that panel where Nate reads everyone’s minds to find out why they are in Excalibur, and most of their motives boil down to personalized glosses on “it’s the right thing,” and even the ones that aren’t that are superficial at best. (Also, Ellis commits the crime against language of writing that Colossus “has come full-circle to the veracity of the vision.”)

        Essentially, what I think we have here is an inventive writer with a gift for dark humor using those qualities to skate past the fact that he does not have a compelling answer to the question “What is this book about?” I can absolutely see why at the time it might have seemed like the best X-book. But for me personally, in this era that’s not a high bar.

        Also, worth noting that Ellis can’t bring himself to portray Black Air as Nazis without first falling over himself to admire how “efficient” and sensible (=British) they are compared to their counterparts in every other country in the world. Ellis is conflicted enough about this to counter this by making them really horrible — it’s interesting how this story prefigures his use of gold from Holocaust victims as the twist to his “If Britain had a space programme, we would be *so much* better at it than the stupid Americans” narrative in Ministry of Space — but it’s still that recognizable same Ellis soft-British-nationalist theme.

  6. Your talk about Meggan made me imagine her deciding to do cosplay, but turns into a perfect representation of the character and so gets the wrong sort of attention. But later she turns into a shape that looks like a costume and really bonds with people.

  7. In Earth 811, Amanda and Kurt were killed taking Illyana to the bus stop. So her being killed by Margali is one of the reasons this is a different timeline.

  8. The conversation about Moira McTaggart buying useless kitchen appliances immediately made me remember that cylindrical thing you crack eggs into and then it poops out a log of cooked egg, and I started laughing alone in my kitchen. Thanks for the fun new headcanon.

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