Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

360 – Charging Forward

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

In which history gets rewritten (again); Shatterstar definitely knows how to dance; and everyone gets extremely grumpy about Loeb’s final X-Force arc.


  • What happened to Reverend Craig
  • X-Force (again)
  • The Mojoverse (again)
  • X-Force #59-61
  • Shatterstar vs. Benjamin Russell
  • The Weisman Institute for the Criminally Insane (again)
  • Subtext
  • Help, sort of
  • The dick ship
  • Darth Vader’s penis or lack thereof
  • The difference between Jay and Miles
  • Violently decompressed storytelling
  • Gog and Gog’n’Magog (again)
  • Prior (or possibly future) events in the rebellion
  • Longshot outside his miniseries
  • Longshot and Shatterstar
  • TV Guide
  • Ineffective brainwashing
  • A large number of continuity errors
  • Mojo V
  • Genre hopping
  • A stylistic shift
  • A body swap
  • Benjamin Russell vs. the Leprechauns
  • Personally resonant comics
  • Wolverine’s sense of smell

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  1. I’m not as invested in X-Men continuity as our hosts — not terribly surprising, obviously — and I specifically don’t care all that much about Shatterstar. He has a definite amusement value for me when handled in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, but he’s not a character for whom plumbing the details of his psyche is going to matter. So you can get his backstory wrong, and it won’t bother all that much much, because nothing really turns for me on treating Shatterstar like a person with a detailed history that informs who they are.

    Which is to say, while our hosts were annoyed by how lazy all that was, I was busy being annoyed by how lazy the writing is.

    I’ll get in one last jibe at Loeb’s bizarre idea of how people talk in Ireland. And I’ll repeat a question I’ve asked here before, in hopes that someone can enlighten me: I know for a fact that this *wasn’t* how normal Americans in the ‘90s thought that Irish people talked, because that’s when I moved to the US — Americans had a stereotype, but you could see where they got it: it was mostly stage-Irish with a bit of Northern Irish mixed in, reflecting versions of Irish dialogue that Americans heard in media. Ask yourself: where in US tv or film does an Irish character sound like Loeb’s Siryn, whether accurately represented or not? Hell, Loeb had *worked* in film and television — would he ever have written an Irish character like this in that context?

    But it’s really the narrative captions where one can really relish how dashed off Loeb’s writing seems to be. In fact it goes out the other end to the point where one wonders if there’s real effort going into contriving writing that advertises its badness so thoroughly. Loeb has this marvelous ability to combine writing in clichés with sounding like a middle-aged man trying to sound cool to a teenager. One has to relish “until his mutant ability to become a solar battery irrevocably rocked his world.”

    (A horrifying but ghoulishly intriguing thought: what if Jeph Loeb wrote a sex scene in this vein?)

    And then there’s his picking up on Lobdell’s pointless “arguably” for narrative captions, as in James being “..arguably, the physically strongest of the team.” One has to admire the density with which Loeb places that right to “irrevocably rocked his world.”

    And what is going on with the ellipsis in “It was here that Siryn and Shatterstar first learned about the… discrepancy in Shatterstar’s past…” Is “discrepancy” supposed to be euphemism for something more disturbing — and what on earth would that disturbing word be? Are we to imagine that the narrator is an absent-minded older person who was searching for the word “discrepancy” for a moment? Is this a sophisticated commentary on the studied pomposity of trad X-book thesaurus-y style in which the narrator is supposed to be about to say “inconsistency” and substitute something a bit more high-faluting at the last moment?

    No, probably not the last, alas. It’s a pointless ellipsis, there because X-dialogue traditionally uses a lot of ellipses (often for no more than emphasis, but for *a* reason), which has been allowed here to become a meaningless tic, and has slipped from dialogue into narrative captions.

    All this is to leave aside the more routine kind of faults, such as the very high level of awkward exposition in dialogue. This is far from the worst Jeph Loeb comic that I have ever read as an overall experience,* but I don’t recall one where this specific kind of “this was a first draft, wasn’t it?” use of language stood out as obtrusively as it does in X-Force — Loeb was certainly capable of *not* writing like this, if he chose.

    Like so much of Lobdell, and this is where the lack of concern with Shatterstar’s backstory or even tying up Loeb’s own plot coherently does come back in, that feels like “This is good enough for the stupid readers of this stupid comic.” Like Lobdell, but more so. One has to wonder if Loeb, when he came on the book, basically looked at what Lobdell was doing and went, “So, that’s what these books are meant to be, is it? Right.” Mixed in with a bit of the remaining post-Liefeld sense that X-Force is supposed to be the book with the ridiculous Kewl stuff.

    I might compare Mark Millar’s work on Dredd, where it reads as if he had looked at a few issues of the immediately preceding Garth Ennis run, and went “So, that’s what people like about Judge Dredd? Let’s give them that,” and proceeded to ape the worst features of Ennis with that patented Millar cynicism. Although the parallel is not exact — Millar clearly puts a lot of effort into being crass and awful.

    *I’ve read Ultimatum.

    1. (A horrifying but ghoulishly intriguing thought: what if Jeph Loeb wrote a sex scene in this vein?)

      Well, thank you for that mental image, I was needing some new nightmare fuel.

      Though, in fairness, it would still have some way to go to beat off (no double entendre intended) Giles Coren’s, Literary Supplement “Bad Sex Award” winning passage from Winkler, which I will leave others to read if they are feeling masochistic, and not in the fun way.

      1. I’m not sure if I should blame myself for a moment in weakness in clicking on that or to blame you for putting the temptation there.

  2. Loeb’s run on X-Force wasn’t my favorite era of the book, but I did enjoy most of it. Especially when read in conjunction with his time on Cable.

    When it comes to this arc, I’m wondering how much of it was Loeb’s fault that it was so incomprehensible and how much of it was Bob Harras messing with it? I know that the writes who took over X-Men after Lobdell left had a lot of problems with the editorial team. And we’ve also heard Hama complain about it as well as Harras would rewrite dialogue and captions in his Wolverine run. That doesn’t mean that I think Harras definitely did that here, only that it is a possibility.

    I am also not a fan of Lau’s art. I have nothing against the manga style. It’s just really incongruous between the men and the women. It’s kind of jarring and really took me out of it.

    I can’t even being to form a coherent thought about how to judge the final story except to say that even the build up wasn’t all that enticing to begin with. And Shatterstar didn’t strike me as a character who needed this kind of retcon.

  3. I might be misremembering things completely, but wasn’t there some hinting at some point that Spiral might have been Benjamin Russell’s mother? Hence her interest in him.

  4. The end of that story felt so much like a time loop setup that I was ready to bitch about how little sense it made. That they took Shatterstar back in time and put his soul in Benjamin’s body, and then later he woke up and started his continuity all over again from his pre-X-Force life. It makes no sense but it also makes as much sense as what we got.

  5. It’s been a long time since I read it so I don’t remember the details but I believe the Ann Nocenti X-Men prose novel Prisoner X involved Mojo creating a video game that kidnapped people for some purpose

  6. Low key, when you two hate a story it makes for some of your best, funniest episodes. And am always into a mullet shout out from Miles.

    Don’t know if I am allowed to ask questions here, but, which X characters do you think would benefit from having a mullet?

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