Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

396 – Giant-Size Special #11

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

In which we spend too long trying to place a time-travel miniseries in continuity, Al Kennedy does us a solid, Bernard Chang draws some excellent New Mutants young and old, Al Ewing x-plains X-Men: Red, Forearm and Random play Nintendo, and we reveal the winners of The Ninth Annual Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau Awards for Excellence at X-Cellence!


  • Jay’s spatial and temporal whereabouts
  • Cannonball, Mirage, Magik, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Karma, Magma, Cypher, Warlock, and Douglock
  • New Mutants: Truth or Death
  • Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin, gal pals
  • Triple-dog dares
  • Nova Roma, or not
  • Mikhail F**king Rasputin
  • The arrogance of reality warpers
  • How to write Magma
  • The Technarchy and the Phalanx
  • Hardee’s X-Men: Time Gliders
  • Farmboy chic
  • Bernard Chang’s 21 Panels
  • Branching vs. overwriting timelines
  • The effects of de-aging and history rewriting on immunology
  • Found family
  • She Who Swam With The Acanti
  • Sleep-Eeze Mattresses Starring The Hulk
  • Arrako
  • Continuity synchronicity
  • S.W.O.R.D. as a workplace drama
  • The moral downfall of Abigail Brand
  • The leadership styles of Storm, Magneto, and Sunspot
  • Himbo disambiguation
  • The fates of Armor, Risque, and Peeper
  • Mysterium Clicker
  • Santa Claus
  • The Ninth Annual Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau Awards for Excellence at X-Cellence

(Note: Our interview with Al Ewing contains spoilers for X-Men: Red!)

NEXT EPISODE: Sabretooth betrays an X-team! Again!

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  1. Winter special? I’m not sure you’ve noticed, but it’s really not winter here. Summer has really arrived this week. Get back to me in July.

    Grumbling about the weather aside, this was a good start to House to X-Plain, and I’m looking forward to next week.

    And of course, congratulations to Jay, Tea, and little baby K!

  2. You liked Truth or Death more than I did. I was hoping it was going to finally bring Illyana back and, instead, tried to show how she got the Legacy Virus. Something I still can’t make heads or tails of. I haven’t read it recently, but I do remember getting to the end and just thinking, “Doesn’t that mean that the Legacy Virus was sent further back in time? Also, how did kid Illyana get it since she was obviously not the same Illyana who became the Dark Child at the end of Inferno?

    My favorite non-X title this year was actually Daredevil. Something I never thought I would say. I’ve never found him to be a bad character, just not one that I’m usually interested in.

    While this came out at the beginning of 2023, I just wanted to say thank you, to all of you, for making 2022 a fun year. I’m looking forward to more X-Men craziness. Especially as you get into the weird time between OZT and the revitalization of the line by Grant Morrison.

  3. Having now thought to check Jay’s Twitter, belated congratulations to both parents on the arrival of their new carbon unit, and best wishes to the new family.

    Welcome to xplainthexmen Al, hope you survive the experience. (Look… SOMEONE had to say it)

    Now I am, as I might have mentioned before, not a fan of Truth or Death (or Raab’s work in general), no matter how much I might want to be (and I do). I loved seeing the old version of the team and their replacements again, and yet, and yet….

    It’s continuity rich yes, but it’s so hit or miss on whether it’s continuity is correct that it’s a serious strike against it for an anal retentive fanboy like me.

    The Spanish/Portugese mix up, Rahne’s religion, Dani talking like Jubilee on a bad day at the mall, the whole thing being pivoted on the Legacy Virus which wouldn’t be a thing until years after the point in time the kids were from. Rewriting Karma’s entire powerset in #2 because of what I have to believe was an editorial oversight in #1

    I find it hard to believe that younger Dani would be impressed by older Dani now working for SHIELD, given how generally anti-establishment she tended to be, but that might be me being hypercritical… a trait this series brings out in me, alas.

    How lacking in common-sense are we supposed to believe Cypher and Warlock are here? Not only have they travelled to the future and found they aren’t there and their older friends are acting funny around them, but there IS someone who A) has Doug’s face, B) Warlock’s substance and (perhaps most tellingly) C) HAS BOTH THEIR DARNED NAMES combined as his name. And it takes Doug until #3 to discover he’s no longer alive?

    Everyone’s so desperate to save Magik, which is understandable of course, but no one even suggests trying to save Warlock and Doug as well, whilst they have the chance? That seems… narrow mindedly unsporting of them. Maybe just a hint to check the bulletproofing on Doug’s costume? Or for them all to get into the habit of LEAVING A NOTE where they might be going?

    The only workaround for the l’Illyana being ill with the Legacy virus after being de-aged is to take advantage of the bizarre end of Inferno, where older Illyana meets younger Illyana wandering through Limbo’s time-portals and sends her out again to take her place before she even meet’s Belasco (yet somehow not invalidating her own existence, because… Inferno) and, as we know the Legacy Virus obeys no logical contagion pattern except narrative convenience, she passed it on to herself there. I still don’t think it works, but it seems to have more thought put into it than the miniseries.

    Oh, and then we have the newly telepathic Karma casually rewriting everyone’s memories flawlessly, inclyding Illyana and Warlock, who have both had an ongoing plotpoint for years that they are completely immune to telepathy, not even Xavier can probe their minds (Illyana because of the Darkchylde, Warlock because he’s technorganic)

    And it’s all so frustrating because, as you say, there are some terrific character beats and interactions in this. Oh well….

    The interview with Al Ewing was fascinating, a writer I’ve long admired and the way he can spin interesting stories out of mandated crossover events is hugely impressive. I especially liked his articulation of why thrones and monarchs have a different feeling when your from a country which has one in (nominal) charge, as opposed to a country whose experience is second hand and filtered through GoT and Disney.. So thank you for that.

    And wishing you all a Gentle New Year! (After the past couple of years, I appreciate “Happy” is good, but “Gentle” would be nice for a change)

    1. Gosh, looking at that again in the cold light of morning… that was a lot of vitriollic unloading on a realtively innocent miniseries. Not how I intended to start the New Year, so… Sorry about that.

          1. Rumor at the time had it that this series was just to keep the trademark rather than because there was a story to tell.

            1. That’s interesting, because what I found frustrating about this (not that my reaction is as strong as IconUK’s) is that I feel that there is definitely a story to tell here, these are the characters with which to tell it, and this might be the best single period for that story — with one big problem.

              The New Mutants was in many ways at its core a coming-of-age story (with the various problems that entails in IP-preserving superhero comics). That makes these among the best characters for a story about younger selves meeting older selves. That story obviously has to be set when they’ve actually come of age in a noticeable way, and that could have been earlier or later than this.

              But this era has a lot going for it. No “grown-up” mentor-figures like Cable and Domino around for X-Force any more. It’s also good since one of them has joined the X-Men, since that represented “growing up” in the original context*; it’s good that not everyone did that, so that there’s an element of the future not being what one was led to expect. Confronting Illyana’s death from AIDS allegory — there’s a lot of potential there for talking about what it’s like to grow up.

              Which raises the problem that IconUK noted: Doug and Warlock’s deaths are handled so ridiculously awkwardly. That’s the thing: this story needs one New Mutant to have died, but it actively gets in the way that there are three. That would have been a difficult problem for Raab to solve no matter what, but at any rate, he doesn’t manage to solve it.

              I suppose one way to do that would be to present it as that everything is great for the living New Mutants, but at the cost of there being horrific deaths for the others. You could do something with Inferno in that context, because the rescue of the child Illyana wasn’t, of course, de-aging (as this story mysteriously regards it as having been) — it was a last-minute happy(ish) ending for the character by erasing her trauma, which killing her off with the Legacy Virus then in turn erased. Illyana is the person who twice never had the chance to grow up.

              (Incidentally, I find myself in pretty strong disagreement with our hosts that Inferno is such a masterpiece that you shouldn’t allude it to it for fear of inviting comparisons. Inferno is good, but it doesn’t deserve *that* level of reverence. I think the basic idea in this miniseries is stronger than the basic ideas in Inferno, in fact, and had the potential to be a better story — NM: ToD could have used more ambition, not less.)

              This point, that the New Mutants actually are a set where it’s either “doing fabulously, thank you” or “dead,” raises another point that Raab handles poorly, for me — the debate on changing the past.

              OK, I’ll say up front that this is a pet peeve of mine with SF genre media in general: there have been *so* many stories that turn on a dilemma, in which someone changes the past and it turns out worse, that “But that would change the timeline!” has cemented itself as a sort of self-evident moral truth, when it’s really not, it’s an artifact of particular stories that imagine the “rules” (moral and otherwise) of time travel in particular arbitrary ways. “Timeline“ is just a way of saying “The way things are,” extended into “were” — the logic of saying that “We have to preserve the way things are/were” is that we live in the best world that ever could have been, and paging Voltaire.

              But leaving that aside and accepting that there are (not at all well-explained) horrible consequences here on both sides, this decision, which should be the emotional core of this story, is just awfully handled. It should be a terrible, hard decision for everyone to make, but the pro-child-dying-of-AIDS group, especially Sam and Dani, come across as quite absurdly cold and unemotional, with a whole “I’m afraid we just can’t take the risk” attitude that feels rather as if they were discussing whether to take out a home loan, not, you know, choosing not to do something that might save their friend’s life.

              And then there’s the twist. So — this is a story about a man infected with AIDS who infects his sister in an attempt to find a cure for himself. That’s potentially a very effective story. (Better than Inferno, anyway. :)) But it’s self-evidently a morally serious story, one that calls for being handled with a certain level of care. Personally, I want something more than describing the person who does that in clichéd language as “a villain to the core” — our hosts discussed a lot of subtleties to the characterization of Mikhail Rasputin here, and I wish I could see any of those subtleties in what’s actually on the page here.

              * This is why I really don’t mind the reset on Sam Guthrie, X-Man!’s maturity and confidence. Yes, it’s incompatible with his history over the previous years. Tell it to Johnny Storm, who has outgrown his immaturity and been reset approximately 137,873 times — superhero comics do this sort of thing all the time. Is this a good story to tell, a former New Mutant becoming an X-Man and now being the most junior and really feeling it? I think it is — it’s paying off one of the most basic threads of the original. And Sam’s a great character for that story. I can stand treating a few years of X-Force as “sort of happened, sort of didn’t” in order to get a good X-story that, critically, hasn’t been told before in that way.

              1. Interesting POV on how Sam’s treatment with the X-Men worked.

                I think that was handled much better in Busiek/Perez Avengers’s run (Which given Busiek was involved isn’t surprising) where Vance Astrovik/Justice finally becomes an Avenger after years of visibly hero worshipping the Avengers (He only joined the New Warriors because he couldn’t get into the Avengers), and despite his more mature and focussed nature, still spends a dozen issues all but hyperventilating every he remembers he’s on the same team as Captain America and Thor etc. But he overcomes it.

                With Sam, it’s different, he’d shared the Xavier School with the X-Men for years. He’s seen them not just as heroes, but as housemates, and that has to muddy up the rose tinted glasses a little. He’s seen them at their best, at their worst, and their most annoying.

                Especially given he’d had more experience as a field leader in messed up times with a much more rebellious crew than most of the X-Men had ever been. He had had to lead the New Mutants after the X-Men fake died and after Doug really died, after Dani left (and who had always been the teams field leader, not Sam) and then having to deal with Cable and co.

                So Sam being starstruck might have been cute for a couple of issues, especially since he’s been away from home for a while, but it got old fast, and he should probably have been thinking things like “Oh right, THAT’S why you never use the bathroom right after Logan!” or how snarky Rogue can be before her third cup of coffee..

                I agree though that the “old meets new” plot should work well for the New Mutants, I just wish it did.

  4. In a slightly more upbeat mode, we did find out in an old Damage Control comic that no matter how trashed the Xavier School might be, the Danger Room Shi’ar tech will attempt to rebuild the entire building, providing it has enough power, and can access raw materials, which it will steal if none are to hand. So any magical rebuilds can probably be assigned to that.

    (That same Damage Control story also has Kitty and Doug upoading vast quantities of old comedy movies and TV shows into the Danger Room’s data banks so it can make sessions more randomly entertaining. Wolverine getting pied in the face is a highlight)

  5. When Al Ewing was looking for a TV show to compare X-Men Red to, I can’t believe he didn’t come up with Life on Mars.

  6. I think it’s actually easier for me to ignore the fact that Sam had shared a house with the X-Men than it is to ignore his years of maturing and being all posture-y in X-Force. Because while it was true in the comics’ ostensible reality that the New Mutants were living in the same building as the X-Men, Claremont kept them remarkably separate in practice and didn’t give us many scenes of e.g. Rahne running into Logan getting beer from the fridge. Which I remember was something that frustrated me at the time.

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