Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

As Mentioned in Episode 216 – X-Amining X-Factor

Listen to the episode here.


216 – X-Amining X-Factor (feat. Dr. Andrea Letamendi)

In which Dr. Andrea Letamendi of Arkham Sessions joins us to analyze some analysis; Doc Samson has major scope-of-practice issues; Ren & Stimpy references continue to fail to age well; it’s hard to be Quicksilver; Val Cooper is not your friend; Polaris pretty much always deserves better; Charles Xavier should not be allowed to inhabit positions of power; and labels are often not the best tools for good representations of mental illness and neurodivergence.


  • A very high-stakes 3-D puzzle
  • X-Factor #87
  • Doc Samson
  • Making talking heads interesting
  • Wolfsbane’s relationship to pop culture
  • Appropriate boundaries
  • Several remarkable fashion choices
  • Pietro Maximoff in perspective
  • Therapeutic assessment vs. intervention
  • The extremely tragic backstory of Jamie Madrox
  • Imposter syndrome
  • A brief history of Polaris’s brushes with possession
  • A really poorly planned and presented sequence
  • Consequences of armchair diagnosis
  • Interactions of telepathy and psychology
  • Legion as a portrayal of mental illness
  • Writing mental illness in fiction

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Susan X-Plains Prompt Critical

Kickass scientist Susan Beaver–who’s also the former associate director of the Reed Research Reactor–joined us in Episode 114 – Meltdown to talk about the actual science of nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, the downside of talking about complex science on a comics podcast is that there’s never enough time to go into as much depth as we’d like. Luckily for us–and you–Susan was kind enough to write a follow-up, discussing some of the terms and concepts we had to gloss over in the episode proper. -Jay

susie-fuel-podcast-smallerLet’s talk about nuclear fission.

As I got to say in the episode, the fourteen-page rundown of basic nuclear fission and the Chernobyl disaster that starts of Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown is surprisingly accurate, aside from attributing the human errors to a nefarious conspiracy rather than a combination of bad design and bad judgment. But one thing that the artistic overview doesn’t explain is a term that comes up a couple times in the comic, and that’s the term “prompt critical”.

It surprised me to see that term come up in the comic, since most of the time when people in entertainment industries throw around concepts regarding nuclear reactors they’re getting them wrong. (If you’ve ever had a career that gets depicted in movies and television shows–I’m looking at you, CSI techs and nurses–you know exactly what I mean.) So to see the comic getting a lot right was a welcome surprise. Radiation signs posted the correct way up instead of rotated 30 degrees! Neutron moderation! Control rods! And, of course, the sinister-sounding (not Sinister-sounding, though in this comic you have to be careful) phrase “prompt critical.”

So what happens when a nuclear reactor goes prompt critical?

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