Podcast Podcast: Tom Taylor’s X-Men Red By Justin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr X-Men Red by Tom Taylor stars Marvel’s newly resurrected telepath Jean Grey as leader of a new deadlier squad of X-Men. Jean’s X-Men team find themselves fighting a familiar foe in Cassandra Nova. Cassandra Nova changes her tactics and employs weapons, other than her telepathy, against the X-Men. She uses the media and the “fake news controversy” to sway public opinion away from mutant rights to remove certain obstacles in the way of her bringing about mutant extinction. Cassandra Nova and Jean Grey previously battled in the pages of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. However, back then Jean Grey possessed the infinite power of the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix. Now, Jean no longer has access to that power, and old enemies find themselves on a much less even playing field with Cassandra Nova having an enormous advantage.X-Men Red stars Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Laura Kinney as Wolverine, the adorable Gabby as Honey Badger, Gentle, Namor, Black Panther, and the newest mutant to join the X-Men — Trinary! X-Men Red feels like so much more than a comic book and certainly more than a typical X-Men storyline. In a time when disillusionment with the state of the world permeates the thickest of personal armors, Tom Taylor beautifully writes a Jean Grey that fans, non-fans, and new fans can all agree to root for. In so many ways, the idealism Jean Grey exhibits and lives by feels like a downpour of rain on the aridest of deserts — the rarest of conditions only a character like Jean could create in order to sprout hope for a better tomorrow. The message of X-Men Red is a beautiful one. It tells us to tune out the noise. It dares us to examine the roles we play in making that noise louder for ourselves and others. And finally, it provides a path forward — a way to heal the world that is nothing short of extraordinary. The world owes a debt to Marvel and the creative team behind X-Men Red. I’m not entirely sure that any of us understand the profound impact comics like this can have on people. We hope this podcast does this work justice. If you enjoyed this podcast, please pick up a copy of X-Men Red. You can also find digital copies of X-Men Red here on ComiXology. We edited the transcript below for clarity and brevity. Justin: What is X-Men Red about? X-Men Red: cause leading looks different than it used to. Peyton: I think X-Men Red is about Jean re-learning what the importance of being a superhero is and why the world needs saving the first place. She’s at that place where she’s been gone. She’s been in this intergalactic world. She has to come back down to reality and humanity. She has to relearn what it means to be a superhero, what it means to be an X-Man. Maite: We all know empathy is a big theme in the work, especially in the last few issues. Trying to be sympathetic and empathetic in a world where it’s easy to give up on humanity and easy to be apathetic because there’s so much hate. There’s so much to be disgusted by. So, it’s about learning how to forgive people. And there’s that tension between giving up and persevering. Marius: I would go as far as to say that X-Men Red is a book about developing a new positive vision in the age of Trump. Jordan: I also think it’s about Jean re-learning how to be a leader, especially in her current environment. We’ve seen Cyclops take over the X-Men. We’ve seen Kitty running the X-Men. We have these other people who stepped into the role of what Jean was doing when she died. Now, she has to come back into that role, but it’s changed. Justin: I wonder how a story of Jean Grey becoming a leader, Jean Grey experiencing her humanity, Jean Grey figuring out how to push the world forward in the age of Trumpism, and a story about empathy all come together in X-Men? I don’t know how they did that, but I’m asking you more to describe it, not how you think it came together artistically. Marius: I think one brilliant thing that the book managed to achieve is to go one step further with a character that has so many decades of stories about her and that is already so iconic. I think one of the best decisions that Marvel has done in the last few years is to get rid of the Phoenix Force for Jean Grey and to ask the question: “what is the next step of the character? Where can she go next without this dynamic with the Phoenix? I think that was brilliantly concluded in X-Men: Phoenix Resurrection. She’s almost like an outsider coming in at this point because she has been, as others have said, been gone for a while and is now experiencing, as this powerful telepath for the first time, the specific political climate that we as readers are familiar uphill. And I think it’s just brilliant that she would take on the role of developing a new positive vision for this political climate. Peyton: She’s embracing her humanity for the first time in a long time. If you read X-Men Red, you need to go back and read her last series, which was 2001 Grant Morrison’s New X-Men where she’s the opposite of how she is here. She’s not very human at all in that series. She’s so consumed by the Phoenix. That’s her whole life. So with X-Men Red, I think she’s embracing the side of humanity that she’s hasn’t been able to embrace. Justin: OK, so comics nerd history? We have X-Factor version one Jean back. I enjoyed her. Peyton: Oh my gosh. Yes. That is so true. That is the era of Jean X-Men Red shows. Justin: No Phoenix. Just pure Jean. Does the fact that Jean Grey was the star of the story change what you think Tom Taylor was trying to say? I hate trying to surmise what the author was trying to say. Maybe, what he was trying to evoke in us, those kinds of feelings? Do you think that the fact that it’s Jean Grey evoking them changes anything? Marius: I do. I think that there are few characters that could have embodied what I think Tom Taylor was going for the same way as Jean. When you think of other iconic X-Men characters who represent ideas, obviously one of the first things to come to my mind would be Cyclops. The last time we saw Cyclops was his story arc about the Mutant Revolution. I think the same positive vision that Jean has been embodying… Cyclops would have been the wrong character to tell that story with. She’s a very iconic character. She has almost like a mystical quality about her because she’s been gone for so long and talked about by so many characters. As readers, we have a faint memory of her because the last big story arc surrounding her was New X-Men by Grant Morrison. And she was a very different character back then. Peyton: I don’t think any other character could have done it. In X-Men Red, Jean represents hope, and all the other characters have seen hope die in these past few years. So I feel like she was the only one who could come back and be like, “OK, let’s give this a fresh new outlook that Kitty and Cyclops, who are the big two, couldn’t give right now. Maite: I agree with Peyton. I cannot imagine anyone else leading this series. And I also really like how Tom Taylor shows her transition back into real life. I love how she’s just not thrust into this world and back in action. You see her trying to swallow everything that’s happening in the world, and throughout the whole series, you’d see her just adjusting to this world that she’s been gone from for so long. And I, and I liked that. I love seeing those vulnerabilities, all those changes that she’s experiencing, this trying to work around. And because of that juxtaposed by everything that happens in the series. I agree. I can’t imagine anyone else who could have been the face of X-Men Red. Marius: It’s something I liked a lot as well. She does seem like a like a larger than life figure, kind of embodying, as you said, hope but at the same time, she’s very human because her idealism almost seems like a character flaw in some instances of the book. I think it almost looks like she’s too idealistic. She’s being, I don’t think there’s such a thing as being too empathetic, but I guess being too optimistic with how she trusts other people who have so readily hated. A lot of limitations come with like only having eleven issues to tell a story. I think that it’s beautiful how she sticks to those principles and, in the end, she succeeds in a way. Justin: That was beautiful, Marius. It was well said too. As I asked “what is X-Men Red?”, can I ask “who is Jean Grey?” Just in case there are one or two people listening who don’t know who she is, but in addition to that, can we talk about who she is and her emotional bottom and the metaphor she represents? I thought she was more Phoenix here in terms of the metaphor of rebirth than when she was Phoenix. Peyton: Jean is one of the founding members of X-Men. She’s the only girl character in the founding X-Men characters, which straight from the beginning kind of gave her a different perspective than the others. She became the Phoenix, and it all went downhill from there. Now it’s slowly going back uphill. I don’t know. I mean, she’s died a lot. That’s kind of what people think of when they think of her character, but she’s a lot more than that. I believe in the new X-Men series, she had become sort of stale in her Phoenix possession in a way. She was kind of just like borderline not human, just living in this stale bubble. She didn’t know where her life was going. She didn’t seem that passionate, which was strange because that’s kind of what the Phoenix is all about. Peyton: She only seemed that passionate about splitting up Emma and Scott. I see where you’re going with X-Men Red. She’s going through this transformation. She’s a naive character, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t get. As a character, she is innocent because how can you die multiple times and still come back every time wanting to save the world? You’ve got to be a little naive to be that kind of person. That’s just who she is. Justin: Is that naiveté? Or would say though it is determination? Peyton: Yeah, I guess I feel like it’s a little bit of both. The fact that we don’t even get a single issue where Jean is like, “you know, maybe I should just sit down and chill out for a second and like try to figure that?” You know, she’s just like straight back in the game. Peyton: It is admirable determination, but it’s also just like “chill out for a second.” How about you talk to like, you know, your younger self and kind of, like, understand this world a little bit? I enjoy the fact that she’s a flawed character. I think what makes X-Men a lot more enjoyable is that she’s not just like this icon on a pedestal. She is a real person. We get that more than we get in a lot of other series that she’s been in. Maite: A lot of the determination is derived from fear because you see her continuously talk about what she did as the Phoenix and all the havoc she caused. And I feel as though, in this new rebirth, she’s kind of carrying that responsibility on her shoulders. And I think that’s why she’s not giving herself a break. She’s afraid of either failing or just watching the world implode once more. And I think she’s kind of taken it upon herself to continuously maintain faith in the world and continually try to save it, even though they’re still going to be hate, There will always be evil people. So, of course, that’s in line with the naïveté. But I also think it’s very much rooted in her fears. I get a sense of her guilt in certain moments of the series. Peyton: Unlike a lot of characters, she doesn’t ever try to be like, “maybe I should just be normal?,” You know? She never says that because I think she realizes that her life is so entangled with the things that she’s done in her past. She can’t go back and be normal. Like she has to keep pushing harder every time. And I think that the fact that this battle is with Cassandra says that too. Peyton: She was battling her in 2001. She’s still fighting her because it’s always going on for her. It won’t stop. We’ll see Cassandra Nova again, for sure. Hopefully, with Jean. Justin: Oh, I hope so. That’d be great. I wonder how thin you would describe the Trump metaphors in X-Men Red? Do you find them to be thinly veiled? Jordan: The one that comes to mind, and not even specifically about Trump himself, is the one with newscasters going at each other’s throats and then them telling Jean she “broke” the news. We do see a lot of that rhetoric come from different news channels. There was the moment, like, in Charlottesville with the tiki torches… Justin: When Gambit made them all explode? That was awesome. Jordan: Yeah. Jordan: How much is this a story about fake news? Regardless of how you feel politically, do you think that the story was successful in commenting on the way things are America right now? I thought it was interesting because Tom Taylor isn’t even American. He’s Australian. Marius: I think the thing that comes to mind for me when you asked that question is this idea of the people’s minds being tampered with and then somehow not having as much agency because of that because they have been transformed into hateful people by people who would benefit from that. And I think the metaphor here was blatantly the Cambridge Analytica scandal about things like the fake news controversy. I guess it wasn’t 100% successful for me in portraying politics and ideology and hate in the age of Trump. I’m not 100% sure if it was entirely successful as a metaphor in terms of talking about agency and hatred in this political climate. But we can talk more about that later because I think that’s a whole other can of worms. Justin: Let’s get into that. What I want to say, which is a testament to comics and to Tom Taylor, if I had a chance to talk to him, this is what I would tell him, is that for me, 2016 and 2017 and then 2018 ended up being really, really, really, really, really, really, really shitty years for me. And a lot of it had to do with what was going on in the world, not necessarily with what was happening to me personally. And I remember getting into Taoism, reading a lot of Seneca, you know, trying to look for things to give me insight into what was happening in the world. And I can’t say I’m surprised, but it didn’t come from the Tao. It didn’t come from the letters of Seneca, the younger. It came from Jean Grey. That’s why I had us listen to the song before “Heal the world” by Michael Jackson. Justin: Because when she said that something snapped in me. I was like, “finally, someone is pushing this national conversation and, possibly, this whole conversation that we’re having in the West — forward. For awhile I was like, “I accept that we’re here, but how do we fix it?” And no one had an answer for me that I liked until Jean Grey did in X-Men Red. I don’t really know how to articulate her answer or if it will work. But it was a solution nonetheless. That solution is further along than any I had felt from anyone in the world. Anyone in actual politics or anyone appearing in the news. So, I guess before we break the specifics of the script down and the specifics of some of the art, let’s talk about how it made you guys feel and how it made all of us feel, if the messages reached us personally as well as being successful outside of our personal tastes. Peyton: It spoke to me because Jean was the only one in the X-Men world who is trying to do anything. I don’t feel that in X-Men Gold or X-Men Blue. They seem to fight these inconsequential small battles. it’s very comic-book-genre sort of fights and then an in X-Men Red, Jean comes on the scene and is like, “we’re going to weaponize the truth. We’re going to get in there. We’re going to like push the boundaries. I’m going to fight Cassandra Nova for eleven issues even though it should really take like 20.” I think she just like pushed the boundaries on what you feel as possible for a character like hers. Throughout the entire series, she was always being like, “this is my fight. Peyton: No, this is my fight.” Then in that last issue, it’s Gabby who really does the final blow. That’s so important because so often we have to go into this by ourselves. This is our fight. In reality. She’s on a team. This is X-Men Red. It’s a team. It speaks to the idea that you know your friends and the people you partner yourself with as a group that’s who can make a difference. So I thought that was great. Tom Taylor easily could have made this a Jean Grey solo series. It could have been simply Jean versus Cassandra Nova. But for some reason, he didn’t do that. I think it was because he wanted to emphasize how important it is to have a strong group around you to fight these huge issues that seem almost too big to tackle. Maite: That’s what astonished me about this series. I reread it today as a whole. Tom Taylor managed to not only showcase this team dynamic, but also give Jean an awesome comeback story. There was a great balance between her solo arc and her dynamic with the team and the focus on the different team members. Also, the fact that this all happened at 11 issues? It’s just insane to me. I mean the pace, I’m sure we’ll get into this later, but like the pacing was just — it felt like this tug of war going back and forth between Cassandra and Jean. It was awesome and epic. The fact that he managed to do that in 11 issues? It’s just crazy, you know? But it made me fall in love with Jean again. Maite: We had teen-Jean but this Jean hasn’t been around for more than 14 years. You go back and reread all her old stories, and you get nostalgic just kind of seeing her. And now she takes on this leadership position and excels. And like Peyton said, they kept saying in the story, “weaponize the truth.” It was so impactful, and it’s awesome. It makes you look forward to what’s going to happen next. But, it’s just astonishing what Taylor did in just 11 issues. Jordan: You guys know that I am not the biggest X-Men fan. Surprise, surprise. I think that gets brought up every time we talk about anything comics. I’m not the biggest Jean Grey fan. I have read Grant Morrison’s run. I do know how all of that ends. But coming into this I felt, “OK, it’s about Jean, but there are these side characters. I’ll probably like them more and just kind of ignore the parts that have Jean even though that’ll probably be like 90% of the comic.” However, by the end, I changed. I wouldn’t say Jean is my favorite character. But I would say that I definitely like her now. That’s something I think that Tom Taylor did well. I’ve seen other people on Twitter, other comic writers, other fans and stuff saying the same thing. So I do think there’s something poignant about this particular rendition of Jean and what she has going on and what Tom Taylor did for her and what the team aspect added for her and all of that. Justin: You actually can find Jordan on our next podcast when we discuss Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. She’ll be ignoring all the parts that Buffy is in. Jordan: So the entire show, I didn’t watch any of it. Justin: You watched all the scenes without Buffy. That’s really awesome. I wish Nolan Bensen was here. He’s not a Cyclops and Jean Grey fan. That’s an understatement. However, Nolan would gladly say he was wrong about Jean Grey in X-Men Red and that he finds her now to be the only successful successor to Xavier. He made an excellent point, which is that Storm and Cyclops failed, right? All-New X-Men, Storm later took the team and Extraordinary X-Men failed. X-Men Blue and Gold failed. although Jordan, I’m, or it was a Peyton, I might argue that there was some. So Peyton, I might argue that there were some political things going on in the beginning that maybe got lost. Peyton: X-Men Gold? Justin: Uh, yes. Peyton: Yeah. In the beginning, it was a little political, and that like the last two issues were a little bit too, and they were interesting. But yeah, Kitty is no successor to Xavier, just going to put it out there. Justin: No, I mean it’s like do we have, are we going to have Gold Balls in charge of a team and what are they going to do exactly? Like what’s, what’s next is my question. Marius: I think Gold Balls should just be getting his solo title. Justin: I think we should rename Marvel Gold Balls. Jordan: No. Marius: It’s about time. Justin: Too far? I took things too far. Peyton: I think for Uncanny, from what I’ve seen of Uncanny, I’ve been writing the reviews for Uncanny X-Men. I think Jean has a rough future ahead of her in the coming year. So she’s going to be in the Age of X-Man series. So I think that she’s going to like get an under X-Man’s rule and kind of do his bidding. That’s my theory right now. And Wolverine and Cyclops are going to be the new leaders of Uncanny, so we might just be back where we started with them. Marius: I think I agree with that a lot. Would you agree if I said that I think Uncanny X-Men right now was a good example for how a lot of the great characterization that X-Men Red has done for the character of Jean Gray is kind of being undone by some other writers sometimes? Because I think it’s Uncanny X-Men one and spoiler warning, but there’s this one scene where she, I think, she hesitates to to give an inspirational speech in front of a crowd because she thinks that Kitty should be doing it. I was kind of feeling like the Jean Gray that we saw an X-Men Red would be glad to give that speech and would be glad to inspire hope, I guess. Justin: Let’s be honest, the Jean Grey and any Jean Gray would be happy to give a speech in front of anyone. Peyton: I do feel like for Jean, it’s kind of like she’s arriving at this scene. So when she left, Kitty was just like a kid, you know? And now she’s coming back in and Kitty’s like the headmistress of the Xavier — It’s a big change for her. So she’s kind of trying to insert herself into the X-Men world and she’s not really sure where she fits in. She understands where she fits in with X-Men Red because she has her own team. But in the larger X-Men world, she’s kind of trying to figure out, and we also see in Uncanny X-Men where she’s fighting with Armor about who’s kind of making the decisions. And I feel like she’s kind of wavering. She’s like, “well, maybe I shouldn’t be making the decisions since I’ve only been back for like a year.” So I mean, I think that’s an interesting dynamic. I like her in X-Men Red because she’s so confident. But I like that they also show her kind of losing some of that confidence because X-Men is such a large world and it’s bigger than just X-Men Red. But yeah, it’s a delicate balance. And I think I love Tom Taylor’s Jean, but it’s definitely a strange concept to see her in Uncanny X-Men. Marius: That’s a good point, though. Another example of what I was saying that bugged me was in X-Men Gold when she was talking to Rachel. For those who don’t know, Rachel is her daughter from another universe. Marius: The X-Men Red annual did some great work in terms of reconciling some of the weirder aspects about the relationship between Rachel and Jean. There was actual growth between these two people. So, it kind of bugged me to see in other books such as X-Men Gold, I think it was, Rachel refers to Jean as something like her mother. Jean’s responses seem very cold. “Rachel, I’m not your mother” or something like that. I feel like it’s a bit contradictory to what we saw in X-Men Red in the annual, which I guess I actually thought did a good job at building an interesting dynamic and authentic interaction between the two. Peyton: I also noticed that when that happened. I was so mad. And I think it was just a discrepancy between writers. I feel like some writers just understand her relationship with Rachel to be very close and loving and others imagine sort of early Jean, back when she was like, “oh my God, I can’t believe Rachel thinks I’m her mom. Like I’m not her mom.” It’s a strange dynamic for them. Honestly, I feel like we need a whole series to cover their interactions because we just don’t get that much of it. We only get a little bit in X-Men Red. Marius: They generally don’t seem to both of them be around much at the same time. Peyton: Yeah. Well I mean Chris Claremont said that the only reason there was Rachel was to take the place of Jean when she was gone, so that does make sense. Marius: I think she disappeared into the time stream with Ahab and now she’s a hound again. Peyton: She did. Yeah, In X-termination. I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting for her to leave for a really long time. It was honestly really funny too because Jean was like, “yeah, I’ll get you.” Then she’s like, “I got other stuff to do.” Marius: I just feel like Rachel has more potential than being a Jean replacement and then being cast aside. Justin: She does, but Donald Trump has like, you know, he has the potential not to be a piece of shit, but that’s not going to happen. I feel the same about that comparison. I feel like unless Rachel is a lesbian. I’m just bored. Peyton: Yes. If they keep putting her with Nightcrawler. I’m done. I am done with comics, and I am leaving. I am so tired of that relationship. It is so weird. Jordan: OK but that brings up this point that I really want to talk about that I think is funny. I already mentioned it to Maite. I think it’s so funny that Kurt was like, “Hey, I want to come along with you and Rachel.” And Jean’s like, “Hey, I know about you and her.” He was like, “what?” And she was like, “yeah, I know everything. But you didn’t tell me. But also I know exactly what you’re talking about.” And I just think that’s so funny because I relate to Jean so hard in that moment when she’s like, “I already know this. You should have told me, but you didn’t tell me. So now I’m bringing it up and making you feel awkward about it. ” Peyton: I love it when Jean’s like, “I don’t read people’s minds.” And then she does. Justin: She got that from Professor Xavier who was the biggest bullshitter about reading peoples’ minds. Peyton: It was “don’t read people’s minds if they don’t want to, Jean, unless you want to.” Maite: I have a question about Rachel’s role. I know she was Cassandra Nova’s puppet… Peyton: Basically, Cassandra Nova thought she could use Jean’s relationship with Rachel against Jean. Justin: Also, are you asking about Rachel’s history as a hound? Like in her first appearance with Ahab? Maite: In X-termination? Justin: No, I was going to ask Peyton to talk about Rachel’s history as a hound. Also, how she originated from the future and all that. Peyton: Well, she used to have to kill mutants in an alternate future where she was mind controlled. Ahab treated her like a dog. She had to kill mutants. Her past comes up all the time. It came up in X-Men Gold for a few issues, too. I think they should put it in the past. Like if you want to make her a better character, get her past this because we’ve seen it too many times. I didn’t really enjoy seeing it in X-Men Red because we just saw it in X-Men Gold. Justin: The only one who ever did that was Ed Brubaker in X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’Ar Empire. He was like, you know, “I’m not touching this hound stuff. I’m giving her a boyfriend. I’m giving her the sexy mini dress.” Peyton: Yeah. Let her be her own character. Justin: I had the same experience I had with the actor from Twilight. I just thought “she’s just not heterosexual.” I was like, “you can put her in a…you know, it’s just not — I just don’t see it.” I know no one could touch that. Peyton: Wait, who should Rachel be with? Justin: Kitty. Marius: Absolutely. No question. Peyton: Yeah. Justin: If they had X-Men After Dark, I’m sure they would’ve hooked up once when they were living in England together. Peyton: They should have that. That’s what it should be called — X-Men After Dark. Justin: It would be like that issue of New Mutants where they went out at night to the Hellfire Club and wore sexy clothes and… Peyton: Like every issue with Emma Frost… Peyton: Marvel, are you listening? Because you can hire us for… really for free. Justin: We’ll work for, well, I need, at least, like, I mean…I’ll work for prison money. I’m sure we all will. Everyone here already is, so that’s perfect. It would actually be a pay raise. I heard from some of the ladies that Nightcrawler had it going on? Maite: Cover of issue #9? 10 out of 10. Jordan: Agreed! That beard is pretty great. Maite: The beard! I don’t know what happened. The beard changed the game. Justin: Do you think I’m a bad person if I could never hook up with someone who is blue? Peyton: Yes. Maite: Could you hook up with somebody who has a tail? Peyton: You don’t like Nightcrawler, Justin? Justin: I like when he’s around. He’s the kind of character where every five years we have two or three issues where it goes into Nightcrawler’s psyche and how he’s changed. I’m always really into it. Then, he plays a big role and dies. Then, he comes back, and is all, like, “oh, I’m so religious.” And I like that. I like having him around. I don’t like when he dies and comes back. I think he’s an important part of the team. It was great to see him in X-Men Red. I’ve never seen him and Jean Grey hang out prior to this moment. But I guess they can pretend like they were friends? Peyton: I also thought that was weird. Everyone I like saw, people on Twitter and other social media outlets thought they’re so cute. And I’m like, “wait, where did this come from? They’re not friends. Like you can’t make me think that they’re friends…like this little sunset scene.” Justin: They were never on the same team before were they? Peyton: No, I don’t think so. I just lumped it into everyone wanting to be friends. Marius: I’m pretty sure they were both in Dark Phoenix Saga, right? Justin: Yes, they were in the Uncanny X-Men together! Marius: Justin, isn’t that one of your favorite comics? Peyton: It’s kind of confusing because he showed up in Giant-Size X-Men #1 first. Jean wasn’t there. Then, they kind of fused those two teams. That was a weird time, but they didn’t really socialize much. Like they didn’t talk much. Jean was too preoccupied with Cyclops. Justin: Maybe in X-Men After Dark First Class they can explore that? Peyton: See? Now I’m excited for a series that’s not coming out! Justin: I love Gabby so much. Maite: Gabby is hysterical. I loved her. Justin: Can we talk about our favorite Gabby moments? Jordan: Didn’t Tom Taylor invent Gabby? He was writing one of his creations? Marius: Yeah, the All-New Wolverine solo book was when she first appeared. Jordan: Yeah. So I love that. One of my favorite Gabby moments is when she says she didn’t fully explore her feelings for that girl on the bus then asked Jean to ignore them. And then my other favorite one is when they have to like put her in Searebro. Jean reads her mind and says, “Gabby, you’re dying over and over and over again. You don’t have to worry about having sweaty hands.” I just love that so much. She is so precious and whoever writes her next must take really good care of her because the world needs more Gabby’s. Maite: I like the part where her intestines fall out of her body and Trinary is like, “oh my God, I thought you were dead.” And she’s like, “Oh yeah, let me just put my intestines back inside.” It was this really funny and weird moment. I loved it. I love everything about her. Marius: I’m kind of worried that both her and Trinary might be characters that, especially Tom Taylor, is interested in developing and that once he doesn’t get to write as much in terms of like X-Men books, they are going to be abandoned a bit by other writers who might not be passionate about them or not have as much of a plan for those characters. I think there’s so much potential, especially with Trinary who, I think, I’m not sure if you would agree, but I think she got the short end of the stick in terms of character development or like three-dimensionality in this book. Even though I liked her as a concept, I guess. Justin: Oh yeah, I would agree with that. However, I think that even though there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to focus on her character that Tom Taylor, and the creative team, did an excellent job with — I could hear her. She’s one of the characters I could, I got her, I could feel her in the room right away, and even though they didn’t focus enough on her because you know, they only had x amount of issues or whatever. I thought one of the best new characters come out since like Dust or something. Jordan: Yeah, I really like Trinary. I actually thought it was interesting reading because I’ve always said like one of the powers I want to have is like similar to Jean Grey’s mind reading and stuff because I’m super nosy as a human. But reading Trinary, I was like, “dang her powers are so cool and so helpful. Like maybe I actually would want to change my power to ones Trinary has.” Which hasn’t happened in like, I don’t know, a long time that I’ve been like, “you know what, actually I’m going to change the powers that I would potentially have if I was a mutant.” So, I definitely liked her as well. Justin: All right, Jordan, I have to come back to that. But first I want to hear what Peyton thinks. Peyton’s favorite Gabby moment. Peyton: I think the ending, I think where she just like stabs Cassandra Nova through the head. It was like one of the best moments and it’s just so like cathartic. But I mean, like I said, I just liked seeing Gabby become one of the major players in the comic. She’s just kind of like the character that’s lurking on the side and then to see her just grow up and become the reason that they win the fight is just kind of incredible. Maite: Also after the head exploding, when they get exiled from the U.S. And she’s like chilling in Wakanda. She’s like, “I love political exile.” She’s just like jumping out of a waterfall. Like I feel like she genuinely enjoys being a member of the X-Men. So I feel like she kind of gives that, you know, optimistic, hopeful perspective of being a superhero and like actually enjoying having powers and stuff. Justin: I love the metaphor of her. It’s like when you’re happy you can’t get hurt. The opposite of Laura who’s constantly, it’s like her life is like Precious times 10. Great movie by the way if anyone’s seen it. Maite: That’s a depressing movie. Good movie. Justin: We know. I like only depressing things. Maite: That’s why — kind of off topic. But that’s why I liked the — I’m a little behind on the X-23 series, but I enjoyed the first few issues because it kind of had a really interesting contrast between Laura and Gabby’s like perspectives on their lives as superheroes and such. So it was an interesting dynamic. Justin: And also against Wolverine’s too, I thought or rather Logan’s. Jordan, I want to break down your comment from before Peyton spoke but now I’m forgetting what it was. It’s slowly leaving. Remind me? Jordan: The one about Trinary? Justin: Oh, powers, I need to know about the powers. OK. Let me give you some examples where you might be, and you tell me how you could use this power to survive. OK. Jordan: OK. Justin: Antarctica. Jordan: Well, there’re always treks — like people going on treks there, so you just hijack their equipment. Justin: It sounds like a very densely populated place. Jordan: Well, you know, there’re always scientific explorations going there, and that’s not just me — Justin: There’s like one! Jordan: People are always trying to go there. Peyton: She could easily like hijack a sentinel and have it rescue her. Jordan: Yeah. I mean, they didn’t say how far away her powers go. Justin: That’s true. OK, Peyton, no helping! Jordan: this is great. I need a team. I’m like Jean and need a team to back me up. Justin: Also like, OK, your Sentinel’s coming. It could be thousands of miles away and will be thousands of miles away. You know, I’m Cassandra, I’m Magneto. I can stop a Sentinel. Jordan: Yeah, but why would Magneto just like stop the Sentinel and he doesn’t even know where it’s going. Justin: Jordan, do you know what they did to people who ask a lot of questions? Where I’m from in Sicily. Jordan: OK, you asked how I would survive with these powers. So, I’m coming up with answers. Justin: I’m also not from Sicily. My grandfather is my great grandfather. I think you’ve been shrunk down to nanite size accidentally by Hank Pym’s size ray. You’ve been consumed by Karma while she’s possessed by the shadow king and her body is like out of, it’s like 77. Jordan: I don’t know who Karma is. Peyton: Oh, she doesn’t like the X-Men. Justin: A part of me just died Jordan. Jordan: Guys come on, you gotta educate me on these things! Justin: Yeah. Let’s just say an overweight person like me, like OK, what am saying, hey forget it. This isn’t fun anymore. This is getting very specific. Fine Jordan, you can have that power. You’ve earned it now. Jordan: Thank you. I am glad that I got your permission to have that power. Justin: My favorite Gabby moment was when Jean’s like, “you couldn’t possibly understand,” and she’s like, “are you sure? Because I was a hive mind that killed itself on some island thingy and I’ve definitely been to a place.” And I thought that was really adorable. And when I first saw the team of X-Men Red, what did you guys think of the team? Cause when I was first heard about it I was like, “who is on this team?” Maite: OK, Namor did like the least though, I feel like. Jordan: Yeah, why was he a part of the team. What the heck? Justin: No, I liked that he was on the team because I liked that they got him out of the way. Like they used him. Now, I don’t need to see him for a long time. Maite: Yeah. But then why was he, I feel like when they announced that he was going to be on the team, I thought he was going to be a much bigger player than he was. Jordan: Well, I mean, and I’m already contradicting myself because I just was like, “why is he there?” But where he especially came into play was, well, A) Searebro was down there kind of, Searebo, Cerebro however you say that. It’s a bro. OK, so that one was like down there and Namor did give them that place to stay when they needed somewhere else. Maite: So he was like a host. Jordan: But yeah. Well, and Jean needed the backing of countries when she talked to the UN or whatever. I think the UN. Whatever it was, she couldn’t just have one, like two of them need to stand up and be like, “all right, we trust her,” even though Namor — isn’t he technically a mutant? Or is he not? Peyton: He’s like mutant and Atlantean. Jordan: Yeah. So I guess he’s just thrown his 2 cents in. But I mean, you know, that helped Jean out and gave her some credibility even though right after that she lost all credibility. But at the moment it was good. Marius: I guess for me Namor was about as necessary for the book as T’Challa was. Maite: Yeah, that’s kind of how I perceived it. So when they like in the lineup, he was in the lineup, and I’m like, “OK,” you know. Marius: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, he did get his outfit, and he was technically in the lineup, but I’m not sure it counts as much. Jordan: Well also, this run wasn’t only supposed to be 11 issues when it started. It got canceled by Marvel; it wasn’t like set only to be 11 issues. Justin: Oh, I didn’t know that. Jordan: Yeah, it was like a big thing when they were kind of getting rid of all of that stuff in preparation for Uncanny. They were like, “all right, we’re done with X-Gold and X-Blue.” Like those ones officially were done. Then they were like, “surprise, we’re also canceling X-Red. sorry.” Maite: I feel like X-Men Blue and Gold were like 47 issues — Peyton: Of pure garbage. Maite: Of like literally like nothing happens. Peyton: Yeah. I mean, I liked the beginning of both of them honestly — they just kind of lost their footing. Justin: X-Men Blue I only read through Maite’s reviews. Maite: That’s when I stopped reading. Jordan: That’s how I read all X-Men stuff. Justin: So my last silly question before we really get into it, cause I do, I know Marius is getting tired and I do want to ask him specifically about one thing he picked up on. Even though Jean Grey was as noble as she’s ever been, I still find moments of utter self absorption and I was wondering if anyone else saw any in X-Men Red that made you laugh. Because even when she’s at her most heroic, do not think that Jean Grey won’t make things about herself when they don’t need to be. Peyton: That’s just her personality. I mean that’s who she is. Like I mean I already mentioned it once but like the whole idea that like,” oh this is my mission. Like I have to do this by myself. Like I don’t need anyone else to help me.” It’s like, that’s kind of stupid. Like no, you actually do need people to help you. But I mean, I think she just thought it like this whole series was like her battle with Cassandra and like it’s kind of silly. Jordan: I thought of that as well, but I specifically thought of, oh man, I don’t know what issue it is — five or six maybe? When Cassandra Nova starts to attack Atlantis when Storm and Gentle I think are with her and they’re like, “Jean, what’s wrong?” And she’s like, “no time.” And then she’s like “everyone to me,” and I’m like, “Jean, like it’s not that hard to be like, ‘Hey Casandra’s coming watch out. Like we got to go protect Atlantis.'” That’s like two seconds of dialogue versus her just being like, “don’t worry about it. I’m in charge, let’s all go together.” Maite: She loves the drama. Jordan: That was my most dramatic Jean. I had to, I had to get it in there. Peyton: Jean loves some drama. Like that’s who she is. Maite: Oh hell yeah. Justin: She loves creating drama and then pretending like it doesn’t exist. Peyton: And like pointing her fingers at other people. Justin: Yeah. Oh my God. Yes. She’ll be like, “remember that time Lorna was a slut and had sex with that impersonator before her wedding.” Meanwhile, she was the black queen doing all kinds of shit with that Jason One guard Fella. Peyton: Oh my God, that’s a good time in comics. Justin: Things that Cyclops was never allowed to do. That’s what happens when you say no to a man that many times he starts sleeping with Emma Frost. Peyton: X-Men After Dark y’all. Peyton: I missed some quality Storm and Jean moments in X-Men Red. I wish we had a few more of those. I mean we had like a couple of them where they were like off by themselves and talking about stuff, but I mean they are best friends and I don’t feel like we got quite enough their interaction. Marius: I absolutely agree. I think that points to like a problem with the book in general, which is that, and I guess like the annual issue fixed that a bit for me. But in general, I would have liked more character interactions about “so this is finally Jean returning.” How does it feel for her and others, I guess for her to be back. But I guess instead it immediately launches into the big mission statement of what the book is going to be about. And not that I didn’t love for it because I thought issue one was phenomenal. But I guess I just would have liked a bit more time for her to like lay low and just like I guess have some interactions with all the people that she means a lot to and that mean a lot to her and like her being back from the dead, even though it’s definitely not the first time that this has happened is still a big deal. After like everything that they have been going through in the meantime. Justin: It’s a big deal you guys, but Cassandra Nova is blowing up people’s heads. Don’t you think it’d be crazy if all of a sudden in like issue eight she’s like, “you know what, you guys, I heard there’s a lot to binge watch on this new thing called Netflix. Let me know how it goes. I’ll see if Betsy’s around for another telepath. Oh, she’s not even a telepath anymore. I’m sorry, I’m going to go bye.” Jordan: OK, but that’s not what I was getting from them. Justin: And also I’m creating conflict because I was very satiated by my Storm and Jean moments. Jordan: Well I mean in this sense of them being best friends, like I didn’t know that except for the fact that Peyton said it in one of her reviews like they’re supposed to be best friends. So that aspect I agree with Peyton and Marius. I don’t think that is blatant in this story. If they are supposed to be as much of best friends as you would expect them to be. Also, Jean’s been dead for like how many years and Storm still doesn’t want to have like a little reconciliation with her? So maybe they should have put that in like the first issue versus like just kind of randomly throwing it in there later. Peyton: Or like the annual would’ve been a good place too. Jordan: That too. Justin: You guys are such haters of this masterpiece called X-Men Red. Jordan: I’m not a hater, I’m just pointing out the flaws. That’s my job. Justin: Sorry I couldn’t hear you with all the hate going on in the background. No, I’m just kidding. Jordan: You know, Justin always tells me every time I’m on a podcast I bring the negativity. So I’m just doing what I apparently do all the time. Justin: Yeah, you’re like Attila the Hun on these things. I’m just kidding of course. Well it’s also really important to get other perspectives and I’m also, I’m not going to lie. I do love — when I love something. I fucking really love it, and you know, we all know from how I feel about my fish *ding* made it drinking go take a shot. I mentioned my fish or being Puerto Rican. Jordan: Or Game of Thrones. Justin: Jordan, we’re always going to mention Game of Thrones. It’s a big deal in everyone’s life. Jordan: It’s not in my life, so. Justin: You need to read the news, cause even my dad knows who John Snow is. Jordan: I know Jon Snow is, it just doesn’t impact my life like it impacts yours. Maite: You don’t watch Game of Thrones? Jordan: No, I’ve only seen the dragon scene. Maite: You are officially canceled. Justin: Only seeing the dragon scenes. I was like, “Oh, I only dated George Clooney for six months.” Jordan: At least you dated him. So at least I’ve seen them. Peyton: OK, OK. Back to X-Men Red. Justin: X-Men Red. And for the record, I um, we only dated for three months. I think Jordan, you and I are the only ones who experienced X-Men Red as a whole. At first, you guys all read it as individual issues first and then read it. Some of you read it again last night before the podcast. Marius specifically took things away that I very much saw and I wonder if they were amplified by the fact that he had time to digest in between each issues. And like when I saw Storm there I was like,” OK, cool. Storm’s at the end of the issue.” I just had to turn the next page. And she is, they’re dealing with that, right. If I had to wait two weeks or three weeks or a month or whatever to see what was going to happen with that like I don’t know how I would feel about that. And I’ll let Marius bring up the issues that he had. I had those same issues but again I was able to turn to the next issue and I felt like my pangs were answered, but I’ll let Marius talk about the issue that you had, which I think is really valid and I think is worth discussing in any discussion that’s about politics. Marius: I guess like one of the major issues that I had with it reading just the individual issues, which happens to me with a lot of books to be fair, but it was especially true here is that I think the first two issues and then the last two issues were incredibly captivating. But just in terms of like the pacing, I think the book suffered a bit in the middle and just having one issue per month and giving like each issue so much room to breathe. I guess for me as a reader, I think it helped make some of the issues feel a bit underwhelming. But I guess the other thing that you were getting at is some of the issues that I had with some of the political metaphors is that right, Justin? Justin: What I’m getting at, I think the overlap between the two because while you were saying that, I was thinking about the Walking Dead a lot. I don’t know if anyone reads that comic from Image, but it’s an Eisner award winning comic and which I think X-Men Red is at that quality, at the Eisner award winning level by far. But it also has a lot of filler issues that we will find that that way there’s not a lot of action but they’re really necessary to the story. However, I wonder if that changed the way you viewed some of the political moments. Like you were talking about like you were going to mention. Marius: I guess thinking about it now, some of the issues in the, I guess in the middle of the book, they did involve a lot of expository dialogue. Which is for instance like also one of the issues that I had with the character of Trinary that I think she was given a lot of exposition dialogue that I didn’t always think was 100% organic for the characters. And in terms of the dialogue. And then I guess like these concepts would be introduced in the middle of the issue. And I guess I see where the author was going with that. Oh, where the creative team was going with that and it did pay off eventually. I guess it made some of the issues feel a bit underwhelming. Like I guess going into it a bit more specifically thinking about the sub plot about people being mind controlled, people being manipulated into hating. Marius: And this of course being like a very big analogy to fake news and political climate and social media. And nowadays I think the book definitely benefited from that metaphor. But at the same time I guess like in the, in the middle part of the entire run, the metaphor did come off a bit, I wouldn’t even say problematic because that word has been like overused, but just like some implications for that rubbed me the wrong way. And it did contribute leaving the issue hanging for like an entire month I guess. Amplified that a bit. Justin: Do you want to talk about this specific issue or specific issue that you had in the issue? Marius: Oh yeah, absolutely. So I think it was issue five where they meet Gambit at the hospital. It might’ve been issue four after the incident that I think it was Maite who has read this as, as kind of like an analogy to the Charlottesville incident. Is that you who brought up the point? Justin: Maite, who brought up the connection between the Charlottesville? Maite: Oh yeah. Marius: Yeah, so Maite is was you who brought up that I guess incident with the Tiki torches really and one of the murders of the young mutant girl was like a very clear parallel to what happened in Charlottesville like almost one and a half years ago. And I think that if we take this as the analogy that people have been, their minds have been tampered with and they’ve been manipulated into hating what is different, hating mutants, I guess hating social justice activists or hating people of color, hating peer queer people, et cetera, et cetera. Then it takes away from the perpetrator’s agency. In this case, it would be James Alex Fields, I think is his name. Who was, I think he’s been sentenced, I’m not sure about the exact sentence, but I think, I think it was murder for obviously killing Heather Heyer in the car crash. Marius: I think it kind of takes away from his agency to have a lot of the expository dialogue be about how it’s not, it’s not the perpetrators fault because their minds have been tampered with and in the end it’s a fault of just like a very little group of people who have been manipulating a lot of people into, into hating what’s different. And that I guess like hate crimes resulting from that ideology is not something that we can attribute directly to them. Which I guess that did rub me the wrong way in a way because it is an argument that you can make that how much agency do people really have and that like I do study philosophies, so that’s something that comes up a lot in discussions of like moral questions, but at the same time I’m not sure if that’s the right message to lead with in terms of like public discourse about incidents such as the Charlottesville rally. Jordan: Yeah, I mean I agree with that. Even reading it as a whole after hearing you talk about it and — Justin: Also Jordan, you lived in Charlottesville for four years? Jordan: Yeah, I was going to say that. I went to school at the University of Virginia, so I wasn’t actually in Charlottesville when that happened, but I definitely saw the repercussions of what happened with it within the school community, within the actual community, the city community that’s there. So I didn’t, I didn’t take fault with it as much as Marius did because it still felt separate to me. Like he didn’t, I’m sure it was purposely like they didn’t purposely place them in Charlottesville or with any thing that would kind of remind people who were there of what happened. There was no like semblance of anything in Charlottesville. So I also think it was separated more for me, even though that was like a bit more personal for me, I guess having that happen and have that brought up again in comics. But I definitely can see what Marius is saying and um, yeah, like I think that’s a valid point too. I just think for me there was still enough separation and I don’t know if that’s because it was more closely tied to like my actual life versus like a comics life. Just reading comics, it was tied to things that were very real to me and my life and things that I was around every single day and saw what happened afterwards. So yeah. So I don’t know if I just had that personal separation or if — I think Marius’ point is very valid and it’s something that definitely can be seen within that. Justin: Does anyone else have the commentary about too much agency was taken away from the people who are committing bad acts? Jordan: Well I guess, sorry, I wanted to come back cause I thought I had something else to say and forgot about it. I do think that the one thing that kind of runs through it is that I don’t think all of these people have just been indoctrinated into it cause kind of a big thing was that it’s not, they’re not bad people, it’s just stuff they’ve been brainwashed with and stuff that they’ve just been told their whole lives. But I don’t think that that’s always the case. I think like, yes it can be passed on like that. But I also think, I mean I’m different than my parents and my parents’ parents and stuff like that and so not everything my parents believe has translated down to me, so I don’t always think it’s trickled down or it’s direct line of succession. I think it comes from what they’ve been around or what they’ve chosen to be around. So I also think saying like, “oh, it’s just brainwashing doesn’t always encompass everything that happens in real life.” Marius: I agree with that a lot because I guess like one of the most moving things, and we can talk a bit about final issue here. One of the most moving things about the book is the notion that instead of going to war with people and just like bringing people down who you think are dangerous for our public discourse or politics or whatever. Instead of doing that you want to abolish us versus them narratives completely and just try and respond with empathy, which is of course one of the the big twists in the final issue when we realize that they are not trying Cassandra but they are trying to get her to be less hateful. And I think it’s beautiful in principle and I think it’s a very moving vision, but pragmatically I think the idea that no persons like truly evil or no person that it’s like beyond convincing that hate is foolish, it can be dangerous because like incidents like the Charlottesville incident, they definitely happen in my country that has a big problem with racial murders that it would be like a whole nother can of worms to get into that, but I think it’s potentially dangerous for marginalized groups in a way. Marius: I think to have this assumption that like no one is like actually truly against anyone structurally in terms of like underlying biases that couldn’t be worked against and that can be worked against. I guess it’s just like it can be kind of a naive notion I think even though it sounds really good and it is potentially very inspiring. Justin: I’ll say that I very, once you’ve mentioned it, I knew exactly what you were talking about cause I felt the same way even in my question. I did wonder how much of your feeling of this was exacerbated by the time in between the issues since you had to like kind of sit with that issue. I remember feeling the same way and asking that question, I was like, does this take away the agency from the individual people? Because it’s saying it’s like, you know, it’s not really them that has this hate, it’s this thing that’s causing it. But I felt like it was addressed in a later issue where I believe there was a character, and I don’t remember who it was saying that this hate was already in them, but that it was, you know, what was happening on social media that was exacerbating that hate. Justin: And I thought that that was an apt metaphor. And Jordan, while we were having a discussion about this before and you said something, although it doesn’t — I’m going to respond. If it’s cool with you, I’m going to steal what your response was to this conversation previously, although I’m not sure how well it fits in right now. But that it is, this is a comic book so there has to be some like extraordinary fantastical things going on. However, we never want that to happen at the expense of the message. So for me that didn’t happen but I dunno, I guess I really feel like for you and Peyton and Maite if that happened, the time in between the issues had a lot to do with it. Marius: I guess just to be clear, I thought it made perfect sense within the rules of the universe. Within the rules the universe was setting as kind of like a moral conundrum that they got themselves into. And I think I would have had less of an issue with that if I hadn’t felt that the metaphor was pretty blatant. And then like scenes for instance in the, I think it was issue four or five where they visit the person who shot the mutant girl in the hospital and they, they spent like pages, all the pages like trying to convince him that this is not his fault and that he doesn’t have that agency. I guess I didn’t have that agency by that time. I think it just struck the wrong chord from me that they would be catering to his feelings specifically in spending so much time and effort on that. But again, like not to beat a dead horse, I get where this is going and it didn’t make it impossible or anything for me to enjoy the book or to enjoy the core message of the book. And I still think it’s a very outstanding piece of art. Justin: Me too. I also think that the fact that it even raises the question, how much agency do people have in real life when it comes to their hate and how much of it is exacerbated by social media that that shows what a good piece of art this is. Speaking of art. I love Mahmud Asrar’s art in this. I know a lot of people thought differently, but I thought it was very art nouveau. I was very into the thick lines at the, I forgot who inked it. It could have been him who inked it actually, but whoever inked, and I’ll make sure to add it in later. Did a phenomenal job. I think someone’s going to look it up. I wish I was like Joe Rogan and can afford to have someone in the other rooms ready to Google things for me, but I’m usually that person. Just kidding. I don’t even have the intelligence or the wherewithal to even get that job. I’d probably get fired after like five minutes. I’m actually just trying to spend time while I assume someone’s looking it up or is that not happening? Maite: I was just looking up who did the variant covers. I think it was Jenny Frison. Justin: Oh my God. Jenny Frison, she’s great. Maite: Yeah. I loved her variants. She had him for, I think issue eight, issue nine, issue seven. There it is. Fantastic. She’s done stuff for Wonder Woman too. They’re just gorgeous. Peyton: He inked it himself, I think. Justin: I love that. So Peyton, you’re an artist. I mean, what did you think of Mahmud Asrar’s art? I forgot the other artists’ names a little bit. We’ll find it later and we’ll talk about it. Peyton: Well Jordan knows he’s not my favorite. Personally speaking. Some scenes I thought were really well done. I didn’t feel like his faces gave the characters a lot of individuality, which can bother me sometimes in comic book art. I feel like each character should have a face that you can kind of like decipher who it is without having to rely on uniforms and like hair color to decide and some of the like posturing was kind of awkward. But yeah, I mean I think it was a nice unique style for a unique series so it can work. Justin: Wait, wasn’t your problem with the color of Jean Grey’s hair? Peyton: Yes, absolutely. This entire series that it’s like my least favorite part of this. Her hair is not orange. I’m just going to throw it out there. I’ve seen many people arguing about this online and I feel like most people agree with me since the day one. She’s a redhead, very like vibrant red head and then like the issue, it’s like the pale orange. I was really disappointed. Not happy. That’s not his fault. That is the colorist fault. And I can’t pronounce the colorist’s name. Justin: And whoever you are, whose name we can’t pronounce. I really, I didn’t mind the — Jordan: Isn’t it Rachelle Rosenberg? Peyton: No, that’s Uncanny. She’s doing a good job. I love it. Justin: Rachelle, your flats for Jean grey hair is the perfect shade of red. Peyton: It looks good. Justin: We need to call your art school and thank them. Peyton: I know it shouldn’t bother most people, but Jean’s appearance is important to me. Justin: No, I look, I understand. I mean all I think for Game of Thrones, take that shot. But when I watched season one of Game of Thrones, Cersei’s wig was driving me crazy. I was like, they can’t, I’m like all this money. They couldn’t throw it in an extra thousand dollars for one that hides the hairline. I was like, “I don’t understand it. It’s HBO. They just spent like 12 days shooting like one quick cutaway and they couldn’t get a wig that fits?” I was like, “I don’t understand. It’s too big. It looks ridiculous.” Peyton: Yes, it’s just distracting. Maite: Now how did we feel about Jean’s costume or uniform? Justin: Love. Maite: I loved it. I loved the head piece. Peyton: It’s reminiscent of her like old nineties costume, which I think is what a lot of people think of when they think of Jean. So I thought that was nice. Justin: Could you also talk about the other artists too, Peyton? Peyton: Yes. So the other artist Carmen something, let me, let me look it up real quick. The second artist, I thought she did a fabulous job. Yeah. Carmen Carnero. Am I pronouncing that right? Yeah, I thought she did a really good job. She gave Jean I thought more of like an individual look, which I really appreciate in comic book artists. Yeah, but the hair is still off. Hair’s off this whole series. Single tear. Justin: X-Men Red you get five stars for story. And you’ve get one star for hair color. Peyton: I mean everyone else’s hair is like spot on. It’s not that hard. Jordan: Well, and then Roge Antonio, I think Roge. I don’t know how to say it. Didn’t they do like the last set of X-Red like 9, 10, and 11 maybe? Or is it just nine? Peyton: No, I know you’re talking about, I am looking it up as we speak. Justin: Is it X-Men Red or X-Men light orange. I was confused. Peyton: That would be a great renaming. I think as the trade, it should be X-Men light orange or maybe pale, sad, drab orange. Justin: I think what they should hire us to come up with all new names for their series. Jordan: Well I think, not that it’s, I’m still thinking about Jean’s hair and not even commenting on that anyway, but I think the cover for issue 10 has a really nice, like darker reddish color to it. Although I will also say that issue 10 has my favorite panel of the entire series, entire run. And it’s like in the first page or first two pages of Cassandra as Jean, but it’s just a whole page of Jean’s face. I love that page. I don’t even care about the red hair. So, sorry Peyton. But I love that page. I love how it’s drawn. I think it looks amazing. Peyton: The hair’s kind of in shadow on that page, you know it’s, it doesn’t aggravate me as much, but I know, where she was like “fuck you humanity.” Like, “yup. That’s so good.” I love it. Maite: That’s a good panel. I remember when before the issue came out and Tom Taylor tweeted it, and he’s like, “why is she saying this?” And I was like, “oh my God, what’s going to happen?” Really excited. Marius: Can I come out in defense of the colorist as well because I think that they did so much great work, especially in the first issue. And I guess like one of the pages, one of the panel, the panels that comes to mind is like the sunset scene with with Nightcrawler and I just love this panel because you can see them from the back and they are kind of dark and they are looking at this, this sort of light blue valley with this. I guess like obviously the sunset in the bag, having that red light, orange light, very light red. It’s very like hopeful but melancholic and then the next few pages they like dive into like these blue pages that take place in Atlanta and then I guess like another use of the color red in the same issue that I really appreciated was in the final panel on the final page where we can see like this very like blood red, like spilled out across Jean’s face obviously because she has, she has actual blood on her face and the rest of the panel being like in a very like cold bluish-grayish color, which is I guess a very great juxtaposition and then works pretty well with the dialogue. They gave Cassandra Nova and are more like the, the monologue they gave her saying that she can make others see red. I think it’s a, it’s a great visual introduction to one of the central themes of the book being about the hate that is instilled into people and it’s just stuff like that. It’s so much like so many details to fall in love with right off the bat and the first issue visually. Justin: Marius, you just made me think of something all because of you. The metaphor of red, not only the hair, not only danger, but also red is the color of anger and isn’t that what’s happening on social media? Probably everyone’s like “duh, I realized this in the first panel in the first page,” but it just came to me. Look, these things come to me when they come to me. I can’t explain it. One thing I want to say about the art before we move on from art is that I thought it was interesting where Mahmud Asrar put people’s eyes and stuff. Like there was something specifically to the faces. Peyton, I don’t know why I’m addressing you cause I think if he was the consummate artists. Specifically to the faces, there is something almost like Roman Escobar Gothic stained glass. It kind of and what I saw in their faces and I was thinking about Scott McCloud and if for those of you don’t know, it’s like such a good book on comic book theory, please read it. Justin: Scott McCloud’s understanding comics, you can find a link below. Well, seriously it’s a really amazing book that will totally help you. But so for that reason, I guess I enjoyed his faces and I enjoyed being able to kind of identify with the character and live through their perspective more and I wonder what role, having less detail and less information in the faces did that. Versus the second half of the book I felt like it was much more of a, the art felt much more superhero to me, which I loved but I did feel like having Mahmud Asrar start off the book helped me to see things from the character’s perspective and really helped myself aligned with them later. I don’t know what you guys thought about that journey from one artist to the other and if it served the book, Jordan: I mean, I know Peyton probably has thoughts, but I want to jump in real quick cause I probably have less to say about it. But I’ll be honest, I like it better when I’m not projecting as much onto the characters because I don’t think that I need to in this story particularly. I don’t think that’s true for all comics. I think that’s mostly true for a superhero comics, even ones with underlying tones like this one purely because I think that they’re already conveying everything that needs to be conveyed. And I don’t think these characters should be projecting my feelings. Like I think they should be projecting their own feelings. And I think that kinda goes back to the whole like “can you picture them in the room with you” type idea. Because I want to be able to picture them how they would be, not how I would want them to be feeling or would want them to be experiencing something. So for me, I preferred the second half of the book, of the run, the art and the second half of the run. I think I preferred that more just in general but especially in relation to that aspect. Peyton: Yeah. I mean having like as an artist, the job to have to show a character’s emotions through facial expressions because you’re not the one writing is challenging. I mean I feel like sometimes it is better to have like more simplistic faces, so you do have that as a viewer, as a reader, the ability to just kind of put whatever kind of emotions or thoughts you’re feeling onto the character. But I mean like a story as like storytelling, I think the second part is very successful and that we do get to see what these characters are feeling just through their facial expressions and not having to rely so much on dialogue. Peyton: But yeah, I mean the first half, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it like I thought the art was quality. And I understand where you’re coming from Justin, that you kind of got to put like your own thoughts and feelings into these characters expressions. I don’t know. I don’t know whether like the series needed it or not because Jean is such like a hard character, like so many people didn’t know who she was. You know, and people if you’ve never, if you came into like the comic game in like 2005 and have read since then like you don’t know anything about Jean. So I feel like the art can say a lot for her and to have this character that is kind of just like looks like every other character and she doesn’t really have a firm place. It’s hard to like get as a strong read on her as a character. That’s kind of where I was coming from. But as someone who knows Jean, who kind of already knows what she’s thinking, it’s not as important. Justin: That’s really interesting to think of it that way. Because I saw it more as, “OK, it’s a first issue.” A lot of people do know Jean, for the people who don’t know Jean, they have the opportunity to project more of themselves onto Jean and kind of align with her character. But it’s all perspective, right? It’s all just how you of see it and it depends on the individual person. I’d imagine. Jordan: I think that’s interesting too because I know Jean kind of. But even still as someone who doesn’t seek her out as much as other people do, I would prefer being able to see more of who she is as a character versus who I think she is. Justin: Although we should say that it’s still a representation. Right? It’s still, I mean Jean Grey still does not exist, and she still does not look any particular way. It just that it’s more that you would, can we adjust that to say it’s more that you prefer the artist to add more information? More visual? Peyton: Yeah, no. Jean is not a real person. She can look any way that she chooses and I feel like we all have like an era of a character — I feel like we all have an era of the character that we think is the real character. Like for me, it’s like Dark Phoenix Saga Jean is like Jean to a T. So anytime an artist like starts to get closer to that Jean is when I start to like see my version of Jean that I prefer. But I mean everyone has their era of the character that they like and like what they want to see. Justin: So I also need John Byrne Jean in my life always. Peyton: She’s the best. Justin: Yeah. Maite, what did you think? You didn’t say much about the art. Maite: No, I agree with Jordan and Peyton personally. The art didn’t really resonate with me as much as I may have expected it to. But again, we were talking about projecting our selves on to the characters. I don’t necessarily know if that was something that was necessarily needed in this series because we, we’ve kept talking about how this was a really big transitional period for Jean and it was very much, obviously it was like her own X-Men team story, but it was very much her story as well. So with that, I do need a lot of her individuality in the art that I get. And I don’t know if I necessarily got that. You know, I really admired the covers and there were like various panels that were pretty mind-blowing. I mean I think of issue two when they save the little girl and Jean is standing in front of the girl blocking the array of bullets like that was pretty powerful. So there were moments. Justin: That was issue one, I think. Maite: Issue one. Yeah, I mean, yeah it was issue one cause it was like the first scene. But moments like that I found pretty impactful. But I don’t necessarily know if we needed to project ourselves onto Jean. I don’t necessarily think that will something that the series needed simply because we needed to learn more about Jean after this hiatus period. And you know, as Peyton said, there’s plenty of people who may not be familiar with her, who may not go back and read the comics that she used to be in. And besides, you know, like aside from teen Jean, like I’m not considering teen Jean in this scenario at all. But you know, so we kind of do need someone to really dive us in there and I don’t really know if I got that. Justin: Let me ask everyone, in a sentence, to summarize what your familiarity was with Jean Grey before and how X-Men Red changed your perception of her? Peyton: I love Jean. She’s my favorite character. I loved her for a long time. I think X-Men Red made me see her more as a leader. I mean she’s been a leader in, in previous X-Men series, but not like she’s in X-Men Red. I mean X-Men Red, she has a really like strong determination like you said. And I think it showed that she has the power to be a leader, which I don’t know from past series if I would have like believed that. Like I feel like in past series she’s kind of been portrayed as like this sort of like somewhat unstable Scarlet Witch sort of character. And in this one she’s like, no, I can handle this, I can do this. And she can. Maite: I’ve read a lot about Jean. I love Jean too. And I totally agree with Peyton. It was awesome to see her take on this leadership role and have a greater sense of agency. I liked how there was no Phoenix at all. It was just Jean leading her team and redefining herself in this modern age. And so I liked this new interpretation even though it wasn’t necessarily vastly different from what we’ve seen before. I did feel like it was an authentic portrayal of Jean and really genuine. I really enjoyed that. Marius: I agree. I was a big fan of the character before. In terms of X-Men fandom, I have a different perspective because the comic books I read predominantly were created from 2008 to 2015. That gave me another perspective going into the X-Men classics that involved Jean Grey later on. So, I was familiar with the character. I was a big fan of the her before. Reading X-Men Red convinced me there is so much more to tell in terms of stories with Jean, aside from the Phoenix. She can be a ery powerful representative of hope. Jordan: I was not a fan of Jean before this in any way. I’ve read a lot of her big stuff mainly because everyone at ComicsVerse loves Jean. So I’ve had to read that to stay hip. That being said, I’ve seen her as the Phoenix. I’ve seen a little bit of her in the Dark Phoenix Saga. I’ve seen her die as the Phoenix in the Grant Morrison stuff. So you know, I’ve seen Jean die a lot and haven’t seen her as much of a team leader as she was here. What I thought was interesting, especially with Jean and this portrayal, is that her leadership is inclusive. We talked at the beginning about how it’s annoying how she was trying to say “This is all me. This is a really big thing but it’s just my fight.” And then at the end, it changes to being Gabby who is the one who ends up doing everything. It’s interesting to see that her leadership style is similar to Xavier’s in the fact that she wants to take it all on herself, but then she adjusts at the end to this new world. “This is how I need to interact with everyone and I can’t defeat anyone just by myself anymore. So it is going to be me with everyone else coming together to form a team.” And I haven’t read Uncanny and I don’t really know what’s going to be happening with the Age of X-Man storyline or any of that. But I think for right now, at least with where X-Red ends is kind of like OK, Jean is accepting that she might still be a leader, might still be in charge, but leading looks differently than what it used to. Jean is accepting that she might still be a leader, might still be in charge, but leading looks differently than what it used to. Justin: That’s a good soundbite. X-Men Red: cause leading looks different than it used to. Peyton: I feel like she kind of started like trying to just emulate like Cyclops in a way, like just rolling in and be like this is my game because that’s who like she saw as like the leader. I was just thinking about how it’s interesting that he’s not there and how she was acting. Justin: What do you think about that Marius as a huge Cyclops fan? Marius: I’m not too sure about that. I have to think about that more, I think. Justin: How much of her leadership style do you think was influenced by his? Marius: I guess like reading the book, I perceived it as being specifically different from his but I’m not too sure to what extent that can be explained in the canon because a lot of how I think his leadership was characterized was when he was like more or less like without her in the years that she was dead. And I guess like going off the whole like mutant revolution sub plot and I guess like him struggling to ensure mutant survival and the more like radical tactician that he became, I guess what I often associate him with. I thought she was really, really different. And I also thought that, I guess the way that it wouldn’t make sense for me and my head is if she seen in the heads of the remaining X-Men what had happened in that time, and she still has this like love for for her husband, but at the same time she wants to bring something to the table that is specifically different from his way of approaching these things as a team leader. Justin: Anyone else have a comment on Jean’s leadership style? I have two more big questions. In your own personal spectrum in terms of what excellent comics you really resonate with you and maybe didn’t resonate with you as much. Where does X-Men Red stand? Jordan: As far as resonating I think it’s resonated with me the most and it’s also the one I’ve liked the most out of all the ones I’ve read. And granted, I know that list is super short. I haven’t read that many and I haven’t sought out that many to read, but as far as like broad X-Men books, I would read this one again. I would buy this trade and have it in my comic collection. I might even go so far as to say, at least for me, I think it’s a classic. I think it becomes something, it’s almost up there with Tom King’s Vision run just because it is so different, at least for me and reading it. And it’s something I like to read a lot and something I like to look at as far as art goes and I think it’s a story worth re-visiting, I don’t think it’s a story that’s going to die just because our president might change or politics might change a little bit. I think it’ll still be relevant and people will still be able to find stuff that’s irrelevant within it. Marius: I think the book’s high points were so extremely good that the comic immediately becomes like one of the most remarkable X-Men comics in recent years. I’m not sure that it’s up there with most of my favorite books in terms of like a consistent level of quality throughout all the issues, but it’s still a classic for me. So I would agree with that. Absolutely. Maite: I really, really enjoyed X-Men Red. Especially rereading it as a whole today. I enjoyed it more than reading it, you know, waiting each month for the next issue. But I think my perception of how it, where it lands on my personal list of X-Men comics or just comics as a whole, I think it’ll take some time because this year I’ve been bingeing a lot of X-Men works. And so right now I don’t necessarily know if it’s up there, but that could be because it’s so fresh and so new. So I think it’ll take time though. I do think it will over time it, I think it will become one of my favorite simply because I just really enjoyed the way Tom Taylor flushed out Jean and I thought the ending, the conclusion was something that we haven’t really seen happen often. You know defeating an enemy with empathy in a way that wasn’t cliche. I thought that was really unique and I think that’s something that’s going to resonate with me over time. But right now it’s kind of hard to say where it lands us because there are other excellent stories that have had more of an impact on me personally so I think time will tell. Peyton: I also really enjoyed X-Men Red. I loved reading it issue to issue. I thought it was great. I loved a lot of the artwork in it but it doesn’t resonate with me as much as some of Jean’s other series that she’s been in. I didn’t finish it feeling the same way that I felt when I finished New X-Men which is like probably my favorite work with her in it. I just didn’t feel like it got as like nitty gritty with personal self as much. Like there was a lot of like her idealism, which I found really interesting but I don’t know whether they like got into her flaws as much as I would’ve wanted them to. Politically I thought it was A++. it hit on some really important points that no other comics are willing to touch on. But for Jean personally I felt like it needed to get just a little deeper into her personal drama and just her personal like what’s going on with her? Like she’s coming from this like outside dimension coming into this new world and really just the annual dips into that and it doesn’t touch on everything. So I feel like I was always waiting for a few more scenes touching on that. But overall I would definitely give it a good rating. Justin: I’d be curious to see how things would’ve developed if it could have gone on for more issues. I’m curious to see what characters might have been fleshed out and hopefully that they all would have. I think for me personally, this is definitely up there. Three or four favorite X-Men runs. I think the reason is because I needed Jean Grey to come back. She came back was what I needed from a Jean Grey story and like, you know when you have like a good album. I remember when the Vr came out with vesper teens, she came out with on the Kira and I was like, “man, she’s like speaking to me.” I kind of felt that way about Tom Taylor. Because I really needed a way to push the national conversation further in my head cause it just seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere. And then someone was like, man, I’m looking for ideas and I have an idea and it’s going to save the world and here’s what I want to do. And I thought that it captured something that’s really happening in the west and the kind of discussions that we’re having and the kind of vitriol that’s there. And I thought it had a good commentary on fake news and it was respectful of all political opinions. I feel. I mean, unless, you know, except for maybe white supremacy. So should we talk about the end really quick and then a wrap up. Because I fucking love the end and I cried. Maite: I found the conclusion with Cassandra Nova to be really powerful and unexpected. I didn’t necessarily think they were going to kill her, but I definitely did not expect for them to literally overcome hurt with empathy. And saying it out loud may sound really cliche and weird, but reading it was just so powerful because this is like an enemy who has just done horrible, terrible things and for Jean to just literally reach out a hand and say that she wants to help like this horrible human being. I think it was my favorite part of the whole series because it was so unexpected. And Taylor just did that in a way that worked. And I’m curious to see what happens with Cassandra Nova in the future to see if that event resonates or if, you know, she goes back to being who she has always been. But that was my personal favorite part and I found that to be really, really impactful. I found the conclusion with Cassandra Nova to be really powerful and unexpected. Justin: It could be cool to have a female Xavier for awhile. Jordan: Yeah, I mean I agree with what my Maite said. And I guess it’d be, I don’t know if I necessarily agree it’d be cool to have a female Xavier, but I do think it’ll be cool to have an empathetic Cassandra Nova because I don’t necessarily like her as a villain. I think her storyline is just so one dimensional and doesn’t really ever go anywhere. So having this dramatic change to who she is as a character and who she is as a person I’m hoping will give us more stories. I hope that this doesn’t just like it doesn’t just end with this round. I hope it gets brought in some way down the line even if it, even if they have to redo something. I’m hoping it gets brought back into comics. I think I would read specifically issues about her and her interactions with whatever X-Men are around. Just because I am curious about what kind of character has been created by this insertion of empathy. Is it something that, is it going to be like a real empathy or is just going to be, well they like gave it to her but it doesn’t fully impact her? I don’t know. But I want to see that play out. And I think after having her in Grant Morrison’s run seeing her back then and kind of seeing OK, like that storyline felt kind of done to me when they were done with her. So having her brought back into this run was, I was wary of it. Even when I was finding out about this stuff, reading Peyton’s reviews and stuff, it made me wary. And then kind of even reading it still through all the way, and I read it before the last issue came out and then added that on at the end. So kind of seeing, OK, well we aren’t done with her, but in a good way. Not just like, “oh, she’s just random villain who will come back up again and have the exact same storyline again” is something that I liked a lot with how they ended up. Justin: The last question which will kind of tie into the very first question of the podcast. I am being an elephant again. Sorry. I’m going to use that cause I think I have a terrible memory so I’m really going to cling onto this elephant thing as long as I can especially cause I just spoke now cause I forgot what I was going to say. My question is I asked what X-Men Red was about before. I want to ask, I want to ask what is X-Men Red telling the world. And I think it’s easy to infer from everything that we’ve said, but I think it’d be cool for us each to say it as our parting moments. Marius: I think what X-Men Red is saying to the world is best summarized by Jean’s final speech, which by the way, I think that scene has the potential to become absolutely iconic for me and something that we’ll revisit in a few years or maybe a few decades. It has the potential to be like one of my big favorite X-Men moments I guess. And it’s great pay off from what was established in the first issue that was set up in the first issue. Jean has this one I guess idea of her utopian vision of how the word can overcome hate, which is the end of thinking in categories of us and them. And thinking of categories of one group being superior and one group being inferior, which is, I guess it’s a very commonly held notion that this is how a Utopian society should look like tolerance and hate. I guess it’s a very commonly held notion and it’s not as innovative as one would think, but the way in which the speech was delivered and the sincerity with which Jean was presenting it made it effective for me. Jordan: I mean, what I think it’s telling the world is that, and this might be a bit of a naive answer still, but I think coming from this story, I think it kind of falls in line with that is that we don’t always have to fight about everything. Not necessarily like people’s opinions can be changed because, you know, that’s not always true. But I think it’s more like trying to understand the other perspective of whatever you’re arguing about or fighting about or dealing with. Because the super old cliche is, you know, there’s two sides to every coin. And I think that’s true and I think that comes through here and in a way more elegantly phrased way and then just, oh, there’s two sides of the same coin type idea. But I think that comes through so strongly and profoundly and especially at the end when Jean’s like, “well, everything can be fixed through empathy.” Like I think that still falls in line with that is saying, “OK, well I’m empathizing with you and figuring out why you’re saying things like that.” And I don’t know if I fully buy into that idea, but I like the message that it’s putting out and what it’s trying to get across, even if it’s not fully feasible or won’t happen as Jean would want it to happen in our world specifically. But I do like the idea and what it’s putting forth as far as that goes. Maite: I think the story to me means or just kind of inspires us to maintain hope. I think Jean exemplified hope and I know we’ve mentioned that many times today. How she was a symbol of hope throughout the story. And I think as I mentioned the beginning, it’s very easy to lose faith and to become apathetic in a world that constantly challenges you and it’s constantly pushing back against you. So I think the story is meant to inspire a certain faith in the world and humanity even when all hope seems lost. Sitting in ignorance is not really an option. Like you do have the power to go beyond and to ask those questions and to push against what people tell you is the correct answer. Peyton: Yeah, I think it’s trying to say that sitting in ignorance is not really an option. Like you do have the power to go beyond and to ask those questions and to push against what people tell you is the correct answer. And even if you are coming from a world as foreign as Jean was, that you have the power to rise up if you have a strong team. Justin: I think for me, what I got from it with that it’s empathy that could heal the world, if we all had it, it would be cool. I know I could use more. Peyton: I think the series that’s really interesting against the new uncanny series because in Uncanny it’s kind of like X-Man is saying like, I can make all this happen. Like I can make all this possible and it’s like turning out really strange. So if you liked X-Men Red, I don’t know whether you should read Uncanny, but maybe you should. It’s interesting. Justin: I’m going to read it because unless I read it, I don’t have Jean Grey in a comic anymore. Peyton: Jean in Uncanny is, it’s interesting. She’s different for sure. Justin: I was hoping you were gonna say badass. Peyton: She is definitely badass. She’s just adapting to life with the other X-Men, which is nice. Justin: I mean she had to make Cassandra Nova nice first and now she’s like, OK, time to let my hair down, take off these boots. Peyton: I felt like she was kind of like wrapping up some strings in X-Men Red, you know? She was like, yeah, I died. We weren’t really done Cassandra and now I’m back and I’m going to put you in your place and then I’m going to get on with my life. Justin: And she was like, weren’t there like 10 or 12 storylines with Cassandra Nova? Here’s mine done. Astonishing X-Men, what. Peyton: “I’m Cassandra’s only real enemy.” I love to hate on Jean, like it’s terrible, but I do. Justin: No, I think it’s a sign of love. I love it. Yeah. I think it’s like a sign of love. Peyton: I just know her too well by now. I think that’s my problem. Jordan: So to wrap up, we just all want to say thank you to Tom Taylor and the whole creative team behind X-Men Red. We really enjoyed it. I know we talked a lot about Jean, but we love Gabby and Trinary and Gambit and Laura and whoever else is on the team that I’m forgetting! Storm is on the team, Namor, Gentle… I don’t remember the rest of them. Anyway, we love the whole team that you created and put together. We’re looking forward to reading this again in the trades. Justin: Yes. Thank you, Tom Taylor, for giving me, I’m not even sure if I’m kidding when I say that I say that this was one of the most positive things that happened to my life for the last two years. I’m actually not kidding. I really needed this so thank you, Marvel and Tom Taylor and everyone else!