Welcome, X-Fans, to another eXciting edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT! It feels like it’s been awhile, doesn’t it? And, obviously, this isn’t the “X-Men in Other Media” column that was promised at the end of X-Men Monday #35 – Cyclops. That one’s still coming, but even the best-laid plans can fall victim to X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White’s schedule. Overseeing the hugely successful Dawn of X is no easy task, and I think we can all agree we’d rather Jordan prioritize getting new books out on time over X-Men Monday. You know… every now and then.
And yep–you guessed it, this is one of those weeks where Jordan has his hands full. But if you thought I was going to take Thanksgiving week off–when the X-Men have a famous Thanksgiving issue ripe for discussing–then you don’t know me very well. This is the perfect opportunity for another edition of X-Men Monday Book Club, don’t you think?
Glad you agree!
Today’s all about Uncanny X-Men #308, written by Scott Lobdell, illustrated by John Romita Jr. and published by Marvel way back in January 1, 1994. Damn. This comic and Weezer’s Blue Album? What a good year for things I love!
Now fear not–this isn’t a book club for one. In fact, it’s a bit of an X-Men Monday Friendsgiving as I invited a few of my X-Friends I can always rely on for solid opinions, great attitudes and eXtraordinary passion for all things X. Maybe you’ve heard of them…
And you all know me: Chris Hassan. In the Q&A portion of this column, I go by “AIPT,” but in this one I’ll just be “Chris.” So, now that introductions are out of the way, fill up your plate with some Thanksgiving goodness, take a seat and let’s dig into one of my favorite X-Men comics of all time! OF ALL TIME!
Chris: I’m going to date myself multiple times in a single sentence, but here goes: This comic was included in a Marvel Collector’s Pack I got from Toys “R” Us in the mid-90s. I was just beginning to explore the wild world of the X-Men and was especially fond of Cyclops and Jean Grey after watching the five-part Phoenix Saga storyline on X-Men: The Animated Series, so I wanted this collection of comics (Uncanny X-Men #308-310 and X-Men #30). So, because of all that, this issue means quite a lot to me. Does it hold any significance for the rest of you?
Dan: 1993 was the year I started reading X-Men. I came for the high-action event stories like “Fatal Attractions” and “Bloodties,” but I stuck around for quiet, character-centric issues like this one. It’s where you really got to know the people under the spandex, and to care about them.
Christi: I started reading comics in my mid-20s and hadn’t yet learned to read in ‘94, so I do not have a particular nostalgia for this issue. However I find it an incredibly endearing scrapbook of sorts for Scott and Jean’s relationship.
Trent: I only read Uncanny X-Men #308 a few years ago, so the issue doesn’t hold a ton of significance to me as an X-Men fan, but I love any X-Men comic that features more sports and camaraderie than action.
Chris: Such a jock, Trent.
Adam: I remember this issue coming out and it striking a really great tone of where all the characters were at. I was also really into JRJR’s art at the time (still am) because of Cable: Blood & Metal, so it was wild to see him drawing like, a turkey instead of a giant man-sized gun.
Chris: Well, as far as turkeys go… I’m not sure it’s the most delicious-looking bird I’ve ever seen…
Adam: No one ever said JR was an ornithologist.
Trent: The turkey looks like it’s been sat on by the Juggernaut, Adam. There are 18 people around a table about to eat a flat bird.
Chris: While we’re talking about Romita’s art, do you think Jean’s green jacket, with the triangular collar and sash is meant to be a nod to her Phoenix suit?
Adam: I think the coloring is definitely a nod. As for the jackets themselves–let’s just say everyone in this issue looks like they just inflated their jackets with a helium tank.
Chris: It’s no secret I’m a fan of Scott and Jean as a couple, which is one reason why I love this issue so much. But correct me if I’m wrong — none of you are big fans of this pairing… right?
Dan: Talk to me 25 years ago, and I’m as obsessed with Scott and Jean as a certain caped geneticist. But the way the line has evolved and the cast has expanded over the years, there are so many more mutants to care about and ship. Why settle for Scott and Jean when I could long for the happiness of Gambit and Rogue or Betsy and Blob or Kate Pryde and Pete Wisdom. KIDDING! KIDDING! Well, no, not really.
Trent: Dan’s unapologetic admiration for mutants with hot knives makes his taste in all things X-Men questionable, couples included.
Dan: The heart wants what it wants, Trent. And this heart wants a British super spy who stopped a vampire invasion from the Moon to be happy.
Trent: I’ve gone on record criticizing some of the more abusive elements of Jean and Scott’s relationship(s), and I believe that Emma was arguably a healthier romantic partner. I stand by that. Still, there’s something about post-X-Factor “Jott” that really works for me. Especially given that Jean shot Scott down when he first tried to propose, the way her proposal is framed feels so reverent to their personal history and intimate despite the rest of the X-Men bumbling around them.
Adam: I definitely am more of a Scott & Emma fan. I even wrote an article about it! People got angry!
Chris: I’m shocked.
Adam: But at the time this felt really natural. I loved the X-Factor arc “Endgame” that led into the Jim Lee launch and Scott and Jean felt like a couple that were destined to be together. The lead-up to it was great, this issue included!
Christi: I prefer my soap operas in comic form, and X-Relationships, especially Scott and Jean, deliver just that. Pass me the popcorn because decades of continuity are delightful to unpack, but Scott and Jean are not a pair I’d ever seek to emulate.
Chris: Speaking of emulating Scott and Jean… I believe you’re all married, right? So you’ve all proposed or had your partner propose to you. Does this proposal comic do a good job of capturing all the joy, anxiety, butterflies and everything else that goes along with that special moment?
Christi: I was proposed to the day after Thanksgiving by the biggest Cyclops fan I know, so this definitely hit some major feels in that department. Jean’s speech and trip down memory lane was so deliberate, and Scott’s surprise seemed nearly too earnest. It was precious because I definitely knew I was being proposed to the moment we started taking a stroll through fallen leaves and was in no way surprised. This felt like an X-Men Hallmark movie, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Trent: When I proposed to my wife it was after five hours of walking around a city, frantically looking for a spot to do it while moving the ring box from pocket to pocket hoping she wouldn’t notice. Nothing went as planned and I ended up on one knee from the floor of a hotel room. It was fitting for us in the end, and I think it’s fitting in this case that Jean was the one to propose to Scott after reminiscing… even if I don’t believe any real proposal goes this smoothly.
Chris: Aside from the Scott and Jean stuff, what makes this issue stand out, in my opinion, is that it’s just a fun, feel-good X-Men story. One that proves you can have happy X-Men without a baseball game! You’ve got Storm furious at Beast over a ruined pile of leaves, Iceman making a Doctor Doom out of leaves and Bishop trying to comprehend the concept of football. Also, happy Archangel is always unsettling. Do you have a favorite moment in this comic?
Dan: I love the interplay between Beast and Jubilee in this issue, bounding through the leaves, keeping things light, and yet when Xavier gives his big dinner-table speech, he still shushes her when she makes a wisecrack and tells her there’s a time and a place. We didn’t get a lot of this interplay before Jubez got shipped off to Generation X, and it also makes me miss the bouncing, blue-furred Beast of old.
Christi: Gambit, Rogue and Bobby attempting to convince Bishop to create Doctor Doom scarecrows was delightful. Gambit explaining “Danks-Givin” customs to poor Bishop was some fun, light-hearted ribbing that helped to cut the sweetness. Plus, Gambit and Rogue were adorable as usual (not to mention Gambit’s calves).
Trent: My favorite moments all involve telepaths holding holograms of X-Men characters in their hands. Why doesn’t this happen anymore in the comics? Seriously, though, as fun as the football stuff is the real sweet spot is the way the book retroactively expands on the Silver Age origins of Jean and Scott’s relationship. Marvel played an infamously long long-game with this couple for so many years–the first time they kiss on-panel was Uncanny X-Men #94–12 real-life years after the team was first introduced. So getting more context around their initial attraction was great.
Adam: Usually I roll my eyes at Xavier making speeches, but I really like his grace with the whole gang around the Thanksgiving table. He acknowledges that the year has been an awful one filled with loss, but reiterated that their strength comes from their found family. It’s sweet.
Chris: Honestly, I always found this issue’s final panels a bit odd. Professor X seems pretty distant and not even happy for his two prized pupils’ big announcement. Then there’s the line, “And while he has some reservations about the decision made here this day… he chooses to keep them to himself.” What do you think Lobdell was getting at here?
Dan: If Xavier wiping Magneto’s mind in X-Men #25 was the moment of conception for Onslaught, this issue and the following one, where Xavier flashes back to his relationship with the Acolyte Amelia Voght, are Xavier realizing he’s late, if you catch my meaning. That said, I don’t get the impression the X-Office was that well planned out back then, so maybe it was just gas.
Christi: I don’t know if this line is really all that ominous. Scott’s proposed to Phoenix, married Madelyne Pryor and was turned down by Jean when he last proposed. To me it feels more like the reserved joy felt by someone who wants the best for Scott and Jean, but really doesn’t have much faith in their ability to work as a couple. I’ve felt the same way about off and on again couples that are so excited to announce they’re together… again.
Trent: I remember a panel in Uncanny X-Men #3 where Jean tells Xavier not to worry before an X-Men mission and he thinks, “‘Don’t worry!’ As though I could help worrying about the one I love! But I can never tell her! I have no right! Not while I’m the leader of the X-Men and confined to this wheelchair!” Stan Lee’s excessive use of exclamation points aside, I think Xavier 100% wanted to mack on Jean but didn’t because he was a paraplegic… and probably also because that’s a super gross thing for him to do as a father figure.
Adam: The Uncanny X-Men #3 connection is the easiest explanation, but another thing to think about is that Xavier keeps seeing tragedy strike these people he sees as his children. I think his reservations are part of his growing pessimism which is a core part of his character development in this era.
Chris: I remember reading X-Men #53 where that Uncanny X-Men #3 plot element was revisited when it came out… and even as a middle-schooler who hadn’t experienced much in life yet, I found that revelation immediately off-putting. A bit off-topic, but what’d you think of Mark Waid digging that up? And really rubbing it in our faces.
Dan: To quote Chris Hassan from two lines ago: Gross. It’s unfortunate enough that in Jean’s role as “girl” in Stan and Jack’s original O5 comics, she was seen as a person to be either desired or sheltered by three of her four classmates, but for Xavier to pull a reverse “Hot for Teacher” in 1964, there’s nothing heroic about harboring those impulses. Waid was clearly trying to show how Xavier had been corrupted by Onslaught, but it still feels irredeemably skeevy. That said, Chuck’s done worse.
Adam: It’s gross, stupid and would have been much better off as a forgotten piece of Silver Age idiosyncrasy.
Christi: I second both Dan and Adam here. Gross. Professor X is a jerk.
Trent: In fairness, his personal history is littered with romantic relationships where there is a wide power imbalance. We should all be thankful that he pushed Scott toward Jean instead of acting on his thoughts.
Chris: Hey, how about that five-panel Phalanx interlude?
Dan: How about it! Who knew in the early days, before they assimilated whole galaxies, the techno-organic race known as the Phalanx moonlit as Uber drivers on the weekends? In a van with “Phalanx” written on the side, no less. Surprising ToyBiz never released the Phalanxmobile in the ‘90s.
Trent: I was also going to make a ToyBiz joke, so thanks, Dan, for beating me to the punchline.
Adam: I know when I’m planning to Borg the Earth I write Borg on the side of my car.
Trent: I recently reread “Phalanx Covenant” and I wish I had read Uncanny X-Men #308 in advance because this is some decent plot seeding. I think the guy we see joining the Phalanx in this issue is the antagonist from “Generation Next,” Harvest, not that he ever gets much characterization.
Christi: When Chrises On Infinite Earths covered “Phalanx Covenant” last year, I did a decent amount of reading of the lead-up, but they’re dropped so subtly into this issue that I think I missed this one. While Harvest’s background really isn’t too important, this does some great teasing for that event.
Chris: Final question: Now that we’ve survived House of X and Powers of X and seen a bit of what the Dawn of X has in store for us… do you think something like this Thanksgiving story is a relic of another era? Or is there still room for this type of story in Jonathan Hickman’s new world order? Actually, I guess we don’t even know if mutants still care about Thanksgiving.
Dan: Given the emphasis on mutant culture, we’ll likely see some new holidays. The feast of St. Moira. Magneto’s Day. Chris(Claremont)mas. –[A]–rbor Day. Stuff like that. Given they live on a living island, there probably will be just as many leaves. Fortunately, Forge made that one fancy rake.
Trent: I love comics that celebrate being comics. Holiday comics, in particular, walk the line of being cannon and meta in a way I really like. In 2018, we got that amazing holiday issue with a bunch of single-page vignettes and it was a great break from the dour vibe of the series at the time–the Glob Herman page alone was worth the cover price of the book. Not sure which holidays mutants will celebrate in the future–probably still Christmas since Santa Claus has the X-Gene–but I hope we don’t miss out on more playful issues like this.
Adam: I was really hoping the Holiday issue would become an annual tradition–and maybe it will return–but given the recent status quo change, it wouldn’t make any sense to have one this year. Dan, I love your idea of mutant holidays since it fits right in with the new emphasis on mutant culture. Now that we have mutant magic, mutants in space, pirate mutants, the possibilities of new rituals are endless! Maybe next year we’ll be celebrating the first annual HoXgiving?
Christi: Whether or not mutants still celebrate Thanksgiving, I think this type of celebration of family is exactly what HoX and PoX calls for. *ahem* create more mutants. Whether it be some new mutant holiday or something more familiar, we’ve already seen a cookout and an evening of fireworks. I can’t imagine these types of issues are gone forever.
Chris: Hold up… I think someone’s at the door. Whoa! Guys–it’s Jordan! It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!
Perfect timing, Jordan! Do you happen to know if any Krakoans still celebrate Thanksgiving or is it considered a “human holiday”?
Jordan: Thanksgiving isn’t a human holiday, it’s an American one. It’s a celebration based–at least in theory–on the settling of North America. Krakoa celebrating Thanksgiving would be sort of like them celebrating the 4th of July. It’s DEFINITELY not a thing that the nation as a whole celebrates. I am sure there is the occasional Krakoan who celebrates it as a nod to their heritage and/or upbringing, the way an American with French heritage might celebrate Bastille Day. It’s definitely not a Krakoan bank holiday. The Five are on the clock, and they don’t get time and a half. That said, I know for a fact that Krakoa has its own holidays in the works. Keep reading.
Chris: You know we will. Thanks for stopping by our X-Friendsgiving, Jordan! And look, everybody, he even brought something for us to enjoy: An eXclusive look at the cover of X-Men #8, which was first teased in our last edition of X-Men Monday! The Brood are back, baby!
And on that note, we conclude our X-Men Monday Book Club X-Friendsgiving eXtravaganza! This was a whole lot of fun, and I couldn’t have done it without Adam, Dan, Trent and Christi–thanks for revisiting this classic comic with me! And, of course, thanks to Jordan for the teases of things to come.
For everybody celebrating this week, have an eXceptional Thanksgiving!