X-Force #13-33, Annual #2 (August 1992 – April 1994)
Written by Fabian Nicieza (#13-33, Annual #2)
Pencils by Mark Pacella (#13), Terry Shoemaker (#14), Greg Capullo (#15-25), Matt Broome (#26-27, 29), Antonio/Tony Daniel (#28, 30-33, Annual #2)
Inks by Dan Panosian (#13), Al Milgrom (#14-15, 25), Harry Candelario (#16-23), Kevin Conrad (#22, 25, 28, 30, Annual #2), Richard Bennett (#24), Bob Wiacek (#25, Annual #2), Dan Green (#25), Paul Ryan (#25), Jimmy Palmiotti (#25), Scott Hanna (#25-26), Bud LaRosa (#26-27, 29), Jon Holdredge (#30-33), Jason Gorder (#30), Mark Pennington (Annual #2), Brad Vancata (Annual #2), Keith Williams (Annual #2)
Coloured by Steve Buccellato (#13, 17, 19-21), Kevin Tinsley (#14, 22), Joe Rosas (#15-16), Marie Javins (#18-19, 21, 23-24, 29-33), Ericka Moran (#22), George Roussos (#25-27), Martin Thomas (#28), Kevin Somers (Annual #2)
Spoilers (from twenty-three to twenty-five years ago)
Fabian Nicieza took over as sole writer of this book after Rob Liefeld help found Image Comics. When he took over, many of Liefeld’s plotlines were left unresolved, and he inherited them all mid-arc. Nicieza’s name is synonymous with 90s Marvel comics, but not exactly in a good way. While I enjoyed his New Warriors, I always felt that X-Force was lacking, and did not last through his whole run. Let’s take a look at how he took the baton from Liefeld, and which directions he decided to run with it.
- Cable (Nathan Dayspring; #13-15, 25-30, 32-33, Annual #2)
- Cannonball (Sam Guthrie; #13-29, 32-33, Annual #2)
- Boom-Boom/Boomer (Tabitha Smith; #13-17, 19, 21-29, 32-33, Annual #2)
- Warpath (James Proudstar, #13-17, 19, 21-33, Annual #2)
- Shatterstar (#13-17, 19-30, 32-33, Annual #2)
- Feral (Maria Callasantos; #13-17, 19-28, Annual #2)
- Siryn (Theresa Rourke Cassidy; #13-17, 19, 21-33, Annual #2)
- Domino (actually someone named Vanessa; #13-14)
- Rictor (Julio Esteban Richter; #14-17, 19-30, 32-33, Annual #2)
- Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; #15-17, 19-28, Annual #2)
- Domino (the real one this time; #30, 32-33)
- Gideon (External, #13, 15, 20, 22-23)
- Tolliver (#13-15)
- Pico (Tolliver’s servant; #13-14)
- Crule (External; #14-15, 23)
- Deadpool (#14-15, 21-24)
- Famine (Horsemen of Apocalypse; #16)
- Caliban/Death (Horsemen of Apocalypse; #16)
- Mr. Sinister (#16, 18)
- Forearm (Mutant Liberation Front; #16, 26-28)
- Zero (Mutant Liberation Front; #16)
- Stryfe (Mutant Liberation Front; #16-18)
- Apocalypse (#17-18)
- Barrage (Dark Riders; #17)
- Foxbat (Dark Riders; #17)
- Gauntlet (Dark Riders; #17)
- Harddrive (Dark Riders; #17)
- Psynapse (Dark Riders; #17)
- Tusk (Dark Riders; #17)
- Nicodemus (External; #20)
- Saul (External; #21-23)
- Sluggo (#22-24)
- Friends of Humanity (anti-mutant militia; #24)
- Exodus (#25)
- Magneto (#25)
- Tempo (Mutant Liberation Front; #26-28)
- Reaper (Mutant Liberation Front; #26-28)
- Wildside (Mutant Liberation Front; #26-28)
- Reignfire (#26-28)
- Moonstar (Mutant Liberation Front; #27-28)
- Locus (Mutant Liberation Front; #27-28)
- Arcade (#29-30)
- Ms. Locke (Arcade’s assistant; #29-30)
- Imperial Protectorate (future Mojo-verse bad guys; #29)
- Black Tom Cassidy (#30-31)
- Juggernaut (#30-31)
- Fenris (Andrea and Andreas Strucker/wannabe Upstarts; #32)
- Shinobi Shaw (Hellfire Club/Upstarts; #32-33)
- Siena Blaze (Upstarts; #32-33)
- Gamesmaster (Upstarts; #32-33)
- Graydon Creed (Upstarts; #32-33)
- Trevor Fitzroy (Upstarts; #32-33)
- Bantam (Fitzroy’s servant; #33)
- Martin Henry Strong (Annual #2)
- Wolverine (X-Men; #16-18)
- Havok (X-Factor; #16-18)
- Wolfsbane (X-Factor; #16-17)
- Multiple Man (X-Factor; #16-17)
- Rogue (X-Men; #16-17)
- Polaris (X-Factor; #16-18)
- Gambit (X-Men; #16-17)
- Strong Guy (X-Factor; #16)
- Psylocke (X-Men; #16, 18)
- Archangel (X-Men; #16-18)
- Quicksilver (X-Factor; #16-17)
- Beast (X-Men; #16-19)
- Storm (X-Men; #16-19)
- Iceman (X-Men; #16-18)
- Colossus (X-Men; #16-17)
- Bishop (X-Men; #16-18)
- Jubilee (X-Men; #16, 18)
- Val Cooper (#16-17, 20, 24, 27)
- Jean Grey (X-Men; #16-18)
- Cyclops (X-Men; #16-18)
- Professor Xavier (#17-19, 23-24, 27)
- Henry Peter Gyrich (#19-20, 27-28)
- Nick Fury (SHIELD; #20-22, 27)
- War Machine (James Rhodes; #20-22)
- Alexander Pierce (SHIELD; #20-22)
- Network Nina (SHIELD; #20-22)
- Skids (former New Mutant/former Mutant Liberation Front/Acolyte; #24-25)
- Rusty Collins (former New Mutant/former Mutant Liberation Front/Acolyte; #24-25)
- Trish Tilby (reporter; #24)
- Hardaway (#27)
- Forge (#27)
- X-Treme (Adam X; #29-30, Annual #2)
- Magma (Amara Aquilla/Allison Crestmere, former member of New Mutants; #32-33)
- Empath (Manuel DeLa Rocha, former Hellion; #32-33)
- Justice (Vance Astrovik, New Warrior; #32-33)
- Night Thrasher (Dwayne Taylor, New Warrior; #32-33)
- Moonstar (#32-33)
- Firestar (New Warriors; #33)
- Nova (New Warriors; #33)
- Speedball (New Warriors; #33)
- Rage (New Warriors; #33)
- Namorita/Kymaera (New Warriors; #33)
- Silhouette (New Warriors; #33)
- Karma (Xi’an Coy Manh; former New Mutant; #33)
- Commander G.W. Bridge (SHIELD, former Wild Pack; #13-14, 19-22)
- Weapon X (Kane, former Wild Pack, Weapon PRIME; #13-14)
- Grizzly (Wild Pack, Weapon PRIME; #13, 20-24)
- Rictor (former New Mutant, then Weapon PRIME; #13)
- Tigerstryke (Weapon PRIME; #13, 22-23)
- Yeti (previously called Wendigo, Weapon PRIME; #13, 22-23)
- Professor (Cable’s computer; #13-17, 20-22, 25-26, 29, Annual #2)
- Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta; former New Mutant; #13-14)
- Domino (Beatrice, the real one; #13-15, 20-24, 29)
- Stevie Hunter (dance teacher; #16-17, 19)
- Cable (#16-18)
- Moira MacTaggert (#17)
- Lila Cheney (#19-22)
- Vanessa Carlysle (formerly posing as Domino; #19-24)
- Hammer (former Wild Pack; #21-24)
- Double Trouble (Weapon PRIME; #22-23)
- Killjoy (Weapon PRIME; #22-23)
- Tempo (former Mutant Liberation Front; #29-30)
- Josh Guthrie (#32)
- Paige Guthrie (#32-33)
- Lucinda Guthrie (Cannoball’s mother; #32-33)
- Nina DaCosta (Sunspot’s mother; #32)
- Neurotap (Annual #2)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- GW Bridge and Weapon Prime prepare to break into X-Force’s base just as they load up to leave it all behind. The two teams begin to fight as Cable slips away to make sure that his technology does not fall into Bridge’s hands. He gets his computer, Professor, to teleport all of his tech away (which makes me wonder a) if they were going to abandon it all when they left the base, and b) why they didn’t just teleport away) and to reset the explosives they’d left to work on Cable’s voice command. Bridge and Rictor try to convince X-Force, especially Sam and Boom-Boom, that they are in the wrong, but then Cable starts to shoot at Bridge. In New Mexico, we learn that Gideo is performing some sort of torturous and dangerous experiment on Bobby. Bridge worries that the members of X-Force have become too much like Cable, as Kane takes out Shatterstar, Warpath punches Grizzly, and Feral (who now has triangular nipple covers) slashes Yeti, who was called Wendigo in the previous issue. Cable defeats Bridge, and only then does Vanessa/Domino show up. Cable tells her it’s time to go after Tolliver. Siryn takes out Tigerstryke, who still hasn’t said a word. As the team gets ready to leave, the explosives start going off prematurely. Cable and Vanessa/Domino escape out a tunnel, while Sam calls the rest of X-Force and Weapon PRIME to him. The base is shown exploding. We learn that Tolliver set off the bombs with an override Vanessa gave him, and he talks to the trussed up real Domino, his prisoner.
- Issue fourteen features art by Terry Shoemaker and Al Milgrom, although it doesn’t look like their usual work; I think they were trying to incorporate an updated style, but I’d say it didn’t work. At the same time, each page held more story than I’ve grown used to seeing, and that’s a very good thing. Cable has rescued Vanessa/Domino from the explosion, and spends time yelling about how Tolliver is going to pay. The rest of X-Force has also survived in Sam’s expanded blast field, as has Rictor, Bridge, and Kane. The rest of Weapon PRIME (Grizzly, Tigerstryke, and Wendigo/Yeti) are mentioned as missing. Kane pulls a gun on Sam, and the others stand up to him, but then a large SHIELD contingent appears, telling them to stand down. This is observed by Crule. Cable teleports himself and Vanessa/Domino to his Graymalkin base, and stays only as long as it takes to rearm and get a vessel to fly him after Tolliver (because I guess teleporting wouldn’t be dramatic). X-Force fights SHIELD, and Rictor decides to take their side, since Cable is gone and that’s all he cared about. They get ahold of the SHIELD IPAC vehicle, and Rictor officially rejoins the team. We see that Sunspot is still being experimented on, in some kind of solar absorption device. X-Force flies to Newfoundland before deciding that they should hide out on Warpath’s empty reservation. They are attacked by Crule, who has been on the outside of their vessel, and he grabs and threatens Sam. Cable and Vanessa/Domino enter Tolliver’s Italian home through some secret tunnels, and are attacked by Pico. Cable shoots him, and they discover the real Domino, who Vanessa claims she believed dead. Deadpool stabs her, and he and Tolliver posture.
- Greg Capullo joins the book with issue 15, and his art neither looks like the Todd McFarlane style stuff he’d shown in Quasar, nor like his more recent work, but I think that’s down to Al Milgrom inking him on this issue. Crule attacks the SHIELD IPAC, coming after Sam, but the rest of the team takes him out, dumping him out of the flying ship, but not before he reveals what’s happening to Bobby. Sam decides that they need to go rescue his friend, and they head to Denver. Cable is confused after seeing Deadpool kill Vanessa/Domino while the real Domino is trussed up on the wall. Tolliver orders Deadpool to kill Cable, and the two men fight until Cable knocks the merc out by punching him repeatedly in the face. He goes to free Domino, but is attacked by Deadpool again (at this point is hasn’t yet been established that he has a healing factor). This time, Deadpool is just about to kill Cable while he gets shot from behind by Domino, who was inadvertently freed by Deadpool’s sword. Cable wants to get with Domino, but she’s more interested in stopping the escaping Tolliver. As X-Force flies towards Gideon, he contacts them and makes an offer to Sam – that he will tell him where Roberto is in return for Sam’s never interfering in External matters; Sam agrees, and they now start flying towards New Mexico. We see that the solar energy absorbtion [sic] machine continues to pump Bobby with energy. Later, the team arrives there, and begins fighting their way towards their friend. Sam sees that he is about to explode, so flies straight up with him, where he releases his energy. The team is happy to see they are both still alive, but aren’t sure what their next move should be. Cable and Domino jump onto Tolliver’s fleeing helicopter, but Cable convinces Domino to jump into the water below and to find X-Force. He destroys the helicopter and teleports away before falling into the water. We see Tolliver’s hat, coat, and a flesh-mask floating in the water, suggesting that Tolliver is still alive. (Some internet research tells me that Tolliver is actually that guy Tyler that was/wasn’t Cable’s son – something eventually revealed in Jeph Loeb’s run on Cable, because of course it is). Domino swims to shore, promising to follow Cable’s last orders. Deadpool, recovered, finds a trail of blood from where Vanessa lay dead, suggesting that she is also still alive. Deadpool teleports away. Cable arrives in Graymalkin, where he gets his skin fixed, and decides to go on a hunt. X-Force is in the remains of Warpath’s reserve, where they learn that Bobby is okay and wants to join them. Basically, it seems that Nicieza cleared the deck of most of Liefeld’s plotlines before the X-Cutioner’s Song event starts in the next issue.
- With issue sixteen, we are thrust into the fourth chapter of the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover, which doesn’t make a lot of sense on its own. X-Force finds itself in opposition to a combined X-Men/X-Factor squad (Wolverine, Havok, Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Polaris, Rogue, Wolfsbane, Gambit, Rogue, and later, Psylocke), and the fight is started by Feral’s impetuousness. It looks like Wolverine stabs Shatterstar in the gut, and Sam orders the team to regroup and run. Wolverine pursues. Another X-Squad (Storm, Beast, Archangel, Quicksilver, Iceman, and Colossus) are hunting Apocalypse. They enter a warehouse where they are attacked by Famine and Death (who is Caliban at this point). They stop them and trigger a holographic message from Mr. Sinister who tells them that this is all a game of some sort, and that they should pursue Apocalypse. Back at the Xavier School, Sinister is holding Val Cooper and Stevie Hunter (been awhile since we’ve seen her) hostage, while Bishop and Jubilee attack anyway. They free the women, and Sinister tells them he is there to help move the game along. Leaving, he drops a photo of who is behind everything in front of Val, but we can’t see who is in it. In a safehouse, Cable plays that game where you see just how many guns and pouches you can fit on your body at once. At MLF headquarters, Forearm drags the captured Jean Grey and Cyclops to Zero, who wakes them up. Stryfe arrives, calls them mother and father, and it’s left to us to realize he’s behind everything that’s been going on. X-Force keep running from the X-Men, but are caught by Wolverine and Psylocke. Apparently Sunspot can now shoot energy from his hands. Most of the team is taken prisoner, and Cannonball and Sunspot surrender. Havok asks Wolverine what to do next.
- Chapter eight of the X-Cutioner’s Song opens with a battle between Stryfe and Apocalypse. It’s clear that Stryfe blames Apocalypse for a lot of things, and his anger gives him the upper hand, but when he stabs the immortal mutant with a knife that Apocalypse claims he once used on him, he also allows him to teleport away. The Dark Riders arrive, and since they follow the strongest mutant, Stryfe claims them (although, I’m not sure why he’d ever want them). Bishop, Cable, and Wolverine chat on Graymalkin, Cable’s satellite, and they learn the future history of Stryfe, who failed in his attempt to stop the High-Lords of New Canaan, and returned to the past, just as Cable did. We learn that Cable and Stryfe had similar goals, but different means, and that they’ve been fighting for years. What Cable does not know is why they have identical faces. At the Xavier Mansion, we see that Boom-Boom has had her jaw wired shut. Havok wants Cannonball to control his ‘troops’, who are prisoners in the Danger Room. We see that Professor Xavier is falling victim to a techno-organic virus, and that the only way they can think to fix it is to have Beast remove the original bullet from his skull. Wolfsbane chats with Rictor and Sunspot, who both remind her that they just joined X-Force after Cable left, and so don’t know what he’s up to. Siryn argues with Multiple Man. Sam comes to check on everyone. Stryfe checks on his prisoners, Jean Grey and Cyclops, who trick him into thinking they are asleep, so they can escape his cell. The Xavier Mansion is attacked again, this time by Apocalypse, who is actually there for help. He staves off an attack by Archangel and then offers to help them stop Stryfe.
- The last chapter of X-Cutioner’s Song basically ignores X-Force completely, with Sam being the only team member to even appear, for a panel or two, while the story focuses on the extended Summers family. Stryfe has Scott and Jean trussed up in some sort of time vortex device thing on the Moon, where images of X-history focusing on Scott’s son play. Cable has entered this sealed-off space, and challenges Strfye. As they fight, Stryfe maintains that Cable is basically a clone or copy of him, but Cable disputes that, while Jean begins to feel sorry for Stryfe. On a closeby moon base, the Dark Riders escape, while Storm, Psylocke, and Wolverine wonder about Apocalypse and their friends. She discovers that Apocalypse is dying. Bishop and Iceman stop searching elsewhere on the base for the Dark Riders, while Archangel decides to go after Apocalypse. We learn that Sam and Polaris are outside Stryfe’s bubble, but that Havok got through. Stryfe and Cable keep fighting, and Cable’s fake skin gets ripped away, revealing that his entire left side is metal. At the Xavier Mansion, Professor X, recovering from the techno-organic virus, tells Beast and Jubilee that he thinks Scott and Jean are going to die, after he somehow mind-connected with everyone on the moon. Archangel finds the dying Apocalypse, but refuses to kill him. Jean figures that if Stryfe is distracted a little more, she’ll be able to free herself and Scott from his telekinetic imprisonment (he really must be a powerful mutant). Havok blasts Strfye, followed by Cyclops, but Jean offers to help him. Fearing a trick, Stryfe yells and fires off energy, making the time displacement and electromagnetic energy in his bubble grow and grow. Jean protects herself, Scott, and Havok in a telekinetic shield, but she can’t reach Cable to protect him. We see him pushing buttons in his metal arm, and he throws a control box to Scott, telling him to hit a button on his command. Scott worries about what will happen, but after Cable tackles Stryfe, and we see little explosions in his arm, Scott presses the button, and the two enemies disappear in an explosion. When things clear, we see the various X-people gathered in identical space suits looking grim. Scott is worried that he just killed his son. In an epilogue, Mr. Sinister and a coughing subordinate of his open a container that Stryfe said would be full of Summer’s family genetic material, but find it empty.
- Issue nineteen resets the series somewhat, and gives Capullo his first real opportunity to shine in terms of character portrayal, something I always thought he was good at. Boom-Boom designs a new costume for herself at the Xavier Mansion, where we learn the team has been under gentle house arrest for about three weeks following the X-Cutioner’s Song. Tabitha almost gets herself into a spat with Lila Cheney, who basically gives her permission to pursue Sam. It’s nice to see some real character work happening in this book again. Bobby has a chat with Stevie Hunter about his newly evolved powers, and his lack of identity after Gideon’s machinations. Shatterstar, Feral, and Rictor practice in the Danger Room, and impress Beast with their training. Warpath and Siryn steal a laserdisc with the X-Men’s data on it, although Theresa feels bad about it. Xavier knows about this theft. He meets with Sam and Storm, and Sam dismisses the idea that his team might be in trouble with the government (it really was never established what was so bad about X-Force or anything they did prior to this point). Sam effectively uses a driving metaphor to talk about how the New Mutants have grown into X-Force (even though no one mentions that it’s just him and Bobby who have been around since day one). Vanessa, the woman who was posing as Domino, is shown as a silver-skinned naked girl hiding out in her bedroom outside Boston while her roommate knocks on the door. GW Bridge arrives on a SHIELD Helicarrier to be chewed out by Henry Gyrich and the Canadian general, only to quit. Boom-Boom gives the others new costumes. Warpath is happy to be done with his shoulder pads, while Sam frets that his new full-body suit shows too much skin. Xavier talks to Siryn about why she didn’t come to the X-Men when she was feeling lost, and she makes a good argument for being with X-Force. Sam goes to see Roberto and then assembles the whole team, all in new outfits, to tell Xavier that they are heading out on their own. Things get a little preachy, but Xavier agrees, and the team teleports to Arizona via Lila Cheney’s powers. Sam and Xavier leave things on decent terms. For an issue with barely any action in it, it’s also easily the most effective since this series launched.
- While a Stark Enterprises shuttle tries to complete some kind of experiment or something with a satellite, a mishap reveals Cable’s cloaked station, Graymalkin, in space. Henry Gyrich wants Val Cooper to send X-Factor to investigate, but she sends him to Nick Fury. Upon learning of the mission, GW Bridge wants in on it, despite having quit last issue. Fury agrees to let him go in return for a favour. Fury then calls James Rhodes, who is apparently in charge of Stark at this time (I have no idea where Tony Stark was around this time – it’s before he became de-aged), and while Stark Enterprises claims salvage, they work out that Rhodes will allow SHIELD to inspect the station in return for something. In Camp Verde, Bobby, Rictor, Sam, and Lila Cheney work on setting up a communications array from outer space. Shatterstar fixes the device for them, and from it, they learn about Graymalkin and want to get there. Apparently Lila’s powers have changed, as she no longer has to have lived in a place in order to teleport there. Boom-Boom, Warpath, and Siryn are in town and are left behind when the team ports there. Professor, Cable’s computer system, speaks to Sam. Vanessa is still in her room, but now she’s copied her roommate’s appearance. In Australia, the real Domino has tracked down Grizzly, and wants his help in finding X-Force. In the Swiss Alps, the External Nicodemus, who has gotten sick, spontaneously combusts and dies in front of Gideon. Fury, Bridge, and the SHIELD agents Alexander Pierce and Network Nina arrive at Graymalkin. Sam thinks that Professor is actually X-Factor’s old ship, as they have the same voice. They learn of the hull breach caused by Fury’s people, and rush off to defend Cable’s secrets. The fight lasts a few pages, but X-Force drops the SHIELD agents, only to learn that Rhodes, in his War Machine armor, is also there. It’s interesting that the next issue box calls him Iron Man; I don’t remember that name ever being used to describe the War Machine armor.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1992 lists X-Force as having an average press run of 937 000, with newsstand returns averaging 177 000.
- War Machine faces off against the team, and their fight does a lot of damage to the Graymalkin space station. Lila Cheney teleports away, and Professor makes it clear that it will not be able to keep everyone on board alive soon. The rest of the team – Boom-Boom, Siryn, and Warpath – return to Camp Verde, where they are attacked and dropped by Saul of the Externals. Domino and Grizzly go to visit their Wild Pack colleague Hammer, who is severely crippled and in a wheelchair, to ask for his help in keeping Cable’s legacy alive. Bridge and Sam argue about how stubborn they are, and the fighting seems to reach an impasse. An explosion separates Sam and Bobby from the others, and Lila returns just as it’s clear that everyone needs to leave the station. Sam and Bobby try to figure out how to preserve Professor, and learn that Sam was given backup command access to Professor’s programming, and that Professor wants to help them, as the spiritual children of Cable. Vanessa and her roommate go to a bar together. In India, Deadpool tracks down Tolliver’s files, and learns Vanessa’s address. Fury and Bridge argue about whether or not they should clear out of Graymalkin, while Lila tries to get everyone to leave without their two missing friends. Sam meanwhile works with Professor to jettison some components of the station so that it can self-repair. He sends the armory and hangar towards Camp Verde, and decides to dump the time displacement core, which is the only way Cable can return to them. As this disengages, the station explodes.
- Issue twenty-two opens on the crumbling pieces of the Graymalkin station, and we see Lila teleport X-Force, War Machine, and the SHIELD group onto the SHIELD shuttle. Bridge attempts to arrest them, and Lila teleports away again. We learn that Sam and Bobby are in an escape pod, and that the Professor’s program in the pod won’t survive their successful landing. We see that Boom-Boom, Warpath, and Siryn are being held shackled against a rocky cliff where waves can hit them in Oregon. Saul introduces himself to his captives, and they learn that Gideon is also there. Lila brings Shatterstar, Rictor, and Feral to Camp Verde, where they are surprised to learn that their friends aren’t around. They see on their communications array that something is flying towards them, which turns out to be Sam and Bobby, who quickly try to preserve Professor, with no luck. The other parts of Graymalkin that they sent to Earth also arrive. Domino and Grizzly sneak into a Department K facility in Newfoundland, and transfer computer files to Hammer, who is in an RV. They are caught by Weapon PRIME, which now consists of Tigerstryke, Yeti, Double Trouble, and Killspree (who is now on the list of most 90s characters ever). Vanessa and her roommate continue to enjoy their night out when they are attacked by Deadpool. Vanessa fights him, and the two women run away when one is shot in the chest by some guy called Sluggo, who looks a lot like Scalphunter. Deadpool is angry about this. In Camp Verde, the team checks out their new vehicles and weapons. Lila, who is leaving, says goodbye to Sam. The rest of the team discover a message from Saul telling them that he has their friends, and insists that Sam come and trade himself for their lives.
- Sunspot, Rictor, Shatterstar, and Feral break into a hospital in Maine where they kidnap a completely incapacitated patient who turns out to be Crule. They tell him that in return for information, they will take out the Externals; he agrees. Sam talks over videophone with Professor X to see if he knows anything about the Externals (I guess they both forgot that X-Force already stole the X-Men’s datafiles), but he doesn’t. Sam is worried about breaking his promise to leave Gideon and the Externals alone (although, they are asking him to come to them, so I don’t see how that applies here). Domino and Grizzly fight Weapon PRIME, and have to escape through a sewer system that Hammer finds for them. Saul and Gideon talk about how they need to study Sam to figure out why Nicodemus died. The four X-Force members that have Crule fly to Oregon, where they use their new battle tank to drive right into Saul’s house, and they take him and Gideon down quickly. Vanessa is packing a bag to run when Deadpool and Sluggo show up in her house. They are shot in the back by Domino and Grizzly, who are there with Hammer. Domino asks why she shouldn’t just shoot Vanessa in the head, and she says she knows where X-Force is. Having rescued their friends, X-Force talk with Saul and Gideon about tactics, and Rictor gives Gideon a note from Sam wherein he explains that he didn’t break his promise. They leave, having threatened the two Externals to leave them alone.
- A Vault transport vehicle is stopped in New Jersey by a woman on the road. She uses an EMP to freeze the guards’ armor while others break into the transport vehicle. The Friends of Humanity kidnap Rusty and Skids from the vehicle, in an anti-mutant act. X-Force returns to Camp Verde, and tells Sam that they dumped Crule into the ocean. Sam tells the team that Rusty and Skids were kidnapped, and has them head out on another mission, to rescue them. Val Cooper is upset with Professor Xavier for giving this rescue job to X-Force, although this allows him deniability. Domino wants to kill Vanessa, but the others want her to lead them to X-Force, thinking that will also lead them to Cable. She shoots Deadpool and Sluggo again before they leave. In space, a figure flies, and explodes in a purple light display or something. The remains of Graymalkin become visible, and the figure smiles. En route to their rescue, X-Force watch Trish Tilby spin the kidnapping story so that the Friends of Humanity look bad. The team arrives, and splits into two groups to attack. Siryn gives Sam a hard time for not having her lead the second team. They bust into a remote house, and take out the guards, rescuing Rusty and Skids, who give them a stream of pro-Stryfe/MLF invective. Sam sees a Friends of Humanity flyer, and talks about the importance of everyone getting along. The next issue box teases the returns of Magneto and Cable.
- Issue twenty-five is double-sized, and part of the Fatal Attraction crossover, although it can be read on its own quite easily. A shadowy figure (who is pretty obviously Magneto) decides that he wants to recruit the former New Mutants. X-Force return to their Camp Verde base, and Feral can tell that someone has been, and still is, there. The team splits up to search, and a hidden figure takes them out two at a time, until Cannonball gets the drop on him. It turns out to be Cable, and most of the team is happy to see him, except for Rictor and Sunspot. Cable tells Rictor that it was Stryfe who killed his father, while posing as him, and he let’s Bobby know that Gideon killed his father. Cable praises Sam’s leadership. Rictor, Warpath, Feral, and Shatterstar hang out outside while the rest talk. Cable examines Rusty and Skids, recognizing that the mind control work Stryfe did to them matches what was done to his son Tyler, who he now claims is his son again (was anything ever done with this?). Cable fills in his life history (although no mention is made about Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor being his parents), when a perimeter alarm goes off. Exodus has arrived, talking about taking mutants to Heaven, but then attacks the group already outside. The rest of the team arrives, and Exodus offers Sam and Bobby a place in his heaven. Sam agrees to go, but insists that all the other former New Mutants, including Rusty and Skids, accompany him. They are transported away in a tornado, but we learn that Sam slipped Cable a tracking device. The former New Mutants arrive in a space station, and Exodus is annoyed that they aren’t more impressed. He calls the place Avalon, and they learn that it used to be Graymalkin. A robed and hooded figure comes to talk to them, and it’s pretty obvious this is Magneto, especially after he moves the iron around Rusty and Skids’s brains, fixing the work done by Stryfe. The rest of X-Force flies towards Avalon, and Cable is angry to see his home tampered with. Exodus fights Cable’s group while Cable hacks into the systems to get his teleporter working. They teleport to where Sam’s group is, and after a bit of speechifying (for which Magneto is weirdly absent), the team teleports to their shuttle, but Cable stays to try to rescue Professor, his AI friend. Weirdly, it looks like Rusty and Skids teleport with the team, but later we see them stay with Magneto. Magneto comes to fight Cable, and during their fight, he rips up all of Cable’s metal parts (which is like half his body, but I don’t think it’s recognized as a techno-organic virus yet). Cable manages to teleport away, with Professor in his systems, and the team flies home. Magneto sits in a chair and admits defeat to Cable in this case. Oh, there’s a hologram on the cover to this book, because it’s 1993.
- Matt Broome drew issue twenty-six, immediately causing me to miss Greg Capullo. Cable is recovering from his injuries, and the team is surprised by just how much of him is cybernetic (there is still no discussion of him having a techno-organic virus). He finally wakes up, and appears to have a moustache for one panel. Later, we see him awake and walking around, with Professor’s programming embedded into his circuitry. Sam and Bobby fly off to Madripoor to tell Xi’an about Illyana dying in an X-Men book. Boom-Boom flirts with Sam, and then doesn’t react well when Rictor flirts with her. Apparently she loves Sam now. Shatterstar practices, while Siryn gets drunk. She flirts with, and kisses Cable, before collapsing. Warpath comes to take care of her, and we learn that she’s been drinking a lot lately, and that he is afraid to confront her about it, because he doesn’t want to be rejected. Shatterstar annoys Rictor with his incessant channel-flipping, and this leads to Cable thinking about his role as a leader/father-figure to the group. In Virginia, a prison is attacked with flaming rain, and a new mutant, Reignfire, frees four members of the Mutant Liberation Front – Forearm, Tempo, Reaper, and Wildside. He plans to restart the MLF, only this time with more effectiveness and input from his recruits. His plan is to kidnap and kill Henry Peter Gyrich.
- Annual #2 appears to fit here. A young mutant named Michelle is on the run in Phoenix, chased by her former friend X-Treme, the embodiment of 90s excess. He has pointy ears, lots of knives all over his costume, claws like Wolverine, and a variety of ponytails in his long blond hair. He cuts you to oxygenate your blood, and then he can use his power to make your blood burn or something. He’s also an alien who doesn’t remember his life, except when he does remember his home planet, but he is also somehow a mutant. 90s! He fights Michelle, saying he has to return her to Strong, some guy who somehow has control over them. X-Force, in the form of Cable, Shatterstar, Rictor, Warpath, and Sunspot show up, but are largely unable to stop him. He decides to leave, threatening Michelle, who explains who he is to the team, before they all teleport to their IPAC and fly off. We learn that X-Treme is following them, but Cable is also following him! It turns out that Sam and Theresa are working undercover internships at a scientific research place called Foundations, where they sneak into a secret restricted lab, where they find imprisoned mutants in jars, and an angry Feral. X-Treme tracks X-Force, but they distract him so Warpath, Shatterstar, and Rictor can attack him on their flying cycles. Warpath finally takes him down by bashing his head into Shatterstar’s, and he talks about how he hunts mutants for Strong because that’s the only way he’ll learn who he really is. Michelle, who also goes by Neurotap, explains her backstory to Cable and the others, and we learn that Strong has been collecting mutants but also studying them. Cable gets the two new characters to agree to go with him to stop Strong. Martin Henry Strong himself confronts Theresa and Sam about their snooping, and they are unable to stop him from giving them a beatdown. They get trussed up near Feral, who also attacks him. He’s trying to cure mutants. The rest of the team arrive at Foundations. X-Treme takes the supposedly unconscious Rictor and Boom-Boom with him, and they attack Strong. The others arrive and there is fighting for pages. Neurotap turns on them, but Cable and X-Treme together are able to stop Strong, who it turns out, is a deformed mutant hiding in a psychically-constructed body. The others are freed, everyone talks a lot, and Cable sort-of offers X-Treme a place on the team, but he declines. This annual was drawn by Antonio Daniel, and man has he gotten a lot better since.
- The recently freed members of the MLF surround Gyrich’s home, and he decides to use them to test Hardaway, a new cybernetic operative he’s had built. Hardaway is dropped by the two new members of the MLF – Moonstar (who really seems to be Dani) and Locus. Locus pulls Gyrich out of his house, and they teleport away. Val Cooper, Nick Fury, Professor Xavier, and Forge discuss this, and decide they can’t send X-Factor or the X-Men in to rescue Gyrich. Cable and X-Force watch intercepted video of this discussion, and decide that they should run the rescue op. Tempus talks to Moonstar about how she doesn’t feel like she fits in the MLF. Reignfire talks to Gyrich about his plans to create a mutant army and blah blah blah. X-Force split up upon arriving at Reignfire’s base, which is Magneto’s old island in the Bermuda Triangle. The original members bust into the base, and Sam is dropped by Moonstar’s arrow. Sunspot is surprised to see his old friend. Warpath, Siryn, and Shatterstar mix it up with the rest of the MLF, and while ‘Star is about to cut up Reaper, he realizes that Wildside has Siryn by the throat. Cable and Feral make their way to Gyrich, but Reignfire shows up, and offers the downed Cable a place in his army.
- Cable continues to fight Reignfire, and shoots him into the path of the fleeing Feral and Henry Peter Gyrich. Feral gets more and more aggressive with Gyrich, continually berating him for his anti-mutant views and threatening to kill him. Shatterstar surends to Wildside, bargaining for Siryn’s life, but when Wildside decides to leave with Reaper, Siryn, and Shatterstar’s sword, the hero from another dimension uses a mutant ability we never knew he had to fire energy through his sword by humming at it, killing Reaper. He then attacks Wildside while talking about how draining his mutant power is (despite not being tired for the rest of the issue). Warpath shows up with an unconscious Forearm. Elsewhere, Sam is still knocked out by Moonstar’s attack. Sunspot and Boom-Boom are surprised to see her, and after she takes out Boom-Boom, Sunspot fires energy at her. They all end up teleporting outside through Locus’s power. Feral almost gets Gyrich to the IPAC when they start arguing more. Feral decides to attack him, but is stopped by Tempo, who wants Gyrich stopped but not killed. Feral and her start to fight. Cable and Reignfire keep fighting, and it’s revealed that the new villain knows Cable’s real name. Siryn comes and takes him out, and we see that there is just a lot of fighting happening on the island (although Sam and Rictor are nowhere to be seen). Reignfire attacks Tempo, who he sees as a traitor, and then offers Feral a spot on the MLF, which she accepts (and is then shot by Cable). Reignfire calls Moonstar and Locus to him, and then drops Gyrich from quite a height. The two remaining MLF’ers fire at him, and Bobby suddenly develops flight abilities and takes the hit instead, which somehow causes feedback with Locus’s powers, and they are all teleported away, including Bobby. Gyrich falls into the water, and when he speaks negatively about X-Force, Cable knocks him out.
- Arcade watches videos of Shatterstar, including a live feed that shows him getting dropped off in Phoenix by Rictor, so he can spend more time getting to know American culture. Arcade orders his abduction. Sam and Boom-Boom get ready for a vacation to Kentucky to stay with Sam’s mother. Cable sees them off, and we learn that it’s been three weeks since Bobby went missing with no trace, and that Feral defected. Cable talks to Tempo, who has been staying with them, but she is hostile to his offer to stay. Theresa watches video of Bobby disappearing while drinking herself into a stupor. James comes to confront her about her drinking and tells her how he feels about her, but she counters that she hates herself and uses her powers to break stuff. Cable talks briefly to both of them, and worries that his team is falling apart. He calls Domino (the real one) and she says she can be with him within a couple of hours. Shatterstar wakes up in Murderworld, knocks out a guard, and has a chat with Arcade about why he’s there. He sees that the family he was speaking to in Phoenix is also held prisoner, and three members of Mojo’s Imperial Protectorate arrive to threaten them. Shatterstar begins to fight them and rescue the family, which takes more than a few pages. The family is freed, and Mojo provides Shatterstar with his costume he first wore when he arrived on Earth, and tells him that Major-Domo hired him to kill him. Arcade says he was also hired to test another mutant, and X-Treme appears, ready to fight.
- Shatterstar and X-Treme fight each other, not really wanting to win. Adam thinks he’s stopped Shatterstar, and he begins to argue with Arcade, but ‘Star attacks him again. It becomes clear that Adam is only fighting because if he doesn’t someone will die, and it’s revealed that that someone is Windsong, Shatterstar’s wife. At Camp Verde, Tempo leaves, wanting to resume her life, and Domino arrives, having somehow driven her jeep with a gun in her hand and her legs twisted around her in a ‘sexy’ pose. She isn’t sure she should be with her team, because of Vanessa having taken her place before (what did ever happen to that whole plotline with Domino, Vanessa, and the Six Pack survivors? It was either ignored or resolved in Cable’s book – weird). James goes to talk to Theresa, who apologizes for lashing out, and invites him to go on a trip to Ireland with her. In Ireland, Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut show up at Cassidy Keep. Shatterstar reveals that on his homeworld, wives are chosen for genetic compatibility, and recognizes that this Windsong is actually a hologram. Arcade is surprised to learn that Windsong is his wife. ‘Star and Adam decide to work together, and disable Arcade’s cameras, before trying to track him down. They get confused a little by his funhouse base, fight a bunch of guards, and arrive in Arcade’s control room as he is about to escape. Windsong is trotted out again, and this time, instead of allowing Adam to kill him, Shatterstar stabs himself in the chest. Arcade has the name of the person who hired him to test Adam, but he eats that paper. ‘Star sneaks up behind Arcade, runs him through with his sword, and reveals that he was a robot all along. Later, the two men part ways. Adam knows that some guy named Milbury hired Arcade, and wants to look into it. Rictor picks Shatterstar up, and they head back to their base.
- Issue thirty-one is a Siryn/Warpath only story, and it feels like Nicieza is trying to get his best Claremont on, spinning a story of the woes of the Cassidy family. It’s pretty dull, and I think this is probably the issue that convinced me to finally give up on X-Force, as I only collected the comic for two more issues after this one. Warpath is in Ireland, sitting at a bar with a local journalist and childhood friend of Theresa’s, Kelvin (sometimes Kevin because it’s 90s editing in here) Doneghann. We learn about how Theresa’s mother died when she was born, and how her 2nd cousin, who she’s always seen as an uncle, Tom Cassidy, took her in when her father/his cousin Sean was away. Theresa is drunk in the garden of her family’s keep. James takes her inside, and they talk about her upbringing. The journalist meets with Cain Marko, the Juggernaut, to talk about how Black Tom is unwell, and in hiding. This spins out a little more of Theresa’s story, including how Sean took out his anger over his wife’s death on Tom, injuring his leg, which led to Tom hiding Theresa’s existence from him. James and Theresa talk while she gardens, and we learn that she started drinking when Tom sent her off to boarding school at age twelve, and how later she discovered that he was involved in criminal activities. The journalist learns that Black Tom is dying from whatever changes were made to him in France (in some other title), and rushes to arrange a meeting between Juggernaut and James. They do meet, in a church, and James offers that if Black Tom turns himself in, he will get medical treatment. Black Tom meets with Theresa at her mother’s grave, and they work through some emotions. Theresa pours out her flask, and Black Tom surrenders himself to the police. Juggernaut thanks James for helping out.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1993 cites an average press run of 714 000, with average newsstand returns of 141 000.
- Issue thirty-two launches the beginning of the four-part Child’s Play crossover with New Warriors, and the last story arc I bought before dropping this title for a while. I’ve said this before, but with the sheer number of characters in this issue, and the complicated to non-existent character motivations, this is one of the most 90s storylines I could think of. In Brazil, Magma is walking alone in the jungle. We learn that she is no longer Amara Aquilla, but Allison Crestmere, and that Nova Roma never existed, all in narration, and Amara is attacked by the Fenris twins, who have armed and pouched goons who take her down with anti-mutant coil things. The twins talk about their next prey (they are on an organized hunt for former New Mutants and Hellions as a way of gaining entry into an organization called the Upstarts) when their men turn their guns on them, forcing the twins to use their mutant energy to stop them, and we see Empath running away. In New York, the New Warrior Justice hangs out at the Hellfire Club with Shinobi Shaw, who has taken it over. When Shaw walks off to meet with what looks like Psylocke and Sabretooth, Vance talks to Night Thrasher about how he has infiltrated the organization. In Kentucky, Siryn and Warpath stand over Sam’s father’s grave to pay their respects. Shatterstar and Rictor use a device to scan a field, and we learn through their conversation with Josh, Sam’s brother, that Sam and Boomer have been taken, although they can’t identify the energy use. Paige Guthrie, who has developed some powers but is not yet Husk I don’t think, tells Cable and Domino about how she watched as Sam and Boomer swam in a pond and were attacked by a woman who took them out quickly and then teleported away. This is nowhere near where ‘Star and Rictor are scanning, so I guess we know why they aren’t finding any clues. Cable feels nostalgic for a childhood he never had, and Domino, who I guess is part of the team now, even though we never saw her meet the group, talks to him for a bit, and we learn that Sam and Boomer can’t be found. We learn that that’s because they are floating in collective consciousness or something, where a yellow astral mutant called Gamesmaster is keeping them and Amara. He’s summoned the Upstarts – Siena Blaze (who took out Sam and Boomer), Graydon Creed, Shaw, and Trevor Fitzroy. They are collecting mutants for points, and Shaw and Fitzroy don’t have any yet, which upsets them. In Brazil, Empath returns to the camp where the former Nova Romans are living and working to reintegrate into society (Bobby’s mother is there too) just as Fenris attack, killing many. They are about to attack again when they are taken down by Moonstar, who just happens to be in one of the trees. She apologizes to Mrs. DaCosta about what happened to Bobby, without saying anything about that. Cable talks to Sam’s mom about how Paige wants to become a superhero, but are interrupted when Trevor Fitzroy, wearing the loading dock suit from Alien, appears and asks for permission to take Warpath and Rictor with him. Instead, X-Force prepare to fight. Gamesmaster thinks, while Shaw asks Justice to go fight the New Warriors for him, and bring him Firestar as a way of keeping his other friends safe. He flies off to fight.
- Issue thirty-three is the third part of the Child’s Play crossover with the New Warriors, but it doesn’t seem like the second part was all that necessary to understanding what’s going on here. X-Force fight against Trevor Fitzroy, while Warpath discovers his little servant Bantam, hiding behind him. James learns that Bantam has some sort of control over the teleportation portals that Fitzroy uses, so X-Force decides to trick Fitzroy into returning them to his last location. To do this, Cable makes it look like his metal arm is made of flesh; when Fitzroy tries to feed on his energy, he creates some sort of feedback loop, draining his own energy, and opening a portal that X-Force throw Bantam through, and then follow, taking Fitzroy with them. Paige Guthrie decides she needs to follow, against her mother’s objections, but then we don’t see her again, so that’s weird. Gamesmaster checks out his captives so far – Magma, Empath, Cannonball, Boomer, Moonstar, and Karma (although we don’t actually see her). Justice brings him Firestar, and Gamesmaster makes it clear that he knows that Vance and Shinobi Shaw were working against him in secret, and that in even more secret, Vance was working against Shinobi. We see the New Warriors make an assault on Graydon Creed’s office, where he tells them where the captive New Mutants and Hellions are. Bantam appears above Shaw’s bathtub, followed by X-Force, although without Fitzroy or Paige, which doesn’t make any sense. Shaw, feeling threatened, tells X-Force about the Upstarts, and where they can find their friends. We learn that Xi’an has been pretending to be unconscious, and she revives the other captives. Sam is upset to see Moonstar, who is the only person still masked. Xi’an brings Siena Blaze, who she was controlling, into the room, only to have the Gamesmaster take over Blaze, and use her to attack the kids. Gamesmaster does a villainous monologue for a bit, and we see that he plans on using this group to fight the New Warriors and X-Force when they arrive.
At this point, I remember being pretty sick of this title, and I abandoned it. When Nicieza took over the title, he had a lot of messes to clean up, as Rob Liefeld was more interested in throwing concepts and characters into the book, with no time or space to develop or resolve any of them. That kept Nicieza busy for a while, but as time passed, he seemed to get too bogged down in b-plots, and began to abandon them (or perhaps resolve them in other places – I really don’t remember a single thing about his Cable comic).
For ages, we followed the real Domino as she tracked down members of the Wild Pack, to get them to help her track down Cable, X-Force, and Vanessa, the woman that stole her identity. Once most of these groups were together, that storyline just disappeared, without any mention of it again. Later, Domino just picks up the phone when Cable calls, and then she’s part of the team, no questions asked. It didn’t really work for me.
Likewise, Nicieza wrote out Feral (thankfully, she’s awful) and Sunspot, and it felt like they were just gone. The crossover with the New Warriors had villains like Siena Blaze showing up with no explanation – I still don’t know who she is.
I could tell that Nicieza was working on developing these characters a little more. He gave Siryn a drinking problem, but then had her fix it in a hurry. James Proudstar became more than background filler, although the whole reason why he joined X-Force, to make the Hellfire Club pay for slaughtering his entire reservation, was both swept under the carpet, and continuously thrown in our faces when the team moved to the abandoned res. When attempts were made to give Shatterstar some depth, he was revealed to be as shallow as any Liefeld creation, and was best left as beefcake and action fodder.
Nicieza’s work with the most established characters – Sam and Boom-Boom, also didn’t work for me. It was never clear when Boom-Boom became Boomer, or how anyone thought that would be better for her, just like her relationship with Sam grew so glacially as to feel like it was simply the product of editorial mandate. At one point, they are the only people on the team that have mutual trust and friendship, the next, they’re necking in a pond on Sam’s farm. The relationship always feels false to me.
Cable was best used in this comic when he was gone from it. The team trying to figure out its direction without its leader, and Sam’s desire to fill his shoes made it interesting. Once he returned, he was stripped of most of the mystery that made him work before, and what was left was uninteresting. His desire to be a better leader could have gone somewhere, but only seemed to be trotted out when space needed filling.
When this run was at its best was when Greg Capullo was drawing it. I’m not such a huge fan of his current work (I like Reborn, but not his Batman), but at the time, he was easily the most consistent storyteller to ever work on this title (aside from Mignola’s one-shot issue), and Nicieza’s writing supported his strengths. After Capullo left, and the book was given to a very fresh Tony Daniel and Matt Broome, it suffered a lot.
The X-Cutioner’s Song and its aftermath worked well here. The team felt like it was a part of a coherent X-Office at Marvel, and that there was collaboration with the other titles. As that started to fracture, so did the title. Towards the end of this pile, I felt like Nicieza was aping the worst of Scott Lobdell’s writing ticks, like the Theresa/James issue in Ireland.
Anyway, I didn’t really look back after dropping this title. I dropped the other X-books a few months later (I remember the Phalanx Covenant serving as a clear final straw for me), although Mark Waid’s X-Men drew me back in just as Onslaught got under way. I don’t know how much longer Nicieza stayed on the book, but I know that Jeph Loeb took over after him, which guaranteed that I wasn’t going to check out the book again. Later still, when it was being written by John Francis Moore and drawn by the excellent Adam Pollina, I checked the title out again and started buying it regularly for a good while. We’ll look at those issues next time.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you can follow these links for trade paperbacks that include them:
X-Force: Assault On Graymalkin
X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song
X-Force: Toy Soldiers
Deadpool & X-Force Omnibus
X-Men: Fatal Attractions
X-Force: Child’s Play
Tags: Retro Reviews, X-Force