This was a fun one! We're diving into X-Force, Volume 1 # 26 - 31 and X-Force Annual, Volume 1 # 2 which were published between September 1993 and February 1994.
# 26 is a classic slow issue, which was probably the best X-Force issue yet in regards to character development.
Annual # 2 is a typical 90's bonanza with a new character named X-Treme Adam X being introduced.
#27 - 28 was loads of fun with the debut of a new mysterious villain named Reignfire who is re-forming the Mutant Liberation Front (MLF). One of their members is Dani Moonstar! Feral defects! Tempo grows a conscience. Sunspot can fly?!
#29 - 30 has a little Arcade rout with Shatterstar and X-Treme!
#31 gives us a lot of backstory on Siryn, Black Tom, and even Banshee and Juggernaut say hello.
#26: A fun, slow issue
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Matt Broome
Following the events of Fatal Attractions, Cable's life hangs in the limbs after the attack by Magneto. The team sits by his side and eventually, he comes online...I mean alive.
Sam and Roberto are heading to Singapore to tell Xian (Karma) about Illyana's death. Maybe they'll tell her about the Hellions while they are there. Maybe even ask if she ever found her siblings, since we certainly never found out.
A few things here. First, Boomer is joking with Sam about being immortal, so that plotline doesn't seemed to be retconned out anytime soon.
Also, even more concrete proof that the two of them are dating as they are holding hands, kissing (kind of?), and she says she loves him.
Again, another few fun things here to dig into. First, Boomer used to have the hots for Rictor when they were both junior members of X-Factor. Second, Rictor is putting doubt in her mind about whether Sam loves her back or not. I'm really not sure where this is going, but I'm invested and curious.
Rictor contines his role as the love Guru, this time giving Feral advice to go after Shatterstar more directly if she has feelings for him.
Siryn shows up drunk, hitting in Shatty, followed by Cable. We find out that she's doing that a lot. It's pretty cool looking back at this because when I originally read it I was thinking "this is a pretty big plot point to throw at us out of the blue," but the last story I'm covering today actually dives deeper into her past and it all makes a bit more sense.
At least Nicieza is trying to add some characterizations, however he does by hitting us over the head with a brick with the point he is trying to make. "Does Sam love you back?" "You care about Shatterstar, go for him." "James, I know how you feel about Siryn." I would rather be shown how people feel, not be directly told. But it's still better than using the characters for nothing more than cool pinups (Cough, Leifeld, Cough).
This legitimately cracked me up. Shatty picks up the remote and can't stop changing the channel. This also triggered something as I had DEFINITELY seen this scene before. I think I actually did own and read this one as a kid, but I must have been going in and out and not really known what was going on, therefore didn't really retain the memories.
Awww. Cable helps him more efficiently channel surf.
New baddie Reignfire breaks Forearm, Tempo, Wildside, and Reaper out of jail. We'll see a lot more of these two, plus two more fun MLF newbs in the next two issues.
Annual # 2: Extreeeeeeme!
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Antonio Daniel
Holy 90's! To make a long story short, Siryn and Sam are posing as grad students to get access to a mysterious scientist (and potential crime lord) named Martin Strong, who had recently captured Feral (as part of a ploy) and attempted to experiment on her and other mutants.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of focus on Shatterstar as he runs into a mutant named Nuerotap being attacked by some guy literally called Adam X-Treme X! This reminds me of those guys from Harold and Kumar who break into the convenience mart and keep yelling "Extreme!" every time they did something cool. It turns out X-Treme is actually not that bad of a guy and he partners with X-Force, which leads them to...you guessed it...Martin Strong.
X-Force plus X-Treme confront Martin Strong, eventually realizing that he was really a baby fish looking mutant wearing a suit of a really strong guy, completing experiments on mutants to help others like himself. Instead of killing Strong and blowing up the facility, Cable decides to let it stand, marking a softening of his own EXTREME approach to everything.
#27 - 28: Reignfire and the Fall of Feral
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Antonio Daniel
So the 4 members of MLF who were freed last issue (Wildside, Forearm, Tempo, Reaper) are attacking Peter Guyrich on behalf of Reignfire and the new MLF. Wildside, who is a sicko, is having a little too much fun attacking, killing, and I'm guessing mutilating the guards, much to the dismay of Tempo.
Guyrich has a Cyborg guy named Hardaway on hand to protect him, but he's eventually dispatched and never heard from again.
The MLF gets backup from tow of it's newest members, Locus and...a Native American Female riding a flying horse who is using a bow and arrow to mess with people's minds...that's Dani fricken Moonstar!
This is a HUGE deal considering I have Dani as my 6th favorite X-Men character the last time I did a ranking (1990). She doesn't officially identify herself, but she goes by the name "Moonstar" sooooo it's her.
Tempo announces that she hates all of what they are doing.
SHIELD, Forge/X-Factor, and Professor X are trying to decide how to respond to this kidnapping and they decide to send in the rough and tough X-Force.
Dani is pushing Tempo on why she's there and we see that she is seriously having second thoughts.
This was a pretty cool shot of Boomer, Rictor, and Sunspot all using their ranged attacks as they engage the MLF.
Roberto recognizes her right away and she kind of blows him off for now. What's going on!? I can't wait to find out. Can she join the team like Rictor and Sunspot did!? That would be awesome!
A bloody battle breaks out.
Cable takes on Reignfire directly and gets his ass kicked at first.
For some dumb reason, Feral is assigned to safeguarding Guyrich. She keeps mentioning that she hates him and he is egging her on with a bunch of asshole comments.
Lol, Reaper loses his hand again. When I saw Reaper I thought to myself (Lol, are they gonna cut off his hand again). But then when it happened, I didn't laugh. That's enough guys, that's getting old.
Shatterstar unveils a (mutant?) power, something about shockwaves or something. That's interesting.
After 2 issues of being annoyed, Feral finally gives in and attacks Guyrich. She would have killed him if it wasn't for....
Tempo. As Feral breaks bad, Tempo starts listening to her conscience.
Feral officially defects to the MLF. Wow.
As Reignfire tries to kill Guyrich, Roberto figures out how to fly and levitates up to save him.
Super cool!!! The only problem is that shortly after this, Roberto gets pulled into one of Locus's temporal vortexes, so the team walks away from this mission + 1 Guyrich but down two team members (Feral who defected and Roberto who is lost in the portal with MLF).
#29 - 30: Yuck, Arcade is back.
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Matt Broome (29), Tony Daniel (30)
If you've been following my blogs, then you know I'm not a big Arcade fan, so I'm going to just skip through this quickly.
We get some quick lip service that Sam and the team has spent 3 weeks looking for Roberto, unsuccessfully, so this earned him the dreaded red box in his team graphic since it looks like he'll be gone for a while. We also get a quick heads up that Sam is bringing Tabby (Boomer) to Kentucky with him, setting up a future story (not covered today). Theresa (Siryns) also asks James (Warpath) if she'll go with him to Cassidy Keep, also setting up a future story (that I am covering today). Finally, the real Domino shows up. She'll officially join the roster if she sticks around next time.
Most of these two issues focus on Shatterstar being stuck in Murderworld with Arcade. This is actually a smart choice considering Shatterstar comes from a world where you fight to the death for entertainment. If I liked Arcade, I would maybe like this. Adam X-Treme X shows up and they bond. We learn that Shatterstar has a wife named Windsong, but he's never actually met her (more like an arranged marriage). They fight and stuff and we learn a bit more about Shatterstar.
# 31: Cassidy Keep Part 2
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Pencils - Antonio Daniel
This issue is essentially a one issue novella chronicling the backstory of Siryn and Black Tom. It's pretty good and I highly recommend reading it fully yourself if you are even remotely interesting in either of these characters.
To make a long story short, we learn that Black Tom loved Theresa's mothers (assuming he was straight at the time?) but she choose Banshee (maybe she knew he wasn't straight?). Unfortunately, Banshee pretty much neglected her because of how busy he was with Interpol (this goes all the way back to the original run, people). Theresa's mother died and Black Tom decided to raise Theresa as his daughter, hiding her existence from Banshee. We see that she spent most of her time alone and in boarding schools while slowly realizing that her adoptive dad wasn't a great guy. When she found out the truth about her dad, the schism between the two of them increased, prompting her to go off on her own to Muir Island (where we caught up with her in UXM).
Nicieza pulls off a really great juxtaposition between the MLF villain Tempo and X-Force member Feral. Over the course of the series (and a bit of New Mutants), we have seen that Feral is a bit...well, Feral. She is always pretty ferocious and a big too trigger happy. She's never fully got along with her team, but when it counted she had her team's back and it worked in the whole "X-Force is extreme" motif. Also, Peter David had first introduced the concept of Tempo having a conscience back in X-Factor # 78 when she tipped off a scientist (who may have been her dad) about an upcoming terrorist attack. This issue doubles down on Tempo starting to question the ferociousness of Wildside and the tactics of her team as a whole. You can see two different characters heading on opposing paths, eventually culminating in a moment when Feral snaps and attempts to kill Guyrich, giving in to her darker ages and is saved by Tempo, the villain who is moving the other way on the ideological spectrum. It's all expertly done. 2 points for you, Nicieza.
Speaking of Feral, take a second to look at her in my MLF graphic. When I make my team graphic, I try to choose a background image that includes all iterations of a team with the most team members possible. I had never even noticed that both Feral and Dani were on here until today. And then even today, I was making this graphic and I had everyone in place but Feral...that's when I noticed that the picture of her from the background image was actually perfectly in place! A bit creepy, to be honest. So I left it like that, for fun!
I almost buried the lead here, folks! Dani Fricken Moonstar is back in my life and I couldn't be happier. This means a lot to me because she was my 6th favorite X-Men character in my most recent ranks (from 1990). I'll do an updated one when I get to 1995. Dani is a villain at the moment, but I don't care, I'm just so happy to see her. Maybe that's why Feral left, to make room for her. Can't wait.
Speaking of former New Mutants characters, Karma (Xi'an Coy Mahn) is namedropped with Sam and Roberto traveling to Singapore to tell her about Illyana. Warpath, Firestar, and Sam had gone to Nova Roma a few issues back to tell Magma about the death of the Hellions, and as your resident X-Men historian I can't get enough of these callbacks!
Fabian Nicieza staying put as writer with Matt Broome (26, 29) and Tony Daniel (Ann 2, 27 - 28, 30 - 31) taking turns on pencils.
I like that Nicieza is trying to add some characterizations, however he does so by hitting us over the head with a brick with the point he is trying to make. "Does Sam love you back?" "You care about Shatterstar, go for him." "James, I know how you feel about Siryn." I would rather be shown how people feel, not be directly told. But it's still better than using the characters for nothing more than cool pinups (Cough, Leifeld, Cough).
Again, I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. I really enjoy that Nicieza is slowing things down and adding characterization to the team, it's just worth nothing that he's not as good at it as Claremont or even Scott Lobdell are, but that's ok. I still consider him slightly above average, which is good enough. And, as mentioned above, he gets a lot of points in my book for the great juxtaposition between Feral and Tempo and continuing to lean into the past (Dani, Karma, Magma, etc.)
From a team perspective, my guess is that the team was getting way too big (definitely getting harder to make my graphic). Some characters had to go (Feral defects, Roberto disappears) while others are finally given some of the characterization they need to thrive (Siryn, Rictor, Shatterstar).
I feel like Rictor is the character who has taken the greatest leap forward. I mentioned last blog how he was being assigned as team leader so short after re-joining the group. This issue he is walking around serving as the love guru, pushing other characters to face their feelings. I would guess that Rictor is a favorite of Nicieza and that we'll continue to see more of him in coming issues. Also, just for fun, remember when Rictor used to look like this:
And now he looks like this:
Boomer's character advancement is mostly tied to Sam. She openly loves him and Sam is bringing her to meet his parents, but Rictor is making her question whether he loves her.
You can argue that this was the most we got out of Feral, and it's likely the end of her development. In #26 we see it openly discussed that she has the hots for Shatterstar. However, that probably won't matter in the future as she eventually goes dark this issue and defects to the MLF. I'm guessing that she was one of the characters who didn't make the cut moving forward, so she was given a fitting end and written out, however we may see her pop up from time to time with the MLF, helping to keep them relevant.
I really like when characters switch allegiances. This is a really fitting touch for Feral. Colossus has been pretty boring over the years and his recent heel turn seems earned and has me more interested than I've been before. And you should all know how much I love Magneto's nuance over the years and how pissed I am that it was undone during Fatal Attractions.
James (Warpath) gets the short stick this week. We do get to see more of him, but it's tied more to how he responds to his feelings for Theresa as opposed to learning about him. If I didn't know he was in for big things, I would guess that he might be written out next.
Cable is not front and center and I would argue that's a good thing. We've been learning how much we like all these kids, so I'm glad he's not taking over. We see him more in the background, doing small kind things for everyone, such as helping Shatterstar to more efficiently channel surf. His old girlfriend comes back into town, so that should be a fun thing to explore. We know him and fake Domino were "together" but what is his relationship with this Domino like!? I genuinely don't know and am ready to find out.
The biggest story with Cannonball blasting out of the last issues were whether or not he would retain team leadership. If I hadn't stopped to reflect and write this blog, I may have not even noticed that Cable did in fact take back over, however it's being done smoothly and I appreciate that. Both he and Cable took a backseat here to the other teams who desperately needed to catch up in the characterization department.
Siryn gets an entire issue dedicated to her and I really enjoyed it. We learn that she had a rocky upbringing and has a drinking problem. I do feel invested in her future. Can she get clean? Will she realize that James is the man for her? Tune in next week to find out!
Really quick, are we done following Vanessa (Copycat)? I know we have too many characters, but I was really interested to see if we would continue following her. I just looked it up and it looks like she's been dropped, damn. We'll see more of her way later in the Cable series and a bunch when Deadpool gets his own comic, but she seems to be dropped for now. Too bad.
Alright, let's get into Sunspot. I've never been a giant supporter of Roberto, but I've liked him well enough. This was perhaps my favorite issue(s) with him. He didn't necessarily get a lot of characterization, but he was the one to have the reaction to Dani. Also, he can fricken fly now. What!? I didn't know that was coming, so that was pretty cool. There was no hints dropped about that coming at all, so that's cool. Also, I was quickly scrolling through the panels looking for images of Roberto and I accidentally took a screenshot of Reignfire. They look a little similar. And Roberto learned to fly this week. And Roberto disappeared with them. Is there something to this? Let's find out.
Dani Moonstar is back in my life. Will she stay a villain? I doubt it. Will she join the team? I don't care how packed the team already is, I want more Dani. I want her on the team. I'm going to write into Marvel and suggest this. Oh wait, this was written almost 30 years ago. Oh well, let's just see what happens.
My Rating and Review - 9/10
I have such a soft spot for X-Force and this shit was good! A hero goes bad, a villain goes good, Roberto learns to fly, minor characters get propped up, a new mysterious villain, and Roberto learns to fly. Ummm, yes please. Also, you didn't even need any of that, you could have just given me Dani. Arcade...you're lucky you got lumped in with this other awesome story.
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