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Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-amining X-Force #4

"Sabotage: Part 2"
November 1991

In a Nutshell
X-Force & Spider-Man fight Black Tom & Juggernaut

Plot/Art: Rob Liefeld
Balloon Stuffer: Fabian Nicieza
Print & Bigger Print: Rosen/Eliopoulos
Stays Inside the Lines: Bryan Murray
Recovering Nicely: Bob Harras
Lost-But-Happy: Tom DeFalco

Spider-Man and X-Force fight Juggernaut, while in the tower above, Cable tracks down Black Tom. They each fire at the other, with Black Tom getting blasted into an open elevator shaft. Clinging on for life, he surrenders to Cable, but Cable shoots him instead, sending him plummeting down the shaft, where he's teleported away by Deadpool, on orders from Mr. Tolliver. On the street below, GW Bridge and SHIELD arrive on the scene just as X-Force is able to remove Juggernaut's helmet. Cable then joins them, declaring he's going to finish Juggernaut once and for all. But before he can, Deadpool pops in and teleports away with Juggernaut as well, leaving X-Force face-to-face with Bridge, who formally announces that Cable is under arrest. Cable responds by teleporting the team back to their ship, As they fly home, Cannonball asks Cable what Bridge has against him, and Cable responds that he wishes he knew.

Firsts and Other Notables
"Sabotage" comes to a close this issue (labeled part two even though it's really more like part three), with Black Tom and Juggernaut whisked away by Deadpool (on orders from Mr. Tolliver) before X-Force gets a chance to do anything lasting to either (or even bring them to justice for the massive terrorist bombing they perpetrated. Both will appear again next issue, Black Tom not again until Deadpool's limited series (Juggernaut appears there, as well as some other places, between now and then).

Mike Mignola contributes a pinup to this issue, and it's easily the best looking thing in it.

As with Spider-Man #16, this issue is told in "sideways" format, requiring the book to be turned on its side to be read. As with Spider-Man #16, it is annoying and ultimately pointless.

A Work in Progress
Warpath, in what, if we're feeling charitable, could be a metatextual bit of commentary on the story, complains about being sick of fighting Juggernaut, which makes sense, given that he's been doing nothing but that for three issues straight (including the Spider-Man chapter).

Warpath and Shatterstar perform a manga-inspired fastball special.

Juggernaut declares that he heals fast, continuing the idea that he can be wounded, however briefly.

Cannonball and Boom-Boom are absent from this issue; Cable notes that they're helping survivors of the tower explosion (which is a nice bit of scripting, explaining their absence while also acknowledging some of the reprecussions of this kind of attack). Similarly, Sunspot and Gideon have disappeared between Spider-Man #16 and this issue.

We get a little soliloquy from Black Tom explaining his motivations for starting this hostage situation and blowing up one of the towers, but it pretty much falls apart and turns into villain ranting after "to get Juggernaut back".

In a nice acknowledgement of their past together, Juggernaut refers to Siryn as "Theresa" (when Siryn was first introduced, she was working with her uncle and Juggernaut).

Cable erroneously refers to Juggernaut as a mutant; he is not one.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Spider-Man references Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, the commanding officer of "Operation: Desert Storm".

501 Genes
I don't even know what's happening to Spider-Man's fingers in the panel where he's vaulting over Juggernaut. Also, as can be seen in this scan, the web lines on Spider-Man's costume tend to come and go as Rob pleases throughout this issue.

Cable actually gets a moderately funny line when he notes the irony of Black Tom hanging onto an elevator cable for life, except that Liefeld draws Tom hanging onto the edge of the doorway, not a cable.

For whatever reason, this panel of Bridge and two random SHIELD agents also struck me as being very proto-Youngblood.

I don't even know where Deadpool is in relation to everyone else - a hole in the ground?

To the EXTREME! 
Cable declares that he's not taking Black Tom to prison, that he'll only escape and confront them again, and shoots him point blank, knocking him down an elevator shaft. It's really the first time someone on the team as lived up to the premise of the book, doing something extreme that traditional superheroes wouldn't, but it's mostly undercut by the reveal that Tom survives and is ferreted away by Deadpool.

Austin's Analysis
Well, this story ends mostly as it lived: a lot of nonsensical, repetitive fighting (in which Spider-Man and X-Force rush Juggernaut, and when that doesn't work, try it again) which does nothing with Spider-Man, completely squandering the small bit of potential introduced at the end of the Spider-Man #16, finished off by a deus ex Deadpool-a, as he pops up to teleport Black Tom and Juggernaut away, abruptly ending the story and prompting everyone else to just shrug and go home. As with Spider-Man #16, the sideways gimmick doesn't really add anything, other than to make the whole thing read a lot faster because pretty much every page is a giant splash page.

The one interesting moment is Cable straight-up executing Black Tom, after spouting some more "no more of this traditional letting the bad guy go to prison only to bedevil us again later!" rhetoric, the first time in the series' short history that it actually lives up to its promise to be more extreme and do things differently than a traditional superhero team. But all that is undone by the fact that, while Cable believes he's killed Black Tom, the readers are quickly shown this is not the case. So in the end, all we've got is a rehash of Spider-Man #16 drawn by Rob Liefeld, and one mildly intriguing moment that gets immediately undercut, an unfortunately-perfect example of the style (such as it is) over substance approach that defines the early goings of this title.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor makes its official debut in X-Factor #72. Next week, Magneto goes wild in X-Men #2, and hijinks ensure in Excalibur #43.

Collected Editions


  1. "Juggernaut declares that he heals fast, continuing the idea that he can be wounded, however briefly."
    To clarify, the dialogue implies that he can only be wounded by a MYSTICAL weapon, which Shatterstar's sword qualifies as.

  2. As I mentioned in the Spider-Man write-up, the change in Spidey's tone from McFarlane's "shit's about to get real, lemme show you how to take this guy out!" cliffhanger to Liefeld's* "everyone randomly dogpile on Juggernaut!" was downright jarring when these books were released. Jarring, then sad, and finally enlightening. I don't know exactly when my idiot teenage self finally gave up on Liefeld for good, but I do remember these two issues being a huge piece of the puzzle.

    Also, I like the "deus ex Deadpool" line, but really it was all about teleporters back in this era. I can't count how many fights/confrontations ended in the X-books between 89-93 because one party decided to teleport away. What a lazy crutch.

    *sure, Nicieza wrote the "dogpile" line, but we all know the absolute lack of imagination and inability to formulate (let alone draw) Spider-man executing an actual plan for stopping Juggernaut was all Liefeld.


  3. I always love me some Mignola, but it’s weird to have Sam flying so perpendicular to the rest — and with his head creating a tangent with the image border — just to use that unusually large blast field as a background.

    // As with Spider-Man #16, it is annoying and ultimately pointless. //

    So a perfect marriage of form and content, then.

    I’m glad you mentioned Cable’s reference to “your kind of mutant” when addressing Juggernaut. Where's the editor?

    One would assume that any reason SHIELD has for wanting to bring Cable in postdates his recent appearance with Nick Fury in Wolverine, but given how sloppy things have been continuity-wise I'd hardly bet on it.

    Tom shouldn’t even have been alive for Deadpool to teleport away. I’m not sure how Cable doesn’t shoot him in the head there, although we know right away it’s not an immediate kill shot because Tom yells as he falls.

    1. As per the Cable Guide in X-FORCE #1, Bridge is so good at what he does that he doesn't have to report to anyone and can set his own agenda. So maybe it's not so much Nick Fury's SHIELD who wants Cable here.

      Though, when one gets his name in any way connected to a terror attack on the WTC, they of the government probably will be having some questions to ask regardless of your role in the proceedings.

  4. "Warpath and Shatterstar perform a manga-inspired fastball special."

    Which gives manga a bad name. Seriously, as with most things in this just looks horrible.

    "Juggernaut declares that he heals fast, continuing the idea that he can be wounded, however briefly."

    Again, as nonsensical as it was in the previous chapter. But I guess both Liefeld and McFarlane both thought it would be superextremekewl to have Shatterstar stab Juggernaut in the eyes, and both wanted it in their respective issues.

    "Similarly, Sunspot and Gideon have disappeared between Spider-Man #16 and this issue."

    This was just dumb. So what was the point of even having them appear in the story in the first place? You could remove them from the previous parts of this story and it wouldn't change a thing, which just shows how superfluous their involvement in the story is.

    "I don't even know what's happening to Spider-Man's fingers in the panel"

    That, and with the way Liefeld has problems in general with his art, you can't really tell if Spider-man is upside down or not in the next panel. It can work both ways.

    If anything, Shatterstar's hands while holding his swords in the fastball special panel are much worse. Does Liefled really not know how to draw people holding stuff?

    "For whatever reason, this panel of Bridge and two random SHIELD agents also struck me as being very proto-Youngblood."

    Also, none of them are dressed like any SHIELD agents. Also, is Bridge shirtless? It looks like he wearing a vest and nothing else. Liefled!

    "Cable declares that he's not taking Black Tom to prison, that he'll only escape and confront them again, and shoots him point blank, knocking him down an elevator shaft"

    But does that fit into Cable's Guide To Killing People? Technically, it isn't self-defense. But on the plus side, no cameras are present, so why not, I guess?

    This is just bad bad bad bad bad. Easily the worst thing to come out of the X-offices during this time. Between this and Spider-man, it really does emphasize just how much power the hot artists had at the time, given how impotent the editors seem to be. The fact that most of this issue was approved by an editor, just to appease Liefeld, shows that Marvel was really just thinking of short term profits, and not how it would affect things in the long run. The sad thing is, people still associate all of early 90s X-titles as being this bad, which clearly isn;t the case. But, this is the stereotype that has survived. Too bad.

  5. FWIW, in Spider-Woman #37, Siryn's first appearance, Claremont misidentified Juggernaut as a mutant as well.

    1. Technically he could be a latent mutant, what with his daddy having been around the same radiation-related job as Xavier's and all, but his actual existing powers still are from the Cyttorak Ruby.

    2. OR he can have an actual mutant power on the side, like sensitivity to telepathy.


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