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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

X-amining X-Force #9

"Underground and Over the Top" / "X-Tenuating Circumstances"
April 1992

In a Nutshell
Masque & Sauron are killed as X-Force turns the tide against the Brotherhood.

Gilligan: Rob Liefeld, Mark Pacella (2nd story)
The Skipper: Dan Panosian,
The Millionaire: Fabian Nicieza
His Wife: Chris Eliopoulos, Dave Sharpe (2nd story)
The Movie Star: Steve Buccellato
The Professor: Bob Harras
Mary Anne: Tom DeFalco

Cable rushes Sam to the medlab, even though he's clearly dead. Once there, he urges Sam to wake up, saying he's a High Lord. Outside, Warpath, Shatterstar & Siryn fight Blob, which ends when Shatterstar slashes him in the mouth and Blob retreats. Inside, Feral attacks Sauron, who is shot by Cable shortly before Thornn attacks Cable, slashing his face and exposing metal beneath his skin. With the arrival of the rest of the team, Masque and Phantazia realize they're outnumbered, and Phantazia bugs out. Masque attempts a diplomatic retreat, but Cable reminds him that he warned Masque not to push his luck, and Shatterstar runs Masque through with his sword, killing him. Just then, Sam emerges from the medlab, wondering what the heck is going on.

2nd Story: Kane fights the Mutant Liberation Front. When they try to escape, he follows them through Zero's teleportation portal, emerging on the other side face-to-face with Stryfe.

Firsts and Other Notables
Our long nightmare is over: this is the final issue of the series drawn by Rob Liefeld. He'll continue to get plotting credit for a few more issues, but at this point, he's gone from Marvel, making X-Force the first X-book to lose its signature artist to the founding of Image Comics, and he won't be back until the ill-advised "Heroes Reborn".

Sauron and Masque are both killed this issue. Sauron will not wait long to come back, appearing in the new Brotherhood's next appearance in X-Factor #82, but Masque, who has been the chief leader of the Morlocks since after "Mutant Massacre", actually stays dead until he's inexplicably resurrected by Chris Claremont at the tail end of his X-Treme X-Men run in the 00s.

Thornn slashes Cable face this issue, exposing the metal beneath it (and revealing that his metallic parts extend beyond his arm and his eye), which is presented as some kind of big deal (it warrants a double-page sideways spread). This actually becomes a continuity point moving forward, as it will be several issues before Cable repairs his face, and thus has to appear with the metal exposed between now and then.

In the backup story, Kane comes face-to-face with Stryfe, and it's revealed that the pair have a history together (which will be detailed in the upcoming Cable limited series).

Creator Central
Mark Pacella, who will be one of Liefeld's replacement artists moving forward, draws the back-up story this issue, over Liefeld's plot and Nicieza's script (per the GCD). It's not very good.

A Work in Progress
Unsure of why Cannonball hasn't revived yet, Cable says that as a High Lord, dying is the start of living for him. He also outright says that Sam is the reason Cable is in this era, and that his status as a High Lord is why he's always had trouble controlling his powers (the former is eventually retconned out, while the latter is actually a nice use of continuity, given that Sam, of all the old New Mutants, always had the hardest time controlling and improving his power).

In the end though, Sam does revive, coming back to life after his death in issue #7.

501 Genes
The cover features a duo of Liefeld's greatest hits, the super enormous gun, and the gun with no handle.

When Shatterstar runs Masque through with his sword from behind, Liefeld forgets to draw the sword coming out of Masque's chest, something that stuck out to me even as a kid (when I was less sensitive to Liefeld's faults).

Word balloons seem to be misappropriated in this panel, with Shatterstar's line coming from, I believe, Warpath, despite Warpath denouncing Shatterstar's actions on the next page.

To the EXTREME! 
Though Cable appeared to shoot Sauron to kill at the end of last issue, he's still alive as this issue opens. Then Cable shoots him again (in the back), and he does apparently die.

Shatterstar slashes Blob in the mouth with his sword, prompting Blob to admit he's used to fighting other teams that play by different rules shortly before he rabbits.

It's in the Mail
A letter in this issue asks where Feral's leg went in issue #5; the response jokingly suggests a transdimensional wormhole.

Austin's Analysis
We are inching ever closer to the end of this seemingly-neverending Brotherhood storyline (next issue and the following is mostly just wrap-up), with several key villains slain (and several more, like Toad and Pyro, completely absent from the issue) and Cannonball restored to life as X-Force turns the tide of the battle. But all of that is mostly overshadowed by the fact that this is the last issue of the series drawn by Rob Liefeld. Though he'll continue to receive plotting credit for the next few issues, his stopping drawing the series mid-story is about the most Liefeldian way to leave possible.

Yet, despite his relatively small amount of work on this series (nine total issues, one of which only contained framing art from him, several of which were padded out with extras like the Cable Guide), especially relative to all that followed in his wake, this series continues to be associated, in the pop culture zeitgeist, with Rob Liefeld. While he helped create the series from the ashes of New Mutants, the nine issues he both plotted and drew represent a mere blip in the history of the series, a series which has several different runs of legitimate high quality in its future. He never really succeeded in giving the series a sense of identity, beyond vague notions of the heroes being more proactive (which, more often than not, they weren't). His most lasting creations - Cable & Deadpool, and to a lesser extent Domino & Shatterstar, all debuted in New Mutants. X-Force instead gave us the likes of Kane and GW Bridge, and the upcoming, laughable and lamentable, X-Ternals.

So while most readers at the time likely bemoaned the loss of Liefeld to Image (I certainly did, back in the day), with the benefit of hindsight, his departure looks more like an emancipation for the series, allowing it to move forward in the hands of more competent creators, to develop something of an identity of its own beyond "whatever crazy crap Rob felt like drawing that day."

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the MLF strike in X-Factor #77. Next week, X-Men #7 and Excalibur #49.

Collected Editions


  1. Ah, the X-Ternals. The best that can be said is that they didn't linger as long as some plotlines before being completely abandoned. (But then again, the Legacy Virus and Who is the X-Traitor at least led to big, seemingly significant events at the time, Colossus dying and Onslaught. Did anyone, at any point, ever care about the X-Ternals?)

    No idea who came up with it, but I'm partial to the fan theory that it was actually Dani, in her capacity as a Valkyrie, who restored Sam to life. It nicely explains why Selene later claimed Sam wasn't an X-Ternal, and what caused Dani to be kicked out of Asgard (abusing her station to save a friend), and sets her up to reappear a couple years later as an MLF member/undercover SHIELD agent. To me, that's canon.

    1. Add me to the people adopting your theory about Dani as canon.

    2. The only issue with this theory is that Dani HAS used her powers like that before without "punishment."

      Also, doesn't she have to look a person to see the "deathglow" around them before she can fight death on their behalf? Where would Dani be hiding around this time to do that?

    3. They have all kinds of Valkyr-tech, Mimer's Well and whatnot in Asgard for Dani to have easily from time to time pryed on her Earthly loved ones and this time seen the skull thingy on Sam.

      I think the first time in Asgard for Wolverine that Hela laughed off was a freebie, and they really expect her to abide with the rules only after she's had the course. And maybe she went further this time than on previous occasions. Sam died and in battle against a technical dragon at that; he would've been Val-halla-bound and as such specifically in Val-kyrie jurisdiction. I'm tempted to check on the Norse myths for a precedent of a Valkyrie getting one pick of dead hero with the price of her becoming a mere mortal in the process.

    4. In the past, wasn't the person always ALMOST dead, and Dani (who was always nearby) fighting Death to save them? Whereas this would be Sam having actually died in a different dimension from Asgard, and Dani restoring his soul to his body. Seems like that goes beyond "perk of the job" and into "embezzling company funds." ;)

    5. There is an actual Marvel precedent: in THOR #297 (as part of the questionable-in-its-truthfulness Nibelungenlied retelling by Odin's sacrificed eye to Thor) Brunhilde the Valkyrie disregards Odin's order about Siegmund having to die and shields him in battle, prompting Odin to have to kill Siegmund himself and then casting Brunhilde as powerless and mortal to Midgard as punishment.

      Siegmund was kind of Odin's son and an aspect of Thor but I guess we'll be better of if we don't go asking specific questions of his blond blue-eyed son's conception from Mrs. Guthrie.

    6. I love the Dani explanation - it really does together rather nicely, and I don't think it contradicts the way Dani's (often vague) Valkyrie powers work. If anything, we could say Sam was mostly dead when Cable thought he was dead dead, and Dani fought Death to restore him.

    7. But if you're going by that theory, Austin, then Dani wouldn't have been punished since she technically didn't do anything wrong; fighting Death to save someone was something Valkyries are allowed to do, and Dani had done so on various occasions previously without getting punished.

      The idea that Dani restored Sam after he did die would seem to be outside the scope of the Valkyrie powers she did have. Unless you go with the theory that Dani did *something* to bring Sam back to life, which she wasn't allowed to do, and was punished for that...maybe a deal with Hela, or the Native American God she met while in Asgard (it was a one-part story in Marvel Comics Presents #121, 1993, featuring some of Joe Madureira's earliest artwork, if I'm not mistaken, and can be viewed here:, etc.

  2. I like your Moonstar theory, and I'm running with it.

  3. What a cover Rob left us with. Look at that FUCKING gun!

    1. Which is utterly genericized to boot. This could have been on the cover of ANY other X-Force issue (warning: Fredian Slip alert! I orginally typed "X-Farce" by mistake.)

      I think it's pretty apparent the Liefeld warched a LOT of Terminator 2.

    2. Don't worry; Rob may gone, but he left us a few parting gifts in the way of covers on his way out.


  4. I’m surprised that Masque was killed off, given how much he’d been used over the past couple of years in various X-titles — from his messing with Callisto and Colossus to his skulking around in a half-dozen Wolverine issues when Sabretooth, Albert & Elsie-Dee, the Hunter in Darkness, and of course the Morlock remnants were all in the sewers to his joining forces with this iteration of the Brotherhood. Not that it bothers me. Plus, I suppose Cable and Shatterstar taking out Sauron and Masque, respectively, does reflect those characters’ lack of qualms about effecting the ultimate sanction and bolster X-Force’s mission statement with some actual showing-not-telling.

    1. Though of course, they're only EXTREME and NOT PLAYING BY THE RULES after they've been attacked in their home, so still not exactly the proactive fighting force we keep being told they are.

  5. "this is the final issue of the series drawn by Rob Liefeld. He'll continue to get plotting credit for a few more issues"

    And throw in a few more horrendous covers as well.

    "This actually becomes a continuity point moving forward, as it will be several issues before Cable repairs his face"

    It's also very hard to reconcile with the later techo-virus revelations...

    "In the backup story, Kane comes face-to-face with Stryfe"

    And speaking of horrendous artwork...that page alone is enough to hurt the eyes. I mean, check out the way Kane is drawn in the bottom panel. Yikes!

    "The cover features a duo of Liefeld's greatest hits"

    And some of his lesser hits, like a sword that makes no sense, the way it drawn.

    Oh God this horrible. If Excaliber is the best the line is offering at this point, then this easily the worst the line is offering. And I doubt Liefeld even gave it his full effort, the art seems even worse than usual. It looks like Dan Panosian either did a horrible inking job, or a horrible finishing job to Rob's layouts, or both? I'm not sure, but either way, it seems to be a bit off from Liefeld's usual work.

    And the story is just as much of a mess as the artwork.

    1. It's also very hard to reconcile with the later techo-virus revelations...

      Yeah, like most Cable stuff from this era. I suppose you could say the TO virus is ranging further out of control at this point, requiring Cable to cover up his face with fake skin? Even though the art suggests something more like plate metal than the more flaky metal created by the TO virus?


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