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Thursday, November 9, 2017

X-amining X-Force #27

"Liberation through Subjugation"
October 1993

In a Nutshell
The New Mutant Liberation Front kidnaps Gyrich.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Matt Broome
Inker: Bud LaRosa
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Battlin' Bob Harras
Big Cheese: Two-Fisted Tommy Dee

The Mutant Liberation Front attacks Henry Peter Gyrich's house, but when he activates a bio-Sentinel named Hardaway, their new teammates, Locus & Moonstar, are forced to intervene. Taking out Hardaway, they capture Gyrich. Later, X-Force eavesdrops on a Commission of Superhuman Activities meeting discussing the kidnapping, and decide to rescue Gyrich themselves. Arriving at the MLF's new base, they split into three teams. Cannonball, Rictor, Sunspot & Boomer get into the base first, but are attacked by Moonstar, stunned to realize she may be their old teammate, Dani. Elsewhere, Warpath, Siryn & Shatterstar battle Reaper, Forearm & Wildside while Cable & Feral locate Gyrich. But Reignfire is waiting, and incapacitates them, asking Cable if he'll join him in his war, or betray his kind and die.

Firsts and Other Notables
Two new members of the MLF are introduced in this issue. First is the masked Moonstar, who rides a flying horse and shoots psionic arrows that trigger the worst fears of whomever they hit. It's heavily implied in this issue (beyond just, you know, the name) that Moonstar is former New Mutant Dani Moonstar, last seen staying behind in Asgard in New Mutants #85. To Nicieza's credit, he doesn't drag this particular mystery out long (it's not even terribly clear if Nicieza even intended for this to be a mystery, given Moonstar isn't exactly shy about making herself seem like Dani, but it was the 90s, so it was, because everything was a mystery), confirming fairly quickly that this is indeed Moonstar (and eventually revealing that she's working for SHIELD to infiltrate the MLF).

The second new member is Locus, who is the new team teleporter. She can travel anywhere she or one of her passengers has been before, and will prove important to the creation of Reignfire but otherwise doesn't amount to much outside this iteration of the MLF.

This issue introduces Hardaway, a new model of cybernetic Bio-Sentinel, that will never be seen again outside this issue (Hardaway himself is killed).

The new MLF has setup shop on Magneto's old Lovecraftian tropical island (from circa Uncanny X-Men #150), though even factoring in the later revelation of who Reignfire is, that seems like more of a random choice than anything for the team (though I nevertheless appreciate the historic name-check).

The events of the series second annual, on sale concurrently with this issue, are name checked.

Greg Capullo draws the cover for this issue, his last contribution to the series.

The Chronology Corner 
This takes place after "Bloodties", with Xavier saying the X-Men have only recently returned from Genosha.

A Work in Progress
It's noted that both Wildside and Tempo's powers are psionic: they don't actually warp reality or slow time, only their target's impressions of them.

X-Force listens in as the Commission on Superhuman Activities, along with Forge, Val Cooper and Professor X debate the best response to Gyrich's kidnapping.

Moonstar says she "fell from the sky" another hint towards her identity.

Cannonball has learned how to project his blast field out directly in front of him, making him an even more effective version of his nameske.

Also, his greatest fear is said to be watching his friends and family all die before him, an oblique reference to his External status.

As Warpath battles Forearm, he unloads a series of "fore" related puns.

Shatterstar and Reaper's ongoing rivalry, dating back to the first issue of the series (when Shatterstar cut off his hand) is referenced.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Rictor likens Cannonball to a headbanger.

To the EXTREME! 
As with rescuing Rusty & Skids from the Friends of Humanity, it once again falls to the firmly-outside-the-law X-Force to rescue Gyrich.

My Hero, Thomas Magnum
Moonstar wonders if Sunspot experienced his greatest fear when Magnum, P.I. was cancelled.

Austin's Analysis
Bringing back the MLF is a smart move on Nicieza's part. Though largely generic, they function as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to X-Force, the thematic opposites, the dark reflection that serves as a warning to the heroes: the line between the two groups is perilously thin (something Reignfire taunts Cable with at issue's end). That the bulk of the MLF was, ultimately, just a bunch of pawns to Stryfe's larger agenda is largely irrelevant, and works to Nicieza's advantage. Here, they've been recruited by (seemingly) a genuine idealogue, but they still fit the same role as before in opposition to X-Force with the writer having to spend a ton of time setting that up. And adding Moonstar to the group gives the team an added boost, as it now features the Fallen Hero with close ties to large swaths of the team. The return of Moonstar also furthers Nicieza's continued efforts to shift the series into a grown-up version of the New Mutants, while the interplay between X-Force and the MLF also furthers his post-"X-Cutioner's Song" attempts to define the series beyond Liefeld's extreme vision. If the X-Men are the open hand to X-Force's closed fist, than the MLF reorient things by making X-Force seem less extreme by comparison.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Cerise in Excalibur #70. Next week, X-Men Annual #2.


  1. Weird question that has bugged me for years - can anyone explain Moonstar's outfit? In some scenes, it looks like a red bustier over skin, while in others it looks like it's over a full-body leotard. I personally prefer the latter cuz it makes more sense for fighting, but since it's the 90s & she's (supposed to be) evil now, the former was probably the aim.

    And that Magnum dig at Bobby is one of my favorite moments, if only because Nicieza was good about remembering little Claremont-era character quirks like that. I felt like that mostly went away in this era.

    1. I've always assumed the latter, in part because when Moonstar is officially revealed as Dani, uh, Moonstar, her skin is not pale red as it would be if she was just wearing a bustier over skin.

      And that Magnum dig at Bobby is one of my favorite moments, if only because Nicieza was good about remembering little Claremont-era character quirks like that.

      Yeah, Nicieza has always had a good mind for continuity touches like that, even in his later post-X-Men work (his THUNDERBOLTS run is packed with little nods to long-forgotten bits like that).

  2. I'm sorry but no. The Magnum Jab isn't cool but utterly unforgivable and I hope other reality Bobby somewhere trashes other reality Dani for it for good.

    Speaking as someone whose personal words of pain are: "Very good Sunday afternoon. We have immediately for starters a change in programming: unfortunately MacGyver won't be shown because the material didn't arrive in time to the country. Instead we meet our wonderful old acquaintances on Love Boat. Today on the Boat they are celebrating Valentine's Day."

    1. Wasn't every episode of The Love Boat on Valentines Day?

  3. It took me longer than it should have to realize, no, Tony Daniels art didn't change THAT quickly and drastically for the better because it's actually Matt Broome on pencils here.

    I recall a bit of chatter around the possibility that Moonstar was not only, well, Danielle Moonstar, but Locus perhaps being some version of Magik. On the basis of her being a teleporter and our Illyana just dying a month ago, I guess. Reignfire having a similar energy signature as Sunspot was already setting off alarm bells, so maybe people were running with the idea that these new characters were all returned/alternate takes on former New Mutants. Certainly there's nothing personality-wise about Locus that suggests Illyana, nor does she wield her powers the same. And the issue gets complicated by the ambiguous matter of her ethnicity - she looks for all intents and purposes to be Caucasian here, but is rendered with a much darker skin tone the very next issue.

    I read her name as "Locust" for the longest time. This character was almost certainly my introduction "locus" as an actual word and concept.

    Finally, Shatterstar actually does make good on his threat and severs Reaper's other hand in this issue. It isn't at all clear from the art, and is possibly obscured by a strategically-placed sound effect, but certainly gets confirmed next issue (in a bit of a "wait, what?" moment).


  4. // Moonstar says she "fell from the sky" //

    And has “stared death in the face”.

    That sequence where we pull back from Val and Forge facing the viewscreen of Fury and Xavier to the silhouettes of X-Force watching a viewscreen of Val and Forge facing the viewscreen of Fury and Xavier could’ve been a really neat visual — if the art were better. I couldn’t even quite parse what had happened on my first pass despite getting it on a certain level. Meanwhile, I don’t know if it was intentional but Xavier’s articulation of “So who goes in and does the dirty work… ?” feels like a wink to the fact that he knows Cable et al. are listening in.

  5. Very fun review! As a kid, I was fascinated by this re-use of the MLF, though you're right- they're just a goon squad. What's weird is how READILY they're jobbed-out here- they get absolutely SHELLACKED by X-Force, with Forearm being trounced with comical ease by Warpath (next issue, I believe), Reaper loses another hand, etc.

    Interestingly, Tempo's powers are later shown working on stuff like grenades, so their being psionic in nature is non-canon. For those who care about stuff like that.

    Hardaway is kind of an odd throwaway- seemingly just there to give the MLF a stronger fight.


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