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Thursday, November 15, 2018

X-amining X-Force #39

"Letting Go"
October 1994

In a Nutshell
Professor gains a body and a new identity as Prosh.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Hanging On: Bob Harras
Standing By: Tom DeFalco

Domino returns after scouting locations for a new X-Force base and is confronted by a strange robot who reveals himself to be Professor, Cable's computer system. He tells Domino to call him Prosh before collapsing from lack of energy. Days later, a recharged Prosh awakens and explains to the gathered X-Force how he overpowered a Phalanx sent to assimilate the team and downloaded his neural network into the Phalanx body, giving himself corporeal form. Though the power levels needed to keep him functioning threaten to overwhelm the base, X-Force agrees to make the necessary sacrifices to keep Prosh alive. However, days later it becomes clear that Prosh's energy signatures are disrupting equipment at the base and, more significantly, preventing Cable from holding his techno-organic virus at bay. Unwilling to risk Cable's life, Prosh declares he will give up his physical form, but Cable suggests an alternative: leave Earth, along with the components necessary to keep himself alive. Though this would mean Cable would, for the first time, be without his presence, and will rob X-Force of their base of operations, it's a sacrifice they're all willing to make to enable Prosh to live a full life. Shortly thereafter, Prosh gathers up the equipment he needs and takes control of a large ship, blasting off with himself at the head. Below, all that's left of the Camp Verde base is a desiccated husk, prompting Cannonball to ask a knowing Domino what they're going to do now. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first appearance of Prosh, the physical form adopted by Professor, Cable's sentient computer system, formerly Ship of X-Factor ("Prosh", of course, being an amalgam of Professor and Ship, and despite that, a dumb name), who stuck down a Phalanx attempting to assimilate X-Force and took over its body. Though Prosh flies off into space by the end of this issue, he will return in the 2001 X-Men Forever miniseries (also written by Fabian Nicieza), which, via time travel, served as a vehicle for cleaning up some dangling plotlines while exploring relevant themes and bits of X-history (it also results in Mystique & Toad looking more like their movie counterparts for a time).

In the process of leaving, Prosh more or less guts X-Force's Camp Verde base, making their need for a new headquarters (something Cable & Domino have already discussed in previous issues) a more immediate one, and making this the last issue the team is at Camp Verde, ending a run that began with just before "X-Cutioner's Song".

Shatterstar's real name is casually revealed, as Prosh offhandedly refers to him as Gaveedra Seven (a later retcon will suggest this isn't Shatterstar's real name, but that retcon is in turn retconned, making Gaveedra Seven his official non-codename once again).

A Work in Progress
A narrative caption says that Domino has spent the last week scouting for a new headquarters, which is presumably what she was doing during “Phalanx Covenant”.

Rictor got a haircut at some point, apparently.

The rest of X-Force learns Domino’s name is Beatrice when Prosh uses it in front of them.

Shatterstar apparently picks things up quickly, as he beat Prosh shortly after learning chess, and displays knowledge of “fusion energy drainage systems”.

Like me, Siryn would prefer a cool breeze to a hot sun.

Artistic Achievements
I think this cover probably counts as a Pieta homage (like Uncanny X-Men #136).

The Cable Guy
Prosh implies that Cable could travel through time on his own power.

Young Love
Warpath tries to kiss Siryn,  but is interrupted by an errant football (and Siryn was pretty clearly saying no even before getting hit by the ball).

Austin's Analysis
This isn't quite a proper "Phalanx Covenant" epilogue, nor a Post-Crossover Quiet Issue (if anything, in terms of the overall narrative of the series, it's mostly about creating an immediate need for X-Force to find a new headquarters), but it reads a lot like one of those kinds of issues, providing a quieter, more character driven story that allows the series to take a breath between the crossover and the start of if its next multi-part storyline (and the run-up to "Age of Apocalypse") beginning next month (in fact, given how talky this issue is, it's kind of surprising that Tony Daniel drew it, given "quiet introspection" isn't quite in his wheelhouse; he does do well depicting Prosh's awkward movements early on, though). It's also a surprisingly poignant tale, as Cable is ultimately forced to say goodbye to someone who, in a life of constant upheaval, was a near-constant presence, equal part mentor and friend.

It helps, of course, that long-time readers are likely to have some affinity for the character of Prosh as well (ridiculous name aside), given that he represents not only the voice who helped guide & protect young Nathan in X-Factor #68 and  The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, but also the Professor who comically combated Wolverine's smoking habit in "X-Cutioner's Song" and helped Cable teleport out of one jam after another early in Nicieza's run, and was a steadfast (if non-corporeal) ally of both the original X-Factor and the New Mutants for a long time, as Ship. That said, if this were to be grouped in with other post-crossover Quiet Issues of the era, it probably wouldn't hold up alongside many of those, but it is nevertheless an effective issue, and yet another indicator of just how much this series has grown, essentially showing that even formerly one-dimensional 90s stereotypes can cry.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, "Life Signs" concludes in Excalibur #82. Next week, a trio of Generation X previews in Generation X Opening Volley, Ashcan Edition, and Collector's Preview!

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  1. // errant football //

    my new band name, because.

    I don’t mind banter — heck, I like banter at least as much as the next guy (who likes banter) — but I can do without banter that waves its arms shouting “Hey! Look at me! This is some banter right here!”

    That was a lot of emotional journey squeezed into one issue. Not to mention series-altering consequence.

    Also, Forge and maybe Hank McCoy and (sigh) Prosh himself (just sticking within this family of titles) could surely have made a compatible host body in short order if plot didn’t adamantly dictate otherwise.

    So a moving issue in its way, yes, but really down to manipulation with far too little space to breathe in my opinion — even if dragged out as a subplot it might have likewise had its faults.

    1. That's a fair point, and one I probably should have highlighted more.

  2. Has Ship/Professor/Prosh ever met again any of the former X-Factor (the original X-Men)? If yes, what was the reaction? Ship was an integral part of the original X-Factor mythos before the Image guys decided to reboot everything.

    1. Prosh returns in X-MEN FOREVER, and Jean is part of the cast in that book , but I forget offhand if there's any acknowledgement of their past together as, ahem, shipmates in X-Factor. Given that series focus on continuity, there very well could be.

  3. Prosh implies that Cable could travel through time on his own power.

    Like his sister.


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