In a Nutshell
Cable encounters the new Dark Riders in the Morlock Tunnels.
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Steve Skroce
Inks: Mike Sellers with Ryan & Dvorak
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Lisa Patrick
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
In Egypt, Foxbat is killed by the new Dark Riders. At the X-Mansion, Cable informs Storm that some of the Morlocks may have survived the apparent murder-suicide triggered by Mikhail Rasputin, and she demands he take her into the tunnels immediately. Once there, they encounter Caliban, who is being targeted by the Dark Riders. Cable, Domino & Storm intervene in his defense, and battle the Dark Riders until Harddrive puts a stop to the fight, as the Dark Riders have orders not to interfere with Cable. As the Dark Riders teleport away, Cable demands to know who is giving them orders, but receives no answer. Caliban thanks Cable for saving him, and Cable declares they're going to patch up Caliban and use his mutant tracking ability to track down the Dark Riders.
Firsts and Other Notables
After writing issue #15 with, technically, a guest penciler, Jeph Loeb is formally welcomed as the book’s new writer in this issue’s credits, joining regular artist Steve Skroce for the first time and marking the beginning of the series’ first run with an established creative team since the Kubert/Thibert team that launched it (and even that only lasted all of two issues). While Skroce will stick with X-Man coming out of "Age of Apocalypse", Loeb will remain the writer on this series through issue #39.
This issue marks the debut of a new iteration of the Dark Riders. The holdovers from the previous iteration is Gauntlet (the hooded green guy with guns) and Harddrive (the one who can interface with technology); the rest are new characters debuting here: Hurricane (who can generate wind), Lifeforce (an energy vampire), Spyne (an animalistic lizard man) and Deadbolt (a skeleton man with energy powers). They'll pop up in a handful of stories over the next couple of years (most notably in the story that almost brings Wolverine's adamantium back), but don't develop any more significant staying power than their previous iteration.
It said that the Dark Riders were given specific orders to leave Cable alone, prompting a question of who is behind this latest group (since Apocalypse is dead). Their mysterious new leader will shortly be revealed as Cable's son Tyler, using the name Genesis and styling himself the heir of Apocalypse (hence his usurpation of Apocalypse's most recent goon squad).
This issue also marks the return of Caliban. Following his turn as a somewhat sympathetic villain in Uncanny X-Men Annual #18 (his last appearance prior to this), he will feature in the rest of this story, and then Loeb will bring him over to X-Force when he becomes that book's regular writer following "Age of Apocalypse". Thus, this marks the beginning of another, fairly lengthy. stretch in which Caliban will be a regular fixture in the X-books, after having been relegated to sporadic guest appearances following his time as a supporting player in Louise Simonson's early X-Factor run.
In the wake of his encounter with Thorrn and Sarah in issue #15, Cable informs Storm that at least some of the Morlocks may live. This leads to the pair, along with Domino, investigating the tunnels, beginning something of a professional friendship between Storm & Cable that will pop up throughout Loeb’s run.
The Chronology Corner
This story takes place between issues #39 and #40 of X-Force.
A Work in Progress
Cyclops urges Cable to develop his mental powers, something to he remains resistant to do.
Meanwhile, Jean tries to have some girl talk with Domino, and it goes about as well.
Cable starts to make the connection between Slym & Cyclops after spotting a picture of the original X-Men, which leads Beast to reference Scott’s old (and weird) nickname of Slim.
A narrative caption refers to Storm as the leader of the Gold Team, even though both books have largely abandoned those distinctions.
The Loeb/Skroce team kick off their run on a strong footing by taking advantage of Cable's newfound friendliness with the X-Men to send Cable, Domino & Storm back into the Morlock tunnels to follow up on the events of issue #15. While that leads to an action-packed back-half, as the group battles the new Dark Riders, the front half is all Cable awkwardly hanging out at the mansion, arguing with his dad & bumping into his family history while his sort-of girlfriend dodges girl-talk with his mom. It's the kind of stuff that does a lot to humanize the character and make him feel like more than a collection of 90s cliches, and it works in large part because it has gradually developed organically over the course of the series, from "Fathers & Sons" to the Belasco story drenched in Cable's familial history to his working alongside Cyclops, Phoenix & Wolverine last issue to rescue the X-Men & defeat the Phalanx. Considering all three of those stories were written by different writers, it's a rather remarkable bit of consistent character development for the series to have pulled off, but Loeb takes full advantage of it here.
Next week: another time traveler with an affinity for big guns gets the spotlight in Bishop #1-4!
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