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Thursday, March 26, 2020

X-amining X-Force #48

November 1995

In a Nutshell
X-Force holds an intervention for Boomer.

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Adam Pollina
Inkers: Pennington & Rubinstein
Letterer: Comicraft
Colorists: Marie Javins & Derek Bellman
Separations: Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Technical Advisor: Christine G.

Boomer goes downstairs in the middle of the night to find the rest of X-Force - as well as Cannonball - waiting for her. They tell her they're concerned about the time she's spending with Sabretooth, and are intervening in order to convince her to stop. They remind her of Sabretooth's participation in the slaughter of Caliban's people, but Boomer throws back Caliban's own villainous past, as well as Sunspot's time as Reignfire, in their faces. Warpath insists Sabretooth is pure evil, but Boomer argues that no one is beyond redemption. Shatterstar is unconcerned: if Boomer thinks she can handle Sabretooth, then it's none of their concern. Meanwhile, Holocaust is busy slaughtering everyone on a small South Seas island when Sebastian Shaw shows up, offering him a part in a plan against Shaw's son. Back at the X-Mansion, X-Force tries to convince Boomer she's going to get killed, and gives her an ultimatum: stop seeing Sabretooth, or leave the team. Xavier then enters, and when Siryn reminds him of the second chance he gave Magneto, he admits he was wrong to do so. Boomer collapses, finally accepting that she has to give up Sabretooth, just like she gave up on her father. Later, she goes to the Danger Room one last time. She calls out to Sabretooth, asking him to tell her all the time they spent together wasn't for nothing. But he gives no response, and merely smiles in the darkness.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue details X-Force's intervention on Boomer, trying to make her realize the danger in her friendship with the seemingly-docile Sabretooth. Part of the general move across the line to bring the "Sabretooth in the mansion" subplot to a close, this effectively marks the end of that friendship, as Boomer relents in the face of her teammates arguments.

To that end, the conclusion of the issue seems to suggest that Sabretooth's returned to a full-on villainous state.

Sebastian Shaw, last seen in X-Factor #67 when he was killed by his son Shinobi, returns in this issue, without explanation, beginning another run as a recurring villain in the X-books going forward. 

He recruits Holocaust, appearing here for the first time since his fight with Exodus in X-Men #43 (thereby confirmed he, at least, survived the fall to Earth), for a plan involving revenge on his son, all of which is setup for the next couple issues.

A Work in Progress
When Caliban talks about Sabretooth’s past as a killer, Boomer points out Caliban’s past as a Horseman of Apocalypse, and his kidnappings of Jubilee & Shadowcat (no mention is made, however, of their time hanging out together as wards of X-Factor back in the day).

She also points out Sunspot’s more recent villainous past as Reignfire.

It’s said here that Reignfire was a separate entity from Sunspot, a reminder we still haven’t gotten the full story of that yet.

When Xavier becomes involved in the intervention, Boomer points out the fact that he handed over his school to Magneto at one point, and Xavier admits he now knows he was wrong to do it, a somewhat harsher reaction from Xavier even post-"Fatal Attractions" (but which serves the argument this particular story is trying to make, that Sabretooth is irredeemably evil & Boomer is endangering herself by hanging out with him).

In the end, Boomer relents, expressing sorrow at giving up on Sabretooth just like she did her father & herself.

Austin's Analysis
I don't know what real interventions are like, but the depiction of one here is, at least, roughly consistent with what I've seen in other movies & TV shows. The real problem is the muddied way this whole "Boomer's friendship with Sabretooth" storyline has been presented, as both a mystery (is Sabretooth faking it?) and a certainty (he's evil and Boomer is putting herself in danger hanging out with him). If the idea is supposed to be that everyone thinks he's just faking it (rightly or wrongly, though it seems like with all the telepaths in that mansion, someone should know if he was faking it), then certainly, the treatment of Boomer in this issue is warranted.

But if we're meant to doubt that, and question whether he has truly reformed (or at least been rendered docile by a traumatic brain injury, which isn't really the same thing), then all of Boomer's counter-arguments about how the X-Men are willing to forgive and give second chances to everyone but Sabretooth are perfectly valid (this mixing of approaches could also work if SOME characters were on Boomer's side and others not, but it's presented very much as Boomer against the world, both here and elsewhere). The plotline ultimately is trying to have it all - the mystery of Sabretooth's condition and the moral certainty of Boomer's interveners - but both are fundamentally at odds with the other. As a result, this issue, when the storyline (at least from Boomer's perspective) comes to a head, suffers: because the plotline is trying to present both Sabretooth's condition as a mystery and Boomer's embrace of him as dangerous, it's not entirely clear whose side the readers are supposed to be on here.

Next Issue
Next week: Generation X #9, Excalibur #91 and Cable #25!

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  1. 1) Sebastian Shaw died in what can be considered a cameo in X-Factor, a comic book in which he had never shown up before. Now he re-appears in X-Force, a comic book in which he never showed up as well. What’s wrong with these people? It should have been on Uncanny X-Men. It’s almost as if Marvel took for granted that readers were buying everything.

    2) The entire “Sabertooth as a prisoner at the X-Mansion/with the mind of a child” was a complete waste. I’m not saying that he should have become a good character. I always felt it is a mistake to make characters who did irremediably acts of evil or cruelty to become good. It can’t work. If Sabertooth is depicted as a murderer, and one who has killed dozens, if not hundreds, including children, you can’t place him in a superhero group as a Wolverine replacement, even if he’s there against his will. It can’t work. It makes the “heroes” who accept him immoral or idiotic.

    3) If everyone considers Sabertooth to be evil, then why is he at the X-Mansion and not in a prison? Or why anyone, such as Boomer, can easily contact him and be near him? In fact, why does she cares about him? I remember that she appeared immediately after the Mutant Massacre. She met the survivors. I find hard to accept that someone who met a rape survivor would be willing to befriend the rapist. But, as Austin correctly mentioned, Loeb didn’t seem to remember that Boomer actually knew Caliban from the X-Factor days. Can anyone really blame him? Louse Simonson and her immediate successors did their best to ignore completely any previous links between the X-Factor and their former wards. How many interactions did Cyclops had specifically with them during this period in which they lived under the same roof? None.

    1. It’s almost as if Marvel took for granted that readers were buying everything.

      They absolutely did. Their entire business model at this point was built around the idea that you had to buy it all, and if you weren't, and missed something or were confused about something, that was on you, not them.

      Louse Simonson and her immediate successors did their best to ignore completely any previous links between the X-Factor and their former wards.

      Well, Louise Simonson didn't - she's the one who established those links in the first place (with the exception of Rusty & Artie, all the X-Factor wards came into the group under Simonson, and hung around until she wrote them out or moved them into her NEW MUTANTS book circa "Inferno").

    2. Austin, I know that. I should have been clear. I meant once they returned from Asgard and that alien planet. I still remember that Liefeld drawn issue in which Cyclops calls Valerie Cooper and demanda to have Rusty and Skids freed... and does nothing afterwards.

    3. Yeah, I think by the time Liefeld came into the picture and began to exert more control over the overall direction, all that stuff got pushed aside. The future Image guys clearly had little interest in those characters, and wanted to go about crafting their own takes (be it Liefeld's militant X-Force or Lee's back-to-basics, cover-the-classics and pump up my Upstarts character approaches).

  2. Was Sebastian Shaw's return ever explained, or is this another case of He Got Better?

    I wonder if the creative teams switched gears on the Sabretooth subplot somewhere along the line. They take him in, he may or may not be faking it / turning evil again, then SURPRISE he was faking it (eventually) and is now evil. That's it? It seems like the entire thing was an editorially mandated concept that no one actually bothered to create a story around.

    1. Was Sebastian Shaw's return ever explained, or is this another case of He Got Better?

      Mostly "He Got Better"; to be fair, he did die by "bomb", which maybe isn't the best way to try to kill someone with his power, but I don't think there's ever a real concrete explanation for his recovery.

      It seems like the entire thing was an editorially mandated concept that no one actually bothered to create a story around

      I don't think it was his idea, but frankly, it all feels a lot like one of Lobdell's "make it up as we go along" pitches. "Hey, what if Sabretooth lived in the mansion?" "Great! Then what?" "I dunno, we'll figure that out later!"

      It definitely reads like a gear switching - pre AoA, it was this whole rumination on redemption and whether Xavier could "cure" him. Post-AoA, it's "he's better/is he?/no, he's not". The latter seems like an attempt to close off the plot and get the character out of the mansion as quickly as possible (while wringing it for max drama along the way), but I have no idea when the decision was made to switch gears or why (frankly, it could very well be that the decision was made to recreate the AoA Sabretooth/Wild Child pairing in X-FACTOR so they moved the plot along to accomplish that. Or, that pairing took advantage of the decision to move Sabretooth out that had already been made. >shrug<).

    2. Part of it may have been the X- editors coming to the conclusion that in order to make Onslaught "work" Xavier had to be a big loser who failed at everything he did (Even if they didn't have Xavier specifically pegged as Onslaught at the time, they probably had a inkling it was somehow tied to his failings.)


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