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Thursday, April 30, 2020

X-amining X-Force #49

"Target: X-Force"
December 1995

In a Nutshell
Shaw & Holocaust ambush X-Force

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Guest Penciler: Terry Dodson
Inkers: Lanning, Morales, Russell
Letterer: Comicraft
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Bob Harras

Holocaust tests out the new armor he's been given by Sebastian Shaw, but when he kills a Hellfire Club mercenary, Shaw's aide Tessa is forced to take telepathic control of him. Later, Boomer returns to her hometown & reunites with her estranged father. In New York, Caliban & Sunspot are exploring the Morlock tunnels when both are ambushed & captured by Shaw & Holocaust. Elsewhere in the city, Warpath & Siryn are out on the town, and are ambushed when Siryn stops to do some shopping. That night, Shatterstar leaves the club he once visited with Rictor and intervenes to save a young gay man from an attack, only to be attacked himself by Shaw & Holocaust. Back at Boomer's father's trailer, Boomer learns her mother is still alive, but just then, Shaw & Holocaust attack, blowing up the trailer. With all of X-Force now his captives, Shaw compliments himself on a well-executed plan.

Firsts and Other Notables
Since his recruitment of Holocaust last issue, Shaw has also re-recruited Tessa to his side (as she continues to do some deep undercover work for Xavier, of course), and given Holocaust new armor (which doesn't look a whole lot different than his old armor.

Also, the comment about how the X-Men are outlaws on Holocaut's world is a reminder of how the X-Men at this time, while not on the level of the Avengers and Fantastic Four, are still largely accepted by the US authorities: there is X-Factor, of course, but Val Cooper is also pals with Xavier at this point and while the X-Men are technically not agents of the law or anything, no one is trying to track them down/capture them (which hasn't always been the case). It's been that way for awhile (essentially, since the '91 relaunch, when Nick Fury called to give Xavier a heads up about Magneto and X-Factor got converted into a government strike team), but it's worth pointing out (especially ahead of "Onslaught" and "Operation: Zero Tolerance").

Shortly before being ambushed by Holocaust & Shaw, Shatterstar intervenes to help save someone from what is clearly meant to be an anti-gay attack, which is notable given his later relationship with Rictor (I've never gotten a good read on whether Loeb was writing Shatterstar as gay/bi-sexual at the time, or if some of that just comes across thanks to hindsight).

This issue is explicitly set after Uncanny X-Men #328, though the specific events therein aren't spoiled.

A Work in Progress
It's noted that telepaths were rare on Holocaust's world, which is mostly true (Apocalypse had most of them working for him in some capacity, aside from Jean Grey, Nate's status as a telepath is what drew Apocalypse's attention to him in the first place).

It's established here that Sunspot, who has only appeared since the return from "Age of Apocalypse" in his powered up form, can't power down.

Holocaust does that thing most of the former AoA characters do, which has already become annoying: he sees Sunspot, then asks about Gambit, because on his world, the two were on a team together. But Holocaust knows he's on a new world, and should, by now, no longer expect things to be the same way they were there (instead, it seems like a cheap way to remind reads of "Age of Apocalypse").

Warpath notes that his recent hair and wardrobe changes were born of a desire to get out from under his brother Thunderbird's shadow.

He also briefly experiments with using the heightened senses Mimic copied from him in issue #46.

Boomer learns her mother is still alive, though if this goes anywhere, I can't remember.

Austin's Analysis
Loeb keeps the focus on the characters in an issue that is mostly setup for the big Sebastian Shaw/Holocaust dust-up/50th issue celebration next issue, and as these things go, it's perfectly fine. Terry Dodson fills in well for Adam Pollina, giving the characters smoother features than usual but toning down the cheesecake a bit. Story-wise, it's a standard "take out the team one by one" narrative, and while there's something to the idea of saving Cable for last - and the series' 50th issue - it does make the rest of the team seem like jobbers a bit (they did quite well for themselves without Cable, after all). Obviously, it's meant to sell Holocaust's power, but at the same time, it remains (then and now) hard to care about Holocaust much at all. Still, while there's not much "there" here, what is there is in keeping with Loeb's previous work on the series, while promising something a little bigger in the next issue.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine #96. Next week, Generation X #10 and Excalibur #92!

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