Thursday, June 11, 2020
X-amining X-Force #50
In a Nutshell
Cable battles a brainwashed X-Force.
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Adam Pollina
Inkers: LaRosa, Morales & Delperdang
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Marie Javins & Electric Crayon
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
X-Force is assembled by their leader, Sebastian Shaw, excited to be given their next mission: to kill Cable! Meanwhile, Cable & Domino are in New York City, tracking the last known locations of the missing X-Force. Just then, they're attacked by X-Force itself. As X-Force engages their former mentor, Tessa warns Shaw that her hold on the three members of the team whose minds have been recently manipulated is especially tenuous. Sure enough, Cable is able to use his recent experience purging Reignfire from Sunspot's mind to get inside and break Tessa's hold on him, returning him to his senses. Shatterstar manages to wound Domino, but Sunspot flies her and Cable to safety. Their respite is short-lived, however, as the rest of the team converges on them in Central Park as Shaw urges them once more to kill Cable. But Cable fights back by triggering their memories of former teammates & past adventures, showing them what they mean to each other and the team. It's enough to break Tessa's control once and for all, and Holocaust admits that while Shaw lost, he respects his actions and will stick with him, for now.
Firsts and Other Notables
A double-sized anniversary issue celebrating the series' 50th issue, this features a gatefold cardstock foil enhanced cover (as well as a variant cover drawn by X-Force co-creator Rob Liefeld). It represents the culmination of Shaw's attack on X-Force as he sends the captive & brainwashed X-Force out to kill Cable & Domino (why Shaw, who's never really interacted with Cable or any of these characters much at all, is so determined to corrupt/kill them, remains unclear). In the end, they're defeated, but Holocaust is nevertheless impressed by Shaw's methods and agrees to continue their partnership.
Tessa notes that three members of X-Force have had their minds manipulated recently (making her control over them especially tenuous): she presumably means Sunspot (due to the whole Reignfire thing), Siryn (following her release from the Weisman Institute) and Shatterstar. (who will turn out to have his own connection to the place).
Shaw prevents Holocaut from killing a defeated Shatterstar, saying doing so will bring another "into the game" which wouldn't be in their interests; this is a reference to the Gamesmaster who, via the Weisman Institute subplot, will eventually upend Shatterstar's origin.
Along with the credits, a "special thanks" is given to "Claremont, McLeod, Liefeld & Nicieza, and all who came before"; the named creators represent the first creative teams of New Mutants & X-Force.
The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place after Cable & Domino's Genoshan adventure in Cable #26-28 and X-Force & Cable '95.
A Work in Progress
It's noted that Xavier can't detect X-Force due to psionic interference, which is either a reference to X-Man, Onslaught, or both.
Shaw, in explaining to Holocaust why he doesn't want Holocaust to just kill Cable, says that once X-Force kills its mentor, they will belong to Shaw.
Cable exploits Shatterstar's still-healing rib injury from Cable #22 to overcome him.
He is also able to get into Sunspot's mind easier than the rest thanks to having been in there recently, to expunge Reignfire.
Cable believes Sunspot's ability to speak Askani is the result of memories of Cable going into his mind during that process.
X-Force is said via caption to have been trained by both Xavier & Magneto, then molded into X-Force by Cable, but of the members present, only Sunspot was in fact trained by all three (Meltdown snuck in right after Magneto when the New Mutants were mentor-less/wards of X-Factor; Warpath & Shatterstar joined right before Cable axed the New Mutants, and Caliban & Siryn have only ever been part of X-Force).
Cable is able to break Tessa's control of X-Force by drawing on their collective memories of the New Mutants/X-Force's legacy, represented by a two-page spread featuring images of Wolfsbane, Magik, Karma, Cannonball, Rictor, Magneto, Warlock & Feral.
For the series' big 50th issue, Loeb & Pollina pull out all the stops for the first really big action-focused issue of their run. While there have been bits of action here and there (the fight with Mimic, Shaw & Holocaust's assault on the team last issue), this is really the first time they've showcased the full X-Force team in action since they constructed it in issue #44. And, curiously enough, it's a fight in which X-Force is forced to fight Cable & Domino - and effectively get beaten by them. Having a team fight their mentor is a time-honored narrative tradition, but it is interesting how Loeb flips the script a bit here and has the team brainwashed and trying to kill Cable (instead of the reverse). Usually, these kinds of stories end in a "the students have become the masters" kind of way, but here, it's more like "the master...is still the master because he overcame all his students" which is, again, an interesting decision in an issue meant to celebrate fifty issues of the series about the "shoot first, ask questions later" X-team.
Of course, Loeb stages it this way in order to have the final victory come when Cable uses the collective memories of X-Force's past adventures and teammates to snap them out of Shaw's control, which makes their "defeat" celebratory of the series' legacy in its own way, though Loeb is playing fast and loose with history here considering the vast majority of the members of this iteration of the team are New Mutants in name only (Sunspot & Meltdown are the only ones with any significant New Mutants legacy, and even then, Meltdown's doesn't go back much farther than Cable's arrival). Putting that aside, though, the attempt to use the series' legacy as a plot device is appreciated by this old New Mutants fan, at least, and seems, intentionally or not, like a culmination of the efforts made by Fabian Niceiza to establish the book as the true inheritor of the New Mutants' legacy following Rob Liefeld's very concerted efforts to distance it as much as possible from that same legacy.
But while this maybe doesn't earn its connection to the New Mutants legacy to the extent that Loeb wants it to, it does serve as a culmination of sorts to Jeph Loeb's six months as the head of his little "Cable & X-Force" sub-imprint, referencing in the course of the action here everything from the development of Warpath's powers to Shatterstar's injuries in Cable #22 to the Sunspot/Askani business and (obliquely) Siryn's time in the Weisman Institute. That lends the issue some additional feeling of it being a culmination of past events (even if it's really more the culmination of six-ish issues of buildup and not 150+), adding additional thematic weight to the proceedings. All in all, it makes for a fun, effective issue: big dumb action in which everyone gets something to do, with enough nostalgic touches creating narrative import to justify the expanded size and other "issue number divisible by 25" trappings.
Tomorrow, Wolverine crosses dimensions in Wolverine #97. Next week, Generation X #11 and Excalibur #93.
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