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Thursday, July 16, 2020

X-amining X-Force #51

"Reflections in the Night"
February 1996

In a Nutshell
In the wake of Sabretooth's escape, Boomer adopts a new look and codename.

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Luciano Lima
Inkers: Hunt, Jones, Quijana & Russell
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor: Bob Harras

Cable & Bishop investigate the scene of Sabretooth's escape, and though Bishop believes the evidence shows Boomer played a role in his escape despite her statement to the contrary, Cable angrily backs up his teammate, forcing Storm to quell the tension between them. Up in her room, Boomer begins destroying some of her keepsakes. Meanwhile, Beast runs a series of tests on Shatterstar, puzzled by the presence of DNA matching Longshot's. Up on the roof, a brooding Gambit is disturbed when a sleeping Siryn subconsciously activates her power, destroying part of the mansion. Siryn tells him she was dreaming of being held against her will, alongside Deadpool. Elsewhere, Warpath continues to stretch his powers, racing on foot from the mansion into New York City for a meeting with a mysterious contact. Back at the mansion, Cannonball begs Boomer to let him inside her room, but she tells him to leave, sending a small timebomb through the keyhole to underscore her point. Downstairs, Sunspot discusses his recent experiences with the Askani language with Caliban, while in New York, Warpath meets a woman named Risque, who just gives him a quick kiss before running off, telling him not to forget her. The next morning, Cable & Cannonball gather outside Boomer's room, insisting she let them in. She finally opens the door, revealing a new uniform and shorter hair, telling them she's not Boomer anymore, she's Meltdown.

Firsts and Other Notables
Boomer adopts the name Meltdown in this issue, along with a modified version of her previous purple-and-yellow X-Force uniform and a new, shorter, haircut, an attempt to take control of her life and put the events with Sabretooth behind her. This will be her default look & identity more or less for the rest of this volume of the series. 

This is the first appearance of Risque, a standard 90s style "character with a mysterious past & goals that slowly get revealed over time" who will play a supporting role in the series off and on up through issue #100, becoming a love interest for Warpath and, briefly, a member of the team. She has some overly-complicated 90s-style powers that basically boil down to "gravity powers".

Continuing the simmering setup for an examination of Shatterstar's origins, Beast, in examining the team following the events of the previous issue, discovers that Shatterstar's DNA matches the records they have of Longshot's, which he says isn't possible. While this doesn't really tie-in with the upcoming Benjamin Russell retcon (aside from the general notion of raising questions about Shatterstar's origins) it does fit into the eventual (and current) status quo that Shatterstar is both Longshot's son (by Dazzler) and also, sort of his father (as Shatterstar's DNA was used by Arize when he created Longshot and his race on Mojoworld).

(Also, this seems like something Beast would have also noticed when Shatterstar was hanging out in the infirmary for what felt like months recuperating from his rib injuries circa issue #45).

Similarly, the Weismann Institute/Gamesmaster subplot resurfaces here, as Siryn has a dream (which subconsciously triggers her sonic scream) of being restrained alongside Deadpool, obviously the surfacing of an actual memory that's been supressed by Gamesmaster.

The Chronology Corner
The chronology on this one is a little hinky; issue #49, in which X-Force is captured by Shaw & Holocauts, and Boomer's father is put in the hospital, was explicitly said to take place after Uncanny X-Men #328 (with Boomer going home to visit her estranged father presented as a response to the events of Sabretooth's breakout & Boomer's role in it). Yet, the events of this issue are presented very much as happening in the immediate aftermath of Uncanny #328 (Cable & Bishop are doing forensic analysis of the damage in the Danger Room caused by Boomer, Sabretooth & Psylocke), with Boomer's Meltdown transformation depicted as a raw, visceral reaction to those events. Yet it also explicitly takes place after the previous issue, with Cable having ordered a full medical examination of the team after their fight & Cannonball referencing Boomer's father being in the hospital.

Officially, the sequence is Sabretooth escapes, Boomer heads out of town in response to that, gets captured (and her dad injured) by Shaw & Holocaust, Cable fights all of X-Force, then the team comes home, Cable proceeds to go over the crime scene with Bishop (which has apparently been left undisturbed for however long it took Boomer to go home and X-Force to be captured & held in thrall of Shaw), and Boomer NOW undergoes a cathartic physical transformation triggered by Sabretooth's escape.

Which doesn't make much sense, but is the only way it can make any sense.

A Work in Progress
Cable takes a shot at the way Bishop is constantly talking about his XSE experience.

Sunspot tries to teach Caliban the difference between first and third-person dialogue (also, this is a distinction Caliban once understood, as he purposely avoided speaking in third person while hanging out with the original X-Factor).

Warpath continues to explore his powers, discovering he can run at speeds upwards of 100 MPH like his brother once did.

Austin's Analysis
Given the role this series played in the climax of the "Sabretooth in the mansion" plotline, with Boomer specifically involved in the events that brought that to a head and more or less responsible for freeing him, it makes sense to dedicate an issue to the fallout of those events from the perspective of X-Force & Boomer. That isn't really what this issue is, though, aside from the mostly offscreen transformation of Boomer into Meltdown as Cannonball pleads for her to open her door. Instead, it's more of a debrief following the events of issue #50 and a chance for Loeb to spin up some of his ongoing plotlines (reminding readers of the mysteries swirling around Shatterstar & Siryn) and setup some new ones (notably in the form of Risque). Which is all well and good, and a pretty standard move for a series coming off a big anniversary issue and the climax of a pair of storylines, but while this is hardly the end of the examination of a post-Sabretooth Boomer, it still would have been nice to have her more centrally located in an issue that is, at least ostensibly, supposed to be about her.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine visits an old haunt in Wolverine #98. Next week, Archangel gets a one-shot!

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  1. "(Also, this seems like something Beast would have also noticed when Shatterstar was hanging out in the infirmary for what felt like months recuperating from his rib injuries circa issue #45)."

    I always thought this Beast is actually the Dark Beast, but it's a bit early for that, right?

  2. Wait, it’s not Dark Beast?

    1. It's not - he doesn't take Beast's place til X-MEN UNLIMITED #10, next month, and there's a bunch more Beast appearances between this issue and the next one (including X-MEN vol. 2 #49, in which Dark Beast realizes he needs to hide from Sinister, which prompts his actions in XMU #10).


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