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Thursday, October 8, 2020

X-amining X-Force #53

"Even an X-Ternal Can Die!"
April 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Force battles Absalom & Crule as someone stalks the X-Ternals

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Adam Pollina
Inks: Mark Morales
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Marie Javins
Separations: Malibu Hues
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

As Sunspot & Caliban stare in disbelief at Gideon, Absalom & Crule attack, believing them to be responsible for his death. While Caliban is injured, Sunspot sends a distress call to the rest of the team, spurning them into action just as Domino, Siryn & Meltdown are returning from their encounter with Blob. As X-Force arrives on the scene and joins the fray, Warpath is drawn by his heightened senses to office out of which Gideon was flung. Climbing up the building, he enters Gideon's office and finds another X-Ternal, Saul, similarly drained of life; he can also sense that whomever did the killings is still inside. Outside, X-Force gains the upper hand, but Domino stops Shatterstar from killing Crule. In Gideon's office, Warpath is briefly able to track the X-Ternals' assailant, only to be taken out himself from behind. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue kicks off a story in which Jeph Loeb attempts to reckon with the X-Ternals - and does so largely by killing them off and suggesting they were never what they said they were in the first place. His efforts will, ultimately, be undone, but they do hold for awhile. To wit, Gideon, who is confirmed to be dead in this issue, will make a brief appearance in an alternate future later in Cable's solo series, but otherwise, won't be featured in a story again until 2017. 

Of even less note than Gideon's death, Saul (the "visibly old man" X-Ternal who isn't Nicodemus) is also confirmed dead this issue. 

Absalom (the X-Ternal who makes spiky protusions come out of his skin) & Krule (who rules) are both still alive, and spend most of the issue in a Misunderstanding Fight with X-Force. 

A Work in Progress
This issue takes place concurrently with the Cable/X-Man crossover, with Cable absent due to the events of that story. 

Sunspot muses that perhaps the Askani philosophy is making him emotionally distant (and that it may be the reason for Cable’s similar distance).

We are reminded that Absalom is still dying of the Legacy Virus.

Warpath is attacked by the person targeting the Externals, who remains off-panel but says Warpath is the only person to track her when she didn’t want to be tracked.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Meltdown’s power has evolved so that it now manifests as CG orbs.

To the EXTREME! 
Domino stops Shatterstar from killing the defeated Crule, much to Shatterstar's dismay. 

Austin's Analysis
Jeph Loeb begins his efforts to clean-up the Externals, and the merits of that effort will be discussed later when future issues delve into that direction more. For now, this issue is mostly setup and slugfests, as Loeb keeps the mystery of the Externals' attacker simmering while the team fights Absalom & Krule. The mystery element isn't terrible - if nothing else, there's a suitable air of suspense around Warpath's investigations - but the action stuff is much less effective, mostly just because Absalom and Crule are such jobbers that it's kind of ridiculous X-Force - even with Caliban injured and Warpath off investigating - is having this much of a problem with them (it wasn't a much larger group than this which dispatched Crule with relative ease in all of a few pages back in issue #15). That's the way these things go sometimes, especially in introductory chapters, but clearly the ultimate success or failure of this issue hinges on what comes next, since there's really not much to this on its own. 

Next Issue
Next week: Generation X #14, Excalibur #96 and X-Man #14

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  1. This is the first I've noticed that nearly all of the X-ternals (even Sam, in a way) have Biblical names except for Crule.

    1. Crule is mentioned two or three times in the book of Genesis. He was begat by Liefelid and begat Shaftus.

    2. "Crule" being the name that breaks the streak is, of course, *terribly* 90s.

      Also, @Anonymous, hahaha!

  2. Oh yeah, I read about this one long after the fact and was stunned- the Externals thing was a HUGE part of the first 20+ issues of "X-Force", to the point where it dominated Liefeld's story. Hell, it was the entire reason Cable came to our time- to see the new "High Lord" and train him! Gideon & Saul were huge forces, they got multiple arcs, and you saw single issues featuring Crule, Absalom and then Sam dealing with immortality...

    And then it's "WHOOPS! Haha you were never an External after all, Sam! Oh, and these immortals are all dead!"


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