Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

X-amining X-Force #57

"In the Company of Stranger Part 2: The Best Laid Plans"
August 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Force & X-Man battle Mister Sinister! 

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Anthony Castrillo
Inker: Mark Morales
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

As Mister Sinister takes control of Nate Grey's mind, he is attacked by Caliban, attacking savagely in response to a subconscious trigger implanted in him by Apocalypse. Taking advantage of the ensuing opening, Domino triggers the self-destruction of Cable's armory, creating a massive explosion that puts some distance between X-Force, Nate and Sinister. Meanwhile, Warpath & Risque arrive at the mansion. As Meltdown comforts Caliban, distraught at having lost control, Nate attempts to draw knowledge of the Askani from Sunspot's mind in order to gain control over his powers, but this results in an energy backlash which takes the form of Blaquesmith. Elsewhere, Sinister comes across Siryn, and nearly kills her, but Shatterstar intervenes. When Sinister knocks him aside, Warpath & Risque attack, and Sinister is shocked to realize he has no idea who Risque is. During their fight, Nate tries to use his powers to read Sinister's thoughts, but Sinister redirects the attack, knocking everyone else out. He then departs with the unconscious Nate Grey. 

Firsts and Other Notables
In a further testament to how arbitrability/inconsistently the "Impact" and "Phase" labels are applied within the "Onslaught" crossover, this issue gets an "Impact" designation, despite following on directly from X-Man #18, which was marked as a "Phase" issue. 

Anthony Castrillo pencils this issue; he becomes something of the book's unofficial regular penciler over the next half dozen issues (with Adam Pollina presumably off working on the Rise of Apocalypse miniseries), drawing this issue and the next three, then returning for issues #63-64. Aside from this little run, I'm not terribly familiar with his work. 

Warpath returns to the team this issue, with Risque at this side. 

While Risque is aware of who Mister Sinister is (and refers to him as one of the "Legendary Ones", he has no knowledge of her, something which surprises him (and I honestly have no idea where, if anywhere, this Sinister/Risque business goes). 

In the context of Nate Grey, Sinister lays out how he orchestrated the birth of Cable as a weapon to be used against Apocalypse, 
and specifically cites Apocalypse's infection of baby Nathan with a techno-organic virus as an attempt by Apocalypse to scuttle Sinister's plans, something Sinister no longer needs worry about with the uninfected Nate Grey. 

A Work in Progress
Caliban attacks Mister Sinister in the issue's opening pages, with Sinister deducing that Caliban is acting on some unconscious trigger created by Apocalypse when he modified Caliban as a general protection against Sinister, and once again, this is all presented as though Sinister didn't interact with Caliban in "X-Cutioner's Song" (though there, at least, Sinister was in disguise, which would explain why this trigger didn't set Caliban off). 

The armory X-Force & Nate raided in
X-Man #18 is said to have been put into the mansion by Cable, over Xavier's objections. 

Domino then triggers a self-destruct in the armory, which generates a massive explosion which damages the mansion (this isn't quite on the level of the previous
Sidrian Hunter or Mister Sinister mansion destructions, as we'll see, but there is damage). 

Sunspot worries that if Nate accesses his knowledge of the Askani, it may cause Reignfire to re-emerge, and a footnote promises to soon tell us more about that story (we sort of get there eventually). 

It's said that much of Sinister's power comes from his ability to control the entirety of his own generic material, which isn't really something that's been put that way before. 

Young Love
Warpath notes the romantic indifference with which Siryn so often treated him, in comparison to the more passionate Risque (though of course, this is coming from Warpath's perspective; one could argue he simply needed to take no for an answer from Siryn). 

Austin's Analysis
This is another "perfectly competent" Jeph Loeb issue: nothing especially flashy, just a standard issue-long action sequence performed with a basic level of professionalism (though Loeb, like Kavanagh in the previous chapter, completely forgets that Sinister & Caliban have interacted prior to this). For all that this book is X-Force, the ostensible "extreme!", action-heavy X-book, it hasn't had a ton of all-action issues post-"Age of Apocalypse", and while the action here isn't perhaps as dynamic or multi-layered as in, say, issue #55 , it nevertheless feels appropriate to have the bulk of the X-Force/X-Man vs. Sinister fight play out here,. Loeb also gets some decent mileage out of the idea of living weapons being used as proxies in the fight between Apocalypse & Sinister, that Nate is a "cleaner" version of Sinister's Cable "weapon" while Caliban was, unknowingly, turned into a weapon against Sinister by Apocalypse. Is this integral to the larger "Onslaught" story? Absolutely not. Is it terribly deep or complex? Of course not. But it gets the job done. Sometimes - especially in this era, during this crossover - that's enough. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Men (vol. 2) #55. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #336 and X-Factor #126!

Like what you read? Then support us on Patreon & gain access to exclusive reviews of X-Men: The Animated Series and more!


  1. So much stuff I didn't know was going on at the periphery of "Onslaught". Cable vs. Apocalypse! X-Force vs. Mister Sinister! You'd think I would've known about this stuff from the "X-Facts" pages. And heck, maybe I did and have long forgotten. But still, it's amazing how much was going on this event that I've never really known about.

    Anyway -- I followed your links to UXM 154 and 243. That was a trip down memory lane! And it's crazy that back then, you made it through roughly 100 issues in a little over two years. It's been over six years since UNCANNY 243's review, and you've covered about 95 more issues of the title in that span!

    (I mean, obviously you've looked at way more issues in total of all the spinoffs, but just in terms of UNCANNY, it's kind of funny.)


  2. I’m not familiar with Anthony Castrillo at all but he’s clearly a John Byrne fan.

    Other than it being dramatic, I don’t understand why Nate “removes the Askani teachings Cable left in [Bobby’s] mind” — I guess what actually chafes at me is that Bobby says this as if all present understand what’s happening versus assuming that Nate could access the teachings without Bobby necessarily having to lose them in the process.

  3. I'm commenting a few months late, but I believe the plan for Risque was that she would be a time-traveling Askani, hence the "legendary ones" comment and Sinister's ignorance of her. I guess the latter is meant to echo the way that Sinister had recently said he knew nothing about Bishop, because he was also a time traveller? Either way, that never came to fruition.

    1. Oh, that's neat. I'd never heard that about Risque before. I'll have to keep that in mind as additional mysteries swirl around her.


Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!