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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

X-amining X-Force and Cable '96

"Transmission"/"Denouement (Tribute, Part 4)"


In a Nutshell

X-Force battles Pulse, a cybernetic Kree refugee, before helping him evade the Shi'ar. 

Writer: John Francis Moore, Terry Kavanagh & Ben Raab (2nd Story)

Penciler: Luke Ross, Ed Benes (2nd Story)

Inkers: Rob Hunter & Matt Ryan, Joe Pimentel & Matt Ryan (2nd Story)

Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft

Colorist: Shannon Blanchard & Malibu Color, Mike Thomas (2nd Story)

Editor: Jaye Gardner

Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras


Pulse, a cybernetic being composed of Shi'ar technology created by a rebellious faction of the Kree, flees the Shi'ar, ending up near Earth, where he covers his escape by destroying his ship. Meanwhile, Cable & Domino are overseeing a training session of X-Force in the Danger Room when the room suddenly goes haywire. Manifestations of Ultron, Deathlok and Warlock appear, each doing battle with X-Force. As Cable & Domino try to figure out what's wrong with the room, Deathbird contacts them, ordering them to help apprehend Pulse. Eventually, X-Force manages to break free of the room, at which point "Warlock" escapes. Upon seeing a surfboard near the boathouse, Warlock transforms into Pulse, his memory restored. He explains that he was drawn to the Shi'ar technology in the Danger Room, where he combed through the databanks for similarly-cybernetic beings as he tried to remember who he was. Just then, the Shi'ar forces arrive and demand Pulse. While Cable and the rest of the team stall, Siryn & Warpath help Pulse escape by beaming his mind off the planet, then feigning ignorance while turning over his robotic shell to the Shi'ar. Later, Pulse, reconstitutes a physical form aboard a passing ship, and continues his quest to find the Silver Surfer. 

2nd Story: Cable joins Cyclops for a heart-to-heart talk as they explore Apocalypse's citadel in Akkaba, hoping to learn more about him in light of his recent return. The pair discuss the recent passing of Cable's son, Tyler, and Cable tells Cyclops about his wife, Jenskot. Cable laments not having been more prepared for Tyler's fate, and while Cyclops admits it likely won't make him feel better, he tells him he doesn't have to deal with his grief alone, something Cable appreciates. 

Firsts and Other Notables

This issue introduces Pulse, a cybernetic being created by a rebel faction of the Kree against the Shi'ar. Though he ends the issue seeking out the Silver Surfer, this is his only appearance to date (the Silver Surfer will soon appear in X-Men Unlimited #13, and this story gets referenced there, but Pulse does not fact into it). 

The second story in this annual is subtitled "Tribute the Fourth", continuing the series of second-stories in an annual paying tribute to a departed character (here, it is Cable & Cyclops discussing Tyler/Genesis). The previous three, all written by Peter David, featured Jean Grey visiting her own grave in X-Factor Annual #5, Wolfsbane mourning Doug Ramsey in New Mutants Annual #6, and Mystique saying goodbye to Destiny in X-Factor Annual #6

Former X-Factor (and X-Men 2099) writer John Francis Moore pens this issue; he will take over the main series from Jeph Loeb with issue #63. 

Pulse transforms into a series of robotic/cybernetic beings, culminating in the (believed to be dead) former New Mutant Warlock, which of course hits some of the cast harder than Ultron or Deathlok. 

Deathbird, still the regent of the conquered Kree Empire, makes a brief appearance via holo-chat. 

The issue concludes with a one-page in-up of the team. 

The Chronology Corner

The first story takes place between X-Force #58 and 59, the second between #61 and #62 (and Cable #36 and #37). 

A Work in Progress

Sunspot's continues to slip in and out of the Askani language. 

Despite being seemingly destroyed in X-Force #57, the mansion seems mostly fine here. 

At one point while battling Pulse, Sunspot flies into the air while inside the Danger Room, forgetting that it only simulates the sky above him and causing him to crash into the ceiling, something I don't think we've ever seen before. 

Similarly, when Warpath & Siryn later try to get to one of the Danger Room's (physical) walls, they find the room working against them to maintain the illusion that the actual boundary of the room is further away. 

Siryn is suddenly devoutly anti-British this issue, in light of Pulse's struggle against the imperliastic Shi'ar (not that this is out-of-character for Siryn, it's just not something that's ever really come up before despite how ardently she speaks against them here). 

The second story takes place inside Apocalypse's citadel from Wolverine #100.

Cable says that Jenskot adopted that name as she believed invoking Scott & Jean's name in battle would help her. 

Moore seems to be writing from the (earlier) notion that Tyler wasn't actually Cable's son by blood, something that was later retconned out. 

The Reference Section 

Warpath does a Tarzan swing, for some reason. 

Young Love

Warpath continues to be awkward around Siryn, though Risque is nowhere to be found. 

Austin's Analysis

While neither as fun nor as artistically engaging as Wolverine '96, this is another story which is well-suited to be presented in an annual. Not because of the way it quietly connects to a series of ongoing plotlines or tells a big, over-the-top story, but rather because it doesn't. This is a mostly standalone tale, with the extra pages afforded to an annual giving it the room to come in, do its thing, and get out, without getting in the way of potentially better stories. If that sounds like damning it with faint praise, well, that may be accurate. The art is the now-standard 90s house style amalgam of Jim Lee & Joe Madureira imitators, largely uninteresting aside from a few outlandish touches (Shatter's shoulders and arms are HUGE in this issue) but not hard to follow, while the story is a tad overlong (it takes X-Force entirely too long to get out of the dang Danger Room). But all of that is less offensive than if this was eating up several issues of story in the main title, and Moore does at least manage to ground the generic action beats by having the characters react to them in ways consistent with their characterization (if, as in Siryn's case, a bit heavy-handedly at times): X-Force coming down hard on the side of the endangered refugee fleeing an oppressive regime is hardly surprising for or unique to these characters, but Moore uses their specific experiences and mix of personalities to nevertheless present their decision to tell the Shi'ar to beat feat as uniquely theirs. This is neither required reading nor a hidden 90s gem, but as these things go, it could be much, much worse, and it does offer a sneak peak of sorts at Moore's later work on the series, in which he similarly manages to keep the characters in the foreground amidst the more comic book-y trappings. 

Next Issue

Next week: the Brood return in X-Men vs. the Brood #1-2!

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  1. Have we ever discussed how weirdly Oedipal it is that Cable's wife's name sounds like a mashup of his parents' names? Was that ever explained in-story?

    1. Oh, it was explained and you referenced it in this very post, which I somehow missed! Regardless, it's still slightly creepy : )

    2. Yeah, I was trying to decide if it's more or less creepy if she had adopted that name BEFORE Cable fell in love with her or after (it's almost certainly after). Either way, not great. :)

  2. Was this the first double title annual? It precedes Daredevil/Deadpool '97 by a year and then in 1998 almost every annual billed two separate characters/teams together.

    1. They did it in '95 w/Cable & X-Force as well.

      I'm not sure if the later "team-up" annuals of '97 and '98 were directly inspired by them or not, but these two Cable/X-Force ones definitely feel more like Marvel not wanting to do two separate annuals for both CABLE and X-FORCE, for whatever reason.

    2. With X Man and Gen X adding annuals to the fold, they probably made a wise choice.

  3. It looks like Luke Ross was doing his best Adam Pollina impression in the art. As you say, it's not remarkable but it is serviceable. Stories like this are why I generally like the Annuals. If I'm in the mood for a quick read I can just pull one of these out instead of having to grab a small stack for the more involved arcs.

    It's strange to have a "Cable & X-Force" Annual instead of just an X-Force Annual that also featured Cable. I'm surprised that they didn't do something similar with Wolverine like "Wolverine & X-Men" Annual.


  4. // via holo-chat //

    Given access to this essentially magic technology I would spend an unhealthy amount of time avec mes holo-chats.

    // the mansion seems mostly fine here //


    // the dang Danger Room //

    Ahem: “the Dang2er Room” [sigh; no superscript]


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