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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

X-amining X-Force #59

"Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?"
October 1996

In a Nutshell
X-Force launches an investigation into Shatterstar's origins

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Anthony Casrtrillo
Inker: Bud LaRosa
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Marie Javins
Confused by it all: Bob Harras

With Shatterstar growing increasingly more unsure of his true identity - Mojoworld warrior bred or comatose mental patient Benjamin Russell - Cable interrogates him hard, psychologically & telepathically, to find the truth, much to the dismay of the rest of the team. As Rictor returns in Shatterstar's hour of need, the team sets out to find clues to his identity. Cable meets with Detective Charlotte Jones, only to learn that Benjamin Russell's file - as well as all the files on X-Force - have gone missing. Similarly, when the team investigates the Weissman Institute, they find it seemingly long-abandoned. Just then, the group is attacked by bounty hunters from Mojoworld, Gog and Magog, who teleport away with Shatterstar. But Cable manages to leap into their teleportation field and follow them, leaving the rest of the team behind on their crashing ship. Luckily, they land safely, thanks to the presence in the pilot's seat of none of other than Longshot! 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue kicks off a three part story that (attempts) to rejigger Shatterstar's origin, paying off the various "Benjamin Russell" teases sprinkled throughout the last half dozen or so issues, but ultimately, it just leaves the character in a messy place and doesn't really explain any of those teases. It's also the beginning of Jeph Loeb's last story on the title (he leaves after issue #61). 

It also features the return of Rictor, who left the team in issue #44 as he was uncomfortable with Cable's "Let's use telepathy more!" mandate but as returned now because Shatterstar needs him. He'll stick around with the team for roughly the next dozen or so issues. 

Gog and Magog, the bounty hunters from Mojoworld last seen hunting the X-Babies in X-Men (vol. 2) #46, turn up as well, capturing Shatterstar (and Cable) at the end of the issue. 

Longshot himself turns up as well at the end of the issue, his first appearance since X-Men (vol. 2) #11 (which first teased the notion that Shatterstar was his son), unless you count the cardbacks of the Fleer Ultra Wolverine card set reprinted as Wolverine #102.5.  

Detective Charlotte Jones, last seen helping X-Force out of a legal jam in
issue #54, pops up here. She reveals to Cable that all of the department's files on X-Force have gone missing (the implication being they've been seized by Bastian, who confronted Charlotte at the end of #54). 

A Work in Progress
Shatterstar's original origin gets a brief recap here. 

Warpath is concerned about the missing Risque, who disappeared during the team's fight with Mister Sinister in the midst of "Onslaught". 

The opening scenes of this issue appear to be set at X-Force's old base in the Adirondacks from the series' earliest issues (which was, in turn, appropriated from Larry Trask's Sentinels operation during the Silver Age Thomas/Adams X-Men run), presumably due to the damage sustained by the mansion in the previous issue (not that every series has been terribly consistent in its portrayal of that damage). 

Siryn says that she was just at the Weismann Institute "days ago", meaning the events issues #56 to now happened in the course of those days. 

Remember "Onslaught"? 
Cable notes that he's pushing the investigation into Shatterstar's identity so hard because he wants to make sure he's not wrong about him like he was wrong about Xavier. 

Charlotte Jones & Cable meet amidst wreckage from Onslaught's attack on New York being cleaned up, including damaged Sentinels. 

To the EXTREME! 
Siryn says that Cable trained X-Force to act whenever innocent lives were at stake, which isn't quite consistent with the team's earliest "strike first, strike hard" ethos. 

Human/Mutant Relations
One of Charlotte Jones fellow cops has grown more anti-mutant as a result of "Onslaught", suggesting that perhaps the anti-mutant Graydon Creed is right about mutants. 

Austin's Analysis
While the bulk of what is sometimes called "The Shatterstar Saga" and Jeph Loeb's rejiggering of Shatterstar's origin is largely pointless and needlessly complex, that will come in later chapters. The start of it here is instead more of the same kind of reliably competent superhero comics that Loeb and his various artistic collaborators (Anthony Castrillo remains on hand, filling in for the "off drawing Rise of Apocalypse" Adam Pollina) have been churning out on this book of late. There's the the setting up of the immediate plot du jour before ending on a cliffhanger or twist to lead in to the next chapter ("let's go find out what's really going on with Shatterstar and oh look it's Longshot!"), the mix of action and moments of characterization (fighting Gog & Magog, the return of Rictor, Meltdown sticking up for Shatterstar like he did for her in issue #51), and the minute advancement (or just acknowledgement) of ongoing subplots to keep them simmering (hey, remember Risque?). This is all standard stuff, of course, but Loeb & Castrillo handle it well. What's to come in this story is a bit of a mess, but there's thankfully little indication of that here at the start. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nate Grey battles the Abomination in X-Man #20. Next week, Generation X #20!

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1 comment:

  1. Why is X-Force reacting to Longshot (and he to them) as if it’s a big moment of reunion (or perhaps the comic tries to convey that notion to readers), when none of the characters have no clue of he is? This comic series has gone so far from its original roots that now Sunspot is the last remaining member of the New Mutants and I don’t think he and Longshot had any meaningful interaction (after all, Longshot “died” in Fall of Mutants shortly after joining the X-Men).

    Clearly, comic creators have no idea of what to do with Longshot or Dazzler. Remember X-Men #47 when Dazzler met with Jean Grey and Iceman… whom she never had any real ties? Anyone else would have worked: Archangel (from the time in which he was a supporting character in her solo series), Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, Wolverine or Havok. Yes, Havok! No one seems to remember that Havok was a good friend to all these people. I never saw him talking to his former colleagues about their time in the Australian Outback.


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