Shadows on the Rock
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Matt Broome (penciler), Bud Larosa and Scott Hanna (inks), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), George Roussos (colors)
The Professor uses future technology to repair Cable after Magneto’s attack. Cannonball and Sunspot go to Madripoor to tell Xian Coy Manh about Illyana’s death. Warpath reveals to Cable that Siryn has been secretly getting drunk. Tempo, Wildside, Reaper, and Forearm are broken out of jail by Reignfire, who wants to start a new Mutant Liberation Front.
Cable suddenly has a mustache on page four.
Since the last issue of X-Force was a crossover issue, you can probably guess what type of issue this is. That’s right, it’s another talky issue with only one brief action scene. I barely remembered this issue, so I was surprised to see that it’s one of the best “quiet” issues from this era. It’s held back by some truly awful artwork, but Nicieza’s script works really well. I don’t like a lot of the chatty issues because none of the storylines get advanced, and most of the allegedly deep conversations between the characters aren’t that interesting. This issue manages to give the characters more personality and develop character arcs that will play out in future issues. Even though there’s not a lot of plot, the book doesn’t feel like it’s stalling.
What’s more impressive is the fact that Nicieza is building on elements from the title’s weak beginning. Cable actually feels guilty about recruiting emotionally damaged young mutants because they were easier to manipulate. Proudstar finally shows genuine emotion over his family’s death. Siryn turns to alcohol after being scarred by the Shadow King. Cannonball deals with outliving his friend Illyana, who will be the first of many if he’s truly immortal. Shatterstar is even interesting for the first time, as the question is asked, “does he even have emotions?” Nicieza’s able to take his original one-note personality and build an actual story out of it. Structurally, this issue is very similar to X-Force #5, an awful issue from early in the book’s run (both issues even end with a new version of an old team being formed to fight X-Force). In terms of art, they’re both extremely weak, but the plotting and characterization have greatly improved.