Child’s Play Part Four
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Darick Robertson (penciler), Mahlstedt, Bulanadi, Akin (inkers), Steve Dutro (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)
X-Force and the New Warriors unite to stop Gamemaster in Switzerland. Gamesmaster uses his mental powers to turn the two teams against one another. When Cable faces Cannonball, Cable uses his telepathic powers for apparently the first time to stop him. Cable soon collapses, along with the rest of his teammates. Paige Guthrie, hiding from the battle, calls out to Gamesmaster. In exchange for sparing her brother’s life, she offers him the next generation of mutants. Intrigued at the idea of guiding a new generation of mutants, Gamesmaster agrees to the deal. Cable thinks that it’s a hollow victory if Gamesmaster gains control over the next generation of mutants, but the New Warriors see it as a challenge to find new mutants before the wrong side does.
Cable uses telepathy for the first time to stop Cannonball during their fight. Both Cable and Domino imply that they didn’t know he could do that. In the concurrent storyline going on in Cable’s solo book, he also uses telepathy against Colossus.
The Gamesmaster claims it’s easy for him to read Cable’s mind, but he can’t read Speedball’s due to his kinetic energy field.
At the end of the story, the “real” identity of the Gamesmaster is hinted at. He’s living in a house on an island, has a photo of his family near him, and doesn’t resemble the Gamesmaster at all (different hairline, different body type, wears glasses).
This is better than the previous New Warriors installment, at least. Having Gamesmaster take over the minds of the people facing him is a very obvious move, but the way Nicieza describes his point of view in the narration makes it work. The ending is a little strange, with Paige offering herself to Gamesmaster in rather vague terms. At first, it seems as if she’s promising to serve him if he spares her brother. A few pages later, it’s implied that she’s only dared him to mold the next generation before Xavier does. So, he spared her brother’s life because she just gave him a good idea for killing time?
As the conclusion of a four-part story, this isn’t so bad, but as the ending to a long-running subplot and the introduction of a new one, it’s a flop. I’m assuming that this story was done to end the Upstarts storyline, with Fitzroy apparently dead, the other Upstarts turning on Gamesmaster, and Gamesmaster moving on to a new goal. As a conclusion, this doesn’t work at all because there are just too many unanswered questions. What was the ultimate prize Gamesmaster hinted at? What exactly was Selene getting out of this? Gamesmaster’s replacement for the Upstarts game, finding the next generation of mutants, never amounted to anything, either (was it ever even brought up again?). So, one story that was never properly developed gives way to another one that never really starts.
The ending of this issue leads me to believe that this crossover was originally intended to be a more direct lead-in to Generation X. The New Mutants and Hellions characters were the last “new generation” of mutants, so reintroducing them is one way to revive the idea of discovering new mutants. Gamesmaster is set up as the dark force looking to corrupt young mutants, so Xavier must find them first. I like this idea, because Gamesmaster could serve as a dark alternate to Xavier, which would give the character more of an identity and make him more of a legitimate challenge. He already has a connection to the Upstarts, who claimed to be the next generation of mutants, so it’s not as if this idea comes out of nowhere. Instead, the upcoming Phalanx crossover is used to set up Generation X. The Phalanx are bland villains who disappear once they’re defeated, and don’t offer the dramatic possibilities that Gamesmaster, tempting the young students to the dark side, could provide. He could’ve been an ongoing antagonist for the team, serving as more than just a physical threat to the X-teams. This idea was already introduced, so I’m not sure why they didn’t follow up on it.