Tuesday, March 4, 2008

X-FORCE #31 – February 1994

Cry Uncle!
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tony Daniel (penciler), Jon Holdredge (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Marie Javins (colorist)

James Proudstar accompanies Siryn to Ireland, where he meets her childhood friend Kelvin. They discuss Black Tom Cassidy, who has grown progressively more insane and needs help. Proudstar learns the story of cousins Sean and Tom Cassidy. They both loved the same woman, and when she chose Sean over Tom, Tom felt the need to prove how unworthy he was by becoming a criminal. When Sean Cassidy, Banshee, was away on an Interpol assignment, he didn’t know that his wife gave birth and died. Tom raised Siryn as her “uncle” and kept her existence hidden from Banshee out of resentment. Proudstar also hears Siryn’s story of being sent to a boarding school after Black Tom became more heavily involved with crime. She began drinking to rebel, and later to deal with the pain of abandoning Tom after his imprisonment. Black Tom meets with Siryn at her mother’s grave, where she convinces him to turn himself in for treatment, and she decides to stop drinking. Juggernaut tells Proudstar that if Siryn starts to help herself, she might not need him anymore. Proudstar tells him that this is the price of friendship.

Continuity Notes
A large portion of this issue is dedicated to explaining the backstories of Black Tom, Banshee, and Siryn. A lot of the information about Banshee and Black Tom had already been established by Chris Claremont in a Classic X-Men back-up story. Siryn first appeared in Spider-Woman during the Claremont run, but I’m not sure how much of her backstory he established.

Black Tom is still in his half-plant appearance, after the events of the Deadpool miniseries.

Miscellaneous Note
According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for this year were 572,892, with the most recent issue at 409,300. I wonder how many of those copies ever left a mylar bag?

It’s another quiet, character-driven issue. Compare this issue to the Black Tom/Juggernaut fight issues from earlier in this series, and you can see how much better this book could be with Nicieza as the sole plotter. Not every Nicieza issue worked (the previous two were fairly weak), but he always did strong work on the low-key issues. For the first time since being re-introduced into the X-books, Siryn’s connection to Banshee and Black Tom is established. The flashbacks work into the main story seamlessly, and it’s hard to figure out how much of this is old continuity and how much is new material created for this issue.

Characters fighting alcoholism became commonplace in the ‘80s and ‘90s (with Nicieza writing more than a few of these stories), but rather than focusing on the addiction angle, the story is really about Siryn finding the strength to face her problems and not using alcohol as a crutch to deal with them. Black Tom receives a surprisingly complex characterization, emphasizing his criminal past but also his sincere feelings for Siryn. Juggernaut even receives a more sympathetic portrayal, acting as more than just a thug, but as someone who truly wants to help his friend. In one scene, he’s insulted that Proudstar would imply that he’d start a fight in a church. This does seem to be going a little far, considering the fact that he gleefully destroyed one of the World Trade Center towers in the recent past (although the creators seemed to be under the impression that this wouldn’t hurt anybody at the time). Proudstar, a character who was mainly portrayed as a revenge-driven, angry young man in this series, finally feels like a believable person in this issue. Nicieza’s able to make his concern for Siryn feel sincere and tie it into his established characterization, with Proudstar trying to force Siryn to face her own demons. There’s certainly a lot of angst in this issue, but the characters seem real and the story doesn’t give in to melodrama. I liked this issue a lot as a kid and it holds up.


Teebore said...

I liked this issue too, glad to hear it holds up (can you tell yet that I liked the "quiet" issues as much, if not more than, the "regular" issues?).

Mannered and complex portrayals of villains, like Black Tom and Juggernaut here, will almost always be more entertaining than their mustache twirling counterparts from the beginning of the series.

Brett said...

This issue is definitely one of the reasons why Siryn and Warpath are two of my favorite characters. Their friendship was one of the most realistic and honest ones in the entire x-universe, I'm sad that it has been ignored for so long now.

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