Tuesday, June 17, 2008

X-FORCE #42 – January 1995

A Lie of the Mind
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Pat Brosseau & Chris Eliopoulos (letterers), Marie Javins (colorist)

James Proudstar talks to Emma Frost about the death of his brother and the massacre of his tribe. Emma is indignant that Proudstar ever believed that the Hellfire Club ordered the death of his tribe as retaliation for him leaving the Hellions. She asks him why he stays with X-Force, but she doesn’t believe his reasons. Meanwhile, Siryn tells her father that she doesn’t have any romantic feelings for Proudstar, while Cannonball checks on his sister, Husk. As Emma and Proudstar continue their conversation, he admits that he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, but feels like this is the only life he’s been prepared for. Emma tells Proudstar that she thinks that he’s afraid to let go of his past and follow what he really wants. As Proudstar leaves, Emma speculates that he holds on to the hope of finding love because he’s terrified of dying.

Continuity Notes
There’s a two-page subplot scene that takes place at a “biochemical research station” in Germany. Every aspect of it is intentionally vague, so it’s hard to recap. Basically, an intruder is killed by the guards, who apologize to their employer (?) when they learn that he was her husband. She doesn’t seem concerned, claiming that he was trying to find their son, and that his employers, the Clan Yashida, will be coming soon. Okay, then. This story was dropped after Nicieza was replaced on the book. Nicieza resolved some of his old plotlines years later while writing Gambit¸ but I don’t know if this is one of them.

This issue establishes that the Hellfire Club didn’t kill Proudstar’s tribe, which had been the assumption since the end of the New Mutants series. Proudstar says that Camp Verde was massacred “two years ago”, which implies that the series is moving in something close to real time (the issue that established their murder was published in 1991). It’s always interesting to read references to years passing by in Marvel stories, when you consider their insistence that Spider-Man and a few other characters never should’ve aged. You can’t have it both ways, unless you want to go back to the days when Superman and Aquaman comics had two conflicting versions of the city of Atlantis, while they served on the Justice League at the same time.

According to Proudstar, six Hellions died in Fitzroy’s attack (UXM #281, #282). Actually, Portacio depicted dozens of Hellion victims during those issues (which never made any sense in the first place -- where did these extra Hellions come from?).

I have no idea what’s supposed to be going on in that cover, unless Proudstar is reacting to Emma’s horrible haircut. Terry Dodson is the fill-in artist for this issue, so the exaggerated style on the cover is really false advertising for the contents. This is another quiet issue, focusing on the existing connections between X-Force and the new Generation X team. Proudstar’s history as one of Emma’s students and the familial connections that Siryn and Cannonball have with Banshee and Husk help to make the story feel organic, and not like a contrived crossover. The main focus of this issue is on James Proudstar and Emma Frost, so the scenes with Siryn and Banshee and Cannonball and Husk don’t actually get a lot of room. Siryn’s problem with alcohol is something her father should have some reaction to, but their scene together feels rushed. Nicieza primarily uses the scene to reinforce the idea that Proudstar is supporting Siryn in the vain hope that she’ll return his feelings. Cannonball’s interaction with Husk is very brief, mainly serving to reinforce the ongoing Generation X subplot that Husk doesn’t want to live in her brother’s shadow.

After Marvel made the decision to reform Emma Frost, I wonder how long it took someone to remember her implied involvement in the massacre of James Proudstar’s tribe. Since Proudstar is a member of another X-team, it’s an association that couldn’t easily be ignored. The connection is dealt with in this issue, with Nicieza giving the simplest resolution possible – the Hellfire Club didn’t do it, and Proudstar never should’ve thought so in the first place. Nicieza tries to use this as a characterization point by connecting it to Proudstar’s eagerness to blame Xavier for his brother’s death, but it doesn’t quite work. The Hellfire Club had always been portrayed ruthlessly, and there was a Hellfire Club mask found at the scene. The stories in the meantime never presented any doubt about the Hellfire Club’s involvement, so Proudstar always seemed justified in blaming them. Still, if Emma Frost is going to be on the heroes’ side, there’s no way her involvement in the incident can stay in continuity, so it has to be dealt with somehow. Proudstar’s vendetta against the Hellfire Club was rarely brought up after he joined X-Force, so it’s not as if this revelation undermines a lot of previous stories.

The depiction of Proudstar as a direction-less young man, doing what’s expected out of him without getting a lot back is a unique take on a superhero. His relationship with Siryn is presented in a surprisingly cynical way; he supports her because he thinks that doing the right thing will help her see his feelings for her, yet she remains oblivious. He’s essentially a giant, super-strong sap. That’s quite an evolution from the teeth-gritting, revenge-driven Warpath from the early issues of the series. His conversation with Emma does a lot to develop his character, balancing the line between making him sympathetic and just pathetic. The ending doesn’t provide any cliché resolutions, as Proudstar walks away from Emma and refuses to tell his friends about their conversation. It would’ve been easy for Nicieza to give Proudstar a stirring speech at the end, defending his choice to stay with the team, but instead he doesn’t give any answers. It’s too bad Nicieza wasn’t able to continue this character arc. It looks like he was removed from the title just as he was doing his best work.

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