Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tony Daniel (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Mike Thomas (colorist)
Cannonball combines a part of Cable’s time travel equipment with Cerebro and is able to find Sunspot’s location. Meanwhile, Boomer comes across a teenage prostitute, while Rictor and Shatterstar go to a nightclub. When a woman in the club begins to touch Shatterstar, he runs away confused. Cannonball contacts Cable, but he refuses to leave Israel. Suddenly, Locus teleports inside X-Force’s headquarters. She tells the team that they have to reach Sunspot before he makes a terrible mistake. She teleports the team away to pick up Boomer, scaring off the young prostitute she was trying to help. Shatterstar is explaining to Rictor that he wasn’t programmed to deal with the emotional demands of sexual interaction when the rest of the team appears. They teleport away to find Sunspot. They land on the MLF’s island headquarters, where Reignfire is attacking Forearm and Moonstar. After killing Moonstar’s horse, Darkwind, Reignfire reveals himself to be Sunspot. Suddenly, reality begins to crystallize and shatter.
Well, this is the infamous “Shatterstar and Rictor are gay!!!” issue. Fabian Nicieza has always said that this wasn’t his intent, and it’s honestly surprising to me that some people (including the next writer of this series, apparently) interpreted this scene in such a way. You could of course view Shatterstar running away from the woman as a sign that he’s gay, even though his dialogue makes it clear later that he wasn’t programmed to deal with any sexuality. Shatterstar later says that he never felt “such stirrings” inside of him, implying that the woman got at least some kind of reaction out of him. If Nicieza’s goal was to imply that Rictor was gay, I don’t think he would’ve had a narrative caption describe Rictor’s way with women as “second nature” in this very issue. The question of Rictor and Shatterstar’s sexuality certainly didn’t die with this issue, though, and you can read more about it in this installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed.
I Love the ‘90s
The time-hopping Locus says that CDs will be obsolete by the end of the century. Not quite, but that’s sort of true today.
This is another issue that seems a little awkward in hindsight, knowing now that these storylines are just dropped once the title returns from the AoA event. Technically, this is Fabian Nicieza’s last issue, since he’s replaced on X-Force as soon as the AoA is over. I really have no idea where Nicieza was going with the Sunspot/Reignfire story, but it seems more confusing than engaging in this issue. As the story points out, the X-books have done their fair share of time travel stories by this point, and I’m not sure how this one was supposed to be different. Nicieza has shown an ability to add new twists to old clichés, though, so it’s possible that he could’ve done something interesting with this.
The character moments are the best part of this issue, taking advantage of the book’s new urban setting to put the characters in interesting situations. Shatterstar’s loneliness and isolation feel real, and pairing the normally airheaded Boomer with a teen prostitute has a lot of potential. It’s frustrating that this scene was cut short; it’s actually the plotline I would’ve liked to see resolved more than any of the others introduced here. I think that future writer Jeph Loeb later uses Boomer’s thought balloons in this scene as the basis for the implication that she used to be a prostitute. Her thoughts actually read, “This coulda been me…A runaway. Seventeen years old and working the corners”. The “coulda” leads me to believe that she actually wasn’t a prostitute, but I guess there’s a tiny bit of room for interpretation there. Tony Daniel’s art has gotten extremely cartoony at this point, working in the style that will lead him away to Spawn in a few issues. He’s still able to sell the acting in a few of the character scenes, but the looseness and exaggeration in his art distracts from a lot of what Nicieza’s trying to do at this point. Overall, it’s not a bad issue, but Nicieza deserved a much more graceful exist than this.