Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Marie Javins & Malibu Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Summary: Sunspot watches in shock as Gideon’s body withers away. Caliban senses the arrival of two more Externals, Absalom and Crule, who mistakenly believe that Sunspot and Caliban are the ones hunting the Externals. The remaining members of X-Force respond to Sunspot’s call for help and join the fight. While Domino attends to Caliban’s wounds, Warpath climbs up Gideon’s skyscraper. Domino realizes that the Externals are being defeated too easily, and orders X-Force to back off. Inside Gideon’s penthouse, Warpath discovers the body of another External, Saul. He senses the presence of someone else, and is ambushed by a mystery woman.
Production Note: This issue, shockingly enough, only has nineteen pages of story. There’s a two-page letter column and two-page X-Facts hype section to make up for the missing pages.
Review: This is essentially an issue-long fight scene that also tries to advance the “Who’s Killing the Externals?” mystery. Absalom and Crule have no reason to fight the team, which makes the entire issue feel padded. Pollina’s art is dynamic enough to sell the action, so it’s never truly boring, but there’s no getting around the fact that the lengthy fight scene isn’t advancing the actual storyline. I appreciate the fact that Loeb is at least trying to resolve some of the dangling plotlines from the earlier issues, but the Externals storyline never really worked in the first place, and it seems like he’s reviving the idea just to bury it. I remember reading this issue when it was first released and trying to remember who Absalom and Crule even were. Reading it today, having read their previous appearances less than a year ago, I still had a hard time remembering who they were supposed to be. Apparently, Cruel has evil ponytails that come out of the skull emblem on his forehead. You’d think I would’ve remembered that.