Monday, November 17, 2008

X-FORCE #54 – May 1996

Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Javins/Bellman & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Following their battle in the city, X-Force is arrested and interrogated by the police. Through a series of interviews, they reveal that the Externals’ mystery killer was Selene. After confronting Warpath inside Gideon’s skyscraper, she flew down to the street and killed Absalom. Crule attempted to fight back, but Selene drained his life energy also. Siryn searched the skyscraper to find Warpath, but he was gone. Meanwhile, Selene was suddenly attacked by a blast of telekinetic energy from the newly arrived Cable. The team united their powers against Selene, but the resulting energy explosion left most of them unconscious. As Selene left, Blaquesmith arrived and took Cable away, erasing X-Force’s memory of his presence. The police arrived, and Domino decided to surrender, hoping that Caliban could receive medical care. Soon, X-Force is released from prison with the help of Archangel’s ex-girlfriend, Detective Charlotte Jones. As Detective Jones leaves for the night, a shadowy figure warns her that there will soon be “zero tolerance” for mutants.

Continuity Notes: Why exactly X-Force is being released is vague. When Domino thanks Detective Jones, she replies, “Let’s leave that aside for now. I can only tell you that you have a friend…”. I’m not sure if she’s referring to herself or not.

The police have a file on Shatterstar, which lists his name as “Benjamin”. The file has photos of Shatterstar, with shorter hair, posing for a mugshot. This is more foreshadowing for the upcoming origin storyline for Shatterstar.

The shadowy figure who confronts Detective Jones is supposed to be Bastion, making his second cameo appearance this month. “Zero Tolerance” is the name of his Sentinel program, and next year’s crossover.

Selene gives no motivation for the murder of the Externals. Her only comments are, “There is a war coming over the horizon, where only the strong will survive. These Externals have outlived their purpose. Now there is only myself and one other” (Selene was listed as an External in issue #37. Presumably, she doesn’t think that she’s outlived her own usefulness). She laughs at the idea that the remaining External is Cannonball (which I guess leaves Candra), telling Meltdown, “You don’t honestly believe that the stripling Guthrie is actually an External?”. When Meltdown mentions that she saw his resurrection from the dead, Selene replies, “Did you now? Ask your mentor about that…”. As far as I know, Cannonball’s return from the dead remains unexplained, and the implication that Cable knows something about it hasn’t been followed up on.

Production Note: Nineteen pages again.

I Love the ‘90s: The cover of this issue is a reference to The Usual Suspects movie. The director, Bryan Singer, will go on to direct the first two X-Men movies and revive interest in the superhero film genre.

Review: This is the horrendous conclusion to the years-old Externals storyline, which went from being so important it was a part of Cable’s origin story (he came back to this time to train Cannonball during his ascension as an External), to being totally ignored for years, to being swept under the carpet as an afterthought. This is an entire issue of “What Were They Thinking?”, as the previous issues of the storyline are retconned without explanation, and the new questions raised are never answered. It’s sloppy from start to finish, as Selene is given no motivation for her actions, and the events from the earlier chapters of this storyline are dismissed with no rationalization. It’s sure to disappoint anyone who followed the Externals plotline, and just confuse anyone who was just walking in. Even Pollina’s artwork, which is usually dynamic enough to make up for most of the story’s deficiencies, just looks awkward and unpleasant for most of the issue. Loeb’s police interrogation gimmick does allow for a little characterization, but it’s mostly a pointless distraction from a story that has far too many dangling threads. I remember hating this issue when it was released, and feeling cheated that storylines that were created under the same editor a few years earlier could receive such abysmal conclusions. As if this wasn’t bad enough, within a few months I had to endure the “Onslaught” and “Origin of Shatterstar” storylines. I have no idea what was going on in the X-office during this era, but the quality control is getting shoddy.


Chad said...

I remember reading somewhere that Marvel wanted the Externals killed off quickly because there were threats of a lawsuit over the similarities between the "Externals" concept and the premise of "Highlander", but I have no idea if that's true or not.

rob said...

The police interviews had potential, especially with Pollina's art, to be really fun, but the whole things falls flat.

The title really flounders for a bit after this. Their Onslaught issues (with no Pollina art) are particularly appalling and the Origin of Shatterstar is a mess. Once John Francis Moore comes on and Pollina returns (after Moore's pointless Dr Doom story) things kick in severe high gear. But we're almost a year from that, so things don't look good for the next bit.

wwk5d said...

Yeah, this title stalls quite a bit in terms of quality. The "Road Trip" issues are some of my favorite stories with the characters. Still, this is a bad issue, though I did like the art. I always assumed that Selene was referring to Apocalypse, being the other External...damn, what a mess.

Aqualad said...

When I gave away all my X-Factor, Gen X, and X-Force issues, I made sure to keep some of the Road Trip storyline. Everything else, who needs it.

This may have been the first issue of X-Force I bought- I wonder why I ever came back for more.

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