Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Cable visits Beast regarding his inability to control his techno-organic virus, but he can’t give him any immediate answers. He talks to Storm, who wants him to telepathically search her mind for any information regarding her encounter with Onslaught’s herald, Post. Cable can’t pick up any specific memories, but feels a familiar “telepathic echo” in her memories. Domino interrupts, telling Cable about the explosion of Blaquesmith’s frigate. Cable travels to Maryland to investigate. While searching the ship, he feels the same presence from Storm’s memory is nearby. He flashes back to his past as a mercenary, when he teamed up with G. W. Bridge to rescue his friend, Tremain, from one of the Mandarin’s experiments. With Tremain near death, Cable was forced to give him a blood transfusion, not knowing how his techno-organic virus would affect him. In the present, Cable is suddenly attacked by Post, who he now knows is Tremain. During the course of the fight, Cable begins to deduce Onslaught’s identity. Post can’t bring himself to finish Cable, but he leaves him to die.
Production Notes: Rick Leonardi is also credited as an artist, but all of the pages look like Ian Churchill to me (the GCD lists this as a mistake). This is also the month that the paper quality is reduced across the X-line (even though most of the X-titles’ newsstand editions dropped the slick paper a year earlier) and the Bullpen Bulletins returns to replace the mutant-specific X-Facts page.
Continuity Notes: Mandarin, or at least a hologram of him, is experimenting on Tremain so that he can learn the secrets behind the mutant X-gene. As far as I can tell, this is Tremain’s first appearance. For some reason, I seemed to recall that this issue established that Post was actually one of Cable’s fellow future soldiers, Tetherblood, and not an entirely new character, but I was wrong.
This story takes place explicitly after the Storm miniseries, yet she still has her old hairstyle and uniform. This isn’t the only time that happens during this era.
Cable deduces Onslaught's identity by thinking of who would put him in a weakened condition, remove Blaquesmith from the picture, and know about Tremain. Cable never outright says who Onslaught is, though, as that revelation is being saved for this month's X-Men.
The Dark Beast, who is still impersonating the Beast, is thrilled to have a copy of Cable’s DNA and a techno-organic virus sample. I don’t think this went anywhere.
During the flashback, Cable uses his telepathic powers to talk to Tremain. Since this takes place years before X-Force was formed, this seems to contradict the ending of the “Child’s Play” crossover (New Warriors #46), which had Cable shocked to learn that he could use telepathy. I assume that by this point Marvel had decided that Cable always had his telepathy. One No-Prize solution to the New Warriors issue could be that Cable was just shocked to learn that he could still use telepathy, considering that most of his telekinesis had to be used to keep his techno-organic virus in check. However, that doesn’t exactly work, since Cable would’ve still had the virus in the flashback, and his telepathic skills clearly aren’t being inhibited.
Review: This is another issue dedicated to building up Onslaught, so there’s not an awful lot I can say that the previous reviews haven’t covered. Like many of the other stories leading in to the crossover, it’s not particularly enjoyable in its own right, and without a big payoff during the Onslaught event, it seems even weaker upon reflection. The big revelation in this issue is that the mysterious Post is actually Tremain, who is yet another undefined character from Cable’s past. Loeb effectively gets the idea across that we’re supposed to care because Cable does, but revealing that one mystery character is actually a new mystery character we knew nothing about just feels cheap. The flashback’s characterization of Cable as an idealist who thinks one man can make a difference seems at odds with the cold-blooded Cable from the earlier issues of X-Force and the other flashbacks to his mercenary days. Instead of making a statement about Cable’s character, it feels like something out of an ‘80s action movie. Churchill’s art manages to handle the big fight scenes pretty well, so at least there’s some energy brought into the rather bland issue. The final splash page of a broken Cable, who’s realized Onslaught’s identity but is unable to warn the X-Men, does help to build up tension for the upcoming storyline, even if the rest of the issue is a weak promo for the crossover.