Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Outside of the SHIELD helicarrier, Meltdown launches a series of timebombs. X-Force splits up and enters through the openings. They search the base for Cyclops, who has been detained by Bastion for an alleged assassination attempt on Senator Kelly. After defeating a series of Life Model Decoy soldiers and automated defenses, the team finally breaks into Cyclops’ cell. They’re suddenly flanked by dozens of SHIELD agents, led by Cable’s former ally, G. W. Bridge. Cable telekinetically removes Cyclops’ visor and guides his optic blasts to take out the agents. He then punches Bridge in the face and leaves with Cyclops. Phoenix rescues the team in the Blackbird and flies away. Meanwhile in Florida, Warpath wonders if he should’ve abandoned the team to spend time with Risque. When he stands to kiss her, he reveals a giant tattoo of a bird on his back.
Continuity Notes: This issue continues directly from Uncanny X-Men #333, which had Cyclops meeting Senator Kelly in a home that was bombed by Graydon Creed. What exactly happened to Senator Kelly isn’t revealed.
When Meltdown searches for information on SHIELD’s computers, she’s shocked to learn that Sabretooth isn’t dead. He was believed dead at the end of the Sabretooth Special.
Review: For some reason, we have an entire issue of X-Force dedicated to resolving a plotline from this month’s Uncanny. One of the characters even questions why X-Force, and not the X-Men, are on this mission, but no answer is given (in fact, Domino essentially tells Siryn to shut up when she asks the question). I remember being deeply confused by this issue when I first read it, since I didn’t even remember Cyclops getting captured in the first place. Looking back, I guess it could be inferred from Uncanny X-Men #333 that Creed’s men abducted him, but all we really see is Cyclops leaping from an explosion. He wasn’t shown to be injured, and there was no on-panel abduction, so it still feels like jumpy storytelling. The plot just seems like an excuse to kill an issue, even though Loeb still tries to work in some brief character moments as the team infiltrates the helicarrier. None of the ongoing arcs are advanced, though, so the characters just end up reiterating what their current predicament is supposed to be (a trick Loeb’s done in previous issues). None of this is poorly done, as Pollina’s art sells the action and Loeb gives the cast just enough characterization to have them stand out from one another, but it still feels like filler.