Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Bud Larosa & Mark Morales (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors)
Summary: When Siryn and Shatterstar spar with each other inside an abandoned church, Siryn suddenly sees an image of Deadpool in Shatterstar’s sword. She begins to remember her time inside the Weisman Institute, where Deadpool was left behind. Concerned that the telepathic force behind the institute might have already influenced Xavier and Cable, Siryn leaves with Shatterstar and tells no one else. The pair breaks into the institute and begins exploring. Shatterstar has a sense of déjà vu and goes off on his own. He’s ambushed by Dr. Weisman, Deadpool, and ten-year-old Jeremy Stevens. Siryn comes across multiple duplicates of Deadpool before finally finding the real one inside a padded room. He hands her his sword, asking her to kill him and make the voices in his head stop. Dr. Weisman and Jeremy enter. Siryn turns the blade on Jeremy, believing him to be the telepathic power behind the institute. She then realizes that Weisman is the culprit and puts the blade to her neck. A mental image of Gamesmaster escapes from Weisman’s body, congratulating Siryn for winning this round of the game. Meanwhile, Warpath continues to travel around Florida with Risque. They defend a suspected mutant from his attackers, only to find that the injured party is actually a burn victim. Risque’s behavior during the fight leads the victim to declare his own anti-mutant bias. Risque makes a comment about voluntary mutant segregation, which unnerves Warpath. Elsewhere, with the Weisman Institute free from Gamesmaster’s influence, Siryn leaves. She finds Shatterstar outside, crying. He tells her that Gamesmaster revealed to him that his life as Shatterstar was a lie, and that he’s actually a human boy named Benjamin Russell.
Continuity Notes: Loeb drops another hint about Shatterstar’s feelings for Rictor in the opening narrative captions. “Siryn has lost Warpath. He has lost Rictor. Both see these missing teammates as ‘friends’. Both too stubborn to admit they may mean more than that”.
Risque uses her mutant powers for the first time, and it’s impossible to figure out what they’re supposed to be. The narration says that she caused one of the attackers' motorcycle to implode, but doesn’t explain the red energy balls that she uses against the thugs.
Review: Well, at least things actually happen in this issue. It’s the issue before the crossover, so Loeb takes the time to at least partially conclude a storyline that’s been around since the start of his run. The Weisman Institute storyline has always been annoyingly vague, and the resolution here doesn’t make things much clearer. Apparently, Siryn’s repressed memories of the institute are revived because Gamesmaster is bored with this game and wants to entice her into coming back. That’s never outright said, but Siryn considers the theory on the last page, and I guess it’s as good a reason as any. All of the previous clues have pointed towards Jeremy Stevens as the Gamesmaster in disguise, or at least someone possessed by him. Now, it’s revealed that Dr. Weisman is actually the one possessed by Gamesmaster, which makes all of the previous hints seem like pointless misdirection. And since Jeremy was also under Gamesmaster’s influence, I’m not sure what real difference it makes. How exactly Siryn determines that Weisman is the host for Gamesmaster isn’t clear at all. The idea might be that because Weisman almost seems to be daring her to kill Jeremy, Siryn was able to conclude that this was all a test. In any case, the execution is needlessly vague. And did Gamesmaster really go through all of this effort and create such an elaborate plan just to see if he could trick Siryn into killing a kid? As for the last-page Shatterstar reveal…yeah. Since this issue doesn’t go into any details, I guess I’ll have to wait until the actual “Origin of Shatterstar” issues to really comment. I’m definitely not looking forward to this (I can’t imagine how much fun writing the issue summaries is going to be).
Even if the main story is unsatisfying, the alternating scenes with Warpath and Risque are enjoyable. Loeb does seem to have a handle of Warpath’s character, continuing with Nicieza’s interpretation that he’s inhibited by his own insecurities. Casting the playful, sexually open Risque as a counterpart to the unattanable Siryn, who refuses to acknowledge Warpath’s feelings, is a good move. I also like the twist that the clichéd mutant in trouble isn’t a mutant at all, and he’s probably just as prejudiced against them as his attackers are. Risque’s offhand comments that mutants should stick with their own kind is a realistic treatment of the type of bigotry that mutants themselves would probably exhibit. It’s more nuanced than just making her some type of terrorist or outright villain, which is usually how these things play out.