Wednesday, January 14, 2009

X-FORCE #58 – September 1996

…Before the Dawn
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Anthony Castrillo (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Sunspot fantasizes about a past where his mutant powers never emerged. A boy in the shadows tells Sunspot that he can make this reality, but he needs him to convince the rest of X-Force to follow him. Meanwhile, Siryn awakens in the rubble of Xavier’s mansion, and realizes that she’s the only conscious member of X-Force. She tries to revive the team as each member mentally lives out a fantasy. Meltdown is killing Sabretooth, Caliban is reenacting the early life of Superman, Warpath is on the reservation with his brother, Shatterstar is resting peacefully in the forest, and Domino is living in quiet darkness. Sunspot recruits each member to join the mysterious boy. Before fully giving in, the team realizes that the boy is actually Onslaught. The team stands against him and regains consciousness. Another mental image of a young boy appears, telling them that he represents the goodness of a young Charles Xavier. In his final moments, he protected Siryn from Onslaught because he views her as the team’s inspiration. He tells X-Force that their victory over Onslaught’s temptation has freed him.

Continuity Note: Risque has disappeared between issues. Siryn tells Warpath that she wasn’t there when she regained consciousness.

Review: This is the standard “every character has a fantasy” issue. Like a lot of Loeb’s work from this era, it’s nothing to get excited over but it has a basic level of competence, even if the setup of the story doesn’t exactly work if you think about it too much. If Siryn is supposed to represent the best of X-Force, why did Xavier keep her away from Onslaught’s temptations? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to keep a more susceptible member awake? I’m not sure why Siryn is labeled the team’s inspiration either, since none of the team members even think about her while Onslaught is trying to lure them to his side. At any rate, the story is just an excuse to give each member a fantasy scene, so the mechanics aren’t worth over-analyzing.

Now that X-Force has fulfilled its part in the crossover (which was apparently “blow up the mansion”, which happens in every other X-crossover), Loeb was stuck without anywhere to go. X-Force wasn’t going to be contributing any further to the plot, yet the crossover was still going on. With an issue to kill, he tries to do a character study of each cast member, which is an admirable goal. The only new revelation comes in Shatterstar’s segment, which reveals that his fantasy is a peaceful, non-violent one. This would seem more promising if it wasn’t tied into the incomprehensible storyline the character is about to endure. Loeb is able to give the characters just enough personality to make them individuals and seem likable enough, but all of the characterizations feel at least a little shallow. Caliban is the dumb puppy, Sunspot misses his old life, Warpath misses his brother, Meltdown’s still angry…most of these ideas are reasonable (I’ve discussed my dislike of Loeb’s Caliban before), the execution just feels superficial. I’m glad there is a focus on the characters, I just wish more was done with them.


jimmy conde said...

Sorry to ask (I've been following NOT BLOG X rather religiously) but about where did you discuss Jeff Loeb's take on Caliban?

I just ask cause I'm a huge fan of the big white guy (Cal, not Jeff). I used to be down with Loeb until 'Ultimates 3' made me realize something was horribly wrong with him as a writer, and now I'm interested in some level-headed critique of his work.

G. Kendall said...

The first time Caliban showed up in this series -- -- I mentioned that Loeb is portraying him as childlike, while previous writers wrote him as strange and alien, but certainly not dumb.
This, combined with Loeb's treatment of Tessa's powers and the Rictor/Shatterstar scene in Nicieza's last issue, makes me wonder if he based his characterizations on vague memories of what actually happened in the previous issues.

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