Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Anthony Castrillo (penciler), Bud Larosa (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Cable interrogates Shatterstar, hoping to learn if he really is a human named Benjamin Russell. Rictor enters, offering to help Shatterstar deal with his identity crisis. The team flies to the Weisman Institute to investigate the facility where Benjamin Russell once lived. The building is empty, and their investigation reveals nothing. While flying to Boston, Benjamin Russell’s hometown, their aircraft is suddenly attacked by Gog and Magog. They abduct Shatterstar, but Cable follows them through their teleportation portal. X-Force’s ship almost crashes, but it miraculously lands safely. The team is stunned to see Longshot sitting in the cockpit.
Continuity Notes: X-Force is now staying in an underground bunker in upstate New York, as it’s inferred that Cable distrusts the X-Men after the Onslaught disaster. Cable asks Detective Charlotte Jones for the police file on Benjamin Russell, but all files relating to X-Force are missing. Cable blames Operation: Zero Tolerance, but Domino wonders if the Gamesmaster is responsible.
Review: This is the beginning of everyone’s favorite X-Force story. At this point, Loeb is mostly reiterating clues from the previous issues, while bringing in Mojoworld characters like Gog, Magog, and Longshot. Shatterstar was given a very rushed origin story in his early appearances that tied him to the future of Mojoworld, but it was quickly ignored so that he could cut up people and grimace in X-Force. In his first appearance, he traveled to this era looking for the X-Men’s help so that he could overthrow the future Mojo. Shatterstar was recruited by Cable and apparently forgot his initial motivation, even when he actually got to meet the X-Men. (In the earlier issues of X-Force, when Cable was more of a jerk, he admitted to himself that he had no real interest in helping Shatterstar’s mission).
Fleshing out Shatterstar’s origin story, and actually resolving his original conflict, is a perfectly reasonable idea. The character had been around for five years at this point, and this was one of many dropped storylines that deserved attention. However, for reasons still unknown, this storyline turned into an attempt to establish Shatterstar as a teenager from Earth, and not an alien warrior from the future. That’s one way to play with the audience’s expectations, but there still has to be an explanation for his initial appearances (and the storyline that had Mojo V hiring Arcade to kill Shatterstar, or the times his physiology has been described as alien). When it’s all over, the Benjamin Russell connection remains unexplained and no one knows who Shatterstar really is. “Pointless” is the nicest way to describe the final result. As for this issue specifically, it’s still mostly setup. Nothing really stands out as good or bad, but it’s hard to be charitable knowing how the storyline turns out.