Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales, Jon Holdredge, & Al Milgrom (inkers), Marie Javins & Michael Higgins (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
Summary: John Proudstar leaves the Marines and returns home, where he’s greeted by his eleven-year-old brother James. John is saddened to learn his mother has cancer. Looking for a distraction, he takes James to a carnival. He runs into newspaper reporter Michael Whitecloud, who believes a conspiracy surrounds the camp’s cancer cases. James sneaks along as John and Michael infiltrate the Arroyo Medical Laboratory, where they discover Dr. Edwin Martynec’s experiments in radiation and cloning. Martynec morphs into a cat-creature and attacks. John fights back, but Martynec destroys the building to prevent the discovery of his research.
Continuity Notes: During the carnival scene, there are cameos by a young Meltdown, Ringmaster, Destiny and Mystique (Destiny is working as a fortune teller and Mystique is trying to convince her to put her powers to good use), and the ultra-obscure Chondu the Mystic. During a flashback, James Proudstar says he saw a fiery bird image in the sky after a helicopter crash, which he viewed as a totem. I don’t think Moore intended this to be Phoenix, since Jean Grey didn’t become Phoenix until after Proudstar had joined the X-Men and died.
Review: Even though this is a Flashback issue, John Francis Moore doesn’t allow the title’s ongoing storylines to stagnate. Although it won’t be apparent until later, many of these characters will resurface as it’s revealed that Martynec’s research is a part of a much larger story. The focus on the Proudstar siblings is also appropriate, as Warpath becomes a leading character in Moore’s run as the issues go on. Even though John Proudstar’s death was James’ driving motivation for years, this is one of the few stories that ever focused on their relationship and made his death seem like a tragedy. Moore’s plots tend to be dense anyway, but in fitting with the Silver Age aesthetic, each page is now crammed with even more story. Most of the pages have between six and eight panels, and along with the gratuitous cameos, Moore also works in an extra fight scene between John Proudstar and a tiger at the carnival. Adam Pollina has never drawn in this straightforward grid style before, but it doesn’t seem to hinder him at all. I skipped out on buying this when it was released, but this is a decent example of how to make the Flashback gimmick work.