Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)
Summary: Reignfire and Locus terrorize DaCosta International’s board members, before heading to Denver to attack Moonstar, who’s visiting her parents. In Boulder, the rest of X-Force visits Skids, who now lives as a normal college student. Inside a coffee bar, Locus kidnaps Siryn, but doesn’t notice when Proudstar sneaks into her teleportation portal. Soon, Reignfire targets Sunspot, killing the new friend he made while playing soccer. Skids joins the fight, and is transported to Las Vegas with the rest of the team. Only Proudstar remains free, as Reignfire plots X-Force’s death.
Continuity Notes: Skids can now expand her forcefields to cover more than herself. Reignfire, who now declares that he isn’t Sunspot, takes credit for the lawsuit that’s kept Sunspot from claiming DaCosta International’s money, and reveals himself as the shadowy figure that’s stalked the team for weeks. Locus is now colored with dark skin and given an “afro-puffs” hairstyle (as seen on ‘90s rapper Lady of Rage). In her initial appearances, she had tan skin and blonde hair, and was portrayed as something of a Valley Girl.
As a future letter writer will point out, the exposition in the issue is off. Cypher is shown in a group shot of the New Mutants that includes members who joined after he died. Skids makes a comment about always having to follow Xavier or Magneto's orders, yet she joined after the team broke away from the school. Holocaust is shown in his armor during the flashback to Rusty's death, which he wasn't wearing in that issue.
Review: After months of build-up, Moore finally begins to pay off the Reignfire subplot. My memory is that the eventual resolution wasn’t very popular online, and began the critical turn against Moore’s run. It’s hard to fault this specific issue, though, as it’s filled with character moments, the action ties into the story well, and you’re given a sense that a few of the long-running threads are coming together. It’s obvious this run is about showcasing the cast as teenagers as much as it’s about fight scenes, so it’s not surprising to see X-Force in a college setting. Moore’s still getting mileage out of the “X-Force is poor” idea, so the team is forced to stay in Skids’ cramped dorm room, leading to a mix-up in the shower between Siryn, Sunspot, and Meltdown. The romantic subplots are nurtured, as Meltdown declares that Sunspot was never her boyfriend and she isn’t even sure she wants a relationship, while Skids’ roommate Desmond makes a play for Siryn, and Proudstar barely seems to care because he’s convinced they really are “just friends” now. Sunspot’s past as a soccer (or “futbol”) prodigy is also revived, which serves as a continuity reference for the hardcore fans and an honest characterization moment.
Moore tries a trick of providing “X-Force Fun Facts” for each member, detailing their choice in breakfast cereal, favorite TV shows, and high school experiences. The Fun Facts also reveal pertinent back issue details, which helps to explain who Skids is, and why she’s so determined to live a normal life. Skids has barely appeared, if at all, since her boyfriend Rusty was killed in X-Men #42, so I’m thankful Moore hasn’t left her in obscurity. She’s forced to out herself as a mutant during the story’s climax, which in a standard comic indicates she’s about to join the team, but what’s fun about this run is that there’s barely a status quo, so many of the things that are supposed to happen, don’t. Skids is here because she has a past with the characters and some potentially interesting emotional issues; whether or not she joins the team in the future is irrelevant. She has a role to play in this issue and she does it well, and the ambiguity over her future is just a part of the series’ appeal.