Thursday, February 17, 2011

X-FORCE #79 - July 1998

Set My Soul on Fire

Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales & Rob Stull (inks), Guillermo Zubiaga (background assists) Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Summary: An employee of the Damocles Foundation, Dr. Joshua, steals a molecular disruptor cannon and heads for Las Vegas. His target, Reignfire, is holding X-Force captive with the help of his misguided flunky, Short Circuit. Proudstar frees the team, but in the ensuing fight, Skids and Locus disappear when their powers have a negative reaction. Dr. Joshua arrives with the cannon, which destroys Reignfire’s human form. Now disembodied, Reignfire swallows Sunspot in blackness and overtakes his body.

Continuity Notes: Short Circuit, who can cancel mutant abilities with his own powers, is a middle-aged man with a childlike intellect. His real name is given as Henry Wallinger, and according to Locus, he was a patient at the Weissman Institute before Reignfire freed him.

Through a series of flashbacks, Reignfire’s origin is revealed. He was Project Nineteen, a subject in Gideon’s lab suffering from “an unusual and slow physical deterioration.” While Sunspot was Gideon’s captive (circa X-Force #12-#15), Dr. Joshua transferred his blood into Project Nineteen for unknown reasons. Project Nineteen used the blood as a template to regenerate and emerged as a virtual clone of Sunspot. Exploiting their telepathic connection, Reignfire convinced Sunspot that he was actually Reignfire. When Cable “exorcised” Reignfire from Sunspot, he actually severed their telepathic link, which left Reignfire as an amnesiac for months. As for the possessed Sunspot’s claim that he had spent months in the future with Locus, Reignfire says this was a diversion he felt the team would easily believe, given the various X-groups’ history with time-travelers.

Miscellaneous Note: The title of this issue is a reference to an Elvis song. Guess which one.

Review: We’ve reached the origin of Reignfire, which is the point I seem to recall the internet consensus turning against John Francis Moore’s X-Force run. I’ve heard this story described as needlessly confusing for years, but it shouldn’t be too hard to follow for anyone familiar with the average nonsense fake science that’s often found in superhero comics. What really made fans angry, I assume, is the blatant rewriting of history the origin requires. Moore seems to have covered his bases continuity-wise, so we’re at least getting retcon explanations for all of the revelations, but X-fans (fandom in general, really) always hate having the rug pulled out from under them.

It’s obvious from Fabian Nicieza’s run that Reignfire was intended as an evil Sunspot from the future, and as cliché as that origin might be, the fans had already accepted the idea. When a writer promises the origin of Reignfire, you want to learn how exactly all of the time travel shenanigans occurred, and not see the entire concept dismissed as a misdirection. And yet, I’m okay with the left turn. Time travel really has been done to death by this point, and unless Nicieza had an ingenious twist in the works, I don’t see any compelling reason to stick to the original plan. Moore does address the time travel aspect in a clever way, and longtime fans even get to see a payoff to the “Gideon experiments on Sunspot” subplot from the early issues of the series. The new origin isn’t that great as a resolution to the mystery, as it involves the introduction of a new character the readers couldn’t have known about, but it does make sense within the (admittedly weird) internal logic of the series. Reignfire is a bodiless (presumed) mutant, he was injected with Sunspot’s blood, he mimicked Sunspot’s body, and now he can take it over. I’ve read worse. Seriously, I don’t think anyone can tell me Vision’s origin makes more sense than this.


The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

The problem with Moore's run is that he really was from the "old school" - i.e., he felt a strong responsibility to clear up all the old messes on this book that predate his run. There is something really admirable about that but the problem is that it resulted in sapping the energy from his own stories. The first 50 or so issues of X-Force was basically gibberish, so taking the responsibility for hacking through the underbrush all the way back to Gideon and the Externals is really quite something.

ray swift said...

What the one above me said...
Retconing wasn't my problem with this story - it's the unnecessary retconing.
Reignfire is just another bad, generic villian - he is crazy, wants to kill all the heroes, omnipotent, none of the heroes can touch him (of course), has a needlessly super elaborate plan and an over exposition issue.
Most of his character in these issue is just being mean to people while talking and talking and talking.
The action is also underwhelming, as none of the heroes can do anything to the villian. The conclusion comes from a character we just learned of, and not from a creative use of one of the character's power.

It's just... bad.

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