Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Mark Morales (inker), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: X-Force is shocked to discover a strange mutant, Jesse Aaronson, in their home. Jesse reveals that he made a deal with Domino to lead her to Ekatarina Gryaznova if she agreed to find his brother. While breaking into the Aguilar Institute, Domino was kidnapped and Jesse narrowly escaped. Jesse leads X-Force to the Aguilar Institute, where Domino is being tortured by Gryaznova. As X-Force battles the armored guards, Jesse rescues Domino and uses his power to short out the implant that’s hindered her agility. Gryaznova triggers the building’s self-destruct sequence, forcing the team to flee. Back in San Francisco, Domino agrees to rejoin the team, while Jesse crashes on the couch.
Continuity Notes: Ekatarina Gryaznova now goes by “Gryphon.” She reveals that she was working with Zero Tolerance as an undercover agent for the Aguilar Institute. Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson first appeared as an Age of Apocalypse character in Factor X #1. He has the mutant ability to create a bio-electric field that can disrupt mechanical and electronic devices. He refuses to reveal how he knows so much about X-Force, but he’s very excited to meet them. Meanwhile, a mystery figure is looking for the “prodigal” Aaronson. Finally, a minor supporting cast member is introduced. Zeke Weaver, a pilot for DaCosta International, escorts the team in a private helicopter.
I Love the '90s: After visiting an old-timey movie theater, Moonstar says, “Forget Leo and Kate, nobody sizzles on screen like Bogart and Bacall.”
We Get Letters: Another letter writer complains about Locus’ race-swapping. The editorial response hints that there might be two different characters with the same name and powers. The previous response in the letter column was that Locus was merely trying out a new ‘do. I’m not sure which is more ridiculous.
Review: Most of the Age of Apocalypse characters made sloppy transitions into the mainstream universe, as either retroactive no-way-they’re-serious masterminds of Chris Claremont concepts or jobbers for X-Man, so it’s a relief to see at least one AoA mutant make an inconspicuous entrance. I’m sure more people would’ve cared about Jesse Bedlam’s mainstream introduction if it happened closer to the actual AoA event, but it’s still a nice continuity callback for the hardcore fans. For simplicity’s sake, it works to bring in the mainstream Marvel Universe Jesse Bedlam and just ignore the existence of an alternate reality version. Moore seems to be incorporating a lot of his old continuity into the book, as even the throwaway Zero Tolerance agent from one of his earlier arcs returns as a member of the mysterious Aguilar Institute. I like the sense that everything’s been leading up to a larger story, but when he starts to work in X-Men 2099 continuity in a few issues, it feels a little gratuitous.
This easily could’ve been a two-parter, but as usual, Moore’s plotting is remarkably dense, so we see the introduction of a new team member, an exploration of the new headquarters, a few character subplots, the reintroduction of an old villain, hints of a new villainous group, and the return of a previous member, all in the same issue. This book always has momentum going for it, which is something too many X-books never manage to develop. Aside from the new characters and locale, the issue also introduces Jim Cheung as the new artist. Cheung consistently produced solid work in Maverick, so it’s not a surprise the X-office has placed him on a higher profile book.