Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Jim Cheung (penciler), Mark Morales & Rob Stull (inks), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: Cannonball visits his family in Kentucky and learns that his mother is suffering from a nerve disorder. Hoping to clear his head, he flies around their farm that night and discovers a young woman, Arcadia. He’s soon caught in a battle between Arcadia, her protector Ulysses, and a “hunter” named Argos. Ulysses warns Cannonball to leave, just as more hunters arrive. Meanwhile, X-Force discovers that Jesse is a runaway from the Mutant Underground Support Engine. Using their database, Jesse learned X-Force’s location and sought them out, looking for help finding his brother. The MUSE agents claim Jesse’s brother never existed, and is merely a figment of his childhood imagination.
Continuity Notes: The MUSE agents are identified as astronaut Lucas Wyndham, Dr. Derek Parsons, and Nicole Lomenzo. As an underground pro-mutant organization, they’ve catalogued extensive information on X-Force. Jesse recounts his origin, saying that his parents died in a car accident when he was a child, which led to social services separating him from his brother. Following the emergence of his mutant powers, he was experimented on by a doctor until Lucas Wyndham rescued him.
Jesse also lists his age as nineteen, which is one of the many age/date references worked into the issue. The opening narration says Cannonball was fifteen when he left home to join the New Mutants. Later, Cannonball remarks that he hasn’t been back to the coal mines in five years, implying his first appearance was five years ago, Marvel time. That’s reasonable, but MUSE’s claim that X-Force fought the X-Ternals in public “two summers ago” (X-Force #54) is a bit much. That’s practically real-time, which is a comics no-no.
Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership has the average monthly sales at 107,415 with the most recent issue selling 90,510 copies.
Review: Following Cannonball’s unceremonious departure from the X-Men, he’s free for John Francis Moore to move back into X-Force, the book that never portrayed him as a slow-witted buffoon. That’s good news for Cannonball fans, and it makes the book even more of a New Mutants nostalgia project, which I’m sure pleased Moore. Moore quickly displays a nice grasp of the character, dismissing his occasionally feeble performance as an X-Man (Cannonball was “uncomfortable” after leaving X-Force and never felt like he belonged), and paying off the quickie “Mom’s sick!” subplot that was used to write him out of X-Men. The exchange between Cannonball and his mother works well, and his extended monologue as he surveys their farmland (soon to be sold as the family moves to Lexington while his mom receives treatment) feels right. Actually, it feels like an old New Mutants issue, surprisingly enough.
In the background, Moore continues to gradually advance his Eternals subplot, while introducing MUSE and providing an origin for Jesse Bedlam. The revelation that Jesse’s brother isn’t real is a surprising twist, but we all know from the Age of Apocalypse that he does have a brother, so it actually works as a double-fakeout. Other spinoffs have tried stories like this and ended up in the ditch, but Moore seems to have a clear plan mapped out beforehand. The steady momentum and dense plotting in every issue of his run make it clear that he isn’t throwing any random idea against the wall, but instead has a specific destination in mind.