Monday, March 4, 2013

X-FORCE #98 - January 2000

Credits:  John Francis Moore and Jim Cheung (story and art), Mark Morales (inker), Marie Javins (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

Summary:  Sunspot wakes in a fantasy world, instantly recognizing it as the work of Selene.  Selene reveals that she’s forcing the rest of X-Force to live out their fears in the Hellfire Club’s Nightmare Chambers, while Moonstar is tortured by Blackheart in the Club’s basement.  Selene tries to recruit Sunspot into the Hellfire Club as her Black Rook, but he refuses.  After Sunspot reunites the team, and Moonstar is rescued by Hela, Selene makes her final offer: the resurrection of Sunspot’s deceased love, Juliana.  He reluctantly agrees to join Selene.  The rest of X-Force is freed, while Juliana’s soul emerges in the body of a recently deceased teenager.

Continuity Notes
·         Sunspot’s age is once again incorrectly listed as fifteen instead of thirteen when his powers emerged.
·         Selene’s motivation for enticing Sunspot into the Hellfire Club is to enact a final vengeance against his father, a former member she apparently disliked.  I don't recall the two of them feuding in an actual story.
·         Proudstar’s nightmare has him on his reservation moments before Stryfe’s attack, unable to warn them.  Cannonball is trapped in a coalmine with his father.  Jesse Bedlam is in a mental institution.  Meltdown is interrogated by the police regarding the death of Maurice “Tiger” Antonini.  This story confirms that she killed Tiger in self-defense during her days as a runaway, and that this is the “dark secret” she’s kept from the team.
·         Juliana goes on to live the life of the girl she’s overtaken and forgets her own identity.  This is the ironic twist that comes with Sunspot’s deal with the “Devil” (Blackheart).
·         The Hellfire guards during this era are actually demons wearing traditional Hellfire uniforms.

I Love the '90s:  During their fight with Hellfire guards, Jesse Bedlam remarks that he feels like he’s in the moshpit at Woodstock ’99.

Review:  Wow, forty issues have passed since X-Force #58, a forgettable issue that split up the cast and had each member live out a fantasy.  Now, they’re living out nightmares, with the exception of Sunspot, who’s still hung up on the idea of being a famous soccer player.  John Francis Moore/Jim Cheung is a stronger creative team than Jeph Loeb/Fill-in Guy, so this is at least more entertaining, although much of this issue also reads as filler.  The goal of the story is to get Sunspot in place as the new Black Rook of the Hellfire Club, but the impact of his decision is blunted by the amount of time spent on the numerous cast members.  Sunspot doesn’t get to make his choice until the next to last page, leaving his friends only a few panels to actually react to his decision. 

And this should be a big deal.  Sunspot’s been a member of the team for years, and his antipathy towards the Hellfire Club goes all the way back to his first appearance.  If you’re doing a story that has Sunspot leaving the team to join the Hellfire Club, this should be full-on classic mutant melodrama.  It’s great that Moore is actually using Sunspot’s often ignored past with the Hellfire Club in a story (Who even remembers it was Reese, Macon, and Cole who killed Sunspot’s girlfriend?), but Juliana is given such a small role in the issue her appearance has little impact.  It’s also nice to discover someone at least tried to use the All-New, All-Demonic Hellfire Club in a story outside of Chris Claremont, but again, this is too rushed to be truly engaging.  This is a story that didn’t need to kill a dozen pages with fantasy sequences, but did so anyway.


wwk5d said...

The thing is, none of this really goes anywhere, does it? The Juliana stuff and the Hellfire sub-plots don't really go anywhere after this, are pretty much forgotten about within 6 months or so (if not sooner). Too bad. As much as I liked Moore's run, it does get bogged down with all the Deviant/Arcadia/Ulysses stuff which wasn't interesting.

Looking back, the strongest issues and storylines of this run are the ones that don't involve them. I'd much rather we saw more of a follow-up to the plots in this issue.

ray swift said...

Man, this sucks. It seams in the marvel world the evil, underworld forces can get along with anything they like. They can just take over the world, take good souls to the abyss and no one can tell them what to do or stop them except for some human heroes who will eventually die and fall to their adversaries rull anyway...
Blackheart, for example, could just take Danny's soul to hell on the basis she was trapped inside a cage HE pulled on her. That just seems... unfair. He don't have to make deals in order to take souls. He can just snatch them and kill them.

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