Issue(s): X-Force #12, X-Force #13, X-Force #14, X-Force #15
Perhaps not coincidentally, after Liefeld leaves, the book goes through some major shifts.
Liefeld's plot gives us Crule, the character that Gideon told the Externals he was going to recruit to clean up Gideon's mistake that Cannonball, not Sunspot turned out to be a High Lord.
Note that it's "Crule", not "Krule" like it was when Gideon first mentioned him. It's important to get our kewl misspellings of common words correct.
Gideon finds Crule in Madripoor, playing cards. Gideon thinks to himself that when he last saw Crule, "he had taken employ in the Nazi ovens, reveling in the stench of the unjustly dead". There's something offputting about associating such a cartoonish bad guy with the Holocaust.
A couple notes about the Externals, in case anyone cares (which i know is unlikely). Gideon uses the phrase "may the Elder Gods have mercy on my soul" when he's talking about his and Crule's fates are intertwined, and Crule exclaims "Ishtar smile upon me" when he first sees Gideon. I may have missed it, but i don't remember Gideon talking that way in the past. He's always given me the impression of just being an expedient businessman. I guess now that the Externals concept is out in the open, emphasizing the idea that they are familiar with old gods is more of a priority.
Gideon and Krule fight for a few pages. There's nothing to be said about Mark Pacella that i haven't already said.
Crule loses the fight, and agrees to go kill Cable. Wait, Cable? I assumed the idea was to capture or stop Cannonball.
They also go back to Gideon's base and knock out Sunspot.
Meanwhile, Cable confronts "Domino" over the fact that she's betrayed him. Obviously he doesn't know the extent of the betrayal. But he knows that Deadpool showed up last issue and beat her up, but let her live. Domino uses the bruises on her face to prove that she is still loyal to Cable. She claims that she initially didn't trust Cable after He broke up the Six Pack and "left Kane and Hammer like you did". Domino says that she's been taking Tolliver's money and using it to pay for Hammer's hospital bills. That shuts Cable up. Boom Boom and Feral then waste an entire page with a hideous splash where they back Cable up.
Cable makes Domino contact Tolliver and pretend that she's going to blow up X-Force's base. Well, X-Force are going to blow up their base, but they're going to leave first, and pretend that they were killed.
We also check in with SHIELD and the Department K agents. More giant splash pages.
Remember when Walt Simonson did a book entirely of splash panels, a somewhat controversial move done specifically because of the epic battle it was portraying? Now it's like, what's the big deal? People standing around talking merit an entire page.
Anyway, we bounce around and find out the motivations for the various Department K characters' reasons for going after Cable. Sadly we don't hear from Yeti (who i still maintain is a mind-controlled Wendigo) or Tygerstryke. This is the first realtime appearance of Grizzly, but we know that he was a member of the same Six Pack that "Domino" was talking about. We know Bridge and Kane's motivations. Rictor says he's going after Cable because he watched Cable kill his father ten years ago.
SHIELD/Department K/Weapon:Prime show up at X-Force's base before they can blow it up. And since mere conversations merit one page splashes, clearly we need double page splashes for the fight.
One thing that i thought was interesting about the fight. Almost always in super team fights, characters get paired up based on similar powers. I remember it feeling like a real clever moment, i think it was in an issue of Kurt Busiek's Defenders series (or maybe the Order), where the team made a tactical decision to break out of that pattern. Instead of Hulk being wasted in a battle against (i think) Orca, where (because they were under the sea) they were too evenly matched, other members of the team kept Orca busy, allowing the Hulk to mop up the floor with the remaining villains. I may be misremembering the details, but what's i'm getting at is how that story was turning the normal convention on it's head. And it made me think of the normal pairings as just that, a sort of unconscious convention. But here we see Cable specifically ordering that tactic.
To be clear, i think this makes sense. Cable trains the hell out of his team, and he probably assumes that his troops are superior to their counterparts on the other side. So it makes sense for him to match like with like. No need for something creative and potentially risky in this case.
X-Force also has more members, which is why Siryn winds up fighting Tygerstryke, who seems to have powers like Cannonball.
Boom Boom tries to get her former New Mutants comrade Rictor to explain why he's against Cable, but he attacks her and Cannonball joins the fight against him.
Meanwhile, Cable contacts someone (really something) called "Professor" and tells it to get ready to teleport all of X-Force's equipment and detonate the explosives.
In a previous flashback, we saw that Cable had robots named after the original X-Men, so we can assume that Professor is named after Professor X.
The SHIELD (etc.) team is defeated pretty definitively. Cable patches a call to a SHIELD medivac to come and deal with their wounded, and gets ready to go after Tolliver. But somehow the explosives get activated without Cable's order, and he and Domino are cut off from the rest of X-Force.
Meanwhile, Gideon and a Dr. Joshua are performing experiments on Sunspot.
Poor Terry Shoemaker always seems to get the assignment of matching some other artist. He does a good Walt Simonson, but matching the house look of X-Force is, well, difficult. "Make it look bad." It's kind of hard to work with that.
This looks more like traditional Shoemaker.
More SHIELD units show up to reinforce Bridge's group.
And Crule is now lurking about as well.
But Cable and Domino move on to going after Tolliver, so X-Force are on their own.
Rictor switches sides.
Cannonball gets control of SHIELD's IPAC shuttle, and again have a pretty decisive victory. They leave the SHIELD/Department K group behind. They then try to decide what to do next.
They decide to go to Warpath's reservation (Camp Verde). Crule attacks before they get there.
Ok, so he is going after Cannonball after all.
Meanwhile, Cable and Domino get to Tolliver's base. Cable dispatches Pico...
....and then finds the real Domino chained to a wall. Deadpool and Tolliver show up.
And now we're at issue #15. Greg Capullo has definitely been studying the art on this book, and he knows that people's legs should be 9 times the thickness of their heads.
It's really hard to believe this is the Quasar guy.
X-Force learn from Crule that Gideon is torturing Sunspot. So Cannonball lets Rictor "waste" Crule (we're reminded that he's an External, and probably can't die). Rictor blasts Crule off the IPAC and it's a long fall to the ground.
X-Force then they head off to rescue Sunspot. Gideon is not home, so freeing Sunspot is not difficult. Sunspot rejoins the group.
As for the Cable plot, Deadpool shoots the fake Domino, who is identified as Vanessa (a name that Deadpool called her before, but now it's clear that Vanessa isn't just Domino's civilian name).
Note that Cable is the "forever cancer".
Cable loses his fight to Deadpool...
...but the real Domino gets free and saves him (also note Deadpool's dialogue, which is his most endearing quality, and there's no doubt that it's all Fabian Nicieza at this point).
God knows how long she's been tied to a wall, but she's totally ready to join Cable in chasing Tolliver. But when they both wind up hanging off Tolliver's escaping helicopter, Cable tells Domino to drop off, and go find X-Force.
Cable causes the helicopter to explode, and then he has Professor bodyslide him away. But we see that Tolliver has been wearing a disguise.
Deadpool recovers and sees that Vanessa has survived and crawled away.
Cable arrives in "Graymalkin", repairs his face, and says that so far he hasn't managed to make any difference, but that's going to change.
With Greg Capullo on art, and Fabian Nicieza scripting with a good sense of humor, this book had the potential to turn itself around at this point. Clearly these issues were a kind of deck cleaning exercise, but it actually feels natural enough. Rictor and Sunspot are added (back, if we look at this as a continuation of the New Mutants) to the team. Tolliver never really felt like a major villain, but the fact that he "will no longer be a problem" makes it feel like Nicieza intended to shuffle his subplots off. Nicieza retains X-Force's outlaw setting, but they now don't even have a secret base, so they are truly on the run. These issues themselves are still pretty bad, because the art is just terrible (hopefully Capullo eases back into his own style instead of trying to ape Liefeld) and Nicieza has to deal with the likes of Crule and the underdeveloped Department K characters. But it feels like the book has potential again. On the other hand, i've been fooled before. In realtime, i was a fan of this book early on, but i had dropped it at this point, only to come back with X-Cutioner's Song, which follows this arc. And then i stuck with it for a while after that crossover, and then dropped it again, and came back to it a few times after that. It kept feeling like the book should have been good, was trying to do good things. But i kept losing interest. It didn't help that the book's reputation (among friends, and, later, online) was pretty much irrevocably defined by the Liefeld era.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: X-Cutioner's Song comes after these issues, but Cable's 2 part mini-series comes first. Cable leaves the team with these issues, and Domino is sent to join them for the first time (but doesn't actually connect yet). And Rictor and Sunspot (re)join the team. So any generic X-Force appearances (e.g. in the Marvel UK books) should take place prior to this. Cable's face is repaired, so he can have generic solo appearances if necessary.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
Somehow I sort of feel happy that they just kept "Vanessa" as human in the Deadpool movie considering the mess of "fake Domino" and "real Domino". Though that I can probably save for when we get to "The Circle Chase".
BTW: you didn't list Deadpool here.
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 15, 2016 1:09 PM
Added Deadpool. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 15, 2016 1:20 PM
Cable wants sex from the woman whose duplicate he thought he'd been with all these months, the woman who literally just got rescued from months of chained-to-a-wall torture, and they're still in the middle of a fight?
You can just picture Scott Summers looking down with a smile and saying 'that's MY boy!'
Posted by: ChrisW | April 15, 2016 3:07 PM
Hmm, Capullo sure knows how to draw a sexy female body. That shot of Domino with the rifle-in-flames is something. It helps that it looks like a human body, which X-Force only rarely features.
Speaking of human bodies, it seems that I was correct in assuming that Marvel wanted to portray Cable as a Terminator-type at this point. I don't think we ever again see Cable as having so much metal in his face. I wonder if it was retconned away.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 15, 2016 7:39 PM
Deadpool recovering so quickly from what Domino thought was a lethal shot might have been an early clue that Wade had a healing factor.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 8:02 PM
Ah, I see from the Considerations we have another piece of Atop the Fourth Wall fodder coming up!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | April 16, 2016 12:31 AM
Tolliver calls Cable "the forever cancer." That's a fairly clear implication that "Mr. Tolliver" has already been decided to be a time traveler as well.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 16, 2016 12:52 AM
@Fnord You mention your belief that Yeti is a "mind controlled Wendigo." In the splash page above the big Grizzly splash, G.W. Bridge calls Yeti "Wendigo." I think you are right on that basis. :-)
Also, sorry I didn't notice you called out the forever cancer line. My bad.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 16, 2016 1:00 AM
It is interesting to see how quickly things pick up speed once Rob Liefeld is completely off X-Force and Fabian Nicieza is writing it solo. More stuff must have taken place in issue #s 13-15 than in the previous year.
Wendigo / Yeti and Tigerstrike are two more examples of Liefeld tossing in characters who look cool but who he took zero time to actually invest with a personality or backstory. Another notable instance was of course Phantazia, who showed up as part of Toad's Mutant Brotherhood with absolutely no explanation as to who she was supposed to be.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 16, 2016 10:50 AM
I think Cable was definitely intended to be a straightforward cyborg. His mechanical parts don't look anything like technoorganic materials we've seen so far.
Posted by: Matt | April 18, 2016 1:00 PM
Luis Dantas is right - Domino is looking pretty sexy. Of course, she shouldn't be since she's been tied up for months. In fact, she shouldn't even be able to walk, let alone run up steps while carrying a hugh rifle.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 28, 2016 7:16 AM
Sure, Capullo seems to be adapting his style to match this book's in order to represent it, but... Look at that badass image of Domino with the gun... She has feet! She's not a toeless ballerina, she's got actual feet! It's a breath of fresh air, since I've been benge-reading X-Force only and I couldn't stand Liefeld.
Posted by: KombatGod | December 17, 2017 11:57 AM
Nice to see Domino looking like an actual human, and it's even better to get Rictor and especially Bobby back. I always thought it was a bit extreme to leave X-Force with only ONE founding member of the New Mutants.
Posted by: Nth Wolf | May 17, 2018 6:14 AM
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