X-Force (1st series) #40

Issue Date: 
November 1994
Story Title: 
Holding On

Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tony Daniel (penciler), Kevin Conrad & Tim Townsend (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Marie Javins (colorist), Ben Raab (assistant editor), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

In the former Morlock tunnels, Detective Jose Hidalgo and Code: Blue search for the mutant Thornn, who is now the suspect of a series of long-ago murders - involving her family. The Detective and his associates find Thornn, but when she is accused of the murders, she denies them all, certain that someone else did it. While that is going on, Domino introduces X-Force to their new headquarters - Murderworld, which once belonged to Arcade, a large complex hidden beneath an amusement park. Domino gives a detailed run-down of what their new complex has, and most of the team are pleased to have their first decent headquarters in many months. The media soon learn that the murder suspect is a mutant and the Friends of Humanity begin their protest outside the precinct where Thornn is being held. Thornn and Hidalgo talk about the past, and Thornn is allowed to make her one phone call. Graydon Creed is pleased with the way things are progressing, certain the world will be rid of another mutant shortly. While Feral is drawn to New York when she learns of her sister’s plight. Cable explains the situation to X-Force, and announces that they are getting involved - as Thornn’s call was to him, and that the owe it to the people she or Feral may have murdered to uncover the truth. Cannonball is against the idea, after all, Feral once tried to kill him. Warpath points out that with the anti-mutant hysteria, it’s unlikely that Thornn will get a fair trial anyway. Cable and Cannonball meet with Thornn, they discuss the situation, and Thornn implies that Cable doesn’t know Feral, one of his former X-Forcer’s, as well as he thinks he might. Cable meets with Hidalgo and assures him that can the truth. In light of the situation though, Thornn is transported to Ryker’s Island where it is believed she will safer, but her transport drivers are replaced by members of the Friends of Humanity, and head in a direction where they plan to rendezvous with others. X-Force are on to them though, and track them down, eventually ending up in the South Bronx where Feral and Thornn grew up. The Friends of Humanity are taken down, and Thornn rescued - just in time for a deranged Feral to make her presence known!

Full Summary: 

Manhattan, where late one night, New York Police Department Detective Jose Hidalgo has tracked a murder suspect into the underlying network of tunnels which exist deep beneath the city streets. Since this suspect is also a mutant born with superhuman abilities, Hidalgo asked some very special assistance to join him, Code: Blue, the NYPD’s superhuman task force. Their members including Stone, Rassitano and Ruiz, are considered either the best the city has to offer - or the craziest. For this assignment, Hidalgo suspects the latter to be true and prays the former will be as well.

‘I hate sewer jobs’ Rassitano complains as the quartet traipse through the muck. Hidalgo tells Rassitano to keep quiet and not to worry too much. ‘The young woman we’re searching for has probably been aware of our presence in the tunnels since we first came in’ Hidalgo reveals. ‘I hate spandex who have enhanced senses, too’ Rassitano mumbles, while Hidalgo announces that Lucia Callasantos disappeared four years ago - after all the bad things started going down. ‘She calls herself Thornn now’ Hidalgo reveals as he stares a photo of a glamorous Lucia.

Hidalgo goes on to inform Code: Blue that Thornn is an outlaw who used to be a member of a group of mutants who lived in these tunnels until recently, the Morlocks. ‘She was beautiful…had everything going for her. And it all turned out like this…in a dank, dark sewer’. Continuing on their hunt, Hidalgo and Code: Blue are unaware that someone - or something - is watching them from the pipes that run along the ceiling of the sewer. Hidalgo remarks that he knows it might be a real long-shot to expect to find her here, but after working on the case for so long he will grasp any straws he can.

Stone assures Hidalgo that they have brought with them the best mutant-scanning equipment available, so if Thornn is here, they will find her. ‘Truth to tell, I’m more worried about her finding us first!’ Hidalgo exclaims. ‘If wishes were fishes’ one of the Code: Blue operatives remarks as he announces that he has a mutagenic tracking lock, and proceeds to as Ruiz to get a perimeter sweep started, as he is picking up movement. ‘From which direction?’ Hidalgo asks, when, suddenly, ‘FROM RIGHT ABOVE YOU!’ screams Thornn as she leaps down into the grouping of officers.

‘She came outta nowhere!’ one of them exclaims as he begins firing his gun wildly. ‘How can anyone move that fast?’ the female operative asks. Hidalgo begins firing stun darts at Thornn, several of them hit her in the shoulder as she begins to attack the female member of Code: Blue. ‘Lucia!’ exclaims Hidalgo. ‘You’re under arrest’. Drugged up from the tranquilizer darts, Thornn replies ‘Jose? That you? You tranked me!’. The female operative informs Thornn that she has been tranquilized with enough drugs to knock out an elephant. Thornn mumbles as best she can ‘Arrested for what?’

‘For the murders of Carolina, Matteo and Marcella Callasantos!’ Hidalgo reveals. Disturbed, Thornn very clearly, and obviously upset, screams ‘I didn’t kill my family! She did!’ But almost instantly after that, the anaesthetic seeps through Thornn’s blood and she falls unconscious. Hidalgo says nothing as Code: Blue carries her to the chopper and head towards the Bronx Precinct house where Thornn will be detained. But Hidalgo cannot stop thinking about the feelings he once had for this girl - and the look of betrayal in her eyes when she proclaimed her innocence. But who else could Lucia have meant but her? Perhaps the mysterious figure crouching in the shadows as she watches the chopper head to the Bronx….

Meanwhile, elsewhere, six teenage heroes - Samuel “Cannonball” Guthrie, Theresa “Siryn” Rourke Cassidy, James “Warpath” Proudstar, Tabitha “Boomer” Smith, Julio “Rictor” Richter and Shatterstar - collectively known as X-Force, a band of outlaw mutants determined to fight for a dream of co-existence between their kind and humans. Standing in what is their new base of operations, after taking a look around, their feelings about their new home are succinctly summed up by Boomer, who, as she exclaims ‘You gotta be kidding!’ her bubblegum pops around her mouth.

‘Nope, Boomer, we’re not’ remarks Domino as she welcomes X-Force to their new headquarters - which just happens to be…Murderworld! The former underground base of the assassin for hire known as Arcade. Cannonball, shocked, asks Domino if she and Cable want them to shack up in a place that was made so that people could be killed for fun and profit. Domino tells Sam to consider the irony of it all, and adds that since they cannot afford to build a new base, this was the best ready-made structure available to them. Tabby turns to Sam as she pulls the gum off her face, and remarks that after living in a space-ship, then a basement, then in a cave, then a desert bunker, this place could not be so bad.

Domino reminds Cannonball that this site is isolated, yet right above them is New York City, and they have access not only to all kinds of sophisticated equipment, but also to the real world - and a chance for lives outside of being X-Force. Siryn takes to the air in the sprawling chamber and remarks that it sounds wonderful, revealing that she saw a plant shop a few blocks away where she would love to work, before asking Domino how she managed to convince Arcade to sell them the property. ‘We do not need to barter with a coward!’ Shatterstar exclaims, holding up one of his serrated-edged weapons. ‘We have taken this facility from him and shall spit in his face should he try to take it back!’ Shatterstar declares defiantly.

‘Uhm…pretty much what he said’ Domino replies, and as the group walks under an archway with “Murderworld” written on it, Cannonball remarks that he supposes it makes sense ‘With the kinda logic this group employs at least’ he adds, to make use of this facility. Sam admits that it is an elaborate facility, with a communications center, living quarters, material they can adapt into training equipment, the whole works. ‘But the name has gotta go!’ he exclaims. Boomer turns and peers over her sunglasses, looking at the sign, she jokes ‘Plasma Bomb signage company, President Boomer speak. How may I help you?’ before tossing one of her infamous time bombs at the archway.

Running to catch up with her teammates, the brightly dressed Boomer exclaims that all they have to do now is come up with a new name. ‘I suggest “Boomerville”!’ she exclaims. ‘I think my ex-husband was born there’ Domino replies. ‘He came from a long line of inbred cousins’. Domino opens up the main control room and tells X-Force that they still have some work to do here, rerouting programs, wiring new conduits and the like. The young heroes explore the chamber, and motioning to the myriad of monitors with Arcade’s grinning mug all over them, Sam asks Domino if the restructuring of this room will stop Arcade from appearing on a screen each time they press a button.

‘God I hope so!’ Domino replies as she sits in the main chair, and tells everyone that she wanted to show them a schematic of the facility, but as she has not had a chance to reroute the holographic relays, they are going to have to get primitive and scroll the data on-screen. Domino sighs and points out that everything is a trade-off in life, ‘But at least this place has running water‘, she jokes, making reference to their previous desert base. At that moment, Warpath grabs hold of the large stone “A” headrest on the chair and rips it off.

Looking at the schematics, Rictor remarks that it is pretty cool how the place was built under an abandoned amusement park. Warpath adds that there is a landfill to the West. Domino remarks that, what’s above notwithstanding, what’s below is perfect for them - fusion generators under the link tunnel, a three-level module for very spacious living quarters, and a four-level module for training and equipment, several access tunnels to the surface, a pneumatic tram-line into Manhattan, and a vehicle exit into the East river. ‘And what a romantic view of Ryker’s Island Penitentiary we’ll get on take-off and landing!’ Cannonball jokes.

Domino jokes that the way this team is operating, they will end up living there eventually, so familiarizing themselves with the place wouldn’t hurt. Siryn points out that they are still underground, but at least now they are air-conditioned and out of the Arizona heat. ‘Was our previous home considered hot by Earth standards?’ Shatterstar grumbles, to which Rictor grins and tells Domino to keep talking before Shatterstar tells another story about how rough his life was living on his home world of Mojoworld.

‘Good point’ Domino replies, before telling X-Force that, forgetting the funky life-sized pinball machine they can play, she would rather talk about the real life they can all have now. She points out that there are colleges all around - Empire State, Columbia, St. Johns - not to mention jobs they can get, and they can watch the Mets lose at Shea, the Rangers host their next cup - Cannonball interrupts, telling Domino that she has convinced them, the good does outweigh the bad. Sam add though that part of him might always feel back knowing they are living in a place where their friends were almost killed. Domino assures Sam that if it doesn’t work out in the long run, then they can leave, assuring him that Cable has no problem with that.

‘Fair enough’ Sam replies, before asking where Cable is at the moment. Domino reveals that Cable had some business to deal with and wanted to meet in the main lounge to talk about it after their tour of Murderworld. ‘We don’t even get to unpack before going to kick someone’s butt?’ Boomer asks, annoyed. ‘Sheesh! Some things never change, huh?’ she remarks. ‘Nope, guess they don’t’ Warpath grins as he places the large “A”, now modeled into a large “X” back onto the chair, smiling.

Later, early evening in the Bronx, outside the Forty-Fourth Precinct, a gathering of media and protesters has assembled in the pouring rain: A reporter announces that word has spread that a mutant has been arrested for a horrible crime that had remained unsolved for several years - the apparently systematic murder of an entire family was lived in this area. The reporter points out that a growing crowd has gathered, led by members of the anti-mutant rights organization known as the Friends of Humanity. She adds that the Police have not issued a statement as of yet and that the mood of the people grows restless as they ask themselves what kind of monsters are living next to us.

Inside the Precinct, Jose Hidalgo tells Lucia that she has been tried and convicted already by the media. ‘I hope it’s not just because you’re a mutant’ he adds, remarking that he prays the people outside are angrier about what happened to Lucia’s mother, brother and sister than they are about the fur on her skin. ‘What you think the odds of that are, Jose?’ Lucia replies as she sits on a chair, her tail twitching, her hands cuffed with a large device covering her deadly nails.

‘All I know is that I knew you when, Lucia Callasantos!’ Jose replies. ‘Before you mutated - before you ran away! I knew you as your family died off one by one - and when I became a cop I swore I was going to dig-up the truth about their deaths’. Lucia looks to the ground, almost sadly she remarks ‘That’s what it’s about for you, Jose? A cop doing his job? Well, you got me. One more lousy human-killing mutie brought to justice, huh?’. Jose steps behind Lucia, reminding her of how when they were kids, how he felt about her, how much he cared for her. ‘When you ran away…you took my heart with you’.

Two of Code: Blue stand guard in the interrogation room as Hidalgo exclaims that he must know: ‘Is the girl I loved as cold-blooded killer?’ Thornn remains silent, not looking at Jose, before asking ‘I get one phone call, don’t I?’. Jose frowns, ‘Yeah, Lucia…you get one phone call’. Looking out the window at the Friends of Humanity protesters, carrying signs like Mutants are Children of Satan, Jose whispers ‘As if any lawyer in this city is going to be able to save you now…’.

The reporter remarks that the scene here grows progressively more confrontational, but they wait and wonder just how much more pressure the Friends of Humanity will bring on the situation, before the Police release the identity of the mutant murder suspect.

At that moment, Graydon Creed, founder of the Friends of Humanity, smiles as he watches the media report, knowing his organization is doing what he always intended for it to do - to push - to confront - to point out at every opportunity the danger this new species of man represents - to show everyone the threat mutants truly are.

Suddenly, the reporter announces that a photograph has just been released, which is shown in the studio, and that the suspect is named Lucia Callasantos, whose. At that moment elsewhere in New York, a mysterious female wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a large coat stops as she passes a television screen when that revelation is made. She then quickly hastens into the shadows.

As the reporter remarks that the mug shot released quite clearly shows the suspect is as mutant, the goings-ons are being watched at the Xavier Institute in Westchester by Professor X and the Beast. The Beast asks Xavier if they should consider a plan of action, but the Professor replies that the X-Men need not get involved yet, revealing that Cable has already called him and this involves his former team member Feral.

The reporter then announces that the suspect’s sister, another mutant, Feral, was sighted with her rebel faction, X-Force, at the World Trade Center incident, months ago, but whether a link exists between the murders and X-Force remains unknown. X-Force watch the media report from their new home intently, when Cable a.k.a. Nathan Summers, leader of the young heroes, exclaims ‘Of course. Link us all together because we’re mutants. Typical media stereotype!’.

Standing with a computer image of Feral behind him, Cable points out that the question is, what are they going to do about it, reminding his team that, for better or worse, Feral was one of their own for a time. ‘We have a responsibility’ he states. ‘Not to Feral, sir’ Cannonball replies as he sits next to his girlfriend Boomer. Sam remarks that they have more responsibility to the memories of the people Feral or her sister may have murdered. ‘Let Thornn stand trial - if she’s guilty, she’ll go to jail’ Sam adds. Warpath tells Sam that what he has to say has some merit, but that with the way people feel about mutants these days, it beggars the question - can Thornn even get a fair trial at this point?

Sam grits his teeth as he replies that he has felt Feral’s claws rip through him, so he knows what she is capable of doing. ‘What’s to say her sister’s any different?’ Sam asks, to which Cable puts a hand on his protégé’s shoulder, ‘What about the notion of innocent until proven guilty, Sam - or are we just tossing that out the window because you don’t like Feral or Thornn?’ Cable asks, announcing that something about this feels wrong, and he wants to find out - now.

The next morning, in the South Bronx, at the 44th Precinct, the Friends of Humanity stayed outside the whole night, the local residents brining them coffee and donuts as the sun came up. This part of the city has always been on the other side of the canyon between haves and have-nots. “Us versus them” has a new twist now. It has become the tallying cry of humans versus mutants - echoing across the genetic gap between the past and the future.

‘You sure you know what we’re doing here?’ Sam asks Cable, both dressed in fancy clothes and wearing long jackets as the pass through the crowd of angry Friends of Humanity members. ‘If one of these “Friends” recognizes us…’ Sam’s voice trails off as Cable replies that Thornn made her phone call, and it was to him. ‘I’m her lawyer now’. ‘But you ain’t a lawyer!’ Sam replies. ‘Harvard. Class of Eighty-Eight’ Nathan replies, smirking, as he holds up a card with his photo and name on it, stating he has a New York State Bar License. Nathan reveals to Sam that he passed the New York bar exam a year later, which was pretty easy. ‘See, Sam? I’m still full of surprises!’ Cable jokes.

One of Code: Blue leads Cable and Cannonball to their “client”, and remain at the door on guard. ‘Lucia, how are you?’ Cable asks. Standing up off the char, Thornn replies ‘What do you think?’, to which Nathan replies that he doesn’t know, and reminds Lucia that she called, so he came. ‘Now give me one good reason why we should help you’ Cable exclaims. ‘Simply. I didn’t kill my family!’ Thornn exclaims defiantly. Cannonball tells Thornn that simply saying it doesn’t mean much, considering her track record, to which Lucia quickly tells Cannonball that if he has a problem with her sister then to take it up with Feral.

Cable tells Thornn that they may soon get the chance, as he has it on good authority that Feral is back in Manhattan. ‘Tell me. Did she come back looking to kill you?’ Cable asks. ‘Is she happy you were arrested - or is she terrified you’ll talk?’. Cable asks Thornn if she were to talk, what is it she would have to say. Thornn looks to the floor, and after a moment, leaps onto a filing cabinet, solemnly, she asks Cable if he really wants to know. ‘You’re worried, aren’t you big man? You’re afraid that Feral’s far worse than anything you ever dreamed’. Thornn remarks that it looks like Cable didn’t know his troops as well as he thought, and now that one of them has gone bad, it hurts him. Nathan replies that he has made mistakes before, and he will make them again - but that a man rights his wrongs. ‘Now tell me…everything’ he asks.

Later, in Jose Hidalgo’s office, Cable enters. ‘I’ve been expecting you’ Jose, smoking a cigarette, remarks as Cable approaches his desk. ‘So I hear’ Cable replies, before asking him if he knows that Lucia is innocent. ‘Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Let a jury decide’ Hidalgo replies. Cable frowns and replies ‘You don’t want a verdict, Detective. You want the truth’. Cable assures Jose that he can get that truth for him. ‘You know so much, Mr. Summers…tell me…are you a mind-reader?’ Hidalgo asks. ‘Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not’ Cable replies, his left eye glowing, Cable tells Hidalgo that, off the record, he can give him Maria Callasantos - Feral - and that the truth will then come out. Jose frowns and asks Cable how he might be able to supply him with that information. ‘Off the record, of course, Cable…’. Hidalgo replies.

In view of the situation at the 44th, a decision is made to relocate Thornn to the more secure facilities at Ryker’s Island. To avoid the anti-mutant hysteria, Hidalgo had arranged the transport and kept Code: Blue on the assignment - but other sources outside the Department also cut some deals - documents were revealed and photos were shown. Blackmail is a speciality of the Friends of Humanity, therefore, two specific men serve as drivers. ‘Where’s the rendezvous set up for?’ a large man asks his colleague as they drive the transport vehicle. ‘Off the Bruckner in Soundview Park’ the bald driver replies. ‘We claim a psycho mutant tried escaping - and was killed in the attempt’, the driver adds that this is one less mutie scum ruining the lives of decent humans - another step forward for the Friends of Humanity.

Nearby though, Rictor and Shatterstar are hidden down an alleyway, ready on their motorcycles, Julio announces that the transport is making the detour, that Cable was right - Thornn was never going to make it to Ryker’s. ‘Ready?’ he asks his good friend. ‘On my world, such vehicles perform airborne maneuvers’ Shatterstar replies. ‘Yeah? Well, here you just gotta improvise!’ Rictor replies as both men force their cycles through the air, following the transport. Shatterstar holds a deadly sword-like weapon out, the Friends of Humanity suddenly notice they are being pursued. ‘Muties!’ the driver shouts angrily.

Shatterstar points out that the transport is picking up speed, and getting away. ‘Did you get a look at those jokers…if those guys are cops, I’m Cable’s mother!’ Rictor exclaims. His comment is heard by the rest of X-Force, in pursuit in a large car. Cannonball exclaims that they have to get Thornn out of there before the van reaches the rendezvous, otherwise she and Hidalgo are as good as dead. Cable replies that he knows and speeds the car up behind Rictor and Shatterstar, remarking that they will have to deal with the Friends of Humanity as gently as they were going to deal with Thornn. ‘He says while he’s driving a car with enough firepower to level Manhattan!’ Boomer exclaims.

Cable radios to Rictor, telling him that he is next up and knows what to do. ‘Yeah, Cable, I gotcha. Gentle’ Julio replies, just like he did in Memphis a few weeks back, a low-level vibe-quake. With Rictor’s power in action, the wheels suddenly fall off the van, causing it to come to a quick stop. ‘We been hit! They’re on to us! I gotta pull over!’ the driver shouts. ‘No, I’ll just take them out! You just keep your eyes on the -’ “road” is what the other man is about to say as he fires his weapon backwards, but the van suddenly comes to a stop. ‘Very stoppable object, meet very immovable force!’ exclaims Warpath as he stands before the rather damaged van.

‘Pleased to meet you’ Warpath remarks sarcastically, before informing Cable that both of the Friends of Humanity plants are down. Cable fires a gun at the van’s rear door, where Thornn and Hidalgo are gathering themselves after a rocky rise. Jose asks Cable if this was his idea of a pre-planned non-violent extraction. Inside Cable’s transport, he replies that it was an unavoidable problem, revealing that two of New York’s Finest were substituted with members of the Friends of Humanity, but that they must still get to the meeting site before any of the Friends of Humanity can track them.

Shatterstar suddenly cuts Thornn’s shackles off, surprising Lucia, who asks what is going on and why she is being freed. Cable tells Lucia that they want to find the truth out once and for all, and they are now going to the one place - to see the one person - who will help them get to the bottom of this mess. Scared, Thornn goes wide-eyed. ‘Oh no - por el amor de dios - don’t do this to me!’ she pleads.

But, very soon, the young mutants and Hidalgo arrive in the building where Lucia and Hidalgo grew up. ‘It’s been years, look at this place - it’s all gone!’ Lucia exclaims. ‘There’s no one here!’ With X-Force scattered around the surrounding area, Cable informs Thornn that actually, if things went according to plan, and their outside contact did her job right, there should be one person here. ‘YOU!?’ screams Lucia. ‘Me, sister!’ snarls Feral, leaning above them on a ledge. ‘Feral is here!’ Maria exclaims, remarking that she was tricked into coming here. ‘Stinking meat! I hate you all!’ the deranged mutant shrieks, before asking ‘But you want the truth about what happened? You’re gonna have to tear it outta me! Who want’s to go first…?!’

Characters Involved: 

Boomer, Cable, Cannonball, Domino II, Rictor, Shatterstar, Siryn, Warpath (all X-Force)

Feral &Thornn II

Beast, Professor X (both X-Men)

Graydon Creed

Jose Hidalgo (NYPD Officer)

Rassitano, Ruiz, Stone (all Code: Blue)
Sue, a reporter


Friends of Humanity protesters

In Photograph:

Lucia Callasantos

On Computer Screen:


Story Notes: 

Thornn II first appeared in X-Force (1st series) #6, as one of Masque’s Morlocks, and became affiliated with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants IV.

Thornn II is not to be confused with Thornn, who was a member of Salem’s Seven.

The skirmish in Central Park where Thornn was spotted can be seen in Cable (2nd series) #15.

Boomer makes reference to the previous four headquarters of the New Mutants-come-X-Force: the space ship is of course X-Factor’s Ship, where the New Mutants lived for a short period of time from New Mutants (1st series) #76-78 (some X-Factor issues were included in that period), the team then spent some time in Asgard, before returning to Earth and living on board Ship again for a few issues, before joining up with Cable and living in the basement ruins of the Xavier Mansion from New Mutants (1st series) #90-100. They took up residence in a cave in the mountains in X-Force (1st series) #1, before moving to the Arizona desert in X-Force (1st series) #15.

Although Domino goes to lengths to explain the teams new headquarters, this new era only lasts four issues, as at the end X-Force (1st series) #43, they are plunged into the Age of Apocalypse, and when they return, Murderworld is blown up in X-Men: Prime.

Arcade has tried to kill members of the X-Men, Excalibur (in particular Captain Britain), their allies and families on numerous occasions, most notably in Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #65-66, Uncanny X-Men #122-124, #145-147 and Excalibur (1st series) #4-5.

Feral was, a rather inappropriate, member of X-Force from X-Force (1st series) #1-28.

Feral clawed Cannonball in X-Force (1st series) #2.

Rictor mentions a move he made in Memphis, which took place in X-Force (1st series) #35.

Issue Information: 
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