X-Force (1st series) #59

Issue Date: 
October 1996
Story Title: 
Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?

Jeph Loeb (writer), Anthony Castrillo (pencils), Bud LaRosa (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Marie Javins (colors), Malibu (enhancements), Bob Harras (editor in chief, credited as “Confused by it all”)

Brief Description: 

Shatterstar is facing an identity crisis, believing himself to be both Shatterstar, the Mojoverse warrior from 100 years in the future, and Benjamin Russell, a comatose patient in the Weisman Institute. Cable is pushing him rather hard, trying to find out the truth, much to the chagrin of the rest of X-Force. Rictor unexpectedly returns to the team, after his extended leave of absence, claiming that he’s there now that Shatterstar needs him. The team starts looking for clues, with Cable rendezvousing with Detective Charlotte Jones, intent on reading NYPD’s file on Benjamin Russell. However, Charlotte informs him that the file, as well as any other X-Force-related material the police had, are missing. The team later goes to the Weisman Institute, which they find curiously abandoned. After they depart with their P.A.C.R.A.T. ship, they are attacked by Gog and Gog N’ Magog, who kidnap Shatterstar and teleport away with him, although Cable also jumps into the teleportation light and vanishes with them. The rest of the team is trapped into the damaged P.A.C.R.A.T. which is about to crash down but lands surprisingly well at the very last moment, courtesy of an extremely lucky being that unexpectedly appears at the pilot’s chair… Longshot!

Full Summary: 

Absolute darkness… suddenly penetrated by a relentless voice: “Who are you?” A man sitting pensively on a chair is spotlighted. “Shatterstar,” the man replies, while staring at the floor. Everything in the room is again shrouded in darkness. “Who are you?” the voice again asks. Spotlight on Shatterstar. “I… told you. Benjamin Russell.” Darkness is restored. “Who are you?” the voice persists. Shatterstar is again spotlighted. He furiously exclaims he doesn’t know and starts pounding his fists on the glass walls of the room where’s he contained, all the while screaming that this is enough. He has answered their questions as many times as he can and this is no way to treat a warrior born!

Observing him from the other side of the “interrogation room” are his mentor, Cable, and his teammates in X-Force: Caliban, Domino, Sunspot, Meltdown, Warpath and Siryn. Cable is sitting on an operator’s chair, regulating the lights from a console. Scratching his head, a baffled Caliban admits he doesn’t understand: doesn’t Cable want to help Shatterstar? Rather uncharacteristically, Domino agrees with Caliban: haven’t they put ‘Star through enough?

“Have we, Dom?” Nathan wonders. He reminds her they’ve got an incredible situation there. Nathan’s telepathically probed him, more than once and apparently, Shatterstar genuinely believes he is both Shatterstar and Benjamin Russell. This means that the kid they’d taken in as one of their own may be someone completely different… and Cable doesn’t like that.

“Who does, Cable?” Sunspot retorts. However, he also wonders whether they learnt something from his Reignfire experience – the fact that two personalities can exist without either side knowing. Warpath believes that Bobby is being too hard on himself and argues that Shatterstar seems more confused than actually having a second lethal identity. Standing cross-armed, Meltdown exclaims that Shatterstar stood up for her once and now she’s doing the same for him. She asks Cable to let Shatterstar out or she’ll blast him out. Siryn advises her not to act that rash. They don’t know the extent of the damage Gamesmaster has put Shatterstar through.

Listening to their arguments, Shatterstar assures them he understands. Ever since he came to X-Force, he’s been something of a mystery, somehow linked to the former X-Man, Longshot, an alien with hollow bones. He recalls how he was teleported from one hundred years in the future from some far-off distant place… and now he’s told that he’s not that person; that he’s Benjamin Russell, a runaway from Boston. He does not recall ever being in Boston. He wonders if they have something called “Red Sox.”

Si” the mutant known as Rictor affirmatively replies, as he suddenly – and unexpectedly – enters the interrogation room. This is the last voice Shatterstar thought he would hear this day… and it is the first sign that everything just might turn out all right. For a time, Rictor fought side-by-side with X-Force until he took a leave of absence. It was a decision that was the most difficult for Shatterstar, his best friend.

Rictor explains that the Red Sox have fans who believe in them even when they are losing; like Shatterstar and himself. Holding Shatterstar’s hand, he asks him que pasa: doesn’t he have his head screwed on straight anymore? Still astounded, Shatterstar asks him if it’s really him. Smiling, Rictor affirms that: who else would come all the way from Mexico to see his sorry self? The two men share a laughter.

Meanwhile, Cable and Domino are having a telepathic discussion, via their psionic link. A vexed Domino asks Nathan what he wants to do now. Cable suggests they wait: maybe Rictor can get Shatterstar to open up. Domino begins saying that she’s not the one to second-guess him… “You?!” Nathan exclaims in disbelief. Domino mutters that after what happened with Xavier and Onslaught…

Nathan believes she’s right. Xavier was a benevolent man, who became the most dangerous foe they’ve ever faced. Given that, just the idea of having a member of their team who can’t account for his past is a liability. Nathan wants to handle this carefully. Domino insists that’s not what she meant. She thinks these kids – X-Force – have been through enough. They want Cable to help Shatterstar.

Cable shouts that’s what he’s trying to do! This isn’t a punishment! He admits he doesn’t like being wrong. He was wrong about Xavier – and it cost them dearly. Siryn assures him that they’d follow him into a burning pit if they were told to… if it meant saving the life of an innocent. She reminds him that’s what he taught X-Force to be. Right now, they need to solve a problem that affects one of their own. “I… see,” Nathan replies. Domino tells him that she’d hate to say that she told him so… “All right, then, let’s do it,” Cable exclaims – although he has a very bad feeling about this.

Soon – Outside a bunker somewhere in the mountains of upstate New York

Siryn asks Warpath why he’s being so quiet. James admits he gets why Cable has them on the move, hidden in this safehouse of his: this whole Onslaught thing has got them so that they aren’t supposed to trust anyone. James, however, just lost something he trusted. Risque has gone missing and nobody will let him go and find her.

Theresa insists she doesn’t mean to pry but wonders what they really know about the girl, anyway. James knows there’s not much to tell: Risque saved his life; she knows a lot more about him than he knows about her; he doesn’t even know her real name. “And that doesn’t bother ye?” Theresa asks him. “Why? Does it bother you?” James aggressively responds.

Before Siryn can answer, though, Cable and the rest of X-Force exit the bunker. Cable tells his people to move it since they’ve got a lot of ground to cover. He then gives a psionic order: “Cloak off.” With that order, the P.A.C.R.A.T., X-Force’s own armed carrier, suddenly appears before them.

Cable, though, wants to have a word with Warpath first. Nathan knows that James is worried about this Risque woman. James is surprised he knows and asks him if he had any news. Not yet, Cable admits – but he’s got some feelers out there. He needs James to be patient and focus on the Shatterstar issue for right now. Understood? Understood, James replies. As the P.A.C.R.A.T. takes off, James thanks Cable.

Meanwhile, in the 53rd precinct of New York City, Detective Charlotte Jones is looking through some files. However, the specific file she’s looking for seems to be missing. One of her male colleagues approaches her and asks her if she’s looking for something. Charlotte mumbles it’s nothing important. She argues that ever since New York got turned upside down, one can’t find anything around here. Her colleague corrects her: she means, since those muties turned this town upside down. He always thought that Graydon Creed was a crackpot of a presidential candidate – but maybe Creed’s right. Maybe they should take out those mutants before they take the humans out. Charlotte angrily advises him not to think too hard; he might hurt himself!

A little bit later, Charlotte walks in the streets of New York City, wondering how this could have all happened. Heading to her destination, she spots a damaged Sentinel unit in an alley, all the while thinking that so much of it is still sketchy. It could be wintertime before S.H.I.E.L.D. gets these Sentinels off the streets. She also considers the rumors. Could it be true that Captain America… the Avengers… the Fantastic Four are all…

Charlotte suddenly realizes that someone is behind her. A man drags her backwards in an alley, just as Charlotte pulls out her gun and points it at him. The man – Cable – asks her to pull down the gun. Charlotte is surprised to see it’s him. She warns him that, the next time he touches her without her permission, he’s going to need more metal body parts! After all, she said she’d meet him here and she’s right on time.

Cable apologizes for his… abruptness but argues these are hazardous days: he had to make sure she wasn’t followed. He asks her if she brought the police files on Benjamin Russell. Charlotte explains she looked everywhere but it’s completely clean, including all the X-Force material the precinct had after the arrest of Cable’s team – all of it, gone. Nathan asks her if she has any idea on who’s responsible. Charlotte admits she doesn’t… and that’s what worries her. She believes the times are changing and not for the better. She tells Cable to watch his kids. Something bad’s coming, something the X-Force isn’t ready for.

A little bit later, Cable is on the P.A.C.R.A.T. again, with Domino piloting the ship, heading north. He tells Domino she should have seen Detective Jones; he didn’t have to psi-scan her to know she was scared. Domino thinks it’s weird: how is it possible that all their records could have just… vanished? Cable reminds her that both of them have done things in the past to make people disappear. It’s a skill like anything else and from what Nathan gleaned from Jean Grey, the “Zero Tolerance” project is looming on the horizon, just waiting to pounce on mutants everywhere.

Domino suggests that perhaps Gamesmaster is just making it harder for them to learn the truth about Shatterstar. “Either way, Dom,” Cable remarks. He was hoping that after Onslaught, they’d have a little slow downtime, a chance to really work with this team. But here they are on the fly again.

In the rear of the ship, Rictor remarks that there’s just so many chickens he could chase helping out his mother before he was itching to come back. Shatterstar asks him if he’s making a commitment; is he part of X-Force again? Before Julio has the chance to answer, Caliban grabs him, hoping that he has a new friend in him, even though he doesn’t know him very well. “Um… yeah,” Rictor nervously replies.

Perplexed, Meltdown recalls that Rictor had told everyone that he wouldn’t have Cable telepathically mucking around in his head, thus he quit. However, now he’s back. Rictor reminds her of what he told them when he left: if they needed him, he’d be back – and Shatterstar now needs him. After what they know about Onslaught, they should all be concerned about anybody who wants inside their head.

A little later, the trail leads the team back to the Weisman Institute for the Criminally Insane in Rutland, Vermont. It was there that Siryn and Shatterstar first learned about the… discrepancy in Shatterstar’s past. However, the Institute now looks entirely abandoned. Theresa recalls that she was here only days ago – and it was a fully functioning hospital! Domino reminds Cable that this is eerily similar to when they first went down to the Nimrod facility, after Onslaught had stripped it bare.

Nathan believes that someone has made the hospital to look like it has been abandoned. He telepathically tells his team that he wants a hard target search. If it’s not nailed down, they are to look under it and it if is nailed down, they are to tear it up! He tells them he wants answers and then urges them to go around searching. As they all comply, Rictor bellyaches that some things haven’t changed.

As the team splits up and investigates the grounds of the Institute, Rictor realizes how Shatterstar feels: he thinks he’s been here in the past but at the same time, he doesn’t. Shatterstar affirms that. It is, as Meltdown once described, a “déjà vu.” Whatever it is that Gamesmaster did to him, it started there; Shatterstar is certain of that much! Unbeknownst to Rictor and Shatterstar, the Mojoverse beings known as Gog and Gog N’ Magog, are prowling nearby, concealed behind some bushes.

Empty-handed, X-Force soon departs with the P.A.C.R.A.T. Shatterstar exclaims they’ve found nothing and are back to where they began: the apparent abandonment of the Weisman Insitute is nothing more than another piece of the puzzle. Cable suggests they press on. He’s sorted out enough messes to know this isn’t going to be easy. Their next stop is Boston. Maybe something there will jog Shatterstar’s memory…

Suddenly, Cable tells them to team to brace themselves! The carrier shakes up as a terrible sound is heard. Nathan inquires Domino of their status. She informs her they’ve got an onboard fire and also lost the starboard engines!

Gog and Magog tear the rear of the ship apart and storm in, wailing in an incomprehensible language. Sunspot asks if anybody has any idea who these guys are. “Ugly and uglier?” Tabitha glibly remarks as she releases her time bombs against them. Sunspot also releases his solar plasma bursts against them, urging everyone to blow their assailants back out the way they came in! Rictor joins the fight, admitting that this is the X-Force he remembers. As Rictor releases seismic energy and sends vibratory shockwaves against Gog and Magog, Shatterstar warns him that this craft cannot handle the kind of punishment his power causes without going down. Too late, though, as the ship starts spiraling downwards.

Gog and Magog grab Shatterstar and then, with a frightening burst of speed, break through the other side of the P.A.C.R.A.T. with Cable in pursuit. Nathan can’t get a clean shot at them and telepathically urges Domino to try and right the ship; he wants answers and there’s only way to get them and that’s outside on the wing! Seeing Shatterstar being teleported away with the two beings, Nathan rushes into the puddle of light and also vanishes with them. As the ship spirals out of control at nearly 800 mph, Domino knows that even though she may be dead in the next few seconds, whatever fate she may suffer, Cable is in for something worse.

However, suddenly, the ship is stabilized just a few inches before crashing down, on the water, and lands rather smoothly. “Nice play, Domino!” Bobby gasps. Domino doesn’t take credit for this miraculous landing, though: things may have a habit of going her way but this is beyond anything possible.

They suddenly hear someone talking from the pilot’s chair. “Oh… I wouldn’t know about that… you just have to be born lucky, I guess.” X-Force is shocked to see it’s Longshot!

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Caliban, Domino, Meltdown II, Rictor, Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)

Longshot (former X-Man)


Gog N’ Magog

Charlotte Jones

Unnamed detective

Story Notes: 

Shatterstar, originally introduced as a genetically engineered warrior of Mojoverse from 100 years in the future, first crossed over into our timeline in New Mutants (1st series) #99-100. However, after Siryn infiltrated the Weisman Institute for the Criminally Insane in X-Force (1st series) #44, she discovered the files of a patient, named Benjamin Russell, who looked completely identical to Shatterstar. [X-Force (1st series) #46] Additionally, Shatterstar’s DNA was – inexplicably – shown to be identical to Longshot’s in X-Force (1st series) #51, a connection that had already been hinted at back in X-Men (2nd series) #11, when Longshot and Dazzler considered naming their unborn baby “Shatterstar.” Things were further confused when Gamesmaster, who was using several people at the Weisman Institute as hosts bodies was first hinted as being connected to Shatterstar’s origin in X-Force (1st series) #56. More information and speculation on the Shatterstar mystery can be found in the Questions section of the Mojoverse article.

Even though Sunspot doesn’t know it yet, he and Reignfire are two separate individuals, rather than personalities co-existing in the same body. The truth will be revealed in X-Force (1st series) #78-80.

X-Force tried to convince Meltdown to stop endangering herself by engaging in daily communication with the psychotic Sabretooth during the time he was kept – under lock and key – in the X-Mansion. Shatterstar was the only one who decided to let Tabitha be when she protested she could take care of herself. [X-Force (1st series) #48] Of course, the Sabretooth story did end horribly, with Psylocke being the one who paid the price of Tabitha’s naïveté. [Uncanny X-Men #328]

Rictor took a leave of absence in X-Force (1st series) #44.

Risque saved Warpath’s life in X-Force (1st series) #54 and went missing following the battle against Mr. Sinister in X-Force (1st series) #58.

X-Force was arrested by the police in X-Force (1st series) #54.

X-Force battled Nimrod in the Camp Heyden facility in X-Force (1st series) #36.

Jean Grey and Gambit first learned of the Operation: Zero Tolerance project when they infiltrated a Pentagon meeting in Uncanny X-Men #333.

Onslaught is an evil psionic entity created from parts of the consciousness of Professor Xavier and Magneto. In the final battle that resulted in Onslaught’s destruction, several heroes seemingly sacrificed their lives. In reality, they were actually transported in a “pocket” universe. [Onslaught: Marvel Universe]

Both Longshot and Domino have the ability to alter probabilities to their advantage – the former more so than the latter – hence the luck reference in the finale.

A “Wanted” headshots poster with surnames such as [Bob] Harras and [Scott] Lobdell can be seen in the background of the precinct house.

The Boston Red Sox are a professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts.

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