X-Force (1st series) #64

Issue Date: 
March 1997
Story Title: 
The Haunting of Castle Doom

John Francis Moore (writer), Anthony Castrillo & Mark Pajarillo (pencilers), John Holdredge & Marlo Alquiza (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft/KF (letters), Marie Javins (colors), Bob Harras (editor & chief)

Brief Description: 

After Doctor Doom’s time platform is accidentally activated, X-Force, Dimitri Fortunov, Nathaniel Richards and G. W. Bridge with his agents, together with the entire Castle Doom, are hurled back in time, specifically 1941. However, given that they are out of temporal synchronicity with this era, they appear as ghosts in the people in the Castle. In other words, both they and the future Castle are like a ghost image of the future superimposed on the past. Dimitri is shocked to realize they have ended up in a time in which his grandfather, the cruel Baron Sabbat, is still ruler of Latveria. Baron Sabbat is – rather reluctantly – acting as host for Wofgang von Strucker and his Nazis, who are testing a new machine capable of harnessing the power of the cosmos. Richards realizes it’s Strucker’s machine that’s interfering with his attempts to resynchronize the platform, thus making the return to their time impossible unless the machine is destroyed. What’s more, Strucker decides to dispose of the Baron but the team prevents his assassination. Finally, Rictor destroys the machine and they all fade back to the present, thanks to the platform. Cable eventually destroys the platform allowing Bridge to do as he pleases with the rest of Doom’s equipment. Surprisingly, Bridge lets Cable and his team go without arresting them. Cable also parts amicably with Richards, unbeknownst to the fact the latter carries his own agendas.

Full Summary: 


For years, the borders of Latveria were closed to the rest of the world, sealed by order of its armor-clad monarch, the despot known as Doctor Doom. Under normal circumstances, the sheltered citizens of this tiny Eastern European nation would not ignore the novelty of foreigners in their midst. Today, however, the Latverians do not even notice the presence of three American mutants: Sunspot, Warpath, Caliban, all members of the outlawed strike team known as X-Force.

Instead, the Latverians’ attention is riveted on a far more disturbing anomaly in their daily routine: the disappearance of Castle Doom that just occurred! For centuries, the castle on the hill has loomed over the Latverian skyline. In recent years, it was occupied by Doom. He, however, disappeared a short time ago, leaving it empty. Now, there’s no evidence it ever existed.

Alongside several other Latverians, the three X-Force members are also shocked to see the Castle gone. Warpath wonders if something that big can simply vanish. Caliban admits being very confused. With his childish mind, he tries to understand if the fact the Castle Doom has disappeared also means his friends that were inside the Castle also disappeared. Sunspot assures him it looks that way. While the rest of the X-Force infiltrated Castle Doom with Nathaniel Richards, in order to disable any time-travel technology Doom had at his possession, Cable left the three of them with the Zefiro Gypsies in case something went wrong. Warpath admits this definitely qualifies as “wrong.” He wonders whether Doom rigged his Castle to self-destruct.

One of the Gypsies, Esmeralda, informs them that such unnatural occurrences have always plagued the Castle – long before Doom deposed the last Baron. They say the Castle is haunted by the souls of every innocent the Sabbat Barons put to death. When Esmeralda herself was a girl and worked in the Castle, some of the staff swore they saw ghosts.

Sunspot tells Esmeralda he doesn’t believe in ghosts. Esmeralda wittily replies that some would not believe that a man could burn like a black ember, as Sunspot does. She believes there are forces at work in the universe that are beyond their comprehension. James admits he doesn’t care about the Castle. He’s worried about his friends and wishes he knew where to start looking for them.

Somewhere far beyond James Proudstar’s wildest imaginings, his teammates Siryn and Meltdown find themselves lost and disoriented in the cold stone corridors of the missing Castle. Siryn tries to calm the increasingly anxious Tabitha down, reminding her that the good news is they’re still alive. When the time platform exploded, Theresa thought for sure they were goners. Tabitha is not appeased by this comment: they still don’t know where they are and where the others are. She’ll feel better when she knows everybody survived the blast. Siryn asks her if that includes her friend, Dimitri. Tabitha protests: how was she to know Dimitri would pull a grenade on Cable? She realizes it was indeed a brainless move and insists that Dimitri looked a lot more together when they were both trapped in Doom’s miniature town. Suddenly, she sees Rictor standing in a balcony ahead of them.

The girls come out in the balcony. Siryn asks Rictor if he’s okay. He replies he doesn’t know. Tabitha suspects he may be still in shock from the explosion: it did knock them all halfway across the Castle. Rictor explains that was no ordinary explosion: it was Doctor Doom’s time platform that exploded. They were hit by waves of temporal energy. As incredible as it sounds, Rictor thinks they were hurled back in time!

The girls ask what makes him say that. Rictor points at the cars in the streets down the Castle: none of them are contemporary. They’re all thirties models, no later than the forties. Tabitha argues that maybe Doom had a thing for old cars: lots of guys do. Rictor disagrees: that’s not all. He tells them to look at that flag flying over the Castle. The flag shows the head of a wolf grinning evilly, with two swords in the background. Rictor urges them to remember the briefing of their mission. That’s the crest of the Sabbats, the aristocrats Doom overthrew. Tabitha jokingly tells him he gets a gold star for knowing that bit of trivia and guesses that traveling fifty-some odd years back in time would explain this headache she has.

Suddenly, the trio hears a scream. As they re-enter the room, they see an elderly woman, dressed as a maid, run away in horror, also urging a young girl in similar outfit – actually a young Esmeralda – to run. Esmeralda asks Greta, what the matter is: is it the Germans? Greta tells her it’s ghosts: the Castle is cursed! They must leave now before their souls are forfeit.

Meltdown wonders what’s got their panties in a bunch. Rictor may not speak Latverian but he thinks he can hazard a guess. Entering an adjacent room, he sees Shatterstar standing there and wielding his sword. He tells him to put his sword down: he’s only frightening the help. Shatterstar swears on his warrior’s honor that he did nothing to startle that woman. Tabitha realizes that the women thought he’s a ghost. Siryn shares her suspicions that maybe the women weren’t too far off. “Watch this,” she exclaims as she passes her hand completely through a candelabra!

In the Castle wine cellar, two men who once fought side-by-side, the enigmatic freedom fighter from a time yet to come known as Cable and G. W. Bridge, co-leader of the government security force called S.H.E.L.D now reach for each other’s throat. Bridge accuses Cable that this is his fault. “Don’t blame me, Bridge” Cable retorts. If Bridge had let him dismantle the time platform as he intended, they wouldn’t be in this situation right now.

Nathaniel Richards, the time-traveling father of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, approaches them, trying to separate them and reminding them that they have a much larger problem to address than their personal enmity. According to his own instruments, the time platform’s malfunction sent the entire Castle back to 1941. When Cable exclaims that the Castle already existed in 1941, Richards explains that they and their time’s Castle do not exist in temporal synchronicity with this era. They are like a ghost image of the future superimposed on the past. They can thank Dimitri Fortunov for their current inability to return to their era. His foolish actions damaged the time platform’s controls.

Still disoriented, Dimitri tells Bridge that last thing he remembers, his S.H.I.E.L.D. agent shot him. He should be dead now. Bridge angrily explains that they won’t do anything until his agents are accounted for.

Cable asks Nathaniel if they can get home. Richards explains that there’s some sort of energy anomaly interfering with the field generators. Dimitri is astonished to realize that, if they are really in 1941, his grandfather, the Baron Sabbat, is still alive!

Elsewhere in the Castle, Baron Tristian Mangegi de Sabbat is indeed very much alive… and more than a little tired. He enters his study, hoping to find a moment of solitude and quiet away from the mounting pressures of his position only to find his familiar furnishings gone, replaced by walls of strange machinery unlike any he has ever seen! Baron Sabbat closes his eyes, thinking that he must be going mad. As he opens them again, all is gone. He only sees the normal furnishings of his study, rather than the strange high-tech décor, which, unbeknownst to him, was an image of the future Castle’s interior, as shaped by Doom, momentarily superimposed on the past. Sabbat thinks that perhaps he is simply overtired.

Wolfgang von Strucker, scientific advisor to Adolf Hitler, enters the Baron’s study, asking him if anything is wrong. In a rather hostile manner, the Baron asks Strucker what he wants from him now. Strucker admits that the Baron has been such a gracious host to his… project. He thought the Baron might be interested to view the progress they made. He assures him that his hospitality will not be forgotten by the Führer.

“I do what I must to keep your troops and tanks out of my country, Nazi” the Baron coldly replies. Strucker assures him that Latveria and Germany are allies: he has nothing to fear from his Aryan cousins. Baron Sabbat asks him in contempt if that’s what Strucker’s government told the Poles and the Czechs.

Strucker admits that their entry into those countries was somewhat brutal but soon, his work will make such violent incursions obsolete. He tells Baron Sabbat that his country is an ideal testing ground for his Sturmfänger machine, his “Storm-catcher.” With it, he will be able to capture and harness the power of the limitless cosmos and in doing so, make his fatherland an unquestioned ruler of the Earth. “Call me a simple man… but I do not think it wise to tamper with such elemental forces, Strucker” Baron Sabbat tells him. Strucker assures him that science will determine the rulers of tomorrow’s world.

As the two men enter the part of the Castle where the testing of the machine takes place, Strucker asks Lieutenant Schlange how they are progressing. Schlange informs him that an unexpected energy flux disrupted the last test. They are currently recalibrating the instruments and repositioning the receptor rods on the Castle’s turrets.

Concealed in a balcony high above, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Colin Muldowney and Theresa Petty view these proceeding with alarm. Muldowney tells Petty she’s right: they have landed in the past, sometime during the Second World War, from the look of things. He realizes in shock that this is the late Wolfgang von Strucker! He never thought he’d see him up close. He thinks they’ve got to tell Bridge. Petty interrupts him: she hates to tell him but they’ve just been discovered! Indeed, two Nazi soldiers order them to come out with their hands up.

Suddenly, a fiery-haired apparition – Siryn! – rises up through the ground immobilizing the soldiers with a scream whose pitch and modulation resonates painfully in their heads. Having phased through the now unconscious soldiers, Siryn smiles as she now knows how Kitty Pryde feels when she phases through things: weird! Muldowney and Petty are a bit shocked. The former asks how she did that. As the rest of X-Force approach, Tabitha tells them that the least the two of them could say is “thank you, Siryn.” Or don’t they teach the finer points of combat etiquette at the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy?

With the rest of the soldiers and scientists still oblivious to their presence, Shatterstar realizes this is getting more and more complicated. He didn’t expect to find German soldiers in Latveria and it doesn’t take a history degree to be certain they’re up to no good. From the many documentaries he’s seen he knows these Nazis are responsible for some of this century’s most horrendous events. He asks whether they should engage them in combat. Siryn tells him to stand down; it’s no time to play John Wayne. Their first priority is getting back to their present.

Nearby, Cable notices that, thankfully, Dimitri only damaged the safeguard relays and not the field generators. He tells Richards that this monitor of his is registering high levels of ionic interference. That kind of static will interfere with their chronal realignment.

X-Force and the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents suddenly phase through the walls and tell Cable the awful truth: the place is crawling with Nazis under the command of Wolfgang von Strucker! Theresa explains that even though her German is limited, she has realized they are testing an atmosphere energy generator.

Bridge is shocked to hear Baron Strucker’s name. Strucker was the scientific genius who founded Hydra and A.I.M. after the Second World War. S.H.I.E.L.D. was created to counter those organizations’ subversive activities. Bridge rejoices at the thought of all the trouble he could roadblock if he stopped Strucker in the forties. Cable urges him to be careful: he’s beginning to sound like himself.

Richards deduces that Strucker’s machine must be causing the interference. They must shut it down. If they don’t return to their present soon, the ghost-like intangibility they’re experiencing now will become permanent and the chronal displacement of the Castle could spread to the surrounding countryside. Cable tells his people to get to work as the clock is ticking. Tabitha suddenly asks what happened to Dimitri.

She soon finds him in a large drawing-room and asks him where he thinks he’s going. Prepared to depart, he informs her he’s going to find his grandfather. “And do what, Michael J. Fox?” she scolds him. She tells him he can’t change history. Dimitri has already gathered Richards is a time-traveler, judging from his familiarity with Doom’s machinery. What gives him more right than himself? “It isn’t about him. It’s about you,” Tabitha insists. She knows he feels guilty for the things his grandfather did to Latveria when he was in charge but does he really think some unshaven kid claiming to be his grandson will make the Baron change his ways?

Dimitri insists he could make things better – for his people and his country. “Or make matters worse,” Meltdown retorts. What if the Baron changes so much that he never takes a mistress? Then, Dimitri’s father is never born and that means Dimitri himself isn’t even a gleam in someone’s eye. Of course, that means Dimitri could’ve never come back to stop him in the first place. A little boggled, Tabitha admits that time-travel makes her head hurt! With a smile, Dimitri agrees.

Suddenly, Strucker and Lieteunant Schlange approach. Schlange asks Strucker if he hears any voices. Strucker assures him he’s imagining things. An uneasy Schlange explains he’s received many reports of strange and unexplainable occurrences throughout the day. Rooms that appear filled with bizarre machinery one moment and then are normal next. Ghosts roaming the corridors garbed in outlandish colors. Two of their men were found unconscious outside the Sturmfänger wing… their ears were bleeding!

Strucker asks him if he believes the Castle is haunted, as the servants claim. Strucker would expect this from the Baron, not from Schlange. Schlange admits being concerned about the Baron: he’s becoming increasingly hostile to their presence here. In contempt, Strucker states that the Baron still believes they’re in nineteenth century. He thinks he has outlived his use for them. Schlange understands: he will take care of him… permanently. “No!” Dimitri screams, hearing this.

A little bit later, Dimitri argues with X-Force. They can’t expect him to stand back and do nothing while the Nazis attempt to kill his grandfather – no matter what kind of leader he was. For Siryn, it seems these assassins can’t have succeeded or they wouldn’t be talking now. Dimitri, however, doesn’t believe in predestination. If they can travel in time, then history can be changed. They only question is: will it be changed by them or the Germans?

Tabitha argues that maybe the Germans’ attempt on the Baron’s life didn’t succeed because they were here to intervene. Shatterstar adds that even his own existence is a paradox: he is the reincarnation of a warrior born in the future! Siryn decides that they’ve got to stop Strucker’s machine in order to return to their present. She orders Tabitha, Dimitri and Shatterstar to protect the Baron while she and Rictor will dismantle the Storm-catcher. “Okay, Axis, here we come!” Rictor screams.

Outside the Baron’s study, Schlange, accompanied by two Nazi soldiers, tells the Baron’s guards they wish to see him. The guards tell him that the Baron does not wish to be disturbed; before they have the chance to finish their sentence, though, they’re shot dead by the Nazis.

“Assassins,” Shatterstar exclaims in disgust as he phases through a painting in the hall outside the Baron’s study. He believes there’s no honor in ambush. A true warrior faces his adversary on the field of battle! He instantly slashes Schlange’s hand with his sword. Holding his aching hand, Schlange furiously states he doesn’t care what manner of devil he is: he will pay for this! He orders his soldiers to kill him.

Meltdown suddenly makes her entrance, informing the Nazis she’s not going to let them “eighty-six” that grumpy old Baron; his grandson’s going to be way too cute to let them end the family tree here! Tabitha coalesces explosive energy into spheres that move at her direction and then detonate at her command, causing the Nazis to break into rout.

Hearing gunshots, the Baron opens the door of his study but is shocked by what appears to be… ghosts! Speaking to him in Latverian, Dimitri assures him they’re not ghosts but allies. Strucker ordered these men to kill him. The Baron regrets having let those wolves into his house. Grabbing a sword, he promises he will deal them. He asks them how they know this and who they are. He notices that Dimitri looks strangely familiar to him. Dimitri admits that would be very difficult to explain as he is his… Realizing he’s about to “spill the beans” and reveal his relation to the Baron, Tabitha pokes him and cuts him short. She tells Dimitri to tell the Baron goodnight and then go. She doesn’t want to be stuck haunting this Castle for the rest of her life.

In the Sturmfänger chamber, Strucker and the scientists try to endure an insufferable sound that reminds Strucker of a banshee’s wail – courtesy of Siryn. Suddenly, the earth begins to quake: they’re under attack by Siryn and Rictor! The former informs Strucker they’re shutting his infernal project down. Rictor urges Strucker to tell Adolf Hitler that the Irish-Mexican coalition served him his walking papers – and also, tell that little runt he’s going to lose the war.

Rictor assures Siryn that even if the Germans can’t understand them, their actions speak volumes. They’ll get the picture when this machine comes crashing down on their heads. Indeed, using his mutant powers, Rictor creates waves of seismic energy that pound the Storm-catcher.

Strucker aims at him with a gun and assures him that he speaks English quite well. Strucker realizes these ghosts seem tangible enough to take a bullet; perhaps he will learn the secret of Rictor’s unusual abilities from his corpse. Rictor assures him he’ll need more than that to take him out. “If I can break that precious machine, imagine what I can do to you” he menacingly adds.

Siryn tells Rictor they don’t have time to play chicken with Strucker. They need to make certain this hellish machine doesn’t give him absolute supremacy over the world! Her point made, Rictor takes Strucker out. Finally, the machine itself buckles under Rictor’s savage assault and then begins to creak and whine with increasing volume. Siryn tells him they must go. Rictor wonders what’s happening. Siryn realizes all the energy Strucker’s machine siphoned from the cosmos is going to be released! Indeed it does – quite explosively.

In the wine cellar, Richards notes that the interference has dropped to zero: they can begin resynchronization. As Bridge begins the process by operating the platform, he asks Cable if is aware of the fact that in a couple of decades, Strucker will develop the Super Adaptoid, the Cosmic Cube and Modok – unless something happens to him now. Cable doesn’t think wet works suits Bridge’s style. Bridge asks him if he wouldn’t erase his worst enemies if he had the chance. Cable admits he hasn’t had the opportunity.

With the platform controls all back on-line, Cable states it’s time to exit the stage. He jokingly tells Bridge that he can now say he served in the Second World War. Nearby, Rictor notes they are fading. “About bloody time,” Siryn exclaims. She was starting to feel uncomfortably unsubstantial. In another part of the Castle, Baron Sabbat senses these people hide something from him. Suddenly, he wonders what’s happening to them as he can see right through them. “Grandfather, I must warn you about…” Dimitri starts but then fades away with every other chronically misplaced individual.

In the present, Warpath, Sunspot and Caliban are brooding. “This is fun,” Sunspot mumbles. Warpath tells him that he can go back to the P.A.C.R.A.T. and do another field scan, if that will make him feel better. Bobby has already done that three times without success. They’ve already alerted the X-Men back at the mansion, so until they hear back from them, all they can do is wait. Caliban thinks it’s a nice day to be outside waiting for friends. They are coming back, aren’t they? James doesn’t know. Sometimes it seems they can survive anything – and then he remembers his brother. Sunspot realizes James still misses him. “Every single…” James starts saying only to be cut short by the sudden reappearance of the Castle!

In the Castle, X-Force and the others realize they are back. Richards’s internal sensors indicate they’ve been gone for three hours, two minutes and fifty-three seconds. Cable thinks it’s time to finish what he came to do. Indeed, he dismantles this time platform before it can do any more damage. He tells Bridge he can claim the rest of Doom’s toys for S.H.I.E.L.D. Cable himself is done. Bridge is furious: that platform was for the U.N. council to decide. Cable has no respect for authority. Even if he wasn’t a wanted man, Bridge should take him in on general principle. He asks him to surrender, adding that he will stand up for him at trial. As Cable notes, though, even Bridge knows that’s never going to happen – even if he could take Cable in, he’d get out. They’ve been through this before.

Bridge agrees and tells him to get out of here. Agent Muldowney protests to Bridge that these are wanted criminals, terrorists – he can’t let them go. Bridge replies they have a big job ahead of them securing the rest of Doom’s equipment. If Muldonwey doesn’t like that, he can file a report.

Cable tells Richards he appreciates everything he’s done for them. He feels better knowing the platform’s out of commission. “My pleasure, Cable” Richards replies. As Cable enters the tunnels to exit the Castle, Richards ponders that unfortunately this may be the last time they meet as allies. Sooner or later, everybody makes a deal with the devil and Richards is about to sign that contract.

Characters Involved: 

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

Nathaniel Richards

Dimitri Fortunov

G. W. Bridge, Colin Muldowney, Theresa Petty (all S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Esmeralda, one of the Zefiro Gypsies


People in 1941:

Baron Tristian Magegi de Sabbat

Baron’s guards

Young Esmeralda, Greta (Baron’s servants)

Wolfgang von Strucker

Lieutenant Schlange

Nazi soldiers


Story Notes: 

Doctor Doom is officially M.I.A. at this point, after he and many heroes vanished – seemingly perished – following the destruction of Onslaught. [Onslaught: Marvel Universe] They have all actually been transferred to Counter-Earth by Franklin Richards.

Tabitha and Dimitri’s imprisonment in Doom’s miniature town and the seeming explosion of the time platform were seen in X-Force (1st series) #63.

Coloring error: Theresa Petty’s hair is blond in one panel, although it should actually be black.

Michael J. Fox is the star of the Back to the Future trilogy which revolved around time-travel, hence the association here.

“Führer” means “leader, guide” in German. It is mainly used in English to refer to Adolf Hitler and was the title he gave to himself as part of the Enabling Law which gave him absolute power over the Parliament.

The “Axis” refers mainly to the countries of Germany, Italy and Japan, that constituted one of the two official opposing forces in World War II, the other being the “Allies.”

Warpath’s brother, Thunderbird, died in X-Men (1st series) #95.

It’s baffling why Sunspot refuses to believe in ghosts – and, as seen in the previous issue, in visions – given that, through his time with the New Mutants, he’s encountered Norse gods, demons and extraterrestrials!

Dimitri Fortunov’s last appearance to date.

The subplot of Richards’ mysterious plan is never followed upon.

At the end of the issue, there are preview sketches of next issue and also a preview of the new Ka-Zar regular series.

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