X-Force (1st series) #65

Issue Date: 
April 1997
Story Title: 
Lower East Side Story

John Francis Moore (words), Adam Pollina (pencils), Mark Morales (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft/AD (letters), Marie Javins (colors), Team Bucce! (separations), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Risque shows up at the Xavier Mansion to meet Warpath. Much to Siryn’s dismay, the couple goes downtown, to New York’s East Village, where they head to a club owned by a friend of Risque’s. Despite their having a good time, Risque is troubled by the fact she has allowed herself to get too close to Warpath, whereas she should have stuck to her mission. A mysterious man approaches her, informing her that the two others have arrived to complete the mission she was supposed to complete. Indeed, the Mimic and the Blob, obviously working for the same mysterious employer Risque does, attack Warpath, intent on capturing him. Risque and Warpath defeat them and flee, although Warpath is annoyed by Risque’s apparent connection with them and the fact they seemed to know her well and demands to know more about it. Risque takes him to an apartment of a familiar of hers where she finally completes her mission by drugging him with a drink. Back at the mansion, the members of X-Force are astounded by Caliban’s newfound virtuosity in piano, until he suddenly suffers a seizure and collapses.

Full Summary: 

James Proudstar, the mutant also known as Warpath, is swimming in the dark icy waters of the Xavier Estate’s Breakstone Lake, unaware of a “predator” watching him deep in the lake. James moves with a speed and style that would make Olympic swimmers jealous. In his recent international and extradimensional travels with the mutant strike team X-Force, he’s had no time for the luxury of an evening swim. He had forgotten how much the water soothes his troubled spirit quelling the survivor’s guilt he’s carried since the tragic loss of his family and his tribe. And for a fleeting moment, swimming also allows him the illusion of safety.

Just for a moment, though: as something underwater grabs him, a panicky Warpath shouts “Hey!” As something pulls James down in the black depths of the lake, his heightened sense of sight allows him to see his hunter clearly and he recognizes the mysterious woman for whom he has fallen head over heels: Risque. Holding hands now, the couple swims upwards to the surface. From the moment Risque insinuated herself in James’ life she knew she’d caught him – hook, line and sinker. Now, she worries that in reeling him in she’s allowed him to get too close. And in the dangerous game she’s playing, that’s a mistake she can’t afford.

Finally on the surface, James asks Risque if she’s crazy, sneaking up on him like that: what if he hurt her? Risque playfully replies that she was hoping he’d recognize her touch by now. Tabitha told her he would be down at the lake, so she thought he’d surprise him. She did, James agrees. He swears he never had as much fun with anyone as he’s had with her. Risque boasts she can tell that. Before her, he was wallowing in self-pity.

“That’s the old me,” James insists. He asks her if she wants to race across the lake. “Like that would be fair,” Risque remarks. She has a better idea: get out of here. Their mutant physiologies protect them from the worst of it but this is winter and this water is freezing.

A little bit later, at the Xavier Mansion, Risque gets to see James’ room for the very first time. She didn’t know he lived in a monastery. There’s nothing in there but a futon and this armoire! He explains he doesn’t need much and all his other stuff is in storage. Besides, living in the mansion was never supposed to be permanent.

Holding a bright orange-red shirt adorned with a bull-shaped stamp, Risque comments on his wardrobe: “Hopeless.” She insists they need to break him out of this cowboy look. Toweling his hair, Warpath playfully warns her to watch whom she’s calling a cowboy. He’s a full-blooded Apache! Risque tells “Geronimo” that if he wants to be seen with this fabulous babe – meaning herself – he’s going to have to let her take him shopping. After all, she has a reputation to uphold!

Approaching her with a smile, James jokes that his mama always warned him about girls with reputations. And with good reason, Risque replies, smiling voluptuously. Holding each other, their eyes shut, about to kiss, James admits he still doesn’t know her real name. No matter how many times he asks… “Gloria Muñoz,” she cuts him short. Any other questions?

Knocking on the door but not really expecting a response, Siryn walks into the room, asking James if he’s up for a Danger Room workout. Seeing the couple together, James being shirtless, on the brink of a kiss, Theresa freezes in mid-sentence. Even though she fought side-by-side with James and considers him her best friend, more and more, in moments like these, she wonders if she knows him at all.

Rather awkwardly, Theresa says she’s sorry. She didn’t realize he had company. Visibly embarrassed, Warpath just says “Hi,” whereas an undeterred Risque, sporting a devilish grin, also greets Theresa. “Uh… so… you two know each other, right?” Warpath asks them. Risque informs him that, together with Siryn, they went up against Mr. Sinister but were never formally introduced. “How ya doing, girlfriend?” she gleefully asks Theresa with an ironic glint in her eyes.

Putting a T-shirt on, Warpath informs Siryn that they’re going club-hopping in the city: does she want to come along? Risque complements that by observing Siryn looks like she could use a night out. “All work and no play makes red a dull girl”, she viciously remarks! Siryn angrily retorts she’s busy. Unlike some people, she has work to do. She says she’s sure they’ll have a good time without her and then storms out of the room! Standing out on the corridor, Theresa thinks she’s stupid. She was the one who told James they just wanted to be friends. She has no right to be jealous. Even if she is.

New York City’s East Village

As the couple walks in the crowded streets, Warpath wonders why is it every time he asks her a question about herself, she changes the subject. Risque jokes that maybe she’s not that interesting. “Why don’t you let me decide?” James insists. Risque proceeds to tell him some things about herself: her dad’s Cuban. Her mom’s Seminole. She has two younger brothers. Her folks divorced when she was twelve. She lived with her mom until she was sixteen. She’s been on her own since then. How’s that, she asks him. Warpath admits it’s a start.

The couple walks by a house with a notice outside that reads “Psychic Readings.” A woman standing in the window suggests they let her – Madame Carlotta – tell their fortune. She gives them a deal because they’re such a cute couple: she’ll read both their minds for twenty. Walking away, Warpath tells her “No, thanks, ma’am.” The last time someone told his fortune they fainted. Risque asks when that was.

Warpath explains that when he was in Latveria, a gypsy told him that when she touched him, a vision overwhelmed her. She said she saw him at a crossroads, where if he chose the wrong path, he’d be consumed by darkness. “And you believed her?” Risque smiles, raising her eyebrows. She insists he lets her tell him his fortune. Pretending to “read” his right palm, Risque foresees he will have a very, very good time tonight. She asks him to trust her: Madame Risque sees all, knows all, tells all.

Standing outside a club known as “El Ciudad Grande” (The Big City), Risque informs James they have the best deejay in here. She hopes he can dance in those boots! Warpath asks her if she really wants to wait in this line: it goes all the way around the block. “Who said anything about the line?” Risque insists. Approaching the doorman, Enrico, she asks him what’s it gonna take to get her and the big guy inside. Enrico tells her to give him a break. Rodriguez would kill him if he didn’t let her in. He urges them not to just stand there and go on inside. As they enter the club, Warpath admits he’s impressed. Risque explains it’s all about who you know. He knows her and she knows the owner. He’s an old and dear friend from her Miami days.

Risque and Warpath get to the bar. Risque wonders aloud who she has to kill to get a drink in this place. “Hey, bartender!” she cheerfully yells. The bartender – actually owner of the club – turns to her, surprised and excited to see her. It’s been absolutely ages since the two last met! Hugging her, he then looks at her from some distance. He assures her she’s gorgeous as ever. “Always the charmer, Luis,” a flattered Risque replies.

Luis asks her who her friend is. James introduces himself to the man who, in turn, introduces himself as Luis Rodriguez. He tells James that any friend of Gloria’s is welcome in his club. Plus, James’s far more presentable than her last boyfriend! He asks Risque what happened to him. He was cute – in a brutish, Cro-Magnon sort of way. Winking an eye, Risque tells him that last she heard, he was doing hard time in Texas! Gloria asks Luis to make her a martini while she goes freshen up. She also asks the boys not to talk about her while she’s gone!

Heading to the ladies’ room, Risque walks by a man who’s hitting on a girl, asking her if she’d like to go back to his place with him. Suddenly noticing Risque’s face, the man exclaims in terror “Not her!” His date angrily asks the man, Miguel, if that woman is an old girlfriend. Miguel assures her it isn’t like that. He promises he’ll dig her later and rushes to his friend, Eddie, who’s having drinks at the bar. He tells Eddie he’s in big trouble. Eddie asks him what the matter is. Miguel points him at Risque standing in the line outside the ladies’ room, telling him to see the girl with the long black hair. Eddie finds her hot and suggests they see if she wants to party with them.

“Not a chance, man” Miguel replies. He asks him if he remember telling him about his friend, Arturo, the enforcer in Miami. One day Miguel was with Arturo while he was leaning on a deejay who owed him a couple grand. Then, this girl showed up in a motorcycle. Arturo told her to mind her own business: this girl put him in the hospital. Ready to pull a gun, Eddie asks him if he’s looking for payback. If that’s the case, he’s got him covered. The increasingly panicky Miguel refuses: rumor has it that chick’s got some freaky voodoo powers. Miguel is lucky he didn’t end up in traction along with Arturo. He just wants to get out of this joint before she recognizes him.

As the two men walk away, Warpath, who was standing next to them at the bar and heard everything, asks Luis if he also heard that. That guy was really scared of Gloria. Luis asks him if he’s really surprised. After all, their little girl likes mixing it up. Warpath admits there’s so much he doesn’t know about her. Luis admits she’s a still to mystery to him, as well, even though they’ve been friends for years. James just has to get used to the fact she likes her secrets.

In Xavier’s Mansion, the alien technology of the Danger Room has simulated the atmospheric environment of a castle. Shatterstar is demonstrating the finer points of swordfighting to Siryn as the two engage in combat on a long staircase. As their swordfighting continues, Shatterstar notices Siryn is angry: her moves are increasingly reckless and her lack of focus is obvious. He tells her that a warrior learns to read his opponent’s emotional state. Something is clearly bothering her. Siryn insist that she doesn’t need him to psychoanalyze her. Grinning, Shatterstar advises her to wrestle with her inner demons before battle and jumps upward, causing Theresa to lose her balance, fall on the stairs and be defeated.

Shatterstar insists that her emotional balance is as important as her physical equilibrium. Theresa retorts that, if he had allowed her to use her sonic scream, she’d not be the one on this cold stone floor. Shatterstar reminds her that the purpose of their exercise was to hone her swordfighting skills. She shouldn’t depend solely on her mutant ability. Theresa tiredly admits she knows that. Shatterstar believes she shouldn’t be discouraged. His master swordsman who taught his gladiatorial cell swore he would never survive his class, let alone Mojo’s arenas. There’s hope for her yet.

With the lesson finished, the Danger Room’s scenery reverts back to normal. Shatterstar asks Siryn to tell him what’s bothering her. With a sigh, Theresa admits it’s James… and Wade… and men in general. She thinks maybe it’s her. Maybe she doesn’t know what she wants. Shatterstar coldly remarks that perhaps he’s not the one she should come to for romantic advice. Both he and Siryn, however, are suddenly distracted by the sound of a piano. Shatterstar wonders where this music’s coming from; it’s beautiful. Siryn thinks it’s Chopin; one of his nocturnes.

As the duo rushes to the source of the music, Theresa recalls taking piano lessons when she was ten. Back then, she was more interested in climbing trees than practicing scales. She wishes she tried harder. Shatterstar agrees that discipline is necessary in any endeavor.

Finally reaching outside the living room, where the music is coming from, they notice that, apparently, they weren’t the only ones caught by the music’s spell. Meltdown and Sunspot are already there, peeking at someone through the half-open door leading to the living room. Tabitha can’t believe it; Bobby agrees it’s a miracle. The others ask them what’s going on. Who’s playing? Bobby tells them to shush. They don’t want to disturb his concentration. “Whose concentration?” Shatterstar asks. Bobby suggests they take a look. Shocked, they see Caliban playing the piano!

In La Ciudad Grande, Risque is looking herself at the mirror of the ladies’ room, putting some lipstick on. She listens to a group of girlfriends who also freshen up in front of the mirror, one of them talking about how Shane said it wouldn’t really be cheating while he’s on tour, the other seeing men as the proverbial dogs and the third one telling Liza, Shane’s girlfriend, that her problem is that she always falls in love; she’s only setting herself up to get hurt. “Tell me about it,” Risque thinks. Exiting the ladies’ room, she realizes she shouldn’t have let herself get this close to James. She can’t afford to be in love.

Suddenly, she hears the voice of a man near her telling her that she used to be reliable. The man, standing in the shadows, admits being so disappointed in her now. Realizing who he is, Risque defiantly states she thought he didn’t want to be seen in public. The man admits he doesn’t but their friend sent him to clean up after her. Grabbing him by the throat, Risque intimidates him with her fist, insisting he tells the man she’s on top of things: she doesn’t need any assistance. Too late, the man tells her. The others have been called in to finish her job. Indeed, the Blob suddenly appears, telling Gloria that she dropped the ball and now her old pal Fred J. Dukes is in the game!

In the bar, a woman is flirting with Warpath, admiring his being so big and being certain he must be a model/actor/athlete. Luis scolds her, telling the woman, Prunella, to cut some slack as the man’s taken. “Just my luck,” the lovelorn Prunella remarks, sipping her drink. Risque suddenly appears, tossing the woman aside and telling James about a change of plans. They have to go: now. Amazed, Warpath reminds her they just got here. Why is she in such a hurry to leave?

“Two words… the Blob!” is her response. Indeed, the always strikingly big Blob approaches them, telling her he needs no introductions. She just has to make sure her boyfriend comes with him. And if innocent bystanders get hurt – he has no problem with that.

At the mansion, Caliban realizes everyone is looking at him and wonders if he’s doing something wrong. The others plead him to keep playing: it was beautiful. Extremely upset by their presence, Caliban admits that now he can’t remember the pretty music – and then collapses, face-first, on the piano keys! Siryn realizes he’s having some kind of seizure and dispatches Shatterstar to go get Cable. Still conscious but visibly in pain, Caliban incessantly repeats “Caliban hurts… Caliban hurts…” Theresa suggests they get him to the Medlab. Tabitha tells Caliban not to worry. They won’t let anything happen to him.

In the club, Blob asks Warpath what he’s waiting for: Let’s rumble! he cries, slamming his hand on the floor and making it quake. As the club-goers flee in panic, Luis asks Gloria if that’s another one of her friends. “Send me the bill, darling,” an upset Risque tells him. Luis urges her not to worry her pretty little head about it. This is his club and he’s not going to let some overgrown tub of lard trash it. As he’s about to pull a gun, Warpath grabs it, telling him it’s a bad idea and will only make the Blob mad at Luis. Plus, James is the one he wants.

Risque insists James lets her handle this. As she makes a disco ball hanging from the ceiling implode on itself, Luis scolds her for being such a showoff. Risque reminds him that he’s the one who always told her “if you’ve got, flaunt it.” So, she makes things implode on themselves: not as showy as other mutant powers but useful – as proven by the disco ball that collapses on Blob’s head, moments after he was boasting Gloria’s powers are useless against organic matter like himself!

Warpath and Risque move towards the exit of the club. James asks Risque to tell him why the Blob was after him since he seems to know her pretty well! Risque argues that’s not the time: they have to disappear fast! The Blob is not alone.

Indeed, at that moment, Mimic appears outside the club, barely missing zapping them with his optic blast. Mimic tells them they’re not going anywhere. Addressing him by his first name, “Calvin,” Risque assures him she knows he doesn’t want to be there, thus he shouldn’t take this personally. Focusing her powers on the brownstone nearest the Mimic, she condenses a wall of bricks into a spray of small, high-density projectiles that are hurled against the flying Mimic, causing him to scream in pain. Still, Mimic persists on his attack.

As he unleashes his telekinetic blasts, he tells Risque she brought this on herself. If she hadn’t spent months playing cat and dog with Proudstar, the big man wouldn’t have sent Dukes and himself. Being able to read her thoughts, Mimic informs her he knows how she feels about the kid.

Avoiding his shots, Warpath and Risque try to escape in the alleys. James recalls that, last time he faced Mimic, he was living in Siberia because he couldn’t control his power around other people. Apparently that’s not longer a problem. James doesn’t know if that worries him more than the fact Risque is on a first name basis with him. Risque insists she can explain.

“So can I, Injun,” the Blob shouts, suddenly appearing and grabbing James by his face. Holding his face pressed against his stomach, Blob insists that someone should tell Warpath the cold, hard truth: his girlfriend set him up. James realizes he can’t move! Blob reaffirms that: he’s the proverbial immovable object. In a minute or so, James will pass out from the lack of oxygen.

However, James manages to get one of his arms free, impressing the Blob. James should be proud: few people could pull that off. He tells him not to expect his other arm, though. Blob can shift his mass around James’ body and right now, he’s got a ton of pressure wrapped around that arm like a vise.

Risque tells Blob he overlooked an important fact. They’re in New York City and there’s a network of subway and sewer tunnels underneath his feet. Indeed, she uses her powers to condense the asphalt below the Blob’s feet into next to nothing. The Blob disappears into the black void, screaming that he’ll get her for this. James congratulates Risque on her move. He thought he was just gonna die from Blob’s body odor!

Mimic flies above James, asking him if he’s forgotten about him. “Weren’t you supposed to be one of the good guys?” James asks him. Flying against him, Mimic replies that sometimes we cannot choose the roles we must play. James doesn’t find this response comforting. He realizes he only has seconds before the Mimic’s close enough to duplicate his speed and strength. Tearing off a sign-post, he bats the Mimic with it, using his own velocity against him.

With Mimic now unconscious on the ground, sirens are heard. The cops are there! Risque urges James to go before they get identified. James insists he should call the mansion; tell them what happened. Risque believes they’ll see it on TV, anyway. As they walk away, one of the officers radios to his colleague that they’ve got a positive ID on two known mutant felons. The feds at Zero Tolerance should be notified. The curious crowd of people gathered around Mimic’s body and the huge gap into which the Blob fell claim being sick of mutants: “Why can’t leave this city alone?” “They killed Graydon Creed,” “Oughta lock ‘em all up in camps,” “Kill them before they kill us.” Looking at the huge gap on the ground, the officer adds they’ll need a crane.

Tribeca, on Manhattan’s Lower West Side

Risque and Warpath are in a lavish apartment, which belongs to a model Risque knows; she’s in Milan right now. James doesn’t care about that. Risque owes him answers. What’s her connection to the Blob and the Mimic? What is she hiding from him? Risque is afraid if she tells him the truth he’ll walk out of that door and never come back. Holding her, he assures her he’s never going to leave her. All he wants is for her to be honest with him.

Offering him a drink, Risque admits that the truth is that those two were sent to complete a job she was supposed to do – deliver him to a man who has need of his particular powers. Suddenly collapsing and with his clarity fading, James is barely able to ask her what’s in the drink. “Enough tranquilizer to knock out Hong Kong,” she replies. James thought she cared. She assures him she does but this is business.

Characters Involved: 

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




Luis Rodriguez (owner of La Ciudad Grande)

Enrico (doorman of La Ciudad Grande)

Eddie, Liza, Miguel, Prunella and other customers of La Ciudad Grande

Madame Carlotta


People in streets

Mystery man in La Ciudad Grande

In flashback image:

Esmeralda of the Zefiro Gypsies

Story Notes: 

The title is obviously inspired from the West Side Story musical.

Mark Powers and Bob Harras are not credited with their actual duties. The former is credited as being “on the balls” and the latter as being “on our cases.” There is also a “Proudly Welcome Back the Rock’em – Sock’em Visual Stylings of Adam Pollina” statement in the credits. Pollina had last sketched issue #56 (save for some fill-in pages in #62).

Risque, Siryn and the rest of X-Force fought Mr. Sinister in X-Force (1st series) #57.

Warpath encountered the Latverian Gypsy in X-Force (1st series) #63.

Mimic was last seen living in Siberia in X-Force (1st series) #47. Following the present issue, he will indeed end up in the hands of Zero Tolerance, as seen in Excalibur (1st series) #122.

Mutant-hating presidential candidate Graydon Creed was assassinated in X-Factor (1st series) #130.

“Wade” of course refers to Wade Wilson aka Deadpool.

At the end of the issue there are some preview sketches of new series Heroes for Hire.

Issue Information: 
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