X-Force (1st series) #84

Issue Date: 
December 1998
Story Title: 
…by the Sword

John Francis Moore (plotter), Jim Cheung (penciler), Jay Faerber (scripter), Ray McCarthy (inker), Marie Javins (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft & EM (letterers), Brian Smith (assistant editor), Bobbie Chase (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Members of the Sword touch down in Cumberland, searching for Arcadia DeVille, who is hiding in an abandoned house with her minder Ulysses, and Cannonball. In San Francisco, the MUSE agents leave Bedlam with X-Force, although most of the team is not happy about it, even more so when he asks if he can stay with them. Suddenly Moonstar, Siryn, Proudstar, Sunspot and Meltdown vanish - and rematerialize in Cumberland, teleported there by Arcadia. Cannonball races to help his former teammates. Moonstar is unable to create her psionic arrows, unaware that there was recently a psionic-war, and she is taken down easily, while the others follow soon after. Ulysses and Arcadia are cornered by two of the Sword, but Cannonball and Meltdown team up to intervene. The other X-Force members soon arrive, but Arcadia is hostile towards all of them, and is about to kill two of the Sword, until Moonstar stops her - but when they touch, Arcadia’s powers cause Moonstar to turn blue and sparkle. Arcadia doesn’t know what she has done, as her powers work different all the time, and after Ulysses knocks his charge out, Moonstar returns to normal. Finally, Ulysses explains that the reason Sword is after Arcadia is due to a struggle between two factions of Deviants who wish to use her power against mankind. Arcadia begrudgingly thanks X-Force for their help, before she and Ulysses leave, with the captured Sword warriors. Cannonball decides to rejoin X-Force, while Doctor Chandra informs Odysseus Indigo that they could not capture Arcadia and that X-Force was involved again, to which Odysseus decides that they need to recruit X-Force or eliminate them completely.

Full Summary: 

In Manhattan, strangely-clothed people who can do fantastic things have become almost commonplace. However, this is not Manhattan. This is Cumberland, Kentucky, where four mysterious beings have just transported down to the farming community, the childhood home of Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, formerly of the X-Men and X-Force. Sam is used to strange - it comes with the job - he just didn’t expect to find it in his hometown. ‘Blast it! Argos’s comrades have rescued him from the coal mine!’ Ulysses Dragonblood exclaims as he looks out through a gap in some wooden slats which cover up a window of an abandoned house, where he, Arcadia and Cannonball are hiding.

Sam asks Ulysses who the strange people are, to which Ulysses points out that he has already met Argos, and the others are Stranglehold, Zona and Pyre, who are called the Sword, and are after Arcadia. Ulysses warns Cannonball that they will kill anything that stands between them and their quarry. Ulysses tells Cannonball that so long as they don’t perceive him as a threat, he can leave here alive. ‘So go ahead and leave. We don’t need you anyway’ the aggressive Arcadia snaps. But Cannonball tells Arcadia that it seems a little late for that, as he is involved whether he likes it or not.

His mind wanders back to how he recently returned to Kentucky, and all he wanted to do was spend some time with his mother, now suffering from a debilitating neurological disease - only to get mistakenly ambushed in an abandoned coal mine by Ulysses. But never one to turn his back on people, Sam helped Ulysses and Arcadia flee to this abandoned house where they now take shelter.

‘Well, well, farm boy - who’s this happy bunch?’ Arcadia asks as she finds a photograph of Sam and X-Force in his wallet. ‘They’re mah friends if you must know. But judging by your knack for stealing wallets, Ah’m betting you don’t have a lot of friends!’ Cannonball exclaims as he snatches his wallet back. ‘Relax, will ya? It’s just a force of habit’ Arcadia replies casually, adding that she has been on her own for a while now. Suddenly, the abandoned house rumbles, ‘The Sword!’ Ulysses shouts, while Arcadia exclaims that she would feel a lot better if they had some backup. ‘What about your friends, farm boy? Are they like you? You know - different?’ Arcadia asks.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, outside the warehouse owned by DaCosta International, home of X-Force, a group of mutants fighting for peaceful coexistence with the humans who fear and hate them. ‘You think it’s smart leaving Jesse with those kids?’ Nicole Lomenzo asks her MUSE colleagues as they get in their car to leave. Dr Derek Parsons reminds Nicole that she read their file, and that X-Force are hardly kids. Lucas Wyndham adds that Jesse is legally an adult and they cannot baby-sit him forever.

Inside the warehouse, the man MUSE were discussing Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson sits on some steps and asks ‘What? What’s with the looks? I just asked if I could crash here for a while. I’ve been living out of hotels and motels for months’. X-Force stare back at him. They are not his friends. ‘I think I speak for all of us when I say - no way! We don’t know you from Adam!’ Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith shouts, while Danielle Moonstar, James Proudstar, Theresa “Siryn” Rourke and Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta stand behind her. Their teammate Domino tells her allies that she knows Aaronson lacks social graces, but points out he is smart. ‘He found you and me’ she reminds them.

Domino reminds X-Force that she promised to help Aaronson find his mysterious missing brother, and that he is not here permanently. She adds that if his presence causes too much trouble, she will throw him out herself. ‘Dom, you don’t -’ James begins when suddenly he, Theresa, Dani, Tabitha and Bobby are engulfed by a mysterious red light - before the five of them vanish. ‘They’re gone! Does that sort of thing happen here often?’ Bedlam asks. ‘You obviously haven’t spent much time around other mutants, have you?’ Domino replies.

Moments later, the five young mutants appear under a starlit sky as the red energy dissolves around them. ‘Where are we?’ James calls out. ‘I’d say “We aren’t in Kansas anymore” - but this actually looks like Kansas!’ Sunspot jokes, while Siryn points out that they are in costume, no less. The Sword team stands before X-Force as one of the warriors declares that it seems Ulysses is running scared, calling in reinforcements. ‘Argos, see if you can give me a correct reading on these five without screwing up!’ one of them shouts. Argos announces that the new arrivals are super-powered humans of the Homo Superior genus. ‘In other words, mutants’ he exclaims.

‘Don’t you just hate being discussed like we’re not even here?’ Meltdown asks her friends, all unaware that Cannonball has moved out of the abandoned house and has seen them. ‘That’s X-Force out there. But how?’ he wonders, while a weary Arcadia remarks that they needed help, and reminds Cannonball that he said his friends were mutants like him. She looks as if she is going to fall over, before Ulysses grabs her: ‘Stupid girl!’ he shouts, reminding her that she was not to use her powers. ‘You know the danger involved!’ he tells her. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ Arcadia mumbles, while Ulysses tells Cannonball that his companions do not know what they are up against. ‘Get them to safety. I’ll deal with the Sword’ he declares, to which Cannonball replies that his companions can handle themselves. ‘They haven’t fought the Sword’ Ulysses declares.

Back outside, the warrior called Pyre causes the ground around X-Force to shatter, and the young heroes are knocked aside, while he declares ‘Let’s see if you kids are any better at this sort of thing than you’re friend!’. ‘Our friend? What’s he talking about?’ Siryn asks, when, as if on cue, Cannonball uses his mutant power to rocket through the sky - and when he does that, few things can stand in his way - Pyre clearly isn’t one of those things, as the warrior is knocked to one side mid-air. ‘Guy’s get clear!’ Cannonball calls out, still wearing his jeans and unbuttoned shirt as he enters the battle. Theresa asks Sam how they got here, while Tabitha remarks that she isn’t surprised to see Sam here. ‘What’s going on?’ Dani calls out.

Sam drops to the ground, remarking that he will explain now, before pointing at the other three members of the Sword as he tells his friends that they are the bad guys. ‘Hit them!’ he exclaims. ‘They’re after the girl who brought you here’ he adds. The female member of the Sword, Zona, tells Argos and Stranglehold that she will take care of the mutants while the two of them go after Ulysses and the girl. Zona turns invisible and sneaks up behind Cannonball, but Proudstar sees her thanks to his enhanced senses. ‘Sam! One of them is invisible! Look - out!’ James calls out as he rushes over, but Zona moves quickly out of the way, and instead James shoves Sam by mistake. ‘Jimmy? What -?’ Cannonball asks, while Zona exclaims that this fight might prove interesting after all.

Zona kicks James in the head, while remarking that this is exceptional, for even though he cannot actually see her, his other senses are heightened beyond those of most humans. ‘Chalk it up to a healthy lifestyle, lady’ James retorts as he blocks Zona’s kick. ‘Oh. Well, we’ll just have to put a stop to that, now won’t we?’ Zona replies as she blasts James with some sort of energy blast. James screams, and Dani calls out to him, while attempting to ready a psionic arrow - but to her surprise, she cannot create one. Ordinarily, Danielle can focus her mental energy into a psychic arrow and strike from a distance. At least, that is how it is supposed to work. For weeks now she has noticed slight fluctuations in her powers, but has kept that information to herself. She is unaware that a battle between the Shadow King and the X-Men damaged the psionic plane, weakening the abilities of every telepath and psi-sensitive on the planet.

There is no hiding that now though, and Dani screams in agony, before falling over. ‘Powers…failed me. Psionic backlash nearly finished me’ she utters, while Stranglehold approaches her, remarking that this is too easy. ‘You want “hard”? Here - I’m expert level!’ Meltdown exclaims as she jumps between Dani and Stranglehold, before throwing some plasma time bombs at the warrior, who stands his ground and declares that he is waiting for this to actually hurt. Stranglehold sighs, ‘Never mind’ he mutters, before swatting Tabitha away as he remarks that it is the other girl they are after.

‘Got ya!’ Cannonball calls out as he flies to Meltdown’s rescue, catching her before she can hit the ground. ‘I owe you on, Sam’ Tabitha tells him, before they land nearby. ‘You don’t owe me anything’ Cannonball tells her. ‘You’re still mad’ Tabitha realizes, but Sam assures her that he is over it. ‘You’re a lousy liar, Sam’ Meltdown tells him, adding that she didn’t mean to betray what they had by getting together with Bobby, that it just happened. ‘You can’t plan that kinda stuff, you know?’. ‘Tab, I -’ Sam begins, before both he and Tabitha cry out in pain as Pyre blasts them with energy, though Pyre knows they are lucky as Cannonball’s force field was up, otherwise they would both be ashes by now. Pyre decides that they may have to take Cannonball back with them, as he is sure the Foundation techs would like to get him in the laboratory.

Unlike Cannonball though, Siryn does not have a protective force field around her when she flies - unfortunate, as Argos throws his staff at her, and it smacks her in the back. Siryn has to rely solely on the sonic powers that are a variation of those of her father, the former X-Man known as Banshee. Unfortunately, they are not enough, and Siryn plummets to the ground. ‘SIRYN!’ shouts Sunspot as he sees his friend falling, so he immediately powers up, able to transform energy into strength and concussive force, he has been charging all day.

‘We didn’t ask to be involved in this fight, but if it’s a fight you want, sister, I’ll be happy to kick your ugly tails -’ Sunspot begins, but Zona quickly renders him unconscious. ‘Spare me, boy’ she mutters, before standing over his motionless body and telling her teammates that they have wasted enough time with these children. ‘Our prey awaits us in that house’ she declares, reminding her companions that they need Arcadia alive, but the traitor Ulysses’ head belongs to her.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Bedlam asks Domino what they are going to do and how they are going to find X-Force. But Domino tells him to cool it, as you don’t survive in the spy game for as long as she has without knowing people who know people. Domino makes a call on a phone: ‘This is Mrs Peel. I need the location of a good Indian restaurant’ she tells the person on the other end. ‘Now, we wait’ she tells Bedlam after hanging up. ‘For dinner? I’m impressed by the concern you show for your friends. They could be in danger!’ Bedlam exclaims. ‘Of course they’re in danger. You’ll come to learn that X-Force is rarely not in danger’ Domino tells him, adding that unless he has a better way of finding them than the satellite service she subscribes to, then they will have to wait. ‘Unless, of course you’re psychic’ Domino mocks.

Back in Kentucky, Zona enters the abandoned house: ‘Oh, Ulysses, how the mighty have fallen. Look at you - I remember when you welcomed battle. Now you cower like a frightened child’ she exclaims, when suddenly, Ulysses grabs her neck, ‘It’s called lying in wait, my dear. Don’t forget everything you know, I taught you’ he tells her. ‘Go ahead. Kill me. You were part of the Sword once. You know others will follow. You’re old, Ulysses. You’ll die soon’ Zona exclaims. ‘Perhaps sooner than you think!’ Pyre declares as he enters the house and blasts Ulysses with energy, releasing Zona from his grasp. ‘Old man, you should’ve killed me when you had the chance!’ Zona exclaims.

Outside the house, Stranglehold and Argos stand watch over the unmoving bodies of Dani, Theresa, James and Bobby, unaware that Sam and Tabitha are hiding behind a nearby tractor. ‘Can you see them?’ Meltdown asks. ‘Yeah’ Cannonball replies, adding that he thinks he has got a plan. ‘Well? You want a drum roll?’ Meltdown asks him, expecting him to tell her the plan. Sam tells Tabitha to notice the grass that Stranglehold and Argos are standing on, explaining that it is green and lush, which means they are standing on the septic tank. ’And I need to know that because…?’ Tabitha asks. Sam tells her to listen, and explains that he wants her to send a couple of time bombs at their feet. ’Okay, okay’ Tabitha mutters, and moments later, Stranglehold and Argos are surprised by the plasma attack, but cannot do anything about it, as the ground gives way and they fall into the septic tank.

Inside, Pyre puts a neutralizer on Arcadia, telling her that it will not hurt a bit, but it will not allow her to use her powers. Zona stands guard over Ulysses, who tells her that she is making a mistake. ’Indigo cares nothing about our people!’ he exclaims. ’Don’t lecture me on loyalty, traitor. You betrayed your own blood!’ Zona tells him. Suddenly, Pyre cries out in pain as Cannonball attacks him with Argos’ staff, which he retrieved. Sam exclaims that he didn’t start this fight, but he is willing to finish it. ‘Your move, sister!’ he tells Zona, who orders him to drop the lance. ‘Or I will use it to impale -’ she begins, before a mighty explosion behind her knocks her across the abandoned house.

Sam turns to Meltdown and thanks her, before seeing Ulysses’ injured arm and telling him that they have to get him to a doctor. Ulysses explains that his arm will repair itself. ‘How do you think I’ve lived this long?’ he asks, before Arcadia gets to her feet and rips the neutralizer off her head. ‘Enough with the talking. We’ve got to get out of here!’ she exclaims. ‘Listen, sister, Sam almost got himself killed for you - all we did - so maybe you should consider a little attitude adjustment?’ Meltdown exclaims, while the rest of X-Force arrive on scene. ‘I’d settle for an explanation’ Danielle declares, while Sunspot remarks that they didn’t exactly get a scorecard for this fight, and Siryn, held up by James, asks ‘Who are these goons?’

‘You want an explanation?’ the aggressive Arcadia retorts, standing over the unmoving Pyre and Zona, she explains that they are scum and deserve to be lawn fertilizer. ‘Arcadia, no! You - you must not!’ Ulysses exclaims, but Arcadia stamps her feet, telling Ulysses to “save it” as the Sword is never going to leave them alone if they just keep running. ‘We have to show them that if they keep after us, they’re going to get hurt!’ Arcadia shouts, before her powers crystallize Zona and Pyre. Arcadia raises Argos’ staff above her head, and declares that once all four of them have crystallized, she can break them into a million pieces.

‘Not just hang on. We’re not going to just stand here and watch you kill these people’ Moonstar exclaims as she puts a hand on Arcadia’s arm. ‘Did you hear me ask for your permission?’ Arcadia snaps, before warning Moonstar to get away from her. Suddenly in a spectacular display, Dani’s skin turns a twilight blue color, and she begins to glow. A confused Dani gasps, while X-Force and Cannonball stare at her in awe. ‘Mah God! What have you done?’ Cannonball calls out. As hostile as ever, Arcadia replies that she doesn’t know, as it doesn’t always work the same. ‘Wanna see what I can do to you?’ she asks, but before she can act, Ulysses touches her head and tells her ‘That’s enough,. Arcadia’, and Arcadia falls into his arms. ‘Remember, you left me no choice but to sedate you’ Ulysses tells her, while James and Theresa approach Dani, asking her if she is okay. While her appearance returns to normal, Dani replies that she doesn’t know, and asks ‘What just happened?

Ulysses motions to Zona and Pyre, who have also returned to normal, and explains that they have all reverted back, while adding that Arcadia possesses the ability to transmute reality, but unfortunately it is an ability she cannot always shut off. Ulysses explains that until Arcadia is more skilled, any use of her power could result in a potentially disastrous chain reaction. Cannonball remarks that he understands it now. ‘You’re not protecting her from the world. - you’re protecting the world from her’.

Later gathered outside, Zona, Argos, Stranglehold and Pyre are transported back onto their ship, and Ulysses tells X-Force that by using the Sword’s own ship to evade their pursuers should buy them some much needed time. ‘But first - say it’ Ulysses exclaims, elbowing Arcadia. The ungrateful young woman sighs and quietly mumbles ‘Thank you. I guess’, before Ulysses walks towards the transport beam, until Cannonball exclaims ‘Hold up a sec. You still haven’t told us what this is about’. Ulysses replies that mankind is not the only race of sentient beings that has evolved on this planet, and that other beings called Eternals and Deviants have always been present throughout mankind’s history.

Ulysses reveals that recently a power struggle has developed between factions of Deviants whop wish to use Arcadia as a weapon against their enemies and mankind. Meltdown asks if Arcadia is a Deviant also, to which Ulysses cryptically replies that Arcadia is something much, much more, before he and Arcadia are transported up to the ship. ‘Farewell. I hope our paths do not cross again’ Ulysses exclaims, while Arcadia just frowns.

Sam turns to Moonstar, who tells him not to look so worried, as she feels much netter now. Sam points out that there is no telling what Arcadia did to her. ’What a brat’ Meltdown remarks, while James declares that he hopes Arcadia didn’t do any permanent damage to Dani, while Theresa tells Sam that she is curious as to why Arcadia brought them here and not the X-Men. Sam replies that he was thinking about who he wanted covering his back, and it was them, X-Force. He tells his friends that it was an honor to be a member of the X-Men, but that he was never completely at home with them. He tells his friends that the truth is, they are the group he would rather have beside him when the going gets rough.

‘Maybe it’s time Ah came back’ Sam remarks. ‘Not that we don’t want you back, Sam, but a lot’s changed since you left’ Bobby tells him. ‘Think we can put the past behind us?’ Tabitha asks. Sam tells them that he is not saying all is forgiven, but that he is willing to try. He tells his friends that he should be getting back home, as his mother is going to be worried when she finds out he has been gone all night. The six friends walk towards the Guthrie family home, and Siryn points out that Mrs Guthrie is going to be surprised to see all of them, while Sunspot remarks ‘Hey, just so long as she’s got breakfast on the table!’. ‘Bobby!’ Meltdown exclaims. ‘What? We’re practically family! Sam just said so!’ Sunspot points out. Cannonball just sighs and remarks that it is practically like he never left.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, a man with rocky gray skin lets a small brown mouse run across his large hands, while a woman in a lab coat stands before him, informing him that ever effort was made to obtain Arcadia, but it appears X-Force became involved again. The mysterious man lets the mouse fall into the waiting mouth of a lizard on his desk, and addressing the woman as Doctor Chandra, tells her that this is not good news. A large emblem of a sword covering a globe stand on the wall behind him, as Odysseus Indigo declares that he thinks it is high time they either recruit those kids - or eliminate them completely!

Characters Involved: 

Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown, Moonstar, Proudstar, Siryn, Sunspot (all X-Force)

Bedlam II

Nicole Lomenzo, Dr Derek Parsons, Lucas Wyndham (all MUSE)

Arcadia Deville`

Ulysses Dragonblood

Argos the Hunter, Pyre, Stranglehold, Zona (all the Sword)

Doctor Chandra

Odysseus Indigo

In Illustrative Flashback Images:


Lucinda Guthrie

Arcadia Deville

Ulysses Dragonblood

In Photograph:

Meltdown, Moonstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)

Cannonball (former member of X-Force)

Story Notes: 

The photo of Cannonball and X-Force must have been taken circa X-Force (1st series) #75.

Bedlam located X-Force and Domino, separately, in X-Force (1st series) #82.

The line “We aren’t in Kansas anymore” comes from the classic film / book The Wizard of Oz after Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz.

Siryn’s comment about the team being in costume is due to them wearing civilian clothing in X-Force (1st series) #83. However, they are actually erroneously drawn in costume on the page they appear prior to being transport away.

On page 6, the word balloon in which one of the Sword warriors asks Argos for a reading on X-Force appears to be coming from Argos. Due to this error it is uncertain who is making the request.

Cannonball and Meltdown broke up in X-Force (1st series) #76, when Cannonball found out that Meltdown was cheating on him with Sunspot.

Issue Information: 
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