X-Force / Champions Annual 1998

Issue Date: 
December 1998
Story Title: 
Demon From Within

Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers), Terry Shoemaker (penciler), Sean Parsons & Harry Candelario (inkers), Marie Javins (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft & Emerson Miranda (letterers), Brian Smith (assistant editor), Bobbie Chase (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

While Cannonball is still dealing with his feelings about Sunspot and Meltdown’s relationship, X-Force take a trip to Yosemite when an avalanche leads them to discover a giant hand sticking out of a mountain. Further investigation leads them to discover Hercules, battling the being known as the Link, leader of the Cult of Hades, who has discovered a traitor in his cult. Hercules battles the members of the cult also, while X-Force come to his aid, and rescue the young woman called Victoria who is the apparent traitor. The cult retreats, while Victoria throws herself at Cannonball. Hercules thanks the young mutants for their assist, before revealing to them that the giant hand belongs to one of the Titans and the Cult of Hades was attempting to awaken it. He recounts an adventure with his fellow Champions some time ago in which the Champions were given the power to stop the Titan. While Meltdown expresses her distrust of Victoria, the others get about summoning the other Champions, while Moonstar and Hercules discuss the curse, and Moonstar learns that the Titan is set to destroy those who wake him. The next morning Iceman, Archangel, Black Widow and John Blaze, the former Ghost Rider, arrive. After the media get in on the action, and the X-Force and Champions members have a brief meet and greet, the Black Widow takes command and the Champions take their positions to send the Titan back into the earth. However as they begin the spell, Moonstar realizes that it is a trick, and the Titan begins to rise. Another avalanche traps Cannonball, who is rendered unconscious. Victoria briefly attempts to save him, before running off. Meltdown and Sunspot see her leave and try to rescue their friend, while the Link returns and grabs Victoria, before revealing himself as Hades! He reveals the trickery in the spell, before the Champions and X-Force engage him in battle. Siryn comes to blows with the Black Widow, while Sunspot and Meltdown find the unconscious Cannonball. Eventually, the combined work of X-Force and the former Champions manage to trick Hades into announcing that he is the one who has raised the Titan - which of course leads the Titan to want to destroy him. But Hades teleports away, leaving Victoria behind. She argues with Meltdown, while Cannonball accuses her of using him, to which Victoria points out that he used her to get back at his friends. Still with the Titan to deal with, Siryn takes control this time, telling the Champions to continue the spell, while Moonstar uses her power to pull the Titan’s fear from his mind - which sends the Titan back down into the earth, cowering in fear, and the mountain is sealed behind him. The media once again interviews the Champions, who announce that they are not a team again, while Black Widow gives Siryn words of encouragement, and the Cult of Hades members are arrested, with Victoria telling Cannonball that his friends care about him and that she hopes she sees that for himself.

Full Summary: 

In an isolated region of Northern California, in the dead of night, a gathering of desperate souls is joined in a desperate cause. They call themselves the Cult of Hades. And as they stand before a massive statue to their deity, their spiritual guide, the man known as the Link, is not pleased this night. Dressed in a long blue coat, the Link waves his arms about, declaring hat on the eve of their triumph, of their salvation, all they have worked for is threatened. ’Yes, my sons and daughters, there is a traitor among us!’ he booms. ’A traitor? The name, my Lord, reveal the name! So this serpent can face our justice!’ a young woman with brown hair exclaims as she stands before the Link and touches his face.

The members of the Cult of Hades watch. The Link is like a father to them - a passionate and committed father. An abusive father. And right now, they’re scared. These souls who’ve found in the Link something they world has never offered them. Acceptance. A sense of purpose. To the rest of the world, they just don’t belong. They’re either too fat or too homely, their skin is the wrong color, their genes are different. In the Cult, they’ve found a family. And now they may lose it. ‘Yes, my children, the cause is at stake…our sacred service to Hades, Lord of all that is true…our very salvation has been put at risk!’ he exclaims. The young woman looks at the Link, and asks for the name. ‘Who is this traitor?’ she exclaims. Suddenly, the Link grabs her by her arms and pushes her to the ground. ‘Oh, Victoria, dear, you know too well the answer to that question. ‘Wh-what?’ a surprised Victoria gasps. ‘The traitor is YOU!’ the Link booms….

The next morning, the sun rises in the distance, as a familiar red car belonging to the teenage mutant heroes known as X-Force drives along a cliff-side road. ‘So, Terry, this is your idea of a hot time?’ Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith asks, leaning over from the backseat, to where Theresa “Siryn” Rourke is sitting in the center of the front seat, ‘Yes, Tab, it is’ X-Force’s leader replies. ‘I think it’ll be a very pleasant day. Yosemite is supposed to be beautiful’. Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, sitting next to Siryn, rests his head in a hand as he looks at Tabitha, while James Proudstar keeps a watchful eye on the road as he drives the car. Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson and Danielle Moonstar are all packed into the backseat along with Tabitha, who exclaims ‘Oo! The rustic charms of our National Parks system! Yeah, Terry, you’re one lady who knows how to par-tay!’ Tabitha exclaims sarcastically.

Theresa remarks that doing what she wants to do for a change is not going to kill anyone. Tabitha flops back against her boyfriend, Bobby, and throwing her arms in the air tells Theresa that she meant no offense, that she was just having a little fun with her. ‘Today’s a day to kick back and enjoy ourselves! Right, solar-babe?’ Tabby asks. ‘Uh, Tab…let’s save the flirting for later. It’s not like Sam’s exactly over you’ Bobby whispers. ‘Yeah, and I guess the joke’s on me’ Sam mumbles from the front seat. ‘But at least ya ain’t laughing at me behind my back, for a change’ Sam sighs. Theresa tells him to take it easy, when suddenly, a small rock from the overhanging cliff falls on James’ head.

‘Watch it, you joker!’ Proudstar exclaims, rubbing his head and spinning around to confront his attacker. ‘Uh, Jimmy, the road -’ Theresa begins. ‘We didn’t do anything!’ Bobby calls out, when suddenly, everyone sees a massive rock slide falling towards them. Sam tells everyone to hold on while he clears a path for them, and instantly leaps out of the car, using his mutant power to blast about, his force-field protecting him as he smashes up the rocks. Sam is a founding member of the group back in it’s New Mutant days and has recently rejoined his old teammates, and found a few changes which sometimes leave him feeling like an outsider. So this is the perfect time to show he is still a force to be reckoned with.

‘Man, there’s too many of them!’ Tabitha exclaims as she readies one of her plasma time-bombs, telling her teammates to get out of the car while she helps Sam. She carefully aims her time-bombs, and throws them - only to screw up, as her blasts distract Cannonball, knocking him off course. ‘Look out! Some of them are getting through!’ Sam exclaims before falling to the ground. James tells Sam that he has him backed up, and catches a large rock in one of their suitcases. ‘Lucky for me!’ Bobby mutters, not out of the car yet. Standing against the cliff for safety, Bedlam remarks that James as muscles on his muscles, and tells Theresa that it is no wonder she has a thing for him. ‘Ahem. I don’t have a thing for him. We’re friends’ Theresa corrects Bedlam.

Meltdown runs over to where Cannonball has landed and tells him that she is sorry. ‘That was my fault!’ she exclaims. ‘No kidding’ Sam mutters, while Bobby asks ‘what happened?’ James replies that he thinks it was an earthquake, and a major one at that. Siryn points out that the car seems to have come through okay, while Bedlam helps Cannonball up, ‘Wow, that must have hurt a lot’ Jesse exclaims. ‘I’ll live’ Sam mutters, while, upon a ledge, DanI climbs a little higher, before seeing something extraordinary. ‘Holy - uh, guys, I think you’d better come up and see this…’ she exclaims. Siryn tells everyone to go ahead while she watches the car.

‘I’m guessing that’s what caused the earthquake’ Danielle remarks as the others arrive on the ledge and see what she sees: ‘My Lord!’ Cannonball gasps. ‘You gotta be kidding!’ Meltdown exclaims. ‘Do you people run into this sort of thing often?’ Bedlam asks as everyone looks at the enormous hand sticking out of a nearby mountain top. ‘I’d say this is a first’ Bobby remarks, asking Dani if she has any idea what it is. ‘None. But I’ve got a very bad feeling about it’ Dani replies, to which Sam suggests they take a closer look. Moments later, Siryn has joined them, and she, along with the two other flight-capable members, Sunspot and Cannonball, streak across the debris-filled skies, only as they approach the massive hand, they notice something else: ‘Something’s going on down there!’ Bobby exclaims. ‘Some kind of battle!’ Siryn declares. ‘I see it!’ Sam exclaims as they fly forwards.

‘HERCULES!’ booms the mysterious cult leader called the Link as he hovers before the Mighty Hercules. ‘You dare interfere with forces of this magnitude? To desecrate this sacred place with your pagan opposition? The Link asks, telling Hercules to taste the power granted to him by the all-righteous Lord of the Underworld. ’Agonize in the fires of Hades!’ he booms as he unleashes his energy, while Hercules holds up the massive statue of Hades, telling the Link to hurl all the hellfire he wants, but he will not let this brazen temple stand. ’Your vile ritual shall not be completed!’ Hercules exclaims, before he hurls the statue towards Link, shouting ’Let this graven image of Hades be an instrument of your downfall…for you glorify a dark lord and death monger!’ Hercules exclaims.

‘We glorify the mightiest of the Gods!’ the Link retorts as he dodges the attack, while one of the cult members declares that they are many in numbers, and powerful, revealing that some of those called to Hades’ service are mutants, unwanted by normal society, but not by Hades. ’That’s right!’ another of the cult exclaims. ’You oppose the Link - you oppose all of us!’ another remarks, grabbing Hercules. ’Send all the misguided wretches you like…it only delays the inevitable!’ Hercules booms as he knocks his attacker back. ’Yes, I suppose he’s right. Time to play my trump card. I knew you’d come in handy, my dear’ the Link declares as he grabs Victoria by her hair. ’No! No, help!’ Victoria cries.

‘You see, Hercules? I’ve got Victoria! The very traitor who alerted you to our designs!’ the Link exclaims as he touches Victoria’s lips with one of his fingers, warning Hercules to surrender now, or else he will roast Victoria alive. This causes the mighty hero to stop in his tracks, when suddenly, a savage blast, precisely aimed, pounds into the Link - the signature banshee cry of Siryn!’. Theresa swoops down near the Link, causing him to drop a confused Victoria, who is suddenly picked up by Cannonball as he blasts past the Link, knocking him over. ’Don’t worry, Ma’am, I got you!’ Sam exclaims. ’What -? Who ?’ Victoria gasps. ’The name’s Sam. And you’re safe with me’ Sam tells her.

‘Now, just for good measure…’ Sunspot begins as he blasts the Link with a burst of solar energy. ‘That’ll make him think twice before he grabs another hostage!’. The Link tells his followers to get back, ‘These strangers! These outsiders - they’re too many of them!’ he declares, before staring at them and exclaiming that, whoever they are, when the new order arrives, they shall regret their rash interference. Siryn flies over Hercules, telling him not to worry, that she will stop them from getting away. ‘No, lass, let them be. Matters of far greater import demand our attention!’ Hercules exclaims.

Nearby, ‘What in the name of -?’ Tabitha mutters as she pokes her head through a bush, and sees Sam land with Victoria, who immediately wraps her arms around Sam, ‘Oh, my Lord, you saved me! I was so sure I was gonna die and you saved me!’ she exclaims. Taken aback, Sam tells Victoria that it was nothing. James and Bedlam smile as they stand next to Meltdown. ‘Who, Sam! You the man!’ James exclaims. ‘When do I get to rescue a babe like that?’ Bedlam asks. ‘…babe? More like vampire…’ Tabitha mutters.

‘Siryn, is it? I’m in your debt, fair lady, for your timely assistance!’ Hercules exclaims, the handsome hero taking Siryn’s hand. Siryn gushes and tells Hercules to think nothing of it, as the pleasure was theirs, before asking Hercules what brings a legend like he to the wilds of California. ‘Nothing pleasant, I’m afraid. That monstrosity’ Hercules explains, before revealing that it is one of the Titans, ancient Greek Gods themselves. He remarks that as the fates would have it, he arrived just in time to stop a grim ritual, designed to awaken the creature. ‘Whoa, check out those muscles, James! Kind of makes you look like Screech!’ Tabitha grins. ‘Screech?’ James asks. ‘Screech? Didn’t you ever watch TV?’ Tabitha replies. ‘I watched it. I didn’t memorize it’ James tells her, before telling Hercules not to look now, except that he doesn’t think he stopped anything. ‘The hand is coming up more slowly, but it’s still coming’ James points out.

‘Aye, lad, I know. And there’s but one way to reverse the spell and send the creature back…’ Hercules reveals, before beginning a tale of the Titan’s history:

(Narrated by Hercules, shown with illustrative flashback images)

‘Some years ago I battled as part of the noble group known as the Champions teamed with…Ghost Rider…Iceman…Angel…Black Widow!’ Hercules explains that they fought in opposition to the wicked Hades, who then called himself Pluto, and allied himself with the lords of ever realm of Hell, plotting to destroy Olympus. While Hades distracted Zeus and attempted to eliminate Hercules’ opposition through a forced marriage to an Amazon Queen, the Dark Lords were preparing a monstrous scheme - to destroy Olympus - and all human civilization - by summoning up the primordial Titans - luckily the Champions did defeat Hades and his allies before the infernal spll could be activated.

An outraged Zeus then forced Hades to grant the Champions power to reverse Hades’ cataclysmic spell should it ever be activated. ‘You’ll regret this, Zeus! So swear I by the River Styx!’ Hades boomed. Zeus told his treacherous brother to be silent and complete the incantation that will give the human Champions the power to contain the Titans forever.


Holding a scroll, Hercules explains that the original spell was never destroyed and ultimately fell into the hands of Hades worshippers. He adds that luckily, the fair Victoria found the courage to revel against her brethren and warn him of their plains to activate the spell. ’So how did you manage to conveniently contact a Greek God? They don’t generally advertise in the Yellow Pages, y’know’ Meltdown snaps, waving a finger at Victoria, who looks puzzled, and replies ’Well, yes, of course, but -’ before Cannonball interrupts, telling Meltdown to ’Lay the heck off her’, and remarks ’Isn’t it enough that she risked her life try’n ta do good? Do you have ta give her the third degree?’

‘Geez, Sam, get real!’ Meltdown frowns, before Hercules declares that “young Guthrie” speaks wisely, pointing out that they have no time for such misplaced suspicions. ’Together now must we world to assemble the old Champions team as quickly as possible and send the demon back whence it came.

Soon, ‘…it’s a BIG hand. A HUGE hand, coming right out of the ground!’ James exclaims as he talks on the phone. ‘Easy, Jimmy! This is the only phone for miles!’ Theresa tells her best friend as she notices him nearly pulling the phone from its socket on the wall. ‘…yes it’s an emergency! Hercules says you’ve got to come right now!’ James exclaims. While Bedlam, Bobby and Meltdown muck around, and Sam sits with Victoria, Hercules hands the scrolls to Moonstar, asking if they mean anything to her. Hercules adds that, from the moment he met Moonstar he sensed an Asgardian presence about her - a presence that might help decipher the obscure scrolls.

Danielle replies that her days among the Valkyror are gone and forgotten, but that it couldn’t hurt to give the scrolls a look at. As she begins to read the scrolls, Dani remarks that the phraseology is obviously from the Seventh Hell, ‘But you don’t need me to tell you that’ she tells Hercules. ‘Oh, indeed not!’ the Olympian exclaims. ‘Seriously, Hercules! That Valkyrie business is behind me. Anyone could spot that dialect!’ Dani smiles.

Victoria puts a hand on Sam’s thigh and leans into him, ‘Thanks for believing in me, Sam. Your feelings matter to me. A lot’ she tells him. ‘Uh, thanks…’ Sam replies awkwardly, while Meltdown exclaims ‘Oh, puh-leeze, lady! You are nowhere NEAR Sam’s type!’. ‘And how would you know what my type is?’ Sam snaps back. ‘Oh, come on, Sam! Even you aren’t this naïve!’ Tabitha shouts, throwing her hands in the air as she stands on one of the car seats. ‘To just fall from some fawning Kepwie-Doll who’s done absolutely zilch to earn our trust!’ Tabitha shouts. Sam replies that it seems like right now he has more reason to trust Victoria than he does Tabitha. Tabitha goes wide-eyed, before leaping out the back of the car, mumbling ‘Well, if that’s how you feel, Sam Guthrie, you can just…just…’ her voice trails off. Meltdown finds a private spot on a nearby ridge, and soon Sunspot joins here, telling his girlfriend that Sam is hurting because of them. ‘We’ve got to live with the consequences until he gets over it’ Bobby tells her. ‘If he gets over it’ Tabitha mumbles.

Danielle and Hercules approach Victoria as Dani asks her ‘I suppose you cult members understood that the first thing your Titan was going to do was destroy those who awakened him’. ‘N-no! We were going to be the chosen ones, the first to survive!’ Victoria exclaims. ‘I’m afraid not’ Dani tells her, motioning to a phrase in the scroll, “Ah-behn”, which is an old Seventh Hell trick, reverses the meaning of what precedes it. ‘B-but…’ Victoria mumbles, asking why Hades would allow his own worshippers to be destroyed. ‘Funny. I was hoping you could tell us’ Dani exclaims. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Cannonball snaps. Victoria tells Sam that it is okay, but Sam declares that it is not okay, and tells his teammates to lay off Victoria until they have all the facts.

The next morning, troopers now guard the barriers surrounding the mountain where the Titan’s hand reaches upwards, while civilians and reporters have gathered around trying to get a look. ‘C’mon, just one comment! Let’s have it! What the devil is going on in there!’ someone asks, before Bedlam approaches Hercules, ‘Uh, Hercules, someone’s coming’ he remarks. ‘More reporters?’ Hercules asks. ‘Not unless they can fly. I take if they are your friends. At least, I hope they’re friends’ Bedlam mumbles. ‘Aye, it’s them all right!’ Hercules exclaims, turning to see his fellow founding Champions - Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, Bobby “Iceman” drake, both currently of the X-Men, Natasha Romanov a.k.a. the Black Widow, riding on the back of Johnny Blaze’s motorcycle. Once known as Ghost Rider, Blaze is now a carnival owner. For a brief time many years ago, these divergent spirits set aside their differences and forged one of the most dynamically offbeat teams of our time…the Champions!

The media goes into a frenzy, gathering around the five heroes, while Hercules exclaims that it is like old times. ‘We five soldiers of valor, united once more against evil!’ he declares as he puts his arms around Archangel and Iceman. ‘Uh, Herc, are you forgetting something?’ Bobby asks. ‘To save the world? There’s time enough for that, young Drake!’ Hercules smiles. Black Widow puts a hand on Hercules’ chest, while ‘No, immortal one. Shouldn’t you introduce us to your new friends’ Blaze suggests, while one reporter announces ‘…we seem to be witnessing some sort of reunion, though I can’t say of exactly what team…perhaps an Avengers squad of the past?’

Hercules motions to Theresa, James, Tabitha, Bobby, Jesse and Cannonball, exclaiming that the fine youths call themselves X-Force and they could desire no finer allies. Siryn suggests that they put their skulls together now to see if they can figure out a strategy, while Cannonball remarks that they got a lot of information on the Cult of Hades from an inside source. ‘She even got us a copy of the spell!’ he exclaims. The Black Widow thanks the young mutants, before pointing out that there is no time for any of this. ‘If a Titan really is arising -’ she begins, before Danielle arrives on scene, ‘Believe us, it’s arising. Just take a look!’ she exclaims, grabbing Iceman’s arm and spinning him around, to where the Titan’s hand has risen further out of the mountain.

‘This - this is unreal!’ Archangel exclaims as he hovers over everyone, suggesting that it could simply be an illusion, a holographic projection of some sort. Blaze calls his former teammate by his old code-name, Angel, telling him that it is real enough, though it has got no place in this plane of existence. Natasha agrees and remarks that the danger is vastly greater than they ever anticipated. ‘Aye, it’s as we told you! A case truly worthy of the reassembled Champions!’ Hercules exclaims. Bobby asks the Black Widow what the plan is, to which Natasha exclaims that they can delay no longer, that it is time for the ritual, to which Blaze remarks that he agrees. The Black Widow orders the former Champions into their positions to form a ring around the valley at five equidistant points. ‘Be in position by 8 AM. The ritual begins exactly then!’ she exclaims as the men take off.

Then, precisely at 8 o’clock, the former Champions begin their spell: ‘Mystical power, hear us…’ chants Black Widow, while Blaze says something in an ancient language. ‘…swing shut the gate…’ Achangel declares, while thinking to himself that they are not having any effect. ‘…send back the curse…’ Iceman exclaims, telling himself to concentrate and exert greater energy. Hercules also chants something in an ancient language, while telling himself that they must summon up the power within them. ‘…let life and light…’ ‘…prevail once more…’ ‘…aidoneus…’ ‘…abaddon…’ ‘…ah-behn…’.

Down below, X-Force watch the spectacular display as energy flows from the Champions, and is cast around the rising Titan. Sunspot wonders why “ah-behn” sounds familiar. ‘Didn’t Dani say it was some kinda hoodoo phrase or something?’. Moonstar checks the scroll once more, ‘No, they can’t be saying “ah-behn” she tells herself. ‘That would mean…sweet spirits! Black Widow! Stop! It’s a trick! Stop the ritual now!’ Moonstar calls out urgently. ‘But - it’s too late. How do we contact the others?’ Natasha replies. Bedlam suggests to Theresa that with her power she could call out a warning, but Siryn tells him that her scream doesn’t work that way, to which the upstart member of X-Force declares that he is stuck out here with powers that aren’t doing them a bit of good, so the least she could do is try.

Theresa tells Jesse that he is right, and she takes to the sky, at the speed of sound, her piercing sonic scream races toward each Champion: ‘Eh? The young Siryn’s call!’ Hercules exclaims. ‘She must be trying to - oboy’ Bobby remarks. ‘We’ve been duped!’ Archangel exclaims. ‘The ritual isn’t helping! It’s bringing that thing up!’ Blaze shouts as the Titan’s second hand pushes through the mountain, reaching skyward. ‘EARTHQUAKE!’ someone shouts as the land around them begins to ripple and break up in a spectacular display. ‘Here we go again!’ Cannonball exclaims, while James declares that this is a bad one.

‘HOLD ON!’ James shouts as everyone is knocked about, and rocks begin to fall from the sky. ‘Don’t worry, Vic -’ Cannonball begins, before a large rock lands on him. ‘Sam? SAM!’ Victoria shouts, while Meltdown look on. Cannonball falls to the ground, with Victoria telling him to wake up. ‘Please wake up!’ she shouts, knowing that she has to do something. ‘…save myself…’ she thinks, as the rocks fall around her, but she doesn’t leave Sam, instead she tries to lift him from the rocks, but he is too heave for her. ‘There’s just no way!’ Victoria exclaims, before kissing Sam on the lips, telling him that maybe this is for the best, for at least he will be spared the fate that awaits the others. ‘And you’re better off not knowing my role in it’ she adds as she runs off.

Meltdown helps Victoria up out of the rubble, asking her where Sam is. Victoria claims that she doesn’t know, to which Bobby asks her what she means by that. ‘You two were together when the quake hit!’ Bobby exclaims. ‘He’s down there, isn’t he? He’s getting buried alive!’ Meltdown shouts at Victoria. ‘Maybe crushed!’ Bobby exclaims. ‘I - I tried to help him! You’ve got to believe me!’ Victoria assures them. ‘You can stuff your explanations, lady!’ Sunspot calls out, dropping down to try and find his best friend. ‘I told you we shoulda never trusted her!’ Tabitha exclaims as she slides down the debris to find Sam.

Suddenly, ‘Very convincing, my dear. I’d almost thought you cared for the heathen boy’ the Link declares as he appears behind Victoria, grabbing her. ‘No, my Lord! I’ve done as you instructed, I swear!’ she exclaims. ‘Indeed you have, my dear. How skilfully you manipulated first the simpleton Hercules, then his teammates into activating the spell’ the Link tells her, adding that they never suspected his cult and its rituals were merely a decoy, a distraction to lure in the Champions and have them perform the actual ritual. Suddenly, Proudstar lunges at Link, telling him if he wants to whip up a natural disaster and get himself killed, then that is his problem. ‘But I’m not going with you!’ James exclaims as he punches the Link hard in the face.

‘Idiot! So casually do you bully a mortal opponent…but not longer have I need of this loathsome human disguise…know now who you actually oppose - Hades! Lord of Darkness!’ the god booms, transforming to his true form, he smacks Proudstar backwards. ‘Oh, man, a Greek God! When I underestimate an opponent, I don’t fool around!’ James tells himself. ‘And, no, rash child, I will not perish in this calamity! The human Champions raised the Titan, so they’re no destined to die at his hands, not !’. Hades declares that he has long awaited this moment, that it has been so many years since he battled the Champions and secretly infected their souls with the cursed power to raise the Titans. Hades boasts that his most inspired twist, though, was implanting in them the memory of an even that never occurred - of Zeus forcing him to grant the Champions exactly the opposite power, so that one day, they would unwittingly do his bidding with the full belief they were opposing him.

‘HADES? The vermin was playing us for fools all along!’ Hercules exclaims as he and the other former Champions regroup, while Siryn rushes over to her best friend, ‘Sweet Lord, Jimmy, are ya all right?’ she asks. ‘Uh, yeah. I’ll think I’ll rest here for a second, though’ James replies, rubbing his head, while Danielle and Bedlam stand nearby. Archangel exclaims that they should have guessed Hades would be the president of his own fan club, while Blaze tells everyone that it is time they made Hades regret the day he double-crossed the Champions. He then casts his hellfire towards Hades, but Siryn knows that it alone is not going to faze a god, so adds her sonic-scream to Blaze’s attack. ‘What is this?’ Hades asks, before crying out in agony at the combined attack.

‘You pathetic insects have caused me pain! How unfortunate for you!’ Hades snarls. Blaze thanks Siryn for the assist, remarking that he thinks they have Hades’ attention now. ‘For all the good it’ll do us’ Siryn replies, adding that Hades is the side show, they have to worry about the Titan. Black Widow disagrees, and tells everyone to forget the Titan, as they must remove Hades from the picture first. ‘…or die in the effort!’ Hades declares as he casts a beam of energy upwards, remarking that he has toyed with them until now, but it is time to face his power in all its fury. ‘You mean he was pulling his punches when he decked me?’ James wonders, before telling everyone to get down. He lifts a massive rock over his head to intercept Hades’ blast, ‘This oughta stop -’ James begins, before the energy blasts through the rock, shattering it on James, and sending it towards the other heres, who manage to duck out of the way in time, though the energy frazzles around them.

James emerges from the rocks, asking if everyone is okay. A weary Siryn tells James that his rock dispersed the blast, but asks what the ghastly pain was. ‘Stings like frostbite’ she remarks. ‘It was death. The grip of death. A feeling I know all too well’ James explains. Archangel tells everyone to regroup, to be ready for the next attack, but it’s too late, as Hercules sees it coming. He tells everyone to get behind him, before he cries out in pain as Hades’ energy slams into him. Victoria tells her Lord that they are not worth it, that the Champions and X-Force should be left to die in the apocalypse to come. ‘Nay, my subject! Too long have I waited to even the score with these nuisances!’ Hades replies.

Blaze tells everyone to scatter, that they need a plan of attack, while Siryn lifts Iceman into the air, asking if even Hercules can survive a blow like that. While casting an ice-sled, Iceman tells Siryn to hang on and not to worry about Hercules. ‘We’ve seen him take worse and bounce back smiling’. The Black Widow unleashes her widow’s sting at Hades, asking Theresa if she sees now that it is Hades who is the immediate threat. ‘If we don’t stop him, there won’t be anyone left to take on the Titan!’ Natasha exclaims. ‘What’s the bleedin’ difference who we take on first?’ Siryn mumbles, but Iceman tells the fiery young mutant not to let the others bother her, as they never were much for listening to the younger guys. ‘But this time, the junior member of the Champions has an idea that just might send Hades packing!’ Iceman exclaims.

Nearby, Bobby and Tabitha are still looking for Sam. ‘Where are you?’ Tabitha calls out, before Bobby announces that he thinks he has found Sam. ‘Just a second and I can probably dig him free!’ Bobby exclaims, adding that they need to get him back to the surface. ‘I’ll clear a path!’ Tabitha exclaims as she tosses several plasma time-bombs ahead of them, levelling the extra rocks. ‘Oh my Lord, he looks like he’s -’ Meltdown begins, but Sunspot interrupts her, telling her to come on, that they have to find a safe spot to set him down and then check his vitals. Bobby powers down, converting his body from a living furnace into his handsome human form, before going wide-eyed as he sees that Sam isn’t breathing.

‘Oh, man! Not now!’ Tabitha mutters as she sees Hades and Victoria standing over them. ‘That’s right, infidels! Your companion has preceded you in death by mere seconds!’ Victoria tells her “friends” that it is best it ends this way. Suddenly, ‘Sorry, death-man, nothing’s ending here! Except your little charade, you two-bit phoney!’ Iceman exclaims as he slides past Hades on an ice-sled and throws shards of ice at him. ‘PHONEY?’ Hades booms, while Victoria tells him not to let them taunt him. ‘Iceman saved our biscuits!’ Sunspot exclaims, adding that he better flare up and return the favor before Hades melts Bobby down to a Popsicle. Bobby tells Tabitha to see what she can do for Sam. ‘Okay’ Tabitha replies, touching her former boyfriend’s face, before she begins to give him mouth-to-mouth. Once those lips touched as an expression of attraction and desire. Now they meet in an act of utter desperation. ‘Please, Sam, please!’ Tabitha whispers.

‘A little help here, people!’ Iceman exclaims as he defends himself from Hades’ attack. ‘Here, you go catch, baldy!’ Bobby exclaims as he throws a massive rock at Hades, knocking the god in the face. Siryn and Blaze arrive on scene, and unleash their powers in unison, while Blaze exclaims that they have wasted enough time on Hades. ‘Tell us who’s really behind this Titan stunt! Who are you stooging for?’ he asks. ‘WHAT?’ Hades booms. ‘STOOGING?’ he asks as he unleashes his energies, but Blaze evades the attack. How dare you suggest the God of the Underworld toadies to anyone!’ Hades exclaims. Archangel swoops in, telling Hades to get serious. ‘You don’t have this kind of power!’. ‘You can’t even dispose of a few pesky mortals!’ Blaze adds.

‘Admit it, Hades, this is the work of Zeus! He’s the one pulling the strings, isn’t he?’ Archangel asks. Hades attempts to blast Archangel, ‘Zeus? That debauched, arrogant fool!’ he shouts. His eyes flash red with anger as Hades declares that this is his own handiwork. ‘Nobody but Hades has the power and genius to create this kind of annihilation! Zeus! Don’t make me laugh! This is my doing!’ Hades booms. Victoria looks shocked, and Hades looks suddenly nervous, before a massive voice booms ‘…You…You have done this…’ - it’s the Titan, rising from the mountain!

‘The Titan! Oh, my Lord, he thinks -’ Victoria begin. ‘That I -? No! You don’t understand I didn’t raise you! It was the Champions! They brought the curse down on themselves!’ Hades asks the Titan to listen to him, exclaiming that the curse is the Champions, not his. ‘They rose you up! Listen to me I beg you, listen!’ Hades shouts, before shouting ‘NNNNO!’, when he suddenly casts a disappearing spell, telling his dear subject that it is time he made his exit. ‘My Lord, wait! Take me with you!’ Victoria calls out, but Hades vanishes. ‘You lying snake! You promised I’d rule by your side! That I’d be your queen in this world or the hereafter! YOU PROMISED!’

Sunspot tells Victoria that it look like she bet all her chips on the wrong deity, and warns her that now she has to pay up for what she did to Sam. ‘Look, I didn’t want to hurt the kid. He was just on the wrong side!’ Victoria claims, but Tabitha grabs her and shakes her, ‘Why don’t you explain that him yourself!’ she shouts. ‘Sam? You mean he’s still -’ Victoria begins, when suddenly Sam appears behind her ‘…alive? Yeah, no thanks to you…’ he mumbles, wearily. ‘Sam, I -’ Victoria begin, but Cannonball tells her to save it. ‘I may not be an ivy league genius, but I ain’t stupid…I understand what happened here…you manipulated me…used me like yer own little pawn…’. Victoria frowns and replies ‘Yes, Sam. I guess I did. The same way you used me to get back at your friends!’. Sam frowns back.

‘Do you guys realize what you just did? You outsmarted a God!’ Jesse exclaims. The Black Widow replies that is just one down, as they still have the Titan to deal with, and asks if anyone has any suggestions. ‘Sorry, I’ve used up my allotment of brilliant ideas for the day’ Bobby replies, before Theresa exclaims ‘I guess maybe I’ve for an idea…’. ‘You “guess”?’ Natasha responds. ‘I don’t know, just listen!’ Theresa snaps back, remarking that the ritual said something about a “gate”, and suggests that maybe they didn’t raise the Titan so much as open a gate for him. Siryn points out that the gate could possibly swing both ways - so the Titan could go down as easily as he came up.

The Black Widow exclaims that is as good a theory as any, and tells her former teammates to resume the ritual and see if they have still got enough of Hades’ power in them to keep the gate open. ‘But it’s now your job to figure out how to make that thing want to go back down’ Natasha tells Theresa. ‘Don’t worry. I’ve already got an idea about that!’ Danielle announces. Iceman tells her that it better be a good one, as the quakes are getting worse, while he slides into position.

And so, the former Champions continue their chant: ‘Mystical power hear us!’ cries the Black Widow, while Blaze continues his part of the spell in the ancient language. ‘It’s working! We still have a little power left in us!’ Warren thinks to himself as he exclaims ‘…swing shut the gate, send back the curse…’. Iceman exclaims something in the ancient language, while Hercules exclaims ‘…let life and light prevail once more…’, while thinking hoping by the Gods that the X-Force youths know what they are doing.

Siryn turns to Dani, ‘It’s up to you, Dani! Do ye think ye can do it?’ Theresa asks. Dani replies that she is unsure, as she has never touched a mind like this, so it may be too alien. ‘Well, all ye can do is try’ Theresa tells her. ‘Indeed. Wish me good fortune, Terry…I’m going to need it!’ Moonstar exclaims as her mind begins to probe into the psyche of the great Titan…who begins to cry ‘N-NO….NO…!’, as Moonstar delves through a vastness, a landscape of eternal hatred and fears, the likes of which she had never dared imagine. Until at last, it’s there. The creatures one greatest, most psychotic, most irrational fear. Danielle finds it, and seizes upon it. Gives it substance in the eye of the Titan.

This causes the Titan to cry ‘No…PLEASE…’, while Dani advises everyone to cover their eyes. ‘Whatever you do, DON’T LOOK!’ she warns her friends and the Champions, before the Titan seemingly screams, and the Champions are all knocked from their positions, while energy ebbs and flows around them. ‘What’s happening?’ Iceman calls out. ‘Looks like they got a reaction out of that thing’ Archangel remarks, while Hercules wonders if it was done intentionally. ‘Oh, man, what now? I’m feeling all jittery inside! I’m freaking out!’ Bedlam exclaims as he, Danielle, Theresa and James are also thrown about. Siryn reaches out for the motionless Dani, while James exclaims that they are been deluged with panic.

James exclaims that the panic must be from the Titan, his fear radiating across the valley. Siryn and Moonstar land on some rocks, and Siryn grabs her teammate, ‘Are ye still with us?’ she calls out, telling Danielle to snap out of it. ‘I…I’m here…sorry, Terry…I had to let go’ Danielle whispers. Siryn tells her that it is all right. ‘Losing you wasn’t part of the deal’ Siryn points out as Dani sits up. ‘Now ye just take it easy’ Siryn tells her, before Dani asks what happened to the creature. ’It’s over, Dani. He’s gone. You sent him back’ someone remarks as the heroes gather and look at the mountain, now closed back up. ’…thank...thank the spirits!’ Dani whispers. ’Man, too bad nobody looked at whatever it was Dani conjured up. Now it’s going to drive me crazy wondering what it could have been!’ Bedlam exclaims. ‘Take my word for it, friend. You don’t want to know’ Blaze replies.

Soon, the media flock around the former Champions, with one of the reporters exclaiming ‘…so does this mean the Defenders are a team once again?’. ‘Champions. We’re the Champions!’ Archangel corrects him, while the Black Widow announces that they are not a team again, as they have moved on with their lives. ‘But, by Zeus, we can still mete out a little justice, just as we did in the old days!’ Hercules exclaims. ‘Better than in the old days!’ Iceman boasts, while another reporter asks what it was that was out there causing those quakes. ‘Over here, Ms Romano!’ a reporter exclaims, addressing the Black Widow incorrectly, before asking if the threat is really over. The Black Widow replies that is a question best left to the authorities. ‘I’m not sure we believe the answer’ she remarks.

‘I said, get that microphone out of my face!’ Blaze snarls at a reporter. ‘…of course, Mr Blaze…anything you say!’ the reporter exclaims, while the Black Widow narrows her eyes and asks Siryn ‘How did you resolve it?’. X-Force are standing behind the Champions, away from the media attention, and Siryn frowns at the Black Widow, ‘Thank ye, Widow. I guess it was about time I did a little actual leading’ she exclaims. The Black Widow frowns back, telling Theresa not to sell herself short. ‘There’s nothing you lack as a leader that a little belief in yourself won’t cure’ Natasha tells, smiling.

‘Hey, heroes, we got some friends of yours!’ a trooper calls out as several trucks drive past, one of which has the members of the Cult of Hades tied up in the back. ‘Sam! Tab and Bobby! Are you guys all right? What happened?’ James calls out as he sees his friends jump off the troopers trucks. Sam replies that nothing was happened, and looking up at Victoria, chained up like the others, he exclaims that he was wrong and is an idiot. ‘That Victoria girl was as bad as y’all thought. She didn’t care a lick about me’ Sam exclaims. Victoria tells Sam that he is wrong, as she did care about him. ‘Just not enough to change who I am…and not as much as they care about you’ she remarks, looking at Tab and Bobby. Sam is confused about that, to which Victoria tells him that she hopes someday he will open his eyes and see that for himself. And as she is driven away, Bobby and Tabitha look at the puzzled Cannonball.

Characters Involved: 

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

Archangel, Black Widow, Johnny Blaze, Hercules, Iceman (all former members of the Champions)

Hades / Link



Members of the Cult of Hades




In Illustrative Flasback Image:

Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)


Belasco, Mephisto, Pluto, Satannish

Amazon Queen

Story Notes: 

This Annual takes place either between X-Force (1st series) #85 and #86, or between X-Force (1st series) #86 and #87.

Cannonball rejoined X-Force in X-Force (1st series) #84, after a leave of absence that began in X-Force (1st series) #44 when he was promoted to the X-Men.

The “Screech” that Meltdown compares Proudstar to (when comparing him with Hercules) is most likely Samuel “Screech” Powers, the nerd character from the television series Saved by the Bell. He was played by Dustin Diamond throughout the entire franchise.

The adventure Hercules re-tells to X-Force took place in Champions #1-3.

Notably absent from the line-up of former Champions, both present and mentions is Darkstar, who joined in Champions (1st series) #10, therefore not involved in the first storyline.

Moonstar became a member of the Valkyror in the classic New Mutants Special Edition #1, not New Mutants Annual #1 as the footnote in this issue suggests.

Cannonball is upset with Meltdown and Sunspot because he caught them cheating on him in X-Force (1st series) #76.

Indeed, Proudstar knows what the grip of death feels like, having recently died in X-Force (1st series) #74.

Artistic error on page 32: Iceman is drawn with his blond hair when in his ice form.

Issue Information: 
Written By: