Apocalypse's return in "Cable" #13 was strangely jarring to readers of "Messiah War," largely because the one-shot that kicked off the crossover failed to make it clear that he was going to be involved at all. It's good, then, to see "X-Force" #14 give the character's situation enough set-up and exposition that he slots right into the existing plot, which thus far has seen little more than X-Force have an extended chat with Cable and Deadpool.
That does change with this issue, as the talking stops and our favorite mutants actually get around to doing something other than bickering amongst themselves. There's an unexpected twist involving one member of X-Force that has the potential to throw an exciting spanner in the works, while Cable gets to confront one of his oldest foes in a great showdown that, surprisingly, even goes so far as to resolve his current status with the character's previous appearance. X-Men continuity obsessives like me couldn't be more pleased by such developments.
Indeed, an obsession with minor elements of past continuity -- dragging in old villains and concepts with neither explanation nor discrimination -- is something that has dogged "X-Force" from day one, preventing it from reaching its full potential. The tight plotting of this arc has thankfully done away with such excesses, and it makes the issue one of the series' most enjoyable to date, as readers are free to enjoy the character moments without the strain of trying to remember why they remember the name Cameron Hodge and where he last turned up.
Speaking of character moments, Kyle and Yost are clearly paying attention to them, and most everyone gets a good look in the issue. There's a particularly good exchange between Hope and X-23, and even Warpath has his moment in the spotlight.
So far, Messiah War has kept a tight focus, doing well to replicate the gravity of its predecessor, Messiah Complex, while having only a fraction of the page-time to work with. Each chapter is a speedy read, but when it looks this good and tries this hard, it's all adding up to a crossover that's going to be fondly remembered.