X-Force #44, July 1995
One of the most homaged comics covers is X-Men #138, the issue in which Cyclops leaves the team after the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Cyclops stands in the foreground, bindlestick in hand, while the rest of the team sits in the background, looking sad. Adam Pollina re-created the cover in X-Force #44, an issue that saw Cannonball get promoted to the X-Men.
Issue 44 marked a new direction for X-Force. The Age of Apocalypse had just ended, and a new creative team took over the book in Pollina and writer Jeph Loeb. The team moved back into the X-mansion after their last base – a former hideout for Arcade – self-destructed, and most of the team got new purple-and-yellow uniforms, cementing themselves as an extension of the X-Men brand.
Cannonball’s invitation to the majors was a first at the time. None of the New Mutants – X-Force’s forebears – had ever joined the varsity X-squad, despite expressly being recruited as the next generation of X-Men. Less than a year before, Jubilee, the youngest X-man, was technically demoted, shipped off to Emma Frost’s Massachusetts Academy with the rest of Generation X.
Sadly, one team’s Cyclops is another team’s Maggot. Save for a pretty sweet fight with Gladiator of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, Cannonball got lost among the X-Men, a team that was already plenty big, and eventually left to rejoin his former playmates. He has since bounced back to the X-Men, to a reformed New Mutants team and now is an Avenger, arguably an even bigger team to get lost in.