Thanks to Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Patrick Zircher
Issues: Cable & Deadpool #1-18
Maybe my 90s is showing a bit, but when I walked into a comic store in 2004 and saw a new series starring two of my favorite 90s-created characters, I had to jump on board. I bought the first six issues, encompassing the entire “If Looks Could Kill” story arc, which puts our titular heroes crossing paths while battling a cult and they wind up dissolving into each other from a virus that is contracted through light (comics!) and crossing DNA.
In plain terms it means they can teleport together and continue to have ridiculous adventures. In the first issue alone Cable telekinetically explodes Deadpool’s head (which he eventually heals from) and later Deadpool shoots Cable in the head (where he telekinetically stops the bullet). Both characters are deliciously overpowered and ridiculous, and the entire series revels in it.
Now ten years later as I jump back into comics I had to dig up this series and was delighted to find that it ran for a whopping 50 issues! These Final Thoughts cover the Ultimate Collection Book 1 (which is listed as Deadpool & Cable, no doubt Deadpool’s doing), which includes the first three volumes, or 18 issues of the series.
Cable, aka Nathan Summers is the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey (actually a clone of Jean Grey but let’s just leave it there for now) that gets infected with a techno-organic virus and sent into the future where he wages war in a war-torn Earth ruled by Apocalypse. Eventually he comes back to our time and he’s all kinds of powerful. Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson is a crass mercenary with Wolverine’s healing ability but in a less elegant state – and his constantly shifting molecules also makes him a bit insane, but in a totally hilarious way.
Together they make for one of Marvel’s oddest odd couples, and one of the most pure silly fun I’ve had reading comics. Writer Fabian Nicieza co-created these decidedly over-the-top badasses back in the early 90s and he successfully straddles the line between interesting plot lines and story-telling and silly jokes and conceits.
Deadpool’s shtick, for those unaware, is to constantly break the fourth wall. He often knows he’s in a comic book and will reference the reader and the action going on. Normally this would be incredibly jarring but Deadpool owns his role as the motor-mouthed jokester so much that it just works (though humor is entirely subjective and your mileage may vary). By contrast Cable is super stoic and serious and they act as wonderful foils for each other.
The second story arc, “Burnt Offering,” sets up the main story of the first chunk of the series – Cable constructs a floating island paradise named Providence and invites anyone to come join him in his Eden, which pisses off every major power. He fends off attacks from a silly SHIELD team named Six-Pack full of D-list superheroes and villains and generally sees himself as a savior attempting to make the world a better place. His philosophy is refreshingly plain – in order to change the future (and avoid his war-torn apocalypse) we need to change the present.
Once he threatens to throw everyone’s guns into the sun, however, even the X-Men get involved to try and stop him, but it’s not until Nick Fury calls in the Silver Surfer that Cable finally gets his ass kicked. Deadpool’s mostly along for the ride in these first two arcs, helping Cable and cracking jokes when he’s not trying to kill him.
A big reason the series works as well as it does is the constant rotating cast of cameos. It’s like a television sitcom with a constant stream of fun guest-stars. From random D-lister’s like Thunderbolts’ Fixer and Six-Pack there’s the X-Men, Silver Surfer, MODOC, Forge, Cannonball, Syren and Mr. Sinister. Using guest-stars is not exactly a new concept in comics but Cable & Deadpool uses everyone in a way that adds to the story and never feels tacked on.
Cable & Deadpool is also not afraid to use smaller story chunks in the midst of the bigger tales. After Cable is knocked out of commission at the end of “Burnt Offering,” Deadpool goes on a quest to save him in “Thirty Pieces,” enlisting the help of Fixer, Forge and others while killing hordes of random soldier dudes along the way. If action heroes are known for spouting one-liners, Deadpool is known for going full-blown soliloquy.
“A Murder in Paradise” is the only story that feels a bit pointless, as Deadpool helps investigates a murder in Cable’s island which – spoiler alert – discovers he did (he’s a bit crazy in the head, and also someone kinda brainwashed him). As the story builds to this new brain-washing villain, however, House of M happens in the Marvel Universe, and Cable & Deadpool tie in by having Cable jump through dimensions while Deadpool (joined by Cannonball and Syren) follow in “Enema of the State.”
This was by far my favorite storyline in Book 1 as Deadpool travels to an apocalyptic future (where they battle the Four Horseman of Archangel, Blob, Spider-Man and Cable), an Eloi-style utopian future where no one fights (and Deadpool hates, naturally), a scary future where the TO virus has assimilated everyone, and finally the House of M universe, where Deadpool has a fun chat with Mister Sinister on a farm with a genetically engineered baby Cable. At one point Deadpool explains to Sinister why he’s there while our merc takes a long leak in the bathroom (he’d been holding it for several issues). It’s just the best scene ever, and ended up as my favorite House of M tie-in.
The writing stays fresh and funny, the action is always bombastic and entertaining and Patrick Zircher’s crisp art style meshes perfectly with the tone of the book (ignore the Rob Liefield cover art of the first six issues, it’s pure nostalgia and the comic looks nothing like it, thankfully). Cable & Deadpool has such a fun time with its own cast and its crossovers that I just can’t help but devour every issue. Highly recommended to comic fans looking for a bit of silly fun.