With 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: Ariel Olivetti, Michael Lacombe, Ken Lashley (King-Size Cable)
Issues: Cable (2008) #1-10, King-Size Cable #1
I watched the first two Terminator films at a fairly young, impressionable age. I fell in love with the concept of a badass warrior-soldier from the future, and Cable was essentially Marvel’s version of that character. He quickly became a very 90stastic creation, with overly convoluted plots and ridiculous situations. He was also extremely powerful, and for while it seemed like Marvel didn’t know what to do with him.
In the mid 2000s we were blessed with Cable & Deadpool, where our future soldier was paired with an equally ridiculous 90s creation, and it worked beautifully. Towards the end of that series, the X-Men went through the epic Messiah Complex event, in which Cable would finally play a major role – taking on the sole burden of protecting the mutant hope for the future, the first mutant baby born since the House of M and Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population.
Cable received his first solo series in years in 2008 as a direct follow-up to the events in Messiah Complex. While it’s heavily broiled in X-Men continuity, Cable mostly stands on its own as the effective story of our hero protecting the child from the dangers of dystopian futures, and from the unrelenting hunt of former X-Men Lucas Bishop.
The entire first five issue volume centers around the obvious plot thread left dangling from Messiah Complex. Namely that a now one-armed Bishop escaped Muir Island, ransacked Forge’s workshop, stole a cyber-arm and time-traveling software (poor Forge gets assaulted and burgled quite often, and he even mentions as much), and follows Cable into the future.
“War Baby” (#1-5) is a timeshare between Cable being on the run and Bishop being on the hunt in a war-torn future run by a corrupt militia. Despite the infinite possibilities and zany stuff they could do in potential alternate future timelines, the story stays quite grounded, focused entirely on our two soldiers and their zealous missions. Old man Cannonball makes a guest appearance at one point as the last surviving X-Man, only to be killed by Bishop. The pair play a nifty cat and mouse game but ultimately Cable and the baby are able to escape into the future once again.
Volume 2 opens with a one-shot issue (“Homefront”) that centers mostly on Cyclops and Emma Frost discussing the whole situation in bed. It’s about as exciting as it sounds. We get brief montage flashes of Cable and the baby fighting and surviving, but it’s mostly Cyclops feeling doubtful about sending them off, while Emma remind him that he did the same thing with his own son when it was needed (the son who would grow up to be Nathan Summers, aka Cable).
Chronologically the King-Size Cable special issue occurs next, though it’s a self-contained story (“The Wolf Pit”) that could be inserted between any of the major arcs. Cable and the baby get in a dangerous situation with some mutated wildlife, and Bishop ironically ends up saving them when he suddenly appears to take them out. The entire giant-size issue is focused on the one scene, allowing for lots of tense moments. Ken Lashly’s art is glossy but awesome, reminding me of some of the better X-Men art of the time (such as Deadly Genesis or Shi’ar Empire).
“Waiting for the End of the World” (#7-10) finally picks up the overall story. Cable has found a refuge deep in the future that’s off the history books. Bishop can’t locate him, so he decides to steal various weapons of mass destruction and begin systematically destroying future countries to smoke him out. X-Force actually captures him when he’s in our time, and the X-Men interrogate him.
Meanwhile Cable’s bearded farm-life comes crashing down around him as New Liberty is besieged by a small force of cockroach-people. Cable goes plowshares to swords and fights back, ultimately leading the bugs away. At this point the baby has grown up to around five or six, and a fully capable little scamp (whom Cable still hasn’t named).
It’s an exciting story and well-paced between Cable’s action-packed heroics and Bishop’s intrigue-laden drama and investigation by Cyclops and Beast. Bishop was one of my favorite X-Men and it’s soul-crushing seeing him reduced to such a zealous monster. In his mind the baby represents the antichrist of the world, the one responsible for turning the population against mutants and putting them in concentration camps in his dysotpian future.
So according to Bishop, killing the child is like going back in time and killing baby Hitler. The problem is two-fold: first, could you really murder a baby or a child, even if they were responsible for such devastation and mass murder? Second, the way wonky time-travel works and alternate timelines, there’s no reason to believe that the baby will become this monstrous catalyst. It’s impossible to sympathize with Bishop and see him as anything other than a monster – especially when he decides to just nuke and poison entire continents to get to Cable. As a villain though he’s pretty fun, with a clear motivating factor and a zealous attitude.
I was initially completely off put by Ariel Olivetti’s art style. At first glance it’s very un-comic like, with pale colors and characters that look more at home in a children’s picture book. But our two leading men are also drawn as Warcraft-style hulking brutes, with arms the size of their waists. It’s an odd combination that I actually grew into as the series went on, finally enjoying it by the second major arc. It definitely helps Cable stand out from other Marvel series.
By the end of Volume 2, Cable’s wife from New Liberty is shot and killed, and he and the child are forced to bury her as a sober reminder to the harsh, dangerous world they can never escape. At the end he names the child Hope after her adopted mother, and once more they walk among the ruined future in a classic backs-to-the-camera pose.
Duane Swiercynski nails the dystopian settings that they jump around in, and I enjoyed having both Cable and Bishop’s running monologues throughout the series. Cable is a fun, if surprisingly low-key follow-up to Messiah Complex, though I’d probably recommend just skipping the entire slow, ultimately pointless first volume. I am looking forward to the well-received crossover story “Messiah War” between Cable and X-Force that comes next!