Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013
by Paul in x-axis
Cable & X-Force seems to be a book paced more for the ongoing series than the trade. These five issues are going to form the third trade paperback of the current run, which makes this as good a point as any to check in on the series, and they do indeed have an overall linking arc. But at the same time there are single issue stories as the team split up to fight some villains of the week.
There are two main strands here, though. The main one doesn’t technically feature the title characters at all. Hope goes looking for Blaquesmith in order to find out what’s up with Cable and his spate of visions. She ends up being taken to an apocalyptic near future, where it turns out that Cable’s visions are the result of Blaquesmith and an older Hope trying to kickstart his precognitive powers so that he can change history and avert the apocalypse. Then, of course, she has to go back and try to sort out some of the damage they’ve done to him as a result of their botch job.
The other one has X-Force splitting up to deal with a bunch of different visions at the same time, and then reuniting to try and rescue Cable from the Avengers (specifically, Havok’s squad), who capture him in part one. The idea here – and it’s quite a good one – is that this lets the book do some relatively fun self-contained stories that give individual characters a chance to shine, but they also contribute to the bigger picture because, in the future, we can see the timeline altering as one disaster after another is removed from history.
Salvador Larroca’s art is as reliably clear as ever, and when he’s given something to work with – a human being who unfolds into a suit of disguise armour, a bridge melting into a river – he does some fantastic work here. Other sequences where the story isn’t so obviously visual – a fight that takes place on a completely flat and featureless plain, for example – sometimes come across a bit flatter. But he’s never less than solid, and his characters have enough life to them to sell scenes that could otherwise be expository trudges.
The individual missions, which of course have to share their issues with Hope’s plot, don’t get an enormous amount of space to develop. I’ve written about the Domino/Boom-Boom issue before, which seems to me to overplay Boom-Boom’s recklessness in a way that’s a bit over the top even for a series like this. It’s a romp, though. The other two are a bit more generic, but at least they give the individual cast members a bit of spotlight time.
But these issues are all about developing the book’s central premise, that the team exists to help Cable avert the disasters in his visions. It certainly advances that storyline, which seems to be progressing at a decent pace. There are things about it I’m not sold on, though. You can argue about whether yet another imminent string of apocalypses is a premise that really fits into the Marvel Universe, but let’s chalk that one up to creative licence, along with the slightly unconventional approach to Marvel time travel. It doesn’t normally work by altering history like this, but it’s hardly unprecedented.
More of an issue is that the future world, which we see a lot of here, doesn’t really convince. For understandable plot reasons, it ends up being a complete hellhole, but it’s a generic hellhole that doesn’t seem to have anyone in it, and doesn’t feel like a proper place. It comes across as more of a miserable room where people explain the plot to one another. There’s also an attempt to suggest that future Hope’s motivation is in part to change history so that she gets to spend more time with her father, which is an interesting idea but doesn’t quite work; her scheme doesn’t obviously lead to Hope’s involvement in X-Force, and only really makes sense if it’s taken at face value. And while I get the idea that Cable needs an outlaw team to deal with threats that nobody else can act upon, since there’s no real evidence that the legitimate superheroes can use to justify their pre-emptive strikes (this is the justification given for the Avengers turning a blind eye and letting them go), I’d like to see the stories tied a little more closely to that idea. Part 4, for example, just has Dr Nemesis and Forge turning up to deal with a giant worm that’s already attacking Lisbon. Can’t you phone the Avengers about that?
Still, the Avengers are used decently enough. Aside from serving in the vital role of guest stars with a higher selling book, they do actually further the series’ own agenda by providing a contrast with the legitimate superheroes. They’re also a powerful enough team to allow X-Force to play the role of scrappy underdogs, which works well for this slightly shambolic roster. The attempts to play up the family relations between Havok and Cable feel a bit tacked on – the characters barely know one another – but sure, once you’ve decided to go with the Avengers, it might as well be his squad.
Judging these primarily as five issues of an ongoing series – which is clearly how they’re intended – there’s a good steady development of the premise going on here, well balanced with more throwaway action. Quite how compelling that underlying premise actually is, is a little more debatable; the idea seems sound as a device to justify an outlaw team, the reality of yet another gloomy futureverse feels a bit familiar.