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Oct 21

Cable vol 1: “Conquest”

Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

I have given quite some thought to this story, trying to work it out.

I mean, I follow it.  I follow it just fine.  It’s simple.  There’s a thingummy called the Time Sword which is desperately powerful, and it’s been split into five parts which are scattered through time.  A baddy called Conquest is trying to collect the pieces, so that he can re-create the Time Macguffin and use it to control reality.  Cable is chasing after him.  So we get a bunch of time jumps where Cable visits various eras, and each time Conquest has been there before him, and there are a bunch of local goons with futuristic technology for Cable to fight.  After a while Cable meets up with an Incan priest (who has a load of Eternal technology, unrelated to Conquest) and finds out where the other two pieces are.

So he goes to Russia, where Conquest has just got piece four, and there’s a fight, and Cable says he’s going on ahead to the fifth piece.  Conquest follows with an army of goons, and seemingly beats Cable to get the last piece, but wait!  It’s a fake, and when Conquest tries to use the Sword it doesn’t work properly and he gets lost in time.

And that’s it.  Five issues.  That’s it.

But the point was… what, exactly?

This has the hallmarks of a troubled production.  It’s written by James Robinson, who doesn’t stick around for the next arc.  It’s drawn by Carlos Pacheco… until a fill-in artist has to do the end of issue #3, and Yildiray Cinar winds up doing the last two issues.  This isn’t to say that the art is bad, by the way – it’s very decent, and both artists get the importance of selling the local colour for each stop.  But beyond that, what’s it about?  This is James Robinson writing; he can be hit or miss these days, but he’s rarely pointless.

Let’s take a step back.  Cable was the quintessential early-nineties character.  He started as pseudo-paramilitary antihero with impractically large guns and gritty ethics that put him at odds with more traditional superheroes.  Then, on top of that, he was saddled with an insanely convoluted back story.  Yet he’s still here, 28 years after his creation.

As it turned out, if you dialled back on the big guns and just ignored the more intractable bits of his continuity (which weren’t central anyway) there was a reasonably viable character in there.  If you wanted to go with his history, he was basically a time traveller who had come back to avoid a dystopian future, which is a fairly solid trope.  If you weren’t even bothered about that, he could simply be a reliable old soldier, a sort of sci-fi Nick Fury.  Ironically, instead of being the gritty rebel against traditional superheroic values, he turned out to work rather well as a straight man for disruptive characters like Deadpool to kick against.

So James Robinson’s idea seems to be to try and purify the character even further, and focus on the idea that he’s the time travel hero who sorts out time travel problems.  In a sense that is indeed his unique selling point in the current Marvel Universe.  And I can see that there might be some mileage in the idea that Cable’s doesn’t really have an era where he’s entirely at home, and could be having all sorts of adventures in parallel in other settings entirely.  That series is basically Dr Who (in “historical” mode) with the lead replaced by the wandering western hero archetype, and it could work.

But this… this is Cable chasing a one-dimensional villain through a bunch of locations where he fights the local henchmen and (Incas aside) doesn’t do a huge amount else.  The story is a chase for a macguffin, and the pay-off is that when part of the macguffin is replaced with another macguffin, a plot device ensues.  Maybe the plan was to set up Conquest for a future story, but it’s hard to see what’s interesting about him here.

It’s boiled down too far, I think.  It’s distilled to the point where (despite the artists’ best efforts) you lose the appeal of time jumping, which is to play with the other locations; they all just become superficially different backdrops for the same stuff to happen.

With a lot of squinting, I can imagine what the idea might have been.  But it’s a misfire, and a bad one.

Bring on the comments

  1. mark coale says:

    Can you compare it at all to (20 years ago?) When JDR wrote cable before, when Landronn drew it pseudo Kirby style?

    I read issue 1 and stopped after that.

  2. Chris V says:

    Did Ladronn do the artwork with Robinson, or did he just take over art with Joe Casey writing the book?

    I would say that there is quite a comparison, in that I get the idea that both runs were horribly abbreviated.

    I’m pretty sure that Robinson left mid-story last time (I remember that #50 ended up being his last issue), and Casey took over.

    This time, I expect that Robinson was probably meant to stick around for longer.
    This time, he did finish his story-arc though. He might have rushed the ending, which would explain why the momentum just sort of stalled.

  3. Joe S. Walker says:

    This is a familiar plotline to readers of Lion, Valiant, Hotspur and other old British comics. Not done very well here.

  4. mark coale says:

    Wiki says Landronn drew 48-70, with JDR and Casey.

  5. Moo says:

    Cable isn’t convoluted enough. Someone should write a story that reveals he met John and Elaine Grey back when they were still newlyweds. He and Elaine had a one-night stand (Jean’s mom likes bad boys too) resulting in Jean’s conception thus making Jean Scott’s granddaughter.

  6. Joseph says:

    @Moo that’s basically Shatterstar’s origin, so…

    I agree with Paul, this was a trash arc and didn’t give me much hope in the Cable legacy relaunch. While issue #150 certainly seems to set that title off to a better start, that’s not saying much. I suppose the best we can say about this is that it establishes the time-traveling fixer trope for the “Newer Mutants” to follow. And to be honest, I’m happy to see Longshot, Star, and Doop back in action. I just hope they lean into the absurdity of it all and don’t take the series too seriously. (And it seems a misfire to have Longshot apearting in Cable and the Gold/Blue crossover in the same week…)

  7. Brian says:

    “That series is basically Dr Who (in “historical” mode) with the lead replaced by the wandering western hero archetype, and it could work.”

    EXTREME Doctor should totally be how Cable is played. Suddenly all the worst-fear stories of a 90s American Doctor Who series have a place to exist and grow! He even has Hope as the snarky companion…

  8. Brian says:

    He drops into some famous moment in history that some villain is planning on disrupting, but then uses the lethal sanction (while covering his tracks) that a Time Lord wouldn’t to keep history on track and away from the myriad nests of dystopia that folks like Apocalypse work to steer it towards. I’m picturing all sorts of Easter Eggs and in-jokes.

  9. Matt C. says:

    I really got the impression that this was a quick “fill-in” arc to get them up to Cable #150, when they were going to start the ‘real’ storyline (which already looks a lot more fun). Yeah, it’s certainly odd to START the title with a fill-in, but that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. It’s just so generic and pointless.

  10. JD says:

    I get the impression that by the time he was assigned this, Robinson was already looking for work elsewhere (which he would find with Wonder Woman). That would explain why it reads so much like he’s on autopilot.

    It’s hard to blame him. None of his projects at Marvel have been commercially successful, rarely lasting more than 15 issues. Scarlet Witch did read like a passion project, but for Cable it sounded more like a pitch from the marketing department (let’s reunite this writer still on our stable not doing much with a character he barely wrote two decades ago !).

  11. Flinkman says:

    When virtually every comic book storyline these days feels rather pointless (especially in the X-Line); it’s quite an achievement for an accomplished writer like James Robinson to write what feels like the most inconsequential X-Story of the last decade.

    This week’s Cable #150 was already more entertaining than these 5 issues combined.

  12. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Matt C

    They launched the title with Carlos Pacheco on art. The #150 arc has Jon Malin on art.

    And you think the latter was the HIGHER priority?

  13. Daniel Lourenço says:

    hey folks,

    can anyone reccomend a decent Cable story to me? is there anything decent in the 90s run (i have difficulty not bursting into laugther midway through asking this)? what about Igor Kordey’s time, i got the impression that was seen as an interesting-ish spin on the premise? any other stuff whatsoever, specifically for someone who has no investment whatsoever in Deadpool?

    would love suggestions!

  14. Chris V says:

    I really enjoyed the Solider X run on the character, written by Darko Macan.
    The run started at the tail-end of the first Cable series.

    I haven’t read any of the issues since they were first released, so I can’t say for sure that they hold up. I loved them at the time.

    I also enjoyed the aforesaid Casey/Ladronn run.

  15. Niall says:

    I thought Cable & Deadpool was excellent.

  16. Rich Larson says:

    It’s been a long time, but I agree that the Casey/Ladronn run was good. My favorite stretch of the Cable series for sure.

  17. Person of Con says:

    @Daniel Lourenço: I liked Si Spurrier’s X-Force run, though it’s mostly a critique of the X-Force approach, so YMMV. Duane Swierczynski’s run on Cable v2, where Cable is jumping around time to avoid Bishop, is pretty good.

  18. Voord 99 says:

    I know the OP specified that they weren’t interested in Deadpool.

    But if this has been scaring them away from Cable & Deadpool, it may be reassuring to know that it’s far more a CABLE (& Deadpool) series than a (Cable &) DEADPOOL series — to an extent that would seem highly improbably nowadays.

  19. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Mike Carey’s run on X-Men stars Cable up to and including the Messiah Complex crossover. Then he stars in Swierczynski’s ‘Cable’ series, including the Messiah War crossover. And then everything wraps up (…as much as anything ever wraps up in the x-books) in the Second Coming crossover. Cable’s an important part of all of it, and all of it ranges from decent to very good.

  20. Si says:

    I haven’t read this. How is Conquest different from Thanos?

  21. CyberV says:

    …Did they seriously just rip off season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow? Because that was the plot.

  22. SanityOrMadness says:

    Voord 99> But if this has been scaring them away from Cable & Deadpool, it may be reassuring to know that it’s far more a CABLE (& Deadpool) series than a (Cable &) DEADPOOL series — to an extent that would seem highly improbably nowadays.

    Yeah. Up until #36, when Carey got Cable basically yanked from the book. Either #40 or #41 is possibly one of the most bitter issues I’ve read – Fabian’s distaste for having his book’s entire premise yanked out from under him bleeds into every word of Cable’s narration.

  23. Brian says:

    @Si But that Legends of Tomorrow season was really fun, so they can avoid the appearance of a rip-off by making this lame!

  24. jpw says:

    @ Daniel – I know this is not a popular view for most X-fans, but I would actually recommend the original Cable story from New Mutants #86 to whenever Liefeld left Marvel.

    You have to be prepared to do a few things going in:
    1) Don’t be upset/bitter about completely derailing New Mutants. Treat this as something new with very similar characters.

    2) Embrace the X-TREMELY KEWL ’90s angle

    3) Know going in that most of it will be unsatisfactorily resolved bc Liefeld departs and it becomes the never-ending unresolved plotlinec train that wad 90s Marvel

    Those (major) caveats aside, it’s actually a fun ride

  25. Dazzler says:

    Did we LIKE Scarlet Witch? I couldn’t finish the first trade, which is a true rarity for me. I can think of maybe three trades I couldn’t slog through.

  26. Chris V says:

    I was really impressed with Scarlet Witch. It is easily Robinson’s best work for Marvel (which isn’t meant to be damning with faint praise).
    It’s the best work by Robinson I’ve read in quite some time.
    It held up strongly against other Marvel comics I was reading at that time.

  27. Dazzler says:

    Maybe it’s just not for me then, I guess.

  28. Jerry Ray says:

    I found most of Scarlet Witch to be kind of meh, but there was one issue (I think it was set in Japan – fuzzy on the details) that was one of the most affecting comics I’ve read in a long time.

  29. Omar Karindu says:

    Brian: EXTREME Doctor should totally be how Cable is played. Suddenly all the worst-fear stories of a 90s American Doctor Who series have a place to exist and grow!

    KATE LETHBRIDGE-STEWART: Apologies. We have to screen all his known associates. We can’t have information about the Doctor and the Tardis falling into the wrong hands. The consequences could be disastrous.
    CLARA OSWALD: What is that?
    KATE: Time travel. A vortex manipulator bequeathed to the UNIT archive by Captain Jack Harkness on the occasion of his death. Well, one of them. No one can know we have this, not even our allies.
    CLARA: Why not?
    KATE: Think about it. Americans with the ability to rewrite history? You’ve seen their movies.

    — “The Day of the Doctor,” 50th Anniversary Special

  30. PersonofCon says:

    I think I read two issues of the Scarlet Witch run–one where she very thoroughly cuts ties with Quicksilver (until the next writer, I guess) and one where she reveals that she knew Ringmaster was posing as her therapist, but she was playing along because she thought he was still giving good therapy advice.

    I’m kind of interested in depictions of mental health in superhero comics, so I’ll probably return to the full run, though if the therapist issue is any indication, it’ll be… an unusual approach.

  31. Brian says:

    His Scarlet Witch was an odd animal. I liked the changes in artist (and storytelling) by issue, but that helped stretch the story out far too long. If he had done same work in twelve issues, it could have ended up pretty classic, but it started to hang too long retelling the same points over and over (and never doubting that Wanda was correct in her worldview or position). Likewise, after an early set of appearances by the Emerald Warlock, there simply weren’t any really strong central villains to help bring the story together.

  32. Voord 99 says:

    This is probably just one of those things that one thinks when reading James Robinson rather than something that’s actually there. But Scarlet Witch came across to me as an attempt to recapture the Starman magic by playing the same trick of telling superhero stories with an early-Vertigo sensibility.

    But I think JD is right that it felt at least like something he wanted to be doing.

  33. Paul Fr says:

    SanityOrMadness “Yeah. Up until #36, when Carey got Cable basically yanked from the book. Either #40 or #41 is possibly one of the most bitter issues I’ve read – Fabian’s distaste for having his book’s entire premise yanked out from under him bleeds into every word of Cable’s narration.”

    In his final issue of New Thunderbolts, which would have been within about six months of that, there was also criticism in Songbird’s narration clearly about the new direction Marvel was taking with the series and characters. I remember noticing it back then in both of these books, and I guess his editors were on his side enough to let that through.

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