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Feb 28

Cable #150-154 – “The Newer Mutants”

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Oh god.  Where do we start with this?

The Cable ongoing series got off to a shaky start with James Robinson’s Conquest arc.  Now, it proceeds to jettison the creative team in favour of writer Ed Brisson and penciller Jon Malin, change the numbering to #150, and cast around in Cable’s back catalogue for something that might make a Marvel Legacy arc.  Since the Legacy remit can be amply satisfied by “dig up something we haven’t mentioned in a while”, and Cable has had an assortment of dead ends over his thirty years in print, there’s no shortage of ammunition.

Brisson opts for the Externals, a plot thread from early X-Force about a hidden group of immortal mutants.  The Externals aren’t particularly Cable-ish – they were introduced more as a Cannonball plot – but they have a couple of things going for them.  For one, they exemplify the early nineties style of Rob Liefeld.  For another, the story kind of ran into the ground without getting a decent resolution, so there are loose threads to pick up.  You can see the thinking.

But the result is a hopelessly confused mess.

Partly that stems from a total failure to coherently establish the time frame in which anything’s taking place.  The story is set “thirteen years ago”, with our Cable travelling to the past, and hanging out with characters from the time.  But later issues tell us (three separate times) that it’s been “more than a decade” since Selene killed some of the Externals.  And that was in X-Force #52.  It even gets a footnote.  So… it’s been over 23 years in story time since X-Force #52?  Really?  This would actually be just about correct if the Marvel Universe worked in real time – X-Force #52 was cover dated March 1996 – but the Marvel Universe obviously doesn’t work like that, for fairly obvious reasons to do with the characters not being pensioners.  So the time frame references in this story are all utterly baffling.

So, “thirteen years ago”, Candra is murdered by somebody killing Externals.  Since this is meant to leave Selene as the last one, Cable rounds up Longshot, Doop and Shatterstar to investigate.  It turns out that Selene is not the killer, and that a bunch of other Externals (being immortal) are not in fact dead, but hanging out with her.  Cable decides to round up some more characters for his makeshift team, choosing Armor (who’s apparently already at the Xavier Institute by this time) and a runaway-era X-23, and they hunt down some of the other Externals.  This leads to one of the few good scenes in the story, where Burke – a very minor X-Force character – turns out to be a friendly chap who’s bored of repeated impermanent death and simply wants to throw in his lot with anyone who can make it all stop for good.  Oh, and meanwhile, Selene rounds up Blink to help her.  Blink spends the whole arc as a mind-controlled servant, anyway, because this is apparently somewhere in the gap between Exiles and the 2009 “X-Necrosha” crossover.

Looking for unaccounted-for Externals, Cable’s group track down the body of Gideon – the one who actually got a bit of a push in early X-Force as a hot new villain.  They find that he’s apparently been in stasis ever since Selene “killed” him.  But the baddie, it turns out, is another Gideon, from 3,000 years in the future, who says that he’s come back to stop the Externals.  Then again, he also says that he’s going to kill them and, as the last surviving External, take all of their power for himself.  There’s a big fight which takes most of an issue, Selene hooks up with Cable’s team, there’s another big fight.  There’s a supposedly clever bit where Gideon’s new precognition powers allow him to see what his opponents are going to do, but Cable says that if they clear their minds, then Gideon won’t know what they’re about to do.  But surely that’s mind reading?  Anyway, Selene explains that having all the power would just consume Gideon, and then Blink teleports his head off and the story ends.

What was the point of any of that?  Cable rounds up a bunch of guest stars to help in his quest, and none of them really matter to the story at all.  Sure, some of them get a moment to show off their powers, but that’s not a reason to clutter the story with so many guest stars who have no connection to the plot.  And even if you leave that clutter aside, you’re left with a story about Gideon trying to get power for no particularly interesting reason and but then losing when he gets decapitated.  There may be plenty of busy work to fill the pages, but there’s nothing going on underneath.  There are some interesting ideas – a flashback to Gideon’s emaciated corpse finally coming back to life three thousand years in the future is nicely done, for example.  That’s about your lot, though.

Then there’s the art.  Art on the X-books generally lands somewhere in the range from bland to very good; it’s not often that we get presented with the downright bad.  But here’s Jon Malin, who has serious problems.  Occasionally there’s a striking page – there’s a splash of Armor which is actually rather good – but mostly Malin does stilted characters in bland environments.  If it’s a talky scene, characters either stand statically or pose histrionically; if it’s a fight scene, they just hurl themselves around at random.  Even at best, the effect is like a poor man’s Whilce Portacio.  Even if you wanted to make an argument that it echoes the spirit of Cable’s creator, Rob Liefeld, this story isn’t set in that period, and for all his faults, Liefeld’s early nineties X-books at least conveyed a sense of childlike enthusiasm.  This is just bad.

I can see how this book ended up doing an Externals story for Legacy.  Pretty much every other decision in here bemuses me.

Bring on the comments

  1. Martin Smith says:

    The Blink in Exiles wasn’t the same one in X-Necrosha and this, I think. Exiles Blink was the AOA one, X-Necrosha revived the 616 one that died in Phalanx Covenant.

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    Even before his recent racist Twitter outbursts, I never understood why Marvel employed Malin. His work is downright awful, and has been ever since I first saw it on the post-M-Day New Warriors series…

  3. Si says:

    Is Cannonball even mentioned?

  4. ASV says:

    Seems like Brisson is making the extremely dumb mistake of thinking stories published in 2004-5 are “13 years ago” in-story.

  5. Joseph says:

    I had assumed that Cable was gathering characters from different time periods. It seems that Armor was atbteh X-Mansion in the city so that’s contemporary. But X-23 Longshot and Shatterstar all seem to come from earlier moments in their histories.

    But. Yeah, I wasn’t paying for this and still couldn’t be bothered to finish it. Terrible stuff. Perhaps worth than the previous series.

  6. Taibak says:

    I’m trying to think of a character less suited to pair with Cable than Longshot….

  7. Mikey says:

    Hoping Shatterstar and Rictor pop up in an X-book sooner or later (they made a cameo in, I want to say, Secret Warriors – which was a really great book that I wish had lasted longer).

    Jon Malin’s art is as ugly and unnecessary as his politics.

  8. Tom Perry says:

    Malin’s “Twitter outbursts” were hardly racist. Unpopular with leftists, but hardly racist. I guess we really have devolved into a place where we label anything we don’t like or agree with “racist”, etc.

    You are not wrong about his art tho. His Thunderbolts comics were very bad.

  9. wwk5d says:

    “So, “thirteen years ago”, Candra is murdered by somebody killing Externals”

    Candra “died” twice, but neither time had anything to do with the Externals…unless this is a retcon?

    The only loose thread about the Externals that should have been addressed was how Cannonball came back to life in the Liefeld run (and Seline’s cryptic comment about that).

  10. Niall says:

    I got very confused when bodysliding didn’t work. Cable says he has not had that power for a while but the “piwer” was tech that got destroyed during C&D, so why would he not have it during this story in the Past?

  11. shandrakor says:

    Martin in the first post is correct. Exiles and Necrosha Blinks are different people. This would, I guess, have to be the Exiles Blink, because the other one telefragged herself in Phalanx Covenant, and was specifically resurrected from where she died.

  12. shandrakor says:

    Or, wait. Actually if she’s the mind-controlled zombie of Selene, then it must be 616 Blink, and the story is literally happening *during* Necrosha, sometime after The Gathering, but before the main series.

  13. Joseph says:


    Rictor is slated to appear in the upcoming New Mutants: Dead Souls book, alongside Magik, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, and Boom Boom, a paranormal mini series written by Rosenberg.

  14. mark coale says:

    That sounds like it is tied into the new mutants tv show.

  15. Brian says:

    Often when I read these reviews, I look forward to when the story in question comes to Marvel Unlimited a month or two later, whether to enjoy a good book or read a poor one critically. It sounds like I’m going to need to keep a bottle of bourbon next to me as I read this one and despair of trying to make sense of it!

  16. Moo says:

    Well, going by the review, this story seems to be a distillation of my least favorite elements of the X-Men universe. And Brisson seemingly being under the impression that Marvel time advances in real time is baffling. I can see a writer who’s new to superhero comics making that mistake, but Brisson apparently grew up reading comics and he’s in his 40s now. And did the editors even read this thing?

  17. Brian says:

    I’ve simply accepted that Marvel no longer has editors as we’ve usually understood them. Maybe some of those “Assistant Editors” do some proofreading, but that seems to be the sum total of actual editorial work (the “Editors” of doing interviews about politics all day).

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