RSS Feed
Aug 2

Cable #155-159: “Past Fears”

Posted on Thursday, August 2, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Cable‘s final storyline before cancellation is a wildly unfocussed oddity.

Our creative team for this one are writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, who previously wrote The Dregs for Black Mask, and artist German Peralta, who’s worked on Thanos.  And this is a high concept one: a previously unmentioned monster, Metus, which has been pursuing Cable throughout his life.  Metus is bitter about some awful thing that Cable did in the past.  He doesn’t want to kill Cable, but he does want Cable to be alone.

This is non-linear storytelling.  Broadly speaking, part 1 is the present day, with Metus attacking Hope, prompting Cable to finally stand up to Metus and confront him.  That’s the cliffhanger, but the story doesn’t return to it until the end of part 5.  Instead, the next three issues are mostly stories of Metus attacking at various points in Cable’s career: the period when Bishop was chasing him and Hope through time; the Casey/Ladronn run; and very early X-Force.

Part 5 is mostly devoted to Metus’ back story: he’s a mutant shapeshifter who was a friend of young Nate in the future, and who had the misfortune to stumble upon Nate while he was privately freaking out about his techno-organic virus.  Young Nate lashes out at him, accidentally infects him with the virus, and turns him into a monster, then doesn’t admit to his parents what he’s done.  Metus is then banished from his village and swears revenge, at the prompting of what seems to be another persona representing the virus, though it’s all kind of hazy.  Finally, we find out that Cable’s plan to cure Metus of the virus worked just fine, and he’s packed off to the future.

The high point of this storyline is Peralta’s art on Metus, which is genuinely monstrous and distorted stuff.  Sensibly, he doesn’t attempt to mimic the art styles of the various time periods being referenced – this story needs a stable baseline for Metus to play against.  Besides, the emphasis here is meant to be on the continuity of Cable’s life, even if the people around him are changing.  The broad idea is that Cable is scared of Metus not so much because of his actual power, but because Cable is ashamed of properly explaining what he is.  Metus, by the way, is the name of the Roman god of terror, so there’s some serious nominative determinism going on with this poor kid.

The idea is fair enough, but in practice it hits some problems.  Metus is basically a horror character that lurks in the background and jumps out when Cable isn’t expecting it.  But that doesn’t lend itself to doing essentially the same story three issues in a row.  There’s a serious issue of focus here.  Part 1 opens with a whole sequence about Nimrod in the near future which is presumably there just to establish Cable’s status quo.  And parts 2, 3 and 4 all spend a serious amount of time simply establishing the status quo of their periods and proceeding as normal.  Issue #156, for example, is really just a regular Cable story from the Bishop period where Metus shows up near the end.

The Casey/Ladronn era issue is the strongest, because it departs from the format somewhat.  Cable and Nate Grey flee into a safehouse in the far future which, being a time travel safe house, is also being used by a bunch of other divergent Cables, presumably representing various aspects of the character coming to the fore – a virtual robot with an organic left arm, a shaman, a soldier, you know.  They get to do a story where the mutually distrustful Cables all wonder which one is Metus in disguise, and that’s pretty good.

Aside from that, though, the structure of “Past Fears” turns out to be seriously repetitive.  Metus really just turns up and does the same thing every time, and there’s no real sense of development.

And there are plot problems on top of that.  Not so much the fact that Metus is presented as a major part of Cable’s life when we’ve never seen him before; that’s fine, because the whole idea is that Cable is too ashamed to talk about him.  But how does Metus actually follow Cable through time?  It’s not even handwaved so much as ignored, and it needs a bit more than that.  More to the point, if Metus really has been trying to stop Cable from forming permanent friendships, he’s done a remarkably bad job of it; all of his attacks come in the middle of other runs, and don’t seem to lead to anything changing.

Metus himself is a one-dimensional character, which is okay; he’s a nemesis figure presented more as a projection of Cable’s self-loathing, and so he serves mainly as a reflection of Cable.  That’s something the art brings out quite well.   And the arc does manage to sell the idea of Metus as a big, scary monster under Cable’s metaphorical bed.  But there’s little emotional investment in Metus, let alone the kid who gets turned into him.  And the middle three issues of the story just don’t achieve much at all; the encounters may be at different points in Cable’s life but there’s little sense of any meaningful change or development between them.

On a first reading, as individual issues, this story seemed terribly meandering.  On a re-reading, the idea comes across a little more clearly, but far too much of it still feels like filler.  This would probably have worked much better if the flashbacks to past encounters had been kept far shorter, and more time had been spent on building up Nate and Metus’ childhood friendship.  There’s certainly some ambition on show here – the story is just too oddly structured to think otherwise.  But it doesn’t really work.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joe S. Walker says:

    I had an awful feeling that “Metus” was going to be intended as an echo of “me too”…

  2. “The Casey/Ladronn era issue is the strongest, because it departs from the format somewhat. Cable and Nate Grey flee into a safehouse in the far future which, being a time travel safe house, is also being used by a bunch of other divergent Cables, presumably representing various aspects of the character coming to the fore – a virtual robot with an organic left arm, a shaman, a soldier, you know.”

    How long has this been part of Cable’s lore? Does anyone know if it’s the same place that he and Deadpool went in a Despicable Deadpool story a few months ago?

  3. wwk5d says:

    Having an unseen foe who was lurking behind the scenes ALL OF THE TIME in a character who has been around for what, around 20 years now? Not a good start.

  4. Brian says:

    One of these times when Deadpool is hanging out with Cable, he needs to bring up the matter of all the Characters From His “Past” which keep appearing and ask some fourth-wall questions about the effect of constant time travel on personal continuity.

Leave a Reply