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Sep 1

X-Force #5-10: “The Counterfeit King”

Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Alright, I should be more accurate: issue #7-10 are “The Counterfeit King.” Issues #5 and #6 are origin issues for Cable and Stryfe (“Some 2,000 Years From Yesterday” and “2,000 Years From Tomorrow”). But the ten issues of this run of X-Force are a single extended story, one that looks like a false start given that we’re getting yet another different “X-Force” team after the relaunch, while Cable gets packed off to the new Fallen Angels title. In the bigger picture, I suppose the main purpose of this series is to establish the revamped version of Cable and get him up and running, ready for use after the relaunch.

The origin issues are drawn by guest artist Damian Couciero, though in a style that turns out to fit quite nicely with the regular series – there’s not quite the same cartooning sensibility as Dylan Burnett’s work on the rest of the series, but it’s decent work and the colouring helps bring it all together with the other issues. The idea here is that the Silver Age X-Men’s extended trip to the future messed up the timeline in a way that was starting to have an impact even on Cable’s youth in the far future. And yes, we’re back to the New Canaanites and all that, a world with characters called things like Tetherblood and Flintshard. (Find your own Cable’s Largely Forgotten Youthful Acquaintance Name by choosing words from columns A and B! You could be Lobsterscrub, Whackstalk, or maybe Plinthquartz!) Good old Blaquesmith explains that time is being rewritten, and so young Cable is sent back in time early to sort it all out. And of course the characters from the “new” timeline, which is overwriting the old one, would quite like it to stick around – one of those being the new version of Stryfe.

By time travel standards this is fairly coherent – it’s basically the explanation that Cable gave in Extermination, but with some back story to show it from his standpoint, and to justify him feeling so strongly about it. If you do the story from his point of view, then he’s trying to prevent the world from unravelling. The bit that doesn’t make sense is that it doesn’t restore the previous timeline, because it alters Cable’s history. And this is one of those story points which falls apart if you think about it for a while. The premise of the story is that the X-Men’s time travel didn’t just create a new timeline, it disrupted history. But Cable going off to become Cable ahead of schedule, and presumably altering his own history… doesn’t? Time travel stories get a degree of leeway on this stuff, though, because it’s a genre trope for them to have wonky logic loops; besides, Ed Brisson throws a bone to differently minded readers by having Blaquesmith insist that this is totally different, honest, in a way that (presumably intentionally) doesn’t feel very convincing. So there’s scope to pick up on that later, and by acknowledging it as an issue, it’s parked for now.

Stryfe’s back story remains the same: He’s a clone of Nate who was meant to be the new host body for Apocalypse, got rejected, and is now hanging around in provincial management trying to prove himself to Apocalypse so that (as he sees it) they can merge just like they ought to have done. The main point is that he’s younger, since he remains a twin of Nate. And he’s given a bit more self-doubt here than usual, recognising that at this point in his career he’s a D-lister in Apocalypse’s world, and wondering just a little whether this might really be his level. The series does a respectable job of humanising both Cable and Stryfe, both of whom could use it. At any rate, Stryfe sets up in an Eastern European micronation because he’s going after Cable and he figures he can fly under the radar here; it all makes reasonable sense.

Unfortunately for Stryfe, his big idea is to build an army by offering asylum to mutants and attracting them to Transia. What this actually attracts is a bunch of beleaguered low-power mutants who didn’t grow up in a war zone and who are hoping for a nice quiet village to settle down in, much to his irritation – so, being a villain, he retools the plan to work with the cannon fodder he’s got. On the plus side, he also comes upon Rachel Summers – and here, admittedly, is the big plot contrivance of the X-Force series, as Ahab and Rachel stumble into Transia by pure coincidence.

With that, we get back to the actual X-Force story, but it’s clear enough that the big goals here are to finish establishing the new Cable, and to clear up the dangling plot thread of Rachel as a Hound (she gets cured). The individual X-Force members get some character moments, but really they’re there mainly so that they can endorse Cable as legitimate. That means they get to go into the far future to rescue him from Stryfe, and learn about what a great bloke he was. For all the weird names, this is a relatively lived-in version of Cable and Stryfe’s future timeline, and while it’s not an area of continuity I’m especially keen to revisit, I’ve seen it done a lot worse than this. It gives Dylan Burnett the chance to draw some wonderfully grotesque telepaths and techno-organic sprawl, as well.

Still, it isn’t ultimately an X-Force story, nor is it setting up a version of X-Force who’ll be around in future. It’s a Cable story, and it’s a little disappointing that X-Force themselves wind up playing more of a supporting role. All that said, though, this story does a good job in terms of its apparent remit: getting Cable into position as a viable lead going forward. As a self-contained story, it’s less compelling; lots of running around and fighting over somewhat nebulous stakes, as a backdrop to building up Cable. It’s still not at all bad, and the art is very engaging, but it works best when seen as set-up for something to come.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben says:

    I thought this was pretty good.

    Still doesn’t sell me on the idea that it’s fine Kid Cable killed real Cable, but it helps a bit in making Kid Cable likable.

    Also the first time I’ve liked Stryfe, giving him a little more depth than usual.

    PS- I like the ridiculous future names.

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I enjoyed this series very much. The writing was surprisingly good – I especially liked the weird bit with Warpath becoming a fan of trashy romance novels. And the art was spectacular. I can’t remember when these characters had so much, well, character conveyed through the art alone.

  3. Si says:

    How awesome would it be if that’s just how names worked in the future. You could have Bloodeth, office temp and Uber driver. You get your hair cut by old Mrs Eaglestorm, her eyesight’s going but you’d feel bad about abandoning her after all these years. The next door neighbour has a loveable little four year old that likes to chat with you over the fence, his name is Razorvenom.

  4. Evilgus says:

    Did this story actually do anything of note with Rachel? I feel she should be more interesting, but as she’s been spinning wheels for years probably needs jettisoned off to the time stream again. Sadly, she’s the embodiment of a loose end or plot point that has to be ignored for everything else to work.

  5. Voord 99 says:

    @Si: Bloodeth, office temp and Uber driver.

    I do not want to know how exploitative the gig economy is Si’s dystopian future.

  6. Si says:

    The gig economy in the future has employee protections. Any complaints result in a meeting with Apocalypse in the Maceration Room.

    So, slightly better than what we have now.

  7. TrueBelieverTony says:

    Agree with your thoughts. Just catching up on this and I have to say, it was a. pleasant surprise.

    You mentioned that Ahab and Rachel ending up in Transia was a coincidence but Ahab deliberately went there because he “sensed” they were conducting time travel.

  8. Mikey says:

    Hasn’t Rachel been mind-controlled into a Hound like three separate times in the last two years – X-Men Gold, Extermination/X-Force, and … something else, I can’t remember?

  9. Piercey says:

    Rachel was also mind-controlled in X-Men Red by Cassandra Nova

  10. Loz says:

    Has Rachel done anything worthwhile since the original Excalibur sent her to the future to be old lady Askani? I’ve not read all the comics since then but whenever she crops up it seems like one writer brings her forward into the team, she doesn’t do anything and then the next writer banishes her to the back room again.

    I loved her back when she was Kitty’s girlfriend but now she’s one of a number of characters that don’t seem to have a reason to be around and which no writer wants to take time to do anything with.

  11. Voord 99 says:

    Not really. There have been tries, but basically, Rachel has never recovered from the original decision to write her out.

    (Because it’s the ‘90s, and you’re about to do a bunch of stories premised on the idea that the X-characters may be inexorably drifting towards some version of the DOFP dystopia. So *of course* you get rid of the single character with the strongest ties to that future. That’s just good storytelling sense.)

  12. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Rachel’s best outing since coming back has probably been the space mission from Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire and the later Starjammer-related adventures of War of Kings. Not that she had a lot to do there but at least the stories were decent and by being removed from Earth she was actually a vital part of the team and not the third redundant psychic.

  13. CJ says:

    I have a vague memory of Rachel being involved in some of the latter era of Weinberg’s Cable run?

    The 90s sure did have a bunch of future characters–besides Cable and Bishop, there was Rachel, like 4 characters from X-Factor and Shard, and Shatterstar. I’m probably leaving people out.

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