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Nov 15

Review: Cable vol 4 #1-4

Posted on Sunday, November 15, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

CABLE vol 4 #1-4
by Gerry Duggan & Phil Noto
March to September 2020

It’s past time that I started clearing my review backlog. So let’s go through the ongoing titles and talk about what they were doing before “X of Swords” started.

Cable had the misfortune to launch just before the delays caused by the pandemic, leading to a delay of over four months between issues #1 and #2. That’s beyond the control of anyone involved, but it means stories played out much more slowly than originally intended. Still, the impact on Cable is rather less than on other titles, because it had barely got going in the first place – its first issue is mostly about establishing its take on the title character, and setting up the story to follow.

And that story is… not the first thing that springs to mind when you think about Cable. He discovers a sword stuck in the paw of a monster. It turns out to be a relic from ancient Galador, which brings a bunch of Spaceknights to Earth looking for it. Cable and one of the Stepford Cuckoos – who were investigating a completely unrelated story about cultists abducting mutant babies – break off to outwit them.

What’s intriguing about this book is how aggressively unrecognisable its version of Cable is. Of course, all of this follows from the deck-clearing Extermination miniseries, which predates the Hickman era but might possibly have had some of its plans in mind – certainly the year that followed featured a lot of deaths that wouldn’t have happened without the knowledge that Krakoa was coming along shortly to make them all reversible. In Extermination, Cable is killed off by his younger teenage self, who claims that this is something to do with sorting out the timeline. A later X-Force storyline tries to cement that idea, partly by trying to wrestle it into making some sort of sense – but also by emphatically stressing that Kid Cable is, if you look closely enough, recognisable as a younger version of the familiar character.

Krakoan Cable goes in a rather different direction. He loses the signature big guns in the first issue, in favour of waving a sword around. He seems to be an improbably successful womaniser, not something that anyone really associated with the older version. He’s written as a teenager answerable to mom and dad in the form of Scott and Jean. He’s well meaning but impetuous to the point of outright stupidity. He shows flashes of inspiration, but for the most part he’s a bit of a clown, with none of the older version’s hyper-competence and self-control. When he tries to play the role of the older Cable in dealing with the police, he can’t pull it off. Even his outwitting of the older Cable is retconned into a scheme that the older Cable understood better than he did (which goes some way to explain why it made so little sense).

The result is a take on Cable who is notable mainly for lacking any of Cable’s signature features – he’s not so much a younger, less experienced version of Cable as a character defined by opposition to everything to do with the original. There’s some suggestion that this is deliberate – he’s reluctant to grow up, or at least to grow into the particular version of Cable he saw, and wants to distance himself from that. And after all, Cable was a grizzled veteran; the whole point of writing him as a teenager is that he can’t have that trait yet. But that still makes this new version a Cable whose defining characteristic is to be almost nothing like Cable.

This works better than you might think, perhaps because the older Cable still hangs over the book as a reminder of what everyone expects from him. His body shows up in one issue, with former co-star Deadpool popping in to express his scepticism about the new kid. And a series of subplots, which have yet to develop into anything, show the original Cable out there in some sort of characteristically Cable-ish post-apocalyptic wasteland, obviously due to come back in the end.

Similarly un-Cable is the heavy use of the Spaceknights, a concept from the back story of Rom. Cable doesn’t normally mess about with aliens, let alone aliens from a wholly unrelated series. But in this case, the Spaceknights do seem arbitrary, at least so far. Perhaps there are big picture reasons why the Light of Galador is a big deal, and why it has to be connected to Rom mythology – it does feature as one of the swords in “X of Swords”, though so do 19 other swords. But at the moment, the Spaceknights take the role of random aliens who’ve come for their random artefact, bringing with them the uniquely boxy, minimal design that Rom – or rather, the original Rom toy – dictated. It’s a puzzling choice, which lacks an obvious connection to Cable.

Phil Noto would be an unusual choice of artist for a traditional Cable book, but then the point of this series is to kick against those expectations. He does a somewhat charming (if irritating) Kid Cable. This is a more colourful, streamlined book, with no grittiness and plenty of daylight – particularly when contrasted with the Cable Classic subplot scenes and their permanent dusk. The sheen of Noto’s art offsets the Spaceknights’ clunky designs nicely, too. There’s an odd style shift in the fourth issue, where for no apparent reason the outlines shift to clearer, clean black lines instead of the coloured lines that were often used in the previous issues; both are fine, but the change is noticeable.

The book seems to be played largely for comedy, which is probably wise if you don’t want this upstart Cable to be insufferable. As so often these days, the teen hero is not assumed to be an aspirational figure for younger readers – the assumed audience is much older than him, and is invited to view him as a naive child with delusions of maturity. He does do heroic things – he tries to help people, he does find his own solutions in the end – but he’s a bit of a fool. For that matter, so are the Spaceknights, who are defeated by their own gullibility. Esme’s the only smart one in the room, and Noto does a decent job of selling that with her eye-rolling.

The Order of X storyline seems rather more serious, and has echoes of Cable’s own lost-baby back story. The book may shift into a slightly more sober gear when it emerges from the crossover and gets back to that stuff.

The use of the Stepford Cuckoos is a bit curious. Notionally all of them are now dating Cable, although one seems less enthusiastic than the rest (over in X-Force, she’s dating Kid Omega). When the Cuckoos actually participate in stories instead of just hanging around looking creepy, I prefer them to show individual personalities. And having them date as a unit feels vaguely creepy in a way that I suspect wasn’t intended.

That said, the obvious parallel here is with their parents Scott and Emma. And quite what the Cuckoos see in Cable is a little obscure; they certainly seem smarter and more level-headed than him. Is the idea simply that they see something akin to Scott in him, or are they just meant to be toying with him for their own amusement (which they do claim at one point)? Or is his appeal supposed to lie in his status as mutant royalty? Any of these could work, but right now it reads a bit like a writer’s joke at the Cuckoos’ expense.

Cable is amusing enough, but so far it hasn’t made a particularly compelling case for Kid Cable to have his own series. This take on the character feels more suited to playing a comic relief role in other books – and it doesn’t help that his first arc involves villains seemingly plucked at random from the Marvel archive. But maybe the Order of X subplot will build more convincingly around Cable himself, when we get back to it.

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    With the announcement of Al Ewing’s ‘SWORD’, I started wondering if this book is supposed to serve mostly as an introduction? We know that ‘SWORD’ will include Cable and, presumably, they’ll be operating out of the Peak.

    ‘Cable’ gives Cable a spacesword and some space enemies, and later puts him on the Peak. And teases some more space enemies.

    Do we even know if ‘Cable’ will continue after ‘SWORD’ launches?

  2. Bengt says:

    Cable has solicits past SWORD.

  3. Joseph S. says:

    Mostly good fun, and as such I think Duggan has proven to be the most successful at navigating the DoX status quo.

    As mentioned in the review, there needs to be some contrast to the grizzled Old Man Cable. So Kid Cable is interesting because he perfectly embodies both the risk and promise of Krakoa. On the one hand he grew up in a dystopian future training to fight Apocalypse, who he finds welcomed into the fold with open arms and a seat on their governing body. He doesn’t know Professor X from Adam (X), one would expect some serious reservations. And yet on the other hand, here he has an opportunity to be a part of a family, to go on dates, and otherwise enjoy this attempt to build a mutant society. It makes sense to me that Nate would try to make the most of it.

    And so Duggan playing him up for comedy, dating, the Fool card in X of Swords, all fun so far, and a nice way to inject some potential and transform the character. Also kind of a Batman Year One situation, seeing the usually expert hero make mistakes, learn, grow. Looking forward to seeing what Ewing does with him.

  4. DFE says:

    Any chance the wasteland at the end might just be Amenth? I’m really curious as to how adult Cable is going to respond to Krakoa, and I’d like to see him return sooner than later. Teen Cable is more entertaining than I’d expected after Extermination, but I’d be more comfortable with him if I didn’t feel like his presence was at the expense of the other version. I’ve never really been comfortable with how easily everyone seems to accept his presence after he murdered his adult self.

  5. Allan M says:

    I’m not convinced it merits a solo ongoing series, but I do think there’s something interesting here. Instead of living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape and becoming cold and brutal, Cable is now living a pretty happy, carefree life with his extended family all together (minus poor Maddy). And so his teenage rebellion is channelled against his adult self instead of his parents, which is a cute schtick you can only pull off with a time travel character.

    I liked Extermination and Brisson’s X-Force, but I never really bought the premise that Cable Classic had gone soft (as Teen Cable contended). Old-school Cable and modern Cable weren’t that different, really. I feel like the “time travel character has softened a lot compared to their early appearances” idea would apply much better to Bishop. So I’m down for the change of direction of Teen Cable being a goofy Krakoan Kennedy instead.

    The question that dogs X-Men solo books is what they’re doing on an ongoing basis that merits a solo book. The Order of X story fits Cable well, but what’s on deck after that? What’s he doing that he doesn’t bother calling in SWORD to help with? I don’t know. I think there’s a solid miniseries and membership in a team book in Teen Cable. Less convinced there’s an ongoing book.

  6. Nu-D says:

    Doesn’t teen Cable have a pre-established personality from waaaaaay back in the Cyclops and Phoenix mini? It was only an issue or two, but it should be the same character, no?

  7. Joseph S. says:

    Kid Cable isn’t miles away from the Cyclops and Phoenix series if you squint. He was meant to be, what, 13 when that series ended, so he’s a bit older (16,17?) here. That Brisson X-Force series revisited that future, sort of bridging the gap and updating the continuity (not unlike Hopeless’s Silver Age series that ended up influences the time displaced O5.

  8. Daniel says:

    So are all the other characters still cool with Kid Cable murdering the Cable they have known for years and accepting his story at face value?

    Cyclops: “Well, Nathan was my son and Jean and I loved and accepted him and fought alongside him for years and all, but I guess if you had a good reason for murdering him, then… welcome home, son!”

  9. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Since they treat him as the same person, it falls under… um… self-harm?

    It would be unthinkable if he was an alternate reality Cable, but since he’s this reality’s Cable it’s… stil very, very weird.

    Then again, it’s Cable. Cyclop’s reasoning when it comes to Cable in the past decade and a half was usually ‘if he’s acting weird, he must have his reasons’. And Cable is a time-traveller. So if Classic Cable didn’t condone Kid Cable killing him, it stand to reason he’d have done something about it… right? Maybe?

  10. Daniel says:

    But that’s just it, how do they know it’s NOT an alternate reality Cable? The O5 were supposedly younger versions of the X-Men… until they weren’t. If O5 Iceman murdered current Iceman for reasons, I doubt anyone would have just rolled with it. Whether not not Kid Cable is an alternate version still doesn’t change the fact that he murdered and friend and comrade of the X-Men in cold blood, no questions asked.

  11. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘The O5 were supposedly younger versions of the X-Men… until they weren’t.’

    But they were, in the end.

    I guess at this point the X-Men just roll with everything. This isn’t event in the top10 of the weirdest things that happened to them.

    Does that make them completely unbelievable as anything resembling human beings? Yes. But only if you dwell on the subject.

  12. […] O’Brien reviews the amusing expectation-bucking of Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s Cable (volume 4) #1-4, and the flawed focus of Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, Viktor Bogdanovic, et al’s Wolverine […]

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