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Sep 25

Cable & X-Force #10-14 – “This Won’t End Well”

Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

Cable & X-Force seems to be a book paced more for the ongoing series than the trade.  These five issues are going to form the third trade paperback of the current run, which makes this as good a point as any to check in on the series, and they do indeed have an overall linking arc.  But at the same time there are single issue stories as the team split up to fight some villains of the week.

There are two main strands here, though.  The main one doesn’t technically feature the title characters at all.  Hope goes looking for Blaquesmith in order to find out what’s up with Cable and his spate of visions.  She ends up being taken to an apocalyptic near future, where it turns out that Cable’s visions are the result of Blaquesmith and an older Hope trying to kickstart his precognitive powers so that he can change history and avert the apocalypse.  Then, of course, she has to go back and try to sort out some of the damage they’ve done to him as a result of their botch job.

The other one has X-Force splitting up to deal with a bunch of different visions at the same time, and then reuniting to try and rescue Cable from the Avengers (specifically, Havok’s squad), who capture him in part one.  The idea here – and it’s quite a good one – is that this lets the book do some relatively fun self-contained stories that give individual characters a chance to shine, but they also contribute to the bigger picture because, in the future, we can see the timeline altering as one disaster after another is removed from history.

Salvador Larroca’s art is as reliably clear as ever, and when he’s given something to work with – a human being who unfolds into a suit of disguise armour, a bridge melting into a river – he does some fantastic work here.  Other sequences where the story isn’t so obviously visual – a fight that takes place on a completely flat and featureless plain, for example – sometimes come across a bit flatter.  But he’s never less than solid, and his characters have enough life to them to sell scenes that could otherwise be expository trudges.

The individual missions, which of course have to share their issues with Hope’s plot, don’t get an enormous amount of space to develop.  I’ve written about the Domino/Boom-Boom issue before, which seems to me to overplay Boom-Boom’s recklessness in a way that’s a bit over the top even for a series like this.  It’s a romp, though.  The other two are a bit more generic, but at least they give the individual cast members a bit of spotlight time.

But these issues are all about developing the book’s central premise, that the team exists to help Cable avert the disasters in his visions.  It certainly advances that storyline, which seems to be progressing at a decent pace.  There are things about it I’m not sold on, though.  You can argue about whether yet another imminent string of apocalypses is a premise that really fits into the Marvel Universe, but let’s chalk that one up to creative licence, along with the slightly unconventional approach to Marvel time travel.  It doesn’t normally work by altering history like this, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

More of an issue is that the future world, which we see a lot of here, doesn’t really convince.  For understandable plot reasons, it ends up being a complete hellhole, but it’s a generic hellhole that doesn’t seem to have anyone in it, and doesn’t feel like a proper place.  It comes across as more of a miserable room where people explain the plot to one another.  There’s also an attempt to suggest that future Hope’s motivation is in part to change history so that she gets to spend more time with her father, which is an interesting idea but doesn’t quite work; her scheme doesn’t obviously lead to Hope’s involvement in X-Force, and only really makes sense if it’s taken at face value.  And while I get the idea that Cable needs an outlaw team to deal with threats that nobody else can act upon, since there’s no real evidence that the legitimate superheroes can use to justify their pre-emptive strikes (this is the justification given for the Avengers turning a blind eye and letting them go), I’d like to see the stories tied a little more closely to that idea.  Part 4, for example, just has Dr Nemesis and Forge turning up to deal with a giant worm that’s already attacking Lisbon.  Can’t you phone the Avengers about that?

Still, the Avengers are used decently enough.  Aside from serving in the vital role of guest stars with a higher selling book, they do actually further the series’ own agenda by providing a contrast with the legitimate superheroes.  They’re also a powerful enough team to allow X-Force to play the role of scrappy underdogs, which works well for this slightly shambolic roster.  The attempts to play up the family relations between Havok and Cable feel a bit tacked on – the characters barely know one another – but sure, once you’ve decided to go with the Avengers, it might as well be his squad.

Judging these primarily as five issues of an ongoing series – which is clearly how they’re intended – there’s a good steady development of the premise going on here, well balanced with more throwaway action.  Quite how compelling that underlying premise actually is, is a little more debatable; the idea seems sound as a device to justify an outlaw team, the reality of yet another gloomy futureverse feels a bit familiar.

Bring on the comments

  1. Matt C. says:

    Agreed strongly that the main flaw of this series has been that the “horrible future” is bland, generic, and empty. Unfortunately, this is pretty common among “horrible future” stories in the Marvel U.

    I did really appreciate how the Avengers beat X-Force handily…as they should. Too often you get the Worf Effect, but here the power levels between the two teams are quite uneven, and it’s nice to see that recognized.

  2. Between this storyline, Children of the Atom, and Uncanny Avengers, it feels like we’re dealing with a lot of “future” stories at the moment.

  3. ASV says:

    Also Uncanny X-Force to an extent.

  4. Jon Dubya says:

    Hope is still the weak link here. The other characters and plotlines are progressing nicely, but Hope is still an uneccesary irritant, a fly in the narrative ointment.

    I’m also intrigued by the Colossus/Domino pairing. I know there’s been some discussion about Domino’s somewhat inconsistent personality, but this might be a way to reconcile the two extremes: we can still have “happy-go-lucky” Domino that fans love while giving her something “serious” she can’t snark her way through (Speaking of consistent characterization I glad that Peter isn’t presented as a “hit n run” artist here. He always struck me as someone who took relationships too seriously for that.)

  5. halapeno says:

    I’m not sure if it’s been brought up already but the future sequences in the original Days of Future Past story took place in the year 2013.

  6. wwk5d says:

    “He always struck me as someone who took relationships too seriously for that.”

    Yeah. He broke up with Kitty the first time because Jim Shooter thought he was to old for…er, because he felt it would be wrong to still keep seeing Kitty after falling in love with an alien during Secret Wars…

  7. Niall says:

    I’m liking this.

    The team is interesting. The Hope/Cable angle needs to be addressed.

    It’s another decent X -book. For all the criticism I give to the x-books, I have to admit that Marvel aren’t doing badly right now.

  8. Tim O'Neil says:

    The boring future in this book is still an improvement over the boring future in the last series of CABLE – which was literally just a flat and barren empty plane stretching out into eternity.

    And also, why is it that no one writing Domino appears to have read the Brian Stelfreeze mini? That should have been character-defining, but it seems as if all copies were destroyed at some point.

  9. Michael says:

    This is the arc that has actually led to me dropping the book. I simply can’t deal with yet one more apocalyptic X-Men future. The X-Men franchise has been seemingly running to avoid / change / prevent one bleak future or another for way too many years now. Are they connected? Are they all just variations of each other? Why is it that no matter what they do, the only future that seems to be possible are ones where the world is doomed? As someone above pointed out, I feel like I’m reading about different apocalyptic futures in way to many X-books at the moment that they are all trying to prevent – and as a result, I wonder if any of it really matters.

  10. moose n squirrel says:

    Re: horrible futures: I think this was a perfectly fine trope to use, even to the point of dominating things, back when it was the Days of Future Past future (sentinels everywhere, everyone dead or in camps, etc.). When you’re pushing the persecuted minority/”protects a world that fears and hates them” thing, the ultimate terror is the threat of genocide – and the sentinels are a great representation of that. Then various writers started playing with that – Bishop’s future, where some version of Xavier’s dream has survived, but in a weird militaristic/religious form, and in a bombed-out landscape to boot; the Apocalypse-ruled future in Cable’s time, where it seemed like there was nobody but mutants; Morrison’s spin on things, where it’s humans who’ve gone extinct and the world is a chaotic mess of warring mutant offshoots; etc. All of that was cool to play with – and still is, if it’s done right, and you put enough thought into it.

    The problem with the future dystopias that keep popping up now is that they seem overly derivative, random, or both. I mean, what exactly is Rick Remender trying to do with his Red Skull-as-Onslaught-as-Sentinel thing, other than go “look at all the X-Men comics I’ve read”?

  11. Andy Walsh says:

    I always just figured the abundance of visitors from dystopian futures was selection bias. Nobody who lives in an utopian future has any incentive to come back and try to change anything.

  12. The original Matt says:

    I got to thinking about this once and it let me to an idea I thought would work great for a fantastic four story.

    Some random super human comes back in time from a future to prevent it blah blah blah but can’t remember the details due to some plot selective form of time travel amnesia.

    Reed decides he’s had enough of this and the new FF modus operandi is to travel to futures, find what’s wrong and fix them in the past, ensuring the 616 timeline is on the straight and narrow.

    In every future the encounter the same villain, who grows increasingly stronger and more mad as the arc(s) continue. (The villains identity is a secret, so they can’t just bump him off in the past – maybe an amalgam of dr doom and iron man armour, but has a distinctive logo on the different variations of the costume)

    We eventually get an issue with our new super humans future (the time traveller) who lives in a crime free, very shiny on the surface looking utopia, all controlled by a big brother, sky net style hive mind system.

    It turns out he is the future captain America and leader of the fantastic avengers. (So we are a few generations removed from present time). The FA are 4 superheroes who can be “franchised” (Spider-Man, iron man and… I dunno, someone else)

    The apparent antagonists of this future are old superheroes from our time. An old hulk, wolverine, Thor etc.

    Future Cap realises things are wrong and agrees to go back to stop them. The last panel after he transports back shows the hive mind sky net thing has the logo on it of the villain the FF have been pursuing.

    The FF continue their trying to find the identity of this villain – who is seemingly the master of every future outcome. The hunt is driving Reed steadily mad.

    In the end, reed comes to the conclusion that he has to monitor the entire human race under constant watch to find this madman as he comes to fruition.

    That’s right, REED is the bad guy! Every future timeline they jump to exists because Reed is trying to control the future. The villain is getting stronger each time because its Future Reed, and every time jump, modern Reed is a little more mad.

    In the end, modern reed realises the faults he is at, and commits suicide to bring all these timelines to an end- erasing future cap from existence. Ben is reverted to human form, sue quits superheroing to be a mum and johnny joins the avengers.

  13. The original Matt says:

    Or they just continue and replace reed with someone until he is inevitably brought back to life 12 issues later.

  14. Reboot says:

    Andy Walsh> I always just figured the abundance of visitors from dystopian futures was selection bias. Nobody who lives in an utopian future has any incentive to come back and try to change anything.

    They may, however, have an incentive to come back and make sure things go the way “they’re meant to.”

  15. Andy Walsh says:

    Maybe. But from their perspective, things did work out the way they were meant to. Therefore, going back can only have two outcomes – change nothing, or change something and potentially make things worse. Seems safer not to go at all.

  16. errant says:

    Why would you go back to the past to make sure things worked out right when they already did?

  17. Reboot says:

    > Why would you go back to the past to make sure things worked out right when they already did?

    Because some evidence suggests future intervention occurred at Date X.

  18. errant says:

    If the present you’re in is great, then perhaps said future intervention is what made it so. You’re living in the good future timeline. If future intervention ruined everything on Date X you aren’t in a good future.

  19. Reboot says:

    Or you find Data’s head in a 500 year old archaeological deposit, and since it’s currently attached to his body, you have to go back and find out how the hell it happened 🙂

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