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Aug 10

Cable #7-12

Posted on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

CABLE vol 4 #7-12
by Gerry Duggan & Phil Noto

Farewell, Kid Cable. We hardly knew ye.

Well. We knew him for a bit over two years, in fact. The Extermination miniseries, then a year of pre-Krakoa X-Force, and then this solo title. That’s long than Teen Tony Stark managed, isn’t it? Chalk that up as a win!

Kid Cable was introduced with much fanfare in a baffling plot twist where he showed up and killed his own older self because… Um. Integrity of the timeline something something need to send the Silver Age X-Men home something something bang thud. It never made any sense, and while X-Force made a heroic effort to convince us that it was something that needed doing to stop time unravelling or something, it was still a plot point which called for an awful lot of goodwill from readers willing to shrug their shoulders and accept that random gibberish just happens in time travel stories.

This is not a promising thing to have at the heart of a character. Kid Cable was being rehabbed almost from the moment he first appeared.

And yet Cable worked, more or less. In large part, it did that by leaning in to the absurdities of the character and the whole Krakoan set-up. This is Krakoa as the refuge where everyone just gets to be more or less happy for a while, and teen Cable gets to enjoy banal family life with Scott and Jean (and sister Rachel, for that matter). And while previous stories had played this version of Cable as a scaled down version of the gun-toting Cable Classic, Gerry Duggan dumps the gun, dumps most of the experience, and plays Cable Jr as a naive child.

Maybe that’s a bit overplayed. He’s still got a back story of growing up in warfare and all that; maybe he’s just a bit giddy about finally getting to live somewhere like this. But despite the storylines about child abduction and the like, this volume of Cable often plays as a gentle comedy. And it makes that work. The book has a ton of charm, and Phil Noto gives a lot of life to young Nathan and his relationship with the permanently eye-rolling Esme from the Stepford Cuckoos. Noto can do understated comedy, and this book calls for a lot of it. It’s a sweet, somewhat goofy comic, done with a character still best known for embodying macho 90s excess.

So it’s a Cable book defined by how little it resembles anything to do with Cable. It could easily have been filled with foreshadowing and such forth, but instead Duggan doesn’t really bother troubling himself with trying to explain how Cable went from this to the character we know. He just leaves that hanging in the background as a reminder that there must be more to this kid than presently meets the eye.

The recurring theme in these stories seems to be to pair Cable with one other character – Rachel, or Domino, or Cyclops, or eventually the original Cable. Whether we learn all that much about him from this exercise is, let’s be honest, a little dubious. Ultimately this seems to play out as a warped coming of age story, in which the young Cable starts off thinking that he knows best and that he was right to supplant the older generation (which is obviously what Extermination was meant to be getting at – the problem is that the metaphor collapses when you try to make sense of it in terms of the actual plot). Eventually, from his tour of partners and his encounters with Stryfe, he recognises that the world needed his older self after all. It’s time to bring the original back through the miracle of resurrection, and go back to his own time to complete the process of growing into him. Cable learns that he needs to grow up.

There was a time when comics were aimed at kids who would see teenagers as aspirational figures. These days, the readers are assumed to be adults who look down condescendingly on teenagers. In some ways this is a coming of age story written for that audience – one where the upstart brat learns that the grown ups were right after all. You need a hell of a lot of sparkle to get away with that, but Cable does.

It’s tempting to wonder whether the book has been cut short – was there ever really a point to that Galador stuff, or to having Cable join the cast of S.W.O.R.D.? – but the various flashes of the older Cable throughout this series help to tie things together and give a sense that it was all planned this way. Apparently this really was the idea – a year or so’s worth of stories to reverse Kid Cable and restore the status quo. It certainly could wind up feeling in hindsight like a curious diversion, like that time Wolverine spent a year wearing a bandana and growling. But he wound up being likeable in the end, and he didn’t outstay his welcome.

None of this can quite escape the fact that the plot falls apart if you start looking at it too closely. It’s never really clear why Cable had to kill the older Cable in the first place. And if there was a good enough reason to make Cable Not Crazy, what’s changed? Does Stryfe really have any coherent agenda in here beyond being a dark side of Cable who has endless fights for its own sake? And, again, what was all that with the sword? The book just about gets away with a lot of these things by shrugging its shoulders, muttering something about time travel, and grinning sheepishly at the reader. And time travel stories can get away with an awful lot as long as the plot mechanics don’t really matter, and the character arcs land. But it’s still a story on the verge of spinning to pieces. Best not to think about that stuff too closely.

For all that, though, this was fun. It took a highly questionable character and made him entertaining company for twelve issues, and that’s a good result.

Bring on the comments

  1. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I’m much less sympathetic to this book.

    Very little happened in twelve issues

    Kid Cable became a very bland Archie Andrews with a robot arm.

    It didn’t really say anything about either version of Cable.

    It ended up a barely acceptable C+ to me, though I agree the Noto art was lovely.

    Duggan remains a passable pot boiler type writer.

  2. ASV says:

    I liked the last pre-Extermination Cable series, as it used the time travel gibberish in a way that happened to tickle my fancy. This series, or at least the end of it, falls just on the other side of the line. Cable is an at-will time traveler. Why is this a goodbye? Kid Cable ought to be able to pop in for dinner whenever, and then go right back to when he left and pick up whatever fight he was in. The demands of linearly moving real time make it impossible to completely lean in to this, but in-story it’s just never addressed (and is one of the reasons Mark Gruenwald was right about time travel).

  3. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    What did he say about time travel?

    I think 95% of the time it’s not worth it.

  4. Si says:

    Gruenwarld was the time cops. He had certain rules, so that whenever one travels time, the act creates a divergent timeline. So Kid Cable could neither return to his original home nor revisit the 616 present. That wouldn’t be relevant to Cable in-story, but whatever he did wouldn’t be 616 canon.

  5. Si says:

    He was literally the time cops. Mobius, Owen Wilson’s character, was modelled after him.

  6. Col_Fury says:

    It makes me so happy that live action Mobius M. Mobius has a mustache.

    Also, two fun Loki bits:

    In episode 2, when they travel to the renaissance fair, it’s in Oshkosh Wisconsin, where Mark Gruenwald was born.

    In episode 5, the pizza car’s license plate says “GRN-W1D,” an abbreviation for Gruenwald.


  7. Moo says:

    I had no idea. That’s awesome.

  8. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Ahhhhh okay I did read that when Loki came out, didn’t know if he did it because he hated time travel stories.

    Loki being a prime example of terrible nonsense time travel stories.

  9. Si says:

    Ah sorry, I wrote those replies after a visit to the dentist and was a bit out of my head. To clarify, part of Mark Gruenwald’s job at Marvel was to make sure all time travel stories obeyed certain rules, mainly involving it causing divergent timelines rather than changing reality, in order to maintain cohesion of story across the Marvel line.
    Which is why, when the Time Variance Authority was made up in the comics, the joke was that all the agents bore a strong resemblance to Gruenwald.

  10. […] Paul O’Brien reviews the shallow entertainment of Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s Cable #7-12. […]

  11. Hashim Warren says:

    Agreed. The plot got really muddy after X of Swords

  12. […] Paul O’Brien reviews the shallow entertainment of Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s Cable #7-12. […]

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