So I’ve been reading my way through X-Men. All of X-Men, every last issue, appearance, and mini-series that I can find, more or less in continuity order where I can. And truth be told, I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. I mean, I’d have to be to keep doing it, right? But the one thing I was dreading — dreading! — was the coming of the ’90s.
The ’90s was not a good decade for comics. There are a few reasons, like the speculator boom and subsequent bust, the rise of Image comics and their superstar artists that cared not for silly things like plots and characters, and the takeover of the reins of Marvel’s creative direction – for the most part – by the advertisers. It was a very, very dark time leading to Marvel eventually filing for bankruptcy. That might be hard for you young’uns to believe now, in a time when every major blockbuster movie is created by Marvel Studios, but it’s true.
A lot of stuff produced in that era — during a time when the editorial edict was to just crank out the books as fast as possible because people were buying them like crazy — is absolute garbage. Because art cannot be rushed like that. But surprisingly, a large chunk of the X-Men books from this time period, at least the part I’ve gotten through (I’m at about 1994 at the time of this review) is actually pretty good. X-Cutioner’s Song, Fatal Attractions, and The Phalanx Covenant all rate very high for me…
… and then, there’s Cable.
Branching out of the events of The X-Cutioner’s Song, Cable’s first ongoing series is… well, it’s weird. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it to exist, apart from “people will buy it,” which is a horrible reason to embark on a creative endeavor. At least when Wolverine started in his own monthly series he was having adventures in Madripoor away from the other X-Men and trying to conceal his identity (thus not using his claws as much as possible). That allowed for different stories and a reason for the book to exist. The Cable ongoing series just feels like a second X-Force title, but with the main focus on Cable… just like it is in the main X-Force title.
Of this collection in particular, Cable Classic volume 2 does sortof have something approaching a theme or motif, which is actually impressive given that these comics were written at a time before the serialized storytelling / trade-paperback method of storytelling was en vogue at Marvel. More often than not when you buy these you end up with 6 to 10 unconnected stories featuring the same character (which is also fine, but narrative is a plus for me).
This book collects Cable #s 5-14 and, with the exception of issue # 5, have three mini-arcs within it: the 3-part Fathers and Sons, the 3-part The Killing Field, and the 3-part Fear and Loathing. Each of these trilogy of trilogies explores a little more of Cable’s connection to the Summers family, in a different way.
For those not in-the-know, Cable is the fully-grown sun of Scott Summers and Jean Grey (technically her clone, but let’s not nit-pick). This is fairly common knowledge nowadays as multiple storylines and events have been based on this fact, but up to this book it was only suspected. This was the first time it was definitively stated: yes, Cable is Cyclops’s son.
So the theme comes in the form of exploring family relationships when that family is estranged from you. It tries it’s darnedest to be good about it, too. It approaches the subject matter — for the most part — straight-faced. Emotions and feelings are dealt with in-story the same as they would have been if, say, it were the story of a kidnapping victim that had been found years later, or something akin to that.
So in the “Fathers and Sons” section, we appropriately get the revelation of who Cable’s father is, but we’re also introduced to Cable’s son Genesis, and Professor X is present to complete the circle as a spiritual stand-in for Cyclop’s father. It’s an interesting premise that’s not written terribly well. It’s really hard to read comics that involve this much ‘monologing’ after The Incredibles. But once the bomb of the Summers family-tree is dropped, then the series can move on.
In “The Killing Field” Cable travels to the UK to talk these new developments over with his sister Rachael of Excalibur… who also is grown-up via time-traveling from the future. Regardless, the two share a common bond from the time they spent together while Cable was an infant, and they’ve both always felt it. This section is a little more tolerable, especially since it features the continuation of the ongoing Omega Red storyarc through the X-Men books. That character was another thing that was so, so good about the ’90s in X-Men.
Finally, “Fear and Loathing” deals with the fallout caused by Cable’s mother, Madelyn Pryor (Jean’s aforementioned clone) during the Inferno storyline in which she, possessed by a demon, rained down hellfire on New York and almost sacrificed Cable (as an infant) to a demon from Limbo. During all this Cable also happens to run into an old girlfriend of his father’s, and there are slight implications leaning toward the start of a romance that would just be… so wrong.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t touch on the first issue/chapter of the book, “Sinsearly Yours, Sincerely Mine!” from #5… well it’s very bad, features a very ’90s throwaway villain named Sinsear, and just doesn’t fit with the rest of the book.
Part of the series (and this collection’s) problem is the lack of direction and the lack of a steady writer. Fabian Nicieza pens the first 6 issues of the trade, then Glenn Herdling for 1 issue, then Scott Lobdell for 1, then back to Glenn Herdling for the final 2. If you’re paying attention, that means that both “The Killing Field” and “Fear and Loathing” experienced interruptions in writers mid-way through their arcs. And it shows. The artists rotate as well, a features many that would be great later in their careers, but right now are just starting out and really aren’t very good. I don’t think Marvel even tried to put top-talent on this book, they just knew it would sell because of the name “Cable” on the cover.
In case nobodies figured it out yet, I really wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. It has some rumblings of an ongoing theme, which is good, but there’s no good characters, writing, or art to hang off of that hook, so it all falls apart pretty quickly.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
“X-Cutioner’s Song, Fatal Attractions, and The Phalanx Covenant all rate very high for me…
… and then, there’s Cable.”