So I’m about to say something strange about this Cable graphic novel, which comprises Cable #s 15-20 and Wolverine #85: it’s good. Really, really good, actually. It seems like under Jeph Loeb, who is now synonymous with amazing, the Cable title finally managed to carve-out its own identity, separate from X-Force. It’s an interesting task, because Nathan has rarely been a character in practice: he’s much more a concept or — even worse — a stereotype. But here he’s given some added dimension, through the theme of this novel: his budding relationship with Domino.
For a little back-story, Cable and Domino had been shown to be in a relationship ever since she showed up in the first issue of X-Force, and it was later expanded upon that the two had been employed together in a mercenary group called Six Pack. What complicated that relationship, not to mention the book it was in, was that this wasn’t really Domino, it was a shape changer.
This was a really weird move. Hero-replacement stories happen all the time, but usually that hero is established first. In this case, we actually meet the duplicate first and get to know her. So even though the Domino seen here is the real deal, she seems like the fake, because we’re used to the copy. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea — it’s actually very interesting. But the early X-Force issues did not have the writing chops behind it to properly deal with it. Here, Loeb does it very well, as the first chapter focuses on Domino and Cable’s first date.
That is the theme of this trade, the two warriors slowly coming together. Cable makes a bad-but-understandable misstep of thinking Domino likes a certain type of music, when really it was the double. This seems to have driven a wedge between them, until the appearance of the Morlock Thornn, who should be dead, brings them back together as the one thing that always has: the action. Together they discover, with the first appearance of one of my favorite characters, Marrow, that the Morlocks may be alive after The Coming of Bishop and trapped in another dimension. These plots get expanded upon in the X-Force novel The Phalanx Covenant. Plot threads really did go back and forth between the two books, which is why I’m glad that after this Marvel chose to pair their “classic” adventures together, at least until they stopped producing the Classic volumes.
Speaking of The Phalanx Covenant, with the next two chapters we jump head-first into it.
In the final section of The Phalanx Covenant, we get a special team of X-Men teaming up to do what needs to be done as assembled by Charles Xavier, cleaning up the loose ends left by the Phalanx.
This “special ops” team consists of Wolverine and Cable, marking the first time that Wolverine has been associated with the team since his injuries during “Fatal Attractions.” It also includes, by chance, Cyclops and Jean Grey, fresh from their miniseries The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix.
As such these two issues have the most baggage, dealing with the consequences of many different story-lines. It is the least self-contained and the least thematic, being much more the standard action-movie far that both Logan and Cable are known for.
The biggest surprise is that the X-Men themselves are not seen / rescued until the last few pages of this epic storyline and even then only sparingly used. I didn’t realize this going into the story, and it makes The Phalanx Covenant a unique and special chapter of the X-Franchise. There’s power and unity in this realization that, even if all the X-Men fall, more WILL stand up.
You might think that this mega-crossover diverts from the main arc of Domino and Cable’s relationship, but you’d be wrong. In introducing Scott and jean into the fix, it actually adds another dimension to the plot, with their now knowing for sure that he is their son and wrestling with the choice of whether or not to tell him.
This dovetails us into the fourth chapter, as Scott tried to give Cable advice on developing his powers with Jean rather than always relying on guns, which he declines. Jean also has a heart-to-heart with Domino about her feelings towards the man she now views and feels is her son. When Cable tells Storm that the Morlocks might still be alive, she insists that they head down to investigate. Meanwhile, Cable spots a picture of himself as a baby, and the Beast comments that Scott used to be nicknamed “Slim,” which is phonetically identical to the name of Cable’s foster father, Slym.
While in the Morlock tunnels they find Caliban, under the attack of the Dark Riders, who have orders to make sure Cable isn’t harmed. There are serious allusions to the possibility that Apocalypse is not yet dead, a theory given weight by the fact that he is still alive in the future that Cable came from and that Scott and Jean visited.
As Cable and the X-Men track the Dark Riders, it is revealed that their new leader is actually Tyler, Cable’s son, who has taken on the name Genesis. They try to get through to Tyler and almost succeed, but in the end the child is too far gone it seems. When the dust settles, Cable goes off to be alone, and Jean tells Domino to go to him. When she does Cable claims its nothing, not revealing he’s crying over a picture of his son. Meanwhile, a shadowy figure that looks not unlike Apocalypse crawls from the wreckage of Tyler’s fortress.
This leads into the last chapter, which is a small part of the greater Legion Quest storyline but fits in here on its own very well. In essence, Cable and the X-Men are dealing with the fact that they have failed in their mission to save the world from the time-traveling machinations of Legion: the world is legitimately ending. Scott and Jean take this opportunity to finally reveal to Cable that they were with him as Slym and Redd in the future, to which he lets them know that he already knew.
And finally, faced with extinction, Domino and Cable finally share their feeling for one another and share their first real kiss as the world around them ends.
As character development goes, this is really the most that Cable has gotten yet. There’s been plenty of plot development surrounding him, but very little on evolving him as a character and his interpersonal relationships. It’s very good, very compelling stuff about the complex relationships that Cable has with those he feels closest with, be they Domino, his parents, or his son. Cable is not a one-trick pony as he’s been written thus far, he has many hidden depths.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Hero-replacement stories happen all the time, but usually that hero is established first. In this case, we actually meet the duplicate first and get to know her.”