Current Reviews


Marvel Slugfest: Cable #1

Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2008
By: Keith Dallas

Duane Swiercynski
Ariel Olivetti
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Cable #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 5.

"War Baby: Chapter One"

Steven Bari: 4 Bullets
Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets
Christopher Power: 4 Bullets
Kevin Powers: 3.5 Bullets

Steven Bari 4 Bullets

Plot: Across from what remains of Manhattan stands the time traveler Cable, gazing at the shattered scenic skyline. After traveling from Scotland with the messiah-child, Nathan Summers just wants to get on a boat and head back to the city. No dice in 2043 AD. With a baby to feed and no way of getting to New York City, Cable does the only natural thing when stuck in New Jersey: he checks out a diner. But what is waiting there for him?

Commentary: Violent. Thrilling. Charming. Cable #1 is the beginning of a great action-adventure. The premise is pretty simple: Cable must protect the baby so that it can grow up to save the entire mutant race. How? Neither Cable nor the reader knows. But our title character feels this is what he is meant to do, giving him a sense of purpose, and the reader a reason to read.

Much like his father, Cable is a tactician and skilled fighter. As he explores East Orange, he is ambushed by a bunch of gun-toting thugs looking for money (even in the future you canít go anywhere in New Jersey without paying a toll!). Using only a knife and three rounds from his enemyís gun, he kills the thugs and safely walks away with the baby.

Despite the babyís unexplained significance, her presence is the necessary warmth to the cold mutant killing-machine. Her identity is not as important as her impact on Cable, who not only has a focused purpose but has it strapped to his chest. Cable can handle whatever 2043 AD can throw at him, except maybe diaper detail.

And the Huggies do hit the fan. For those who read "Messiah CompleX," youíll guess the surprised reveal at the end of this issue. Yet Swierczynskiís suspenseful story about two men fighting for their ideals is evocative and quite metaphorical. Can these two men compromise to save mutant kind? Will one future over take the other? Or will they simply destroy each other and have no future at all?

Olivettiís digital painting renders their battle realistically. His Cable is a mass of muscle, but appears old and tattered as well. Olivettiís work is much easier to read and connect to than other digital painters like Clayton Crain, whose characters lack humanity. Olivetti, however, lacks Crainís dynamic perspectives, making panels like a flashback to Bishop and Cableís fight in "Messiah CompleX" kind of banal.

Overall, the new Cable is great start to an action-adventure that will hopefully be as meaningful as it is gripping.

Final Word: Guns. Time Travel. Dystopian Futures. Diapers. Fun.

Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets

Duane Swierczynski is a new kid on the block when it comes to comics. November's Moon Knight Annual was his first published work and last month's Punisher: Force of Nature one-shot was his first comic script ever. I missed the Moon Knight Annual, but Force of Nature was a good one. A very good one. If you can still find it, you should really pick it up. He's also the author of a few very well-received crime novels and a handful of other works, including The Compete Idiot's Guide to Frauds, Scams, and Cons, The Big Book o' Beer, and This Here's a Stick-Up: The Big Bad Book of American Bank Robbery.

So it probably goes without saying that he opts for a first-person narrative in the hard-boiled noir style with Cable. Maybe it would have been a little obvious, but I was hoping for more of a Lone Wolf and Cub vibe with this title. Instead, it reads more like a Punisher story. Except in the future. With a baby. Trust me on this one.

If that sounds like a complaint, it's not, really. Swierczynski does a good job laying out the groundwork for a first issue, throwing a bit of violence at us, contrasted with the everyday work of caring for a baby. There's a fair amount of exposition as we are given a brief history of Messiah CompleX, but that's to be expected. The pacing is a little funny as we get started, with an opening scene involving Cable and a gang of thugs looking for a toll. It takes up 20 of the 32 pages in this book, with our title page coming two thirds of the way into the issue. This is a lot of time spent with not a lot of payoff besides a diaper joke and exposition. The story doesn't really get started until those final pages (a number of which are dedicated to another first person narrative as a guest-star is established and then dramatically revealed) and then, suddenly, it's over.

Part of the reason for the odd pacing may lie in the fact that Ariel Olivetti is providing the art. By this I mean that scenes that might flow more quickly on the page if drawn by another artist, tend to get a lot of attention from him. There are large panels and an emphasis on artistic decompression. There's a strong sense that the artist is setting the pace in order to tell the story visually.

He's another reason for the strong Punisher vibe that this issue gives off, having established the look and feel of Matt Fraction's Punisher War Journal for the last year and a half. As with his work there, we get fully painted art with magnificent backgrounds, very realistic facial expressions, fairly static action shots, and huge piles of muscles on our heroes. HUGE muscles. More often than not, the physiques of Cable (like his Punisher) and our guest star are ridiculous, if not grotesque. The exaggeration would work better in a '90s comic with lots of sketchy line work and no plots to speak of. Here, with a very realistic take on every other aspect of the story, it's odd, to say the least, especially when Cable is holding the tiny, tiny baby. I don't really like it, but maybe it'll look better if there are more muscle bound freaks in the issues to come.

So what's the verdict? It's hard to say at this point. There's a workmanlike quality to the storytelling, with some pacing issues (not really problems, but issues), and the art is gorgeous and ridiculous all at the same time. If you're a fan of the characters involved, you might think more highly of it, but for me, it was pretty average. Not bad, just average. It has potential, and with the essential "first issue points" out of the way, the story has room to grow. I expect it will get better as it goes on.

Christopher Power: 4 Bullets

Cable is one of those characters that I have always struggled with. He ranges from being terribly written and drawn, being little more than a caricature of a hero, or being very well drawn and written, such as the recent Cable and Deadpool series and some of the late '90s work by people who attempted to give the character a soul. Love him or hate him, it looks like Cable is going to play a big part in the future of the X-Men universe.

In this first issue the reader is caught up to speed relatively quickly with the state of the universe. Cable is in the future, not his future, another one. However, the world is still pretty wrecked up. Transportation has fallen apart, civilization is in tatters and there are roving gangs collecting tolls on bridges in New Jersey. Overall, it is not a pretty place to bring a newborn baby who is the hope for all of mutant-kind.

This is perhaps where Cable can work the best as a character in the Marvel U. For me, Cable has always worked as a character when he is put in the role of the survivor, away from teams, away from rules and order. It was Cable who was tasked with destroying Apocalypse, and when writers actually remembered that when writing the character, it worked. He was more than just a soldier; he was a character with a purpose. Team books always seemed to lose sight of that, and the character always felt out of place in those books. With that purpose having evaporated with the ďdeathĒ of Apoc on the moon, it is unsurprising that Cable has lurched about the Marvel Universe without much continuity in the story telling. The most recent episodes had him leading a small nation, which never quite worked for me. In this new episode of Cableís history, he has a mission again: protect the child. This is a nice twist on the original story of Cable where he was saved when he was sent into the future, a point that was not so subtly driven home by the writer.

The setting is consistent throughout the book, with the art conveying the desperation of the world. It is unclear exactly what has happened in the future, but we can guess that it is related to the mutant crisis predicted by young Lucas Bishop in the Messiah CompleX storyline. The reader is presented with various situations that Cable needs to get himself out of, and he does so quite handily. A nice set of action sequences sets up the "eat or be eaten" mentality of the time period. The reader is also presented with some dry humour and touching moments, which surprisingly resonate given that it deals with a guy carrying enough weaponry to take on a small army.

After a slow start that covers a large amount of mutant history, the major plotline starts to take shape as Cable has to protect the child from a rival who wishes to take the child for their own purposes. This is where warning bells are thrown up Ė this book cannot be a freak-of-the-week title that has someone new trying to steal the child every few issues. It absolutely needs to have a plot thread that runs throughout the series regarding the fate of the world in which Cable has been placed with the child. Otherwise, the book will get lost in the spin racks no matter how hard Marvel tries to market it. Cable cannot be just about guns and action. It has been shown time and again that this does not work for a long running series.

The art in the book is very nice, with the artist communicating the grizzled appearance of Cable and the desperate situation the world is in. I liked the touch of the analog clock outside of the diner. Having old world technology still ticking along in the background gives the faintest piece of hope for the world. I was surprised by the depiction of Cable as being so grizzled and, well, old. Iíve never thought of him being particularly old, but I guess it makes sense given the history of the character.

My only complaint is that the metal arm on the main rival for the child moves another poorly managed character closer to being a ripoff of Cable; that and it is ridiculously oversized. Given the quality of the rest of the art, which is quite high, I can only assume that this is intentional. It looks very out of place.

Cable has a new start, and while there is nothing really new and revolutionary about this book in terms of story, it is solid story telling getting new readers up to speed relatively quickly on the current happenings in the mutant world of Marvel. I hope the team moves the story a little faster in the next book, but overall, this is a solid start.

Kevin Powers: 3.5 Bullets

"Divided We Stand" is well underway following the events that transpired in "Messiah Complex." Xavier is a coma, the X-Men are divided, X-Force is hunting the Purifiers, and Cable and the baby are stranded somewhere in time. Because Iím a real sucker for the Summers family, Iíve always liked Cable. His interpretation on the old '90s X-Men cartoon is still one of the most bad ass characters I've ever seen. However, the 21st century hasnít been very kind to Cable. He's maintained a bit of cult popularity but has seen a series re-launch, a cancellation, and two apparent deaths. "Messiah CompleX" may have changed that for Cable as he has been pushed back to the frontlines of the Mutant struggle.

As a time traveler, Cable was always destined for a higher meaning; fans most commonly associate his purpose with stopping Apocalypse. Cable's new purpose is perhaps even more interesting. One has to remember that Cable was sent into the future by his own parents and told he was destined for something important. His new role as surrogate father and protector of the "Messiah Complex baby" is actually quite interesting. Cable disappeared into the future to keep the baby safe, and now heís 35 years in the future trying to survive.

This issue plays out rather slowly, but Cable's inner monologue is actually very well scripted. For a first issue, the inner narration is perfect because it sets up Cable's current frame of mind. Writer Duane Swiercynski does an excellent job setting up the future and the setting where Cable has found himself. It's a bit post-apocalyptic and set in the New York City/New Jersey area. The only drawback to this vision of the future is when it actually is. I often say that extensive time travel in comics usually gives me a pretty bad headache. The reason for this is because it is not established if this is the same future seen in "Messiah CompleX" or an alternate one. There are no mutant hunters, but there are nomadic like figures, as well as normal people in a diner. I understand that it is still early on, but even during "Messiah CompleX" it was stated that two future timelines emerged after the birth of the baby. See what I mean about a headache?

Nonetheless, there's a pretty bad-ass sequence where Cable takes out a small group of nomads. This is again highlighted by Cable's inner monologue as he accepts his new role as the child's protector and caretaker. I'm honestly very curious to see how this whole series will play out, especially with the child. I wonder if there will be some kind of Darth Vader complex where this child is meant to save mutants but could turn out to be their demise. I'm also curious as to whether Cable and the child will remain 35 years in the future or if they will travel through different eras where not only the child can learn and grow, but where Cable can as well.

The pacing of this issue really picks up towards the end where readers are left with a cliffhanger. I'm not going to spoil what happens, but I will say that the main antagonist, the real threat to Cable and the baby re-emerges in this issue. I'm curious to see where this goes. It could pose an interesting threat that can span the epochs with Cable finding time appropriate ways to escape, or it could get bland and repetitive.

There are pros and there are cons to Ariel Olivetti's artwork. On the one hand, the painted backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous. But then there's the issue of Cable and the anatomy of other characters involved. There's a bit of inconsistency as Cable starts off at a normal size, but suddenly becomes really big. The nomads he first encounters as well as just about every other "normal" character in the book look great. But Cable is too big, especially when the baby is revealed. The artwork is really nice, don't get me wrong, but the sheer mass and size of Cable is quite distracting.

It's difficult to judge this title after just one issue. But the inner monologue and the general intrigue behind the direction of this story is enough to keep me coming back for at least a few more issues. The series just needs to really establish a deeper meaning and general idea, rather than a "Cable on the run" type deal.

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