It’d be easy to chalk it up to lowered expectations, but somehow Cable #1 is the best book of the week and that fact is blowing my mind.
Gerry Duggan (Writer), Tom Muller (Design), Phil Noto (Art), Joe Sabino (Letterer)
March 11, 2020
Understand that I’m not speaking from a place of anti-90s sentiment; I understand there is a strong current of that in X-Men fandom, but I rather enjoy pretty much everything X-Force related from back then. It’s dramatic, isn’t it? The time-traveling son of X-Men heroes returned to fight off yet another of their inevitable dark futures, bringing along a bonafide Evil Twin in the process. I grew up watching All My Children with my mom, I have a deep appreciation for a good evil twin narrative.
No, my issue was that this new Cable series starred someone I wasn’t so familiar with—the younger version of that time-traveling son, known colloquially as Kid Cable (and, less affectionately, as Dial-Up). I’m sure great stories will be told with him, it’s just that they haven’t yet, and given the way he was introduced (literally shooting his older self), I haven’t been terribly interested in seeing those stories happen.
So. Color me surprised. At one issue, it’s nearly impossible to see where this story goes, but Duggan et al have given us an incredible start; first in the lore being added to the current Paradigm of X, and second in some interesting character work, significantly above this new Cable’s appearances in both the new X-Men ongoing and the frankly dire Fallen Angels. Issue #1, aptly named “Big Guns,” opens with a panel of our titular hero cursing out Wolverine before narrating his current experiences.
The impetus for this impetuousness is The Quarry, a pit on Krakoa that is ringed in tiered benches and used for gladitorial combat amongst mutants. It’s a clever device; like the Danger Room of old, it provides a way for young mutants to train in the use of their powers against one another, in a controlled environment, with a referee in the form of Silver Samurai, and the explicit statement that there is no cheating (and by implication, no rules? [Except what Magik did.]). To the victor goes a marker, owed by the loser. In addition to being such a proving ground for mutants, it also functions, much like the resurrection ritual detailed in House of X, as a way of ritualising and celebrating mutant existence; not as a thing to be feared or hidden, but shown off among like kind. It’s the creation of culture, the absolute kind of thing necessary to separate the modern X-Men from those of yore.
Beyond this concept, lain out in the writing, artist Phil Noto does phenomenal storytelling work of his own. Noto has often been hit or miss for me in the past; sometimes his work is beautiful, sometimes he goes a little Alex Ross and draws every male character like an old man. This is thankfully the former, an important distinction given that the protagonist here is unambiguously a teenager. Others have somehow managed to make young Cable seem old in his few appearances so far, and it’s good that Noto doesn’t. Noto also does something incredible with him; namely depicting the omnipresent glowing eye as an actual, functional bit of narrative. It doesn’t simply spark, it transforms as he’s surprised, becoming an exclamation point in response to Wolverine carving Cable’s gun in half (to the delightful sound effect of HOLY SHRRIIKK). Despite this loss, Cable actually wins the match, thanks to a dose of telekinesis, leaving him with a favor owed by He Who Is The Best There Is At What He Does. That is a hell of an ace up one’s sleeve, and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s used.
The second half of the book details another bit of story, but they’re divided first by a data page, this one listing Quarry matches and their results, starting with Cable and Wolverine’s at the top and proceeding in descending order down to the first, which was between Gorgon and Magik. Here we find a follow-up on the earlier parenthetical; Magik holds the only disqualification, for “cheating,” as mentioned before. What that entails is not made clear, but as an educated guess: It’s Limbo. It’s gotta be, right? It’s her other big powerset, it’s not a mutation, and so it follows that it would very likely tip the balance in a fight, and thus be banned in the future. Truthfully, I could speculate about all of these matches, but I’m mostly put in mind of the AvX backup book, the absurdly named AvX: Versus, which was nothing but narrative-free fights between X-Men and Avengers members. I’d like to see something like that here, a few pages each issue of just Quarry matches.
Following that, Cable, along with Pixie and Armor, embark on an adventure rescuing a young mutant from a monster that hails from Arakko. This bit too is a romp; it includes some clever uses of Pixie’s powers that Noto once again depicts absolutely delightfully, and ends with Cable pulling a thorn from said monster’s paw in the shape of a sword. Could this, perhaps, be some subtle foreshadowing for the upcoming X-event, X of Swords? Who knows—it’s so mysterious!
At any rate, the issue ends with two separate codas; the first featuring the reappearance of a long-dormant corner of the Marvel universe, and the second featuring Cable fighting another monster. This fight goes a bit differently, and…well, I won’t spoil it. Hell of a last page stinger, though. Cable #1 is an absolute feast; it’s fun, it’s beautiful, and it plays with X-Men lore in the best ways. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you’re missing out.