REVIEW: Everything New is Old Again in Cable #12

A selection of Cable #12's cover, showing his glowing eye.

Cable is dead, long live Cable. After 12 issues, Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s run on Cable has come to an end, bringing Old Man Cable back to the forefront while winding down Kid Cable’s time in the spotlight. Finales are always tricky, even when planned from the start, and the lingering question hangs over the issue: did they stick the landing?

Yeah, mostly!

Cable #12

Gerry Duggan (writer), Phil Noto (artist), Joe Sabino (letterer)
Marvel Comics
July 28th, 2021

The cover to Cable #12, showing Old Man Cable scowling at the reader.
Cable #12 – Duggan, Noto, Sabino – Marvel Comics – 07/28/21

Picking up immediately after Cable #11, the bulk of the issue follows Cables new and old fighting alongside a squad of guest stars against their evil clone Stryfe. The clash with Stryfe is easily some of the most effective work in the issue as Duggan cranks the “Cackling Cartoon Villain” dial to 11 in a supremely entertaining way. Whether it’s gleefully yelling about murdering everyone around him or trying to sacrifice a bunch of babies in Hell, Stryfe is a refreshingly simple, detestable villain in an era full of more nuanced and measured foes. Doubly satisfying is Stryfe’s ultimate fate; an utter refusal to entertain the idea that he’s anything less than a full-bore malice-filled menace is a fun subversion from the Krakoan norm.

As for the sea of guest stars, well, unfortunately, they fare much worse than our story’s focal points. The brief moments we get with Cyclops, Jean, and Kid Cable are as delightful as they have been throughout the book’s run. If we have to lose the parental dynamic with Kid Cable, it’s nice to see it getting a heartwarming send-off as it deserves. Rachel Grey, Domino, and Hope, unfortunately, get a single line of dialogue between them. They end up feeling closer to window dressing than substantive inclusions in Cable’s farewell. Deadpool, unfortunately, gets several comedic beats, and all of them completely fail to land. I’m not sure what happened between Duggan’s outstanding run with Wade years prior and his appearances in Cable, but something is utterly failing to connect here. And finally, we come to Esme Cuckoo, the weakest part of the finale.

I’ve enjoyed Esme and Kid Cable’s romance for what it has been, a playful teen romp between two X-Kids who have gone through so much at their young age that a teenage romance is refreshing and fun. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the serious in Cable #12, and charm gives way to revelations about their relationship, lackluster “girl power” beats, and a general unearned sense of the two as one of The Great Romances. The tearful confessions and an eventual glimpse that Esme maintains her love for Cable into the future when he’s the old, grizzled veteran we all know feels rushed and out-of-sync with the book’s view on their romance from even just an issue or two before. Of all the emotional pay-offs in Cable #12, Esme Cuckoo certainly got the weakest.

As for the rest of the farewell, well, it’s serviceable. Noto’s art slips a bit during the bombastic action scenes in Hell. But once the goodbyes start rolling in, his absolute mastery of body language and near-photo-perfect expressions help ensure most land with the emotional weight you would expect. Kid Cable returning to his battle through time is a bittersweet moment, both because his time on Krakoa has largely been delightful and has served as one of the easy figureheads for this era full of new takes on old characters. But between Kid Cable being left on the board for future writers to use if desired and the promise of Al Ewing writing the Cable: Old Man Flavor in the pages of SWORD and the upcoming Last Annihilation one shot, it feels less like a promising chapter cut short than a chance to try something different.

Cable has been a strange book through its 12-issue run. Alternating between a comedic teen comedy and a superheroic look at fate and inevitability, it carved out a unique niche among the X-Line. While it wasn’t always successful, it helped breathe new life into a character many had assumed was stale and past his prime. I’m going to miss Nathan Summers adjusting to a normal life with his mom and dad, and the weird baggage of Cable’s life held by a teenage boy trying his best. The Old Man being back in play will likely lead to some great stories, especially in the context of Krakoa, but I’m always going to have a soft spot for the dopey idiot that Duggan and Noto ushered through this solo. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of him.

Zoe Tunnell

Zoe Tunnell

Zoe is a 29-year-old trans woman who has been reading far too many comics for most of her adult life and can't stop now.

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