eXaminations – 1/20/21

Two issues for this week, though one of them has been delayed by nearly a month.

Cable #7 was originally scheduled for December 21, but has been pushed off a week on the schedule each week since then. If you’re looking for it’s proper place in the scheduled reading order, it was supposed to fall between X-Force #15 and Excalibur #16. Two weeks later, it was pushed down to its current spot. But scheduling hiccups are nothing strange. Originally, New Mutants #15 was solicited for this week, but it’s been pushed down to next week. The point here is that the reading order can’t really be trusted until the actual books come out. Then they can be read in that order. Unless, that is, that both books released in a week have different orders in their ends, like last week’s SWORD and Marauders.

Actually, the real lesson here is that because it was delayed a month, the events happening in Cable don’t really line up in the order they are advertised to be read in, as the protagonist has something big going on in SWORD and one of the characters of X-Force is now in two places at once in the same week’s books. But we’ll get to that.

Anyway, normal SPOILER WARNING is in effect, as always.

by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto

Since we’re playing catch-up, this issue starts off with a rather random handful of characters taking a moment to mourn Gorgon, who was the only Krakoan fatality during X of Swords, in front of the swords he wielded. This is interesting, as his death scene not only was the deciding factor in keeping Krakoa from being wiped out in the contest, but also that none of the other books have mentioned him whatsoever, besides X-Factor having a throwaway line that said he’d been resurrected and was acting weird.

Anyway, the characters who have gathered are Cypher and his new wife Bei the Blood Moon, Magik, Callisto, one of the Stepford Cuckoos (presumably Phoebe based on what’s going on in X-Force – but we’ll get to that), Kid Omega, and Mondo. But really, this is just a hiccup for Cable to mention that now that he’s free of the crossover he was dragged into, he can get back to what he was doing in the book, which was tracking down kidnapped mutant babies from the Order of X, which is a cult of mutant-obsessed humans.

I’m actually glad the recap page reminded me of this, because in all the chaos of X of Swords, I had completely forgotten what was going on in this book. I also want to question how there are mutant babies to be kidnapped, because historically mutant powers don’t manifest until puberty. There have been powerful exceptions, like Hope Summers for instance, but I’m not sure if in the current age they have changed the norm. I guess we’ll go with it, because it’s in the book.

Anyway, Cable recruits his sort-of, kind-of half-sister Rachel Summers (not called Presitge like she is in X-Factor, though that’s fine because it’s a terrible name), meets up with some human cops and then saves five of the babies from the cultists who were threatening to kill them. Seriously, there’s not a lot more else to say about it. Cable runs in, takes out a bunch of cult members, then shoots down the leader and four goons while Rachel telekinetically catches the babies.

Cable telekinetically scans the leader’s head for the location of the other kids, and hopefully a motive, and finds a lot more than he was bargaining for.

In case you aren’t up on your early ’90s X-Men lore, that ominous presence is Stryfe. Long story short, while growing up in the future, the original Cable (who was killed by this younger version of himself) was cloned by Apocalypse, who became his arch-nemesis Stryfe. When Cable first appeared in the original run of New Mutants, Stryfe appeared leading an odd crew of mutants called the Mutant Liberation Front. The big reveal at the end of the final issue of New Mutants had Stryfe remove his helmet for the first time for a BIG SHOCKING REVEAL.

Art by Rob Liefeld (but you already knew that)

Despite the caption, the reveal of Stryfe to be Cable wasn’t “the obvious” as it claimed, nor did it make a lot of sense. And though I’m really trying my best not to insult Rob Liefeld (like how does the shadow mask his face when he has a big glowing eye?), let’s say that plotting has never been his strong suit, nor did this reveal develop much by the time he had left his creation 12 issues into X-Force. Less than ten issues after that, the crossover X-Cutioner’s Song tried to make sense of the whole debacle, but went for a twist ending in which Stryfe was the original Nathan Summers and Cable was the clone. That was undone within a year, and since then Stryfe has popped up here and there in various runs of Cable.

Did you get all that? Good. It doesn’t really matter here. The cult leader, who wasn’t an actual member of the Order of X but rather just using them to steal babies, does as he was told and offs himself. Cable hides the matter of Stryfe from Rachel as well as his parents (Cyclops and Marvel Girl, if you’d forgotten) and decides to go off on his own, while also continuing to hide from Hope Summers who had been the surrogate daughter of his older incarnation.

Cable decides to hit up the Krakoan files for classified info on Stryfe, which raises some flags for their keeper, Sage.

So having spurned the support of his family, Cable describes the scenario to a familiar face, knowing that it will likely be weird to work together.

Oh jeez, where do I start? The familiar face, if you’re not into X-Men at all, is Domino, who has a loooooooooong history with the old version of Cable. They were in mercenary squads together, former members of X-Force, on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-on again lovers, and way more than I really want to go into. If this were the old Cable, she would probably be his first choice for an ally. It’s weird here because to this Cable, none of their history has happened yet (and may never, for alternate realities and time travel and whatnot) and this may be the first time the two will be working together. I say may because there was an X-Force book that took place after X-Men Disassembled as well as her old solo series, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

I guess my only issue is that Domino is currently a character in X-Force as one of the usual defenders of Krakoa. In fact, she appears in this very week’s issue. Of course, had this issue of Cable actually come out on time, the next issue might have been here, and maybe their adventure will be over. For that matter, Cable himself is pulling double duty, and what has been going on in SWORD doesn’t really fit here, nor does Rachel’s normal spot in X-Factor. But I’m nitpicking. By the time everything comes out, there will no doubt be a way to fit all of these things together. After all, Wolverine is in X-Force as well, and god knows how many places he shows up in.

I’ve never been impressed with Cable, and besides Fallen Angels, it has been the weakest of the X-Books since its debut. This was ok, but it’s got some nagging problems. Rachel is not acting like she does in X-Factor. The Order of X is tossed aside and immediately forgotten about as soon as Stryfe is revealed. Cable’s relationship with all five of the Stepford Cuckoos has seemingly been abandoned. And, as usual to me, young Cable is just not a likeable character. He just makes bad decision after bad decision because that’s what the story is. And that’s not a very good reason. There’s no reason he shouldn’t include his family in his battle with Stryfe, especially given their own history with the villain, nor does he even bother to give a reason why he’s hiding from then. In fact, his ruse is immediately discovered by Sage, which leads into the seemingly obvious result that his family will show up at the last minute exactly when he needs them.

His original established premise as being a guardian of the timeline has been abandoned. Of course, abandoning that mission is the very reason that this Cable murdered his older self. I’m only mentioning that now because I’m wondering what the resurrection protocol would be to the older version of Cable. While clones are off the table, what about alternate reality versions? It could be argued that the old Cable is different from the current one, so why couldn’t they both exist? That interests me, but I doubt it will ever come up here. Because this book just doesn’t seem to do interesting.

Moving on…

by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara

Since we’re playing catch-up, X-Force is a book about a team formed to protect Krakoa from outside forces that would seek to harm it. What differentiates them from X-Men proper is that when the Krakoan society was formed, there was a specific point made that there were no actual X-Men to serve as mutant super-heroes. That was a reveal during X of Swords, which made sense but had to be pointed out since for the last decade plus, pretty much any mutant who hung around the X-Mansion was considered an X-Man. So with no formal team, the X-Force project was created to handle the dirty work, though not specifically a kill-squad as it had been in the past. In practice, this is the book where all the mean and bloody stuff happens.

The book has something of a rotating cast depending on the story, but the main characters are Wolverine, Beast, Kid Omega, and Domino. Marvel Girl was in it, but eventually washed her hands of it because she disliked the carnage. Colossus was also recently hinted at joining, but he’s not here in this issue.

Beast is an original member of the X-Men and considers himself an important part of keeping Krakoa running. He has a tendency to put overconfidence in his intellect and his scheming for “the greater good” has put him at odds with many of his longtime friends, most notably Wolverine. Cecelia Reyes was introduced during Operation: Zero Tolerance and was a short-term member of the X-Men. In recent years she has been the go-to whenever the story requires a doctor. Interestingly enough, despite the norm of the Krakoan society, she doesn’t have a “mutant name”. Domino, as we saw above, is a longtime associate of Cable and a member of numerous incarnations of X-Force, as well as the X-Men proper. Recently, she was captured and flayed alive with her skin being used to mask an invading force to Krakoa that caused the assassination of Professor X. She was rebuilt with Krakoan bio-matter until she was finally killed off and revived in her normal form. Black Tom Cassidy, cousin of Banshee and longtime X-Men villain, is now head of security on Krakoa. His powers involving plant life has made him one of the few with a rather intimate relationship with Krakoa itself. He takes his job extraordinarily seriously. Phoebe Cuckoo is one of the “five-in-one”, five identical twin psychic sisters who enhance each other’s telepathy. They all have a convoluted history that involve the Phoenix and is best left in the past. They are all theoretically clones of Emma Frost, which defeats the argument that clones are not eligible for the Resurrection Protocols as two of them have been resurrected. Phoebe, along with Irma (Mindee) and Celeste, has never been killed. She is currently hooking up with Kid Omega, whom the sisters have a long history with.

Wolverine is…well, he’s Wolverine. If I have to explain to you who Wolverine is, I really question you coming this far into an X-Men post. He is almost always around when there’s dirty work to be done, and he’s served as a conscience of sorts to this group, namely putting himself at odds with Beast over a matter involving Colossus. Forge is a longtime ally of the X-Men, former X-Man himself as well as leader of X-Factor and mutant liaison to the United States government. On Krakoa he’s become a quartermaster and has used his ability as a master inventor to develop a variety of biological weapons and armor which use the Krakoan biology to enhance their abilities. Kid Omega is a former student of the Xavier Institute and an Omega level psychic. He’s got a bad attitude, but he’s mellowed a bit over the years. In this book, he gets killed a lot. Like so much that it’s become a plot point.

We pick up with Krakoa being attacked by corpses that are washing ashore infected with some kind of parasite. As Domino and Black Tom fight them off on the shore, Beast and Dr. Reyes examine those defeated and find the infection to be something of an offshoot of the island itself. With the island (through its connections with Black Tom and Cypher) reporting no infestations, they decide that Krakoa had shed an infected tumor of sorts into the ocean, which had then infected a passing ship that had come across it. X-Force is sent diving into the ocean to destroy the threat.

And by X-Force, I mean Wolverine and Kid Omega, along with Forge who is tagging along to make sure all of his fancy bio-tech doesn’t go haywire while they’re deep underwater. As the trio is set to leave, Phoebe Cuckoo shows up to bid Omega goodbye, revealing their tryst to others for the first time. And they had been hiding it, probably, for good reason, not only because all five Cuckoos had been dating Cable, but also because of the long, checkered history they’d had with Kid Omega. In his first appearance, back during the Grant Morrison run, Quentin had sparked a riot at the Xavier School that ultimately led Sophie Cuckoo to die trying to use Cerebra to stop him. But that’s all water under the bridge.

The real problem they’ve been having is that every time Kid Omega goes on an X-Force mission, he tends to die before its conclusion. Sure, he’s resurrected each time, but that only goes as far as the last time his mind was backed up in Cerebro, which leaves him without the memories near the time of his death (and probably why he keeps going on these missions). It’s fine for him and X-Force, but hell on someone who seems to legitimately care about him who has to watch him die and come back slightly different than how she’d left him. It’s yet another look at the issues with the Resurrection Protocols, but one unique to X-Force because no other book really has a character who dies this frequently (save Empath in Hellions).

Anyway, the team jumps into the water and immediately discover that Wolverine was a terrible choice for an underwater mission, because his adamantium skeleton isn’t exactly buoyant. Long story short, the three discover the shipwreck and are attacked by a lot of infected sea creatures. The three, completely outnumbered and overwhelmed, are about to die when they are suddenly saved by….DUN DUN DUN!!!!!

Did you really think we’d have an entire Under the Sea story and not get the frickin’ Sub-Mariner involved? Again, playing catch up, Namor is the ruler of all things ocean-based, but also considered the first known mutant. When the X-Men were run out of San Francisco and created the island of Utopia back during the Dark Reign days, Namor not only supported them in building their new home, but actually took a place as an X-Man, though largely to try to bang Emma Frost. Since that time, he’s grown tired of the mutant game and denied an alliance between Krakoa and Atlantis, disliking their forced influence upon the world. He’s all about being the powerful one, you know. King of the sea and all that.

Anyway, Namor waxes philosophical about the relationship between Professor X and Krakoa – questioning which one of them is actually controlling the other – and then tells the team to get the hell out while he cleans up their mess. THE END.

No, seriously that’s it. For all the build up to what has been going on, the story just kind of cuts off with no resolution. Namor just kills everything and the others leave. What happened to the invasion on Krakoa or the lab work with Beast and Reyes? Shrug. I guess this is the problem reviewing issue by issue, because I’m sure that we’ll get more on this. Reyes, after all, suggests that Beast is going to want to weaponize this, and whenever Beast has a brilliant plan in this book, it tends to go horribly wrong. Now that I think about it, whenever Beast has had a brilliant plan since the 1970’s, it tends to go horribly wrong.

The real fun of this issue is the banter between Forge and Wolverine. The two are written like old war buddies, which is not far off the mark. Forge has been involved with the X-Men for decades, and was a member of the team for a cup of coffee alongside Wolverine. As two of the older characters running around, and both war veterans, they have a lot in common and have a running game of one-upmanship, with Forge comparing his role as inventor and quartermaster to Wolverine’s role of actually doing the work. The more these two are together, the better.

So that’s it for this week (SORRY FOR THE DELAY). Next time we’ve got four books on the docket to wrap up January, with New Mutants having some Shadow King issues, Excalibur looking for Betsy Braddock, Wolverine being the best he is or something, and X-Men having a space adventure.

See you then.

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