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Cable #3: Rote time-travel antics slow the old man down

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With his upcoming live-action debut coming soon, it’s only natural for Marvel to put out an ongoing Cable series. That’s an exciting prospect for my own personal favorite time-traveling cyborg mutant, but he can sometimes be a difficult character to make compelling.

Sometimes way over-powered, others beset by a frustrating handicap, Nathan Summers has a tortured history only occasionally brightened by Deadpool. Or his adopted daughter Hope, mysteriously absent from many X-titles despite her once game-changing presence in arcs like Second Coming and Avengers vs. X-Men. That’s a lot of baggage, and it’s largely ignored in this new series by writer James Robinson and a slew of artists including Carlos Pacheco, Thony Silas, Rafael Fonteriz, Jesus Aburtov, Federico Blee, and Dono Sanchez-Almara.

Delineating which of those people did pencils, inks and colors, takes way too long, so I’ll just say Cable benefits most from their work. It’s a good idea to fall back on the aspects of Cable that make him a cool character. Cyborg, telepath, telekinetic, big guns, time travel – 80’s action heroes are made of similar bad-ass-dom.

Yet this story elicits more of a shrug than edge of your seat excitement. That said, let’s assimilate some data:

Writing

James Robinson does great work with gruff characters doing what they have to in order to save the day. To make readers empathize with their choices and motivations isn’t always apparent, but in tougher moments it’s still there. This run on Cable, however, reads more like three or four stories we may have heard before.

Being a veteran time-traveler takes Cable to interesting places all the time. In this arc he chases a villain called Conquest to an ancient Mayan civilization. The baddie is trekking through the past giving advanced weapons to natives, so it’s up to Cable to stop his bigger plans. Mystery still surrounds Conquest, so motivations and big picture plot points are still frustratingly sparse.

The plot lurches forward with the help of, unsurprisingly, an all-powerful McGuffin known as the Time Sword. Nate rescues a Mayan priest and ushers us laboriously through a five page exposition dump detailing its origins and significance. Which, all told, is pretty standard for chases through the time stream. There’s urgency, but no emotional tether to follow in the narrative. Kudos to the creative team for trying a fresh story line for Nate, but in the future some stakes we can care about can elevate the story.

Art

After the aforementioned exposition dump, the real fun of this book begins. Though formulaic in story, it’s a great book to look at thanks to the expansive art team’s efforts. From line-work to layouts, each panel gives a level of detail that elevates the story into an acceptable action romp. And maybe that’s their goal.

Our opening fight gives Cable an epic if often used entrance, striking the standard time-travel pose invented by The Terminator. It’s been done, but damn if using it as a splash page introducing the hero doesn’t look good. Ancient Mayan technology and holograms get the same keen details so that even boring segments attain an aesthetic level of quality.

Cable (2017-) #3
Image: Marvel Comics

As the second half of the issue unfolds, we’re left almost completely without dialogue (which is welcome at this stage). Instead, the art team shows off in a series of well paced panels leading to the climax. Nate fights his way through heavily armed followers of Conquest in order to follow the villain to his next destination. Upon arrival, Cable is immediately gunned down by Conquest, leaving a cliffhanger for next issue and the first real portrait of the vilain we’ve seen. He sort of resembles longtime Cable friend/foe Garrison Kane, but that’s a theory for another time.

While it’s nice to have such great art supporting a cool character – story will always matter. Bringing Kane into the narrative is a great way to put some extra stakes at play, but for now that’s only a theory. To find out more, time-slide into Downtown Comics now and in the coming weeks to pick up your issue!

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Nick Hedge

A longtime comics fan, Nick grew up reading the much derided comics of the 90's (Clone Saga! Liefeld! Pouches & Guns!) and has never looked back. Now an adult with literary prowess of his own, he uses his powers for good; reviewing comics for Pure Fandom and holding the beloved art form to a higher standard for all. Excelsior!

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