X-ual Healing: A Trip Down Memory Lane with a Detour on Flashback Blvd in Cable #156

Welcome to the column formerly known as X-Men: Bland Design! As it turns out, even when we say nice things about X-Men comics, when the column is titled “Bland Design,” it apparently bums people out. And we don’t want to bum people out about the X-Men. We love the X-Men!

The X-Men have long been neglected by Marvel as a result of Ike Perlmutter‘s war with Fox over the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie rights, and X-fans have long-suffered as a result. We’ve seen Cyclops’s character assassinated over and over again. We saw the fascist Avengers invade the X-Men’s sovereign country and try to imprison a teenage Hope Summers on the moon for crimes she might commit in the future under the influence of a bird-themed cosmic death god and somehow end up portrayed as the heroes in the abysmal Avengers vs. X-Men super-mega-crossover event. We saw Marvel try to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, who literally nobody cares about. It was a dark time.

But with the Disney/Fox merger looming, the X-Men are finally able to rise once more to their rightful place as Marvel’s most important franchise. It’s a new day for the X-Men, and it’s time to let the healing begin.

So welcome to the first week of our rebooted weekly recap column, where we can all agree it’s time for some…

The concept of X-ual Healing is simple. We read all the X-books Marvel publishes in a given week and we tell you what happens in them. Along the way, we’ll fill in the blanks on some history or additional explanation where required and possible. We’ll also point out when the comic does the sort of things we think comics should be doing to be more accessible to new readers: properly introducing characters and explaining how their powers work, providing links to back issues when previous stories are referenced, and generally providing a satisfying experience in a single issue for the outrageously high price Marvel charges for comics. If the comic fails to do those things, we’ll point that out too.

We’ve been collecting and reading X-Men comics since the 1980s, and we’ve read pretty much every one Marvel has published, many of them multiple times, but it’s been a while. To refresh our memory, since starting this column, we’ve been rereading the X-books beginning with Giant-Size X-Men #1 on Marvel Unlimited (switching to paper where there are gaps). We’re currently up to Inferno, in case you were wondering. Marvel Unlimited is well worth the subscription price for the X-Men comics alone, but we recommend you utilize a reading order guide to keep up with all the spinoffs and mini-series. And if you just can’t get enough X-Men, and you’d like to dive into some theories on classic X-Men comics, you might be interested in checking out the Chris Claremont‘s X-Men section on the Fanfix blog.

So that’s how this all works. If you’re a longtime X-Men reader, you can follow along, let us know if we missed anything, and post your thoughts on the issue in the comments. If you’re new to the X-Men, hopefully this column helps you figure out what’s going on in the X-Men’s 60 years of complicated continuity. If nothing else, we hope you get a few laughs.

Now, let’s get on with the show…

Cable #156

CABLE #156
Cover by Daniel Warren Johnson
Variant Cover by Ariel Olivetti
Past Fears Part 2
It was only a couple of years ago that CABLE and a young HOPE were fleeing from BISHOP across a barren wasteland.
But Bishop isn’t the only one hell-bent on hunting down the father and daughter duo!
As fear consumes Cable, can he fend off both Bishop and a Techno-Organic monster to protect his daughter?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

(The solicit, even right now on Marvel.com, credits Ed Brisson as the writer, but it’s actually the writing team of Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson.)

This is the second issue in the Past Fears story arc, and it looks like it’s going to be flashback-heavy and steeped in continuity. Luckily, right off the bat, we get a caption explaining that the first scene takes place directly after X-Force (2009) #16, which was the finale of the Messiah War crossover event. Cable and his daughter, Hope, a young child at this time, are in the near-future wastelands, having just escaped one of approximately 457 known post-apocalyptic X-Men timelines, this one ruled by Cable’s evil clone, Stryfe.

Cable isn’t feeling well because he used his telekenesis for the first time in a long time. Hope is sad because they left X-Force behind (most of them ended up being fine, but Elixer ended up in a coma), but Cable had to take Hope away to keep her safe because as the first new mutant born after a period of editorially-mandated draught, she was very important to the X-Men around this time period.

Cable and Hope discuss the nature of clones and duplicates, and Cable references his half-brother, Nate Grey, X-Man. Though Cable and Stryfe are clones, they’re nothing alike on the inside. Cable and Nate, however are more alike. At this point in continuity, Bishop is trying to hunt down and kill Hope because she inadvertently causes his particular post-apocalyptic X-Men timeline in the future. Hope spots smoke coming out of a fireplace of a house in the wasteland and runs to investigate, even as Cable warns her to stop. He’s worried they might be dangerous bandits, but’s even worse. They’re hippies.

The hippies tell Cable he’ll have to check his guns at the door if he wants to spend the night, but Cable refuses and says they’ll be leaving. One of the hippies offers Hope a bite of his brontosaurus drumstick, but Cable is suspicious because that’s totally not vegan. A fight ensues, which is interrupted by Bishop, who tells the hippies to kill Hope or he will. That goes about as well as you’d expect, with all of the cannon fodder dying. Hope picks up a gun and fires it at Bishop, but Cable jumps in the way, blocking the shot and tackling Bishop to the ground. He beats Bishop unconscious, and he and Hope jack Bishop’s shoes.

Later, Cable agrees to teach Hope how to use guns, because the best way to stop a deranged mutant with a gun as a six-year-old mutant with her own gun, or something. Hope wants to know what Cable’s childhood was like, so it’s time for a flashback within a flashback, to the era of The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, in which Scott Summers and Jean Grey (going by Slym and Redd) are psychically transported to bodies in the future where they’re able to raise the young Nathan Christopher Summers (that’s Cable).

Cable is the son of Scott and Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean Grey created by Mister Sinister, but he formed a psychic bond with Jean during the Inferno crossover event (when Madelyne turned into the Goblin Queen). Scott and Jean spent over a decade raising Cable in the post-apocalyptic future (even though they were only gone for the length of a four-issue mini-series). So essentially, Jean is Cable’s mom. Got all that? No? Well, dedicate about six weeks to reading all the back issue on Marvel Unlimited and you’ll be all caught up.

Anyway, in our new flashback, Slym and Redd are teaching young Cable how to use his telekenesis by lifting a tree. But as Cable uses his powers, the techno-organic virus (think: living circuitry) that infects half of his body starts to take control. It’s Cable’s telekinesis that holds the virus in check most of the time so that only one of his arms is made of metal. Jean and Scott help Cable regain control.

Back in our original flashback, the next morning, Cable teaches Hope to shoot by firing a handgun at some tin cans. Of course, she’s a natural and blows a hole in one on her first try. Training over, Cable tells her she can keep the gun as long as she only shoots it when he tells her it’s okay. These are actually stricter gun laws than we have in the U.S. today.

Hope wants to know more about Cable’s parents. At this point in continuity, Jean was dead again (she’s alive again now, as of Phoenix Resurrection). Scott was leading the X-Men, as this was before Marvel decided to make him a villain and then kill him off (though his time-displaced teenage self is still floating around, currently in the Venomized event comic). Hope wants to be an X-person when she grows up.

Cable and Hope come upon a ruined gas station and decide to loot the convenience store. Inside, Hope sees what appears to be Wolverine, but he’s covered in techno-organic circuitry (an improvement, depending on your perspective). Cyber-Wolverine tells Hope to call for Cable, and when she does, Cable blows a hole in him. Hope asks Cable if she can use her gun, but he won’t allow it. Wolverine is about to do what he does best (stab children), when Bishop shows up and shoots Logan, then tries to shoot Hope, who ducks behind a half-runed wall. Cyber-Wolverine transforms into Archangel and also… we want to say Psylocke, but maybe it’s X-23.

The point is, this techno-organic monster, whose name we learned is Metus when it attacked Cable in the present last issue, can transform into all of this era’s X-Force, it seems. It attacks Cable and Bishop, revealing that it’s what Cable has been running from all this time, not Bishop. It then turns into Bishop and goes after Hope, at which point Cable tells her to use her gun. But she’s not fast enough, and Metus grabs her. Bishop interrupts, shooting Metus. Cable shoves Bishop into Metus, provoking a confrontation, and Cable escapes with Hope while they fight.

Afterward, Hope us understandable pissed. She says Cable promised to keep her safe, but she was nearly kidnapped by Metus, and she’s all like WTF?  Cable and Hope bodyslide to another timeline as Cable resolves to confront and defeat Metus, not for himself, but for Hope. The issue ends here.

This comic made excellent use of the rich history of the X-Men in telling its story, which is why we wish editorial would do a little more to expose that history to readers who might be interested in more. Read Messiah War here with a Marvel Unlimited subscription. Read the 2008 Cable series here. Read The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix here.

Read more X-ual Healing here:

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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