Cable: The Nemesis Contract is like stepping into a time machine and going back to a very exciting era in comic books. The collection consists of Cable issues #59-70, with the 1999 Annual as well as X-Man issues #45-47. This was a time in Joe Casey’s career where he was given the freedom to create new ideas and experiences with Cable. The issues in this collection document his creative relationship with Jose Ladronn, and it is a testament to the joy and excitement that they both shared in making it.
These stories take place at a point when some mysterious event has robbed Cable of his telekinesis and telepathy. The techno-organic virus that was placed in him by Apocalypse is taking over and Cable is dying. He has made a home for himself in Hell’s Kitchen with his mentor Blaquesmith and his friend Irene Merryweather. Irene is a reporter who has befriended him to help share his story. Cable also meets a woman named Stacy who works at the diner down the street and takes care of her brother Kenny. Throughout the course of these stories, Cable is tested and struggles with what it means to be human and to understand the people that he is prophesied to save from Apocalypse. Along the way he is abducted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and experimented on. He has the T-O virus cut out of him and used to power the Nemesis robots in a secret rogue experiment that somehow gives him back his telekinetic abilities in the process.
Cable is also confronted by his clone Stryfe in the X-Man crossover Blood Brothers. Stryfe sees Cable as a prototype and himself as the ultimate being worthy of ruling the galaxy. Nate Grey, Cable’s twin from another time and reality, shows up to help along with Cable’s mother Madelyne Pryor. The Avengers also show up to lend a hand in this epic showdown.
What Cable collection wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by the one and only Mister Sinister? Sinister comes to Hell’s Kitchen, along with the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, to give Cable a history lesson. He tells Cable how he was created to destroy Apocalypse. Cable defeats Sinister and the horseman only to face an even deadlier adversary: the Harbinger of Apocalypse. The Avengers once again make an appearance in a climactic battle to stop the Harbinger. Cable discovers that the Harbinger is a bomb set to self destruct over New York City, destroying it to signal the end of times. Cable grabs the Harbinger and flies up into space with it. At the moment the Harbinger explodes, Cable is pulled out of space and time by Jacob Sutton. Jacob is one of the Chronologists, caretakers of the delicate balance of time and space. Sutton explains to Cable that he is needed to assist them in repairing the time stream from the damage caused by misuse of it by Cable and others like him.
Cable returns home to 20th century Earth knowing what he needs to do. He has made Earth his home, he has made his friends there his family. Cable must do everything in his power to save mankind and to stop Apocalypse from ending the world.
The writing on this series is amazing. Joe Casey takes Cable to new levels with the story that he tells. There is a sense of compassion and vulnerability that is given to Cable throughout his journey. He knows that he was born to save the world but he also wants to have a normal life. Casey’s use of inner dialogue as well as social commentary add so much depth to the characters around Cable as well. Themes like mental disabilities, homelessness, and persecution for being different give it a very human quality. In some respects it can also be viewed as a love story between Cable and Stacey. There are a lot of fantastic action sequences and plot twists, but in the end it’s about Cable finding a home and a chosen family that is worth dying to protect.
While there are a few different contributors on art between the annual and the three X-Man crossover issues, it is in the work of Jose Ladronn, Juan Vlasko, and Gloria Vasquez that this collection shines.
Ladronn’s Jack Kirby inspired style mixed with his own aesthetic was refreshing then as it is now. Vasquez’s use of color is both vibrant and explosive and really amplifies the action already laid out buy Ladronn and Vlasco.
Overall, Cable: the Nemesis Contract is an amazing body of work from 20 years ago that stands the test of time both in its story and its artwork. Casey and Ladronn put a lot of love and passion into these stories and it shows. It is exciting, heartfelt and masterfully crafted. This is a must-have for any collection and I recommend it to Cable fans old or new.