After enjoying the heck out of the new Deadpool 2 trailer I was left with the desire to explore more Cable comics. I guess that movie to comic sales approach is working! Out this week in comic stores is this new trade paperback which focuses on a time when Cable was a team leader, forced to interact with his alternate self Nate Grey, and deal with parental figures as an old man. Needless to say, Cable’s personal journey is a rather melodramatic one that’s so dense with continuity it’s a pleasure to read.

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

The shadow of Onslaught looms over Cable and X-Force! As a subtle evil begins its rise, the Askani’son faces destiny’s call – which means a devastating confrontation with his counterpart from the Age of Apocalypse, Nate “X-Man” Grey! Meanwhile, X-Force is caught up in an unholy alliance between Sebastian Shaw and the horrifying Holocaust! As all hell breaks loose, the team will target their own leaders, Cable and Domino – and that means things get explosive! Threats lie in wait including the Blob, the Mimic, Selene, the Externals and S.H.I.E.L.D.! Boomer approaches Meltdown, there’s Risque business for Warpath, and Siryn must enlist Deadpool’s help to regain her freedom! Plus, Cable and X-Force face impossible odds – as in, Impossible Man odds!

Can I jump in easily?

Collecting X-Force #49 to #56, Cable #29 to #31, X-Man #14, and X-Force/Cable Annual #3 — the simple answer is no way. There are supporting characters you may recognize (like Warpath or Bishop), but others I had no idea even existed (like Boom Boom). This trade is carved up into three story arcs though and it is relatively easy to go with the flow and figure things out as you go along.

Reason 1: A mature leader.

In two of the main stories in this collection Cable is primarily a leader of the X-Force. In the opening story he takes them on a vacation (don’t ask) as a means to strengthen the team. In another he looks out for them as Sebastian Shaw attempts to turn them all against him. It’s through his strong leadership that he can actually beat Shaw even though the stakes are not in his favor. It’s interesting to see how Jeph Loeb, Todd Dezago, John Ostrander, and Terry Kavanagh write Cable throughout this collection as strong leaders are few and far between. Seeing them talk tactics in the heat of battle (or Storm marveling at Cable’s leadership skills, being a leader herself) adds to the character.

Blaquesmith is a weird little dude.

Reason 2: A complicated (and multifaceted) parental figure network.

Cable must interact with his mom Jean Grey and dad Cyclops in this collection, which involves lying to them at one point and then later saving his father. These interactions don’t happen too often, but when they do they’re interesting. Imagine your son, now older than you, telling you what to do in battle. Then there is Blaquesmith, a character I had no idea even existed. A mutant from 4,000 A.D., he serves as a mentor to Cable. We learn in this collection he taught him how to fight and use his telepathic and telekinetic powers. The fact that he’s more powerful than Jean Grey and Xavier is used in this collection though that drives Cable to push Blaquesmith away.

Reason 3: Nate Grey reveals what Cable could be.

I completely forgot Nate Grey even existed until he pops up midway through this collection. Young and always on the run this character shares the exact same DNA as Cable yet isn’t a clone. Given Cable’s complex relationship with his clone Stryfe that’s a relief, but then again how can this character not be a clone but be the same person? A big reason why Grey is so formidable to a highly trained and older Cable is because he doesn’t have the Techno-organic virus. This is a reminder that Cable must always focus on holding his body together or else the virus will kill him, but this thoroughly reduces his powers since he can’t focus his psi-abilities on just one thing. It’s also a nice reminder that Cable is a character affiliated with a tragic past and that tragedy is a reminder every time he looks at Grey.

Cable vs. Cable (Nate Grey), who ya got?!

Reasons to be wary?

The opening vacation story is way too silly for its own good. It doesn’t fit in with the approach the rest of the book takes and makes Cable seem slapstick and, at times, ridiculous. The art is rather cartoony in this opening story too which only makes the X-Force and Cable hard to believe.

A character named Meltdown (previously Boom Boom) is a major focus in this collection and is more of a distraction than anything else. Seeing as these comics came out in the ’90s one could peg her as the “X-treme” element. She’s sassy in her midriff-less costume and seems to have attitude just because. She does appear in a great story facing off against Blob, but for the most part she’s annoying. Maybe it’s no surprise when she’s most obnoxious is in stories where Cable isn’t around.

A lot of the art in this book shows its age. There’s definitely a classic Rob Liefeld style Marvel was going for, which isn’t necessarily a good thing to start with, so proportions are off and characters can seemingly morph (not on purpose) page to page. It’s hard to knock the art too much given it was another age in comics, but there’s a certain sloppiness you can’t ignore.

Is there a rationale to the reasons?

I enjoyed much of this collection as it shines a light on the multifaceted nature of Cable. It may not be the best book to pick up if you know nothing about him, but it does contain some interesting stories and brings up in a few different ways how complex this character is in the Marvel universe.

Cable & X-Force: Onslaught Rising
Is it good?
A good trade as it reveals a few different sides of Cable, but be aware the cooky and "X-Treme" 90s are ever present!
Cable is a great leader and you get to see that on display here
The Cable vs. X-Force (led by Sebastian Shaw) arc is excellent
The Nate Grey vs. Cable story has its pros
The art is quite dated to the 90s
Boom Boom is rather obnoxious and takes up a lot of the middle portion of the book
The opening story with Cable and his team on vacation is way too silly

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