With the release of Deadpool 2 and live-action debut of Cable weeks away, it is no surprise that Marvel is pushing the time traveling mutant’s best stories out- hence the release of Duane Swierczynki’s Cable: The Last Hope Volume One. This massive paperback collects one of Cable’s best stories, one that is emotionally gripping, beautifully drawn, and shows immense depth in Nathan Summers. Simply put, this is a must read for anyone who’s ever picked up a comic book.
Cable’s journey across the timestream is one of the most gripping comic stories I’ve ever read- I literally couldn’t put the book down and ended up reading it in one day. With a broken time machine and fledgling body-sliding ability, Cable is uncharacteristically vulnerable and weakened, making for a fresh take on the character. After an early confrontation with Bishop, Cable loses the ability to jump back in time, not only moving the story forward- literally- but framing the post-apocalyptic narrative with an unrelentingly helpless tone.
In the initial issues, Cable seems more infatuated with his mission- keeping this unnamed baby alive to save mutantkind- than actually caring about the infant, eventually known as Hope. Through genuinely heartwarming moments portrayed with luminous art from Ariel Olivetti- like Cable retrieving a toy in the middle of a firefight or the joy he displays teaching Hope his name- readers slowly watch Cable become more concerned with Hope’s safety as a parent, not a soldier. His crusade was sympathetic enough at the start, however, by the end I was more attached to Cable and Hope than any other comic protagonists because of the emotional weight that had been embedded into their relationship
Cable’s battlefield nanny role may sound like the plot to a failed Vin Diesel movie, but actually succeeds in bringing emotionally driven character progression to Nathan Summers, who morphs into a loving father and outright family man by the book’s conclusion. This story never lets up on the feeling of desperation making it reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
Throughout the story, Cable and Hope are hunted by the X-Man known as Bishop, a time traveling mutant from the future deadset on killing Hope because he believes she will cause the downfall of mutantkind rather than save it. By that summary, readers probably assume Bishop is downright heinous- and believe me, he has his moments- but through a serious of flashbacks and Bishop-centric issues, Swierczynki manages to create sympathy for Bishop’s plight.
Just as Cable and Cyclops firmly believe Hope is the savior to mutantkind, Bishop believes Hope is the death of mutantkind and he has every right to believe so. Swierczynki makes it easy for readers to see why Bishop would undeniably believe he is doing the right thing, allowing readers to sympathize with a truly horrific villain. Isn’t that what all the best villains do, allow the audience to sympathize enough so they can truly learn a lesson?
What’s most shocking about this story is the tactical use of violent gore without ever feeling over the top. Each moment of extreme violence serves a purpose- highlighting how monstrous Bishop has become or to showcasing the lengths Cable will go to protect Hope.
When someone is shot in the face readers will see their head explode in glorious detail. When Bishop snaps someone’s spine, readers watch as the recipient’s vertebrae pop from the side of their neck. This realistic, gruesome approach to violence helps ground a story that could’ve easily been lost in its craziness.
The story is absolutely bonkers, but readers won’t notice unless they really stop to think about it thanks to the hyper-realistic art from Olivetti and the gut-wrenching story at play. Even when the story needs to jump back and forth between Cyclops’s X-Men in the present and Cable in the future, the breakneck pace and watered down explanations of time paradoxes don’t hinder the reader’s experience- the experience is enhanced in these moments.
The context of the story is a lot to handle for casual or new X-Men readers, but the Messiah War Sourcebook at the end will help soothe any confusions readers may have. Readers could Google anything they don’t know, but it makes for a better reading experience to simply flip to the back of the book without pulling out your phone and inevitably getting lost in a wiki-hole.
This collection suffers when the main artist takes an issue off for a replacement artist, with some better than others. Olivetti’s art is so unique and perfect for this story that some of the fill in artists’ work feel jarring.
Whereas Michel Lacombe does a fine job illustrating Cyclops’s struggle in the present, Jamie McKelvie’s work in the later issues hindered the story’s grounding, particularly in his awkward character models. The King Sized Annual drawn by Ken Lashley is a drastic departure from Olivetti’s work, trading in detailed, crisp panels for overstimulating pieces that easily lose the reader in the chaos. The art in X-Men: The Times and Life of Lucas Bishop is so insanely different from the rest of the book that it feels weird being included, however the story provides more valuable insight into Lucas Bishop that enhances the reader’s perception of the antagonist.
Before reading this collection, I considered myself a casual Cable fan who never went out of the way to read Cable stories but was happy to see him appear in Deadpool or X-Men comics. Thanks to the beautifully executed emotional drama of The Last Hope Volume One, I’ll be reading as much Cable as I can for the foreseeable future. This collection combines incredible storytelling, massive character progression, a deeply troubled yet sympathetic villain and incredible visuals for one of the best comic book stories I have ever read.