If there is one definitive Cable arc, it’s hard to find anything topping his adventures protecting Hope Summers in the wake of X-Men: The Messiah Complex. This 2008 Cable series marked the first solo ongoing series for the character since Cable & Deadpool kicked off in 2004, and served as the perfect precursor to the X-Force/Cable crossover The Messiah War. Cable: The Last Hope Volume 2, collecting the entirety of The Messiah War including the lead up to the following event Second Coming, is a blisteringly exciting story that focuses more on the story of Hope Summers than Cable to great effect, even if the ever-revolving door of artists can disrupt the experience as a whole.
With the death of Nathan Summers in Extermination still fresh on the mind of the majority of Marvel readers, there’s no better time than now to read more Cable stories — especially ones as good as The Last Hope Volume 2. Just like it’s predecessor, The Last Hope Volume 2 is an absolute page-turner, begging the reader to continue Cable and Hope’s adventure throughout the time stream without single break. The pacing throughout this behemoth of a trade is incredible, with moments of respite or inaction few and far between. This non-stop stream of action-packed setpieces and tense dialogue exchanges leave little opportunity for readers to put this book down.
That’s not to say this whole story is action driven.In fact, Cable writer Duane Swierczynski alongside X-Force writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, do an incredible job exploring the adolescence of Hope Summers. While Cable’s name may be on the cover of this book and his continued evolution as a father is wonderful, this volume is undoubtedly a story about Hope first and foremost- and that makes it all the better. The Last Hope Vol. 1 provided such a fresh take on Cable while adding so much additional depth to the character that making him the centerfold of Volume 2 would’ve simply felt like a trite retread. Thus, making Hope to be the primary protagonist allows this second volume to feel so much more fresh.
And make no mistake, watching Hope slowly mature into the X-Man she is today is an incredibly joyous experience. She grows from an innocent, curious little girl into a hardened soldier of time over the course of these 489 pages. It’s not like these changes happen in a flash either, instead they occur in a series of subtle moments that eventually culminate in the young adult Hope Summers standing at the end of the book (spoiler, I guess, she survives). While this volume doesn’t go incredibly deep into the psyche of Hope Summers, there are glimpses of deeper thought sprinkled throughout that showcase how she’s growing- such as her questioning her own role as a mutant or as the messiah.
More so than the previous volume, The Last Hope Vol. 2 is jam-packed with far more auxiliary characters — both familiar and unfamiliar — with intriguing sub-storylines that provide additional depth to an already fascinating story. The X-Force crossover issues that open the trade make terrific use of X-Force’s presence within the story, reminding readers of the stakes of Cable’s mission and why Hope is so important. Most surprising, however, is the amount of time spent developing Warren Worthington and his stand against his former overlord, Apocalypse. Warren’s moments of mercy and serenity serve as the most inspiring moments of the whole book and help provide the character with unexpected importance within the story.
One character that really feels out of place in this story is Deadpool. Yes, I am well aware of the relationship between Wade Wilson and Nathan Summers, however the zany antics and non-stop jokes from Deadpool stand in complete contrast of the gritty hopelessness that exist in every issue of this volume. Usually Cable/Deadpool adventures are laugh out loud funny and a blast, however in this extremely serious story, Deadpool’s presence is simply distracting and derails the overall tone of the book.
It’s not just Deadpool’s tone-wrecking appearances that bring this otherwise fantastic book down — the ever-changing roster of artists make this volume far less memorable and so much more jarring than its predecessor. It’s not that any particular artist is a bad fit for the story or does a poor job, it’s simply the sheer inconsistency of the visual storytelling of this volume that keeps it from reaching new heights.
This is glaringly apparent in the beginning of the book, as The Messiah War plays out between issues of X-Force and Cable. The visual styles of Cable artist Ariel Olivetti and X-Force artist Clayton Crain clash so much that it barely feels like the same story. Both are fantastic on their own, however when lined-up back to back on the same narrative the two styles simply don’t work together. Crain’s work is incredibly visceral, moody, and dark while Olivetti’s work is crisp, bright, and finely detailed. The two styles are almost polar opposites, making the opening of the book feel much more disjointed than it ever should. Luckily, the various artists that pencil the last half of the issues in this book have a much more similar styling, allowing the finale to feel far more consistent than the opening.
It’s hard to follow up a collection as terrific as Cable: The Last Hope Vol. 1, but this new collection does a damn good job delivering yet another incredible story in the Cable/Hope saga. While the visual inconsistencies throughout Cable: The Last Hope Vol. 2 can be frustrating, the story is still incredibly well paced and is a wonderfully entertaining tale of Hope’s maturation into the mutant messiah. Despite its flaws, I highly recommend this book to all comics fans and wouldn’t even call it a must read for fans of the X-Men or Cable.