[24 June 2013]
What is it about outlaws that people find so fascinating? How can one part of us be fascinated by people who represent a strong moral ideal while another part is fascinated by people who break the law with a smile and thumb their nose at anyone who tries to stop them? It’s like the public’s tastes are schizophrenic and nobody can seem to get the dosage right.
X-Force is been built around the premise of using X-men who behave like outlaws. Characters like Cable, Domino, and Dr. Nemesis aren’t known for being Eagle Scouts. They do the kind of things that other X-men only wish they could do, taking out possible threats with the kind of violence that would give Charles Xavier an omega-level migraine. Rick Remender showed in his run with Uncanny X-Force how shooting things, even a spooky kid Apocalypse, can have dire consequences. Dennis Hopeless has put Cable in a similar situation with Cable and X-Force. From the very beginning, this incarnation of X-Force has been driven by Cable’s visions of the future. Early on, the nature of their missions was confusing and hard to follow. But as the series has unfolded, it has become more streamlined and compelling for that matter. And every step of the way, X-Force’s brutal tactics have been necessary to get the job done.
However, it didn’t take long for those tactics to come back and bite them. They’re not just wanted fugitives anymore. They’re on Abigail Brand’s (she of S.W.O.R.D., sister outfit to S.H.I.E.L.D.) most wanted list after stealing her ship and setting an alien prisoner free. The target on their backs couldn’t be bigger if it included a neon sign, a boom box, and a Kickstarter campaign. Now X-Force is on the run. The Uncanny Avengers are on their trail and looking to use Cable’s adopted daughter, Hope Summers, against him. Cable already managed to get on their bad side as well when he punched Havok in the jaw during the first arc. After the events of the previous arc, they now have even more motivation to hunt him down. But Cable isn’t about to go quietly and that is what has helped this series become a compelling journey of outlaws and renegades.
Cable and X-Force #10 does a much better job than previous X-Force titles of depicting the unique challenges associated with being mutant outlaws. There’s no fancy base. There’s no secret support from other X-men. After the events of the previous arc, Cable and his team have to hide out on a Cheyenne reservation with Forge. There’s no Danger Room to train in or mansions to sleep in. It’s just a trailer, picnic tables, and horseshoes. It’s basically the kind of rudimentary setting you would expect for a team of outlaws.
But beyond their tenuous situation with the Uncanny Avengers, the guiding force behind X-Force’s mission remains the same. It’s still being fueled by Cable’s visions of the future and despite the team’s previous success, they’re getting worse. He keeps seeing more disasters and even the son of Cyclops and a Jean Grey clone can’t handle everything. This leads to what feels like a key moment for Cable’s team when Domino confronts him and encourages him to start treating them…well, like an actual team. Because to this point, he has just been giving orders and they’ve been nice enough to follow them. But that’s not enough anymore. To deal with these visions, they need to become a team and not just a misfit band of mutant outlaws. They have to become more like Ocean’s 11 and less like a coordinated bar fight.
In addition, this issue also offers a few hints as to the source of Cable’s visions. Since this series began, not much has been revealed about what happened to Cable after the events of “X-Sanction” and why he started having these visions. But Hope Summers stumbles upon a few clues when she catches up with Blaquesmith, who hasn’t been seen since “X-Sanction”. After ditching the life the Avengers and X-men went to so much trouble giving her, she wants to find Cable. However, she also finds out that somewhat tampered with Cable’s brain and Blaquesmith may know who it is.
But this comic isn’t just all turning points and melodrama. An X-Force book just wouldn’t be an X-Force book if there wasn’t some over-the-top action. The Uncanny Avengers eventually do catch up with Cable and his team. This time, there’s no pleading or diplomacy. Abigail Brand already gave them her blessing in beating X-Force into submission and Havok’s jaw is probably still hurting so there’s plenty of hostility to go around. The battle is somewhat small in scale, but it’s still nicely organized and very satisfying.
Given the recent string of defeats the Uncanny Avengers have faced (see All New X-men and Uncanny Avengers), they need at least some semblance of success. And that’s what they get here. While Cable’s team is able to escape, Cable is subdued. It creates a very volatile yet intriguing predicament for him and his team. They have disasters to stop, but now that guiding force is under the guard of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and some of its most experienced X-men. In that sense being a mutant outlaw just became a lot harder.
Cable and X-Force was a series that struggled with numerous plot holes early on. But in the past few issues, the story has become much more coherent. The emotions of the team and the nature of their mission is finally coming into focus and it has created fertile ground for some very compelling stories. This builds on that foundation while providing some entertaining action sequences that should satisfy any X-Force fan. The sub-plot with Hope Summers has still been slow and her character seems to become more unlikable with every act she takes in this post-“Avengers vs. X-Men” era. But the series as a whole is solid and this issue nicely reflects how this X-title has come to be exactly that—solid.