After four issues of retreat, Cable decides to stand and face Bishop, but the results of the clash aren’t anywhere near as conclusive as might have been expected. Both Swierczynski and Olivetti have noticeably raised their game during this first arc, but a number of problems make this issue a rather uncomfortable read.
That’s not to say that the writer hasn’t taken a number of well-judged decisions. The focus on Bishop, with much of the series so far viewed from his perspective, is initially surprising, but Lucas’s nineties solo series managed to remain in publication for more than a year, and the book will be strengthened if this fan base can be tapped into. The plot twist revealed towards the end of the story, whereby Cable can only move forward in time, promises some interesting stories. Presumably Swierczynski intends to confront Summers with the consequences of his actions as he continues to flee through the future, providing a different perspective on the idea of Cable’s influence on the world. This was a key part of Fabian Nicieza’s work on Cable & Deadpool, and it’s a relief to see those ideas being built upon. However, the story continues to advance extremely slowly. Swierczynski appears to have made a conscious choice to sink into the atmosphere of his future world, but after five issues of comics, the ongoing story of the book hasn’t altered in the slightest, with an under-resourced Cable still fleeing from Bishop with the baby. It takes more than showing the Phoenix logo in the little girl’s eyes to advance the story in a convincing fashion.
One particular scene strikes a jarring note towards the end of the issue, as waitress Sophie Pettit uses Cable’s discarded ordinance to breach the stronghold of the New Jersey militia, before shooting their leaders dead. Thus far, Pettit has mainly been an expositionary character, filling Cable in on the developments since he left the present day. Some empowerment of the character is already overdue, but her transformation into a gun-totting one-woman army is rather disquieting, both in moral and narrative terms. While the archetypical image of Nathan Summers has him running around with a bazooka three times the size of his body, the book has never glorified merely possessing a gun, and the result feels rather disturbing. The idea of Cable as an inspiration has been touched on in previous incarnations of the title, particularly during David Tischman’s aborted run, but this is the first time we’ve seen him induce this particular change. It’s possible that the writer will show Summers the severe consequences of his actions as he moves forwards through time, but the issue appears to be written with a straight face, showing the psychotic Sophie as a change for the better. However, there’s also a storytelling problem with this resolution. Small packs of the militia forces have been giving both Cable and Bishop a run of their money throughout the series to date, yet Swierczynski now expects us to believe that a waitress with only basic firearms training can breach their stronghold and execute their leaders, without sustaining so much as a scratch.
The book isn’t without merit, and it’ll be interesting to see if it can develop into the time-travel epic the character has always appeared destined for. However, much of the ethos behind it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.