It’s hard to shake the feeling that Nathan Summers’ flight is coming to an end in more ways than one. While Bishop’s master plan is proving extremely successful in cutting off the temporal refugee’s options, the cumulative effect of nearly a year’s worth of shoddy plotting and un-engaging storytelling has drained all momentum from the endeavour. Boxed into a hole, Duane Swierczynski manages to pull something of a rabbit of his hat, but it’s a stay of execution at best.
Despite having been comprehensively defeated in the previous issue, those pesky one-dimensional “cockroaches” are at it again, forcing Cable and Hope to take one last desperate jump into a future where all life has been erased from the planet. With nowhere else to turn, Nathan is forced to finally hold a conversation with his daughter, sketching out the tenants of the franchise she’s been born into and misquoting famous poetry. Swierczynski was wise to make a rod for his own back in ensuring that Hope’s upbringing was so divorced from real day life- she’s an engaging creation, but a remarkably unconvincing seven year old. Her arrival as a fully-fledged character just about manages to save this story from irrelevance, but the abandonment of Cable’s previous history, through an aside about being “born to protect” Hope, grates. If an original character was desired, why not create one?
At Comics Daily, we don’t give such weak writing the full review treatment without a good reason, and regular readers of the site will probably have already guessed what motivated us here. It’s a reason that starts on page eight and continues for the rest of the book, in the form of guest pencilling by Jamie McKelvie. Rob Leifeld’s prodigy is possibly the last character you’d expect to find the co-creator of Phonogram working on, but his strengths in conversational expression and personal drama might have found a natural home in a more accomplished version of this script. Even with such a thematic match considered, it’s hard to see the reason for hiring such a distinctive and interesting artist if you’re then going to have his work drowned in digital paint courtesy of Guru eFX. Some of the penciler’s strengths occasionally break through, particularly in Hope’s facial expressions, but this is still watered-down work. When it comes to the title character, McKelvie’s version instantly trumps Olivetti’s by default, by virtue of the fact that he’s clearly a member of the human race as opposed to the troll-like wrestler that the book has featured to date. There’s more than a little of Michael Ryan’s slimmed-down, re-energised depiction of the character in McKelvie’s take on Summers, and it’s impossible to imagine the book’s regular artist making a success of the scene where Cable playfully chases his charge.
Hopefully the forthcoming X-Force crossover will provide the book with a spark of life: it’s hard to imagine a more urgent need for it.