Prophecy is a dangerous gift, especially in a world as chaotic and strange as the Marvel Universe. If you act on an apocalyptic vision of the future and try to stop it you might end up creating an outcome that’s much worse. On the other hand, you could succeed in saving the world, but make such a mess of things that the world believes you to be a villain.
The latter describes what happened in the opening arc of “Cable and X-Force,” the ongoing Marvel NOW! series by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Salvador Larroca. In the first three issues of the series Cable gathered together a new X-Force to help him stop a vision he received of a dangerous plague and wartorn future from becoming a reality. In issue #4, on sale now, the team put their plan to save the world into action.
They were successful, but their plan did not go off without a hitch. Innocent people died and Cable and his team were blamed. Now they are fugitives, wanted by the Uncanny Avengers, law enforcement and money hungry bounty hunters out to claim the million dollar bounty on their heads. Comic Book Resources spoke with Hopeless about this aftermath and his plans for the series.
CBR News: Dennis, after rereading the first four issues of “Cable & X-Force” it feels like this initial arc of the series is meant to be read multiple times — it’s a mystery, and its pieces are not laid out in a linear fashion. Is that correct?
Dennis Hopeless: Yeah. When my editor Nick Lowe and I were first talking about the book I really wanted to focus on the individual personalities of the characters. It’s meant to be the Marvel Universe version of a crime book. In a good heist crew story you’ve got a cast of strange characters. Each one has a specific area of expertise, something that allows them to do their thing on a job. But they also have these weird, really disparate personalities. Personalities that don’t necessarily mix all that well.
I wanted our book to be as much about those characters and their clashing personalities as it is about the jobs they pull or how they’re saving the world.
But at the same time, it was important to establish the concept of the book right up front. Our first scene needed to say X-Force is about a team of mutant fugitives, branded terrorists and on the run from the whole world.
What we came up with was this non-linear dual story. We intercut the character stuff, the head-butting team-building story, with scenes from the direct aftermath of their disastrous first job that makes them into fugitives. The two stories run simultaneously throughout the first arc. By the end of issue #4, when everything goes to hell, we’ve caught back up with the first scene of issue #1.
It probably made the first arc more complicated than we intended and I hope you don’t have to read it more than once to understand what’s going on, but yeah — by the end of issue #4, you’ll have all of the pieces to the puzzle. On a second read you’d pick up more from those flash-forwards.
â€¨In addition to telling the story of the disastrous first mission of “Cable & X-Force” this initial arc also set up a mystery. It felt like you were dropping hints in issues #2 and #3 that there’s a conspiracy at play that is specifically targeting Cable. Is that true?
Definitely, and we’ll learn more about that in upcoming issues. There are reasons why Cable is getting these headaches. All will be revealed eventually, but from Cable’s current point of view that’s irrelevant. Right now his focus is on keeping these horrible visions from becoming reality.
â€¨Nate doesn’t have time to be too terribly concerned about his health or what’s causing these visions. He has lives to save. Hope on the other hand, as you’ll find out in upcoming issues, is far more concerned about her father’s health than he is.
Since we’re on the topic of the mysterious conspiracy, I noticed the figure who wonders if they got Cable’s attention in issue #2 appeared to have massive spiked shoulder pads. There’s also a certain infamous Cable villain that also sports massive spiked shoulder pads. I imagine you can’t confirm or deny if that is indeed Stryfe in issue #2, but are you interested in exploring the character of Stryfe? If so, how relevant is he to your larger exploration of Cable?
It’s hard to answer that question without giving anything away. Cable walked a very twisty-turny path full of oddball characters to get him where he is now. He’s fought and survived a lot over the years. If you asked Cable, he’d tell you he wants to move beyond his crazy past. He’s tired of that path. But as the writer, I’d be fool not to yank those elements into the story.
If Cable got his way, we’d have a book about the man sitting around drinking coffee and making spaghetti for his daughter. That’s not gonna happen.
So I won’t say whether Stryfe is going to be one of them, but there will definitely characters from Cable’s past coming into play.
Mysterious enemies and conspiracies aren’t the only complications Cable is dealing with. He’s also dying because of the headaches and visions he’s receiving. I’m curious, how that’s affecting his mental state? How does he feel about his terminal condition?
I think if Cable had nothing else going on he would deal with his condition. I don’t think it’s that he’s not concerned for his health. I think he’s less concerned for his own wellbeing than he is for saving lives and stopping these huge catastrophic disasters that are being projected into his head.
I think in Cable’s mind there will come a day when he has plenty of time to deal with his illness and to figure that out, but right now he’s too busy. Maybe he’s deluding himself there. Probably. But that’s human. We all prioritize around those things we don’t like to think about.
Has his impending mortality clouded Cable’s judgment at all?
Probably, but what isn’t clouding his judgment? He’s dealing with so much all at once. Cable is the kind of person that would tell you, “I’ve got it under control don’t worry about it.” But look at what he’s up against.
He’s exhausted and ready to retire. He’s being haunted by visions of death and destruction. Then there’s his daughter, his priority number one.
Hope could have helped out during their raid on Eat-More but Cable wasn’t willing to let her risk her normal life. He decided to pull her out even if it meant she’d hate him for it. The result of that decision was Domino getting stuck, everyone missing the rendezvous, and the further collapse of an already crumbling plan. But he’d do it again. He kept his daughter out of the muck. He’s kind of screwed but she’s safe.
Speaking of unforeseen complications, a major one emerged in #4 with the reveal that a Deathlok cyborg was lurking inside the Eat-More facility. What can you tell us about this Deathlok? Is this Deathlok the one that’s taken up residence at the Jean Grey School?
It is definitely a Deathlok. Whether or not it’s that Deathlok we’ll find out later. Plus all of this stuff is related. I don’t know how clear it was, but the person our spiky fellow was talking to in that Doctor Claw scene from issue #2 is the Deathlok we then see in issue #4. There’s more Deathlok coming.
Which Deathlok is it and what time period is he from? All of that will be revealed later.
So we don’t know which Deathlok it is, but his appearance is significant because Deathlok is a character connected to possible futures. Correct?
Yes, one of the things that I wanted to address in the book is that Cable originally came back here to stop Apocalypse and to keep the future he grew up in from happening. We’ve seen lots of different potential futures in the Marvel Universe over the years and none of them are pleasant. [Laughs] So Cable has come to the terms with the fact that no matter what he does now there are still a lot of awful things that can potentially happen to the planet. He decided to be done fighting to stop the inevitable, but as soon as he makes that decision — Boom — Here’s a head full of much more immediate catastrophic futures.
Deathlok ties into all of that.
In “Cable & X-Force” #4 the title characters appeared to foil a war and plague ridden future caused by tainted Eat-More meat. Earlier in the arc you revealed Eat-More CEO Teresa Payton was not behind the conspiracy to release that meat. I wanted to hate Payton when we met her in those scenes in issue #3, but when she lays out the reasons why she disliked mutants I could almost understand her. Was she affected by Forge informing her that something is wrong in her company? And will she continue to play a role in this series going forward?
Yeah, I wanted our first villain to play against type. If we were going to bring in a mutant hating billionaire, I wasn’t interested in an Armani suit-wearing Alpha Male bigot. Teresa is anti-mutant but not really out of hate. Like you said, she has good reasons for her stance. She’s not inherently evil.
â€¨That doesn’t make Teresa any less dangerous. She’s rich, loud and is well motivated to see Cable and X-Force brought down. It will be a minute before we come back to Ms. Payton — coming out of issue #5 our team has bigger problems than a fast food mogul — but I definitely have plans for her.
They may be pulled away onto a different case but it looks like after issue #4 the team will be wanted by the Uncanny Avengers, law enforcement and bounty hunters eager to collect the million dollar bounty Teresa Payton just posted on the team.
Yes, they’re on the run from pretty much everyone.
Issue #5 is sort of a coda to the first arc. It shows you what the team does while stuck down in Mexico after the Eat-More job waiting for the heat to die down a little. Meanwhile Cable has to answer to a now-furious Hope. We give everyone an issue to let off steam and decide what happens next.
Then in issue #6 we really jump headfirst into the fugitives from justice, saving the world while on the run from the law aspects of the book, which is what “Cable & X-Force” will be from here on out.
You mentioned Hope. From the sound of it, she won’t let her father’s fugitive status keep him out of her life.
I love Hope. I know some fans have mixed feelings about her. She’s this red haired, green eyed, Phoenix Force wielding character who, turns out, isn’t the second coming of Jean Grey. To me though, Hope is most interesting as Cable’s daughter. She’s a teenage girl raised by an action hero in a post apocalyptic future trying to live in the here and now.
â€¨The adult who taught her how to be a person is Cable. He’s not good at “normal” and because of that, neither is she. I think that’s an interesting element of both characters. Cable’s job for like 16 years was to keep Hope safe. He did that in the weirdest way possible. Now he has this daughter who’s exactly like him and it’s infuriating.
Hope wants to do what Cable does. She wants to help him save the world. Cable wants nothing more than for neither of them to have to deal with stuff like that. They should probably agree to disagree but they absolutely won’t.
There’s also the fact that she doesn’t seem like the type of person to let herself be written out of the book, despite Cable’s best efforts to isolate her from his adventures.
Right, because she’s just like him. She’s maddening to Cable in a way that children often are to their parents. The things you like in yourself are sometimes hard to see in other people. [Laughs] He wants a different life for her than what he had but she’s a little him.
Hope’s not a huge part of the second arc, but going forward her relationship with Cable will be one of the major driving forces of the book.
One of the major players you’ll focus on in the second arc is Colossus. He may by X-Force’s physical power house, but he’s also probably the most sensitive member of the team. How is he feeling after the team’s initial disastrous mission?
Colossus is in a dark place, and he was in a dark place before his initial X-Force mission. Cable offered him an opportunity to do something good where he didn’t have to be a hero and he didn’t have to take credit for anything. He could just help them save a bunch of people.
That went horribly wrong in a way that was especially devastating for Colossus. He worked in the Eat-More facility. He was the inside man on a simple job nobody was supposed to find out about. They were going to save a bunch of people and then get out of there.
Nothing worked out like it was supposed to and Colossus ended up having a hand in killing all of his blue-collar co-workers. He was one of them for a while and now they’re all dead. Whether or not that was wholly his fault, Colossus takes responsibility.
So in issue #5 we see Colossus dealing with the repercussions of all that and trying to decide how he can go forward. He’s wondering, “Who am I going to be after this?” He’s tired of the self-loathing and he’s tired of the dark. But how does he let go of all that without paying the price for his part in all of this death and destruction? That’s a big part of issue #5, and Colossus’s decision helps lead us into the second arc.
Colossus isn’t the only former member of the Phoenix Five you have plans for. Another member, Cable’s father, Cyclops, guest stars in “Cable and X-Force” #7. How would you describe the relationship between Cable and his father going into that issue? And how do you think these two characters perceive each other’s current activities?
It’s interesting because they’re in a similar place but for very different reasons. Cyclops has decided that his goal needs to be protecting mutant kind. He’s willing to play the bad guy in order to do that. Cable though was just trying to save lives and the world decided he was a villain. In issue #7 we get to see how this turn of events has affected their relationship.
â€¨Cyclops and Cable are both sort of arrogant in that they always think they’re right. Right now the world has decided both of them are very much wrong. But what’s interesting to me is what they think of each other in the wake of all this.
Cyclops isn’t going to be a regular in the book, but he’s Cable’s father, he cares, he’s around, and he’s dealing with some similar issues. I’d like to continue to bring Cyclops in as a guest star from time to time.
â€¨What about Cable’s relationship with his uncle, Alex Summers, who is leading the team that’s pursuing them, the Uncanny Avengers? Are you interested in exploring and developing the relationship between Cable and Havok?
Definitely. Havok is not at all convinced Cable and X-Force are villains. He knows his nephew is a good man but Cable isn’t making it easy to trust in him. The further we get into our book, the harder it will be for anyone on the outside to look at X-Force and not see criminals. The question Havok has to ask is, “at what point do I give up on my nephew and go after the bad guy?”
The further this thing goes, the more likely we come to a straight up Uncanny Avengers vs. X-Force throw down.
Relationships will be a big part of this second arc, but you also mentioned your cast will have a job to do. What can you tell us about the plot of the second arc of “Cable and X-Force?”
We have a prison break. We have a space fight. We have an alien war criminal. We have agents of S.W.O.R.D. and their director Abigail Brand. So we’ve got a big, crazy, action plot coming up that will be a lot of fun.
Plus we’ll have an explosive new character enter the book in issue #6. I’m really excited to write her and for how she’ll change up the team dynamic.
Is this a new character created by you? Or an established Marvel character that’s new to this team?
She’s an established character who’s new to our book but not to X-Force.
Sounds like you’ll be keeping your artist Salvador Larroca quite busy with a number of different elements. What can readers expect from him on this second arc?
Ha. Yeah. As you saw in issue #4 he draws big, crazy, monster stuff really well and he also designs amazing tech. The second arc is chock full of spaceships and aliens, where Salva is right at home.
I love writing conversations but I don’t want to waste this incredible artist I’m working with so I try [to] write as much fun action stuff as possible and sneak my talking heads in and around that.
Finally we’ve talked about some of your specific, upcoming plans. Let’s talk about your larger plans for “Cable and X-Force.” I know you’re telling a long form story in “Avengers Arena.” Are you also telling one in “Cable & X-Force” as well?
Cable’s visions propel the action of each arc. We’re telling these semi-self contained super hero crime stories but within that we’re also building toward a big picture that explains the visions, how all of this is related and who’s responsible. We’ll be fleshing that story out over the course sort of like the season arc of a television show.
“Cable and X-Force” #5 is on sale March 6.