Although lost in time, the latest issue of Cable — its first under the Marvel Legacy initiative and “The Newer Mutants” story arc — seems consciously designed to invoke a particular feeling of nostalgia for ’90s comics storytelling. With a new creative team and new approach, which sees Cable bringing together a team of characters in order to investigate a murder, the series consciously plays to an old-fashioned storytelling style which makes it feel in many ways like a throwback.
PREVIEW: Cable #150
With this being the era of Marvel Legacy, that’s almost certainly a deliberate choice on the part of writer Ed Brisson and artist Jon Malin. It’s definitely a careful choice that the issue is set “in the past” rather than in the present day, as the team jump the story just far back enough in time that they can depict Longshot and Shatterstar in their old costumes instead of the contemporary redesigns seen a few years ago in X-Factor. There’s no story motivation for the decision, so instead it seems most likely that the idea here is to bring a feeling of traditionalist nostalgia into proceedings.
That comes across very clearly in Cable himself, who spends the issue feeling less like a character and more like the engine which drives a standard plot through the 20 or so pages allowed here. Malin doesn’t help bring much to Cable in terms of depth, returning often to two or three repeated facial expressions including “grim,” “stern” and “so grim and stern he’s gritting his teeth”. Although Malin brings a sharp, reedy energy to the characters, their body language is at times somewhat awkward — Longshot folds his arms at one point, but the art depicts him as being on edge rather than relaxed and charming, as the script suggests is the intent.
There’s admittedly a certain intensity in that artistic approach, however, and this plays into Brisson’s script. The comic works most effectively when placing Cable in the role of a fun-free interrogator — the appearances of Doop in the issue, played for comedic effect as might be expected, feel awkwardly out of place here – and the focus on the simple murder mystery allows Brisson to tighten the tension nicely. Cable tends to be most interesting when he’s focused, and the choice of story works well for him.
It has to be said that there are some strange holes in the story, which says that somebody is trying to kill all the immortal Externals, with Selene being the only one of the group left alive. That would seem to ignore Cannonball, who is the most prominent External in comics… as well as one of Cable’s most trusted allies. For a comic which clearly harkens back to its Liefeld-era roots, the decision to skip over some of that hardcore continuity seems to be in direct opposition to the emotional goal of the book (in fairness, Cannonball’s status as an External has been challenged in the past).
For the most part, Cable #150 is a standard, perfectly fine comic. It leans backwards rather than forwards, attempting to win back readers to the series through precise tactics and a careful militaristic narrative. Much like its lead character, the book isn’t giving everything away yet, and it remains to be seen whether this is reclaiming old glories or another retreat of the past.