Cable #23

With "Immortal Iron Fist," Duane Swierczynski managed to balance the pulpier aspects of the character with the sense that the plot mattered. That characters might live or die, and the struggle was an immense one. With "Cable," now wrapping up its second year, he hasn't done much more than tread water in a turbulent time stream.

The premise of "Cable," since its relaunch, has been excruciatingly simple: The militant mutant Cable and Hope, the only mutant born after "M-Day," traveling through time in an attempt to keep Hope alive, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson might say. Former X-Man Bishop is in pursuit -- why? Because someone needed to be the bad guy. And though Bishop was established in "Messiah CompleX" as the man who wanted Hope dead, it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense when we consider the Bishop's history. He's just the impetus for a lot of time-jumping.

Which would be fine, if the hops through time created interesting stories, but they haven't. And now, in issue #23, Bishop and the suddenly-17-year-old Hope (who has aged quickly, like a sitcom baby) have begun to retrace some of their steps on their little time-jaunt. They've circled back to a place in time they visited 18 issues before, and though there's a brief moment of, "hey, our appearance back then may have screwed up this bit of future history," it's mostly just another excuse for people to shoot at the time-traveling heroes. The twist here is that we don't get another sequence of Cable shielding Hope from the attack. This time, the more-than-capable Hope does the kicking of the various butts.

But that's not enough of a twist to make the issue very compelling. And as soon as we get the sense that the story might be heading into a direction the explores the ramifications of past behavior, the heroes jump through time once again, back to 1933.

Swierczynski makes the jump tragic, as Cable has to make a decision that leads to the death of someone he cares about. But he's Cable, and he only cares a little, because when you jump through time every day, it's hard to stay attached to any one time, place, or person.

Gabriel Guzman's art is fine for this kind of comic. It's an unorthodox mix of Dale Eaglesham and Larry Stroman, but it has a bundled energy that keeps the story moving. But one of the problems with this series is that it moves too quickly from one time to the next, and to slowly toward an overarching goal.

"Cable" is like "Doctor Who," if the Doctor jumped to a new time 10 minutes into each episode, without resolving anything. And that's not a particularly effective way to tell a serialized story, even if this series is building its own larger temporal mythology.

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