Last Hope: Swierczynski on Messiah War

The star of "Cable," Hope isn't like other nine-year-old girls. That's because she's the first mutant born in the Marvel Universe since M-Day, when the majority of the mutant populace lost their powers. This means that while other girls her age are going to school and playing with their friends, Hope's running for her life, because even though many mutants see her as a messiah, the time traveler Bishop believes her to be the monster whose actions will eventually give birth to the dystopian future world from which he comes. Fellow time traveler Cable has been doing everything he can to protect Hope, as the three play at a cat-and-mouse game throughout time itself.

Cable and Hope recently traveled to a desolate world thousands of years in the future, where Cable's evil clone Stryfe controls everything. Complicating things even further is the arrival of Cyclop's clandestine team of mutants, X-Force, who have come to bring Cable and Hope back to the present, whether the pair wants to go or not.

That's the set up for "Messiah War," a seven-part crossover currently running between "X-Force" and "Cable." In stores now is "Cable" #13, part two of the crossover, so CBR News checked in with series writer Duane Swierczynski for a chat about the ambitious storyline and what it's like working on his first crossover event.

Battle lines have been drawn, and if the tensions between Cable and X-Force are any indication, they could truly be at war before the story is done. "There are a lot of little wars going on in this story, which makes it fun," Swierczynski told CBR News. "There are a lot of differences of opinion about how to proceed and survive."

Cable is upset with X-Force because he sees their arrival as interfering with his mission of protecting and raising Hope. "It becomes clear that his father, Cyclops, has sent X-Force to basically rescue him and if you ask Cable he'd say, 'I don't need rescuing. Leave me alone!'" Swierczynski explained. "In 'Cable' #6, we saw a glimpse of Cyclops's mental battle. 'Should I trust my son? Or should I send him help?' Now in 'Messiah War,' he's made the decision to send help into the future, and Cable's not happy about it.

"Cable feels that he and Hope are better off on their own. And he feels that the attention of X-Force's arrival causes more trouble, and in a weird way it does. I liken it to trying to live your own life and all of a sudden all your family pops up out of the blue, knocks on your door and says, 'We're here to help!' To Cable, it's an unwelcome blast from the past."

Putting Cable further on edge is the fact that when he runs into X-Force, they're being accompanied by the future version of his old comrade Deadpool, who Cable encouraged X-Force to "gut and dump." "This is a Deapool who has basically been in a box for 1000 years. If it's possible, he's even crazier than he used to be, and I think Cable knows that's not a good thing," Swierczynski said. "Let's not forget that Cable knows Deadpool probably better than anybody and knows he'll switch allegiances at the drop of a hat... or wallet, as it were. So I don't blame him for being suspicious or annoyed by Deadpool's presence."

While Deadpool's continued existence may be aggravating to Cable, Swierczynski found the chance to write the Merc With a Mouth to be highly enjoyable. "Deadpool does have the tendency to hog panels. It's my first time writing the character and when he starts talking it truly is hard to shut him up," the writer remarked. "'Cable' has been more of a grim science fiction story, so it was a blast to insert some of Deadpool's insanity into the proceedings."

Wolverine is just as aggravated with Cable over his refusal to accept their help. "I think Wolverine disagrees with what Cyclops did at the end of 'Messiah CompleX,'" Swierczynski said. "He thinks Hope would have been better off in the present with the rest of the X-Men. Cable thinks the opposite, of course. So this is just as much a war of ideas as it is bullets, claws and lasers."

Encountering Cable and Hope has had a very different effect on X-Force's other clawed member, X-23. The clone of Wolverine is feeling strangely empathetic with the plight of Hope, and in "Cable" #13, she reached out and attempted to comfort the child. "I think she sees a little of herself in Hope. They're both characters who were basically born into their current situations. X-23 understands Hope in a way that even Cable doesn't," Swierczynski stated.

Part of the reason Hope is so distressed in "Messiah War" is because X-Force's arrival means the world has suddenly become a whole lot bigger than she's used to. "She has just started to figure out that she's important, and all of a sudden she meets all these people her surrogate father hasn't talked about much," Swierczynski explained. "It's a whole new set of influences and whole new world for her to figure out."

He may not want their help, but Cable may have no choice but to form an alliance with X-Force because Bishop also has a part to play in "Messiah War." Bishop tracked down Stryfe and brokered an alliance. He got Stryfe to work with him by offering the clone dictator a shot at Cable and the being who created him, Apocalypse. "Stryfe wants Cable punished and erased," Swierczynski explained. "And with regards to what he wants from Apocalypse... well, I don't want to spoil anything, but there's more to it than we've seen so far."

Stryfe and Cable haven't tangled in several years, and Swierczynski is enjoying the chance to pit his protagonist against the evil doppelganger. "To me, what makes Stryfe compelling is that he's the younger, stronger, faster version of Cable. Cable has been in the future for kind of awhile now. He's been weathered and beaten down and he's really not the man he used to be, while Stryfe is fresh as the summer rain," Swierczynski joked. "So in my mind it's like, what if a young Clint Eastwood had to battle an older Clint Eastwood? The older Clint has the moves, wisdom and experience. The younger one though is just more of an ass kicker and he's got faster reflexes. It would be a fun battle to see."

Because the "Messiah War" crossover is still in its early stages, Swierczynski couldn't offer many teasers about what's coming up next in the arc for fear of spoiling things. "All I can say is every issue has a huge amount of revelations, surprises, twists and turns. A bunch of us have been plotting this thing since last summer and every pass we take at it it's like, let's pack more into it. I've had a blast working with ['X-Force' writers] Craig Kyle and Chris Yost because they have this gift for amping up the insanity... and I mean that in the best possible way. This sucker is firing on all cylinders."

Swierczynski could hint that for the remaining "Cable" issues of 'Messiah War,' artist Ariel Olivetti will continue to apply his signature style to the cast of characters and the dystopian setting. "It's really cool to see him draw more of the X-Force characters. Some of them have popped up in previous issues of 'Cable' but now we've got the entire cast," Swierczynski said. "And seeing his take on the Celestial City and Stryfe has been a treat. Who better to draw an overly muscled, powerful ass-kicker like Stryfe than Ariel? It's just a dream match."

"Messiah War" is Swierczynski's first X-Men crossover and he's finding it to be a work-intensive but enjoyable experience. "With Cable, it's mostly myself coordinating with my editors Axel Alonso and Sebastian Girner, but now we have almost all the members of the X-Office looking at this to make sure the story choices don't contradict anything elsewhere," Swierczynski explained. "So that's the homework part of it. The fun part of it is telling this wildly ambitious story with all these characters. And the temptation with any kind of collaboration is to give your collaborator something to deal that's fun and yet challenging. It's like, 'Here! Figure this one out!' And there was some of that going on here as well.

"It's really been just a blast though. I'm not sure how they pulled off the last crossover, 'Messiah CompleX,' with every X-book involved. This is sort of a junior version of that but still a lot of planning went into it."

"Messiah War" may be a junior crossover with respect to the number of books involved, but not in scale or scope. "I hope people give this story a chance because its vital piece of the X-Men saga," Swierczynski said. "I know the temptation is to think that the 'Cable' book is off in its own little cul-de-sac, but this really is the next big step in a story that Axel Alonso described as a trilogy. 'Messiah CompleX' was chapter one. 'Messiah War' is chapter two, which cues up the final chapter. I hope people give it a chance and enjoy it. Things just escalate, and the end of 'Messiah War' certainly rewrites the rules for Cable. Things will be very different for the title when this story comes to an end."

"Cable" #13 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.

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