WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #5 by Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, R.B. Silva, Adriano di Benedetto, Rachelle Rosenberg and Chris Eliopoulos, on sale now.
The X-Men have a lot going on right now. Beyond facing off against evil psychic doppelgangers and cyborg pirates from another timeline, Marvel's mutants also have to deal with Nate Grey, the all-powerful X-Man who wants to reshape the world in his own image in Uncanny X-Men.
In the ongoing "X-Men: Disassembled" storyline, Grey has already simultaneously reached out to every mind in the world, captured one of the X-Men's deadliest foes and transformed several major mutants like Magneto and the X-Men's Angel into his Horsemen of Salvation.
In the wake of X-Man's return, several members of the X-Men have responded by pushing their mutant powers to new extremes, including Sam Guthrie, the high-flying Cannonball. When he and his team are battling a stronger-than-usual Angel in Uncanny X-Men #5, Cannonball flies his brainwashed teammate into Earth's upper atmosphere and brings him back down to Earth with a massive body slam.
Even though that attack didn't knock Angel out of the fight, Cannonball still made an impressive display of power by flying to the edge of space with no protection but a bomber jacket. While he spent plenty of time in deep space during intergalactic conflicts like 2013's Infinity, he always used some kind of breathing apparatus or spacesuit in those adventures. Presumably thanks to the force field that surrounds him when he uses his powers, he's one of the few Marvel heroes who can fly that high unassisted.
While flying to the edge of Earth's atmosphere might not be the most noteworthy feat that Cannonball has ever accomplished, it serves as another reminder of just how deceptively strong this X-Man really is. On the surface, Guthrie just seems like he can propel himself through the air at high speeds and has a degree of invulnerability, but he's quietly been one of the X-Men's more impressive members for decades.
Since Sam was created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod in 1982's Marvel Graphic Novel #4, he's risen through the ranks of the New Mutants, X-Force and a few X-Men teams, frequently as a team leader. By 2013, Cannonball had earned a spot on the Avengers, where he remained a member for several years.
While that would be an impressive career for any superhero, Cannonball's future might even be brighter than his past. In the dark alternate future timeline where Cable grew up, Cannonball seemingly lived well into the 24th century, since he was apparently an External, a kind of immortal mutant.
In a Terminator-esque plot point, Cable originally traveled to the present day to shape a teen Cannonball into the leader he could eventually become. Even though Sam has recovered from lethal wounds a few times, his status as an immortal is still unclear and has usually been played for laughs when it's been mentioned.
Even in the present day, Cannonball has still done things that entire teams of X-Men couldn't do. In one of his most famous moments, Cannonball fought the alien Gladiator to a standstill in Uncanny X-Men #341, by Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira.
When his confidence-based abilities are at their most powerful, Gladiator is essentially Marvel's answer to DC's Superman in terms of raw power. After he fell to Earth, he began scuffling with Cannonball while trying to reach the other X-Men. Even though it was a relatively friendly fight, Sam still survived Gladiator's most powerful punch without a scratch and defeated Gladiator by redirecting the energy from his punch back at the future Imperator of the Shi'ar Empire.
In the ongoing "X-Men Disassembled" storyline, Cannonball has mainly been a background character who hasn't really had the chance to use his powers or his tactical mind much. While it's not clear if he'll take on a more prominent role in the X-Men anytime soon, he'll still be appearing in Uncanny X-Men, which is being released weekly by Marvel, before joining the next incarnation of X-Force in 2019.