Blood & Metal
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), John Romita, Jr. (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Bill Oakley (letters), Brad Vancata (colors)
In the past, Cable discovers that Stryfe is also working for Tolliver in Afghanistan. Cable breaks his contract and attacks Stryfe, causing the Six Pack to be hunted by Tolliver’s men for several months. Cable convinces the Six Pack to join him in his fight against Stryfe, and they infiltrate one of his bases in Uruguay. Hammer downloads Stryfe’s data to a disc while the team sets explosives. Stryfe teleports in and grabs Kane. He offers Kane’s life for the disc, but Cable refuses to let Hammer hand it over. He shoots Hammer in the back, but Stryfe is still able to grab the disc. The base explodes as Cable teleports to the future, leaving his team behind. Hammer is crippled by falling debris, and Kane loses his limbs in the explosion.
In the present, Kane agrees to help Cable locate Stryfe if Cable agrees to find a way to heal Hammer. In Japan, they replace an artifact targeted by Stryfe and place a tracer on the replica. Cable and Kane argue about the past while trailing Stryfe in the Yucatan Jungle. Stryfe knows he’s being traced and sets up an ambush. He takes Kane hostage, just like in the past, and finally reveals his face to Cable. He demands the data-link to Cable’s computer in exchange for Kane’s life. Cable destroys the disc and Kane fights back, losing his metal arms. Stryfe is weakened, but Kane is near death. Cable has an opportunity to finish Stryfe, but he teleports with Kane to his future, where Cable uses advanced science to give Kane new arms. Cable tells Kane that he doesn’t regret saving his life over killing Stryfe.
Despite the cover date, I remember this issue being released months after the first issue. It’s actually the only Marvel comic from this era I remember shipping late (until Cable’s regular series begins a year later).
Approved By The Comics Code Authority
There’s one use of “bastard”, and two “damn”s. The Comics Code was okay with this level of profanity, but it was still rare for a mainstream Marvel title during this time. Allowing more adult language is probably another indicator that this was a “special” project.
Cable says he hasn’t trusted anyone since the day “she” died in his arms. This is a reference to his wife, who is revealed a year later.
Cable only now learns that Stryfe has his face, and he wonders if they’re the same person from different points in the timeline. He also learns that Stryfe’s power doesn’t come from his armor, but from his telekentic abilities. Cable describes his own TK abilites as “feeble”.
Stryfe says that Cable’s computer once belonged to Apocalypse, strongly implying that it is Ship from the early issues of X-Factor.
Stryfe refers to Cable as “Nathan Dayspring”.
New York is called “Applecrust” in Cable’s future.
This mini does turn out to be significant in unveiling parts of Cable’s backstory, and in altering his characterization. This is what the Weapon Prime storyline in X-Force should have been, with Cable being called out on his amoral behavior and learning from his mistakes (instead of full-page splashes of Feral ripping out Wendigo’s brown blood). Nicieza’s plot is crammed with action, but it doesn’t really feel as if the action gets in the way of the story. Romita also continues to handle all of the explosions and gunfire very well. It’s probably just as violent as a lot of the early ‘90s titles, but Cable also manages to tell an actual story and build characterization.
It’s far from perfect, though. Even if you do learn a lot more about Cable’s past, there are still unanswered questions that are more annoying than engaging. Why did Cable only time-teleport himself away when Stryfe’s base exploded? Later in the story, he takes Kane with him in the future, so he must have the ability to take others with him. Did he not have that ability in the past? Was he that determined to hide his time traveling from his friends? Was he just a jerk? Other annoying questions -- Why was Cable working with a mercenary group in the first place? Why was Stryfe working for Tolliver on a drug operation? Why exactly is Cable so determined to stop Stryfe anyway? What exactly was on the info disc? If the reader isn’t told why Cable wants to stop Stryfe, and what’s on the disc, Cable’s decision to shoot Hammer in the back makes him totally unsympathetic. I realize that many of these questions were eventually answered, but at this point, they stand in the way of the story.
Overall, though, I have to say that this storyline is successful in making Cable more likable. A lot of this comes from the first person narration, which conveys Cable’s guilt over his previous actions, finally giving the character some humanity. Cable now becomes the “soldier from the future, looking for a better way to stop his timeline from happening.” That’s a lot better than “mysterious cyborg-guy who shoots people in the back and doesn’t feel bad about it.”