The Dark Ride Part One – The Calling
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Mike Sellers w/Ryan & Dvorak (inkers), Mike Thomas (colorist), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering)
Gauntlet and the new Dark Riders hunt down former member Foxbat. They judge him to be weak and kill him. At the X-Men’s mansion, Cyclops tries to talk Cable into developing his mutant powers, but Cable would rather use firepower. While eating breakfast with the X-Men, Cable reveals to Storm that the Morlocks are still alive. Cable, Storm, and Domino investigate the sewers, even though Cable tells Storm that he only found one Morlock and that the rest were in a dimensional rift. Caliban bursts through a wall, running from the Dark Riders. They’re thrilled to discover Cable, who Gauntlet considers a real test. During the fight, Cable is forced to use his telekinetic powers against one of the Riders after losing his gun. The Dark Riders’ teleporter, Harddrive appears, saying that Cable has been declared off-limits. He teleports the team away. Cable vows to treat Caliban’s wounds, and then use his tracking ability to find the Dark Riders.
This is one of those issues that’s computer lettered, but still has lettering corrections done by hand. Some of the altered balloons include an explanation of Cyclops’ powers, a mention by Cyclops that Cable wasn’t using his telepathic powers (meant to cover why Cyclops and Jean are mentally talking about Cable even though he could listen in, I assume), a reference to the dimensional rift the Morlocks went to, and an introduction of Harddrive when he appears. A few transition captions have also been added.
The new Dark Riders (Lifeforce, Hurricane, Deadbolt, and Spyne) debut. I think most of these characters end up as cannon fodder over the years.
Cable hears Beast refer to Cyclops by his old nickname “Slim”, which reminds Cable of the “Slym” who raised him.
We Get Letters
There’s a letter from a fan who’s gleefully surprised that Cable #14 referenced a story that was a whopping five years old. Just wait until every superhero comic published is either homaging or undoing comics that are decades old. There’s also a letter in response to the previous issue, which surprised me. The letters were usually three issues or so behind during this time. It’s possible that was one of the first emails printed by Marvel, but they don’t list an email address on the letters page.
The credits box “formally welcomes” Jeph Loeb with this issue, so I guess this should be considered the real beginning of his run. He actually seemed to have a better grasp on Cable’s character back in his fill-in issue, since his portrayal here seems to ignore the character arc that Nicieza’s been building for over a year now. Cable’s already been shown developing his psychic powers in X-Force, so it’s odd to see him so adamant against using them here. Cable’s back to “big guns, bad attitude”, for this issue at least. Even if it’s a step backwards, it does give Cable more personality than he normally has in this series. Ideally, Nicieza’s arc of a soldier who wants to learn more about peace would have provided some interesting stories, but so far that hasn’t panned out.
I don’t remember a lot about Loeb’s run, but I do remember that he often played up Cable’s connection to the X-Men. Cable and Domino hang out at the mansion for a large part of the issue, which produces a few decent scenes, even if some of the dialogue is a little awkward. Considering all of the effort Marvel went through to establish Cable as Cyclops’ son, it is nice to see some effort put into creating a relationship between the characters. Since Apocalypse has been retconned as Cable’s main enemy by this time, it also makes sense to see his former followers, the Dark Riders, show up as villains. The title still doesn’t have a very distinctive feel, but at least the connections to the main X-books don’t seem so forced. The new Dark Riders aren’t anything special, though. Half of the designs are awful, and they're all essentially personality-less. They serve their role as one-issue punching bags well enough, but using them in a three-issue arc doesn’t feel promising.