“…Our Regularly Scheduled Program…”
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Arnie Jorgensen (penciler), Mark Pennington (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas & Digital Chameleon (colors)
Cable and X-Force check the remains of Murderworld for any equipment that can be salvaged. Jean Grey and Caliban join the search and find X-Force’s Pacrat aircraft. Jean and Cable combine their powers and telekinetically lift it out of the rubble. The strain briefly causes Cable to lose control of his techno-organic virus, but Jean helps him control it. After dropping the team off at the Xavier Institute, Cable receives a psychic call for help from Blaquesmith. Caliban and Domino accompany him to Maryland, where they land outside of an anchored warship. When they enter the ship, they’re attacked by a group of automated guns. Cable uses his telekinetic power to destroy them, while Caliban finds Blaquesmith buried underneath a pile of debris. They rescue Blaquesmith, who tells Cable that he was attacked by someone who wanted all of the information he has on him. On Muir Island, Moira MacTaggert suspects that someone on the island leaked the story of her Legacy Virus infection to the media. She discovers that someone’s been accessing her files, and fears that the info could end up hurting Cable.
Some of the changes Loeb brought to X-Force debut here. Warpath now has a very ‘90s short haircut with long sideburns. Siryn is mysteriously missing. The team spends time at Xavier’s mansion while figuring out where they’ll go. Cable asks Blaquesmith to design new costumes for the team, which will include Caliban.
Blaquesmith makes his first real appearance. He’s a bug-eyed E.T.-looking creature who somehow ties into the Askani religion. Domino already knows him, which doesn’t really fit with the established idea that she didn’t know anything about Cable’s past either. There’s also an implication that Domino has had memories erased, as Blaquesmith asks Cable “How much does she remember?”, and he replies “Nothing. It’s still too dangerous”. The figure that attacked Blaquesmith appears to be the X-Cutioner. I remember hardly anything about this run, so I have no idea if this is resolved.
A narrative caption infers that Cable spent a lot of time and effort building X-Force’s Pacrat ship, which overlooks the fact that it was actually stolen from SHIELD in X-Force #14.
I Love the ‘90s
The letter page’s masthead is now redesigned with blocky computer-generated letters that haven’t aged well.
According to the Statement of Ownership, the average sales for the year were 212,292 with the most recent issue selling 145,700. I don’t know if these numbers include the X-Man issues or not. Either way, the industry’s decline is becoming noticeable (although the Phalanx crossover probably brought up the overall average sales, making the most recent issue’s sales seem less impressive than they really were).
Jeph Loeb’s Cable run is kind of difficult to review at this point. Not a lot happens in each issue, but enough does happen to make the book at least seem like it’s moving forward. The stories are very straightforward and don’t overstay their welcome, but aren’t that interesting either. Cable is given just enough personality not to be a generic superhero, but he’s still not a protagonist you really care about. Tying the book closer to X-Force and the rest of the line does make it feel more significant, so I guess he has succeeded in eliminating some of the title’s irrelevance. The title’s really just been raised to the level of “readable”, which I guess was good enough for someone committed to completism. There was at least a level of consistency to the book at this point, so I didn’t really resent “having” to buy it anymore. The fill-in art in this issue is by Arnie Jorgensen, a name that I don’t remember at all, so I don’t think he stuck around the titles for long (prior to this, he drew an annual backup in X-Force). His work resembles Bart Sears’ for the first half of the issue, but it devolves into a quite a mess before the story’s over. Blaquesmith doesn’t have that great of a design in the first place, but Jorgensen’s interpretation is particularly ugly. I’d say the art drags the story down, but since the story’s not very engaging in the first place, it’s hard to really care.