“What Was…What Is…”
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill w/Joel Thomas (pencilers), Scott Hanna w/Ryan, Wiacek, LaRosa, Vey, & Carani (inkers), Mike Thomas & Malibu’s Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Domino joins Cable and Jenskot in the future as they hide out from Stryfe’s soldiers. They sneak though Stryfe’s camp on their way back to the Clan Chosen’s base. Meanwhile, Stryfe interrogates the captured Tetherblood, who refuses to reveal the connection between Nathan Dayspring and the glowing orb Stryfe has obtained. At Clan Chosen’s camp, Cable meets Korless, a member he doesn’t remember. Cable checks on his younger self, the comatose Nathan Dayspring. He’s unable to enter his mind because Nathan is psychically guarding himself against Stryfe. Cable psionically reaches out to the Professor, whose consciousness is contained inside the glowing orb Stryfe is holding. He’s convinced that only the Professor can save Nathan. Domino asks Blaquesmith why she was sent along with Cable, but all he knows is that she must have a key role in this battle. Domino wonders if her role is to kill the younger Stryfe before he can cause Cable so much pain. She heads back to Stryfe’s base and prepares to assassinate him, but is stopped by Cable, who is afraid of disrupting this timeline. Along with the Clan Chosen, they break into Stryfe’s camp and search for the Professor. Once Cable locates him, he’s ambushed by Korless. Korless admits to Cable that he wants Stryfe to succeed so that he can have a place in the new world order. The Professor teleports Cable’s team away, leaving Stryfe to kill Korless for failing him. Soon, Blaquesmith helps to integrate the Professor’s consciousness into Nathan, which saves his life. Cable says goodbye to Jenskot, and is then sent back to the past with Domino by Blaquesmith. The following day, Nathan recovers and wins the next battle against Stryfe.
The Clan Chosen is the name of Cable’s team of resistance fighters in the future. Its members include Cable’s best friend, Tetherblood, and his future wife, Jenskot. Korless, Stryfe’s sleeper agent inside the Clan, makes the odd statement that the “High Lord” has already fallen. If this is supposed to be a reference to Apocalypse, that doesn’t fit all of the stories that show him as a continued threat in Cable’s future.
The Professor is supposed to be Ship from the earlier issues of X-Factor. Apparently, there's another story that explains how he ended up as a glowing orb (probably the Askani'son mini I never read).
This issue has a double-gatefold prismatic foil cover. I have the newsstand copy, which doesn’t have any enhancements.
Approved By the Comics Code Authority
Domino’s costume leaves her right leg bare, which Churchill has taken as an invitation to also leave her right butt cheek exposed. The colorist colors it blue, bringing us another Editorial Swimwear moment.
It’s not uncommon for anniversary issues to do stories where the main character travels through time and meets a younger version of himself, or has another chance to see loved ones who have died, etc. Since Cable is already a time traveler, the theme is a more natural fit for him than it would be for someone like Batman, but the end result it still weak. This is another story about the timeline Cable grew up in, and it’s just as dull as the ones that preceded it. Since the height of Cable’s popularity occurred before it was even revealed that he was a time traveler, I have to wonder if he’s just better off without any of these excursions into his past. I’ve yet to read a story that makes me care about Cable’s future, mainly because no one he knows there has a personality, and nothing about this timeline stands out amongst the hundreds of other dystopian futures we’ve already seen. I guess there’s a novelty to setting the story in an era of Cable’s past that hadn’t been revealed yet, and seeing the return of the once-major villain Stryfe, but I had already lost interest in all of this material by the time this story was published.
Loeb does try to do something with Domino’s conflicting feelings about being sent on this mission, but nothing really comes from it. He actually has the character question why she’s even been sent to the future, has the sage Blaquesmith tell her it must be for a reason, and then never actually reveals what it is. She doesn’t kill Stryfe, which she suspected her purpose might be, or help Cable recover the Professor in any significant way, so it’s hard to see why Loeb even brought up this thread. Domino’s willingness to kill Stryfe and let Cable have happiness here with Jenskot, even if it means she might never see him again or even erase their history together, is a decent conflict, even if it’s only a small part of the story. Loeb also introduces a lot of the time travel paradoxes that usually show up in these stories by giving the characters the typical dilemmas about altering the past, or giving characters knowledge of the future, without doing anything new with any of them. And since Cable’s original goal in returning to our timeline was to prevent his from happening, it’s strange that he’s so concerned about not changing anything now. All of these worries seem moot anyway since Marvel had so firmly established by this point that time travel only creates alternate realities in their universe. Nicieza even had Cable himself acknowledge that his original plan of changing his future probably wouldn’t work during his X-Force run. I guess you could make the argument that only the past is immutable, and that time traveling to the future involves different rules, but that would require this issue to actually delve into questions much more interesting than the ones Loeb wants to address.