Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas & Malibu’s Hues (colors)
Summary: Eight hundred years in the past, a time-displaced Dane Whitman (the Avengers’ Black Knight), takes a group of crusaders to a “wicked” tomb in the Swiss Alps. In the present, Exodus returns to the tomb to recuperate. Nearby, Cable flies overhead, searching for X-Man. He’s suddenly assaulted with X-Man’s memories. Below, X-Man and Threnody travel through the snowstorm. X-Man is suddenly overcome with memories of Cable’s childhood. Cable follows their trail, and discovers that Blaquesmith has been secretly following him. X-Man leads Threnody inside Cable’s Swiss cabin, claiming that he feels psychically drawn to it. Cable enters, and tries to explain to X-Man that coexisting so close together is hurting both of them. Suspicious, X-Man lashes out against him. He sees Cable’s face and realizes that they are the same person, but he refuses to stop his attack. Blaquesmith enters, and the presence of another telepath makes X-Man even angrier. When Cable tries to calm him down, X-Man’s powers explode, destroying the cabin. Later, as X-Man awakens in the snow, he’s greeted by Exodus.
Continuity Notes: Exodus is presumably recovering from his fight with Holocaust, from X-Men #42 and #43. According to the narration, the tomb is where “a portion of the power that created him remains.” I’ve heard some people claim before that placing the Black Knight eight hundred years ago is a continuity error, but I’m not familiar enough with his character to really know. Uncanny X-Men #307 revealed that Black Knight recognized Exodus from somewhere, so at least some of this story must’ve been worked out in advance.
Review: If X-Man hadn’t already reached the point of self-parody as a character, surely this issue would’ve put him over the top. Like every other X-Man story, we see him reacting irrationally and lashing out in anger at people who aren’t threatening him, as the story climaxes with his powers exploding. Didn’t anyone at Marvel notice that the same thing happens in every X-Man story? I guess this one is supposed to be a bigger deal since he’s meeting his counterpart from this reality, but that certainly doesn’t make the story less predictable. It’s almost as if Jeph Loeb had an X-Man drinking game worked out in his head, and he felt an obligation to make sure all of the standard X-Man plot elements made it into each story. Adding Exodus and Black Knight does at least create the potential for something interesting to happen later, but so far it’s all setup. The rest of the story consists of a lot of large images of Cable and X-Man wandering in the snow, which strangely enough limits the amount of space that’s used for the later fight scene between the pair. X-Man’s powers exploding just get a large panel, instead of the standard full splash page, which is surely a shame. This isn't very engaging on its own merits, but the knowledge that X-Man is behaving in exactly the same irrational manner he always does almost makes it comically bad.
Mapping the Mission
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Eric Battle (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Summary: Blaquesmith recaps Cable’s life, from the time of his birth to his childhood in the future, to his return to this timeline as a mercenary.
Review: This is just a partial recap of Cable’s origin (at three pages, it actually pushes this issue’s page count to twenty-three pages). The art’s atrocious, but I did appreciate this backup at the time since I had lost track of the various aspects of Cable’s heavily retconned past when this issue was released. It’s interesting that even a backup story that tries to piece together Cable’s past has no explanation for why exactly he was working as a mercenary before he mentored the New Mutants. The idea that Cable came to this time to train the new External, Cannonball, is also skipped over, which amuses me.