Credits: Joe Casey (writer), James Robinson (plot assist), Ladronn(penciler), Juan Vlasco & Bud LaRosa (inks), Comicraft’s Saida Temofonte (letters), Gloria Vasquez (colors)
Summary: Cable traces the Hellfire Club’s activities to Switzerland, and reluctantly takes Irene along. They’re attacked by Hellfire Club soldiers, and rescued by a mysterious older man named Wilhelm. Wilhelm knows of Cable’s powers and claims to be a Believer, but Cable doesn’t recognize him. Eventually, Cable scans his mind and learns his true identity -- Wilhelm is the Nazi supervillain Master Man.
Review: Welcome to the comics industry, Joe Casey. As Casey revealed in a Wizard interview later this year, he was an acquaintance of James Robinson who was interested in writing comics. When Robinson had to leave this title (to write a Freddy vs. Jason screenplay), Robinson gave Casey a chance to work on this issue. Casey thought it was a writing exercise until he was informed he just wrote Cable #51. Although Marvel apparently never officially confirmed it to him, Casey became the regular writer of the series.
I believe Casey has said before that he doesn’t have much of a connection to the X-Men (which was pretty obvious to anyone who had to suffer through his Uncanny X-Men run), so I wonder if bringing in a villain from the mainstream Marvel Universe was his idea. In terms of the “Hellfire Hunt” storyline, I have no idea what Master Man is doing here. Revealing that he might be a Believer (one of Cable’s “followers” we’ve never heard of until Robinson’s run) connects him to the title character, but I can’t help but to feel that this is a distraction from a story that’s already dragged on for months. The rest of the issue consists of exposition, exposition, and more exposition. Irene flashes back to the events of the past few issues, Ch’vayre recalls his first contact with Sebastian Shaw, and Shaw and Pierce needle each other while conveniently reminding anyone nearby of their plan to steal Apocalypse’s power. Ch’vayre’s flashback does introduce a brief new scene, which has Shaw informing him that he doesn’t need help from a refugee from the future, because Trevor Fitzroy has already joined the Hellfire Club. That’s a nice touch, but it’s obvious that most of this issue is just stalling for time.
Hellfire Hunt Part 5 - Beyond Belief
Credits: Joe Casey (writer), German Garcia (penciler), Jon Holdredge (inks), Comicraft (letters), Gloria Vasquez (colors)
Summary: Wilhelm confesses to Cable that he was Master Man, and swears that after befriending one of the Believers, he now wants redemption. Cable reluctantly accepts Wilhelm’s offer of aid, and puts Irene in a deep sleep to protect her from more violence. They travel through the Alps in a blizzard and are soon attacked by Hellfire soldiers. Before Cable can stop him, one of the soldiers kills Wilhelm. Cable mourns his death and carries on to his destination. He discovers Apocalypse’s fortress, and witnesses the Hellfire Club’s battle with its automated defenses.
Continuity Notes: The "secret" of Ch’vayre is just a flashback to his arrival in this time. This Master Man is the one who appeared in the early issues of the ‘90s Namor series. After failing to commit suicide, he retreated to the Swiss Alps. The super-soldier serum in his veins has begun to wear off, which explains his aging.
Review: So…why did Master Man show up? Casey actually uses the character rather well in this issue, as Cable has to deal with the “Could you forgive a Nazi?” question while continuing his mission. Master Man’s quest for redemption does add some humanity to the issue, but it still feels as if he’s mainly there to buy some time. Maybe if this weren’t a titled, multi-part storyline and just an old-school rambling Marvel narrative I wouldn’t mind him so much. If you call a story “The Hellfire Hunt” and make a big deal about the group finding Apocalypse, perhaps you shouldn’t have so many issues dedicated to the Hellfire Club doing virtually nothing. I could complain that novice writer Casey is overwriting every single page of this comic with melodramatic narrative captions, but that might not be fair. So long as Mark Powers edited this series (and Wolverine), every writer’s run had those turgid captions.