Final Covenant: The Ballad of Karmic Retribution
Credits: Joe Casey (writer), Ladronn (penciler), Walden Wong & Juan Vlasco (inkers), Gloria Vasquez (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
Summary: An elderly man squatting in Stacey’s apartment building believes he’s created a time machine. Against her wishes, her little brother Kenny befriends him. While visiting her apartment, Cable breaks off his budding romance with Stacey. When he has second thoughts and turns back, he discovers Caesar has taken her hostage. Cable’s fight with his estranged follower leads to the basement, where Kenny is visiting the old man. A battered Caesar tries to escape in the time machine, only to have it blow up in his face. Cable uses his telekinetic shield to protect Kenny and the old man. After the building is evacuated, he embraces Stacey and kisses her.
Continuity Notes: Caesar is the jaded Askani member from Cable #58 who resents Cable for disbanding this century’s Askani order and suggesting they get real lives. He claims that he’s killed Cable’s “believers” (presumably the group of average citizens introduced by James Robinson who believe in Cable’s cause and occasionally offer help) all around the world and is now ready to finish the job.
Review: It’s Joe Casey’s final issue, which means he’s got to resolve the dangling Caesar subplot, determine the status of Cable and Stacey’s relationship, and have Cable learn some kind of a lesson about hope, faith, and the future. He’s also decided to introduce a new character, a deranged man who’s convinced he’s a time traveler, and spend a few pages on his elaborate backstory. That’s a lot for twenty-two pages, but luckily Ladronn is great at drawing tiny panels and working a lot of information into each page.
Despite some people’s claim that Casey’s work on Cable was a revelation, his approach to the character wasn’t radically different than Jeph Loeb’s(and Loeb’s run largely followed in the direction Fabian Nicieza had set for Cable during his later X-Force days.) We all know by now that Cable is more of a pacifist, he isn’t relying on guns, and he’s opening up to the people of this era, rather than using them as soldiers in his war to save the future. Casey’s major contribution was moving him physically away from the X-Men and giving him a few civilians to interact with (and let’s remember that the impetus for this direction came from James Robinson’s brief run). I agree with the decision to ground Cable, but I don’t see why it was viewed as such a groundbreaking move. I will give Casey credit for moving Cable away from the messianic role that was grafted on to him, since that always seemed like an awkward fit. I have a feeling that Robinson was going to go heavily in that direction, while Casey had Cable disband this era’s Askani order and tell them to move on rather early in his run. Killing Cable’s “believers” off-panel might be seen as a cheap move, but they were cheap creations in the first place. I still refuse to believe that the Cable of the Simonson-Liefeld-Nicieza era had a secret sect of powerful humans who believed in his alleged “cause” and was helping him out. That guy was bullying teenagers into joining up for a human-mutant war; it’s hard to believe that he was secretly a spiritual advisor to the rich and powerful in his spare time.
Regardless, Casey returns to his core themes for a final time, drawing a parallel between Cable and the deranged homeless man who’s built an unstable “time machine” in the basement. When the old man realizes that his future is all gone, Cable naturally sees himself in the man and begins to ponder what he’s sacrificing. He’s learned now that the future will never be known, and that he has to stop using his war as an excuse for removing himself from the people he’s allegedly fighting for. He’s learned this lesson probably five or six times by now, but it’s executed quite well this time, making this an appropriate ending to the Casey/Ladronn era. NEXT ISSUE: Rob Liefeld returns, which doesn’t make anyone mad at all.