Monday, December 3, 2012

NEW MUTANTS #89 - May 1990

The Gift
Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Rob Liefeld (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Brad Vancata (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)

Summary: Cable’s helicopter is shot down over Manhattan’s East River. Freedom Force pursues him into the city, ambushing him after he buys a trenchcoat to cover his metal arm. Nearby, Cannonball, Boom Boom, and Sunspot are buying Wolfsbane a going away present. They stumble upon Cable’s fight and aid him against Freedom Force. Cable returns home with the mutants and encounters his old friend Moira MacTaggert. Cable convinces Moira to let Wolfsbane stay and join his mission. The team unites around Cable, with the exception of Rictor, who apparently knows him.

Continuity Notes:
· What are Cable’s first thoughts when encountering the New Mutants? “I’ve seen them -- on television! X-Factor’s young mutant charges.” He doesn’t recognize Cannonball as the mutant savior he’s come from the future to train and protect, oddly enough.
· Cable’s able to use his bionic eye to sense the rapid approach of Super Sabre.
· Moira comments that Cable’s become “even more the metal man” when she sees him this issue. When the story of their first meeting is finally told in Cable #-1, Cable’s already half-metal (or half-techno-organic, however you wish to phrase it.)
· Cable tells Moira that he has to stop terrorists, presumably the MLF, from constructing a powerful bomb. I don’t believe this motivation is mentioned ever again. It could've been a metaphor, but that's not the way the scene reads.
· Rictor tells Warlock that Cable doesn’t recognize him, but “I know him all too well!” Years later, this mystery is resolved when a flashback reveals Cable’s clone, Stryfe, killed Rictor’s father before his eyes. Rictor’s reaction to Cable in these issues is rather subdued in light of this revelation.

Review: When I discovered that Moira MacTaggert was the first existing character to have a shared retconned past with Cable, I thought it was an odd choice. Well, now I get it. It was just a cheap justification to place Cable in charge of the New Mutants! And it does make a certain amount of sense; the associated authority figures that allegedly take care of the New Mutants aren’t going to let just anyone assume responsibility for the team. This (almost) works as a quickie rationale for why the kids are willing to trust him and the adults are okay with Cable looking after the team.

What isn’t explained is why a Shadow King-possessed Moira MacTaggert so easily gives up on her mission to bring Wolfsbane back to Muir Island. I can guess the sloppy retcon explanation, Cable used his immense telepathic powers to minimize the Shadow King’s influence and sway Moira over to his side (even though Cable shouldn’t be aware of his telepathy at this point), but this makes no sense within the context of the story. I’m also unclear on why exactly Cable is trying to reach X-Factor’s ship at the beginning of the story. Cable hasn’t mentioned X-Factor in his previous two appearances, but now he’s apparently relying on them to help him stop the MLF and rescue Rusty and Skids. I believe X-Factor were supposed to be Rusty and Skids’ guardians during this time, so that does make sense, but the idea isn’t clearly explained in the story. (Another Sloppy Retcon Explanation: He knows that X-Factor’s ship will one day become his computer aide and confidant, the Professor, and he’s looking for his help. Alternate Sloppy Retcon Explanation: He subconsciously knows that his biological parents live there.)

For the sake of plot convenience, Cable luckily runs into the young charges living in X-Factor’s ship while he’s fighting Freedom Force in an alley. Oddly enough, we’ll later learn that Cable came to this specific era to recruit Cannonball to his cause anyway, so it’s also mighty convenient that he happened to run into him while on a totally unrelated mission. Oh! Maybe Cable’s powerful, yet nonexistent, telepathic abilities drew Cannonball and the others to the alley!

So, yes, it’s hard to read this story without thinking of all of the insane retcons that have been shoehorned into Cable’s past. Judging the issue in its proper context, however, doesn’t help it out much. There are still dubious coincidences, vague motivations, and a shockingly abrupt shift of power to this new guy named Cable. It's true Moira vouches for him, but everyone knows she’s been acting strangely lately. And, this new guy is outright telling the New Mutants they could be killed on this mission he has for them. Yet, everyone’s eager to sign up. And while I’m willing to cut Liefeld some slack on his earlier issues, his work is getting egregiously bad at this point. The staging of the fight scenes is inconsistent from panel to panel, characters appear to spontaneously float on air, and everyone seems to strike ridiculous poses even during mundane conversation scenes. In terms of continuity, this is a monumentally important issue, but it’s easy to understand why no one ever wants to dwell on its details.


Anonymous said...

IDK, I think that page you picked out actually looks pretty good...

G. Kendall said...

That's not the worst page in the issue, true. But just looking at it, that storytelling is fairly awful. Cable's somehow gotten closer to the railing even after running away from it in the previous panel, and that kid's reaction is just ridiculous. And what is he even looking at if the fire is in the bay?

Anonymous said...

Okay, now I see what you're saying, but I'd argue that kid's expression is so bad it works lol

wwk5d said...

As if the horrible cover isn't a sign of what's to come...

Teebore said...

I'm pretty sure the answers to any and all questions about why Cable is doing anything in these issues and how it fits with the later retcons is "because it's kewl".

And I say that as someone with a greater-than-average amount of affection for the character, twisted back story and all...

I'm still amazed at how quickly and abruptly Liefeld is able to not only integrate Cable into the book, but him in charge of the main characters. He first appeared two issues ago and now he's the team's new leader, just like that.

And while Moira vouches for him in this issue, I don't think we ever get a scene of anyone from X-Factor letting him take their (legal) charges away from them to live in the mansion's basement, do we?

It's just amazing how quickly Liefeld was able to shift into this new direction.

@wwk5dAs if the horrible cover isn't a sign of what's to come...

For whatever reason, the idea of Liefeld drawing Super Sabre has always cracked me up. Blob and Pyro and even Avalanche have these more traditional super-villainy looks that Liefeld can exaggerate, but Super Sabre is just this old dude in a bomber cap. He just seems so relatively normal, and Liefeld usually doesn't do "normal".

G. Kendall said...

"I don't think we ever get a scene of anyone from X-Factor letting him take their (legal) charges away from them to live in the mansion's basement, do we?"

Cyclops appears in the next issue briefly, but I think it's already treated as a given that the team's moving in with Cable.

wwk5d said...

My main issues with the cover are where the people are placed, and how they are reacting (that, and the tumor which seems attached to the Blob's throat...I know he's fat and with a double chin, but that's a horrible exaggeration, and he looked nothing like that on Liefeld's previous cover). Cable in bonking Sabre on the head, yet he looks like he is being punched across the face. And if Cable is delivering an uppercut to Pyro, why does is kneeling at Cable's feet?

Ugh, this is just bad, bad, bad.

Harry Sewalski said...

I love how in the cover it looks as though Cable is just holding his fist out and Super Sabre has run straight into it, as if he was hoping that that would stop Cable.

Speaking as someone who loves continuity to a Kurt Busiek-esque level, reading your continuity notes on this issue pains me. I can handle retcons when they're pulled off convincingly, but why do future writers just look at stuff established in this issue (however vaguely) and say, "Let's ignore that in favour of our own ideas!" I know that vague hints which never had any payoff were handed around like around this time, but did the writers ever actually plan on following up on their hints?!

Sorry to get so annoyed, but this sort of sloppy writing really annoys me. Why put out a vague hint if you have no idea where it's going? Why not tell other writers your plans for characters if they're writing them, so that your original ideas can still be executed? I realise that you can't please everyone and that there'll always be someone who'll ignore your hints in favour of their own story, but you could at least try to have a grasp of what you're doing with the character and follow up on it. If retcons are necessary, I prefer that they at least address the original story rather than just overwriting it without explanation.

Gyah, that was really long-winded and ramble-y.

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