To Hunt the Hunter
Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Rob Liefeld (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)
Summary: Sabretooth murders one of the remaining Morlocks, Samson, as Caliban returns to the sewers for vengeance. Meanwhile, Cable and the New Mutants move into the underground complex beneath the ruins of the X-Men’s mansion. After Rictor freezes during a Danger Room session, he decides to prove himself by defeating Masque and the rogue Morlocks in the nearby tunnels. He heads into the tunnels alone, and is soon assaulted by Sabretooth. His life is saved when Caliban attacks Sabretooth. At home, Cable and the New Mutants prepare to rescue Rictor.
· The X-Men’s mansion was destroyed during the “Inferno” crossover. Sabretooth is killing any surviving Morlocks after the “Mutant Massacre” because he hates to leave a job unfinished.
· Following Cyclops’ suggestion, the team has moved into the X-Men’s old underground bunker in order to hide from Freedom Force. Cable has also ordered the team to design new costumes, which will allegedly confuse Freedom Force “at least momentarily.” The behind-the-scenes reason is simply that Rob Liefeld wants to design new costumes for the New Mutants. Cable’s metallic battle suit also debuts this issue, even though he only wears it to tour the new facilities.
· Rictor begins dropping hints about his father’s past with Cable. He denies Boom Boom’s sarcastic implication that Cable’s a “mass murderer,” but accuses him of stealing his father from him during an inner monologue on the next page. Later, when Rictor’s overwhelmed by opponents in the Danger Room, he claims that the same thing happened to his father. And, finally, Rictor mentally accuses Cable of setting him up, “just like you did my father” after he fails in the training sequence.
· Cable comments that he can’t push Rictor too hard, or else he’ll lose him, like he lost his son. We’ll learn years later that Cable “lost” his son when Stryfe brainwashed him, which doesn’t seem like something that can be averted with a positive father/son relationship.
I Love the '90s: The team is going to “modem” their new costume designs to Ship.
Review: The bold new direction for New Mutants truly begins this issue, as Cable officially becomes the team’s new mentor, new costumes debut, and the cast moves to a (somewhat) new location. Already, this feels abrupt. If Cyclops were truly concerned about the government locating Cable, I would tend to think that he could hide quite comfortably inside the giant sentient alien that X-Factor uses as a skyscraper. And why is Cyclops so eager to help this stranger out anyway? If he really thinks Cable is innocent of whatever it is the government is accusing him of, shouldn’t X-Factor make an effort to clear his name? And if Cyclops doesn’t think Cable is innocent, why is he leaving him in charge of a group of teenagers? Unless there’s an issue of X-Factor that addressed these questions, it’s hard to buy the hasty shift in status quo.
Ignoring how the creators have gotten to this point, this does work fairly well as a set-up issue for the new direction. Yes, Rictor’s motivation is childish and dim-witted, but that’s pretty consistent with his characterization at this point. The team is given enough room to interact with one another, a few vague clues are dropped about their mysterious new teacher, and Cable is actually portrayed as a sympathetic mentor for the team. He’s concerned about pushing them too hard in the Danger Room, he wants to make sure they continue their studies, and even though he’s more willing than his predecessors to send the team into battle, he at least does it reluctantly. Does this sound anything like the man from the early issues of X-Force? Cable hasn’t even shot anyone in the back yet!
Unfortunately, Rob Liefeld’s art continues to deteriorate. This is an early example of Liefeld drawing squinty expressions instead of actual eyes, and he pulls the trick so often you barely see any pupils this issue. Other shortcuts include repeating the same drawing of Rictor twice during a conversation scene, and simply inserting the Official Marvel Handbook’s diagram of the mansion’s interiors during a scene that calls for the cast to describe all of the wonderful features of the complex. And the closing image of the issue is a gratuitous splash page of a tiny-headed Cable hugging, yes hugging, a giant, unrealistic gun that’s at least six feet tall. Don’t worry, X-Force, we’ll get there soon…