Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Rob Liefeld (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Joe Rosen (letters), Brad Vancata (colors)
Summary: Sunfire meets Cable and the New Mutants in Madripoor, where the Japanese government has traced the manufacture of Sleet, a new drug that was used to poison the water supply of a Japanese town. Cable’s convinced that the Mutant Liberation Front is behind Sleet. With the aid of portable Cerebro units, the mutants split up and search Madripoor. Cannonball, Boom-Boom, Warlock, and Sunfire are soon captured by MLF operatives. Meanwhile, Cable tracks a mutant signature that turns out to be Wolverine. They immediately fight, much to Sunspot’s horror.
- Rob Liefeld is still drawing Cable with that giant knife on covers and pin-ups, but I don’t think it’s ever used in any story.
- Cable knew Sunfire’s father, Suburo Yashida, and apparently has a deep respect for him. Whether or not he’s already met Sunfire is ambiguous, but Sunfire does tell Cable it’s a shame his son met such an “untimely fate.” This is another early reference to Cable’s son, a mystery that flounders around for years before it’s finally decided that Tyler, a.k.a. Mr. Tolliver, a.k.a. Genesis, is Cable’s son. (More accurately, his adopted son from his wife’s previous relationship.) Since Tyler exists in the future, it’s unclear how Sunfire knows about him.
- More of Cable’s advanced technology appears, as he rides through the sky with Sunspot and Boom-Boom on a flying motorcycle. He still hasn’t been identified as a time traveler at this point, however.
- This issue marks the first appearances of three MLF members: Dragoness, Kamikaze, and Sumo. As you might’ve discerned, they’re all from Japan (Dragoness even links her mutantcy to the “twisted genetics” created by Hiroshima’s bombing). This is the first indication that the MLF is a global organization, an idea that’s quietly ignored over the years.
- Stryfe meets the New Mutants for the first time, teleporting into the battle with Zero after Cannonball’s team defeats Dragoness, Kamikaze, and Sumo. He uses a “paralysis ray” (rather than his massive telekinetic powers, oddly enough) to incapacitate the team.
Creative Differences: Numerous lettering corrections this issue. One is during Stryfe’s introduction of the Japanese MLF members to General Coy (who’s aiding the team in Madripoor). Another correction has Sunfire lecturing Cable on the futility of revenge when Cable talks about killing the man who killed his son. Later, Stryfe’s dialogue has been altered as he congratulates Zero for teleporting them into the battle just in time. An entire page of Cable and Wolverine’s fight scene has also been re-lettered, and judging by the shift in coloring techniques, I’m assuming the original page from New Mutants #93 has been altered somehow in the initial Cable and the New Mutants trade paperback (page 146 in case you’re curious).
“Huh?” Moment: Boom-Boom is able to identify Kamikaze’s power as the ability to “explode on impact” even though this is the first time they’ve met and he hasn’t used his powers yet.
Review: As the cover says, we just knew a Wolverine/Cable fight “had to happen,” so here we are. Before the story reaches that point, there’s a totally unrelated plot involving the MLF that must be addressed. I actually like this incarnation of the MLF, a global group of terrorists with a masked leader and a different set of mutants operating all across the globe. They’re a lot like Cobra, but since Cable is essentially a G. I. Joe character thrust onto a mutant team at this point, it works. If the MLF were ever allowed to develop as a concept, there’s a lot of potential here. Unfortunately, the team’s destined to become background players in Cable’s war against Stryfe, and once Stryfe is revealed as an insincere believer in his own cause, the rest of the MLF are just cast off as forgotten cannon fodder. I don’t think anyone’s ever cared enough about them to even use them as cheap shock value deaths.
At the time this was published, of course, no one knew any of this was coming. I’m sure the target audience was thrilled to see Stryfe finally confront the team face-to-face, and to receive even more vague clues about Cable’s past. And throwing in Sunfire is a nice nod to longtime readers, as well. (I guess it could be argued that linking Japan and Madripoor creates the impression that Asia is much smaller than it truly is, but I think it helps to establish just how extensively the MLF has infiltrated the continent.) And because this book hasn’t totally left the Bronze Age yet, many of the ongoing character subplots are still advanced, even in the midst of an all-action issue. Cable has an internal monologue revealing how much he does care about his students, Wolfsbane’s relationship with Rictor continues, against the team’s objections, Cannonball is annoyed by Sunfire’s attitude and the revelation that Cable has a son, and Sunspot reflects on how much more respect he has for Cable than Professor Xavier. This leads into the final scene, as Sunspot witnesses Cable fighting another one of his idols, Wolverine, and is heartbroken. It’s melodramatic, yes (and I’m not sure if it’s ever been established that Sunspot has strong feelings either way about Wolverine), but you need these character moments, especially in a teenage superhero title.
And, yes, I’ve skipped New Mutants #92. It was apparently an inventory issue involving the Skrulls, one that Marvel didn’t bother reprinting in the original Cable and the New Mutants trade, or in the newer editions. There might’ve been a one-page scene establishing why the characters are flying to Madripoor at the end of the issue, but I don’t feel like I’m really missing anything to be honest.