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Thursday, April 30, 2015

X-amining New Mutants #89

"The Gift"
May 1990

In a Nutshell
Cable joins the New Mutants. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Hilary Barta

Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Freedom Force chases after Cable, shooting down his helicopter as he races for the city, but Cable is able to return fire before bailing out, and both choppers crash into the river. Cable reaches shore first, and heads deeper into the city. Meanwhile, Sam, Roberto and Boom-Boom land outside Tiffany's, reluctantly shopping for a going away present for Rahne. They end up buying her a crystal wolf figurine as Cable is accosted by Freedom Force in a nearby alley. Back at Ship, Rahne packs her things, much to Rictor's dismay, and when Moira arrives to pick her up, she is shocked by her foster mother's demeanor. Elsewhere, Cable's fight with Freedom Force attracts the attention of the rest of the New Mutants, who, eager to take on Freedom Force, come to his aid. Back at Ship, Rictor and Warlock destroy Moira's helicopter to prevent her from leaving before the rest of the team returns.


Meanwhile, with Cable's guidance, the New Mutants are able to overpower Freedom Force, and Cable tells them about Rusty and Skids' abduction by the MLF. The New Mutants take Cable back to Ship where he convinces Moira, whom he's met before, to allow Rahne to stay with the New Mutants, under his guidance, as he needs their help to stop the MLF. Moira reluctantly agrees, then departs, Rictor and Warlock having only faked the destruction of her helicopter. Rahne thanks Cable for helping her stay, though he admits his plan could get them all killed, while Sam is appreciative of Cable's attitude. However, Rictor is none too pleased with Cable's arrival, for though Cable doesn't recognize him, Rictor knows him, all too well.

Firsts and Other Notables
Cable effectively joins the New Mutants this issue, becoming their latest (and last) mentor figure, after Sam, Roberto and Boom-Boom help him fight off Freedom Force and after Cable is able to negotiate Rahne's continued stay with the team.

This issue also establishes that Moira knows Cable, one of the few "Cable has a mysterious past with everyone!" connections that actually does get some future exploration, as Cable #-1 establishes that Moira took Cable in after he first arrived in this timeline. She also says that he's more the metal man than ever, which actually is consistent with the later revelations regarding the source of Cable's metal limbs, as it stands to reason the Techno-Organic virus has just spread since Moira last saw Cable (he was already metallic when they first met).


We learn that Rictor has a past with Cable as well, and doesn't like him, something that will be teased throughout the rest of the series and into X-Force, when it will eventually be revealed that Stryfe killed Rictor's father, leading Rictor to believe it was Cable who did so. 


The Shadow King-controlled Legion appears briefly via monitor in this issue, and it's never made clear why gives up on having Rahne come to Muir Island and allows Cable to take control of the New Mutants, though my headcannon explanation is that Moira is far enough outside his influence that a bit of her own personality is subconsciously asserting itself, allowing her to operate outside his plans.

Cable recognizes the New Mutants from TV when they find him in the alley, and decides they can help him in his mission. Which doesn't exactly gel with the later idea that Cable specifically came to this timeline to help shepherd the development of Cannonball (an idea which, granted, was later more or less overwritten/ignored by other motivations).
As of this issue, Cable states that his mission is the highly-specific desire to stop the MLF from building a hydrogen bomb (last issue, Freedom Force told him the MLF had stolen the ingredients for one), which he believes the New Mutants can help him accomplish.


The cover to this issue is significantly less dynamic than the previous one, and is the weakest and most-rushed looking Liefeld cover for the series yet, looking like it could just be a panel inside the book itself, anatomy issues aside.

A Work in Progress
Rahne has a collection of souvenirs from her adventures with the New Mutants, including a piece of marble from Nova Roma and a feather from their first trip to Asgard.

The New Mutants have to do a bit of hair-splitting justification to intervene on Cable's behalf against Freedom Force, given X-Factor's request last issue.


Sam and Roberto appreciate that Cable seems to understand their concerns that having powers gives them a responsibility to help others, something they feel they haven't been doing much lately.


The Cable Guy 
We get the first of many splash pages depicting Cable wielding an impossibly-large gun.


It's established that Cable has a bionic eye in this issue, which gives him enhanced vision. Notably, it's the eye that isn't surrounded by scars.


501 Genes
This issue features the debut of Rahne's new werewolf form, in which she has triangle hair for some reason (not unlike MLF member Wildside), a look that other artists beyond Liefeld will eventually adopt for the character, making it, for the most part, her default look for much of the 90s. Liefeld will re-use the triangle hair design later for Feral, another animalistic mutant, making the Feral and Wolfsbane virtually visually indistinguishable from one another.


Roberto punches a wall inside Ship in anger, breaking off a piece of it, despite not being powered up.


As Cable climbs out of the river, the distance between himself and the fence in the background seems to shift wildly between panels.


Rictor's mohawk changes color and length between panels.


Liefeld seems uncertain of how to draw the roof of Ship, where Moira lands, the end result being it looks like the rooftop of a regular city building, with a door that opens out onto it.

The dialogue claims that Roberto "taps" Crimson Commando during their fight, but the artwork doesn't really support that.


Later, Crimson Commando uses another handle/grip-less Liefeld gun.


Lots and lots of squinty eyes in this one.

Young Love
When asked about it by Roberto, Boom-Boom downplays any feeling she may have for Rictor, claiming he's like a brother to her.

Rictor and Rahne grow closer, meanwhile, with it more or less all but stated that the reason they're both so upset about Rahne leaving is because of their feelings for one another.


Teebore's Take
Though he's been a presence in the book since his debut in issue #87, this marks the technical beginning of the Cable era of the series, as he meets the New Mutants and essentially adopts them as his charges/pupils. In-universe, it's a bit abrupt, as the two parties have just met each other, but anyone paying attention the last three issues saw where this was all headed, and Simonson has done her best to lay some groundwork for the development in the time she had: seeing Cable getting attacked by Freedom Force and his ability to talk Moira out of taking away Rahne endears him to the New Mutants, while the fact that he's willing to fight to save Rusty & Skids specifically and mutants in general gives him a leg up on the New Mutants' current teachers, motivating them to throw in with him (thus making clear the reason, to readers, at least, for X-Factor's otherwise uncharacteristic shoulder-shrugging response to the kidnapping of their former students) while also speaking to the overall sense of malaise the New Mutants have been feeling about their purpose more or less since "Inferno" and Magneto's departure (though much of that sensation has been masked by stuff like spending forever in Asgard). Meanwhile, establishing a history between Cable and Moira hand waves away any objections the other adults might have with this mysterious cyborg solider mentoring these kids: it's all good, Moira vouches for him! So while Cable, a character who debuted just two months' prior to this issue, becoming the book's latest authority figure isn't exactly the most intricately set up plot development, there is some setup here, and to Simonson's credit, she sells the idea about as well as she could.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor meets Peter Nicholas in X-Factor #54. Next week, Incredible Hulk #369 and Excalibur #22.

Collected Editions

13 comments:

  1. Oh my oh my. I know this is early Liefeld, but this is even shittier than I remember. Barta's inks are really the only thing making the art bearable. If anything, the cover itself should be a sign of the horribleness that is to follow.

    "he also says that he's more the metal man than ever, which actually is consistent with the later revelations regarding the source of Cable's metal limbs, as it stands to reason the Techno-Organic virus has just spread since Moira last saw Cable (he was already metallic when they first met)."

    But wasn't it already in place, more or less, when he was a kid as revealed in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix? Even then, it was pretty much his eye and arm and shoulder.

    "that Moira is far enough outside his influence that a bit of her own personality is subconsciously asserting itself, allowing her to operate outside his plans"

    Which kind of makes Moira somewhat of an idiot for agreeing to allow Cable to take Rahne.

    "there is some setup here, and to Simonson's credit, she sells the idea about as well as she could."

    Which really isn't saying much. I mean, it;s one thing for Cable to talk about mentoring the kids, but he's basically saying he will be using the kids as soldiers in a war. Which in turn makes X-factor really look like the world's worst foster parents. Ever.

    I mean, yeah, I get that the book needs to move from Point A to Point B in order to advance the plot, but another issue or 2 would have made the kids acceptance of Cable a bit more plausible.

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  2. So, this issue ... I didn't hate it! I found the second half to be a big step up on the first half.

    Things I disliked:
    More sloppy Simonson dialogue. What's with that opening sequence with Cable and the bystander?
    "You stay here! I'll go get help!"
    "No, YOU stay here! I'LL go get help!"
    "No, let's do what I said. You stay here and help them. I'll go get HELP!"
    [Enter FF.]
    "Where's the old guy?"
    "He left to go get HELP!"
    Cable thoughts: "Hopefully they'll be delayed by people trying to HELP them!"

    I mean ... I don't even know where to start. But I guess I'll start with why the word "help" had to appear 49 times over the course of three pages.

    Then later, with Sam, Bobby and Tabitha:
    Tabitha: "I feel bad leaving Rahne alone."
    Bobby: "It's okay, Rictor is with her."
    Sam: "I'm just glad we convinced Warlock to stay behind."

    Ummm ... so two people are with her? So you didn't actually leave her alone at all.

    So weird!

    There's also some awkward stuff when they're shopping for Rahne's present. Tabitha has some weird line about, You guys know Rahne really well, and I'M a girl just like Rahne is. So between the three of us, we should be able to find something great!

    Then they buy her jewelry in the shape of a wolf. Well, thank god you brought the guys who know her so well, and didn't pick a present based on her most obvious character trait.

    Annnyway. I also didn't like the bit you pointed out, where Moira decides to give up on getting Rahne back. I guess your explanation makes sense, with Moira being far away and the King's power stretched thin. (Later used as PAD's explanation for how Nick Fury pulls off the whole Raven/Val switch.) Doesn't really explain why Legion is also cool with it though. He's at Shadow King Ground Zero! Wouldn't he have fought Moira on it, if Moira was defying orders?

    I was trying to think of why the Shadow King would actually *want* to leave the kids with Cable ... but I got nothin'.

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  3. THINGS I LIKED:
    I dug the little switcheroo that Rictor did, with Moira's helicopter and Warlock.

    I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the first encounter between Cable and the kids. I'd never read this pretty significant moment before, and it's kind of charmingly done, with the New Mutants wanting to save "that old man" from Freedom Force.

    Coincidental that they happened upon the fray when they were out shopping, but not ridiculously so, given that Cable was headed towards Ship and so were the kids.

    In contrast to Cable's later uber-badass personality, he seems a bit softer under Simonson (not surprising), which actually makes him feel more dimensional. His thought balloons when the kids save him have a kind of charm ... I think he calls them "sweet kids" for helping him or something. It's just a nice contrast to his uber-masculine/cyborg visual.

    There's another awkward bit of dialogue used in order for Cable to learn that Moira is back at the headquarters. Cable asks Tabitha what's in her bag, and she says, "It's a gift for my friend. Her guardian, Moira MacTaggert, is taking her back home today, and --" "Moira MacTaggert??? I know her!"

    Pretty laughable, isn't it, that Tabitha would give Moira's full name? After NOT naming the "friend" she bought the gift for?

    But that wasn't so bad. And actually I thought it was cute that there was the whole thing of being concerned about not breaking the present for Rahne, during the fight. That was cute. I think Simonson does "cute" well.

    The bit with the souvenirs was, again, cute.

    And as you noted, Teeb, Cable's assuming of the mentorship was handled pretty well, given that it is a bit abrupt. With Simonson's Cable seeming a bit more moral and heroic than the character later became, it feels somewhat "right." Granted, Moira vouching for him is thin, but I think you can chalk these kinds of things up to "intuition" sometimes. Since Cable at this point was meant to be a genuinely heroic character, I think one can forgive the New Mutants deciding to follow him based only on a gut feeling that he's trustworthy.

    So far, for me, this was the best chapter of the TPB. And I have to admit, having two issues in which Cable and the New Mutants are completely separate from each other, does make for their linking up here being a rather satisfying dramatic beat.

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  4. Liefeld will re-use the triangle hair design later for Feral, another animalistic mutant, making the Feral and Wolfsbane virtually visually indistinguishable from one another.

    Yep, ain't that the truth. When I, first, started seeing promotional art for X-FORCE several months before it debuted, I, naturally, assumed Wolfsbane was a member. Turns out, was this new character, Feral.

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  5. Jason: I was trying to think of why the Shadow King would actually *want* to leave the kids with Cable ... but I got nothin'.

    Easy. With Cable's reputation it won't take long before the kiddos have tangled themselves up into some anti-mutant-hysteria-causing mess, which Shadow King plans to then use for his own ends. I suspect in very near future he'll draft some superhuman activity council person on his cause inspired by these developments. Much better use for them than playing some gladiator games at Muir Island. Remember, he's seen them gladiatoring before, and there's not much gladiator in them. Not until Shatterstar joins.

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  6. The LOST-like plot device of Rictor knowing Cable but not explaining anything is so ridiculous in hindsight.
    So this guy killed your father but you dont even talk to/warn your friends or confront him about it. Nope, a cryptic hint about the past is enough !

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  7. "Nope, a cryptic hint about the past is enough !"

    Frenchie, that's going to be the general template for ANY subplot in the X-books for a a whole decade. It's like an X-TREME version of Claremont's worst writing tic. I have a nasty suspicion that the Rictor subplot was Rob's idea, since he seemed to be so invested with building up Cable's "International Man of Mystery" image.

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  8. "Liefeld seems uncertain of how to draw the roof of Ship, where Moira lands, the end result being it looks like the rooftop of a regular city building, with a door that opens out onto it."
    To be fair, in Quasar 8, when the New Mutants guest-starred, the artist also had trouble drawing it.
    "The LOST-like plot device of Rictor knowing Cable but not explaining anything is so ridiculous in hindsight."
    I have to wonder if Simonson had something more ambiguous in mind than "a man that looked like Cable murdered Rictor's father in front of him".

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  9. @wwk5d: But wasn't it already in place, more or less, when he was a kid as revealed in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix?

    Oh yeah. But I think it ebbs and flows, depending on his concentration level. It's headcannon, but I think it's easy to assume how he looks now may be slightly more metallic than the last time Moira saw him, even if, in times earlier than that, he was equally or more metallic.


    Which kind of makes Moira somewhat of an idiot for agreeing to allow Cable to take Rahne.


    Unless you accept that Moira genuinely likes/trusts Cable, which I think she does (rightly or wrongly).

    @Jason: Well, thank god you brought the guys who know her so well, and didn't pick a present based on her most obvious character trait.

    Heh. I suppose it could have been worse and they bought her a cross.

    Later used as PAD's explanation for how Nick Fury pulls off the whole Raven/Val switch.) Doesn't really explain why Legion is also cool with it though.

    That must be where my rationalization came from. As for why Shadow King would be okay with Cable taking the kids...well, the New Mutants never end up getting involved in the Muir Island Saga, so maybe Shadow King somehow knew that letting Cable get involved would keep this particular group of characters from interfering with his plans?

    Not that it really fits Shadow King's "control 'em all" approach...

    Coincidental that they happened upon the fray when they were out shopping, but not ridiculously so, given that Cable was headed towards Ship and so were the kids.

    Yeah, it's a believable enough coincidence given they're all in the same neighborhood, essentially.

    Pretty laughable, isn't it, that Tabitha would give Moira's full name? After NOT naming the "friend" she bought the gift for?

    Definitely, though that's a pretty standard comic book device, at least in this era, in which characters give full names in situations no normal person actually would, and/or add descriptors when talking to someone that makes it clear what the relationship between the two speakers is ie have you ever had a conversation with a friend in which they said, at some point, "Jason, my friend, I think we should get a beer." I mean, I rarely use names when talking one-on-one (except to get their attention) but people in comics do it ALL THE TIME.

    @Anonymous: I have to wonder if Simonson had something more ambiguous in mind than "a man that looked like Cable murdered Rictor's father in front of him

    Yeah, regardless of whether it was Weezie or Liefeld that came up with the idea, I doubt either one had the ultimate resolution in mind when they introduced it here, especially since I'm fairly sure it was Nicieza who revealed Rictor's big secret after Liefeld left the book.

    Which, it's entirely possible that Rob told him before he left, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if, as Jonathan said, this was one of those vague, cryptic things that was tossed out to be mysterious without any kind of concrete resolution in mind when it was introduced.

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  10. I feel like the art is a bit better in this one than the last issue. There are some feet that are decent and we don't have to put up with Blob's yell face on every other panel.

    I am not sure Moira's leg's are any better than Tabitha's though. She def has some gnarly thigh and calf muscles. Maybe from standing on her tip-toes? In this instance she looks pretty rooted on the ground in high heels, kinda tough to ballerina it in heels I guess.

    The Moira agreement is pretty abrupt and absurd given the one panel explanation, with the main point being Cable is looking for a bomb and needs soldiers.

    Didn't she come to get Rahne because they weren't in a school environment? A war is cool though, cause "great power means great responsibility." If you ever write comics and need an in-story explanation as to why a fight occurs or the hero does something unexplainable, you know where to go.

    In terms of good, Cable falling out of a helicopter shooting an extra large Nerf cannon gun while talking to nobody was so rad it deserves a 90's adjective. His tactical capabilities were highlighted and pretty cool. Yeah, I don't have much...

    I know I was defending these issues pretty hard when we got Cable to begin with, but re-reading them isn't exactly as "exciting" as I thought. Its definitely a welcome change from the Boring Blevins and Asinine Asgard times, but uggghhh. Here's hoping Sabertooth, Wolverine and X-Tinction Agenda bring some better moments.

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  11. "Definitely, though that's a pretty standard comic book device, at least in this era, in which characters give full names in situations no normal person actually would, and/or add descriptors when talking to someone that makes it clear what the relationship between the two speakers is ie have you ever had a conversation with a friend in which they said, at some point, "Jason, my friend, I think we should get a beer." I mean, I rarely use names when talking one-on-one (except to get their attention) but people in comics do it ALL THE TIME. "

    All very true. Usually that's to bring the readers up to speed, though. I think why it struck me as *extra*-goofy here was that it was used as a narrative shortcut so that Cable learned of Moira's coming to X-Factor's Ship.

    But you're right, it is just generally very "1980s Comic-Book." Or just very "comic-book" in general, I suppose.

    (The next issue has another pretty egregious example, with the kids in the Danger Room, telling each other about their powers. But ... Sorry, I don't mean to read ahead. :)

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  12. And there go some of Blob’s 40-odd teeth.

    // Roberto punches a wall inside Ship in anger, breaking off a piece of it, despite not being powered up. //

    It’s still better than the panel you posted where he swings at Crimson Commando and appears to completely whiff — only for the next panel to show Commando on the ground, leaving Simonson to dialogue around the action as well as possible.

    Of course, Simonson in turn is responsible for Roberto saying “That alley will be a good place to duck into, Sam, so that we can blast off in private,” which gets my vote for Out-of-Context Line of the Month.

    Rahne’s the only one of the New Mutants in costume — Rictor and Boom-Boom didn’t have costumes to begin with, I don’t think — but that begs the question of why they’re all wearing gloves hanging out in Ship. Heck, Sam’s are even pulled over the the sleeves of his tight-'round-the-pecs mock turtleneck.

    // Later, Crimson Commando uses another handle/grip-less Liefeld gun. //

    Ha! I’d never noticed that particular problem.

    // Cable effectively joins the New Mutants this issue, becoming their latest (and last) mentor figure //

    I snuck a peek at the next issue just to see if there was any transition, because it seemed a bit odd for you to state this so definitively. And there isn’t, which the rest of you probably know, although that doesn’t preclude some dialogue or flashback scenes down the road. I do appreciate how Cable’s knowledge and tactical usage of the kids’ powers in that alley efficiently set him up as a believable mentor/trainer/commander, but it’s certainly abrupt for the kids to have just packed up and part-followed, part-led Cable to the mansion.

    Also: Pretty much everything Jason said, minus any substantive knowledge of future Cable stories.

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  13. PS @Teebore — “Headcannon” would be pretty a rad character but the word you want is “headcanon”. 8^)

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