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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

X-amining Cable #34

"Loose Cannons"

August 1996

In a Nutshell

Cable battles the Hulk

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Penciler: Ian Churchill

Finishes: Scott Hanna

Letterer: RS & Comicraft

Colorist: Mike Thomas

Editor: Mark Powers

Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras


Cable, badly beaten by his encounter with Post, awakens in Baltimore as he senses the arrival of a new threat. He manages to grab a weapon off his motorcycle just as the Hulk - under the control of Onslaught - lands in front of him. Hulk, declaring he's there to kill Cable, attacks and Cable tries to telepathically bring Bruce Banner's consciousness to the fore. Instead, he merely triggers another of the Hulk's personalities, the meaner grey Hulk. Meanwhile, GW Bridge monitors the situation from the SHIELD helicarrier, as he receives word that the President has authorized martial law in Baltimore in light of the threat posed by Cable & the Hulk. Below, Hulk buries Cable in a diner just as Storm arrives on the scene. She calls up a wind that blows Hulk away, then helps Cable extricate himself from the diner. When Hulk returns, Cable & Storm work together, Storm hitting Hulk with enough lightning to stun him, giving Cable a chance to hit his mind with a telepathic "bullet", a last desperate attempt to get Banner to assert control. But once again, his attempt goes awry, as the grey Hulk is replaced by the savage, near-mindless, and even more dangerous Hulk.

Firsts and Other Notables

Cable battles Hulk this issue, as Hulk becomes the next wider Marvel Universe character to get drawn into the crossover (here, he is functioning merely as a telepathically-ensnared stooge of Onslaught, sent to kill Cable. Why does Onslaught use Hulk? Mostly to justify the tie-in of another series), which in turn sets up a crossover-within-the-crossover, as this story continues directly in Incredible Hulk #444. 

Storm, following on from her setup in Uncanny X-Men #335, arrives on the scene and ends up helping Cable in his fight with Hulk. 

Apocalypse continues his tour of the "Onslaught" tie-in issues, setting up his larger role in the next issue of this series. He's also still talking about the endings and beginnings of various "ages" heralded by the coming of Onslaught, but here he believes the next age to begin will be his own (I'd hate to be the one to tell him that he already got an age in the last crossover, but it got wiped out by time travel shenanigans). 

A Work in Progress

Ozymandias explains that Onslaught has ensnared Hulk in order to set him against Cable, which seems like the kind of thing you could see unfold in a tie-in issue, but which only exists here as narration.

Cable, who missed out on the big reveal in Onslaught: X-Men, references the X-traitor, and ponders if Xavier (who at this point in the issue he suspects but doesn't know to be Onslaught) could be the culprit. 

Facing off against the Hulk, Cable ponders that they are similar, too men unable to fully control their own bodies. 

During their fight, Cable accidentally triggers a shift from "Professor" Hulk, the relatively stable Hulk that is a composite of all of Bruce Banner's various personalities to the grey Hulk, the meaner, craftier Hulk who worked as a mob enforcer in Las Vegas and fought Wolverine in the early days of his solo series, but while Grey Hulk is meant to be smaller and less muscular than Green Hulk, Churchill draws them both more or less the same (albeit in different colors). 

The Cable Guy

The front of Cable’s motorcycle is a big gun,  which might be the most Cable thing ever.

Cable says he hates being so dependent on technology, which seems like a different tune than in his earlier days when he barely used his powers in favor of big guns.

Grammar Police 
Everyone is misusing "revert back" in this crossover!

Young Love

Cable does that thing where, after Storm revives him, he mutters the name of his deceased wife, Aliyah. 

Human/Mutant Relations

Upon having his suspicions about Professor X and Onslaught confirmed, Cable notes that while he wasn't always the most fervent of believers in Xavier's dream, he did always hope that Xavier would end up to be right about it. 

Austin's Analysis

The "outmatched hero faces off against an overpowered foe" is a tried-and-true trope, but Loeb perhaps pushes things too far here and robs the trope of what makes it fun. Cable, the guy who, even at this point in time, is still best known as a walking collection of early 90s clich├ęs and big guns, facing off against Hulk - consistently declared to be "the strongest there is" - would be overmatched under normal circumstances, but in the midst of the ongoing "Cable has lost control of his techno-organic virus" plotline, he's even more outclassed, unable to rely much at all even on his (relatively) meager psychic abilities. It's clear what Loeb is going for, but Cable is just so underpowered and operating at such a disadvantage it stretches the suspension of disbelief that Hulk wouldn't end their confrontation with one punch further towards the breaking point than any story should be comfortable doing; Loeb puts Cable at such a disadvantage, there's little room to logically create a clever "David takes out Goliath with his simple sling" kind of victory (and, ultimately, Storm has to come into the mix to even create the room for that kind of ending, and even then, it just makes thing worse, because there's another chapter to this crossover-within-a-crossover). To his credit, Loeb does try to establish a thematic connection out of the (likely editorially-mandated Hulk appearance), arguing that Cable & Bruce Banner are kindred spirits, both unable to control their own bodies, and Ian Churchill is clearly having a blast drawing the various Hulks (even if his Gray Hulk is a little off-model), but the end result still struggles to sell the confrontation; despite the best efforts of the creative team, it lacks the intended punch.  

Next Issue

Tomorrow, the Cable/Hulk/Storm dustup cotinues in Incredible Hulk #444. Friday, London's burning in Excalibur #100. Next week, Generation X does their best to stay out of Onslaught's way in Generation X #18! 

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  1. This issue was the first in the crossover that made me suspect that this wasn't going to be the mindblowing epic that had built up so far. While the earlier chapters were slow going they at least had promise. This issue ultimately reveals that there really isn't enough story to justify the length.

    I'm not even a Hulk fan and I can't believe that the fight went on longer than two panels. Or that Cable is still standing so he can appear in the Hulk issue that follows.

    On the positive side, Churchill is a good enough artist that it's pretty to look at even if the story doesn't hang together well.

  2. Possibly Churchill's best work, Gray Hulk aside. I love Marvel vs Capcom and that cover is re-used later as basically one of Cable's win poses for when he's been taxed too much.

    Apocalypse talking about the dawn of his age is kind of funny, really. It's your own fault for waiting to strike until the superheroes emerged en masse, you idiot!

    The Hulk being in flux WAS probably editorial mandate, because Onslaught was used as a means to break up the Professor Hulk personality. This comes up at the tail end of the Onslaught crossover, but why it needs to be in an issue of Cable I have no idea.

    Come to think of it, why is this a Phase issue and not and Impact? I thought the Phase parts of the story were supposed to be more important, or at least for the flagship books like the X-Men, Avengers and FF. I think Wolverine's tie-ins were in the Impact section.

  3. Y'know, it occurs to me that when I originally read this, Apocalypse woke up in UNCANNY and I never saw him again, since I didn't read FF or CABLE. I don't think I was even aware that he showed up again in the crossover! I just figured he woke up, had a monologue, and then vanished. Like they were laying the seeds for his next appearance: "Here's Apocalypse; he's back in action, now he's going to go off and plot for a year or so before he makes a move."

    The fact that he has a major battle with CABLE during "Onslaught" is brand-new information for me!


  4. That gun is truly ridiculous — like, “worth leaving a five-word comment on a month-old post with comment moderation enabled” ridiculous. Although since I’m already here…

    // Cable says he hates being so dependent on technology, which seems like a different tune than in his earlier days when he barely used his powers in favor of big guns. //



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