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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

X-amining Cable #36

"The Gift"

October 1996

In a Nutshell

Cable fights for his life as the techno-organic virus rages! 

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Penciler: Bernard Chang

Inker: Scott Hanna

Letterer: Richard Starking & Comicraft

Colorist: Mike Thomas

Editor: Mark Powers

Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras


With the techno-organic virus ravaging his body, Cable is attended to at Four Freedoms Plaza by Nathanial Richards, while a worried Franklin Richards, as well as Cannonball, Domino, Storm, and Caliban, look on with concern. There is little Nathanial can do, however, and Cable slips into unconsciousness. As his watching friends begin to speak to him, hoping the sounds of their voices will keep him going, he is visited by his son, Tyler, who urges him to keep fighting for a better tomorrow, then by his wife, Jenskot, who urges him to open up his heart to those who would help him. Inspired, Cable is able to fight back the TO virus. Waking up, he thanks his friends for their support, wondering if a part of his heart that had remained closed off for so long has now opened. 

Firsts and Other Notables

This issue concludes with Cable having regained control over his techno-organic virus; it still exists as part of him, but he no longer has to fight as hard to control as he has since the crossover with X-Man, marking the end of that particular status quo. He also speculates that Onslaught may have been interfering with his control to make the situation worse.  

While battling the virus, Cable has a seeming encounter with his deceased son Tyler, which takes place on the Kentucky hillside near the Guthrie home where Tyler was buried. Tyler (or his ghost, or a representation of Cable's guilt taking his form; it's all intentionally left vague) does his best to absolve Cable for his role in the shitty things Tyler did and how his life came to end, and urges him to keep fighting for a better tomorrow. 

Then, he has a similar encounter with his deceased wife Jenskot/Aliya, who similarly urges him to not blame himself for her end, to keep going, and to open up his heart more. 

All the Jenskot stuff reads very much like Loeb trying to clear the deck for the Cable/Storm romance he's been teasing for a bit now, with the memory of his deceased wife essentially giving him the blessing to start dating, but it never really progresses beyond the slight will they/won't they level it's at now. 

Creator Central

Bernard Chang pencils this issue; he'll pop up a few more times in various X-books over the next few years. 

A Work in Progress

While Cable's condition is specifically cited as the culmination of recent actions, capped off by the events of the previous issue, he is in much worse shape at the start of this issue than he was in, say, Onslaught: Marvel Universe, where he helped coordinate the release of Nate Grey & Franklin Richards without, you know, being covered in TO gunk.  

Austin's Analysis

After several issues of both this series (and even more of the larger "Onslaught" crossover) doing big, loud, action-based stories, the quieter, character-based focus of this issue is refreshing and surprisingly effective. It is, broadly, one long fever dream, as Cable struggles to contain the techno-organic virus raging since his encounter with Nate Grey (and exacerbated by his actions during "Onslaught") while his loved ones look on with concern. The dream comes in the form of encounters with his deceased son and wife, each of whom urges Cable to forgive himself their fates & embrace his destiny with a clear conscience. It is effectively a move by Loeb to wipe the slate clean, while also furthering his ongoing (and appreciated) efforts to make Cable a Campbellian hero of destiny. It might feel a bit more crass & self-serving on Cable's part if Tyler & Jenskot were more fully-formed characters in their own right, but given that they've almost always only been defined by Cable's relationship to them, having them absolve Cable here of his (not insignificant, especially in regards to Tyler) role in their deaths isn't really denying them anything additional in death they didn't already lack in life. 

Next Issue

Tomorrow, the X-Men have breakfast in Uncanny X-Men #337. Friday, Professor Xavier says goodbye in X-Men (vol. 2) #57. Next week, The Road to Onslaught!

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  1. So the climax to the "Cable's TO virus is getting worse" plot is all of a sudden gets better?

  2. The "Cable loses control of the TO virus" seems to be a popular trope for post-crossover stories. It was done after The Phalanx Covenant and The Twelve as well.

    I really miss quiet issues that used to come after crossovers that used to provide a breather before launching into the next big story arc. While not as strong as Lobdell's this actually is a pretty good issue. It also has the benefit of only having one main character to focus on and I think that's one of this issues biggest strengths.

    I don't remember what else Bernard Chang has done but his work here is serviceable, even if it is fairly generic. That's not necessarily bad thing, it just means it doesn't really stand out.

    Otherwise, spot on review. I almost can't believe you actually made it through Onslaught and managed to keep it all fairly positive. I salute you and thank you for your service!

    1. I’m pretty sure I first saw Bernard Chang’s work on Valiant’s The Second Life of Doctor Mirage. He’s done a fair bit of work for DC over the last decade that I haven’t read.

  3. Crossovers don't tend to treat Cable well in general, he was near death after "Fatal Attractions" and even died temporarily at the end of "Second Coming".

    1. He also temporarily died at the end of X-Cutioner's Song.

  4. I read Cable’s visitation by Tyler and Jenskot as being at minimum nudged along by Franklin to a form that would be most useful or appropriate to his self-healing.

    1. I agree. That’s how I read it as well.


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