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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

X-amining Cable #40

"Into the Dark"

February 1997

In a Nutshell

Cable, Domino & Douglock rescue Rene Majcomb from First Strike!

Writer: Todd Dezago

Penciler: Scott Clark

Inker: Chris Carlson

Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft

Colorist: Mike Thomas

Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras


Cable, Domino and Douglock creep through the woods surrounding a house, seeking out Renee Majcomb. Their presence is detected by a group of masked soldiers called First Strike who work for Bastion and who are also seeking Majcomb. Cable thinks back to how Moira MacTaggert sent Douglock to the X-Mansion in order to recreate Xavier's files on the Mutant Underground, including the location of Majcomb, whom Moira learned was in danger. Meanwhile, inside the house, Majcomb's mutant protector Abyss discovers First Strike's presence. He attacks, absorbing one of the soldiers into his void, but is surprised when she almost dies. Cable manages to take one of the other soldiers hostage, triggering a standoff, at which point he determines that the First Strikers' armor reacts poorly to Abyss' void. He convinces them to give up their fight and return to base, then tries to extract Majcomb. But she insists she is safe enough with Abyss, who is better off being alone with her anyway as they continue her work to cure the Legacy Virus, given he is infected with it himself. 

Firsts and Other Notables

This issue features the first appearance of the "main" version of Abyss, one of Apocalypse's Horsemen in "Age of Apocalypse" who battled the X-Men in Amazing X-Men and was introduced in that reality as a new character without a 616 counterpart (that readers had met yet). He basically presented the same here as in AoA, albeit less evil (and, specifically, as a former Genoshan mutate). 

It's also revealed that he is infected with the Legacy virus, though like so much else with that plotline (see below) that never really goes anywhere, and he is considered cured when Colossus' later eradicates the virus in Uncanny X-Men #390. He next appears in Joe Casey's Uncanny X-Men run and hangs around to get drawn into Chuck Austen's "Draco" nonsense, at which point he's revealed to be (one of) Nightcrawler's half brother. 

Abyss is serving as the mutant bodyguard (and, presumably, test subject) of Genoshan expatriate Renee Majcomb, who was last seen in this series entering the country in Cable #22. She is presented here as being one of the people working to cure the Legacy Virus. Readers will see her next in Onslaught: Epilogue, though I don't believe the Legacy Virus stuff gets brought up there at all. 

More generally, Moira is worried that in the wake of Onslaught and the X-Men's destruction of Xavier's files, more of his Mutant Underground, like Majcomb, may become targets. 

First Strike, a more militarized strike force within the larger Operation: Zero Tolerance, uh, operation, debuts this issue. They wear high tech armor that affords them some level of psychic protection (which proves to be especially damaging to them when Abyss draws them into his, uh, abyss) and will return in later issues of this series (as well as Generation X) during the course of the OZT crossover. 

In the flashback to Moira's debrief about Renee Majcomb, Douglock says he finds himself drawn to Cable, thinking they may well need each other in the future; I'm fairly certain this can be filed under "throw random hints at the wall, see what sticks" and doesn't come up again. 

A Work in Progress

Harper, Bastion's chief lackey whose appearance is constantly shifting depending on who is drawing him, references a category of "alpha class" mutants, a variation on the previously-referenced omega class mutants (to which Cable will later be designated despite being the alpha class mutant referenced here). 

Human/Mutant Relations

This issue makes its obligatory contribution to the "gee, things sure are getting worse for mutants!" subplot (here, specifically in the case of the human members of Xavier's Mutant Underground). 

It's in the Mail

Responses to letters in this issue address the conflicting depictions of SHIELD leadership across the Marvel Universe in the wake of Nick Fury's death, in which GW Bridge is sometimes said to be the new director of SHIELD and other times still just its mutant liaison, with the explanation being that Bridge is in charge but sometimes leaves Val or Dum Dum in charge. The letters page also announces Todd Dezago as the series new regular writer, even though he sticks around for just four issues and seems very much like a placeholder in that time. 

Austin's Analysis

With Jeph Loeb gone and "Operation: Zero Tolerance" on the horizon, this is a water treading issue in two ways. For one, Todd Dezago is merely bidding time before the new creative team of James Robinson and Randy Green come aboard, and thus, any major series-specific plot or character developments are going to be put on hold. For another, the series is also a few months out from the next big X-Men crossover event, which means it can't really drop its central character into any significant or complex stories (a malady afflicting far too many X-books around this time). And so, not a whole lot happens here as Cable and Domino battle some OZT goons, contributing to the general atmosphere of "things are getting bad for mutants and Bastion is pretty bad, too" (as well as some vague Legacy Virus stuff) that is permeating the line. In that regard, it reads a lot like, say, X-Force #52, an issue which above all was about perpetuating the general sense of mystery surrounding Onslaught ahead of that crossover, and little else. 

The two mildly notable happenings here are the presence of Douglock and the introduction of the "prime" version Abyss. The former doesn't add a whole lot to the story (he could be lifted out pretty easily and the story wouldn't change appreciably), but it's nice to see the series' efforts to reach out to the wider X-universe continue even in Loeb's absence. The introduction of Abyss is similarly shoulder-shruggy: having the character who was at least a visually notable villain in "Age of Apocalypse" turn up in the "real" reality is notable in a "note on their Wikipedia page" kind of way, but it's not like this is the re-introduction of a character who goes on to become an all-time great or anything. Abyss, like so much else from this era, including his infection with the Legacy Virus and connection to the efforts to cure it will, more or less, simply disappear...into an abyss.  

Next Issue

Next week: Christmastime is here again in Generation X #24 and John Francis Moore debuts as the new series writer in X-Force #63!

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  1. Huh. I read Casey's and Austen's UNCANNY, and I have zero memory of Abyss. He must not have left an impression!

    Though I didn't read CABLE, I'm still surprised to hear Todd Dezago and James Robinson had (brief) runs writing the series. In my head, it just went straight from Jeph Loeb to Joe Casey's lauded run.

    Oh, and Deadpool needs to sue those First Strike guys for stealing his mask design. After he resolves the suit Spider-Man filed against him for the same thing, of course. (Though I think 'Pool has a stronger case. The First Strikers look EXACTLY like him, while he only look somewhat like Spidey.)

  2. I don’t think I knew that James Robinson wrote Cable. His work on Firearm suggests that it could be a good fit, although given that his Starman run is nearly as memorable to me for its dubious continuity as for its cool deep-cut references I can’t help wonder how those tendencies will play out in the X-Men world.

  3. I misread your "in a nutshell" and thought they fought "Fist Strike," which would be the ultimate 90s villain name.


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