"Cable and X-Force" #2 by Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca continues the story of the new team's first (and apparently disastrous) outing, told in a refreshingly non-linear way. Where most team books begin with the grimly tedious "recruitment" issue, Hopeless is being a little more freeform with his structuring. This issue, readers see Colossus recruited, and his anger following the conclusion of their mission -- but Hopeless doesn't yet reveal what happened to cause such a change in him. As structures go, it's an enjoyable change.
However, two issues in, the series is looking like a mixed bag. Technically, it's successful enough. Hopeless has a good handle on Cable, Forge, Domino and Colossus, if not quite on Dr. Nemesis and Hope. Larroca's art is mostly good -- although even if you can get past the obvious photoreffing, there are some panels where it's simply not clear what we're seeing. It's good, but it's definitely the work of a team that's still getting up to speed with one another.
Things fall down a bit more in the plotting. The revelation that Cable has a mysterious affliction that might kill him is nothing short of groan-inducing after he was only just freed from his TO virus. Similarly, the idea that the team is being manipulated from behind the scenes by a mystery villain (well, mystery if you don't recognise the distinctive silhouette, anyway) is less interesting for being revealed so soon.
Individual scenes do work, though, and there are some good ideas here. Hope being seen as a hero by the public for her role in the Phoenix incident makes an interesting complication to her life and her association with Cable. Colossus' power problems and apparent withdrawal from superheroics are entirely in character. His conversation with Cable is probably the book's high point.
The big problem, really, is that "Cable and X-Force" is a book that's still finding its feet in a marketing event filled with creators who have hit the ground running. Hopeless is one of Marvel's most interesting new voices in some time, but there's a danger that with so much high-profile competition, his book will be the first on the chopping block when people are cutting back their pull lists as a result of the Marvel NOW! prolific release schedule. There's nothing massively wrong with the book, but two issues of relatively slow burn and teased-out exposition doesn't seem like the best tactic for grabbing those all-important fence-sitters. Let's hope Hopeless gets a chance to prove himself with more issues.