I didn't think much of the "Messiah CompleX" crossover from earlier this year, but at least it was an attempt to refocus the X-Men franchise and give it a coherent direction. I don't think it succeeded, but at least it shook things up and made readers (like me) take notice. So now, here's the newest issue of "Cable," two issues along on its "Lone Wolf and Cub in the Future" path.
Cable, as a character and a concept, has never been one of my favorites. I can't recall ever seeing the character do much besides act grumpy and shoot stuff, even though he's supposed to have some kind of mental powers or something I don't really care about. And when Ariel Olivetti was announced as the artist, I had even less interest in the series. I enjoyed his scratchy linework once upon a time, on titles like "JLA: Paradise Lost," but his recent PhotoShoppery on "Punisher War Journal" was some of the worst comic book "art," I've ever seen. Yet I held out some hope, thinking that perhaps the apocalyptic sci-fi flavor of the book would mesh with his cut-and-paste-tastic new style.
Basically, though, I read the first two issues because Duane Swierczynski was writing them. I don't know much about Swierczynski, but I know he wrote a not-terrible "Moon Knight" Annual, and I know Ed Brubaker thinks he's one of the greatest crime writers since the days when dinosaurs ruled the Earth with their tiny little dinosaur fists.
Swierczynski, I thought, was an inspired choice. A neo-noir novelist writing a series about a giant cyborg running around through time with a tiny baby? I'd read a "Cable" comic by that guy. So I did.
And the first issue wasn't too bad. Not much happened, and it was immediately apparent that Swierczynski was used to pacing novels, not monthly comics, but the series had a bit of promise. Olivetti was terrible, unfortunately, doing block, non-dynamic character work layered in front of video game screen shots. But the issue intrigued me enough to get me back for the second one. Big mistake.
"Cable" #2 is one of the worst comics I've read this year. It's "Countdown" bad. It's "Wolverine: Origins" bad. Maybe worse. Mostly, the art is to blame, with Olivetti slapping out-of-context video game laser cannons in the hands of his characters, and fumetti-style layouts destroying any attempt at narrative momentum.
But the story isn't very good either, with one absurd scene after another as Bishop chases after Cable-and-baby after (a) happening upon a convenient stash of magical cybernetic arms which happen to fit perfectly into the stump of his shoulder, and (b) randomly propelling himself into the future until he finds a clue to Cable's whereabouts: a milk container. Milk? Really? Swierczynski knows that babies really shouldn't drink cow's milk, right? And presumably so does Bishop, since he's a magical time traveling former-X-Man and all. Yet he automatically knows that Cable must be around, because who else in the universe could possibly leave milk around except for a temporally displaced psychic mutant with a Baby Bjorn?
I know it's wrong to fixate on a few small story problems like this, but there's not much else going on in "Cable" #2. It's just Bishop pursuing Cable with some mid-21st century New Jersey hillbillies stirring up a ruckus in between.
Even hillbillies from the future can't save this comic. And if they can't, maybe nothing can.