Welcome to the fourth in a six-part series examining some nine-year old Marvel Comics featuring their Cable character, written by myself, Tucker Stone, and Noah Berlatsky. The first part is located here, the second is here, the third is here.
Following the six part arc that saw Cable exercise his deity muscles in Russia, "The Low Budget Action Movie" sees him at play in the skies over Kashmir. (Part of the reason Soldier X is remembered fondly has to be Macan's diversity of location. When's the last time somebody set a super-hero comic in Kashmir?) Arriving just in time to save a young boy from the certain death that being thrown out of a plane has to offer, Cable is once again using his powers--which now seem to be limited only by imagination--in a way that paints him as religious icon, this time a classic angel/lumberjack hybrid. Holding a full size military cargo jet stationary high above the Earth with only his mind, he rescues a group of children (and then grants sanctuary to one of their would be murderers as well), carrying them telekinetically through the sky, using oxygen itself as his own elevator.
Upon his return to solid ground, he becomes intrigued when hearing of a stranger using a word that comes from Cable's past. Believing it to be a possible lead on his friend Blaquesmith, who had previously sent Cable off to the tiny Russian wasteland that had spurred the previous storyline, Cable agrees to head over and check it out. Upon arrival, he's once again given a chance to play super-hero, and in keeping with the "Low Budget" aspect of Macan's title, he ends up saving the day with yet another use of his not-so-flashy-when-you-get-down-to-it powers.
Here's the thing about Cable, by the way. As far as history explains it, the character is one who brought two particularly stupid things to a great popularity during his short reign at the top of comics. The first one is guns, and the second one is pouches. Now, I don't have anything to say about the pouches--I don't get why those were fun for artists like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to draw, but they clearly were--but the first one makes a whole lot of sense. You know what is sort of lame, always? Looking at a comic about telekinetic people who can redesign the very fabric of reality. It's not that lame to read about it--telekinetic stories in and of themselves are fine--but there's just nothing to look at other than a guy screwing up his face into a look of concentration, and if you've seen one "i'm thinking so hard that it's making me grit my teeth" panel in your lifetime, you've seen the exact amount you need to see to get by in life, forever. And you know what does look kind of crazy interesting, especially if you've got an artist who is hell bent on going bigger every time, as Rob Liefeld was during those brief, heady days when Comics Featuring Cable were outselling things like "books by Haruki Murakami" and "milk"? Guns. Guns that grow to insane, page-spotlighting fashion, guns that make no logistical sense as weaponry, guns that, if real, would weigh as much as a Honda Prelude. If you were a 13 year old trying to choose between looking at a comic book drawing of Cable thinking all of his enemies into naptime--which Macan and Kordey depict as something he could do without the slightest effort, instantly--or looking at a drawing of a guy shooting two lazer bazookas into their faces while screaming, you'd pick the bazookas, everytime.
Of course, if you're funny enough, maybe you can make the other thing work too.
When Cable arrives on the scene in the tiny village, he met by a division of the Pakistani army, who have arrived at the behest of their "greatest of generals" to enlist our hero as their latest recruit. (In keeping with the previous issues, Kordey's lollipop obsession gets prominent placement in the splash page above.) And while, as Cable immediately points out, he could "disarm his army in the blink of an eye", Macan plays the scene out for seven pages...until Cable snaps his finger and teleports all of the surviving bad guys away anyway. Following the lessons learned in Russia regarding personal responsibility, Cable exercises his power to an extreme degree while still basically letting people punish themselves. (For whatever reason, the person who suffers most--besides the General, who is executed by his own men out of a misunderstood notion of personal safety--is the translator, who Cable transforms into a hideous bird-man hybrid.) But after that, we're done with Soldier X for the most part. There's three more pages where Blaquesmith reveals himself not to be Cable's longtime compatriot, but instead a professor at the University of Calgary surgically altered by Jackie Singapore (the Bond villian from Cable #107) so as to trick Cable into becoming a Singapore-sponsored movie star cult leader. It's not hard to see in this little twist, so abruptly delivered, the seeds of what Macan and Kordey might have been planning. After all the actual religion stuff in the first six issues, what other follow up could there be then a post 90's commentary on celebrity? 2003--hell, we didn't even have Real Housewives until 2006.
Closing things out, faux-Blaquesmith's weird "teach me how walk" line lands funny, but then again, nobody ever does morals in a way that isn't a bit queasy. Thankfully, there's one last joke, a third-wall breaking apology to the reader that serves as an acknowlegement that this comic never did a good job of playing by the rules "nuMarvel" had set up, and then we're done. There was still an epilogue to come from Macan and Kordey, and then there was one of the sharpest turns into hellish shit that any super-hero comic would see until Tan followed Quitely, but for all intents and purposes, this was as far as they let the rope play out.
And then none of these people ever worked for Marvel Comics again.
-Tucker Stone, 2011