Editor's Note: X-Force/Cable: Messiah War Prologue #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 25.
"Messiah War: Chapter One"
It is not surprising to see a crossover between either X-Force and Cable. Both titles have been linked together since their inception in the early 1990s. Once the leader of the X-franchise's most violent ongoing series, X-Force, Cable has developed from a mysterious gun toting badass to a grizzled solider with a big heart and big ideas. Similarly, the X-Force team has changed from a group of young mutants trained for war to Scott Summers' covert death squad. The current climate of each title reflects the urgency begun in Messiah CompleX more than a year ago: the survival of mutantkind.
And so, Messiah War: Chapter One is the beginning of the battle that will determine how the mutant race will survive. When Cable jumped into the future with messiah child Hope, Bishop followed. In his mad quest to kill Hope and stop his dystopian future from becoming a possibility, Bishop enlists an enemy that will certainly turn the tide of his campaign. Meanwhile, Scott sends his X-Force forward to the year 2973 to intercept Cable and aid him in protecting Hope.
It's fortuitous that I haven’t been following either title for the past couple issues as it gives me the opportunity to experience this book without any privileged information. For new readers, Messiah War: Chapter One is fluid and easy to follow. Structurally, Kyle and Yost begin with Scott recapping the events of Messiah Complex but recount a side faithful readers haven't seen.
The story opens on Cooperstown Hospital, Alaska, moments before the Purifiers (mutant-hating religious zealots) arrive killing everyone in their search for the baby Hope. Kyle and Yost tactfully intermingle Scott's recollection of the bloody scene with a young nurse coddling the mutant messiah child. "All tuckered out, Red?" coos the nurse to the napping bundle of joy. "You and your mommy have had a long day. Are you ready to meet your daddy and--?!" The sound of gun shots interject, and without warning the nurse is gunned down in cold blood. While the reader knows what is about to happen, her obliviousness to the violent events about to unfold creates a sense of tragedy that establishes the savagery of X-Force's enemies.
Moreover, the allusion to the child parents, which haven't been touched upon thus far, opens the tragic fallout of this little one's birth. She could have had a normal life, along with everyone else murdered in Cooperstown, Alaska, if only she wasn't born a mutant. Although the mutant race escapes extinction with Hope's birth, it does not unhook the yoke and tragic loss that comes with being born homo superior.
The theme of prideful self-righteousness connected to wanton death and destruction is carried from the Purifiers to Bishop as he blows up timeline after timeline to smoke out Cable and the child. Kyle and Yost use this theme to allude that the once rational mutant cop out to save the world is no better than the hordes of mutant-hating bigots and monsters that will kill without reservation in the name of their cause.
Choi and Oback do not disappoint in conveying the tragedy and savagery with incredible beauty. Even though their depiction of violence is more a celebration than a meditation on it, the book's art is cinematic in scope, which expresses the dignity and significance of narrative. As always, Choi's attention to detail and plausible mechanical design is a feast for the eyes. His design of Bishop's bionic arm shows the dexterity and range of movement by revealing the twisting of metal sinew and the bending of steel joints from panel to panel.
Messiah War: Chapter One is a well-crafted opening to what will be a turning point in the future of the X-Books. Although it has yet to be seen how well Kyle and Yost's writing in X-Force will mesh with Duane Swierczynski's in Cable, the crossover has gotten off to a good start. If Messiah War is as competently written as Daniel Way and Mike Carey's Original Sin, expect some awesome reading for spring.
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The Story (From Marvel.com): The birth of a single mutant child forever changed the landscape of the X-Universe. Some see the baby as the last hope for mutantkind's survival; others see it as the bringer of the Apocalypse… No one knows which side is right because Cyclops handed the newborn over to Cable, believing his son could save both the child and mutantkind. But Cable never came back. Now, months later, Cyclops has found his son hiding in the FUTURE... and he's sending in the one team that will do what needs to be done in order to ensure the survival of their species... X-FORCE.
Review: The issue opens with a rundown of everything that's happened in "Messiah Complex," narrated by Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops. This was a smart move on Marvel's part as it keeps this event accessible to new readers who were not around for that event, and the recap page introduces most of the story's cast. Cable has been gone for a few months in present-day time, and in that period Cyclops and X-Force have changed quite a bit. Cyclops has become hardened by his choices to send X-Force out to kill, and it is obvious he is spinning too many plates at once when we see his side of the conversation previously heard in X-Force while he is talking to both Logan and Beast before sending X-Force to the future. Logan and Beast are the devil and angel on each of Cyclops' shoulders, with Logan begging him to hold for a moment to finish the Leper Queen and Beast trying to guide Scott to the conclusion he might be taking things a bit too far even for the greater good. Cable has been gone for eight or nine years from his perspective, and he's not quite used to being around people or being able to depend on anyone else anymore which is evident by the extremely non-pleasant greeting Logan is given when he finds Cable in the distant future.
I can't quite get a grasp on the time travel rules of the Marvel Universe. In my opinion, if Cable went into the future and couldn't go back in time until he fixed his equipment, he should still be able to jump backwards to the very next instant after he originally left. Cyclops realizes this and sends X-Force to try and alter the future yet again. The problem with this, however, is that if they show another scene in the present and X-Force doesn't come back immediately then I would assume without further intervention, X-Force won't be coming back either. In other words, Cable must have died in the future or been unable to return by never coming back. I am torn wondering if this is all a very useless mission, because Cable would have come back already if they had been successful, or if Cyclops sees this as yet another fight for the future, hoping to change time yet again. It must be that time in the Marvel Universe is an ever-diverging line, much like the branching of a river, and that you can back up to a fork in the timeline and go down or start another path.
This story wouldn't exist if Cable wasn't trying to protect Hope, primarily from Bishop. We get a few details on Bishop's whereabouts and what kind of awful things he's been up to and what his next moves are. Bishop is a tragic character; he's fallen quite far from grace and done some terrible things knowing that if he can kill the red-headed kid, none of it will matter anyways. However, if you apply the rules above about time travel, he is still committing these acts against people in the timeline he is currently in, and his actions will have more of an effect on him than his potential goal. If you commit a crime on purpose, even if it is reversible, if you're not truly sorry for that crime it will likely change you and make it easier for you to cross that line again. Bishop is blind to this, however, and is slowly developing himself into a monster without ever realizing it. Our benefit as the audience is that the most compelling villains are the ones who believe what they are doing is right.
Final Word: Cable might not be glad to see them, but the odds just got a little bit better once X-Force arrives in the future. Go pick up this book to find out who Bishop recruits for his side!
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