Cable is not a good character. I'm sorry to inform all of you of this, but he's really not. Above all else, he is the archetypal 1990's comic book superhero relic, and not the good kind like the New Warriors, which were a charming holdover which evolved over time to outgrow their 90's roots, or the Thunderbolts, which were a good idea to begin with and showed this with an ever-developing identity (#savethethunderbolts).
Cable just stinks too much of the hyper-masculine EXTREME personality that permeated much of the mainstream comic book ethos in that decade. He is overly grim, has no personality, and has guns so big that you can't help but wonder how small his downstairs package is.
There are two reasons I thought to try this comic. The first is that I'm always up for being proven wrong. I held the same feelings I'm describing about Bane until I went back and read Gail Simone's Secret Six. Now I see that Bane can be a really charming and endearing character.
The second reason is that the talented James Robinson is writing this book. With an impressive mainstream tenure such as All-New Invaders, the first portion of Earth 2, and (I'm going to say it, and many people are probably going to use this opinion to invalidate this review) Justice League: Cry for Justice, which I actually really like, under his belt, I thought Mr. Robinson could probably make Cable a fun character to read about.
Unfortunately, Cable #1 is not a fun read.
The story is that an as-of-yet unrevealed rogue is running backwards through time, and Cable is in hot pursuit. This wild goose chase takes Nathan Summers through the Old West and feudal Japan, leading to conflicts with cowboys armed with futuristic guns and samurai with fire swords.
That's all the plot there is to this issue. That wouldn't have been a problem if the story stayed fun. The idea of sending Nate Summers in a chase through the past seems like a great idea as well as one that has been oddly underused in past stories with this character.
The opening section where Cable takes down a bunch of two-bit cowboys off-panel was kind of fun in a Terminator kind of way. He still shows all the personality of a rock, but it kind of works here.
The segment in feudal Japan is where the little momentum this book had going for it drops.
Cable chases down a group of ronin armed with futuristic fire-swords after they burn down a village. This was already made an almost-needlessly grim scenario with the depiction of a mother clutching her dead infant son. The ensuing fight between Cable and the samurai is completely unintelligible. The swords cause a sort of digital-distortion effect in the air, and you cannot tell what the hell is going on. Somehow Cable's guns get cut up, and he gets slashed.
Carlos Pacheco is a good artist. Most of this comic looks pretty damn good. The inking of Rafael Fonteriz and Jesus Aburtov's colors all add a good aesthetic design to the majority of the book.
But this ending fight is unintelligible from a visual language standpoint. You can't tell where the swords are going or how Cable is receiving the wounds that he is in many panels. The loss of the arm and the arrow wounds are the only clearly shown attacks. You can only parcel out the wounds in the following panels and pages, and that is not how sequential fight scenes should work.
In terms of Cable being the badass future soldier, this ending unravels that theory pretty hard too. More ronin show up, and he takes three arrows in the chest and loses his metal arm. The aforementioned arrows somehow turn off his telekinesis. The fight is such an overwhelming defeat that you get the impression that these samurai would have kicked Cable's ass even without the future weapons.
I'm all for humbling defeats. Clint Barton, Oliver Queen, and Scott Lang are all among my favorite heroes. I can deal with protagonists who aren't the best at their job and get their teeth kicked in on a regular occasion. However, Cable doesn't have the endearing personality to make that work.
The comic ends with Cable apparently dead. Oh no.
This is a trend in first issues that really needs to stop. This isn't a Cable one-shot. This hasn't been advertised as the death of Cable. You know he's not dead. It's such an overdone trope, and it really adds no stakes or tension to the proceedings.
Cable #1 showed some promise and fun in its first few pages, but it falls apart in the second half with confusing fight sequences and an ending that is just tiresome. Give this one a hard pass.