I really wanted to like Cable and X-Force. Not just this issue either, but the series as a whole. Not only do I really like the characters involved, but I was excited about Dennis Hopeless getting an ongoing series (two in fact, along with Avengers Arena) after his work on X-Men: Season One and I’m also a fan of Salvador Larroca. However, three issues in, I find myself at the point of being ready to drop this book. I just don’t know if I can bring myself to pick up the next issue. Each installment so far has felt increasingly like a chunk of about 20 pages pulled from an original graphic novel, and due to the non-linear storytelling methods used by Hopeless, I’m not sure if they’re in the right order.
I need to say something good about this title. There are things I like here: the characterization continues to be strong, spotlighted in this issue by a great scene with Hope and Havoc set shortly after the confrontation at the start of issue #1. Unfortunately, this scene is closed off with a callback to an earlier moment, but one that we see later in the book and which doesn’t appear to pay off in any real way. It’s a great example of how this book is letting compelling characters get lost amongst a confusingly structured narrative. I’m also not overly enamored with the threat that Hopeless introduces here. It feels like he may be trying to be satirical, but it’s a little too on the nose to work. Not as mean-spirited as something that perhaps Mark Millar might throw out there, certainly, but still with a little too much venom in its bite to feel comfortable.
My main problem with the writing on this book is that we are spending so much time in ‘past’ events whilst seeing very little in the way of forward movement in the ‘present’ of the story. The gap begins to close here, with the purpose of the attack we see the aftermath of in issue #1 revealed, however it still feels to me like the story has too little forward momentum. The constant jumping around between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ just seems unnecessary to me. Perhaps Daniel Hopeless is attempting to be flashy and impress us with his use of narrative devices instead of trusting in a good story, simply told.
Visually, the book is in desperate need of some variety. Larroca’s expressive rendering supplements Hopeless’ characters well, although the more I see Cable’s new arm the more I dislike the overly busy design. It also falls into an incredibly formulaic panel structure that doesn’t mesh with Frank D’Armata’s colouring style. So many pages are a column of four or five panels, each one the width of the page. There’s way too much grey and steel, and when the colour moves away from the bluish or greenish hue, we move to an overwhelming orange. However, the sparse panel layout makes for an over abundance of the prevailing tone. On a page set in an orange environment, everything looks orange. There’s just none of the vitality or variety that I enjoy so much about superhero comics, and it’s absence makes for a bland-looking comic.
So, Cable and X-Force so far has left me mostly cold. It’s simply not moving fast enough to hold my attention, and is taking too long to capitalize on the promise of the first-issue set-up. It may end up being a decent read in trade, but unless they bring in a bit of visual variety, then it will remain dull and confusing. In all good faith, despite really wanting to like it, I simply cannot recommend Cable and X-Force as anything other than a cheap cure for insomnia.