The cover is fairly straightforward. It's Cable. Holding a big freaking gun pointed in the reader's face. There really isn't much to elaborate on other than the fact that he has an Avengers insignia on his chest where he'd normally have an X badge. So, there's very little mystery whether or not he's joining the team. I do have to wonder why his body language has his legs spread so wide apart. I mean, he ends up in that pose a lot. Is it because those BFG's he carries around are so heavy that they lower his center of gravity or does he simply take manspreading to a new level?
The issue starts off with Brother Voodoo and Quicksilver. They're standing under a massive tree under the unearthly red skies of Boston. Pietro is bragging about how easily he took out the Shredded Man. If that doesn't sound at all the way things played out at the end of the last issue, then congratulations for paying attention.
|Aw, Pietro's getting better at making friends...|
As far as hellscapes go, this is underplayed, but effective. If you hadn't looked at the recap or read the previous issue immediately before this, the turn really can take you buy surprise and feels disturbing without feeling too graphic. It gives you just enough of a tease for the future story they're setting up here.
|The afterlife are big believers in "take a penny, leave a penny."|
|Deadpool's defining trait on a team book seems to be |
solidarity with the boss.
|This splash page would feel earned if both this |
issue's cover and last issue's final page
reveal hadn't done the exact same thing.
The crowd suddenly bolts, a pack of veggie hellhounds are headed for them. The team lines up to block them off at the pass when they are surprised by the arrival of (one of) the X-Men's own time traveling continuity snarl, Cable. Deadpool shouts out his name and it appears fully illustrated in big blocky bubble letters. Had you been reading this in a trade, that would have been the second time that happened in under 10 pages. Cable fires off his BFG with a widespread blast that neutralizes the oncoming devil dogs.
|Cable is inches away from being your offensive grandpa.|
Deadpool pals around with Cable while Cable attempts to strongarm the team, but Rogue isn't having it. She may not break the fourth wall like Deadpool or She-Hulk can, but she has a long history of leaning on it, being very genre savvy. She knows how superheroing works. She knows what's what. So, seeing Deadpool and Cable in a room together, she's not going to stand for this serviceable if dysfunctional team book to turn into an anti-hero shit show on her watch.
|Rogue doesn't wink at the fourth wall. She rolls her eyes at it.|
|"Being awful is my shtick, you two! Now play nice!"|
Despite resolving to work together, there is still a bit of a dick waving undertone to Rogue and Cable's argument for another half a page before Deadpool runs out of patience and takes off his mask, exposing his gruesome visage for a mic drop. I like the idea, at least in the instance, that he kind of treats his mask as a clown face, something he can hide behind as he cracks wise, but when he wants to be taken seriously unequivocally, he removes the facade. Although, I think that could get tired real fast if he does that every time.
|"Get this plot moving again or I'll make you look at this all day!"|
Cable hands off an enzyme inhibitor (read: antidote) to Quicksilver, who rushes it off to MIT where the Human Torch has his newly recruited think tank working on the current crisis. Yeah, I almost forgot he was on this team, too. I get that he did have a good idea to enlist their aid, since this lineup is devoid of your typical Marvel big brains, but why is he still slumming with the grad students? His firepower would be pretty damn useful against plant life and there is someone else on the team who can shuttle from the battleground to the staging area in seconds. I'm convinced that in the wake of Secret Wars, with the Fantastic Four team effectively dissolved, Ben and Johnny were foisted onto other titles by editorial edict, and Duggan and Stegman just don't know what to do with him. His arc in this story was the realization that when in doubt, there's always another egghead. And that was treated like a glorious epiphany.
Quicksilver has barely sped off when the team is confronted by their foe The Shredded Man. Cable blasts a hole straight through his midsection, but he's apparently more plant than man at this point, so no harm, no foul. Rogue rushes upon him for some good old-fashioned fisticuffs, but is swatted away without any strain. He doesn't even stutter in his evil monologue. Brother Voodoo, whose magic might be effective in this scenario is more focused on Shredded Man's security-guard-turned-plant-zombie-henchman to be much use in the fight.
|Brother Voodoo: "Supernatural Zombies? No prob. |
Plant zombies? OMG WTF We're all gonna die!"
|Correction: Cable is inches away from being your offensive racist grandpa.|
As Synapse chases after the Shredded Man, for the first time since her debut, we get a look inside her head. It's a scant glimpse, but for the past few issues, she's been, if not a mystery, than certainly an unknown quantity. She certainly doesn't like that Cable has showed up and instantly started ordering her about, but more to the point, she recognizes the fact that a time traveler stepping in means that she failed and she really doesn't like that. Something tells me in her civilian life, she is some sort of student prodigy, or at the very least a perfectionist.
|Synapse doesn't want to be here. Neither do the readers, full disclosure.|
I think more telling than anything else though is the fact that she thinks, "he represents everything I've feared ever since Captain Rogers dragged me onto the team." That one sentence, even without going into further detail is just very packed with insight into her character. She's not confident about her place on the team and has had underlying worries about what could happen as a superhero. There's a strong implication that she was recruited either reluctantly or maybe even drafted against her will. She can see the bigger picture or at least recognizes symbolism. For a character whose powerset centers around the mind, the fact that she as a person can't tamp down the irrational side of her own mind that can recognize ill omens, and portents speaks very much to who she is: someone who is in way over her head.
I do like that we have this moment, considering we desperately need to make her feel like less of a cipher and more of a fully realized character in this lineup. However, this is the first and only time in the issue (though quite possibly significantly the second time in the arc) that we get to see some of our characters' internality.
Her thoughts are cut short when she meets up with her quarry, who seems to have been awaiting her. She engages in fisticuffs (the team newbie apparently thinks she has a better shot than Rogue, the team's seasoned brawler) while Shredded man effortlessly deflects he moves as he yammers on about how humanity's time is at an end, mutants are collateral damage, and how he is merely doing the will of the mists. This makes me wonder whether he genuinely has some innate understanding of the Terrigen Mist's purpose that nobody else does or following his Terrigenesis, is he in quasi-religious zealot territory?
|Stegman's art goes from grade school to master class as soon as he doesn't have|
to bother with realism. Why isn't he working on a monster/zombie title?!
The most the title has come to establishing this connection is the fact that they are the only two characters thus far who have been given inner monologue narration boxes. Admittedly, I grasping at straws because I want to believe the writer made some effort at being clever with his construction when it's honestly more likely a happy accident. This book can barely maintain its own straightforward narrative from issue to issue (and last time, it gave up halfway through), so I doubt it has the sense of subtle nuance required to form character parallels with its dramatic structure.
I will give this issue credit where it's due, though. As much as I've harped on Stegman's ability to render people (which he kind of fails to do, but he has a future in rendering dolls, action figures, mannequins, and androids), he makes up for it when tasked with rendering body horror (intentionally). That final page with a full beauty shot (meaning it's a close up, not that it's beautiful... although everything is someone's kink) of the Shredded Man is pretty freaking awesome. He's so, for lack of a better term inhuman in his appearance. His skin gone, his skull replaced by something the dried out bark of a dead tree. It's really difficult to make a botanical man look grotesque and not silly, but this one image sells it, even if it looks like it was made for a different, higher quality book. Yet you can still see just enough of the traces of the more human looking man we first met in the prologue of this arc to justify Synapse managing to recognize him.
For the past couple issues, I think I've been on the fence about this title. It's neither brilliant writing, nor is it utter dreck. And mostly I maintain that stance. However, I feel like the gap between good and the bad is widening, leaving a lot of meh betwixt the two extremes. On the one hand, the structure of this arc feels muddled. The pacing is off, almost as if the writer stopped the narrative dead in its tracks last issue to give Cable an excessively long introduction only to give him another such lengthy introduction this issue. Oh, wait. He did. Bad writer. No cookie for you. But on the other hand, the art of that final pages blows everything leading up to it clean out of the water. If only every page had that level of quality. That's ultimately the problem with the series is that the individual issues feel uneven without really achieving either a high or a low. They have their moments, but I kind of feel like I'm reading a title that's marking time instead of progressing in one direction of the other.
and bad in the title is growing more pronounced. The structure of this story feels off. I think it's fair to say stopping half-way through the previous issue's main story in order to provide Cable with an indulgently long introduction only to give him a second introduction in this issue really disrupts the story's pacing. The middle issues of an arc are never the easiest sell, but Duggan and Stegman