What a place for an ending, huh? It’s like that movie ‘Goldeneye’! I decided to go back to the Cable Guy theme for the ending of this mini-series. But we should all know this isn’t so much an ending, as it is a beginning to the next great Marvel event, Avengers vs. X-Men. This is my first of two reviews leading up to the big event starting Wednesday. And something sort of relevant and important actually happens in this issue, too, so this mini isn’t a complete waste. But is it enough to warrant a four-part build up to AvX? Find out below.
Avengers: X-Sanction #4
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist: Morry Hollowell
Letterer: Comiccraft’s A. Deschesne
Cover Art: McGuinness, Vines & Hollowell
Variant Cover Art: Steve Skroce & Richard Isanove; Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Jason Keith
Plot: Wolverine and Spider-Man are the last two Avengers standing watch after the fight with the Lethal Legion. When the New Avengers arrive, Wolverine assigns his teammates to clean-up duty so he and Spider-Man can find the missing Avengers. During their search, Wolverine asks Spider-Man about his penchant for playing the clown, and warns him that the guy they’re going to face doesn’t mess around. The two arrive at Blaquesmith’s freighter, where Wolverine immediately goes after Cable.
Wolverine tells Cable that he must have known he couldn’t mess with the Avengers and avoid him. Hope fires warning shots at Spider-Man, who dances around the ceiling to avoid the blasts. Spider-Man uses a webline to disarm Hope, but her gun goes wild and shoots Cyclops in the back. The X-Men’s leader turns and unleashes his optic blasts, knocking Spider-Man out the side of the freighter.
The fight between Wolverine and Cable continues. Hope tries to disarm the bombs wired to the Avengers with Blaquesmith’s telepathic assistance. In a last ditch effort, the mutant messiah successfully rips the bomb from its wiring, freeing Captain America, Iron Man and the Falcon. Red Hulk is able to “nuke” the Techno-Organic Virus out of his system by getting angry. The Avengers tackle Cable, and Captain America orders him to stand down. Despite Cyclops and Hope’s pleas, Cable refuses to give up his fight. The Avengers, including Wolverine, have no other choice but to stop him.
Hope stops Wolverine from delivering the killing blow. Cable lies on the floor, near death. Cyclops asks Captain America permission to take his son back to Utopia. The captain allows it with the condition that the Avengers commandeer all the X-Men technology Cable had used against them. The two leaders agree to the terms, and Spider-Man arrives back on the scene after his dip in the Hudson River.
Back on Utopia, Hope asks Cyclops if she can be alone with her father. Blaquesmith is also in the room, and gives Hope encouraging words. Hope reaches down to touch Cable and when she does, she transfers her father’s Techno-Organic Virus to herself. In a bright, fiery blaze (manifested in the shape of a bird), Hope burns the Techno-Organic Virus out of her system. Cyclops witnesses this from outside the room.
Cable, now free from the Techno-Organic Virus, visits Cyclops on the Astral Plane. The two discuss the revelation of Hope’s emerging connection to the Phoenix. Cable warns his father of the inevitable war with the Avengers, and Cyclops promises he will do what he must to save Hope.
Story: This comic, much like the latest Uncanny X-Men comics, makes me sad. Sad because this is one of the last times I will see two of my favorite characters on the same side for a while. Cyclops and Captain America display a great level of respect for one another in this issue. My allegiances were more easily divided in the Civil War and the Schism, but soon my heroes of choice will be at odds. A lot of people couldn’t care less about this summer’s event, but I am excited to see what happens. This story, while not the best or most relevant, was still a good lead-in to the Avengers vs. X-Men.
The respect Captain America and Cyclops show one another becomes too trusting here however. Why does Captain America keep letting dangerous mutants be carried off by their family after a mental breakdown? Back during Avengers: Disassembled, he let Magneto take Scarlet Witch away after she destroys the Avengers organization. Here, he lets Cyclops leave with Cable after the mutant almost killed several high-profile Avengers. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I guess he is getting something out of the deal as well.
Cyclops will surely regret letting the Avengers get a hold of that mutant technology when the war breaks out. I’m sure he thought it was a gesture of good faith though, and hopefully when the two sides reconcile, that technology will be put to good use.
I wasn’t expecting the big reveal at the end, that Hope possesses Phoenix powers. I figured Hope would wait till the actual event for those to actually kick in, so it was nice to see it here. But that leads me to a few other questions. When did Hope get these powers? I was under the impression that the Phoenix Force hadn’t arrived yet since that will kick off the event. I also wasn’t aware that the Techno-Organic Virus could just transfer hosts like that, as well as be burned out of your system, as displayed by Red Hulk and Hope (Phopenix?).
Art: McGuinness and the rest of the art team deliver a professional look to this mini-series. They’re not breaking any new ground with the work, but they do offer a solid effort on the character designs, sharp color-usage and some real active movements. The two highlights of the art were the Avengers beating down Cable and Hope apparently manifesting the Phoenix Force.
During the final parts of the fight, I enjoyed the double-page spread consisting of four large exclamation points. The top portion of each piece of punctuation features one of the Avengers attacking Cable. The dot in the exclamation point shows one of Cable’s allies pleading with him to stop. It was a unique spread. The full-page splash of Hope was a powerful scene and a dangerous omen of things to come.
The main issue I had with the art was the cover. I normally try not to put much stock into covers, but I don’t understand why both Wolverine and Spider-Man are wearing their black costumes. I guess it’s to signal that this is a black ops type mission for the heroes.
Characterization: I haven’t hidden my lack of interest in Cable during these reviews, but Loeb managed to make me actually care even less. Before Hope came into his life, the one thing that seemed to make Cable unique was the fact that he was constantly using his powers to hold the Techno-Organic Virus at bay. But now that the virus is gone, he’s just another telepathic member of the Summers family.
Wolverine’s attitude seemed a lot meaner than usual, as well. From the very beginning he’s bossing around his teammates the New Avengers as though he’s already their leader. His gruff attitude with the Thing also had me wondering if anyone has ever addressed the fact that Wolverine mutilated Ben Grimm’s rocky façade back in the 90’s. Wolverine didn’t hesitate at all to attack Cable in the same manner. I know he’s a soldier and willing to take a life when needed, but he seemed excessively eager to take down Cable. I would like to think that, given the history between the two, Wolverine could cool his bloodlust long enough to hear out a longtime teammate.
The only somewhat pleasant thing Wolverine did this issue was to acknowledge Spider-Man’s intelligence. My personal bias against Wolverine aside, I do like seeing the interaction between the wall-crawler and the clawed Canuck. Wolverine does give Spider-Man the respect he deserves, but Cable pays Spidey the ultimate compliment when he refers to him as the “greatest hero of all!” If there’s one thing I like less than seeing Cyclops and Captain America not agreeing, it’s seeing Cyclops hit Spidey with his optic blasts. Very sad.
Action: Cyclops knocking Spider-Man out of the fight early on was a little disappointing, but it was necessary for the action that took place later on. When Cable didn’t stand down when ordered, the soldiers had to be the ones to step up and end the fight with Cable. If Hope hadn’t ended the fight, I actually thought Wolverine was going to finish the time-traveler off. This must have been why Spider-Man couldn’t be present. Spidey’s sense of responsibility would not have allowed him to stand by and watch as his teammates murdered Cable.
Writing: It’s beyond frustrating to think that all of that action and potential death could have been avoided if Cable had tried to explain himself. He refuses to provide any sort of answer when Captain America orders him to stand down, only responding “I’m not a villain.” Hope’s line about securing the bomb – “no go boom” – made her sound more like a youthful child, instead of the strong mutant messiah Cyclops and his X-Men will be risking their lives to protect.
There was so much inner dialogue and telepathic communication going on in this issue that I was confused as to who was talking at times. Luckily the boxes were color-coded to help identify who was thinking. But who knows, maybe if Cable actually opened his mouth and used real words, all of this could have been avoided in the first place.
Story arc rating and overview: This miniseries has been compared to a typical summer movie blockbuster event. There’s not a lot of content to take away from this, but it does work as a serviceable lead-in to the Avengers vs. X-Men event. It features characters you would expect to see, acting the way you would expect them to act. There is plenty of action, but none of it really feels too heavy, at least until the end when Cable is on the ropes. The art team does a great job of putting together some solid art for four straight issues. X-Sanction isn’t breaking any molds, but it does satisfy anyone looking for bright, colorful action between popular characters at odds with one another. A satisfying appetizer before the main course this summer.