The Cable comic books definitive issue-by-issue collecting guide and trade reading order for omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections. Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated August 2016 with titles scheduled for release through April 2017.
Looking for Deadpool? You’re not crazy – he and Cable used to share a page! See The Definitive Deadpool Collecting Guide and Reading Order.
No single character defines so much of what is right and what is wrong about the venerable X-Men franchise as Nathan Christopher Dayspring Summers AKA Cable.
Cable was the creation of Rob Liefeld in 1990 when he took over pencilling New Mutants and was charged with creating a leader for the team that contrasted with Professor X’s more non-violent philosophy. The character he came up with couldn’t be more of a 90s extreme – a Terminator-esque mysterious time-traveler with a glowing eye, a metal arm, a lot of guns, and a set of shoulder pads that tripled the apparent width of his frame.
(Alex Ross would later say, “I felt like it looked like they just threw up everything on the character.”)
Cable (and Liefeld) lead the New Mutant team out of passivity and lower sales to be one of Marvel’s biggest phenomenons, shedding all but three cast members in the process and relaunching as mega-seller X-Force.
However, something even more interesting was going on with Cable thanks to the plot in another X-book – X-Factor. In the wake of X-Tinction Agenda, X-Factor saw Cyclops’s son with Mr. Sinister’s Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor being kidnapped to the moon and infected with a techno-organic virus by former Sinister mentor Apocalypse before being whisked off to the future by Sister Askani.
Was it intention or coincidence that a telekinetic baby who was the heir apparent to the X-Men franchise was infected with a metallic virus and sent to the future just months after a time-traveler with a missing eye and a metallic arm with hints of telekinesis landed in the present? It didn’t matter, because fan’s obsessions with the idea that Cable could be Cyclops’s son quickly took over and made the character more in-demand than he was before!
That sort of long-term, interconnected, soap opera plotting is what a major part of what makes X-Men comics great. However, Cable’s subsequent adventures offer the insufferable underbelly of X-Men – constantly revised powers, convoluted time travel, unendingly retconned secret agendas, and multiple apparent deaths. Even as a Cable fan it’s hard to say what his current mission is or how many more intermittent jumps to the future he’s conducted since his last appearance.
Despite that, Cable has been central to some major blockbusters in the past few decades – including an co-headling with Deadpool, driving both Messiah Complex and Second Coming, and in 2015 anchoring the Avengers “Unity Squad” along with big-league characters like Captain America, Rogue, Human Torch, and Quicksilver – oh, plus his old buddy, Deadpool.
That Deadpool relationship is no small part of Cable’s lasting appeal – while he’s a militant curmudgeon on his own, as the Merc With a Mouth’s eternal straight man it’s a little easier to see the heart of gold that makes him so central to the X-Men over 25 years after his debut.
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