One of the biggest surprises in comics this year has been the understated Cable series by Duane Swierczynski and Ariel Olivetti. Subtlety and narrative patience are not expected--and certainly not necessary--for a new series starring a character closely associated with Rob Liefeld's 90s work and the incredibly stupid Cable & Deadpool series, but that's what makes the series. The comic's smart enough to give readers lots of awesome violence and time-travel fuckery, but it does it all at its own pace and on its own terms.
That the series began as an extended homage to Long Wolf & Cub with some "Man with No Name" trilogy thrown in, transported to the future and placed within the contraints of a road movie--although if you think about it, most Samurai tales are "road movies"--gives you a hint of just how slow Swierczynski's taking the series. The first few issues span what seems like only a few hours and in this King-Size issue, Cable fights these bad-ass wolf/porcupine things for pretty much the entire thing. Plenty of other stuff's woven through it, as it brilliantly cross-cuts with Bishop's continued search for Cable and the baby. When Swierczynski bounces back to Bishop's solitary search and away from Cable fighting, it builds tension, lets the reader breathe, and adds more and more layers to the story. This is a good sign after the sort of inert, Cyclops/Cable cross-cuts from issue #7.
The most exciting part of the issue is actually an extended sequence of Bishop's Zodiac-esque perusal through documents--in an attempt to pin-point a place and date to time-jump to and fight Cable--and not the very like, classic Conan battle with wolves (although that's really awesome too). We discover the myths that built-up around Cable and the baby right along with Bishop and it has the strange effect of feeling as shocking and relevatory for us as it does for Bishop. Much of the information on Cable are tales developed, expounded upon, and changed by people that worshipped Cable and the child, tales that began as intentional lies to throw-off Bishop but took on a life of their own from there.
It's a clever and fascinating digression in the story, one that encapsulates the birth of religion and myth and in its own way, is a comment on comic-book continuity and comic myth as well...and then we're back to a gun fight between two muscle-bound future hoppers, with some wolves thrown in for good measure. Cable is such an engaging series because of sequences like this, where the serious and the very comic-book merge perfectly; all encompassed in a single non-panel, panel like this:
Ken Lashley's art is more in the vein of classic Cable work, with lots of scratchy lines and gritted teeth and a certain plasticity to it--the baby/savior is creepy-blank-faced, like Cable's lugging around a baby doll--but it's effective. It also highlights some of the inherent flaws of Olivetti's computer-generated work, which just couldn't sustain this much action without stumbling or looking plain awful a few times. It makes me wonder how much the limitations of Olivetti's computer art determined what and how things played out in previous Cable issues. Before King-Size, the team seemed perfectly matched: Swierczynski's minimalist writing and spare narrative complemented wonderfully by Olivetti's clean and clear art. If Cable wasn't Cable and you know, it was just some new weird comic on the shelves--and indeed, the genius of this series is you don't need to know anything about anything to read it--it would seem like some strange, European comic. Lashley's work though, brings it back into the realm of Marvel and other X titles and there's a kind of jagged appeal to pretty conventional comics art backed by a more leisurely, moment-to-moment plot and at least for this one-shot, it's fun for the series to feel a little more immediate.