The Swierczynski Universe
If you're a regular reader, you've definitely read our high praises for the current Cable series. I'm constantly impressed with the consistency of Swierczynski's writing. While it may have started as a simple survival story and Lone Wolf and Cub homage, it's been slowly growing into the beginnings of Swierczynski’s own universe. By creating his own future world, he bridges the gap between the continuity of the Marvel Universe and having a completely creator-owned work.
Working within the continuities of DC or Marvel can bog down even the best creators. After coming off of one his best projects, Grant Morrison was asked to helm the DC Universe crossover Final Crisis. While bits of the story have been exciting, it mostly feels muddled and uninspired. Cable gives me the feeling that Swierczynski, by successfully balancing the continuity demands for Messiah Complex and his own creative desires for Cable, might be the perfect person to head up a company wide crossover event.
Most of the best monthly titles somehow take place outside Marvel and DC continuity. The titles that take place within the continuity mostly seem to get crushed under the weight of everything that has happened before them. Swierczynski walks the razor's edge between continuity and his own universe. Here's how he does it:
This is exactly what usually gets lost in a big company crossover or a continuity monthly title. The focus in Cable is squarely on the characters. He’s taken Cable and Bishop, whose creation came in an era in comics where about all you needed to have a successful character was a mean streak and a big gun, and given them some depth.
Cable still has his gritty solider mentality but Swierczynski subtly mixes in telling personality traits. Cable has a strong family loyalty that is shown most obviously through his paternal feelings for Hope, but also more quietly in several issues, when he mentions his feelings towards his father Cyclops.
I sometimes think that Bishop has more going on in his personality than Cable does. He's more than your typical villain. The series even tends to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's motivated by a sincere belief that Hope ruins the future, and a subtext of the series is that he may be right. A couple issues focus mostly on Bishop and show his determination for catching Cable. It takes pains to highlight his intelligence and ingenuity. Seeing the interaction between these two and their motivations revealed throughout the story makes Swierczynski’s world complex.
These kind of subtle interactions force the reader to assume all the characters are operating on this sincere level. In the beginning of Cable #11, we're introduced to the commander of one of the last hold outs of humanity in an increasingly hostile world. He's only in the story for a couple of pages, but he feels like a complete character because of his interactions with Hope and Cable. Swierczynski smartly rewards this thought by having the commander's presence felt again when Hope thinks about the curse words he taught her.
One of the things that bogged down Final Crisis was the abundance of tie-in titles and their content that related to the plot of the main series. The King Size Cable Spectacular and now The Life and Time of Lucas Bishop show that Sweircynski has the ability to manage a couple of different artists and different stories for an overall effect. More importantly, these comics feel more like good bonus features than vital plot information.
Bishop's new feature comic tells in detail his origin in a mutant concentration camp. It shows how Bishop's life has been in constant pain which translates directly into his world destroying actions in trying to apprehend Cable. It also subtly highlights Bishop's imagination. When he's told stories about the X-Men we see versions of himself dressed in X-men uniforms. This just internally reinforces the notion that Bishop has this strange spark within him that makes him worth reading about and analyzing. It's technically a prequel to the story, but has enough personality tie-ins to make it pretty relevant.
It's strange to think that these two characters came out of confusing X-men time-travel stories. Swiecyznski re-vamps time travel so you don’t have to wonder about the paradoxes that are normally associated with it. It’s a tool or even like a mutant ability that Cable and Bishop simply have. Most importantly, it’s something we can comprehend.
He uses it so that he can get out of the Marvel continuity but also as a plot tool to reflect the characters emotions, building a believable world in which they can live. Cable #2 has Bishop jumping through time over and over with each panel placing him in the same spot highlighting the tedious nature of the detective work he's doing.
The most recent issue has Cable and Hope trying to jump forward far enough that the Earth has regrown plant-life after its devastation. Each time they do they are in a wasteland. By magnifying the scope of their hardship to thousands of years, it gives the same sort of empty searching feeling as issue #2, but also an idea of just how painful the events of the past issues have been.
The creation of Swiercynski's universe within a universe looks back to early days in Marvel where each title had it's own internal logic. Sure the characters knew about each other but when Galactus showed up, you didn't have the Avengers help fight him, you know? While not all the titles have the benefit of time travel, it definitely gives me some hope for continuity comics.