Issue(s): X-Force #18
Of course i'm inferring a lot here, and i have the benefit of hindsight. The characters in the story, especially Cylops and Jean, aren't quite up to speed.
Regarding Cable being a copy, one interpretation is that that's why so much Cable is metal.
But alternatively, if Nathan was infected with the technovirus, it would make sense that he's got leftover metal parts, while a clone would be fully organic. This point isn't made in this story, but that's ultimately the explanation.
Havok steps in to help. The line about him always kicking himself for not being Scott is really good.
Jean and Scott also get free, and they try to reach out to Stryfe, and you can see that he wants to believe them, but can't.
Instead he talks about his "legacy" and "a pox on all of mutantkind".
Cable works to find a way to stop Stryfe. From the art, it really does seem like Cable was meant to just be a robot.
Cable rigs up a device to send both himself and Stryfe into the future while also activating a self-destruct device on his person. Cyclops has to pull the trigger, which seems to parallel him sending his son to the future the first time.
Even after it's all over, they're not sure what happened.
Meanwhile, Angel catches up with Apocalypse, who was badly beaten by the Dark Riders. As promised, Archangel makes sure that Apocalypse suffers instead of cleanly killing him.
In an epilogue scene, we see a mutant scientist working for Mr. Sinister open the canister provided by Stryfe. It's seemingly empty, but the scientist has developed a cough.
If you say nothing else about this story, it's incredibly well coordinated. Each part continues more or less directly from the previous. No one really drops the ball, and it's not a situation where stories repeat from the middle of previous issues or where each book follows its own characters. That does mean Peter David was subsumed, but he does really well with his chapters and i think it's too bad that he didn't like the experience.
I do think it's a little weak to not go all the way and fully admit that either Stryfe or Cable is baby Nathan. It's strongly implied but still left open. I think it should have been confirmed 100%, with the mystery remaining of who was the clone of who. For all intents and purposes that's how people basically treat what happened here, so we might as well have gone with it.
But even with the hedging, it's great to get an explanation for Stryfe after he was introduced with no backstory and continued to appear with no development for so long. And between this and the Cable mini-series, we've resolved much about Cable's mysterious past as well. So this all works well not just as a conclusion to this event, but as a milestone for X-Force. And it's a fun adventure for the other X-characters even though it doesn't directly affect most of them. Most of all, it's fun to see big boss villains Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse and Stryfe romping around. As a whole, this crossover has plenty of fun action but it's also got a surprising amount of nice character moments and it's got nice looking clean art. If Marvel had managed to pull this off right after Claremont left, it would have been validation of the idea that the title had been stagnating. Similarly, if the X-books managed to continue at this level, it would have been seen as a turnaround point now that these new artists were on board and the writers had settled in. Unfortunately this is more of a high water mark than a turnaround, but it's still a highlight of the era.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is the twelfth and final part of X-Cutioner's Song. Uncanny X-Men #297 should begin soon after this story is over. X-Force #19 takes place with X-Force still prisoners at the X-Mansion, so no X-Force appearances should occur in between.
Crossover: X-Cutioner's Song
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAngel, Apocalypse, Beast, Bishop, Cable (Adult), Cannonball, Cyclops, Havok, Iceman, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Mr. Sinister, Polaris, Professor X, Psylocke, Storm, Stryfe, Wolverine
I believe this crossover was of higher quality than one would expect in large part because this marked the point where the post-Claremont X-Office finally ran out of major unresolved Claremont and Simonson plots.
If you considered the Claremont/Simonson era as one large story then this crossover actually works very well as an ending to it all.
It's also interesting that Marvel sat on a high caliber villain like Apocalypse for so long after this storyline. With the exception of Age of Apocalypse (an alternate reality) and a few cameos during Onslaught, Apocalypse wouldn't come back for a major story until the Twelve in 2000.
Posted by: Red Comet | May 6, 2016 3:29 PM
It was a fun crossover, but as I mentioned in some of the comments on the earlier issues, the plot didn't make too much of sense.
I wouldn't also completely agree that everything was seemlessly coordinated here. There are small details that are off, like Havok's damaging of X-Force's IPAC having no bearing on the plot... or how in one issue the X-Men ask for Apocalypse's help in curing Charles, they let Apoc leave his cell... and then, in the following issue, Apocalypse is back in his cell and is let out *again*. Not to mention, he's in quite a different cell than before...
Details, I know - but I found them annoying even when I was reading that story first as a teen.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 6, 2016 4:29 PM
Ugh - the legacy virus.
Posted by: Bob | May 6, 2016 6:37 PM
I disagree a bit about running out of Claremont/Simonson plots being why this crossover works so well. The x-books have only been touching on Claremont/Simonson plots tangentially for the past year or more, and even here there's only a little Claremont/Siminson and a whole lot more Harras-plots (baby Nathan, Cable, Apocalypse) and Image-gang plots (High Lords).
But I do think the absence of Claremont and Simonson themselves is what makes the difference: this seems to be orchestrated well because Harras had full power to do so, neither having to accommodate a writer like Claremont with his own ideas nor star artists who could demand the story go in their preferred direction. Age of Apocalypse is similarly well constructed, and even Fatal Attractions is well organized, even if it's a crap story. Only Phalanx Covenant stands out in this post-Claremont, pre-Onslaught era as a total mess.
Unfortunately, while Harras could coordinate a crossover, he couldn't handle story concepts, so the stupid Image ideas about High Lords and Upstarts are dropped, but no clear explanation for Apocalypse and Sinister is forthcoming, and the Legacy virus storyline isn't a story at all and never goes anywhere. Harras also seemed to think techno-organic stuff was cool but never figured out how to tie it together: how does Apocalypse's TO relate to the Technarchy/Phalanx TO? Nicieza seems to have had some answers, but one of the reasons he eventually quits the X-books is that Harras doesn't commit to letting him provide them. Nicieza evidently likes Sinister a lot, but of course it's Peter Milligan who winds up writing an origin for him after Nicieza is out, and it doesn't reconcile all the different things we'd hitherto learned about Sinister. As for Apocalypse: he's really an old guy hiding in his malleable outer form? He has to absorb life forces from babies, or he switches bodies, or he just takes an occasional regenerative bath? He has a natural power to control his molecules and form, but those also happen to be abilities you'd expect a TO virus, a la the Technarchy, to give someone? All this could have been tied together, but instead we get one half-explanation after another, none of which fit into a coherent whole.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 6, 2016 8:57 PM
Regarding the ambiguity at the end of this story about whether Cable or Stryfe is the real Nathan, the idea that Cable was baby Nathan was already overwhelmingly popular among fans at this time, and while Marvel tried to sell the idea in the industry press that Stryfe was real and Cable was the clone, nobody believed them. I vaguely recall later interviews where Harras or Nicieza have said this climactic issue was changed near the end so as not to commit Marvel to the unpopular idea that Stryfe was Nathan and Cable was the clone. That's why the resolution is unclear, and Nicieza has to spend the first six months or so of Cable's 1993 solo series to teasing a resolution before finally confirming what the fans already believed anyway.
I've also seen Nicieza claim, if I recall correctly, that the writers and Harras really did intend for Stryfe to be the real Nathan at one stage, but even if Nicieza did, I don't believe Harras would have gone for that: he knew fans would never accept it. If the Spider-office had paid any attention, we might all have been spared a year of Clone Saga nonsense.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 6, 2016 9:12 PM
A lot of fans were angry that the ending didn't reveal anything outright. Nicieza didn't think they were justified in complaining. Lobdell, on the other hand, felt they were right and the ending was nonsensical. There was an interview with them shortly afterward in Marvel Age:
Posted by: Michael | May 6, 2016 10:17 PM
@Walter: What do you think FabNic’s answers were with regard to how Apocalypse's TO related to the Technarchy/Phalanx TO, or for that matter Sinister’s origin?
As for Cable as the clone, I think Simon Spurrier returned to this idea in #6 of his X-Force run back in 2014!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 6, 2016 10:32 PM
@Michael: Interesting from that article that Harras was also stabbing JRJR in the back. He was really a great fosterer of creative people now wasn't he!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 6, 2016 10:39 PM
Does Cable talk about stabbing people's eyes a lot, or just during this crossover?
Posted by: cullen | May 7, 2016 9:55 AM
It was one of his and Stryfe's repeated sayings under Nicieza.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2016 10:11 AM
One of the really dumb things about the Baby Nathan/Stryfe/Cable retcon is that Stryfe, supposedly active in the present era since 1983, had lots of opportunity to stop Apocalypse from infecting baby Nathan with TO, or to take the baby himself, or to stop the baby from being born if he wanted to do that, or to frustrate Apocalypse's and Sinister's plans any time in the years between '83 and this story. But instead, Stryfe does meaningless stuff in Afghanistan, then starts the irrelevant MLF, which he discards here--all for what? Just calling Stryfe the "Chaos Bringer" doesn't really excuse the lack of logic. Stryfe, Sinister, and Apocalypse have all ceased to have consistent motives or methods.
@Nathan, I haven't seen Nicieza say anything about his plans for Sinister or the TO stuff, but I'd guess the former would have involved a lot of what Nicieza did with his Black Womb storyline (which never really got fully explored: he set it up in the Hazard arc, revisited it tangentially in his X-Men run, then did more with it in his Gambit run and X-Men Forever series) and the latter would have had something to do with the Celestials, as hinted at in an X-Force issue with Paul Pelletier guest art--issue 30-something.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 7, 2016 3:08 PM
@cullen & Michael: "Stab his eyes" was also a commonly used phrase by Mister Fantastic's father, Nathaniel Richards, when Tom DeFalco returned him in his F4 run.
@Walter: "Chaos Bringer" was also a term used to refer to the Phoenix so did Stryfe think he would inherit the power?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 8, 2016 4:02 AM
I really doubt it. Remember bean counting accountants were starting to be the ones responsible for what was going out to press at this point. Pointless variant covers, add ins like posters, animation cells, and cards, were turning throwaway fiction into a busying enterprise of cross merchandising and the long winded stories with no foreseeable end were what was selling so Marvel kept printing them, and maybe if this formula affected only one or two characters or teams maybe Marvel could have saved face but the entire bloody line? No. It's the classic example of "too big to fail" syndrome. Something works for one book so every book has to have the same shock treatment. So I very much doubt that the Spider-Man team would have listened to the fan outrage when going through with their Spider saga, they certainly didn't look to the Clone outrage when doing their Crossing storyline either.
Posted by: Darren Hood | May 10, 2016 5:04 PM
Darren- the Clone Saga was relatively popular at first- the outrage started when Peter turned out to be the clone and hit MJ, and that was only two months before the Crossing.
Posted by: Michael | May 15, 2016 8:13 PM
Yeah, count me among the people yelling at the end of the book "Just admit that Cable is Scott's son!" It was a frustrating finale to what was overall a pretty good crossover.
The minion of Sinister's who opens the Legacy Virus always reminded me of the blond telekinetic kid in Fallen Angels.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 18, 2016 7:30 AM
Too bad Madelyne never took her son to see "The First Pokemon Movie".
Posted by: iLegion | August 30, 2017 7:00 PM
I can't really say anything positive about story/events like this one... I mean, 12 issues worth of story and it ends with the readers NOT knowing anyhting. We assume Stryfe is Baby Nathan but it's never actually said, and there's ZERO explanation on how Baby Nathan came to become Stryfe or who or what is Cable. That makes it a badly written story, imo.
Posted by: Pablo | May 13, 2018 6:15 PM
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