Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Babies! Babies are great, right? I mean, let’s face it- they bring out the best in people!

It may be that certain friends of friends had a baby recently. I can’t name names. But we here at Omnicomic are pretty excited. And now? I’m going to talk about the 1990’s X-Men crossover X-Cutioner’s Song.

That’s right. You heard me. I’m going to segue from ‘babies’ to X-Cutioner’s Song. Why? Well because it’s all about a baby. That baby’s name is Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, the son of one Scott “Cyclops” Summers and Jean “Phoenix” Grey.

I’m a huge fan of this whole arc in X-Men. Well, okay, I’m going to be a fan of any arc that slowly builds to a boiling point over the span of TEN YEARS. Chris Claremont is the man. This is also a part of why I haven’t been a HUGE fan of the whole Cyclops/Emma Frost situation. I just like all of the future-time travel-X-Men stuff and Scott and Jean are kind of a big part of that.

Introduced in 1986, Nathan was (obviously) going to grow up to be a pretty powerful mutant if his parents' DNA had anything to say about it. Nice little touches in his middle names: ‘Christopher’ is Scott’s dad and ‘Charles’ is, of course, the mentor of Nathan’s parents. Unfortunately, Nathan wasn’t in the comics for long.

Apocalypse- a relatively obscure and unknowable X-Men villain back in the day, now known as the worst of the worst- busted into the X-Mansion and infected Nathan with a particularly nasty and life-threatening techno-organic virus (presumably related to the New Mutants character Warlock- but that’s a whole other story I won’t get into).

Among Apocalypse’s MANY natural advantages is an inherent awareness of every event in his own timeline. So Apocalypse in 1986 is aware of everything that will (is?) happen (…ing…or something…) to Apocalypse in 2050, and 3050, and so on. And there’s a good chance that Apocalypse is going to be around in 3050 and beyond. The guy got juiced up by Celestial technology. Which isn’t nothing.

Anyway Apocalypse must have caught onto the prospect that even this tiny baby was going to grow up to be a threat. So he does what any proactive villain with omniscient timeline foresight would do- tries to get the kid while he’s still a defenseless baby (I mean, hey, the guy’s evil.). The virus spreads all over the kid’s body in a matter of hours and the X-Men are powerless to do much about it. Enter mysterious time traveler who offers to save the child’s life by taking Nathan to the future. Mom and dad may never see their own son again. Big climactic time gate thingy.

NOW. Flash forward ten to fifteen years. These days, everybody knows that Cable-the hardcore guy with the glowing eye and the really big gun and a whole lot of techno-organic virus spreading all over his body-is Nathan. While a little estranged from his parents for obvious reasons, Nathan comes back in time to help Xavier’s forces ‘beef up’ after he grows up in a veritable hell-like future in which Apocalypse and his minions have enslaved and destroyed everything (…just to DO IT too. Apocalypse…really is just…EVIL.)

So mid nineties. X-Men popularity is at an all time high. There’s an X-Men crossover every year and it sells like hotcakes. X-Cutioner’s Song comes out. Everybody buys it because the art is fantastic. Most people have NO IDEA what’s going on in it (myself included); it’s just cool. Cable seems to shoot Xavier. The X-Men go after X-Force (the team of young mutants Cable put together). Stryfe (Cable’s mysterious twin in big, shiny armor) kidnaps Scott and Jean and tortures them emotionally, but he also busts Apocalypse up in a big way…

So what the HELL was going on in this series, anyway?

Well here’s the thing. I’ve read and re-read this series. And it’s a great series, I have to say. At the time that it was WRITTEN, however, there was no definitive answer as to who Cable and Stryfe WERE. When I look over the dialogue of this story here’s what I see: this story was written such that STRYFE is NATHAN SUMMERS.

Every piece of plot and every line is designed to bring you to this conclusion. Everything he does in this series is designed to lash out at the people who hurt him. He ‘tests’ Jean and Scott by producing an image of a baby that they have to protect, he accuses them of abandoning him and making him a monster. He smacks Apocalypse around like a red-headed step-child and calls him a monster. And Cable- oh man, the fight with Cable is epic.

See- it’s all in the dialogue here. These days, the story is that Cable is Nathan and Stryfe is a very misguided and emotionally unstable clone of Nathan that Nathan’s protectors in the future created out of fear that Nathan might die.

Granted, Cable is the one with the virus all over his body so I suppose that makes sense. But everything Stryfe says to Nathan in this story is along the lines of: “Look at you- you’re just a half-shell of ME. You’re just PRETENDING to be a hero, Cable, because you don’t know what else to do. You’re pathetic!”

And Cable’s lines are to the effect of: “I’m my OWN MAN and I’ve made my OWN CHOICES!”

See it’s a much darker story if Stryfe IS Nathan and Cable is the clone. But to be honest with you? It’s much COOLER. This way Stryfe is lashing out at his parents and Xavier, accusing them of making him into a monster. Cable, on the other hand, is like the living embodiment of free choice. While he’s just a carbon-copy of Stryfe with all his DNA, he still chooses to fight the good fight. Maybe an alternate interpretation of how the virus ended up on Cable could have been Stryfe’s protectors cloned him and transferred the virus over TO Cable. So Cable literally inherits all of Stryfe’s ‘baggage’ and STILL chooses to do good rather than evil.

None of what I’m talking about is understood explicitly in the story itself. It’s just, if you’ve been paying attention for ten years of X-Men comic books and what the characters are saying and doing, you reach this conclusion. Culminating in this incredible explosion in which Stryfe and Cable disappear. Forever. Leaving you (and the X-Men) with just questions.

I would love it if that really WAS the end of this story. It’s poetic and it’s epic. Unfortunately, people loved Cable a little too much and he pops up again a year or so down the road. And the current interpretation that Cable’s the son, Stryfe is the clone was made fact by several writers.

Not that I’m knocking Cable as a character. I think Cable is a great character. I just love it when the writers are willing to do something like this- use a character well and than commit to having them go out in this poetic manner. But seriously, read that story again. You’ll see what I mean.