Welcome to another fabulous edition of not just The Unspoken Decade, but that nifty blog crossover epic we call “Super Blog Team-Up!” This go-round we at SBTU have decided to utterly enthrall you with some of the most violent and spectacular clashes of all time, as we present VS!
Here where it’s always 1996, we bring you two of Marvel’s heaviest hitters when it comes to firepower. One is James Rhodes, better known as the operator of he most offensively-powerful armor this side of a Hulkbuster, War Machine! The other is the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, sent to a far future to cure his techno-virus, he has now returned to the present day as the telekinteic cyborg warrior known as Cable!
Personally, I have always wanted a Punisher/War Machine/Cable team-up. They could call it “big guns, bigger attitudes”. It writes itself! WHERE ARE YOU, MARVEL? GET THIS DONE.
The fight between Cable and War Machine takes place over the first few issues of War Machine’s first solo title. Written by Len Kaminski and Scott Benson, penciled by Gabriel Gecko, and inked by Pam Eklund, War Machine #1 hits our reality in April of 1994 (according to the copyright indicia) as an attempt to sort of stretch the parameters of the super hero game. The first issue has James Rhodes getting caught up in an international incident that ties the hands of most of the other heroes. It also sports a die-cut foil cover that is sort of hard to display on the internet.
War Machine’s armor is probably my favorite Iron Man armor ever. I mean, just look at it. Right there on that cover, you can see two guns on his wrist, a giant cannon on his shoulder, and what appears to be a missile battery on his other shoulder. Beautiful. Also, you just know that his chest circle fires SOMETHING AWESOME.
In real life, I tend to be a defense first guy (as a fan of the 2015 WORLD CHAMPION Kansas City Royals, how can ya blame me?). In my genre fiction, give me the guy who has little protection who comes out with every gun he has firing as he simply overpowers his enemy with a fierce barrage from his armada! That’s War Machine in a nutshell, although I am underselling the brilliant strategic mind of one James Rhodes as well.
The selling point of these early issues of War Machine is that James Rhodes isn’t gonna sit idly by as the technicalities of the world prevent him from taking the fight right to the bad guys. After he makes a connection with a famous international diplomat, Vincent Cetewayo, who is looking to start a corporation known as “WorldWatch” that would help deal with international crises before they develop, James is intrigued. He refuses Cetewayo’s offer at first, but after reading his book, James seems to be coming around on the idea. Of course, then said international diplomat is kidnapped by the regime he once fled, Imaya. Due to the fact that this African nation is full-fledged member of the United Nations, many heroes are paralyzed by international law as it prevents them from acting…
The angry phone call Rhodes is on doesn’t seem to get Fury on the line, as Rhodes quickly shows up at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ with harsh words for Nick Fury.
C’mon War Machine, how could you possibly figure that Fury wouldn’t know who you were and what you were up to? It’s his game!
It’s insanely hard not to side with War Machine here. It isn’t like Fury doesn’t go off half-cocked when he feels like it, the UN and S.H.I.E.L.D. be damned. Now that War Machine needs some help, though, Fury is acting like these rules are suddenly sacrosanct. That’s government bureaucrat types for ya, amirite? Also, ain’t it against international law to, y’ know, just kidnap a guy off a hijacked airline? Oh, UN, you’re so delightfully unwieldy.
After seeing that he’ll get no help from Fury in regard to this, War Machine says the line that seemingly has to be said in nearly every action flick and story:
War Machine plows into Imaya, taking out soldiers and warplanes left and right. He’s doing very well against these instruments of war, which might be ironic because he is a War Machine. Or is it just meta? I dunno, Alanis Morissette forever ruined all of our understandings of ironic. (Also, if you think that joke is too old, you’re the one reading a 90’s comics website, pal.)
While War Machine’s attack may make for impressive viewing, X-Force’s leader Cable doesn’t like it.
So it appears Cable has taken umbrage with War Machine going solo in a War Zone. Apparently, Cable is the only guy allowed to do what he wants with big guns, a gleam in his eye, and a devil-may-care attitude. When it isn’t him, Cable is super concerned with geopolitical events and how a solitary man with an advanced suit of armor trying to rescue a man destined to be tortured and killed could upset the entire balance of power in Africa!
Now, before we can get to laser fights, Cable and War Machine have to try and win the debate. I’ll spare you my opinion of who is right, but I’d love to know yours in the comment. (Here’s a hint as to whose side I am on; it’s War Machines’s.)
This exchange of philosophy does nothing to change the mind of either Cable or War Machine, and so we get Cable and War Machine throwing down! We also get Cable spouting a line that’d lead one to believe he was trying out for a Viagra commercial.
Cable draws first blood, knocking War Machine down and into some boulders. War Machine doesn’t take this lying down, however, and quickly takes over on offense. He separates Cable from his firearm, which leads to the most ineffective strategy Cable has ever employed against an opponent.
The back and forth is fairly evenly matched, but just when it appears that Round 2 is about to start, a new competitor enters the ring and it becomes a triple threat match!
That’s where War Machine #1 leaves off, and Page #1 of issue #2 may be my favorite page by Gecko in either issue. But first, the cover to War Machine #2!
Not only is this a great page artwise to me, I love the succinctness in getting all three of the players across. With just three panels, you know who everyone is, what their motivation is, and how they are feeling about the situation. One can even reasonably assume that Deathlok is housing two personalities based on what we see here, which he is.
What we really need, though, is a two-page splash showing us just how badass all these guys look together.
Basically, we get the same conversation that Cable and War Machine have been having, but now Deathlok is thrown in, and he is on War Machine’s side. This sits none too well with Cable, who decides to use that awesome gun of his (for real, I could talk for hours about Cable’s guns. Ask Emily.) to solve a problem. That problem’s name is Deathlok!
War Machine tries to play peacemaker, but all that does is rile Deathlok up in his direction.
War Machine finally uses his massive firepower to overcome the both of them, as he attempts to talk some sense into these guys. It’s sorta funny how all of a sudden after breaching international borders and shooting down Imayan warplanes in Imayan airspace that War Machine now fancies himself the voice of reason. Of course, seeing as he is the only 100% human guy here, maybe he’s the only one we can trust. One way or another, War Machine incapacitates them both, and then he gets to deliver a lecture because to the victor go the soliloquies.
For those of you placed your wager on “the three guys yap until Imayan ground forces show up,” head to the window and collect. You have to wonder what sort of resistance they could possibly put up to these three, seeing as how War Machine just single-handedly thrashed their entire goddamn air force. I do suppose that being in the military in a despotic dictatorship probably just has you going out in your tank even after a solitary armored figure has taken out all your air support. Your choice is get killed by War Machine or get killed by your superior in the ranks.
Cable, though, can teleport, so he has lots of choices, including the choice to allow Deathlok and War Machine to reap what they have sown without him around.
And that’s the end of the Cable vs. War Machine showdown. It’s a rather typical Marvel hero vs. hero fight, in that there is no clear winner, although it’s a little less like a typical Marvel hero fight because Cable and War Machine are at odds from the start and there is no misunderstanding between them before they pal up and head after the baddies! I suppose Deathlok is the one who handles that role with ol’ Rhodey here.
The rest of the early War Machine story arc is good. You get to see War Machine take on a nation’s entire armed forces as he teams with Imayan freedom fighters to liberate their country. Cable plays a small role by evacuating Cetewayo to the camp of said freedom fighters. If he had just done that to start, there’d have been no fight! But then again, I wouldn’t have this article, either. Hmmm.
For real, though, scope out the rest of this early War Machine arc if for no other reason than to just see this image explained:
Now that you have had a nice fight here, maybe you should go take a gander at the other folks playing along with Super Blog Team Up! Check out the links below:
Chris is on Infinite Earths -Guy Gardner vs. Blue Beetle
Superhero Satellite -Batman vs. Green Lantern
In My Not So Humble Opinion-Captain America vs. Wolverine