The Ultimate Marvel Universe took many creative liberties to reimagine the iconic Marvel superheroes for a new generation, from making Spider-Woman a clone of Peter Parker to having Reed Richards descend into villainy. Among the biggest changes to befall the Ultimate X-Men involved a drastically different spin on the time-traveling mutant superhero Cable. Rather than being the time-displaced son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor who grew up in a post-apocalyptic future, Nathaniel Summers was replaced entirely by an aged version of Wolverine from an alternate future who traveled back in time to confront Marvel’s Merry Mutants — including the relative present version of himself.
Created by Robert Kirkman and Ben Oliver in 2006’s Ultimate X-Men #75, Cable attacked the X-Mansion, nearly assassinating Charles Xavier. Cable singlehandedly dispatched all of the X-Men, with Wolverine attacking him in a berserker rage, forcing Cable to reveal his own adamantium claws and revelation that he was a future incarnation of Wolverine. The shocking reveal was enough to stop Wolverine long enough for Cable to transport himself along with Professor X back to his divergent future timeline, with the X-Men believing Xavier to be dead.
In his timeline, Wolverine and the X-Men had fought against Mister Sinister after he transformed into Apocalypse as teased with the Ultimate iteration’s introduction. Apocalypse killed most of the superheroes and negated Wolverine’s healing factor before severing his arm and scarring his face with his own claws. Recovering, Wolverine had a cybernetic arm attached and led the resistance against Apocalypse for the subsequent thirty years until he gained access to time-travel and decided to save the world by changing history just before the X-Men confronted Apocalypse in the past.
After the X-Men were trained by Bishop to prepare for Apocalypse’s prophesied arrival, the villain surfaced and attacked S.H.I.E.L.D. As the battle was joined, two armored figures from Cable’s alternate future emerged to assist, with one resembling Onslaught and the other resembling Stryfe. The Onslaught-armored figure was revealed to be Xavier while Stryfe was Cable, having prepared Xavier back in his future for the epic showdown. Revealed to be a larger plan with Bishop all along, Xavier used his heightened abilities developed by Cable’s training to save several X-Men from Apocalypse while encouraging Jean Grey to unleash the Phoenix Force once more.
Completely uninhibited, Jean destroys Apocalypse, reverting Sinister back into his regular state. To ensure that no one remembers what occurred and risk the chance of Apocalypse resurfacing, Jean used her telepathic powers to ensure everyone forgot the skirmish ever took place. With history now changed for the better, Cable became a temporal paradox and faded away, his mission having been completed, effectively bringing an end to the Ultimate Marvel character.
Predating Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan, Ultimate Cable provided a much different take on an alternate future Wolverine from a divergent timeline ruled by supervillains while tying it more deeply to reimagined elements of the X-Men mythos. Kirkman had both streamlined Cable’s relatively convoluted backstory while providing new surprises in his take on the character, initially presented as a more mysterious, antagonistic figure. And while the Ultimate incarnation was never intended to stick around long in this alternate continuity, it provided a bold, ambitious reminder of how different the Ultimate Universe could take its more established characters and repurpose them to new audiences, working against pre-conceived expectation to deliver something exciting and fresh for the most well-worn characters in the Marvel Universe.
The Ultimate Marvel Universe had its own drastically different take on Cable, linking the time-traveling superhero to Wolverine.