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by yo go re

Try as I might, I can never fully hate Rob Liefeld. Sure, I recognize that his art is terrible, but as I've tearfully confessed at least twice before, Rob Liefeld is the reason I started reading superhero comics, so I'll always have a soft spot for him. When this X-Force box set was announced, I couldn't wait! And now, before this turns into a Poe review, I'll stop talking about myself and instead tell you about the toys.

Wade Wilson began his mercenary career while still in his late teens. Wilson became a test subject in Department K's branch of the joint U.S./Canadian superhuman enhancement project, the Weapon X Program. Deadpool would later meet defeat at the hands of Cable and his new charges, the young mutants in training known as the New Mutants.

This figure is technically "First Appearance Deadpool," which is slightly hard to judge - as we've said before, the best costume redesign is one that doesn't draw any attention to itself, and for all his other excesses, Deadpool surprisingly follows this rule. He wore a red and black Spider-Man suit when he first showed up, he wears a red and black Spider-Man suit now.

Actually, we're wrong: in his first appearance Deadpool's costume was red and grey, not red and black. Sure, it was just a result of the limitations of early-'90s coloring process, but the Minimate has copied it in the interest of period-accuracy. The back of his chest block remains unpainted, which seems like an error, but it's not one that originated with this figure: if you read Wade's first appearance (which I did - don't say we never make any sacrifices for you), you'll notice that the specifics of his costume change from panel to panel, but Liefeld (or maybe colorist S. Buccellato, who had already covered for Rob's inattentive ass a couple times in the issue) never put any details on the back. And though Deadpool's gloves were red on the cover, they were consistently grey in the actual issue.

In his first appearance, Deadpool wasn't quite the wacky goofball he is now; rather, he was meant to be a serious character. As such, one of the character's hallmarks today - big white eyes an an expressive mask - wasn't in place yet, so the entire issue he had squinty little white eyes, and the Minimate duplicates that well. They've even painted a bunch of useless wrinkles on his forehead, not quite to Liefeld levels of superfluousness, but the idea is clear.

To spice up his costume, Deadpool has eight extra pieces: bands, belts, holsters and sheaths, all done in the same grey as his costume. You can decide what you want him to wear, and it'll still be accurate to the character. Like we said, the costume changed a lot through the book. On page 19, two panels that are actually touching each other don't even match! His thigh belts seriously disappear when he gets punched. Is that a superpower, or were their clasps just weak? He's got two swords, same as the Series 28 release.

The set includes seven guns with no real indication of who gets what - you can assume that the two pistols that match Wade's webgear belong to him, but any of the rest are totally at your discretion. I like to give him the two black MP5s. The same things came with the last DP, so hey, why not?

Nathan Summers' birth was carefully orchestrated by the geneticist Mister Sinister. Sinister planned to use Nate as a weapon against his former master Apocalypse, but Apocalypse learned of this and had Nate captured and infected with a deadly techno-organic virus. Later, with the aid of his mercenary ally and sometime lover Domino, Cable reorganized the New Mutants into the strike team X-Force.

Yes, all that's true now. But when he was first created, Cable absolutely 100% was not meant to be Nathan Summers. The only thing that was known for sure was that he was a time-traveller from the future. Liefeld had toyed around with a few different origins within that framework, but before he pinned anything down, Bob Harras, along with Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee, decided to come up with an origin on their own - with no input from the character's creator! To Rob's credit, though, he went with it.

Cable is Patient Zero for the terrible costume designs of the '90s, and some clever reuse means this Minimate is just as hideous. Wasp's top becomes Cable's padded vest, and the bumps on the back allow two huge guns to be attached, just as in the comic. He has a huge belt - like, comically oversized. It looks like it came from one of the 3" Minimates, but I can't place it. [DC's Bane --ed.] There are brown holsters, a band on his silver left arm, Black Widow's bracelet as a bandolier on his bicep, and a studded bracelet that isn't the one Chun-Li came with.

When Liefeld drew Cable, he gave him a receeding hairline - he was an old man, after all. Later artists misinterpretted that, and instead gave Nate a weird little tuft of hair in the front, and that's what this hairpiece does, as well. The gold paint over his left eye is actually pretty easy to spot, which is a nice change: usually that stuff just blends right in. Sadly, all his extra wrinkles are hidden by his hair.

Cable (whose name, it was eventually [i.e., long after Liefeld had left] revealed, was chosen by Nate to signify his place as a connection between the present and the future) has the same guns we talked about in the Battle Beasts Blackgator review, and although the giant mystery belt blocks part of the holsters on his legs, you can still fit in two of the silver pistols, which come from the classic Battlestar Galactica Minimates. And if you want to give him the remaining one, who's going to stop you?

Neena Thurman was one of the many children born to the U.S. government's Project: Armageddon, designed to genetically engineer the perfect weapon using a precognitive mutant named Beatrice. Domino was once captured by the arms dealer Tolliver, secretly Cable's estranged son Tyler, who had one of his agents impersonate Domino in Cable's new strike-team X-Force. Cable ultimately freed her and she came to aid him in his role as X-Force's leader.

Yes she did. But judging by the costume this figure is wearing, this figure is still Copycat, the shapeshifter who took her place. The real Domino didn't appear until X-Force #11, and when she did, she wasn't wearing this outfit. It's odd that the bio doesn't mention her mutant ability, either: it's some kind of ill-defined luck power, which explains her codename: things just seem to fall into place for her.

Domino's costume is black leather, with a white section on the insides of the legs, as was the team style at the time - everybody wore their own thing, but they all had that white bit in the center. Grey paint does a good job of suggesting anatomy and the texture on the button-flap front of her shirt. Her belt, rather than sitting between the torso and hips like usual, is a new piece that fits around the waist block. It ends up sitting a bit lower on her hips. There is a brown band painted on her bicep, and silver peeks out above her right glove.

The hair appears to be a new piece, as well: it's slightly longer than shoulder length, and is pulled back away from her face. Domino's skin is bright white, and she has a black circle around one eye - natural pigmentation, not makeup. She is wearing some makeup, though: she's got red lipstick and purple eyeshadow, because after all, the first thing a woman worries about, even in a war zone, is whether she looks nice for the boys.

Domino gets no accessories that are specifically her own, other than the belt. If you've followed our suggested load-out for the guns, though, there's one silver pistol left. But yet again, whatever weapon you want her to have is the one she will. The girl's a soldier, after all - you think she can't pick up any gun you put in front of her and be proficient with it?

Maria Callasantos and her three siblings, Lucia, Matteo, and Carolina, grew up poor and abandoned by their father. After Maria's mutant powers emerged she found refuge with the underground Morlocks. She later agreed to join the New Mutants in return for their help in taking down Masque, and the team soon after became X-Force.

Yes, very soon after. Feral was introduced in New Mutants #99, one issue before the end. She was a replacement for Rahne Sinclair, who was snagged out of the book at the end of the X-Tinction Agenda crossover. It's like all they did was color-shift Wolfsbane a bit to the right and call her a cat-person instead of a dog-person and that was that. New character!

Surprisingly, Feral doesn't use the Wasp vest, despite the fact that it's almost exactly what she wore. Instead, the bulk of the costume details are merely painted on her chest, and she's inherited shoulder flaps from Wolverine to complete the shape. Her gloves are different from Deadpool and Domino's, with notches molded in the cuffs. Her thin tail is permanently glued to the back of her loincloth.

Like we mentioned before, it was a rule in the '90s that every vaguely animal-themed character had to have "Wolverine hair," so of course Feral follows suit. Her hair was originally available with Series 34's '90s Beast, so it's all huge and pointy and ridiculous. They got the white stripes in the hair, but forgot the black - that wasn't just outlining, guys, her hair really was orange and white and black.

Despite the fact that this set is nominally supposed to be X-Force, it's clearly not. After all, the figure is explicitly "First Appearance" Deadpool, and like they say, you only have a single chance to make a first appearance (or something); that pegs his appearance as being from New Mutants #98, and sure enough, Domino's costume elements - the purple band on the arm, the silver by her glove, even the belt - all come from the cover of NM #98, as well. This isn't an "X-Force" set, this is a "final days of the New Mutants" set. But with two characters we've never seen before and two more that are in new (yet famous) costumes, whatever they call it, this is a great set for old fans.

-- 08/08/10

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