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Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Mmmm... pointy!

Wielding powerful psionic powers, this evil, time-travelling clone of Nathan Summers nearly eradicated mutant-kind when he unleashed the deadly Legacy virus.

Yes, that is the origin settled on for Stryfe, but it took a long time to get there. You may recall that the original plans for Cable were just "he's from the future," but Stryfe wasn't even that well developed. Eventually Liefeld decided to make Stryfe be an older Cable, which is actually pretty clever: we'd slowly see him go nuts and become a villain, then travel back in time to give his younger self grief. But then Bob Harras, Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee got together (without any input from Rob) and decided on the whole son-of-Cyclops thing, so Liefeld came up with the whole clone angle - but with the idea that Stryfe was the real one, and Cable was the copy.

The defining feature of Rob Liefeld's Stryfe design was the crazy, spiky armor, and the defining feature of the crazy, spiky armor was the even crazier helmet. It's like he wearing a metal version of Wolverine's mask, with three more matching ear-blades on each side of his head. Stryfe's mask does for masks what Spawn's cape does for capes. This is a more modern take on the mask, because the way Rob originally drew it, it didn't have a nose; kind of like Sunfire's original koi fish mask! This toy does. And what's really nice is that the little bit of exposed face we can see looks the same as Dave Cortes' sculpt for ML6 Cable!

Most of the figure's body is new. He uses the Hyperion torso, but his arms and legs are entirely new. They're a banded metal, which is more a Greg Capullo thing than a Rob Liefeld thing. In fact, pretty much every costume feature on this toy is a Capullo feature - the banded limbs, the specific shape of the belt and the boots, the placement of the four ports on his chest... those are not from the original design. The hands are new, with their big, blocky knuckles, and his gloves are formed by separate pieces that float freely on the arm. The armor on his chest is glued in place, and his cape is glued to that. There are three spikes on each shoulder, three on each thigh, and three blades on the side of each boot. It's possible he should also have some spikes or blades on his upper arms, but those seemed to come and go with no thought, so they're hardly missed here.

Stryfe has all the usual articulation of a Marvel Legends figure, but in his case, it's mostly useless. Remember the amazingly thin cape that Storm had? Well apparently action figures work on the law of equivalent exchange, because Stryfe's cape is just about the thickest, most solid shoulder-drape ever! Understandably, they had to go with a sculpted cape if they wanted to get the specific, billowy shape Stryfe's shawl was always drawn with (it never ever just hung straight down from his shoulders, like Superman's), but it was years ago when Vision proved a sculpted cape could still move. This thing is a brick. So the toy's arm joints - shoulders, biceps, elbows and wrists - work fine, but if you flex his torso, it will get pulled back into place. And since the cape reaches his ankles, there's no point in moving any of his leg joints - hips, thighs, knees and ankles - because unless he's standing straight, he can't stand at all.

Surprisingly, Stryfe gets an accessory. It's a golden sword, and you have to be a massive nerd from the '90s to know what it is. X-Force #17 was the eighth part of the "X-Cutioner's Song" crossover, a 1992 event that happened while all the X-Books were in a state of flux due to their superstar artists leaving to form Image Comics; in the opening pages of that book, Stryfe stabs Apocalypse in the chest with an ornate sword - specifically, this sword. Almost every detail seen in the comics is copied here, including the tiny little Apocalypse face seen on the hilt. As far as obscure references go, this is right up there with Loki's Crown.

One of Rob Liefeld's ideas for Stryfe, back before anything was known about the character, was that inside the bulky concealment of all that armor, "he" would be a woman. In honor of that, Stryfe also comes with an unmasked head, depicting him as a teenage girl. Or... wait, hold on, I'm being informed that this actually the head of the series' BAF, Jubilee. That makes a lot more sense! Also explains why he comes with two translucent pink energy effects.

As confusing as Stryfe is, he's also a self-contained temporal paradox. The entire reason Apocalypse kidnapped baby Nathan Summers in the first place was to use the kid's genetic potential to boost his own powers - Nate getting infected by the techno-organic virus was just a side effect. When Nathan was taken to the future, the Apocalypse of that time tried to steal him back, but (unaware that the boy had been cloned in case his original body succumbed to the virus) only managed to gain possession of the clone. He raised the boy like a son, helping him develop his powers so that when the time was right, Apocalypse's ancient spirit of evil could use the super-powerful young body as a host. Anyway, needing a name for the kid, Apocalypse called him Stryfe, after an ancient enemy - an enemy who turned out to be the very child he was raising!

The last time Stryfe got an action figure was in 1992, so this update was much-needed. The thick cape is annoying, but Stryfe was mostly a "stand around and give orders" type of villain, so it's not terrible. Other than that, our only complaint is that the two Cable Marvel Legends were about the same height, while Stryfe is bigger - but then, his body wasn't encumbered by the T-O virus, was it?

-- 09/01/14

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