In a Nutshell
Gideon, Deadpool & Domino make their first appearances as Rictor quits the team.
Plot & Art: Rob Liefeld
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: S. Buccellato
Caretaker: Bob Harras
Beginning, Middle and End: Tom DeFalco
In Colorado, the mysterious Gideon hones his mutant ability against a group of combat droids, then tells his assistant to inform Eve to proceed as planned with Emmanuel Da Costa. At the X-Mansion, Cable and Cannonball train together, while at the headquarters of Da Costa International, Eve delivers Emmanuel his coffee. Drinking it, he dies. At the X-Mansion, Rictor complains to Boom-Boom about leaving Rahne behind in Genosha, just as Cable is attacked in the library by a masked mercenary named Deadpool, sent by Mr. Tolliver to kill him. Cable and the New Mutants, drawn by the commotion, fight back, but it's ultimately a mysterious woman named Domino who defeats the attacker, answering Cable's request for help. Later, after mailing Deadpool back to Tolliver, Cable and Domino go over a list of former New Mutants, ultimately deciding they aren't left with much to work with, though Cable says he's taking steps to remedy it. That night, Rictor takes off on his own, leaving a note for Boom-Boom explaining that he's going to Genosha for Rahne. Later, Gideon steals into Roberto's room, waking up his old friend with the news that Roberto's father has died of a heart attack.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue features a trio of first appearances. In order of significance/longevity (least to most), the first is Gideon, a mutant with metal arms (or metal-covered arms, at least), green hair and the power to mimic the abilities of those around him (and not just mutant abilities, as he uses the "abilities" of the robots attacking him). He will shortly be revealed as an old friend of the Da Costa family and serve as the vehicle for writing Roberto out of the series, and eventually we'll learn that he is one of a handful of immortal mutants named Externals, but after burning relatively bright in the early days of X-Force he'll mostly fade into memory (I can't even think offhand of the last time he appeared in anything).
Next is Domino, a mysterious woman with ties to Cable whom he contacted (off panel) to join and help him with the New Mutants. Eventually, she'll be revealed to be a mercenary with a luck-based power similar to Longshot's. However, this is technically the first appearance of not Domino but Copycat/Vanessa, a shapeshifter who was hired to replace Domino in order to get close to Cable (with the real Domino held captive by her employer), which will be revealed in X-Force #15. I'm not sure if anyone really considers her a member at this point, but I suppose technically Domino/Copycat joins (what's left of) the New Mutants with this issue.
Finally, we have Deadpool, the unqualified success story of this issue's debuts. Here presented as a basic albeit somewhat talkative/quippy mercenary figure dispatched to capture/kill Cable, he'll eventually develop into a talkative, fourth-wall breaking "merc-with-a-mouth", with ties to the Weapon X program that gave Wolverine his adamantium and a similar regenerative mutant ability. Given his own solo series in the mid-90s, the title was moderately successful but eventually cancelled. However, somewhat inexplicably, the character discovered newfound popularity in the late 00s and received a guest role (albeit more or less in name only) in the first Wolverine solo film, and is today one of Marvel's biggest success stories, carrying several series/one-shots and starring in his own movie, one that appears to be truer to the character than his previous cinematic appearance.
Just for fun (and because the seemingly-random commercial success of Deadpool boggles my mind), let's look at some numbers (taken from ComiChron): In 2014, Marvel had 512 different issues land in the overall Top 1000 of all comic books sold in American, for a total of 26,563,989.
Of those, just under 8% (2,062,527 copies) were headlined or co-headlined by Deadpool. For comparison, issues headlining or co-headlining Wolverine, including Wolverine and the X-Men and the "Death of Wolverine" miniseries (which took up four spots in the top ten, industry-wide), accounted for just under 10% of Marvel's print sales last year (2,602,505 copies).
The combined X-books (including Wolverine and Deadpool comics) sold 9,311,024 copies in the Top 1000 last year, roughly 35% of Marvel's total print sales. Of those 9 million or so X-books, Deadpool accounted for 22% of sales and Wolverine just under 28%.
As a final point of comparison, all series headlined or co-headlined (not counting any team books in which he appeared but didn't receive title-billing) by Iron Man, the obvious star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, totaled 428,772 copies, or just over 1.5% of Marvel's total sales of comics in the Top 10000 in 2014.
Deadpool's employer, who sent him after Cable, is Mr. Tolliver, mentioned here for the first time. He'll eventually make a physical appearance in X-Force, his identity serving as one of that series' early ongoing mysteries, and while here it's suggested he's simply some kind of shady figure with whom Cable has had past dealings, eventually Mr. Tolliver will be revealed to be Cable's adult son (a reveal that couldn't possibly have been planned when the character was mentioned in this issue).
The next New Mutant to leave the team is Rictor, who quits this issue and heads back to Genosha to rescue Rahne, even though she clearly stayed behind of her own volition (to be clear, I'm not criticizing the issue - that Rictor would refuse to believe that and erroneously think she needs to be "rescued" is entirely within character). From here, he disappears from the X-books entirely for awhile (we never see him reach Genosha or Rahne), before popping up back in X-Force as a member of the anti-Cable SHIELD-backed team Weapon: Prime.
Roberto's father Emmanuel Da Costa, technically still the White Rook of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle and a minor character in this series, dies this issue, seemingly poisoned by his assistant on orders from Gideon. His death will serve as the vehicle for Roberto's departure from the team next issue.
This issue features narrative captions placed throughout the story which declare the (seemingly random) date and time events are apparently taking place, a somewhat-annoying device Liefeld will continue to use in later issues and in other series he creates.
Rob Liefeld receives full plotting credit on this issue, and his buddy Fabian Nicieza is brought in to script the story, thus beginning Nicieza's long regular association with the X-books. He will eventually become the outright writer of X-Force, outlasting Liefeld and actually crafting that series into an enjoyable and decently-produced one in that time, and eventually take over as writer on the upcoming second X-Men title as well.
This is easily the most valuable X-book from this era on the back issue market today, with a slabbed 9.8 newsstand edition (the one with the barcode on the cover) recently selling on eBay for $849.00 and unslabbed copies regularly going for between $250-$300. You'd have to go back to notable Bronze Age issues (like Giant-Size X-Men #1 and Wolverine's first appearance) to find an X-book to beat those kinds of prices in today's market.
The copy of this issue that I have I acquired back in middle school via a trade with a friend (the same friend who got me into comics by introducing me to the Marvel Universe trading cards). I gave up my copy of Youngblood #1 to get it. I was just trying to complete a New Mutants run and, at the time, he certainly seemed to win the trade (the first issue of a hot new series for the third-to-last issue of a dead one), but I think I came out ahead in the end.
A Work in Progress
In his introductory scene, Gideon is suggested to be a well-connected business man of some sort, having dealings with both Shaw Industries and Roberto's father's company.
Cable is working with Cannonball to mute his blast noise while flying, which will become something of a recurring bit for the character for awhile. Cable also mentions Cannonball learning to expand his protective field (the thing which makes him high invulnerable while blastin'), another piece he'll be working on in future issues.
Laying out the X-Force mentality, Cable also tells Cannonball that life is war.
Given that, it's somewhat curious that, despite his all his tough guy talk, Cable mails Deadpool back to Tolliver, instead of just, you know, killing the guy who was sent to kill him. But of course, Liefeld wants to keep Deadpool around for later appearances (which is always the problem with "strike first, this is war!" characters in serialized fiction).
Cable and Domino go over a list of former New Mutants, deciding all aren't ultimately fit for the team but giving us a reminder/update on their respective current statuses.
Gideon and Roberto are shown to be familiar, as Gideon mysteriously arrives in Roberto's bedroom to tell him about his father's death.
The Cable Guy
Deadpool refers to Cable as "Nathan", the first time we've gotten any kind of real name for the character, and the first time he's indirectly linked to Cyclops' son, Nathan Christopher.
Cable has apparently added a blasting mechanism to his bionic arm, something that I don't believe ever gets referenced again.
The Reference Section
Rictor apparently has a Bart Simpson poster on his wall.
Gideon is introduced on the first page with a pair of hands floating in front of him. Oh, wait, those are supposed to be *his* hands.
Deadpool's anatomy, as has been mentioned before, is all kinds of wonky in his introductory panel. And of course, Liefeld can't even get Bart Simpson right.
The recruitment scene, in which Cable & Domino look over images of former New Mutants, does more than anything to underscore the fact that Liefeld can only draw one type of face - remove the hair from those images, and you'd have no idea who was who.
As the cover loudly proclaims, this issue features a trio of new characters appearing for the first time: Gideon, perhaps the most Liefeldian of the bunch, and thus the one who, not surprisingly, doesn't stick around long after the artist leaves; Domino, who mostly on the strength of a strong visual and the requisite mysterious past manages to hang on as fairly significant character in this corner of the X-universe for most of the 90s; and Deadpool, the one who surprisingly and somewhat inexplicably became the biggest star of the bunch, and arguably Marvel's biggest solo character success story since Wolverine (I can't think of another single character created after Wolverine who can account for almost 10% of Marvel's total sales). Thus, this is perhaps the most historically significant issue of the series, one which is still sought after by collectors today, and perhaps the one modern single issue of an X-book that is most often considered first and foremost in the context of being a collectible, rather than a chapter in an ongoing serial narrative.
But aside from the three debuts of variable significance, this issue is also, effectively, the first appearance of X-Force (which is why it and the next two issues often get put into X-Force collections), as a Simonson-less Liefeld begins to transform the book into his own vision for the series. With the cast already whittled down by the events of "X-Tinction Agenda", Liefeld quickly writes out Rictor, even as he brings in Domino (whose only connection to the team is, notably, Cable) to start talking change with Cable. It's an issue that, while best remembered for being "in with the new", is really more about "out with the old": old writers, old characters, old ways of doing things. The road to X-Force began a while ago, almost immediately after Liefeld came aboard, but this is where things kick into high gear. There's technically two more issues left in the series, but for all intents and purposes, New Mutants as it was is already gone.
Tomorrow, cybernetic ninjas attack in X-Factor #63. Next week, the new Fantastic Four debut in Fantastic Four #347-349, and the conclusion of "Girls School from Heck" in Excalibur #34.