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Thursday, October 12, 2017

X-amining Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1-4

"Ducks in a Row" / "Rabbit Season, Duck Season" / "...And Quacks Like a Duck..." / "Duck Soup"
August - November 1993

In a Nutshell
Deadpool is embroiled in the hunt for Tolliver's Will, and the "ultimate weapon" prize it promises.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Mark Farmer, Harry Candelario (issues #3 & #4)
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Bob Harras
Duck L'Orange: Tom DeFalco

Issue #1: In Sarajevo, Deadpool meets with Weasel, looking for information on Vanessa, who is being targeted for her perceived knowledge regarding Tolliver's will, but they're interrupted by Kane. Deadpool & Kane fight until Weasel points out they're both after the same thing, Vanessa, thiugh neither knows where she is. Meanwhile, Nyko, brother of Tolliver's assistant Pico, contacts Courier to put a hit on Deadpool for his involvement in his brother's death, while Slayback breaks into Department K looking for info on Deadpool & Kane and Juggernaut breaks Black Tom out of the genetic research facility to which Tolliver sent him.

Issue #2: In Egypt, Deadpool steals a briefcase containing information on the location of Tolliver's inheritance, but he is attacked by Black Tom & Juggernaut, who take the case for themselves. In New Jersey, Vanessa gets Deadpool's location from Sluggo, then steals his car, while in Bombay, Courier hires the Executive Elite to kill Deadpool. Back in Egypt, Deadpool hijacks the plane containing Black Tom and Juggernaut, throwing Black Tom off the plane (prompting Juggernaut to jump after him), and reclaiming the briefcase. Elsewhere, Kane is attacked at his safehouse by Slayback.

Issue #3: Back in Sarajevo, Deadpool is captured by the Executive Elite, while Vanessa blackmails Courier into giving her all the info he has on Tolliver, which enables her to identify the place where Tolliver's inheritance is being held. In Sarajevo, Deadpool is tortured by the Executive Elite, hoping to get more information about Tolliver's will from him, but he is rescued by Weasel, who has tracked down the location of the inheritance, as well. Later, Vanessa arrives at a monastery in Nepal owned by Tolliver, only to find Slayback waiting for her.

Issue #4: Deadpool & Weasel arrive at the monastery, but Slayback is waiting with a captive Vanessa & Kane. A fight breaks out, during which Weasel accidentally activates a futuristic Zero unit, which turns out to be the prize of Tolliver's Will: the ultimate a weapon, one which destroys all other weapons. Deeming Slayback a weapon, Zero destroys him, but not before Slayback mortally wounds Vanessa. In order to save her life, Deadpool urges her to mimic him, so his healing abilities will restore her. This selfless act convinces Zero to spare Deadpool, and Deadpool gives Vanessa to Kane so she can receive further medical attention. He and Weasel then depart, but not before lifting a few golden candlesticks for their troubles.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is Deadpool's first solo series, one of a trio released in the fall of '93 as part of Marvel's celebration of the X-Men's 30th anniversary. It will lead to a second limited series in 1994, and then, a few years later, an ongoing series. From there, the character will eventually rival Wolverine in terms of solo series, guest appearances, sales, and major motion pictures.

Accordingly, this story establishes a bunch of key developments for the character, including that his full name is Wade Wilson (which, of course, is as close to "Slade Wilson" as "Deadpool" is to "Deathstroke"), and the fact that he has a mutant healing factor not unlike Wolverine's. It also gives Deadpool a bit of backstory by revealing that he was a participant of the Weapon X project at the same time as Kane, which he joined in the hopes of being cured by his cancer. The project succeeded in doing so, essentially by super-charging his healing factor to the point that his body is constantly regenerating itself, but at the cost of terrible physical disfigurement (which is only hinted at here, in a "the imagination is worse than any picture" kind of thing, though later stories will be less shy about showing his disfigurement).

All of that backstory (along with his pre-Weapon X relationship with Vanessa) will form the basis of the character in his solo film, with a more generic evil organization subbed in for Weapon X.

Joe Madureira pencils this series, and while this isn't his first Marvel work (he's drawn assorted covers and Marvel Comics Presents stories already, as well those two fill-in Excalibur issues), this is more or less his breakthrough project, the one that really put him on the map, leading to his upcoming assignment to Uncanny X-Men (which in turn leads to him becoming arguably the biggest name in comics for awhile, and inspiring a legion of stylistic imitators that leads to a mainstream manga boom).

Following up on their last appearance together, in which Cable shot Black Tom and Deadpool teleported him and Juggernaut to Tolliver for aid, issue #1 introduces the the revamped Black Tom, in which Tolliver's scientists have implanted his body with wood in various places, enabling him to channel his energy blasts directly, without need of his shillelagh. He receives a new costume in the process (one which form the basis for his action figure), and he and Juggernaut will be de facto antagonists for Deadpool after this (they appear in his next limited series as well).

The bulk of this series' plot revolves around Tolliver's Will, specifically the search for the prize promised in said will: the ultimate weapon. This turns out to be a Zero unit from Cable's future (which Kane recognizes; the Clan Chosen had one with them in Cable #1-2, and of course one was Stryfe's regular companion and the member of the MLF that teleported the team around), which is programmed to eradicate all weapons. This particular unit will pop up in a few places down the road, and its presence here is another hint towards Tolliver's true identity (which will be revealed soon in Cable).

Remember Pico, Tolliver's diminutive helper from X-Force #12-15? Well, this series introduces his brother Nyko, who appears in the first issue of the series, his only appearance to date.

Somewhat more notably, the first issue also introduces Courier, aka Jacob Gavin, who appears later in this series and will become a fairly part of Nicieza's Gambit solo series towards the end of the decade.

The villain Slayback is introduced in the first issue, and serves as the "boss" villain of the series. Though he will only appear in one more comic after this, he does get his own action figure (and trading card), making him a contender for the "most 90s character to inexplicably get an action figure despite barely making any appearances", along with Killjoy of Weapon: Prime.

Finally, issue #3 introduces the personification of a multi-media broadband company known for its crappy customer service, Commcast, the leader of the Executive Elite. While his two teammates won't appear outside this series, Commcast will be used by Niceiza again in Thunderbolts and the early 00s' Cable & Deadpool series. Commcast also gets his own action figure, making another "only in the 90s" contender for bizarre action figure source material.

Vanessa pops up in issue #2 and sticks around for the duration, appearing mostly in her "real" blue, elfin form. It's also established that when she mimics someone, she absorbs their abilities and memories as well, explaining how she was able to pass as Domino amongst Cable and X-Force for as long as she did.

The first issue of this series features an embossed, cardstock cover, and all four issues share a similar trade dress, with the title character's name in large letters taking up most of the cover space, with characters from the story laid over that and verbiage in a column along the side, beneath the price box. The Sabretooth limited series, published concurrently, features a similar cover design.

Creator Central
Nicieza is credited as Deadpool's co-creator.

A Work in Progress
Deadpool notes that his teleportation tech (which enabled him to pop in and out of places while working for Tolliver in his earlier X-Force appearances) is on the fritz, a convenient (and appreciated) excuse to keep him from being able to easily pop in and out of trouble.

Kane shows off some of his futuristic, Madureira-designed upgrades.

Sluggo pops up again briefly, having survived his encounter with Vanessa, Domino and Grizzly in X-Force #24.

Black Tom teases Deadpool about the time Cable shipped him back to Tolliver via Fed Ex (in New Mutants #98).

Black Tom and Juggernaut innuendo alert: Juggernaut declares money is no good if he can't live it up with Tom.

Kane is shown via Deadpool's memories shortly before receiving his bionic implants from Weapon X.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Kane tells Deadpool to tell his troubles to Sally Jesse Raphael.

Much of the data passed around in this issue is done so via floppy disc.

Facing off against the two female members of the Executive Elite, Deadpools asks if this is what Hilary hath wrought, then declares he wants to be called Dead Rodham Pool from now on.

The Reference Section
Deadpool is a GI Joe fan, though not, apparently, of the 3.75 inch "Real American Hero" vintage.

He also name checks Olympic diver Greg Louganis.

The Cable Guy
One of Cable's aliases is given as "Nathan Winters", which was used in New Warriors Annual #1 and is obviously a play on his real name (Winters vs. Summers).

Young Love
We briefly see a pre-cancer/Weapon X Deadpool and Vanessa together.

Austin's Analysis
Deadpool's first step towards his future sales dominance is fun, if a bit fluffy. Nothing here is terribly deep, but it is mostly entertaining, and showcases its central character well by giving him plenty of opportunities to punch and shoot stuff while being quippy (he hasn't quite reached his somewhat infamous fourth-wall breaking level of patter, but he is deeply referential already). Nicieza, thankfully, manages to elevate the material in two key ways. First, by gathering up the assorted one- or two-note characters he's sprinkled throughout his X-Force (and Cable) runs, from Vanessa & Kane to has-to-be-a-Liefeldian-parody Sluggo & Weasel, and uses them to create a de facto supporting cast for Deadpool right out of the gate, which, combined with Black Tom, Juggernaut and the Weapon X trappings, gives Deadpool characters to play off with whom readers are already somewhat familiar. None of those characters (not even Deadpool, really, at this point) are engaging enough to stand on their own, but supporting each other, they help hold up the plot (see the Howard Mackie Gambit limited series for what happens when you surround the title character with a bunch of never-before-seen ciphers whom no one cares about). Even the specter of Tolliver helps lend the narrative some legitimacy in terms of continuity; this may be Deadpool's first solo outing, but it feels as much an extension of Nicieza's X-Force, tying off a plotline started there, as a solo vehicle for Deadpool.

Second, Nicieza is careful to quickly establish some nuance to Deadpool's characterization. He establishes that Deadpool has something of a code (he does mercenary work because he's good at it - and needs to make a living somehow - not because he genuinely enjoys killing), provides him with, if not a fully detailed origin, some backstory (complete with the tragic twist that Weapon X's cancer cure worked, but at the cost of his physical appearance and a pain-free existence) and expands his semi-complicated love/hate relationship with Vanessa, culminating in him desperately offering his own healing factor to her in order to save her life.

None of those are terribly original, granted, and fall in standard anti-hero territory (with the possible exception of the cancer/disfigurement twist), but it's all more than Deadpool got in his scattered X-Force appearances, and some level of dimension is necessary to both elevate the character beyond his central gimmick (he talks a lot), and make solo stories featuring him more entertaining. Combine that rudimentary characterization with the fluid, energetic art from Joe Madureira and a plot that functions as a complete story while also feeling connected to the series it is ostensibly spinning off from, and the end result is an entertaining yarn, one which proves an auspicious start and solid foundation for an eventual superstar.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Khaos reigns in Excalibur #1. Next week, Magneto returns (for real) in Uncanny X-Men #304 and Havok & Polaris go on a date in X-Factor #94.

Collected Editions


  1. I've only ever read this once, and it was many years after it was originally published, in DEADPOOL CLASSIC volume 1. I don't remember much about it. I love that early Madureira artwork, though!


  2. I forgot that part of Deadpool’s thing was teleporting. Now I’m curious whether Rob Liefeld had Ambush Bug in mind when creating him — pops in and out, does schtick, references pop culture, increasingly breaks the fourth wall…


  3. More random notes:

    Every issue has a double-page splash with “Deadpool?!” exclaimed in surprise.

    #1 offers up one of my small peeves in the line “I’ve seen tougher Ken dolls than you!” —  which should really be “I’ve seen Ken dolls tougher than you!”

    “Just sit here an’ blister, thanks,” in #2 is pretty good; worth pointing out since most of the humor doesn't really do it for me.

    The sprocket-feed printer paper is even more dated than the floppy disks, especially since they’re 3½" rather than 5¼".

  4. I'm impressed of the callback to UXM #103 in the way how Deadpool gets rid of Juggernaut in #2 by throwing Tom into the sea, complete with snarky meta about friendship as a bogus concept harking back to the UXM dialogue.

    I thought the "Zero" androids were numbered (the one in CABLE was 11 I think), so wouldn't this
    be the unit the Stryfe had earlier?


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