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Copycat/Vanessa Carlysle

When I originally wrote my Who's who of Six Pack post, I meant to include an entry for Vanessa – who was never strictly a member of the team, but got lots of scenes with them and played a comparably significant role in both our heroes' backstories. I eventually took her entry out, not because I'd changed my mind but because I have such a soft spot for her that her entry was getting large enough for a whole post of its own. This is the finished version.

Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle

Vanessa is a shapeshifting mutant with the ability to copy not only people’s appearance but powers and even thought patterns, though she’s often been shown to have some difficulty controlling her abilities. As a teenager, she was thrown out of her home in New Jersey when her parents discovered she was a mutant, and she ended up working as a prostitute on the streets of Boston. There she met and fell in love with Wade, then an ordinary human mercenary, but when he discovered he was dying of cancer, he left her to save them both the agony. Much later, they both ended up working for Tolliver, though Vanessa would claim she was only there because she was being blackmailed into cooperating (with what precisely doesn’t ever seem to be specified).

Her first appearance in the comics had her impersonating Domino when Tolliver sent her to infiltrate X-Force, but while posing as his lover she developed genuine feelings for Cable and got cold feet about her orders to kill them, eventually dragging things out long enough to be discovered as a traitor. While she and he were separated from the rest of the team, Cable forced her to lead him to Tolliver’s base in Italy where he found the real Domino being held prisoner, fought Deadpool for the second time and ‘killed’ Tolliver (who’d naturally turn up again alive later). Vanessa herself escaped in the confusion.

After parting from X-Force, she spent some time staying with an old friend called Tina Valentino, but was soon drawn back into the conflict when fighting broke out over Tolliver’s will (supposedly a powerful weapon Tolliver had kept hidden, and the main driving force behind the events of The Circle Chase). Tina was shot and killed in the conflict, leaving Vanessa distraught but lucky enough to be ‘rescued’ from Tina’s killer by Domino and other Six Pack members, who reluctantly accepted her help in finding Cable and X-Force. (Most of the pages from this part of the story can be found in the companion post.) Cable is understandably confused and hostile on meeting her in her real form for the first time, and Vanessa flees. Kane follows her for reasons not all that clearly explained on-page, though it’s implied he wanted to invite her to join a new incarnation of Six Pack in Cable’s place.

Vanessa reunites with Deadpool in The Circle Chase mini when they both become caught up in the race to find Tolliver’s will after his death. Deadpool saves her life at the climax of the story and confesses he still has feelings for her, but Vanessa can only admit she’s moved on, leaving with Kane. Kane and Vanessa later reappear in Cable #37-39 after Jeph Loeb takes over the title, now living together as a couple and apparently trying to get out of the mercenary business and settle down. At the conclusion of that arc she and Domino finally get to talk through the remaining issues between them – now thoroughly overdue, considering this all dates back to the period Vanessa spent impersonating her while working for Tolliver (and well before Cable #1).

Unfortunately, writers beyond this point opted to handle both her and Kane with rather less sympathy. Although The Circle Chase had made a major plot point of how completely over Deadpool she was, Vanessa was later written her back into Deadpool’s ongoing solo series from issue #45, where readers were informed she'd broken up with Kane in order to go back to Wade. By and large, Vanessa’s new role was to go completely insane, play the psychotic jealous ex and serve as a ham-handed relationship complication in Deadpool’s ongoing UST-thing with Siryn. She was ultimately murdered by Sabretooth in as textbook a fridging as you could ever ask to see, and never mentioned again. Kane fared little better.

It has to be said that Vanessa’s early scenes with Deadpool (back when he was just an enemy thug, and long before anyone had any idea he was destined to become the great breakout character of the nineties) contain some of the more disturbing content he’s ever put us through. Although they’re well and truly broken up by the time they first show up on page, Deadpool makes a point of letting everyone know she’s ‘his girl’, responds with unashamed enthusiasm when he’s handed an excuse to rough her up, and seems so jealous of her attention he objects even to her friendship with Tina (though I’d have to admit to having some of my own theories about that one). Of course, by the events of The Circle Chase, the worst of his behaviour is well and truly behind us, and, despite being still very much hung up on her, he’s able to let her go when she makes it clear she’s over him. By and large then, I’m happy to file this all under what TVTropes calls Characterisation Marches On.

Coming at these comics as a Cable and Deadpool fan curious about their backstory, I was surprised by how much I found myself liking Vanessa. Being as she was introduced to us as a shapeshifting prostitute turned enemy spy, ‘romantically’ linked to both Our Hero (Cable) and a (then) supporting villain, she ought to have been a textbook example of the backstabbing femme fatale – or at best, the perpetual victim. In practice, we see her actually using her ‘feminine wiles’ for leverage all of once that I can think of (and even then hardly more than in passing), and every time life smacks her down she has a solid record for getting herself back on her feet again the moment she gets an opening. Vanessa’s no shrinking violet, more than capable in combat (if not entirely up to professional superhero standards), and not above shoplifting for shits and giggles. While she’s left distraught after Wade and later Cable reject her, she does her pining and then gets over it. Later, finding herself caught up in the mess surrounding Tolliver’s will whether she likes it or not, she tracks it down on her own and is allowed to spend most of the Circle Chase mini in covering casual wear or cat-burglar-style combat gear. The climax of that story does land her well out of her depth, leaving Deadpool to rescue her from an old enemy with a grudge against him – scenes even more notable in retrospect in marking his first ever realisation he could make it as a hero. There’s no heroic kiss for him at the end though; his only ‘reward’ is the opportunity to come to terms with seeing her move on.

Her relationship with Kane is a little more confusing – having come at the canon in completely the wrong order, it took me several reads of The Circle Chase to realise that the ‘someone else she’s in love with’ she refers to is most likely Cable, not Kane (who she’d just met), even though Kane’s the one carrying her away in his arms in that very scene. It’s hardly a huge leap to go from there to the romance later writers added onto their story, though, and I do like the idea of them together a lot. They’re two of the better-developed of Cable and Deadpool’s supporting cast, who’ve both been through more than their share of pain and heartache thanks to that association – not to mention being two of my personal favourites. After finally being given the chance to make peace our heroes, I rather like the idea that they both effectively threw up their hands and walked the hell away from that whole trainwreck together, and ultimately got some happiness out of it for their trouble.

Canon be damned – as far as I’m concerned, that’s where they still are now.

More on the early Cable & Deadpool comics:
Vanessa and Domino's pages from X-Force #19-24
Who's who of Six Pack
Who's who of the 90's X-Force


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