Deadpool 2 introduces a character who hasn’t seen the spotlight in nearly a quarter of a century.
Russell “Rusty” Collins (aka Firefist) first appeared in the comic X-Factor #1 created by Bob Layton and Jackson Guice in 1986, and last appeared in X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997). During that period, Marvel depicted Russell as a trim, fair-skinned blond born in Tulsa, OK, raised under his uncle’s care. At 16, he joins the US Navy and learns of his mutant abilities when he quite literally becomes fired up over an attractive woman who he ultimately burns to death. The authorities attempt to arrest him, but he sets the officers ablaze and escapes.
The plot of Deadpool 2 throws that entire background aside in favor of introducing us to an olive-skinned, foul-mouthed orphan from New Zealand with a body-positive attitude (Julian Dennison). The only thing that the movie version of Russell shares with his comic book counterpart is the ability to control flames. Unfortunately, these abilities land Russell in the Essex School, where the headmaster takes pleasure in torturing and suppressing his mutant powers. (In fact, we later learn this is the same facility where Russell’s future X-Force teammate Domino lived as a child.)
Image Source: Marvel
Throughout the movie, Russell’s aim is to kill his oppressor and gain independence. The problem is that successfully killing the headmaster leads to a future where Russell has become so consumed by bloodlust, he begins hurting innocents. We learn this through the time-traveling super assassin named Cable (Josh Brolin), who hunts Russell down Terminator-style to protect the future of his family. (For all you movie buffs out there, the adult version of Russell Collins seen murdering Cable’s family is played by Sala Baker, who is best known as Sauron from The Fellowship of the Ring.)
As a result of all this, Deadpool spends most of the narrative coming to terms with the idea that he’s destined to save Russell from walking down the wrong path. In a touching third-act showdown, the film uses Russell’s disillusionment and Deadpool’s desire for purpose to highlight the importance of family in the face of isolation and loneliness.
Now that our favorite fire-starter has found a new home, let’s hope we see more of him in the Deadpool spinoff, X-Force.