X-Men: X-Force/X-Statix

X-Men: X-Force/X-Statix

(pop culture)

When launched in 1991, X-Force was sold enclosed in a plastic bag containing a trading card featuring one of the team members, an additional premium cementing Marvel Comics’ biggest new success in years. That it featured distorted artwork and scant plot, both courtesy of creator Rob Liefeld, seemed to matter little to the hundreds of thousands of buyers. Where Liefeld triumphed was with creative enthusiasm. He brimmed with ideas, many of them good, but many critics maintained that ineffective editorial channeling of his imagination produced confusing comics.

As much as Liefeld stamped his personality on X-Force from the beginning, so did his lead character, Cable. Introduced in The New Mutants #87 (November 1990) and co-created by Liefeld and writer Louise Simonson, Cable was an instant success. Direct and brutal, with enormous muscles and even bigger guns, Cable’s mission was to prevent war between mutants and humankind. His is the type of convoluted origin, slowly released over a period of years, that seems inordinately popular with fans of Marvel’s X-Men-related titles. Cable’s given name is Nathan Summers, and he is the son of the X-Men’s Cyclops and his first wife, Madelyne Pryor, a clone of his true love Jean Grey. Their offspring was infected with a “techno-organic virus” by X-Men foe Apocalypse. The only alternative to Nathan’s death was to send him 2,000 years into the future, to a society torn asunder by war between humanity and mutants. While the virus transformed portions of his body into living metal, its spread was halted, and Summers was taught to channel his formidable telekinetic abilities. Additionally, he became the complete soldier.

When returned to the present day as an adult, Cable’s self-appointed mission was to seek out and terminate anyone who threatened or persecuted mutants, thus intending to prevent the future he’d experienced. He initially believed this was best achieved leading a team, and so he took charge of the mutant team New Mutants, including Cannonball and Boom Boom, and added other members. Domino is a successful mercenary with the mutant ability to manipulate luck in her favor, while Feral is a more aggressive and violent version of the New Mutants’ Wolfsbane, covered in fur and possessing an animal’s heightened senses and speed. She has a mutually belligerent relationship with her sister Thornn, who is similarly gifted, and would eventually join the even more militant Mutant Liberation Front. The Native American James Proudstar blamed the X-Men for the death of his brother Thunderbird, and joined a group of villains-in-training under his brother’s alias. In addition to flying, he performed every athletic feat at superhuman levels; eventually his anger dissipated, leading to a stint as Warpath in X-Force, before joining the X-Corporation. Shatter-star was genetically engineered as the perfect warrior, and has an agenda to destroy Mojo, an other-dimensional despot who creates action-driven television spectaculars as a means of controlling his population. Writers have dropped broad hints that Shatterstar is the son of two X-Men, Dazzler and Longshot, who have spent considerable time in Mojo’s dimension. Thus Cable reorganized the New Mutants team into the strike force known as X-Force, which debuted in The New Mutants #100 (April 1991), and moved into their own X-Force series later that year.

The backstory Liefeld created for Cable provided plenty of foes. These included a cloned version of himself sent from the future to ensure mutants and humankind did fight (Stryfe); his evil son Tyler, also snatched from the future (but primarily seen in Cable’s own comic); and assorted members of Cable’s previous mercenary team, Six Pack, of which Domino was a member. In fact, the Domino who first joined X-Force was a shapeshifting imposter named Copycat, sent to infiltrate the team by Genesis, Tyler Summers; the real Domino joined X-Force later.

Cable left the team early on, and Liefeld soon after, and it would be years before any imagination was again applied to the characters. Cannonball, who had grown considerably from the awkward character introduced in New Mutants, assumed the team leadership, before temporarily ceding it to Siryn, also known as the Irish Theresa Cassidy. She is the daughter of X-Man Banshee, who believed her killed as an infant by a terrorist’s bomb along with her mother. Inheriting her father’s psionic powers, she was raised by his cousin Black Tom Cassidy, who used her as a pawn in his criminal plans. Later exonerated, she assumed a superhero career. Several of the New Mutants Rictor, Moonstar, and Sunspot returned to X-Force. Former member of Excalibur, Pete Wisdom, also led X-Force, reinforcing their credentials as a mutant strike force.

The comic coasted until the arrival of writer Peter Milligan and artist Michael Allred in 2001. They dispensed with the entire previous cast, along with the concept of a mutant militia, instead introducing new characters in a broadly based satire of media manipulation and the motivations of superheroes. This X-Force only shared the name with the previous team, and then only briefly as they were relaunched as X-Statix. These mutants were teen idols, responsible for generating masses of merchandising dollars via the televising of their carefully chosen missions, always for a hefty fee. The fatality rate was high, and the characters largely arrogant, mercenary, self-serving, and resolutely unpleasant.

The leadership of this in-fighting bunch fell to Guy Smith, code-named Orphan, a depressive who plays a nightly game of Russian roulette. The phrase “acute sensitivity” describes both his mutant ability and nature. He loved the teleporting UGo Girl, who was an atypical heroine having given birth as a teenager, leaving her daughter to be raised by her mother while she pursued a career as a superhero; U-Go Girl was killed in combat. Anarchist, Tike Alicar, with the unlikely gift of toxic sweat, promotes the agenda of African American militancy, resenting the whitebread world, but quick to exploit any means of making money from it—to the extent of organizing a stadium tour to rake in some cash. He was joined in this by Dead Girl, who has a mysterious past, awakening in a graveyard after burial. She can “read” corpses for information and can rebuild her own body from any injury, continuing to animate severed limbs. Billy Bob Reilly posed as “trailer trash” to earn his place on the team, rightly considering it would render him more media-friendly than his actual middle-class upbringing (and an ability to bloat various parts of his body as Phat). He has also discovered his homosexuality, via liaisons with teammate Vivisector, a werewolf. The most mysterious member of the team is the alien Doop, resembling nothing so much as a flying potato with arms and eyes, who communicates via an alien language understood by very few.

X-Statix continues the Milligan and Allred satire, adding Venus Dee Milo to the team, a female composed of pure energy who teleports and sends out energy blasts. Most previous members of X-Force now have positions within the global X-Corporation. In the final issue of X-Statix (#26, 2004) Milligan and Allred killed off the whole team. In Milligan’s 2006 miniseries X-Statix: Dead Girl Presents, not only did Dead Girl return, but so did the spirits of Anarchist, the Orphan, and U-Go Girl; however, they all remained deceased.

X-Men leader Cyclops set up a new X-Force as a covert black ops team, and appointed Wolverine as its leader. This new team received its own series in X-Force Vol. 3 #1 (February 2008), written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, and drawn by Clayton Crain. Besides Wolverine, its original roster included Warpath, Wolfsbane, and Wolverine’s female clone X-23; the Angel, Domino, and Elixir (who can control the biology of himself and others) later joined. In 2010, this series was replaced by a new one, Uncanny X-Force, written by Rick Remember and drawn by Jerome Opena, with an initial line-up including Archangel (formerly the Angel), Deadpool, Fantomex (who is a human/machine hybrid), Psylocke, and Wolverine.

As for Cable, the founder of the first X-Force, he has starred in many comics series of his own, including his first ongoing series, which debuted in 1993. Cable was seemingly finally killed by the techno-organic virus in X-Force Vol. 3 #28 (September 2010). but it remains to be seen if his fate is permanent. —FP & GM

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