The FBI and the CIA are two of many organizations designed to protect the United States from potential threats. Sometimes protecting the U.S. involves actions that are done in the shadows and out of the view of the general population. Such actions are referred to as “black operations,” and are done in secret because of the nature of the task, which may include illegal and immoral actions. Can even Superman protect us from every threat out there, or do we need black ops groups to keep us safe? If you fight fire with fire, wouldn’t you use monsters to defeat monsters? Sure you can argue that these black ops missions are necessary… but at what cost?
Even comic books are no strangers to black ops missions. You may have publicly loved groups like the Avengers or the Justice League, but behind the scenes is some very nasty, but arguably necessary, work being done to keep people safe. Don’t be surprised to learn that Captain America himself was aware of black ops missions, and even led a few all in the name of “protecting freedom.” We at CBR have compiled a list of the 15 most brutal superhero black ops teams. If we should disappear after publishing this article, make sure Rorschach’s journal gets to the editor at The New Frontiersman.
15. TASK FORCE X/SUICIDE SQUAD
What do you do if you’re an incarcerated super-villain who’s trying to get your prison sentence shortened? You can carry out black-ops missions for the government as a part of Task Force X, but thanks to the 2016 movie you know the team better as Suicide Squad. The Squad operated out of the Belle Reve Penitentiary and was compiled/led by Amanda Waller. Although she has no superpowers herself, “The Wall” was quite adept at controlling and manipulating people around her.
Task Force X in past missions freed a captive writer in Moscow, overthrew a group called the Jihad, and prevented a group called LOA from creating a zombie army. The group lives up to its name and lost a number of members during missions. Captain Boomerang, Blockbuster, Mindboggler, and Mr. 104 are some of the many people that died while trying to carry out covert operations for the government.
14. PROJECT RISING SPIRIT
Rising Spirit Securities can be found in Valiant Comics and was formed way back in 1850. The Project was a secret military organization with ties to the U.S. Government. They created and sold weapons that were both experimental and unethical. Besides making weapons, they also gave people super powers to people through technological augmentation. Members of H.A.R.D. Corps could use Harbinger Powers thanks to neural implants developed by Project Rising Spirit.
Project Rising Sprit also attempted to create the ultimate soldier back during World War II. No, they didn’t make Captain America; they made the soldier that would eventually be known as Bloodshot. Thanks to nanites in his blood, Bloodshot had an impressive healing factor as well as technomancy (the ability to control machines). Eventually Bloodshot rebelled and vowed to expose all of the wrongdoings happening at Project Rising Spirit.
13. SECRET AVENGERS
During the Marvel Comics storyline Dark Reign, Norman Osborn was in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R. and a group referred to as the Dark Avengers (though that was not their official title). Once Osborn was brought down, Steve Rogers created the covert strike team known as The Secret Avengers. The team was led by Steve Rogers and consisted of Beast, War Machine, Valkyrie, Moon Knight, Nova, Black Widow, Sharon Carter, and Ant-Man.
One secret mission had the team go to Mars to destroy the mind-controlling Serpent Crown. Another mission had the team try and prevent the Phoenix Force from returning to Earth, so as you can see, the stakes for the crew were always very high. Given Steve Rogers’ rebellious anti-government stance in the storyline Civil War, it’s surprising that he would be so open to a covert operation team.
12. TEAM X
In the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency had a black ops team that consisted of mutants. When the X-Man Wolverine was still struggling to find out about his past, he learned of his past involvement with the aforementioned group called Team X. The black ops team consisted of Logan, Victor Creed, Mastodon, Maverick, Silver Fox, Wildcat, The Major, Vole, and Kestrel. Wolverine tracked them down in order to learn more about his mysterious history.
Members of Team X were given suppressed aging abilities and healing factors, but also received false memory implants. Team X conducted missions all over the globe. During one of the missions, Sabretooth killed a CIA mole in East Germany that they were attempting to rescue. This was the beginning of the classic conflict that existed between Sabretooth and Wolverine.
11. ULTIMATE AVENGERS
In the Ultimate Marvel Comics Universe, Nick Fury assembled a group of superheroes to deal with the threat of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube called the Ultimate Avengers. The group consisted of Black Widow, Hawkeye, former villain Swarm (now called The Red Wasp), War Machine, and a cloned version of the Hulk that had Banner’s intelligence codenamed Nerd Hulk. Besides the Red Skull, the Ultimates also took on the Punisher, as well as Ghost Rider.
In the Ultimates Universe, Tony Stark had an older brother named Gregory that supplied weapons and gear for the team. Gregory later deduces that Fury created the Ultimate Avengers as an attempt to regain his position as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a fact that Fury did not actively deny.
In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, Cadmus is a government project designed to take on the Justice League if they went rogue (sound familiar?). This version borrows from story elements found in Task Force X/Suicide Squad (obviously), Checkmate, and the genetic engineering organization, Project Cadmus. Cadmus was funded by none other than Lex Luthor. In the animated series Suicide Squad was used for risky field missions.
With Luthor and Amanda Waller involved, could any good come from this organization? Waller was responsible for using Cadmus technologies for Project Batman Beyond, which would ensure there be a Batman for future generations! Using a sample of Batman’s DNA, she was able to merge his DNA with the child of Warren and Mary McGinnis, so when Terry McGinnis was born, he was technically genetically a Wayne! Holy genetics, Batman!
9. SISTERS OF PERPETUAL DARKNESS
Governments and superheroes have been using black ops teams for missions that are not public knowledge. In the Valiant Comics universe, the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness are a secret religious order that are part of The Sect, an ancient organization dedicated to studying and capturing an extremely powerful artifact known as The Boon. As sacrilegious as it sounds, the Sisters are a team of deadly assassin nuns. The Sisters have taken solemn vows of stealth, chastity, and lethality.
Serial killers are revered as saints among the Sisters of Perpetual Darkness and their leader is the Mary-Maria Archer, sister to Obadiah Archer from the comic book Archer and Armstrong. Even though they’re family, the Sisters and Archer and Armstrong have fought on a number of occasions.
8. THE FRATERNITY
If you saw the 2008 movie Wanted starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, you know that many of the elements from the Top Cow comics were modified or removed altogether. It was awesome that the movie version of the super-secret organization known as The Fraternity was run by Morgan Freeman, but in the comics it was much different.
In the comics all the heroes on the Earth were killed off after losing to supervillains. The Fraternity then mind-wiped every human to think that heroes only existed in fictional comics and tv shows. The world is controlled by five Fraternities, pulling the strings behind the scenes, with North and South America being controlled by Solomon Seltzer, known as the Professor (loosely based on Lex Luthor and Captain Marvel villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana).
7. THE LOSERS
The Losers started as a Special Forces team that worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. While on a mission to kill a drug lord, they opted to save a number of children that were being held as slaves, but the CIA destroyed the helicopter and thought they killed the team as well. The Losers survived and went on a mission of revenge to kill their handler, a man named Max.
The movie version had characters played by future comic book actors such as Aisha (Zoe Saldana, who would later be Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy), Jensen (played by Chris Evans who eventually would be both The Human Torch and Captain America), and Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Clay, who was played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, long before he did his bat-wielding stint on the Walking Dead.
There have been numerous versions of X-Force over the years. The first version was a rebranding of the New Mutants with the mutant Cable as their teacher and leader. Cable led X-Force as a strike team that would take a proactive, aggressive stance against threats to mutant kind. Eventually Cable fled to the future with a newborn mutant child that was the first baby born after M-Day, in which the Scarlet Witch de-powered a large percentage of Earth’s mutant population.
With Cable gone, Cyclops reformed X-Force as a black ops squad that would do what was necessary to protect mutant-kind, including murder. X-Force began with Wolverine, Warpath, X-23, and Wolfsbane and later added Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, and Deadpool. X-Force continued to operate even after Cyclops disbanded the team.
Checkmate was a government spy agency that, similar to the CIA or FBI, performed missions worldwide that were considered vital to American security and other national interests. Missions were carried out by special agents named after chess pieces. Green Lantern Alan Scott and Amanda Waller were the White King and Queen, and Taleb Beni Khalid and Sasha Bordeaux were the Black King and Queen.
Pawns were low-level field agents, Bishops were advisors (with one of the bishops being Mister Miracle), Knights were special agents, and the black ops were conducted by Rooks. At one point the Black King was Maxwell Lord, and his intent was to kill all metahumans on Earth. Maxwell Lord infamously killed Ted Kord (from the original run of Blue Beetle) and mind-controlled Superman into fighting Wonder Woman efore getting his neck snapped by the latter.
S.H.A.D.E. stood for The Super Human Advance Defense Executive and was a United States military organization that dealt with superhuman and paranormal threats and also carried out black ops missions as well. When the city of Bludhaven was devastated by the villain Chemo, S.H.A.D.E. held the remains of the city under martial law. The team’s leader, Father Time, had aspirations of gaining power, and used his ally, the hilariously named Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard, to take the place of The President of the United States after killing him.
In Final Crisis, S.H.A.D.E. and Frankenstein fought against Kalibak and Darkseid’s forces. Luckily, Frankenstein was immune to Darkseid’s Anti-Life Equation because technically Frankenstein is not alive. As part of the New 52 reboot in 2011, the comic returned, now branded as Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Unknown to the general populace, two alien races, the Kherubim and the Daemonites, were in a centuries-long war. The WildC.A.T. team fought against the Daemonites and the Daemonite Lords Helspont and Hightower. The team consisted of Grifter, Lord Emp, Maul, Spartan, Void, Voodoo, Warblade, and Zealot. Although the battle was covert, eventually the team wound up off-world and traveled to the Kherubim home world of Khera.
The Wild Covert Action Team was first seen when Image Comics launched in 1992 and was drawn and created by Jim Lee. In 1998 the Wildcat characters were bought by DC Comics when they acquired Lee’s company Wildstorm Productions. Grifter was one of the few characters that was absorbed into regular DC continuity as a part of their New 52 reboot in 2011.
2. THE CORPSE
Even the Green Lantern Corps are not as squeaky clean as you would think. Behind the scenes they have a black-ops division called the Corpse that does the top-secret dirty work of the Guardians. No one knows about them, and if you do find out about them you’ll probably get your mind wiped of that knowledge.
Instead of wielding a Power Ring, they swallow black disks that give them the same abilities as if they were wielding a ring but instead constructs and energy blasts are purple. Their motto was simple, yet effective: “Die alone.” The Corpse is led by a Durlan named Von Daggle, who possesses the ability to shapeshift. One mission had the Corpse obtain an ancient artifact possessed by a violent race known as the Dominators.
Although we’d love to see Beyonce and Jay-Z in our list, The Illuminati refers to probably the most powerful organization in the Marvel Universe. The group is the elite of the elite and consists of Namor, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, and Professor Charles Xavier. Originally the group was formed by Tony Stark after the Kree-Skrull War. Stark wanted to form the Illuminati because of their ties to diverse, powerful communities but everyone is hesitant and refuse to do so.
Eventually the group would unite after the event known as the Infinity Gauntlet. Each member of the Illuminati received an Infinity Gem that they kept hidden and safe. The group was involved in such events as evicting the Hulk from the Earth, a secret battle with the Skrulls, and a battle with parallel Earths in the event Time Runs Out.
Which one of these black ops groups would you like to join? Post your comments below!
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