In the Oscar-winning 1992 film “Unforgiven,” Clint Eastwood's character, gunfighter William Munny, remarked, “It's a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.” The one member X-Force s who truly understands this is Wolverine, but it's something his teammates, having just completed their first mission as Cyclops' clandestine wetworks squad, will learn quickly enough. CBR News spoke with Christopher Yost, who co-writes Marvel’s “X-Force” with Craig Kyle, about the fallout from the series’ first arc, “Angels and Demons,” and previewed the book’s next storyline, “Old Ghosts,” which kicks off in next week’s issue #7.
X-Force's first mission was to kill Matthew Risman, the leader of the anti-mutant terrorist group known as the Purifiers. When the mission began, the book’s readers as well as its cast were surprised to find the character of Wolfsbane among the ranks of X-Force. “From day one, we agreed with the masses, and Wolverine and Cyclops agreed too: Wolfsbane does not belong on this team,” Yost told CBR News. “She is not a killer, she doesn't want to be, she's against it. Wolverine and Cyclops don't want her to be, but she came to Cyclops. She wanted to be involved with the hunt for the Purifiers because one of Deathstrike's men in 'Messiah Complex' told her he knew her father. She wanted to find him so she could save him. Sadly, it worked out not so good for her. Worse for him.”
Wolfsbane's father, Reverend Craig, was part of an assembly of adversaries that crossed X-Force's path in “Angels and Demons.” Other villains featured in the arc included the team's target Matthew Risman, the revived robotic mutant hunter Bastion, and the enigmatic Eli Bard, who seemed to be just a normal human, but later appeared to have some sort of supernatural powers. Bard told Matthew Risman that there was no god-- only Death, and that “she” was his queen. “I can tell you that [Bard’s] agenda does not match Bastion's,” Yost confirmed. “He is after something different. It would seem, based on issue #6, that something supernatural is involved. And it is significant that he used the pronoun 'she.' But all will be revealed, honest. And soon.”
X-Force's mission to kill Risman was a success, but when issue #7 begins, the team is nowhere near ready for their next assignment. “Wolverine has a severe case of doubt about what they're doing. Wolfsbane is a mess. Warpath is a mess. X-23 is even less human. Elixir is completely freaked out by everything he's seen. And Warren, well, he's a mess,” Yost explaimed. “So when the mission comes through, yeah. Not ready.”
Their new mission pits X-Force against the Vanisher, a very old X-Men foe who made his first appearance back in 1962's “Uncanny X-Men” #2. “The Vanisher has stolen something that poses a threat to the mutant species. X-Force is tasked by Cyclops to get it back, no matter who they have to kill, specifically Vanisher,” Yost revealed. “Meanwhile, Warpath is consumed by guilt over the mass killing of the Purifiers he committed. He can't talk to X-Men, he can't talk to anyone--so he goes to talk to his brother. And when he gets there, things go bad. And double-meanwhile, Wolfsbane is left all alone, which is radically bad for someone in her mental state. Luckily, something happens to keep her busy.”
X-Force's adversaries in “Angels and Demons” were all motivated by ideology, but the Vanisher's deeds spring from a desire for cold hard cash. “Vanisher is going to be a lot of fun, because he's so self- involved,” Yost stated. “X-Force is so grim, so angsty--he's like the villain you just can't really take seriously. After everything they've been through, when they get Vanisher as a mission, the team just can't believe it. this guy is a threat?”
In “Angels and Demons,” Warren Worthington had his wings ripped off, and the resulting trauma reactivated the genetic tampering perpetrated upon him by the villain Apocalypse. This transformed Angel back into his blue skinned, steel winged Archangel; a form in which he served for a time as Apocalypse's horseman, Death. At the end of the story, it appeared Warren had somehow gotten his feathered wings back and reverted to his normal form.
“X-Force” #7 gives hints as to what's actually going with Warren with regards to his Angel and Archangel personas, and readers will learn more as the character joins in on the hunt for the Vanisher. “Warren can lend a hand. After all, Warren and Vanisher have had a run in recently in Joe Casey's 'Uncanny' arc,” Yost said. “[‘X-Force’] #8 is told from Warren's perspective, and it's pretty damn interesting to get in his head after everything that happened. So between #7 and #8, you'll have a pretty good understanding of Warren wherever he may appear.”
The Vanisher may be X-Force's target in “Old Ghosts,” but like “Angels and Demons,” the team will have crossed swords with several foes before the story is through. “Nothing is easy in the world of X-Force,” Yost remarked. “Getting Vanisher isn't exactly easy, but they're prepared for it. What happens next--that they can't prepare for.”
Some extra luck comes X-Force's way in chapter three of “Old Ghosts,” when the probability-altering mutant Domino joins the group. “They're relatively happy to see her, except when she shoots Wolverine in the head,” Yost teased. “She brings to the team fun, a more positive outlook on life, guns, and sexiness.”
X-Men and X-Force leader Cyclops and former New X-Men member Elixir are once again on hand in supporting roles in the “Old Ghosts” arc. “Cyke is front and center in issue #7, and he and Wolverine trade niceties again, as they did in issue #1,” Yost said. “Elixir may be sticking around, we'll see. He doesn't particularly want to, though.”
Cyclops’ current role in X-Force is to assign his team their targets, but the best leaders never ask those under their command to do things they wouldn’t elect to do themselves. “Cyclops is in a tough spot. X-Force is his dirty little secret, but I don't think he'd ask them to do anything he isn't prepared to do himself,” Yost explained. “He recognizes that they're probably better at it than him. But I think if it made sense, he'd be there.”
The tone of “Old Ghosts” differs some from that of “Angels and Demons.” “It's high stakes, but not as dark,” Yost said. “It's got a good deal of the ol' super-violence, if not more. But there's definitely some fun in this one, and probably from here on out.”
In order to give series artist Clayton Crain a chance to work aheadon future issues of “X-Force,” the “Old Ghosts” storyline -- which runs through “X-Force” #7-10 -- features artwork by Mike Choi and Sandra Oback. “They bring awesomeness, and of course they know X-23 pretty well,” Yost said. “Issue #11 is a special issue, with art to be announced, while #12-13 is Clayton's return to a new mission focusing on the Bastion threat.”
Co-writers Chris Yost and Craig Kyle are delighted that readers have embraced “X-Force,” and promised the months ahead will be full of big action and excitement, especially for fans of their other Marvel Comics work. “There's a couple of huge stories happening next year, and it's all leading to probably the biggest thing Craig and I have done in the comics. From our first issue of ‘New X-Men,’ it's all been leading to this. So don't miss it!”