Ever since creators Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld launched “New Mutants” #100 in 1991, X-Force’s defining trait has been its aggressively proactive approach to protecting mutantkind. Even after the X-Men reluctantly took up a more militant stance under the leadership of Cyclops, X-Force also kicked its activities up a notch, becoming a black ops-style mutant kill squad designed to end potential threats before they escalated into real menaces.
Distinguished from the rest of the X-Men by a willingness (some would argue an expectation) to use deadly force on their missions, it’s no wonder “Deadpool 2” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been tapped to lay the groundwork for a future “X-Force” film. With Cable and Domino already confirmed to appear in the blockbuster sequel, can an “X-Force” movie be far behind? With that question in mind, we couldn’t help but compile a list of X-Force’s most dangerous members.
SPOILER ALERT! Spoilers ahead for numerous stories published by Marvel Comics.
Thanks to the perils of time travel, alternate realities and liberal retcons, there have been several versions of Deathlok over the years. The Deathlok-Prime who joined X-Force after the death of his creator first appeared in “Weapon X” #11 and hailed from a parallel universe, where the evil mega-corporation Roxxon had taken over the world. Prime was the product of a clandestine Weapon Plus program that successfully used reanimated corpses to create an army of cyborg super soldiers and secure a potential future timeline policed by the Deathlok Nation.
His cybernetic enhancements and ability to accurately predict highly-probable future timelines make him a dangerous foe, but what chills us to the bone about Deathlok is his onboard A.I.’s ability to cede control to his psychotic serial killer host. Eventually, he would take a position teaching the next generation of X-Men at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, which we’re sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Anybody want to sign up for Serial Killing 101? We thought not.
This founding member of X-Force first appeared in “New Mutants” #99 as a refugee from a future Mojoworld tasked with bringing the X-Men back to his home dimension to help him liberate his people from Mojo’s twisted, despotic rule. A highly-skilled warrior raised in Mojo’s gladiatorial arenas, Shattterstar is the progeny of the mutant Dazzler and Longshot, himself a legendary revolutionary who fought against Mojo’s regime and the beneficiary of some of his son’s DNA, making Shatterstar his own grandfather. Probably best not to think on that fact too much. Thankfully, neither of his parents remembers his birth due to some convenient time travelling hijinks.
None of this makes Shatterstar particularly dangerous, simply a little weird and overwrought. What does make him dangerous is his willingness to use deadly force whenever necessary without a second thought, a precedent that was set early in his tenure with X-Force. Just ask Reaper of the Mutant Liberation Front. Shatterstar used his trademark double-bladed swords to dismember the mutant terrorist on three separate occasions.
Another Nicieza-Liefeld creation who debuted in the seminal “New Mutants” #99, Feral was definitely a product of her times, an early example of the bloodthirsty antihero archetype that seemed a staple of virtually every comic published during the ‘90s. At least her codename didn’t have the word “blood” in it, although it easily could have, judging by her love of violence. A mutant born with innate lion-like abilities and an untameable personality in keeping with her name, Feral clawed her way free of a horrific upbringing by murdering her father and mother. She also may have been complicit in the deaths of two younger siblings, but no evidence exists pointing to their murders.
Like many bestial comic book characters, Feral struggled to keep her animalistic tendencies in check. Tragically, she never really found the knack in the same way Wolverine or even her sister Thornn did. However, it was this unpredictability and hair-trigger temper that made her so deadly, something her teammates learned early on, when she nearly disembowelled teammate Cannonball during a simple training exercise.
Like our last entry, Marrow was another example of ‘90s comics sensibilities taken to their furthest logical (or illogical) conclusion. Once again seemingly based on the Wolverine antihero archetype, Marrow was created by Jeph Loeb and David Brewer, and first appeared in “Cable” #15 as a member of the mutant terrorist group called Gene Nation. Born with the ability to control the growth of her bones, Marrow was raised amongst the Morlocks in a brutal alternate dimension, gaining her membership in Mikhail Rasputin’s Gene Nation by literally killing her way to the top of the heap. As a member of Gene Nation, Marrow launched a brutal terrorist campaign on normal humans.
Upon joining up with the X-Men, she struggled to control her murderous tendencies. Her greatest claim to fame while with the team was shoving one of her patented bone knives into Wolverine’s throat during a sparring session. Although she lost her powers during Decimation, a re-empowered Marrow joined Cable’s reformed X-Force team. During their battle with Volga, the man who re-powered her, it was revealed that a despondent Marrow tragically lost her unborn child during the process to regain her powers.
The woman known as Domino was created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld (surprise, surprise) and first appeared in “X-Force” #8. Although a mutant, Domino’s birth wasn’t random. Her birth is the result of a clandestine government-sponsored breeding program dedicated to the creation of the Perfect Weapon. Domino shares a long history with X-Force founder Cable, serving beside him in Six Pack, his old mercenary outfit. She’s been a fixture of various X-Force teams over the years, often serving as leader during Cable’s frequent absences during her initial tenure with the group.
Although Domino’s powers are subconscious by nature, typically activated when she’s threatened by impending injury, her mutant abilities aren’t what makes her so dangerous. As one of the most accomplished mercenary spies in the biz, it’s Domino’s no-nonsense attitude and willingness to make the hard choices that make her so deadly. During her time with Six Pack, the unit was known for mowing down crowds of people to achieve their goals. Her ruthlessness is perhaps best illustrated by her assassination of Flagsmasher, which paved the way for Cable’s liberation of the 198 mutants who survived M-Day.
Arguably the most purely evil entry on our list, perennial X-Men villain Spiral first appeared in “Longshot” #1, created by Ann Nocenti and Art Adams. Spiral was once the Earthborn stuntwoman “Ricochet” Rita Wayword who was transformed by Mojo, the ruler of the Mojoverse, after she attempted to help her friend Longshot overthrow the tyrant's all-powerful dictatorship. She was then sent back to the past to attack Longshot and her younger self. A six-armed cyborg sorceress with the ability to traverse the multiverse, Rita’s drastic physical transformation paled in comparison to the damage done to her mind, after it was expanded to perceive multiple dimensions.
She is an extremely powerful sorceress – one of seven who were flagged as potential successors to Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange – who combines science and magic to startling effect. After Mojo exiled her to Earth for failing to kill Longshot, Spiral opened up the Body Shoppe, manufacturing cybernetic limbs and weapons systems for various clients including the Reavers and Lady Deathstrike. Although later retcons would transfer the Reavers creation to Donald Pierce, there was no undoing the alternate timeline Spiral conquered, where she was known as the Apocalypse after killing most of the world’s heroes and mutants.
First appearing in "Uncanny X-Men" #282, the time-displaced mutant known as Bishop was born in dystopian alternate reality, where mutants were branded and forced into detention camps. After the Summers Rebellion freed mutantkind from their Sentinel–backed human overlords, Bishop joined the X.S.E. (the Xavier Security Enforcers) in an attempt to police his own kind. It was during one of his X.S.E. missions that Bishop was transported to the primary Marvel 616 continuity, where he became a valued member of the X-Men. Plagued by the memories of his horrific future, Bishop’s outlook was dramatically altered by the events of M-Day.
Although he was one of the lucky few to retain his mutant abilities post-Decimation, became more zealous in his defense of mutantkind, culminating in his attempt to kill the first mutant born after M-Day, whom he believed would usher in his dystopian timeline. After Cable saved the baby from Bishop, the pair embarked on a cross-time war of attrition, which Bishop willingly escalated into mass murder, thanks to numerous traps scattered throughout the timeline that killed millions. Now, that’s freaking deadly.
The younger brother of legendary X-Man Thunderbird, James Proudstar first appeared as one the Hellions in “New Mutants” #14. Under the tutelage of Emma Frost, James rose to leader of the Hellions but left the group for Cable’s first X-Force team, feeling like he no longer fit in to the Hellfire Club’s teenaged mutant strike force. Under Cable’s direction, James honed his fighting skills and underwent a sustained power boost that saw his enhanced senses and strength increase exponentially. Now far more powerful than his brother ever was, James finally stepped out of his long shadow, taking the name Warpath. It was an appropriate name choice considering his future career path.
After the events of M-Day, the protection of the few remaining empowered mutants became the X-Men’s priority, so James was tapped for a membership on the new version of X-Force that was created to target and eliminate threats to mutantkind with extreme prejudice. He was finally able to lay his brother’s soul to rest during the events of Necrosha, plunging the vampiric Black Queen’s own knife into her chest, killing her (for the time being, at least).
In a medium noted for its love of retcons, reboots and resurrections, there are perhaps few heroes who have changed as drastically as Psylocke. The mutant telepathic sister of Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock first appeared way back in 1976 in “Captain Britain” #8. Originally, Betsy was your typical telepath, with very little to distinguish her from others of her ilk, aside from a brief stint as Captain Britain. After a run-in with the Marauders during the Mutant Massacre, Psylocke joined the X-Men and was with them when they “died” after passing through the Siege Perilous. Betsy would resurface in Madripoor, where she would undergo her most dramatic transformation after the Hand transferred her consciousness into the body of one of their most feared assassins.
Betsy was effectively transformed into a telepathic Elektra capable of skewering your psyche at the same time that she’s skewering your body. Her new abilities naturally made her a perfect choice for various incarnations of X-Force. During the “Dark Angel Saga,” Betsy showed her willingness to make the hard calls, when she stabbed her lover Archangel with the Life Seed, killing him and preventing his ascension into the role of Apocalypse.
Fantomex is quite possibly the most unpredictable entry on our list. His vaguely defined abilities, narcissistic personality and connections to the Weapon Plus program ensure even his teammates aren’t entirely sure what side he’s really on. Created by Grant Morrison and Igor Kordey during their classic run on “New X-Men,” Fantomex is the product of decades of Weapon Plus research, the same program responsible for the creation of everyone from Captain America to Wolverine. Sharing the Canucklehead’s patented healing factor and enhanced senses, Fantomex also possesses three brains, an external nervous system in the form of EVA and the ability to cast convincing illusions.
Although he’s shown moments of selflessness, Fantomex is at his core a survivalist and a cold-blooded killer, willing to follow through on threats even his fellow X-Force assassins thought crossed the line. In the events leading up to the “Dark Angel Saga”, Fantomex was the only one with the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on the infant clone of Apocalypse, after his teammates decided to save him. He eventually went insane after gaining god-like new abilities, prompting Hope Summers and his former lover Psylocke to fry his brains.
5 WOLVERINE (LAURA KINNEY)
Laura Kinney first appeared as the teenaged killing machine X-23 in the pages of “NYX” #4, created by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. A clone created from the damaged genetic material of her “father” Wolverine, Laura struggles to reconcile her conflicting human and bestial natures, in much the same way as the long-time X-Man. She was trained to be the ultimate killing machine by her creators in the Weapon Plus splinter cell known as the Facility, who initiated her murderous tendencies with genetically-implanted trigger scents.
Although she would seemingly overcome her trigger scent programming, Laura would continue to use lethal force throughout her career. This is perhaps best illustrated by her assassination of Matthew Risman, a mutant-hating Purifier she initially tried to kill by secretly planting explosives around his base, without informing her teammates. Although the destruction of his headquarters failed to kill him, Laura completed the mission the old-fashioned way, with a bullet to the brain. Thankfully, Laura has been far less reckless ever since taking up the mantle of Wolverine, far more concerned with living up to her late father’s noble legacy.
If there’s anybody left on the face of the planet who doesn’t know the Merc with a Mouth, then they’re likely already a victim of the infamous “dead pool.” Created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, Wade Wilson first appeared in the now-classic “New Mutants” #98 as a future adversary of Cable’s inaugural X-Force team. Although it would take several years for the Deadpool we all know and love to evolve from the one-dimensional villain that plagued his future teammates, Deadpool’s willingness to eliminate targets and rivals alike has always been one of the character’s defining characteristics.
As his blockbuster movie admirably showcased, Deadpool doesn’t just kill people for the sake of expedience. He revels in racking up the body counts in the most inventive ways possible. Driven mad by the process that gave him a suped-up version of Wolverine’s healing factor, Deadpool’s talent for killing is only outstripped by his sadistically comical monologues. Although he’s been the victim of recent attempts to tone down his violent nature in the wake of his monstrous mainstream popularity, there’s no keeping a good merc down and we’re confident he’ll continue to tear up the Marvel Universe with his signature zeal for manic destruction.
3 WOLVERINE (JAMES HOWLETT)
“I’m the best there is at what I do but what I do isn’t very nice.” While that statement may not be entirely true for this list, there are few other entries who’ve racked up the body count that the original Wolverine has since his first appearance in the iconic “Incredible Hulk” #180. Blessed with enhanced animal senses, retractable adamantium claws and a robust mutant healing factor that has allowed him to survive virtually any injury, Wolverine was a natural born killer in every sense of the word. With innate abilities honed by decades of military training, Wolverine was also one of the most accomplished hand-to-hand combatants in the Marvel Universe, up until his recent death in the appropriately titled “Death of Wolverine” #4.
And yet, none of that is what made him one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Rather, it was his willingness to do whatever was necessary to deliver the killing blow that gave his enemies cause to fear. Case in point: When Cyclops shut X-Force down, it was Wolverine who kept it running on the down-low as little more than an assassination squad.
For years, Warren Worthington III was the dreamy poster boy for human-mutant relations. Along with Beast and perhaps Iceman, he was an integral member of the wider Marvel superhero community, serving as a founding member of both the original Champions and the New Defenders. As a founding member of the X-Men, the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation functioned as a key player in several major mutant story arcs. It wasn’t until he lost his original feathered wings during a vicious attack by the Marauders during the notorious Mutant Massacre, that his character took a drastic turn for the worse.
Drafted as the Horseman Death by Apocalypse, Warren embarked on a terrifying campaign of destruction that saw him irrevocably changed physically and mentally by the experience. As a member of X-Force, he was an unpredictable teammate, murdering hundreds of flying Purifiers in a blind rage after the re-emergence of his techno-organic wings. During the “Dark Angel Saga,” the depth of Apocalypse’s malevolent genetic manipulation was revealed, with Warren even having to be put down by his former lover Psylocke after he threatened to become the new Apocalypse. Although he’s since been resurrected with no memory of his past life, it remains to be seen how angelic he truly is.
He’s the man with the plan; the X-Men’s very own mutant Captain America. Without Nathan Summers, the man who would come to be known as Cable, mutantkind likely would’ve perished years ago. Created by a comic book brain trust that includes Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, Cable first appeared as an adult in the pages of “New Mutants” #86. As the offspring of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Cable was shunted into the future as an infant to protect him from the machinations of Mr. Sinister.
Over time, Cable evolved into an accomplished soldier, who plied his trade in the present as the leader of Six Pack, a mercenary unit notorious for their brutal tactics. He was instrumental in promoting a new more militant approach to protecting mutantkind, resulting in the formation of the original X-Force. His role as guardian of the future of his species remains his defining trait, driving him into conflict with everyone from the Avengers to his own friends and colleagues in the X-Men. A man on a never-ending mission who is always willing to make the killing blow even if it means his own life, there is no more dangerous member of X-Force than its founding father.
What do you mean we didn’t “execute” this list properly? Let us know who we missed in the comments!