After years of rumors and false starts, X-Force is finally set to make its cinematic debut in Deadpool 2. Since X-Force was created in 1991, the team has gone through several dramatic evolutions that have made it one of the most popular and most controversial superhero squads ever.While there are still questions about who will be on the team in David Leitch’s Deadpool sequel, it’s already shaping up to feature a surprising mix of Marvel’s most dangerous mutants. While it’s unclear whether or not Josh Brolin’s Cable will join the movie’s X-Force, the team will feature X-Force mainstays like Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and Zazie Beetz’s Domino, alongside some more obscure characters like Terry Crews’ Bedlam.
Hang out, while CBR counts down some of the things you probably didn’t know about X-Force. In this list, we’ll be going through some of the wildest, most bonkers and important moments in the team’s history. From its explosive beginning to its deadly revamps, we’ll be talking about every version of X-Force. Whether you have a degree in mutant politics or still aren’t sure about the difference between X-Force and the X-Men, we’ve got the rundown on everything you need to know about X-Force before Deadpool 2.
15. CABLE’S (OLD) NEW MUTANTS
Throughout the 1980s, the New Mutants were the X-Men’s junior training squad. By the end of the decade, the team’s popularity was in decline, and Cable was introduced as the group’s mysterious new mentor. Created by Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson, the futuristic, telepathic leader made his full debut in 1990’s New Mutants #87. Over the next year, most of the New Mutants left the team as Cable reshaped it into a more militaristic fighting force.
The last New Mutants, the explosive Cannonball and Boom Boom, joined Cable when he formed X-Force in 1991’s New Mutants #100, by Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. Although X-Force took on new recruits like the super-strong Warpath, the feline Feral, the alien warrior Shatterstar and the luck-generating Domino, the team never shook its reputation as the New Mutants’ post-grad team. Over the next several years, other ex-New Mutants like Sunspot and Moonstar filled out X-Force’s roster.
14. X-MEN’S FRENEMIES
Even though they share a lot of the same members, X-Force hasn’t always had the best relationship with the X-Men. While the X-Men fight for Charles Xavier’s dream of a peaceful world, most versions of X-Force aggressively pursue threats using violent, often fatal tactics. With those diametrically opposed philosophies, the two mutant teams have had a strained relationship, especially when Cable first founded the team.
Despite that, X-Force and the X-Men have occasionally had a solid working relationship. X-Force members have stayed at Xavier’s Mansion, and the team wore purple-and-gold X-uniforms for a while in the late 1990s. Founding X-Force members like Cable, Cannonball and Domino have even graduated to the X-Men. Even when X-Force has been an outlaw team, wayward X-Men like Psylocke, Forge and Colossus have joined X-Force squads when they were estranged from Marvel’s main mutant team.
13. DEADPOOL VS. X-FORCE
Even though he’s been a member of the Avengers and saved the world a few times, Deadpool wasn’t always so heroic. For the first several years of his existence, Deadpool wasn’t really more than an extra-talkative X-Force villain. When Deadpool was created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in 1991’s New Mutants #98, he was a cold-hearted mercenary who’d been hired by a mysterious man named Tolliver to kill Cable.
Although he held his own against Cable and several New Mutants, a sneak attack from Domino ultimately took him out. After New Mutants morphed into X-Force, Deadpool reappeared as a recurring villain in the new series. When Deadpool got his first starring role in Nicieza and Joe Madureira’s 1993 series Deadpool: The Circle Chase, he started to become a sympathetic character. Over his subsequent adventures, Deadpool became the funnier, slightly more good-hearted character that appeared on screen in 2016’s Deadpool.
12. X-MEN’S BLACK OPS SQUAD
A few years after the first X-Force team disbanded, Marvel introduced a new version of the team in the aftermath of the 2008 X-Men crossover “Messiah Complex.” This Wolverine-led team was the X-Men’s top-secret black ops squad and often relied on lethal force in a popular series largely by Christopher Yost, Craig Kyle and Clayton Crain. In addition to Logan, this X-Force took orders from Cyclops and included deadly mutants like X-23, Warpath, Wolfsbane, Domino, Archangel and Elixir.
After Cyclops disbanded that team, Wolverine formed an even more secret version of X-Force in Uncanny X-Force. This X-Force included Deadpool, Archangel, Psylocke, Fantomex, the cybernetic Deathlok and, eventually, an alternate reality version of Nightcrawler from the Age of Apocalypse. With work from Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña and a host of other top-tier artists, Uncanny X-Force earned critical praise for its mix of pulse-pounding action and complex moral questions.
11. DEADPOOL, X-FORCE’S CONSCIENCE
After he became a more heroic figure, Deadpool grew exceptionally close to Cable in their shared long-running series, Cable & Deadpool. Despite that, Deadpool wasn’t a permanent member of X-Force until he joined Wolverine’s secret strike team. While Wade Wilson claimed that he only joined the team for money, the mercenary evolved into the unlikely heart of the team.
After X-Force’s Fantomex killed an adolescent version of the villain Apocalypse, Deadpool gathered the team together to voice his sincere disapproval in 2011’s Uncanny X-Force #5, by Rick Remender and Esad Ribic. When Wolverine argued with Wade, Angel revealed that Deadpool hadn’t cashed a single check from the team. When another young version of Apocalypse almost embraced evil, Deadpool still felt guilty for the team’s actions and talked him out of it. Even after his X-Force team split up, Deadpool maintained a steady presence in Genesis’ life.
10. YOUTH IN REVOLT
Even though Cable formed X-Force, he’s been kicked out of the team a few different times. After a particularly harsh government crackdown on mutants, X-Force and Cable split up in 1997’s X-Force #70, by John Francis Moore and Adam Pollina. After longtime members like Domino, Shatterstar and Rictor left the team, Moonstar, Sunspot, Warpath, Siryn and Meltdown started traveling across America.
Over the course of their year-long journey, the team encountered some familiar foes like Stryfe and Sunspot’s evil clone Reignfire. X-Force also had time for some more offbeat adventures where they protected a movie producer from the mob, went to a thinly-veiled version of the Burning Man arts festival and encountered Lava Men in Hawaii. The group eventually settled in San Francisco, where they found an electromagnetic new recruit, Bedlam.
9. X-FORCE’S BRUTAL ENDS
Even though Bedlam will appear in Deadpool 2, he didn’t have the most distinguished tenure with X-Force. After joining the team, he stayed with it after the British spy Pete Wisdom turned X-Force into a short-lived covert operations team. After the team disbanded, Bedlam was strung up on a giant “X” and killed by anti-mutant forces on the X-Mansion’s lawn in 2003’s Uncanny X-Men #423, by Chuck Austen and Ron Garney.
Bedlam wasn’t the only X-Force member who had a cruel and unusual demise. In 2001’s X-Force #116, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred offered a dramatic reboot of the series with a brand new team. Led by the acid-spewing Zeitgeist, this X-Force was a group of reality TV superheroes with no connection to the previous X-Force. After an attempt to rescue a boy band went horribly wrong, most of the X-Force team died horribly at the end of the issue.
8. MUTANT CELEBRITIES
After X-Force went through years of diminishing returns, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred revitalized X-Force by turning the series into a dark comedy that offered sharp critiques of superheroes and celebrity culture. After the shocking finale of X-Force #115, the new characters Orphan, U-Go-Girl, Anarchist, Phat and Vivisector formed a new X-Force, full of celebrity mutants with deeply strange powers. Documented by the floating potato-like cameraman Doop, the team’s offbeat adventures earned critical acclaim but alienated some longtime fans.
In Milligan and Allred’s X-Force #117, the old X-Force even attacked this new X-Force over the use of their name. Those concerns vanished when the new X-Force changed their name to X-Statix in 2002. After the team’s name change, X-Statix was at the center of an international controversy when one proposed storyline would’ve seen the late Princess Diana join the team. That ultimately didn’t happen, and the series ended in 2004.
7. X-FORCE’S BLOCKBUSTER SUCCESS
When Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s X-Force burst onto the scene in the summer of 1991, it was an instant smash that shattered sales records. Released near the height of the era’s collecting boom, X-Force #1 is estimated to have sold over four million copies, which still stands as the second highest-selling American superhero comic in the modern era. In a brilliant marketing move, each copy of the issue was marked as a “Collector’s Item” and bagged with one of five different X-Force trading cards to entice speculators to buy multiple copies.
Even outside of comics, X-Force was remarkably popular. Cable earned a recurring role on X-Men: The Animated Series less than three years after his debut. Liefeld infamously talked about X-Force in a Spike Lee-directed ad for Levi’s Jeans. From 1992 to 1996, Toy Biz produced a massive line of X-Force toys that included over 50 action figures.
6. DOMINO’S COPYCAT
When Deadpool first appeared in 1991’s New Mutants #98, by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, he debuted alongside a minor immortal villain named Gideon and the luck-manipulating mercenary Domino. After her debut, Domino quickly became one of X-Force’s signature characters. But in 1992’s X-Force #11, Nicieza, Liefeld and Mark Pacella surprised readers by revealing that this Domino was actually an imposter. She was actually Vanessa Carlysle, the shapeshifting Copycat, who was spying on the team for Deadpool’s employer, Tolliver.
While Copycat pretended to be Domino, the real Domino was locked in captivity for a year. After breaking free, Domino joined X-Force, where she took her imposter’s place. Copycat made peace with X-Force and Domino and became an off-and-on love interest for Deadpool. Although she was killed by Sabretooth in 2001, Morena Baccarin played a seemingly unpowered version of the character in 2016’s Deadpool.
5. X-FORCE FORGOT ABOUT DEADPOOL
Since Deadpool was introduced, Marvel has published tons of stories that fill in the gaps in his past and retroactively made him a bigger part of the Marvel Universe. In 2014, Deadpool vs. X-Force revealed the previously-unseen first encounter between the mercenary and the mutant team.
In Duane Swierczynski and Pepe Larraz’s series, Francis Talbot hired Deadpool to travel back in time to change American history so he could make a massive profit. Sensing the changes to the timeline, Cable put together an early X-Force team to travel back in time and capture Deadpool. After a chase that stretched from the Revolutionary War to World War II, Deadpool inadvertently hit Talbot with an energy blast that erased him from history. Accordingly, the entire incident was also erased from history, and everyone involved forgot that it had ever happened.
4. X-FORCE VS. X-FORCE
After the critical success of Uncanny X-Force in the early 2010s, Marvel started publishing two ongoing X-Force series for the first time. Cable and X-Force followed Cable’s reformed X-Force squad, which included his adopted daughter Hope, Domino, Colossus and a few other wayward former X-Men. Meanwhile, Uncanny X-Force centered around Storm, Psylocke and the recently-returned time-traveler, Bishop.
Like Cable, Bishop hailed from a dystopian timeline where modern villains evolved into tomorrow’s tyrants. When he realized that Hope could create his fallen world, Bishop betrayed the X-Men and chased Cable and his daughter through time. After he reappeared in the present day, Storm’s team took him in. After the old X-Force foe Stryfe kidnapped both Bishop and Hope, Storm’s team had an inevitable fight with Cable’s X-Force in 2014’s Uncanny X-Force #16, by Sam Humphries and Harvey Tolibao. Unsurprisingly, the teams worked together to defeat Stryfe, shortly before both teams disbanded.
3. THE FIRST X-FORCE
While Cable might’ve formed the most famous X-Force team, his crew wasn’t the first X-Force in the Marvel Universe. In 1989’s Cloak and Dagger #9, by Terry Austin and Mike Vosburg, that series’ teenage heroes met Marvel’s original X-Force team. This X-Force, which has also been called M-Squad, was created by the government operation M-Branch. Tasked with creating new super-soldiers, M-Branch bombarded test subjects with cosmic rays and gamma radiation in an effort to duplicate the powers of other Marvel heroes. While most of these test subjects died, the survivors formed X-Force.
Around that time, most of the world thought that the X-Men were dead, so the members of X-Force took their famous codenames. After X-Force’s Wolverine, Longshot and Psylocke died, the team rebelled against Rogue and M-Branch. After getting help from Cloak and Dagger, X-Force’s Colossus, Rogue and Storm escaped and took on new, more original codenames.
2. LED BY CABLE’S CLONES
Even though X-Force will be jumping onto the big screen soon, Cable formed the most recent incarnation of the team in 2014. This team of violent mutants included the X-Men’s Psylocke, Fantomex, Marrow, Domino, Doctor Nemesis, the digital mutant MeMe and Hope, Cable’s comatose adoptive daughter. In a short-lived series by Si Spurrier, Rock-He Kim and Jorge Molina, the team went on a series of bizarre adventures after a massive attack was attributed to mutants.
After being poisoned in the attack, Cable was left with one day to live. Instead of making the most of it, Cable created clones of himself while he was in cryogenic stasis. Filled with his memories and abilities, these clones were practically indistinguishable from the real thing. After Fantomex went mad with power, an army of Cable clones took on the ultra-powerful mutant before Hope emerged from her coma and saved the day.
1. X-FORCE’S FINAL CUT
Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #16 is an unusual comic book. In addition to featuring a team-up with X-Force, the 1991 comic book was printed “sideways” with horizontal art in a widescreen format. It also changed comic book history. In the issue, one of Shatterstar’s swords was supposed to plunge into the Juggernaut’s eye. When McFarlane first illustrated this moment, the gruesome detail of the X-Force member’s attack was on full display.
However, the scene was too graphic for Marvel editors, who forced McFarlane to change it. After continued struggles with the publisher, this was the last straw for McFarlane, who left Spider-Man and Marvel with this issue. This set the stage for the creation of Image Comics, where comic creators could fully own their creations. Along with McFarlane and several other top artists, X-Force co-creator Rob Liefeld left Marvel to form the new company, which changed the face of comic books.
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