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'Is This a Paramilitary Unit or What?' - The Evolution of X-Force

This is a "Gonna Make a Change," which takes a look at the odd evolution that comic book series used to make. You see, nowadays, when a comic book series wants to re-tool, comic book companies simply cancel the book and start a brand-new series (heck, change a creative team and books will often reboot). In the old days, however, comic book companies felt that they had too much capital invested in the higher numbers and wanted to avoid starting over with a new #1. So we got to see some weird changes over the years.

This is more of a modern version of this theme, so the changes aren't QUITE as dramatic (although, eventually, the change gets pretty darn dramatic), but X-Force really did go through a whole lot of changes during its 12-year run. Let's take a look!

THE ORIGINAL VERSION

Are They A Paramilitary Unit? Yes

When Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza launched X-Force, it was after Liefeld had been working on New Mutants for a little over a year. During Liefeld's stint (initially working with Louise Simonson), the title added Cable, a military leader who took control of the former students at Xavier's School (who had gone on the run after they decided that the headmaster who replaced Xavier, Magneto, was evil again) and slowly turned them into a bit of a, well, paramilitary unit. Slowly but surely, the members of the New Mutants were weeded out and replaced by new, grittier characters. This sped up when Fabian Nicieza joined the series, by which point they were clearly headed towards the next step, which was to conclude New Mutants at #100 and relaunch the series as X-Force.

Led by Cable, the book was definitely what it sounded like. This really was a FORCE.

Eventually, though, Cable disappeared, leaving the team high and dry. They got caught up in some various X-Shenanigans for a while there, so they really weren't able to truly define themselves as a team outside of Cable for a while (by the way, Liefeld left about midway through this point, with Nicieza taking over writing duties solo. Soon, Greg Capullo joined the team as the new penciler on the book).

THE CABLE-LESS X-FORCE

Are They A Paramilitary Unit? Yes

Once their dealings with the X-Men were done (they were attacked by the X-Men and X-Factor because Stryfe, an evil clone of Cable, tried to kill Professor Xavier, so everyone believed that it was Cable who did it, since no one knew Stryfe was an evil clone of Cable at this point, so the other mutant heroes decided that they had to take X-Force down, too, to make sure they weren't helping Cable. They were held in X-Prison, which apparently is something that is okay for the X-Men to do. "Oh yeah, didn't you know, we're allowed to arrest people and hold them in prison now. Xavier is a law unto himself."

So Cannonball took control and decided to continue the team as a sort of elite fighting force even without Cable. He felt that they had outgrown the X-Men and wanted to forge their own path. Rictor re-joined his old friends, as the only reason he left was because he thought Cable killed his dad (it was Stryfe, natch).

OH WAIT, CABLE IS BACK

Are They A Paramilitary Unit? Yes

So Cable then came back and rejoined the team and they were all, "Okay, I guess that makes sense." Rictor was all, "No, man, this is bogus! He killed my dad!" Then the others reminded him of how he was there when everyone saw how Stryfe was Cable's evil twin, so maybe Stryfe killed his dad and that blew his mind. He was cool with Cable then. So they went back to being a paramilitary strike force. Tony Daniel took over from Greg Capullo at this point as the penciler on the book.

HUH? WE'RE STUDENTS AGAIN?

Are They A Paramilitary Unit? Not Really

Jeph Loeb and Adam Pollina took over the series following a big shakeup of the X-Titles after Age of Apocalypse. X-Force moved back into the X-Mansion and all got school uniforms, except for Cannonball, who was promoted to being a member of the X-Men. "Wait, Brian," you might say, "Didn't Cannonball make a big deal about forging their own path?" Well, yes, but, whatever, shut up.

This is a weird period, which saw a transition from Jeph Loeb to John Francis Moore and a bunch of different artists joining Pollina, who was still the official artist on the book. Their connection to Xavier's wasn't quite as highlighted over time, but they definitely weren't a paramilitary unit, either. It was weird.

ARE WE EVEN STILL SUPERHEROES?

Are They A Paramilitary Unit? Not Even Close

So, the team decides to break from Cable and just go out on the road. That's pretty much literally the description for the next 30 issues or so. They just go out on the road, Easy Rider-style, just seeing what will happen. I enjoyed these stories, but it's still pretty weird stuff. Moore and Pollina remain the creative team.

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