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X-Force #1 Teases the Return of An Underrated X-Men Villain

Black Tom Cassidy is arguably one of the most underrated villains in the X-Men canon. Although he was created more than 40 years ago by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, he's made fewer than 100 comic book appearances, which isn't much for a major X-Men foe. Despite that, he remains memorable, developing a host of abilities over the years that have made him deceptively powerful.

As Marvel's solicitations for November tease, Black Tom will apparently join X-Force, as he graces the cover of Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara's X-Force #1. That suggests he plays a significant role in the future of the newly rebooted X-Men franchise. But what could that be?

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Black Tom Cassidy made his first full introduction in Uncanny X-Men #101. A mutant, much like his estranged cousin Sean Cassidy, the X-Men's Banshee, Black Tom was initially only capable of charging energy blasts through a ceremonial wooden staff.

After a falling out that left him with a limp, Tom turned against his cousin, and even hid the birth of Sean's daughter, Theresa. Tom raised Theresa, until she joined her father in the United States and joined X-Force and X-Factor as Siryn.

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Tom became a mercenary, and along the way befriended the unstoppable Juggernaut, who become his partner. In a battle with the original X-Force, Tom was wounded by Cable. To save his life, he received a plant-based graft intended to utilize his mutant power to amplify his healing. Instead, the bark spread across his body, and slowly transformed him into a human/plant hybrid.

Tom was driven mad by the change, and slowly became more unstable and unkillable. If a limb was damaged, he could simply regrow it. He also gained control over all plant life, at least until Scarlet Witch removed the powers of nearly all mutants in an event that became known as M-Day. Tom lost this secondary aspect of his powers and regained his human form. He also maintained his control over plant life and kept his original ability to charge energy blasts through wood.

WHERE IS BLACK TOM?

Black Tom hasn't been a going concern in the X-Men's world for several years. The character had a falling out with Juggernaut over events that transpired while he'd lost his sanity, and he ended their partnership. He confronted his old foe Deadpool in 2012 before becoming the White King of the Hellfire Club, and in 2016 briefly helped Magneto's X-Men. In his most recent appearance, in 2017's X-Men: Blue #1, Tom once again worked alongside Juggernaut.

The villain hasn't appeared since, which may be partly due to the reduced role Banshee and Siryn have played in X-Men comics. That's what makes his placement on the cover of X-Force #1 so surprising. The image depicts him manipulating plant life as he stands alongside more established heroes, suggesting he retains his secondary powers.

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The cover and solicitation also tease that X-Force will center on a split roster: One-half of the roster will serve as intelligence, while the other will operate as the field team. Despite his powers giving him numerous physical advantages, Tom is shown alongside Beast, Sage and Jean Grey as members of the team's intelligence corner. While he's always been good at ordering Juggernaut around, Tom has never been portrayed as a peerless leader. In fact, his only time leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led to the entire team being absorbed by the black hole hidden within Xorn. So why is he on the cover of X-Force #1?

Roles & Roots

Black Tom Cassidy Joe Mad

Black Tom's ability to connect and control plant life may have taken a second meaning, given the events of House of X. Krakoa, the sentient mutant island, has become one of the most crucial pieces of Xavier's plans for the future of mutantkind. Tom's inherent connection with plant life could make him crucial to utilizing Krakoa to his upper limits. He even could use his powers to channel energy through plant life to weaponize Krakoa. Given Krakoa's ability to spread across the world, Black Tom could become a one-man deterrent in the process. When humans fear the military potential of Krakoa in House of X, Black Tom might be the man behind the trigger.

That might be the best possible reason Black Tom is appearing in X-Force. He and Colossus  aren't mentioned in the issue's solicitation text, yet they appear prominently on the cover. Tom's experience as a mercenary, coupled with his potential destructive power, could be why X-Force has agreed to bring him into its ranks.

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