Comic Book / X-Force

X-Force has been the name of several different Marvel Universe Super Hero teams and comics, with few common members and very little generally to link them except for being closely tied to the X-Men, with varying degrees of cooperation between the two at different times.

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    Volume 1

The original X-Force was created when Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza were given control of the New Mutants book and made it Darker and Edgier. Adding several badasses and making them more of an "ends justify the means" group, they became a militant strike force very different in attitude from the X-Men. The title was at first extremely popular, with the first issue becoming the #2-selling comic of all time. Liefeld however quickly became frustrated by working with characters he didn't own, and soon left Marvel to form Image Comics in 1992. Nicieza continued to write up through the Age of Apocalypse storyline of 1995, afterwards leaving and being replaced by Jeph Loeb.

Loeb moved the team back to the Xavier Mansion and focused more on character development than fighting. After Loeb's departure in 1997, John Francis Moore took over writing duties and sent X-Force on a roadtrip to San Francisco, where they would reunite with former members Cannonball and Domino, but sales of the book began to fall. In 2000, Warren Ellis was brought in and portrayed the team as a covert group under the leadership of his character Pete Wisdom, but only made the decline worse as far as alienating more fans than before. The series lasted for 115 issues (August, 1991-June, 2001).

The First Series Provides Examples Of:

  • Aborted Arc: The infamous fate of the "Externals" story arc once Liefeld left. It was technically resolved... by killing off pretty much everyone involved within the space of a single issue.
  • Action Girl: Domino; BoomBoom, Feral and Siryn to lesser extents.
  • All There in the Manual: Huge chunks of Cable's backstory and origin were only revealed in his ongoing book, once it was launched.
  • Anti-Hero: Cable.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Feral as the Darker and Edgier Wolfsbane.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Freaking Shatterstar.
  • Badass Normal: Cable, who despite being a mutant, can't really use his powers on any significant scale without risking death. In lieu of reading people's thoughts and throwing them through the air with his mind, he relies on his...
  • BFG: Cable had a lot of these, and wasn't shy about using them.
  • Big Bad: The MLF, Stryfe.
    • Ironically, the MLF and Stryfe were conceived and planned out to actually be a decoy antagonist by Rob Liefeld. Liefeld always intended an existing A-List Marvel villain (Doctor Doom and Kang were namechecked by Liefeld himself, as two of the names he pushed for) to be Cable's nemesis and mortal enemy, with Stryfe being just a present day jerk who killed Cable's son. When Liefeld left, did Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell did the opposite, and added Apocalypse to the formula as Cable's mortal enemies.
  • Blessed with Suck: Cable, potentially the single most powerful telepath and telekinetic in the Marvel Universe, has to use all but a tiny smidge of those powers to keep the techno-virus infesting half his body from devouring the other half.
  • Body Horror: Cable is mostly human on his right side, mostly techno-organic on the left. And if it weren't for his powers, he'd be consumed by the TO virus and die.
    • The Marvel NOW Cable X-Force series starts off with people being poisoned with a mutagen which transforms them into horrifying mounds of flesh. One of Dr. Nemesis' attempted cures only makes it worse.
  • Briefer Than They Think: Rob Liefeld was only on the book as co-writer for the first year and only on art for the first 9 of those issues. Once he left the book quickly moved away from the three G's (guns, grimaces and grittiness) to more character-based stories culminating in John Francis Moore's Lighter and Softer run.
  • Cain and Abel: Cable and his evil clone Stryfe.
  • Code Name: Played straight, to the point where Cable and Domino's real names weren't revealed for years. Justified in Cable's case, since revealing his name would spoil a pretty juicy plot twist.
  • Covert Group: Its team was portrayed as a covert group under the leadership of his character Pete Wisdom starting in 2000.
  • Darker and Edgier: This was the defining characteristic of the comic in the beginning.
  • During the War: Virtually all of Cable's backstory relates to his battling the forces of Apocalypse a thousand years in the future.
  • Guns Akimbo: Domino was particularly fond of this.
  • Gun Fu: Domino, though her "luck" power also had a lot to do with it.
  • Gun Kata: This completes Domino's trifecta of gun-related tropes, though again, her powers really helped her out.
  • Heroic Albino: Domino is described as being an albino, even though she has black hair.
  • It's Personal: Cable's hatred for Stryfe stems only partly from the fact that Stryfe has killed everyone Cable loved; most of it is from Stryfe's raping and impregnating his wife with a son that Cable had mixed feelings towards at best.
  • Just Friends: Cable and Domino have a long history, during which they've been everything from genuinely just friends to teammates to Friends with Benefits to fully lovers; currently, they seem to be in a "just friends" phase.
  • Knight Templar: Cable was very much "ends justify the means" in the beginning; later writers softened him considerably, though it's still not a very good idea to make him mad.
  • Road Trip Plot: After Operation: Zero Tolerance the remaining members of the team decide to strike out on their own leading to a year long road trip storyline that takes them from New York to their new home in San Francisco.
  • Retcon: Cable wasn't Scott and Madelyne's son until Chris Claremont and Jim Lee came up with the idea while writing X-Factor #65-68. Executive meddling prevented Nicieza and Lobdell from revealing Stryfe was Nathan Summers and Cable a clone, as Bob Harras wanted Cable to be Nathan, since "having him be the fake would devalue him".
  • The Something Force
  • Superhero Packing Heat: Cable
  • Token Evil Teammate: Feral. Nobody was very surprised to see her make a Face–Heel Turn in the middle of a battle.
  • Why Won't You Die?: It took Cable several tries to put Stryfe down for the count.

    Volume 2 / X-Statix

The second major incarnation of X-Force began in 2001, continuing the same issue numbering. The new creative team of writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred, after the previous creative team ended their run with the team caught in an explosion that led to the media declaring the team dead, created a new team of X-Forcers who were shockingly killed at the end of the first issue. The series continued, with a famously rapid turnover of characters, as a satirical superhero series based around the idea of second-division superheroes as vapid and self-centered celebrities out for fame, fortune and kicks. The series explained the change-over with the notion of a millionaire software king creating his own team of super-heroes, with the X-Force name being taken from the previous team without permission. As X-Force, the team appeared in 14 issues (July, 2001- August, 2002).

Around a third of the way through the run, the title was changed to X-Statix when team owner Spike Freeman decided to change it since he had to pay royalties on it to the founding members of the original X-Force to use the name. (In truth however, the revamp was a huge hit and Marvel wanted to cash in on it via a relaunch.) Unfortunately, the relaunch came with the killing off of the book's most popular character (U-Go Girl), which became a topic of fairly frequent discussion within the story itself. Further complications involved a planned storyline involving the resurrection of Princess Di, who was changed into a pop idol when Marvel chickened out at the last minute. Sales tanked and led to the book's cancellation in late 2004. The series lasted for 26 issues (September, 2002- October, 2004).

Despite the deaths of all the surviving characters in the last issue, there was a later Dead Girl Spin-Off mini-series that had many of the dead team members involved in an adventure in the afterlife (exploring versions of Heaven and Hell) with Doctor Strange, satirizing the Death Is Cheap nature of the Marvel Universe. It lasted for 5 issues (March-July, 2006).

Also in 2004, Marvel brought Liefeld and Nicieza back for a six-issue X-Force miniseries (October, 2004-March, 2005), returning to the original characters, which posted decent sales despite a critical drubbing and Liefeld's using some of his previously unused art for other titles in the book. A four-issue Shatterstar miniseries (April-July, 2005) followed, but neither was extended.

The Second Series / X-Statix Provides Examples Of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Inverted, in that this was pretty much the only series that showed how rich, hot teenagers with cool superpowers would be showered with adoration rather than shunned.
  • Anyone Can Die: The first issue killed off the entire team except for Tike and U-Go Girl. Then new recruits Bloke and Saint Anna, then the Spike, then U-Go Girl, then the Mysterious Fanboy, then Phat, then El Guapo, until the surviving members were all killed in the last issue of X-Statix.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Quite a few times
    • The first arc both subverts then plays it straight twice over. Edie intends to go rescue Guy from his daily russian roulette game (which had been rigged so that all chambers had a bullet in them. ), only to be paralyized by the Coach. Guy then arrives to save her from the Coach, revealing he felt the gun was heavier. Finally, after The Coach's two personal goons jump guy, Wolverine shows up on a favor from Doop to rescue him.
    • The first arc of X-Statix has Venus Dee Milo gathering the team to pull this towards the end of it, and then pulling it off pages later.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: How Mr. Sensitive and the Anarchist die.
  • Broken Pedestal: One of the later issues revealed that U-Go Girl, who had been portrayed basically as The Paragon up to that point, was complicit in Spike Freeman selling WMDs to Saddam Hussein.
    • When Arnie Lundberg was on the team as the Mysterious Fanboy, the rest of the group had to grit their teeth and pretend to like each other and care about helping people so temperamental Reality Warper Arnie wouldn't see them for what they really are.
  • Captain Ethnic: Parodied with EuroTrash, Spike Freeman's side project superteam that he deliberately designed to follow this mold. Also La Nuit, one of the members killed in the first issue, a French mutant with green skin and blemishes that make him look rather amphibian. And Bloke, who was an amalgamation of every gay stereotype you've ever heard. A pink (formerly rainbow) skinned gym rat who lives in San Francisco and has great taste in soft furnishings... yeah.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: There's actually a character named "Surrender Monkey," leader of a team of supervillains whose entire gimmick is being horrible ethnic stereotypes. He has the amazing mutant ability to know exactly the right moment to run away from a fight. Subverted when he comes back later on and is revealed to not be French at all but rather an American Francophile.
  • Companion Cube: El Guapo's skateboard may genuinely have a mind of its own, though.
  • Dead Star Walking: Literally with Dead Girl, but more traditionally with the entire cast in the first issue.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Zeitgeist; later issues would posthumously reveal him to be a huge Jerkass who had deliberately set up several of his teammates to die.
  • Dirty Old Man: A running gag has Professor Xavier being depicted, whenever he appears, as having a creepy interest in younger mutants' sex lives.
  • Doorstopper: The 2011 omnibus collecting the entire series in a single volume is 1200 pages long, making it at the time the longest book Marvel had ever printed (beating out the Walt Simonson Thor omnibus by a mere eight pages). It also weighs nearly eight pounds, cementing its status as a true doorstopper.
  • Drunken Master: Gin Genie's seismic powers were fueled by her alcoholic consumption.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Edie, both in-universe and out.
  • Executive Meddling: Marvel initially defended the Diana, Princess of Wales plot, then got cold feet when it was too late to do anything but hastily recolour and rename the character.
    • Done frequently in-universe as well, with Spike constnatly trying to get the team to act in the ways that would be the most profitable.
  • Fauxreigner: Surrender Monkey
  • Foreshadowing: Guy threatening to break Spike's neck shortly after Edie dies.
  • I Have No Son: Vivisector's father, Edward Alfred. When his wife pleaded with him to consider letting Myles back into their house and insisting he's your son!, he responded with "That is a matter of opinion."
  • Kill 'em All: The way Milligan ended the title, killing off the entire team.
    • It's worth noting that Doop has since returned, and that Edie has a way by which she might some day (she was in the casino in The Incredible Hercules).
  • Lampshade Hanging: the source of much of the humour.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: In the first issue Zeitgeist repeatedly brushes off Battering Ram's attempts to talk to him about his role in the group. And no, he doesn't get heard out before everybody dies.
  • Only Sane Man: The Orphan, who's probably the most grounded member of the cast. Spike Freeman lampshades this by saying he's saner than all of them put together (not that it's saying much)
  • One Steve Limit: Averted as X-Force, when the team featured the Spike and Spike Freeman. That said, Freeman didn't get half as much screentime as he would later back then.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Early on, Guy tries to be a moral influence on the rest of the team. Near the end, he quite happily joins in the plan to kill Henrietta just because she's too popular.
  • Power Incontinence: Zeitgeist's powers first manifested during an underaged drunken beach make-out session; his acid vomit maimed the girl. (He wonders whether "the doctors ever managed to give her back her pretty face.")
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: the Paco Perez arc.
  • Private Military Contractors: In many of their missions, are effectively this dressed up as a superhero team.
  • Purity Sue/The Scrappy: Henrietta Hunter (the aforementioned Princess Diana Expy) is an in-universe example.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The first stage of the Orphan/Iron Man fight showed the peak of modern technology falling to the peak of smithing equipment, as seen in the page picture.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: The entire team barring The Anarchist and U-Go-Girl in the first issue,.
  • Satire: Milligan loved making fun of comicbook storytelling.
  • Straight Gay: Both Phat and Vivisector eventually realize they are this, though they also realize they are not attracted to each other like they thought.
  • Sixth Ranger: Quite a few given the team's high turnover rate, though Venus Dee Milo and Dead Girl are the streightst examples.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
  • Time Stands Still: Lacuna's powers
  • To Hell and Back: the Dead Girl mini-series.
  • Token Minority Couple: The execs behind the X-Statix movie feel it's more appropriate for Venus Dee Milo to be paired with the Anarchist instead of the Orphan.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: Played with for all it's worth in one storyline with the entire team worried about a prophecy to this effect. U-Go Girl dies.
  • The Unreveal: twice. When both Mister Code and the Pitiful One are unmasked, the characters see them and recognise them as someone they know, but the knowledge is never passed on to the reader.
  • Wing Ding Lish/Cypher Language: Doop's dialog.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Parodied.