The 90’s. When everything that was annoying about the 80’s was dipped in Neon paint to make it EXTREME….or X-Treme because starting a word with the letter ‘E’ was lame. In 1991, the comic book speculating boom dictated that creators create the loudest, shiniest, gaudiest and most X-TREME books imaginable. Guns were large, bulges were pronounced, nobody had feet, dialogue was stilted and to be either shouted or growled through clenched teeth. The 90’s destroyed the fun of crossovers, miniseries, new characters and variant covers by attempting to make every book a collector’s issue.
Born of the remnants of The New Mutants, X-Force burst onto the scene with guns, swords, pouches, thongs and veins. X-Force was a confusing mashup of grunting, exposition and explosions. The original X-Force series was a vehicle for Cable. For the new fan, Cable seemed to be on a mission to rid himself of a bowel blockage, there isn’t a panel that shows him doing anything other than grimacing or shouting. X-Force was billed to be a more X-TREME version of The X-Men. They took on threats to mutant kind using more X-TREME methods with their X-TREME preference for compound word code names. Shatterstar, Warpath, Cannonball, Boom-Boom, Feral, Cable and Domino made up the original iteration of the team.
Every issue of X-Force was a full assault on the senses. Readers were bombarded with Laser Blasts, squinting eyes, veiny muscles and wedgies. Backgrounds didn’t exist in this world. There were no trees or grass, just yellow skies or purple smoke. The writing was full of angst-y self-importance with the kind of gravity reserved for bad action movies. The arc that defined the early issues of X-Force was the X-Cutioner’s Song.
This arc was a nonsensical jumble of plotlines that never quite intersected. It introduced Styfe who is so much of a villain that he defies the basic elements of what makes a good villain…a simple motivation. To this day, I really don’t understand what the hell Stryfe wants. He’s Cable’s evil twin and what else? What does he want? To kill Cable? Professor X? Apocalypse? Is he upset with Cyclops and Jean Grey? Stryfe was all over the place…just like this story. X-Cutioner’s Song featured every major player across the X-Books but was supposed to be the origin story of Cable and by X-tention, X-Force….it didn’t tell us shit.
The members of X-Force/X-Men and The New Mutants were essentially the character templates Rob Liefield used for the next 20 years.
The biggest problem with X-Force was how utterly forgettable it was despite it being one of the more popular books of its era. It was an unpleasant book to read. The art was uninspired and the stories were confusing. I was an avid follower of The New Mutants and the X-Men yet I found it difficult to care about any of the members of X-Force. The character development was stilted to the point that it took years to reestablish the characters in other books. Formerly interesting characters like Boom-Boom, Cannonball and Warpath translated as boring and lifeless.
X-Force went from a militant wing of the X-Men, to a Soap Opera featuring mutants, to a Road Movie with the members of the New Mutants and eventually back to a militant wing of the X-Men. This book has no consistent identity aside from it’s name. While the X-Men books had a fluctuating lineup, the element of being set at a school, remained as the core of the story, more or less. I believe that the name of X-Force is so cool sounding that it will continue to exist whether or not there is a consistent narrative that ties the X-Force teams together. I’ll be honest, X-Force is probably my least favorite of the X-Books. It was an example of the Style over Substance mentality that defined comics in the 90’s.
Next on X-Hausted:
- How did X become a Factor?
- Exactly how awesome was Archangel?