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X-Force Explained

We break down everything you need to know about this mutant team and how it connects to Cable and Deadpool.

Fox recently offered fans a taste of where the X-Men movie franchise is headed with the announcement that Drew Goddard will be directing an X-Force movie that centers around Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and Josh Brolin’s Cable (who makes his live-action debut first in Deadpool 2). More than ever, it’s clear that Deadpool is becoming the new face of the X-men franchise now that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has retired for good.

If you only know the X-Men from the movies and animated series, you might not be familiar with this militant mutant team. Here’s everything you need to know about X-Force and its connection to Deadpool before this new movie hits theaters.

The Basics

There have been many incarnations of X-Force over the years, but most versions of the team share the same basic mission. They’re meant to be a more proactive alternative to the X-Men. Where Professor Xavier’s team fights to defend the mutant race and promote understanding between humans and mutants, X-Force tasks itself with eliminating threats to the mutant race before they grow out of hand.

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As such, X-Force tends to include more violent characters like Cable, Wolverine, Warpath and Domino. Some of these mutants are happy to kill for the greater good. Some kill reluctantly, knowing that it’s worth staining their own soul if it means making the world a safer place for mutantkind. Whatever the case, the many incarnations of X-Force have racked up a pretty impressive body count over the years.

Roster and Powers

There hasn’t been one, consistent X-Force roster. However, Cable was responsible for forming the original X-Force team, and he tends to be the character most closely associated with the group. Cable is a unique combination of brain and brawns. As the child of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, he’s among the most powerful psychics in the Marvel Universe. However, due to his infection with the Techno-Organic Virus, Cable’s psychic powers are usually heavily suppressed. He makes up for that by wielding a huge arsenal of futuristic guns and other weaponry.

Cable is often joined by Domino, a mutant assassin who can manipulate probability to cause herself unnaturally good luck. Click here to learn more about Domino’s role in the X-Men franchise. She’ll be played by Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2.

Other frequent X-Force members include Cannonball, who can fly at great speeds and generate a protective force field around his body, Boom-Boom, who can generate explosive time bombs, and Warpath, a super-strong hunter and tracker who carries twin vibranium daggers.

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Some of the more recent incarnations of X-Force have featured X-Men pulling double-duty as mutant assassins. Those include Wolverine, his clone, X-23, psychic ninja Psylocke and thief/master of misdirection Fantomex.

Origin and Background

The concept of X-Force was created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. The two creators took over Marvel’s popular New Mutants comic in 1989, morphing the series from one focused on a younger generation of X-Men to one where Cable began training these mutants to form a new paramilitary task force. That evolution culminated with the finale of New Mutants and the debut of X-Force #1 in fall 1991.

X-Force_Vol_1_1_Wraparound_Cover

X-Force #1 quickly became the second best-selling American comic book of all time, eclipsed only by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 earlier the same year (both records still stand today). The darker, more violent tone of the series and Liefeld’s bombastic art style struck a chord with fans. However, X-Force’s popularity quickly waned after Liefeld joined fellow Marvel artists like Lee and Todd McFarlane in leaving the company to form Image Comics in 1992.

That departure started a process of continued reinvention for the X-Force franchise, one which continues even now. X-Force went through a phase where the team became leaderless nomads. In the early 2000s, writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred dramatically revamped the series for the reality TV era, re-imaging X-Force as a group of fame-hungry mutant celebrities. Later, X-Force was again given a major overhaul, with writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost introducing a new team of black-clad assassins sponsored by Cyclops and charged with carrying out missions too dirty for the X-Men to involve themselves with.

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It’s worth noting that while Deadpool has been connected to X-Force from the very beginning (having made his debut in 1991’s New Mutants #98), he wasn’t actually officially inducted into the team until the the debut of Uncanny X-Force in 2010. That’s one area where the X-Force movie will make a drastic departure from the source material, as Deadpool looks to be a founding member and co-leader of the cinematic X-Force alongside his buddy Cable.

Beyond the Comics

Despite X-Force’s long history in the comics, the team hasn’t had a great deal of cross-media attention over the years. That’s probably because the darker, more violent nature of these characters makes them a tougher sell for the X-Men cartoons and video games. For instance, while Cable himself played a starring role in several episodes of the ’90s X-Men animated series (voiced by Lawrence Bayne), the other members of X-Force only received quick, silent cameos during the course of the series. In fact, the first time X-Force was specifically mentioned by name outside of Marvel’s comics came in 2011’s Marvel Anime: X-Men, and even that only involved a fleeting reference to the characters.

Cable as he appeared in the '90s X-Men cartoon.

Cable as he appeared in the ’90s X-Men cartoon

Deadpool himself has enjoyed plenty of attention in Marvel’s video game and animated projects lately. He appears as a boss enemy in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, and is a playable character in games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Heroes, Marvel Puzzle Quest and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. And, of course, he got a game all to himself thanks to 2013’s Deadpool. Deadpool also played a prominent role in the animated film Hulk vs. Wolverine (voiced by Nolan North) and guest-starred in several episodes of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon (voiced by Will Freidele). And that’s to say nothing of his two big-screen adventures in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2016’s Deadpool, where he was played both times, of course, by Ryan Reynolds.

Recently, FXX revealed that Donald and Stephen Glover are developing an adult-oriented Deadpool animated series. We’re hoping that this series will finally give X-Force their due on the small screen and help increase the team’s exposure leading up to their cinematic debut. But at the very least, two key members of the team, Warpath (played by Booboo Stewart) and Sunspot (played by Adan Canto), played small roles in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Whether either actor will reprise their role in the X-Force movie remains to be seen.

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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