The Things I Do For Comics – X-Force #1
Ah, the early 90s… when comics were king! To this day, the records for sales are held by the Marvel’s X-Books in this era. And, while the sales were through the roof, the writing and art were rapidly plunging toward all-time lows in quality! Nowhere was this dichotomy more apparent than in the pages of X-Force #1.
This is a bad comic. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t own it. In fact, there was a time when I owned five copies of the book, one poly-bagged copy for each of the distinct trading cards contained within. There was even a time when I thought it was cool… but that was a long, long time ago. This is my penance.
I’ve decided to revisit this book with adult’s eyes. Now, I have flipped through this thing countless times in the last 22 years, but I haven’t actually read it since it was first released. So while I was prepared for the art, I was caught off guard by the writing. The book is scripted by Fabian Nicieza and plotted by artist Rob Liefeld. Rob had previously handled the art chores on the final issues of New Mutants, which led directly into this new series. A flashy young artist being allowed to plot a book is almost always a bad, bad omen for the quality of said book. Guys like Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and Rob Liefeld all watched creators like Frank Miller and John Byrne successfully transition from artists to writers, so why couldn’t they do it themselves? They were every bit as popular as these artists, but they were woefully undisciplined and they were spoiled rotten. They didn’t have to earn the right to write these stories, all they had to do was demand it. And demand, they did.
And to make matters worse, Liefeld’s contributions were just thinly-veiled theft from New Teen Titans stories that he liked. How thin a veil do you ask? It was more or less that plastic wrap around a new CD. It didn’t so much obscure as it protected, he changed enough so that he wouldn’t be guilty of actual copyright infringement, and then sent it to the publisher.
Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (a topic for another day) is a well-known “pastiche” of Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson. I’m not totally sure what the word “pastiche” means, but I think it means “legally distinct clone”. And you think that’s bad? Get a load of this…
The top spread is from Teen Titans #39, and was drawn by actual artist George Perez.
The bottom spread, featured on the second and third pages of X-Force #1, is by Rob Liefeld.
So, let’s get into the story, shall we? No? Well, I don’t blame you for backing down now, this is the moment of truth and everything from here on out is not for the faint of heart. But fortune favors the bold, so let’s see if we can’t make it all the way through X-Force #1.
The issue opens with the team camped out in the Antarctic wilderness preparing for a mission. They spout out more than enough empty technobabble so we’ll know that they’re not some rinky-dink operation, this gang means business. They establish that they’re ready to go and then they charge into the headquarters of the Mutant Liberation Front. Truly they are…
As the team charges down an enormous hangar/hallway in the scene displayed earlier in this article, we’re introduced to the individual members of X-Force. First off, we have Cannonball and Boom Boom, two of the established members of the New Mutants. Cannonball was one of the founding members of Xavier’s youth outreach program and as is evident from the spread, he can turn the lower half of his body into what is more or less the tail of a comet, firing himself around in a manner befitting his namesake. Boom Boom could generate localized explosions and was so focused on that ability that she put very little thought into a codename. Warpath was the younger brother of the deceased X-Man Thunderbird and what he lacked in hatred of the white man he made up for with his enormous size. That was a Liefeld innovation, by the way… when Warpath initially appeared he was an average sized human being, it wasn’t until Rob came on the scene that he became 11 feet tall. Then we have Cable, who at this time was still a very mysterious character. He was a soldier from the future with cybernetic body parts, enormous guns, a receding hairline, and a gruff demeanor. Domino had some kind of probability manipulation powers and seemed to be screwing the boss. Feral was a cat-lady who crouched a lot and usually had a tail. Shatterstar was a dude with swords, because Rob Liefeld likes to draw swords. Perhaps I should say Rob Liefeld aspires to one day draw swords. Also? Shatterstar was kind of the Jimmy Page of the gang, because he came to battle with an assortment of swords, including the motherfucker depicted below, the Gibson EDS-1275 of swords…
It is supposed to be a double sword, right? I remember it looking a lot more intentional when I was a kid, when I look at it now I wonder if was accidental.
So, moving on, the team continues to work its way through the grunts of the MLF in hopes of tackling the inner circle as they make their way into the (presumably underground) base. Mere seconds after they verbally express an interest in fighting these superterrorists, four of them charge into the concourse. Thankfully, Shatterstar shouts all of their names from left to right as they arrive on the scene.
Shatterstar, who is quick to remind us that he is a battle-hardened warrior who isn’t afraid to kill, singles out Reaper and engages him in one on one combat. To show his enemy that he is a an honorable warrior, he slices off what appears to be either Reaper’s left hand of a white paper bag containing a tarantula.
We then move to Cable fighting Forearm with the help of Warpath. See, Cable lets himself get squeezed almost to death while he waits for Warpath to save him because he is a brilliant tactician. All the while, our heroes are being watched from a command center deep within this compound by Stryfe. Stryfe is an exact clone of Cable, and that’s more or less all we know about him aside from the fact that he wears a suit of spiky armor and a magical cape that changes size and shape!
Wildside is a hilarious wisecracker with claws as sharp as his rapier wit! His mutant power appears to have manifested itself in the form of dozens of superfluous teeth.
With the self destruct sequence initiated, the MLF both wisely decide to beat feet, despite the fact that Kamikaze never even had a chance to do a single thing in that giant fight scene. Cable and company give chase, but they realize they’re out of luck when Zero, the MLF’s resident teleporter arrives to escort the terrorist supervillains away from the doomed base. As they evacuate, Cable catches a glimpse of Stryfe and goes total Han Solo, immediately opening fire on the villain.
Stryfe escapes unharmed, making a cryptic remark which suggests that Cable has used multiple pseudonyms throughout their various dealings with one another. Cable ain’t even bothered though, and he initiates a “bodyslide”, the good guy version of teleporting, to whisk his team away to the safety of their unnervingly bulbous spaceship for a lecture.
Interlude! For a page or two here we move over to Sunspot and Gideon, who are like the Gordon Gecko and Bud Fox of the Marvel universe, except like fifty times more extreme!! Sunspot was another founding member of the New Mutants, and aside from being a mutant with the power to harness and redirect solar radiation as strength, has just inherited his recently deceased father’s multi-million dollar empire. Gideon serves as his mentor in the business world, and is a mutant himself possessing the ability to copy the powers of other nearby mutants or some bullshit. Gideon also killed Sunspot’s dad. It’s worth mentioning that Gideon has a haircut that is highly unusual, even by X-Force standards.
Back to Antarctica we go! S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are busy combing through the mess left behind by X-Force and the MLF and G.W. Bridge, the man in charge of this investigation, discovers a piece of metal with no distinguishing marks… Cable’s trademark! Whenever one discovers a hunk of smooth metal with no discernible features, Cable and his band of teenage soldiers cannot be far behind.
For reasons that should already be obvious at this point, I’ve never really read past the first issue of this comic. However, I hope they eventually address the S.H.I.E.L.D. standard issue crotch singularity pants. Notice how the matter surrounding the groins of Commander Bridge and his pal here seem to be drawn toward their genitals? Do S.H.I.E.L.D. agents all possess such enormous balls that they act like localized black holes?
Anywho, back at X-Force HQ in upstate New York we’re dealt a few bombshells about Cable. Cannonball has a bit of a heart to heart with the old man about his mysterious nature and Cable opens up by telling a tale (or at least a bunch of sentences) from his past. We learn that Cable once had a protegé who went over to the dark side and joined the MLF, eventually dying on a mission planned by Stryfe. Cable has not yet gotten over this loss.
The other revelation about Cable is that, aside from being a badass future cyborg child army recruiter, Cable himself has a very unimpressive mutant power. He can lift small objectives with his VERY MIND. He hides this from the kids, but Domino is aware of this ability and is pretty damned pissed when she finds out he’s been using it to simplify his grunt work.
Meanwhile, at the World Trade Center, Sunspot and Gideon are heading into their 3 o’clock meeting. Now, if I’m understanding the following panel properly, Gideon is making a pass at Brigitte Nielsen and here, and Sunspot seems to be sick and tired of this whole “grab a lady’s forearm and baffle her with a run-on sentence” routine. I wonder if that ever actually works. If you’ve tried it, please leave a comment detailing your results. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.
However, Sunspot and Gideon’s planned takeover of this opposing company is foiled when the whole board room is taken hostage by none other than Black Tom Cassidy, sometime foe to the X-Men, frequent partner to the Juggernaut, and perhaps most notably 9 foot tall Irishman.
We’re really close to being done, okay? I’m so proud of you for being patient, if you’re good on the way home we can stop and get ice cream, all right?
Finally, the issue wraps up with G.W. Bridge, the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. commander, checking in with his boss Nick Fury.
Upon hearing about Cable’s involvement with the destruction of a known terrorist base, Fury orders Bridge to take down Cable and X-Force.
Surely, he must have something in those patches that could take down a bunch of pimple-faced teenagers, right? Hell no! Desperate times call for desperate measures, so…
Don’t get your hopes up, though. It’s not Wolverine. It’s some jerkoff called Kane whose hand turned into a propeller or something.
Some day, years from now, I want you to remember this article. I did this for you…
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