The 6 Characters on My Random X-Force Team
Why is Marvel putting out two separate but incredibly similar X-Force comics these days? Alright, stupid question. The answer is to make more money, obviously. That’s why there are so many different X-Men titles. But from a creative standpoint, what the heck is Marvel thinking? I have read both Cable and X-Force and Uncanny X-Force, as well as various creator interviews, and it looks to me like the two books might as well be mirror images of one another. Both are about a random assortment of X-characters randomly banding together to fight a random threat. What happened to the days of yore, when the name ‘X-Force’ actually stood for something? When the title was used to tell new, off-kilter stories that were different from the normal X-Men?
Cable and X-Force is about Cable, Domino, Forge, Hope, Colossus and Dr. Nemesis battling the techno-organic virus. Uncanny X-Force is about Storm, Psylocke, Puck, Spiral and Fantomex battling a new designer drug, and possibly Bishop. If you don’t read comics regularly, then it’s possible that those two sentences don’t make a lick of sense. But even if you do read comics, it’s like the Marvel writers just threw darts at a wall of character names to decide who was going to appear in their version of X-Force.
And that sounds like an awesome game! So being the creative guy that I am, I’ve decided to play it as well. If Marvel suddenly decides to give me the reigns to create my own random X-Force team – let’s call it ‘X-Treme X-Force’ – then these are the 6 characters I would use.
But first, allow me to explain the idea behind X-Force to any of my non-comics readers.
I think it’s safe to say that everybody knows who the X-Men are. Well in the 90s, Marvel Comics decided that the X-Men were popular enough for a whole franchise of titles, so they created several new X-books, one of which was called X-Force. This series took the young heroes from the New Mutants comic and turned them into a paramilitary team, led by the mysterious Cable. They were the ‘extreme’ comic in the X-Men line, which was a popular position in the 90s. Remember the 90s? Anyway, for most of the decade, X-Force was about this specific group of characters in a more action and attack-focused title.
Then in the 2000s, Marvel decided to shake things up in a big way. They pushed the paramilitary team into the background and used the name X-Force to launch a new comic about a team of reality TV superheroes. This new X-Force still went on clandestine missions, but primarily they were a commentary on celebrity culture and superheroes. The series was ahead of its time.
The most recent X-Force relaunch turned them into Wolverine’s black-ops team. They wore black and gray costumes and went on kill missions that the normal X-Men wouldn’t do.
But that series eventually came to an end, and now we have the two different teams I mentioned earlier.
The point is that, throughout its history, X-Force has always had a certain point to it, a status quo that had a reason to exist beyond just selling comics. And the characters always had a reason for being on the team. All of that seems to be lost with the new comics. Now they’re just random X-Men teams co-opting the name ‘X-Force’ for seemingly nothing more than brand recognition. Part of me thinks that’s a stupid idea. But another part of me wishes I could write for Marvel comics and put together my own random team of characters! That sounds like so much fun! And I’ve already been doing it with my action figures and trading cards since I was a little kid.
When it comes to my X-Treme X-Force team, I like the idea of the team being on the fringes of both the X-Men and superheroes in general. If they were legitimate heroes, why not just call themselves the X-Men? So my X-Force would be a team on the edge, doing the sorts of ugly jobs that the goody two-shoes superheroes won’t touch. And when it comes to members, I’m thinking characters in need of redemption. This is their chance to pick themselves up out of the superhero gutter and make something of themselves. Being on X-Force should be a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
And for membership, I’d start with…
Who is he: Mortimer Toynbee is the Toad, a mutant born with the characteristics of a certain amphibian. Toad has strong legs for hopping, a slimy green complexion and a long, prehensile tongue. He spent most of his life as a psychotic villain and a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But when the mutant race came under attack, Toad took the X-Men up on their offer of protection, though the heroes quickly came to regret letting Toad hang around. Most recently, Toad joined the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning as the janitor.
Why pick him: I have always felt that Toad has a lot of wasted potential in the X-Men books, at least in recent years. After the success of the first X-Men movie, Toad was given a makeover so that he’d be a lot more presentable. Toad originally started out as a wormy, ugly joke character, like a carnival troll dressed in filthy pajamas. But after the movie, he looked more like an actual person, with some cool new powers and a better fashion sense. Some might argue that this makeover robbed Toad of his unique character, but I don’t think the old, ugly Toad was accomplishing anything. The new improved Toad could actually be taken seriously. But Marvel never did anything with him. I think Toad would be perfect as a wild card member of any X-Men squad. Here is a guy who started out evil, but overtime he has come around to the X-Men way of thinking. He’s not a boy scout by any means, but he wants to help, and maybe wants to make something of himself. Toad could be the Rodney Dangerfield of X-Men. He gets no respect!
Who is she: Known only as Sarah, Marrow is a mutant whose bones are growing out of control and poking out through her skin. Marrow can break off the bones and use them as weapons or armor, even though the whole process is incredibly painful. Marrow grew up living in the sewers as one of the Morlocks, a life that hardened her and filled her with anger towards the beautiful people of the world. She started out as a villain, but briefly joined the X-Men when they opened their home to the wayward girl. But that didn’t last too long, and Marrow spent awhile being abused by the Weapon X program before losing her mutant powers.
Why pick her: I listed Marrow a few weeks ago as one of my favorite X-Women, so of course I’d happily pluck her out of obscurity and put her on my team. Marrow is a nice Wolverine-type character. At heart, she’s an innocent victim and a good person. It’s not her fault she was born so hideous. But her mutation has turned her into a cold, seemingly uncaring badass. She’s a warrior whose own body is a weapon, and who keeps her feelings and inner pain to herself. She’d be perfect as the team’s hand-to-hand femme fatale, and over time, once she got used to the team, she’d start to soften and show her true colors. Plus I imagine Marrow is either a bitch to draw or a lot of fun. She could always have freaky new bone growths sticking out of her skin.
Who is he: Cain Marko is a human who long ago bonded with the Crimson Gem of Cytorrak, turning him into the monstrous Juggernaut! He’s as big as a house, with the strength to bring down skyscrapers. And when the Juggernaut starts moving, everybody knows to get out of the way because nothing stops the Juggernaut! Marko has bounced back and forth the hero to villain. He started out as a perenniel X-Men bad guy until a change of heart actually had him joining the team for a few years. He later switched back to a mix of villain and anti-hero, depending on the writer. Most recently, Juggernaut was chosen as a lieutenant for the villainous Serpent, but when that didn’t work out, he was banished and lost his powers.
Why pick him: Every team needs a strong guy. Juggernaut would be this big, imposing presence, a character who could take up whole pages with his size and badassery. He didn’t work out as a member of the X-Men because Juggernaut is too rough and tumble of a character. He’s not a superhero or a good guy, but he’s not a bad guy either. He’s a bully who was given ultimate unstoppable bully powers. And stories of bullies maturing and trying to make up for all the pain they’ve caused is always good character development. Here’s a guy who’s tired of being a super-villain, but doesn’t really know any other way to be. So maybe he could just start bullying the bad guys from now on.
Who is she: If you don’t know Dazzler, then clearly you never played the classic X-Men arcade game from the 90s. Though even if you played the game, I doubt anybody ever actually picked Dazzler. Alison Blaire is a mutant with the ability to transform sound waves into colorful lights and energy. She used this flashy power to become a disco singer in the early 80s, but after disco died, she usually just sings whatever styles are popular at the time. Dazzler has spent most of her career as a background character in the X-Men, rarely rising to main character status, at least not in the past 20 years or so. Most recently, Dazzler was randomly selected to lead a team of interdimensional reality-hopping mutants. But since the name ‘Exiles’ isn’t very marketable, this team is called the ‘X-treme X-Men’. But the book is being cancelled this Spring, so Dazzler will have a free dance card.
Why pick her: Dazzler is my odd woman out. Most of the other characters on this list are edgier, moodier characters who have been villains at one point or another. Dazzler would be the straight-up good gal who throws her lot in with X-Force for reasons that would play out in the narrative. In my opinion, Dazzler is an underrated character, especially in this day and age. Most people would know her from the old X-Men video game, which I think would hold a lot of nostalgia value for readers of my generation. I would use that nostalgia to turn Dazzler into a leading lady. I imagine that’s the same reason she was chosen to be a part of the X-Treme X-Men comic. But low sales killed that quickly. So Dazzler is still in desperate need of the spotlight. And in today’s society, with such an emphasis on beautiful celebrities and young singers, Dazzler is just waiting for her big break. She could be the Beyonce or the Taylor Swift of the Marvel Universe.
Who is he: Calvin Rankin is a human with the ability to copy the super-powers of other people. If you have super strength then he has super strength. If you have super speed then he has super speed. And there’s no limit to the number of powers that Mimic can copy at any given time. So he could have both super strength and super speed at the same time and use them to throw some kind of crazy mach punch! Mimic started out as a villain in the 1960 battling the original X-Men, only to join them for a short time. His arrogance got him kicked off the team, and Mimic spent the next 40+ years barely making a peep, and usually hanging out with bad guys again. Most recently, Mimic cleaned up his act and joined the government-sponsored Dark X-Men before later wising up and joining the real X-Men.
Why pick him: Longtime readers of my blog will know that I love the Mimic. He’s one of my all-time favorite comic book characters. So he’s a no-brainer pick for any superteam I create. But even with my huge Mimic bias, I still think he’s a character with a lot of potential for growth and drama. On a personal level, Mimic has always struggled with arrogance and feelings of worthlessness, to the point that he was diagnosed as bi-polar. Here’s a guy who wants to do good and be a hero, but who is constantly making bad decisions and hanging out with the wrong people. Mimic really needs to get his act together. On a powers level, Mimic just has a very cool super-power. Along with being able to copy everybody else’s powers, Mimic has also retained the powers of the original X-Men. So he’s got a cool visual, a cool power set and a lot of character drama. Why aren’t more writers using him?
Who is he: Lucas Bishop is a time-traveler who hails from a dystopian future where mutants were held in concentration camps. He has the power to absorb energy into his body and redirect it into energy blasts. After the camps were liberated, Bishop become a super-powered police officer before eventually traveling back to the 20th century and joining the X-Men for several years. Most recently, Bishop snapped and dedicated his life to killing the young mutant Hope, whom he blamed for the dystopian future. The X-Men didn’t take kindly to the change in attitude, but Bishop didn’t really care, deciding that his mission was of the most importance. He chased Hope and her father throughout time and space, until they eventually defeated him and left him to die in the far, far future. Somehow, Bishop has returned to the present day and is going to be the chief villain in the new Uncanny X-Force series.
Why pick him: If anybody is in need of redemption, it’s Bishop. The guy was an X-Man for years, serving proudly and nobly. Then somebody decided to turn him into a bad guy instead and boom, Bishop loses everything, including his heroism. Almost overnight, Bishop goes from superhero to unrepentant mass murderer. But time heals all wounds, especially for a time-traveler. So I would pick Bishop as the leader of this little team. Disgraced, disgruntled and proven wrong about Hope, Bishop would never be accepted by the hero community anymore. He’d have to make his own way and play by his own rules. He would be a man with no friends and nothing to lose, fighting for a redemption that only he really believe in. Plus he can fire lasers from his hands! Sounds like a pretty badass leading man to me.
So who would you pick if you got to put together your own X-Force team? Who would make a good leader? Comedy relief? Strong man? We all play this game from time to time, so tell me who you’d pick in the comments!