Issue(s): X-Force #1
It's also worth noting that, according to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, "Canceling a Top 10-selling comic and relaunching it under a new name went against everything Marve knew about brand strategy". But it obviously worked, at least in the short term.
And as i had been saying in the New Mutants entries leading up to the end of that series, Rob Liefeld was undoubtedly revitalizing this book. The New Mutants, who seemed to regress into immature adolescents in Louise Simonson's run (especially during the Bret Blevins period) have now become a paramilitary organization under the leadership of a badass veteran soldier. The art may be weird, but there is no doubting the intensity of it. At the time, it was something new that made the New Mutants characters (or rather, what's left of them) seem relevant again. I remained sold on this title for a long time thanks to the basic concept, no matter how obvious it was that my friends were right about the quality. In addition to the comparison with the New Mutants, it's also worth looking at these guys compared to the X-Men. That group sat around on their butts in Australia while the subplots piled up around them. This group starts off by proactively going after the Mutant Liberation Front, launching a pre-emptive strike against the villains. The heroes aren't reacting to the villains engaging in some scheme. The villains aren't sitting in their lair, twisting their mustaches and waiting for the heroes to arrive. The heroes just figure out where the villains are, and launch an attack that the villains are not prepared for. The proactive super-hero team is largely a myth, but in that regard this issue does everything right. Who cares if there's a lot of stuff that doesn't make sense, or if there's no way for Cable's tiny feet to support his gigantic body. The basic idea here is new, and awesome.
Reading this today, the first question that comes to mind is who are these goons that are working for the Mutant Liberation Front?
I mean, Stryfe really has some nefarious plan, but the public identity of the group is a radical mutant rights organization. Are the grunts in on Stryfe's real scheme? Are they just very committed humans? Total mercenaries? I don't know. But i do know that Cable is HUGE.
I also shouldn't downplay the appeal that the violence would have had.
I mentioned in the Kings of Pain event that Thunderbird seems to be getting stronger, and that's made explicit here.
Actually, i should be calling him Warpath now. It's not exactly a PC name for a Native American character, but it's not like Thunderbird was all that much better.
Battle of the triangle heads:
As i mentioned, Stryfe and company were unprepared for this attack, so he has Zero teleport himself and a few of the MLF members away and he sets the base up to self-destruct. We see Cable have his scout ship "bodyslide" X-Force out of the base before it explodes.
Even though they didn't manage to capture Stryfe, the team considers their effort a win, and they did manage to hurt the organization.
In addition to the direction and attitude, another way that Rob Liefeld has been revitalizing the series is with new characters, and we get another one this issue: an officer of SHIELD named G.W. Bridge. He's called George Bridge in the comic, but G.W. in a character profile (a "Cable Guide") in the back of the book. His middle name will indeed turn out to be Washington.
Bridge apparently works for a division of SHIELD that doesn't have a dress code. When Bridge determines that Cable lead the attack on the MLF base, he becomes the priority (i.e., not the MLF), and Nick Fury even calls up to say how important it is that Cable be caught.
I love that Fury says that AIM and Hydra are no biggie, but Cable, he's a big deal. Especially since the latter group recently blew up an entire academy of SHIELD recruits in Fury's own book. I wonder if the writer or editor of Nick Fury got a veto on that. Or maybe Nick is just trying to impress the importance of the mission to a subordinate and it's not what he really thinks.
But again, while i have questions about the specifics, the broad idea, that X-Force are literally a group of outlaw heroes on the run, is a good one.
Bridge contacts General Clarke in the Canadian Military, saying that he wants Department K brought in on the hunt for Cable, and that it's "time to call in Weapon X". General Clarke is a character that has been appearing in scripter Fabian Nicieza's Alpha Flight Run, and Department *H* is where Alpha Flight used to be run from. Wolverine was of course the original Weapon X, but we'll meet the new one next issue.
X-Force are currently based at Larry Trask's old Sentinel base, a nice use of an existing location. After the MLF mission, Cannonball and Cable have a conversation, and it turns out that when Cable talked to Rictor about his son dying, Rictor had a 'slight misconception". The boy who died wasn't really his son. It was a boy named Tyler, but he was "like a son to" Cable. Tyler had actually infiltrated Stryfe's ranks and was killed during a terrorist mission that Stryfe sent him on. Cable says the reason he didn't press the assault against Stryfe earlier is because he didn't want to jeopardize X-Force in the the way that Tyler was, and this causes Cannonball to become that much more loyal to him. There's a real kind of cult element to this that i think works pretty well for the series, too, especially when, after Cannonball leaves, it turns out that Cable is really holding out on the rest of the team, both information and power-wise.
In addition to the Weapon X set-up, we also have a subplot showing Gideon and Sunspot preparing to do a hostile business takeover of a company called Jankos, but they are outflanked when the owner brings in Black Tom.
So that's the set-up. Outlaw team of mutant heroes striking against their enemies, pursued by a new SHIELD agent, and operating out of a secret base with some established continuity. Not a bad start. It even seems that Liefeld went the extra mile for these issues artwise. It's still in his own very special style, of course, but the panels have more details, more background, and just generally look better than some of his New Mutants issues, and certainly better than his later X-Force issues. Things will degrade quickly, but there was legitimate potential here.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm taking Black Tom at his word that Gideon and Sunspot may be held hostage for "weeks" and am allowing a break in that subplot.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBlack Tom, Boom Boom, Cable (Adult), Cannonball, Copycat, Feral, Forearm, G.W. Bridge, Gideon, Kamikaze, Nick Fury, Reaper, Shatterstar, Stryfe, Sunspot, Thumbellina, Warpath, Wildside, Zero
"I am proud to say that i only own one copy of this book. I did not buy one copy to keep in its original sealed polybag and another to open and read. I did not buy multiple copies in attempt to collect all of the trading cards that came in the polybags (i wound up with Shatterstar)."
Guilty as charged, your honor. I totally bought the bagged and unbagged copies of all these issues. Of course, I also bought all 5 copies of X-Men #1 and duplicates of anything from that point on that came bagged originally.
Posted by: clyde | October 26, 2015 2:33 PM
I do admit that the Feral pic in the opening splash isn't that bad; the feet are rather in a position that it doesn't look like typical "Liefeld tiny"; though the calf bulge can still be complained at.
As for the trading cards, the five for the log's sake were the team (made sense), Cable (same), Shatterstar (who had...what, the end of New Mutants and Kings of Pain up to this point), the Gideon/Sunspot combo (Gideon was only in 98 and behind the scenes of Kings of Pain; while Sunspot of course was the entire run of the classic New Mutants), and Deadpool (who up to now was only in 98 but will be appearing in X-Force 2; I can say probably it was either hype on Nicieza/Liefeld's part or people actually liked the nut from his one issue at this point; I mean it isn't like he had established himself yet compared to now)
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 26, 2015 2:55 PM
The art does seem a bit more tolerable but please tell me it was a plot point about the matching triangle heads? Also I love that Shatterstar and the spear mook have the exact same type of gloves so I thought Shatterstar cut off his own hand for a moment.
Posted by: david banes | October 26, 2015 5:38 PM
The team of heroes charging unprovoked into random base and taking out generic bad guys will be repeated by Liefeld over and over and over again.
Posted by: Bob | October 26, 2015 6:09 PM
It's easy to cut off a guy's hand when he doesn't have any thumbs.
Posted by: Andrew F | October 26, 2015 6:12 PM
Ahhh the most infamous of all Liefeld swipes is right here. the opening splash was lifted directly from George Perez's opening splash page of New Teen Titans #39.
I never picked up X-Force 1 when it was originally issued but I do have 5 copies of it, thank you ebay sellers liquidating their inventories. I bought one polybagged at a one dollar bin at the local LCS opened it and the story itself wasn't half bad. It's a cool setup, but that's it. The art is all over the place and many of it swiped from earlier GOOD comics.
Posted by: Darren | October 26, 2015 6:17 PM
Everyone from Cable to Deadpool has their own personal teleporters in Liefeld's comics, which seems out of line with the rest of the MU's tech level. If anyone had the ability to beam in like Star Trek, it should have been Reed Richards or Tony Stark, and not some random mutants or assassins.
Editors were basically asleep at the switch for the Image boys.
Posted by: Bob | October 26, 2015 6:24 PM
Posted by: Bob | October 26, 2015 6:49 PM
I've been so wanting to get into that Teen Titans run.
Posted by: david banes | October 26, 2015 8:11 PM
Liefeld had some good creative instincts, but at this point in his career he really needed someone like Jim Shooter to teach him the basic craft so that his artwork becomes professional. He also needed a much stronger writer and editor to channel his ideas and plots into an acceptable format. He needed an apprenticeship of 2-3 years to develop his talent and professionalism.
Many of his new characters are of good concept an design, but too many of his "new" characters are obvious rip offs of existing characters. Feral and Shatterstar just don't work. They are not only derivative in concept, but they both serve the same "Wolverine" type role. It would have been better to retain Wolfsbane instead of creating Feral. There is not an obvious replacement for Shatterstar who seems to exist merely to kill people with his sword. However, at this point there are definitely a lot of killer characters associated with the X-Verse - maybe recruiting Crimson Commando would have been good (although we'd now have two older white haired gentlemen on the team) since he's been shown to be both a former hero, but one that doesn't mind killing the bad guys, and it would make a good dynamic when he has to fight his old teammates in the new Brotherhood.
That Liefeld and others in the DeFalco era were allowed to go off the rails so badly shows how important Shooter was to Marvel's quality during his years. The careers of Todd McFarlane, Liefeld, and a few others would have been vastly improved if they went through the same tutelage Shooter took with young creators. He would have seasoned them much better before putting them on important books (granted both McFarlane and Liefeld had their start in DC before coming over to Marvel and thus were already professionals).
Posted by: Chris | October 26, 2015 10:01 PM
Otoh he became a millionaire by swiping which is a lot moar than you can say for most comic talent who end up broke and destitute moar common than not.
Remember kids cheaters never always prosper!
Posted by: JC | October 26, 2015 10:10 PM
Yes, X-Force is proactive IN THIS ISSUE but only in this issue and the bad guys get away and for the rest of the series they're reacting to villains' attacks. And they do as much to look for Rusty and Skids between this issue and the Cable limited series as the X-Men did to look for the Marauders between Fall of the Mutants and Inferno.
Posted by: Michael | October 26, 2015 10:14 PM
Sometimes the line between making a nod and flat out swiping something can be blurry...but considering that Shatterstar self-stab thing is making me lean towards more swiping.
Posted by: david banes | October 26, 2015 11:58 PM
Thanks for link to the swipes Bob. You guys make me feel guilty for enjoying this series back in the day... :)
Posted by: Grom | October 27, 2015 4:13 AM
No problem Grom. :)
As for the swipes, I agree with Chris. Liefeld had a great talent but it became wasted when his EIC accepted his work as is, every, damn, time! Had there been someone like Shooter, or Thomas, or if Stan the Man was in the seat, we wouldn't get crap like this on the stands. The problem was Marvel itself, as long as the books sold big they didnt care if the talent should have been excised from the books because of their nonsensical plots and abysmal art, they talent was a huge element for Marvel's success and they figured, why fix what aint broke! Of course in just a few years we'll see just how that strategy would bite them hard in the rear.
Posted by: Darren | October 27, 2015 7:41 AM
My biggest problem with the Feral situation is, as I said before, since PAD claimed Wolfsbane for his X-Factor, it would have been tough for Liefeld to fight him for her. It seems he's trying to use someone with a beastial element that isn't just another Wolverine clone with her, but she just feels like a fusion of Wolfsbane and Tigra (though without Tigra's "sex obsession" elements that she was unfortunately burdened with) At least in her case, it was just sort of beyond his control and he tried to at least create a stand-in that would work for his "beast woman". (even if it just compares her to yet more characters)
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 27, 2015 8:58 AM
I enjoyed this series, but I could have done without Shatterstar or Feral.
Posted by: Steven | October 28, 2015 12:03 PM
@Bob: Cable's teleportation ability makes sense if he's from the future. Deadpool may have gotten in from Tolliver, with the same explanation.
Posted by: Berend | October 30, 2015 2:44 PM
I had dropped all the X-titles by this time and so didn't end up reading this until a year and a half later when X-Cutioner's Song drew me back in. By that time (late 92), it was cheap and easy to get a polybagged copy.
* - Is Cable holding onto a rope in the splash panel? If so, how is that tiny little rope holding what must be a few hundred pounds of muscle, machinery and weaponry.
* - Yeah, Liefeld gets a lot of grief for his tiny feet and his massive amounts of teeth, but the thing that always struck me was how damn wide his characters were.
* - Not to give anything away, but one character here is of course not who they seem (as is obvious from the CA list). Makes you wonder, since that was a later decision, how much that character is supposed to know about Cable.
* - When I got back into comics a year later, I was told that it was an open secret by that time that Cable was Nathan Summers. I was specifically told to look at his scene with Domino in this issue and the use of his power as the scene that reveals it. You had to know enough back story, but yeah, it's a big clue.
* - The ending always annoyed me. Black Tom is powerful, but I really thought Sunspot and Gideon were too powerful to just sit there and accept being hostages. I know we'll see them make a move in a couple of issues, but it just felt like a weak ending.
* - For those of you who have never read the TT run that Liefeld swipes from here, you must do so now. One of the greatest writer-artist runs in comics history, especially that storyline (The Judas Contract).
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 21, 2016 11:49 AM
"* - Not to give anything away, but one character here is of course not who they seem (as is obvious from the CA list). Makes you wonder, since that was a later decision, how much that character is supposed to know about Cable."
Since that character became the other character, one
"* - The ending always annoyed me. Black Tom is powerful, but I really thought Sunspot and Gideon were too powerful to just sit there and accept being hostages. I know we'll see them make a move in a couple of issues, but it just felt like a weak ending."
Actually, that's exactly how Gideon would handle it. No need to use violence when he could get a better result by biding his time.
Posted by: clyde | January 21, 2016 12:33 PM
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