INFINITY WAR’s over for now, but that doesn’t mean superhero season’s quite done yet! Coming up in about a week is DEADPOOL 2. The highly anticipated sequel promises to shake things up by introducing X-Force, the grim and gritty mutant superhero team known for putting a darker spin on the already angsty world of the X-Men. So, based on what we’ve seen so far, how do these new cinematic heroes compare to their comic book origins?

Well, X-Force members Cable, Domino, Shatterstar, and even Deadpool himself first appeared during Rob Liefeld’s tenure on NEW MUTANTS, which would become the basis for X-FORCE itself. Let’s take a look at what these characters were originally like in the comics.

X-Force
Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

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The Dark Age of Comics

Back in the mid-to-late 80s, comics like WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS garnered critical acclaim. A lot of people thought this was because they portrayed superheroes as a bunch of overly-violent self-centered neurotics. Granted, there was more to them than that, but the damage was done.

Angry and dark became the hot new trend for superhero comics in the 90’s. Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. Hal Jordan went crazy and massacred most of the Green Lantern Corps. Carnage came along and made Venom seem heroic by comparison, and so on. Which brings us to Rob Liefeld. Liefeld’s distorted artwork and perpetually sneering heroes matched up well with the grimdark ethos 90’s comics were going for.

This made Liefeld one of the most influential artists during that period.

X-Force
Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, and Image Comics, respectively.

Of course, one of the best representations of comics’ “awkward angry teen” phase would have to be Liefeld’s first major title, X-FORCE. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the original 90’s versions of the heroes we’ll be seeing in DEADPOOL 2.

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Meet Cable

Now, at this point, you’re probably wondering what X-Force actually is besides being a more threatening version of the X-Men. Well, to understand that, you first have to learn about the man who started it all.

X-FORCE
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Cable first appeared in NEW MUTANTS issue #87 and quickly took over as the team’s leader. At the time, editor Bob Harras, writer Louise Simonson, and Liefeld intended for Cable to be a newer, fresher alternative to Professor X. While Xavier stayed behind in his wheelchair and used his cowardly mind powers, Cable was a man of action, a mentor-figure who fought on the front lines with his vaguely indefinite arsenal of poorly drawn firearms.

In the comic itself though, Cable becoming the leader of the New Mutants felt less than inspiring. Aside from a few nonsensical tidbits here and there, Cable’s convoluted origin story isn’t explained at all in NEW MUTANTS and Liefeld’s X-FORCE run, and his powerset in those comics seems limited to just having a robot arm and whole lot of guns. So, it’s pretty unclear as to why he’s involved with the X-Men, to begin with.

Which is made all the more suspicious by the New Mutants becoming suddenly devoted to him.

X-Force
Sunspot devotes himself to Cable. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

X-Force Origins

Then, in NEW MUTANTS #97, writer Louise Simonson leaves, and Liefeld gets full control over the plot. Cable goes from being inexplicably paternalistic to being the rude-dude-with-attitude he was always meant to be.   

X-Force
Sunspot finds out that Cable couldn’t care less. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

From there, X-Force’s story truly begins. As established earlier in NEW MUTANTS, Cable, for reasons that remain unrevealed during Liefeld’s run, is at war with the Mutant Liberation Front, a radical mutant terrorist organization lead by Cable’s archnemesis Stryfe. Stryfe, by the way, is a ridiculous armored figure who spends his time hiding in various hi-tech lairs without really doing much.

X-Force
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

So, to assist him in this war, Cable recruits a motley crew of whatever mutants happen to be nearby at the time. He drives away all of the remaining New Mutants except Boom-Boom and Cannonball, then Feral, Proudstar (later known as Warpath), Domino, and Shatterstar all conveniently drop in, and Cable gets his team. This all happens during the last three issues of NEW MUTANTS. By the time X-FORCE starts, the fully formed squad hits the ground running.  

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Soldiers Without a Cause

Throughout Liefeld’s X-Force run, most of the characters are constantly going on about how brutal and bloodthirsty they are. A prime example of this is Cable himself, a moral absolutist who prides himself on putting down supervillains for good, yet also brags about buying weapons from supervillain terrorist organizations in private.

X-Force
Left panel: Cable killing Black Tom Cassidy. Right: Cable smiling about buying guns from AIM. Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Cable even went so far as to declare Professor Xavier’s dream of peaceful co-existence dead when he formed the team. Which is weird, because of the mutant supervillain groups that X-Force mainly goes up against. The Mutant Liberation Front seems less like a radical terror group, and more like a lame bootleg version of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

X-Force
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

And when X-Force does go up against actual well known X-men enemies like Blob or Juggernaut, those supervillains are too popular to kill off or permanently disfigure, so the fights in general end up feeling more like your typical goofy superhero fare instead of the anti-hero violence X-Force promises.

X-Force
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

All in all, the stakes, as well as the fight scenes themselves, never seem dire enough to justify X-Force’s self-proclaimed love of brutality. Although I suppose that’s to be expected when you have self-serious superheroes drawn in Rob Liefeld’s art style.   

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Coming Soon to the Silver Screen

But, who cares about whether or not X-FORCE works as a coherent story? The real reason we’re here is to learn about the superheroes making their first cinematic appearances in DEADPOOL 2. What can their comic debuts in NEW MUTANTS and X-FORCE teach us about their upcoming silver screen debut?

Well, honestly, not much. Remember when I talked about how vague Cable’s backstory and motivations were during Liefeld’s run? Let’s just say that when it comes to underdeveloped characterization, Liefeld didn’t stop there.

Deadpool

X-Force
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Ironically enough, there isn’t that much to say here about the merc with a mouth. Liefeld does deserve credit for coming up with the Spider-Man-meets-Deathstroke design, but he didn’t do much else. In the few issues he does show up in, Deadpool comes off as a one-note villain.

He first appears as an assassin that comes out of nowhere and tries to kill Cable, and for the rest of Liefeld’s run, he’s a sparingly used henchman for hire. Sure, Deadpool still spouts off wisecracks here, but there isn’t any of the zaniness or fourth-wall breaking that you’d expect from the character. He doesn’t even have a super-regenerative healing factor yet.    

Still, for what it’s worth, out of all the Liefeld-created villains that show up in the series, Deadpool is a lot more interesting compared to usual Mutant Liberation Front goons. And even in his initial form as a generic bad guy, having him around more probably would’ve made these issues easier to get through.

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Shatterstar

Now, unlike Cable and Deadpool, Shatterstar’s backstory is clear from the get-go. He’s a former gladiator of sorts from Mojoworld, an alien dimension where slaves are forced to participate in ultra-violent tv shows by an evil television producer/tyrant named Mojo. Of course, Shatterstar being a Mojoworld escapee doesn’t really factor into the plot at all after his introduction. It’s really just an excuse to have a character who has swords and likes violence.   

Personality wise, there isn’t really anything beyond the whole swords-and-violence thing. Though it is pretty funny that the rest of the characters keep referring to him as a pretty boy due to Liefeld’s art.

X-Force
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Domino

In NEW MUTANTS #97, Domino‘s introduction is pretty vague. She’s a mercenary who apparently dated/worked with Cable beforehand. Which doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the character given how vaguely Cable’s past is presented in the series. The probability powers don’t get brought up at all either. Also, personality-wise, she’s got the same sour-faced militaristic personality as everyone else.

But near the end of Liefeld’s run, something interesting pops up. It turns out the Domino we see in NEW MUTANTS and X-FORCE wasn’t actually Domino. In fact, she actually turns out to be a character who showed up in the first DEADPOOL movie.

X-Force
Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, respectively.

In DEADPOOL, Vanessa was introduced as Wade’s non-powered girlfriend. But, in the comics, she’s a shape-shifting mutant named Copycat. A mysterious villain named Mr. Tolliver hired her to spy on Cable. However, Liefeld left Marvel right as this plot twist was revealed. So, if you’re only reading up until that point, you don’t get to learn much about who Vanessa or even the real Domino is.

But, to be fair, if Liefeld’s run didn’t run you down, the later issues of X-FORCE do go into greater detail about these characters. Vanessa AKA Copycat is a former prostitute and girlfriend of Deadpool’s, who turned to mercenary work after Deadpool’s cancer diagnosis caused him to leave her. Neena Thurman AKA Domino was the result of a mutant supersoldier breeding program that shut down, and after her mother left her at a church, she became a mercenary. The point is, X-Force has a lot of former/current mercenaries.

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Other X-Force Folks

Though they won’t be appearing in the upcoming film, I should mention the other X-Force members that were there during Liefeld’s time on X-Force. As mentioned earlier, Cannonball and Boom-Boom were the carryovers from the New Mutants’ teen superhero days. Boom Boom threw explosive energy blasts, and Cannonball’s legs turned into thermonuclear energy.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, nothing that drastic happened to the team while Liefeld was in charge of the plots, so they never became gritty anti-heroes like everyone else. Which is good for them, I guess.

X-Force
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Proudstar was a Native American who joined X-Force to get revenge against the people who destroyed his family’s reservation. As far as I could tell, his power was that he was the muscliest guy on the team. Feral was an animalistic outcast who used to be part of a group of sewer-dwelling mutants called Morlocks. She had to leave because they didn’t like her very much. The best way I can describe her was that she was probably one of the weirder Wolverine knockoffs out there.

X-Force
Images courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

But enough about those losers. What about the DEADPOOL 2 X-Force members who weren’t in the original Rob Liefeld comics?

The Not-Liefeld League

X-Force
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Well, for starters, Bedlam, the guy played by Terry Crews, debuted in X-FORCE issue #82. In the comics, he’s an orphan with the ability to disrupt mechanical and electrical systems. He became a field agent for a covert mutant safety organization called MUSE. He then joined X-Force to track down his evil telepathic brother.

Zeitgeist spits acid, and fittingly enough, he’s portrayed by the same actor as Pennywise in IT. It’s actually pretty surprising that Zeitgeist got into the film. He’s a pretty minor character who died in the early issues of X-Force’s “X-Statix” run. Said run started with X-FORCE #116 (which was also Zeitgeist’s debut), and it’s noticeable for portraying the team as a dark parody of MTV style reality shows. If you want to know how that works, you should read it, because it’s pretty great.

Last but not least is Peter. Based on the trailer and his made-up twitter account, Peter seems like an average joe. However, if the twitter name “Peter W.” is any indication, he might be secret agent Pete Wisdom. Wisdom’s a mutant British Secret Service agent who had the power to shoot energy blades out of his fingers and joined up with X-Force for a couple issues. Peter’s actor Rob Delaney is an American, but he does currently live in London right now, so who knows?

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Liefeld and DEADPOOL 2

To make a long story short, bad 90s comics are bad, but Rob Liefeld practically created about half of the main cast members you’ll be seeing in DEADPOOL 2, and he deserves credit for that. Based on DEADPOOL and the trailer for DEADPOOL 2 though, I think it’s pretty clear at that the tonal issues with Liefeld’s work on NEW MUTANTS and X-FORCE aren’t going to be an issue for the upcoming film. Still, it is pretty funny that Cable started out as a 13-year-old’s idea of what an action movie hero should be like.

X-Force
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Also, you might’ve noticed that I didn’t account for Shiori Kutsuna and Julian Dennison’s characters. Their roles in the film remain a mystery. Julian Dennison played one of the leads in HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, which THOR RAGNAROK director Taika Waititi made. But I don’t think that has anything to do with DEADPOOL 2. And if it does, that would be a really convoluted casting reference. I have no idea who Shiori Kutsuna is, but I hope she does well.

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Anyways, it would be pretty bad if it turned out in DEADPOOL 2 that Domino is actually Vanessa in disguise. But at least you can tell your pals that that’s what happened in the comics. That’s the sort of thing you can brag about knowing when you read terrible comics from the 90’s. Especially when they happen to be somewhat related to upcoming blockbusters.

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