"You...You're not X-Men...X-Men don't kill..."
The original X-Force made no sense. You couldn't really have a militant version of the X-Men with all the guns and pockets and pointy bits Rob Leifeld routinely draws go out and do anything that really resembled what a military unit would do. Even in the dark age of comics the Comics Code Authority still loomed, so everything was as close to lethal as non-lethal could be. At the end of the day, all the heroes were still immaculately coifed and the villains had escaped to scheme another day. This left adolescent boys constantly bewildered by the fact that the weapons were always painstakingly drawn instruments of murder yet no one ever died...or stayed dead.
Fast forward to 2007, and the real world and the world of comics were both different entities. The people at Marvel understood that there were adults who still read, or might read again, and with the CCA a thing of the past something a little more daring could be done. The writing team of Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, along with artist Clayton Crain got the opportunity to play around with the X-Men franchise and settle some old scores.
In the wake of House of M (where the mutant population was taken from millions to a few hundred, effectively making them an endangered species) and Joss Whedon’s run of Astonishing X-Men (in which the X-Men literally turn their backs on Professor X for being a hypocrite all these years), Cyclops reformed X-Force as a black ops wet work team for the purpose of eliminating threats to mutant kind. And when I say eliminate, I mean murderize!
The team primarily confronted long-standing threats like; militant anti-mutant groups, the Legacy Virus, time-traveling sentinels, time-traveling baby killers, enraged Native American bear spirits, a villains attempt to achieve godhood, and generally a lot of personal demons that had been following the characters around. Several times this involved their enemies’ complete surprise when they witnessed X-Men actively slaughtering people.
Despite the action movie savagery, the series takes strides to not glorify the violence. In fact it is very well written. In between the action moving the plot forward, much of the series is devoted to character work along the old Nietzsche theme of “battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster”. Ultimately, it’s a "why we fight" story involving doing the wrong thing for the greater good and the nobility of self-sacrifice. Craig and Yost do an excellent job of giving each character their own voice, and, while it is difficult to call moments of gore beautiful, each of Crain’s panels is stunning to look at. Fortunately there are moments of humor, though they usually come from the gallows and the dry humor of character who don't know that what they are saying is funny.
- Wolverine: Morally offended by the notion, but understanding of the team’s necessity, Logan was recruited to be the leader by Cyclops. He found himself in the unenviable position of having to determine when to unleash this mob of killers and when to hold them back. In an interesting turn for the character, and due to his experience, he often had to play the voice of reason for the group; making sure the team got the job done while not turning out like him.
- X-23: The teenage partial-clone of Wolverine still trying to learn how to be a human being after having spent her youth as a manufactured weapon. Coupled with the identity issues of being a clone, she feel alienated from her peers who actually know what it is like to have a life of ones own. Wolverine was angry when he found out she was on the team, but seeing as how she had volunteered he figured it would be a good idea to keep an eye on her.
- Warpath: Still mourning the death of his brother and his entire tribe, James Proudstar was full of anger and eager to find someone to take it out on.
- Archangel: Yeah, remember how Warren Worthington had been cured of what Apocalypse had done to him? Apparently that still lingered inside him. Now that his Archangel persona has reemerged, he's had a hard time not attacking anyone whom Apocalypse would find inferior...which is just about everyone.
- Wolfsbane: Constantly abused by her Reverend adoptive father, she was taught that her lycanthropic shapeshifting meant that she was evil.
- Elixir: A mutant with the ability to heal any injury or illness in others trying to come to terms with the fact that he had recently used his powers kill the man who murdered his girlfriend.
- Domino: Domino is bored. Domino wants to have sex with Wolverine, but she's willing to shoot people in the meantime. That's about it.
- Vanisher: Vanisher is a villain who has teleportation powers. In one of the more morbidly funny bits of the series, Wolverine had Elixir give Vanisher an inoperable brain tumor so they could get information from him. Then they began to use him for transportation, holding the Elixir's healing ability over his head.
The series ran through 2010, till a little after the Necrosha storyline. After that the series got a new roster and was relaunched as Uncanny X-Force.