While Marvel’s mutants have long provided the world with some of its greatest heroes, they have also been the source of just as much trouble over the years. Unfortunately, it took decades for the likes of the X-Men to be broadly accepted as anything other than a threat, something they still struggle with to this very day. Over the years, great strides have been made when it comes to resolving that public tension, though not all of them were successful. This is especially true of Freedom Force, who paved the way for momentous change while somehow being all but forgotten themselves.
For decades, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was counted among the world’s premier supervillain teams. Under Magneto’s leadership, the Brotherhood battled against human and mutant enemies alike. Over the course of their many missions, they somehow never managed to further Magneto’s ultimate goals in any meaningful way. In fact, many of the Brotherhood’s members developed a deep distaste for their leader, something which made them all the more willing to begin working against him. In their first appearance in 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #199 (by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr.), former Brotherhood mutants Mystique, Destiny, Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche joined the multi-armed spiral as Valerie Cooper’s officially sanctioned Freedom Force.
Freedom Force was Marvel’s Original Thunderbolts
Freedom Force’s first order of business was to take none other than Magneto into custody. While this did lead to Magneto facing trial for his previous crimes in France, it was also the first of many unsettling confrontations that the team would have. Over the next few years, Freedom Force was called in to take on various threats such as the then anti-mutant X-Factor, which eventually put them in direct competition with the Avengers. The divide between Freedom Force and other heroes was only furthered when they were brought in to enforce the Mutant Registration Act to the chagrin of various other heroes and antiheroes.
In spite of the grudges they might have held, Freedom Force proved that, given the resources and supervision, even classic villains could put their powers to good use. Though Freedom Force itself was disbanded in the wake of multiple disastrous missions which saw multiple casualties, the concept continued on under the auspices of Val Cooper in the form of her next government-endorsed squad of mutants. More importantly, Freedom Force broke the mold when it came to what existing as a hero or villain meant not just in the Marvel Universe, but to mutants specifically.
How Freedom Force Changed the Marvel Universe
They may not have nearly as much of a reputation as they deserve, but Freedom Force really did lay the groundwork for a myriad of shifts that are still being felt today. Apart from being the prototypical Thunderbolts long before that team would come to be, Freedom Force gave some of the most devious mutants of all time a taste of what real power could do. That isn’t to say that every member of the team had the same reaction to their time with Freedom Force, but rather that those who it impacted the most have gone on to do great things with what they learned from the experience.
Especially in the cases of Mystique and Destiny, Freedom Force was an invaluable font of insight, not to mention an opportunity to establish themselves as something other than Magneto’s old lackeys. Being legitimized as such didn’t just remove them from the list of usual suspects, it served to remind the rest of the world that their preconceived notions were only ever going to be that. And, while the road from Freedom Force to the mutant nation of Krakoa certainly has more bends in it than one nearly forgotten team could account for, it still set at least some amount of a precedent for that particular path.