The Suicide Squad has steadily become mainstays in the DC Universe, a wildcard capable of changing any story with their involvement. But, Marvel has had their own version of a similar concept over the years, even approaching it multiple times.
In fact, Marvel’s Freedom Force was a group of minor X-Men villains trying to earn pardons by carrying out missions for the United States government — effectively becoming Marvel’s Suicide Squad and making its debut. before the Distinguished Competition reintroduced the Squad to massive success. So why didn’t the Freedom Force work as well as the Suicide Squad?
Uncanny X-Men #199 by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr. reintroduced the Brotherhood, at the time led by Mystique, as a new government-sponsored team. In exchange for working at the behavior of Valerie Cooper; Mystique, Blob, Avalanche, Pyro, Destiny, and Spiral were offered pardons for their crimes by the US Government. In function, the Freedom Force operated similarly to the Suicide Squad and even debuted over a year before suicide squad was reinvented at DC Comics post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Although they lacked the explosives within their skulls, the Freedom Force operated on a threat of incarceration if they committed any crimes while in the field. Alongside other recruits Spider-Woman, Super Saber, Crimson Commando, and Stonewall, the team quickly became controversial in the greater Marvel Universe.
They fought against the X-Men, the Hulk, and were reluctant peers of John Walker during his stint as Captain America. However, they eventually suffered numerous casualties. The Muir Island Saga killed Destiny and Stonewall, Mystique was soon believed dead, and the rest of the team’s final disastrous mission to Iraq saw them go up against the team known as the Desert Sword. The “Sacrificial Lamb” storyline ran across multiple annuals in 1991, with the team quickly picked apart by the Desert Sword – Super Saber was killed, Blob and Pyro were captured and held prisoner for a time, and Avalanche barely escaped with a maimed Crimson Commando . Afterward, Cooper altered her idea for a government-sponsored team and set off the government-backed period for X-Factor, effectively disbanding the Freedom Force for good.
However, it’s worth remembering Freedom Force for how close they were to becoming Marvel’s Suicide Squad. In theory, the team of former villains could have filled a similar role as the Squad in the DC Universe, giving villains a chance at redemption. They were even shown coming up against other heroes and playing parts in events like Fall of the Mutants. Like the Suicide Squad, the team was used to comment on real-life politics in a way many other comics couldn’t, albeit in a manner that feels dated and borderline offensive by modern standards. There’s no apparent reason why the Freedom Force didn’t stick.
But perhaps their close ties to the X-Men are what actually doomed them. Because so much of the team was defined by minor X-villains, it never truly felt like a group for the entire universe. It was always a version of the Brotherhood above all else, whereas the Suicide Squad would always embrace a variety of villains from across the DC Universe to fill their roster. In fact, later Marvel concepts (like the Thunderbolts) would approach the idea more successfully, incorporating characters and elements from across the whole universe instead of getting tied too tightly to a specific grouping of characters. But the Freedom Force remains an interesting footnote in the history of the Marvel Universe, as a version of the Suicide Squad from before the modern iteration of the group.
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