Stryfe is a classic X-Men villain and constant antagonist for the Summers family, however, now he’s been revealed to be something else entirely.
Warning!: Spoilers ahead for Cable#10!
Time travel has been an integral part of the X-Men lore for decades, and few characters are more representative of this fact than Cyclops’ son from the future Cable. And while Cable has always been a dedicated hero who tries to protect the future, the same cannot be said of his evil doppelgänger Stryfe, who to this day remains one of the X-Men’s most persistent foes. But although Stryfe was created to be evil, recent retcons have portrayed his entire character – and purpose in life – in an entirely different light.
Both Stryfe and Cable made their debut in comic books in 1990’s New Mutants #87 by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, although Stryfe wouldn’t be revealed as a clone of Cable until later issues. Recently, however, in Cable# 10, Cable has returned to the Mutant Island of Krakoa in order to try and locate his older self so that he can stop Stryfe’s latest plan to kidnap mutant children. During his visit to Krakoa, he quickly encounters Emma Frost, who reveals to Cable that Stryfe is not the villain Cable thought he was but, may have actually been created to help him instead.
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Stryfe’s origins as a clone of Cable stands among the more complicated time-travel plots in X-Men canon. Originally created by the mutant warlord Apocalypse, Stryfe is one of the strongest mutants alive and has personally menaced Cable for years. However, Stryfe’s status as a villain for the Summers family takes on a new and interesting light when one looks at the recent changes made to Apocalypse’s backstory in X-Men #13. Rather than a villain, the modern version of Apocalypse instead believes himself to be the hero of the mutant race. Apocalypse’s dogma of “survival of the fittest” is now driven by a desire to simply make mutants strong enough to survive in a hostile world. Emma Frost spells it out directly in Cable #10, telling Cable that Apocalypse is motivated by a desire to make mutants better and that Stryfe is “but a whetstone upon which you and your family will be sharpened.”
This new explanation of Stryfe’s purpose is a retcon, yes, but it’s still logical when taking into account Apocalypse’s worldview. The mutant tyrant was given somewhat of a redemption arc during the recent crossover X of Swords, but that hasn’t changed his own brutal outlook on power and hierarchy. As one of the oldest mutants alive, Apocalypse believes that conflict is necessary to push mutants to become stronger. The Summers family has already produced some of the strongest mutants in comics and so it would make sense for Apocalypse to take a special interest in them. And creating a mutant supervillain in the form of Stryfe to antagonize Cable has certainly motivated him to become a more powerful fighter.
Stryfe being a tool for the Summers family to become stronger doesn’t just retcon Cable and Stryfe’s backstories but it also shines new light on Cable’s relationship with Apocalypse. Previously, it was believed that Apocalypse only wanted to kill Cable and wipe out the Summers bloodline, but Apocalypse’s new role as a mutant protector and hero contradicts this assumption. Stryfe remains one the X-Men’s greatest foes, but, in turn, he has transformed Cable into one of their greatest heroes.
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