First Comic Appearance: Giant-Size X-Men #1
X-Force, the rogue, paramilitary mutant team started by Cable, once found itself both without a leader and without a home. Because they were outlaws, they had few options for a new headquarters. They ultimately settled on the Apache Reservation in Camp Verde, Arizona, the childhood home of their teammate Warpath. They were able to live there undetected only because of the unfortunate fact that its Apache inhabitants had recently been slaughtered and their village burned to the ground. Incidentally, that was not the first or the final time that the Apache people of Camp Verde were subject to tragedy.
Despite the tumult that often befell the Camp Verde Apache Reservation, it suited X-Force's needs quite well. They pooled their resources to outfit it with all that a super-team might require. Ultimately, they had to give it up because their meddling inadvertently spawned an artificial lifeform that needed their bunker to survive. Had this not happened, they may have stayed there indefinitely.
Camp Verde, Arizona, is located 90 miles north of Arizona’s capital city, Phoenix. Situated in the Coconino National Forest, it is 60 miles south of Flagstaff and Interstate 40. Camp Verde itself is a small city, but within its city limits are several reservations for Native Americans. One such reservation belongs to the Apache tribe, of which both Warpath and Thunderbird are members. They share the same name, but the Camp Verde Apache reservation is distinct from the Camp Verde town; the former has about 230 residents, whereas the town has almost 10,000. Events that occur on the Camp Verde Apache reservation do not necessarily happen to the residents of the nearby town.
When Eli Bard came to the Americas several hundred years ago in search of the mutant sorceress Selene, he encountered the Apache people in the swath of land in Southwest America that would later be called Camp Verde. Because the Apache people recognized the evil within Bard, he slaughtered them. Their deaths were blamed on imported diseases. [X-Force (3rd series) #11]
Eventually, after Bard’s act of genocide, the Apache people repopulated the region. As the centuries passed, they restored their numbers and their tribe to full health. They retained their patch of land after the Europeans settled in North America. As with many of the Native American tribes in the United States, land was set aside for the Apache people to live on, free from outside interference—at least in theory. These swaths of land were known as “reservations.”
In the 1940‘s and 50‘s, the United States government tested nuclear bombs in the desert near the Apache Reservation in Camp Verde. The fallout from these blasts exposed the Apache people to unusually high levels of radiation. Decades later, an organization called Project: Stepladder, whose shareholders included the supervillain Stryfe, decided to investigate the effects this radiation had on the genetic makeup of the Apache people and their descendants. Project: Stepladder established a laboratory 60 miles north of the town and tested DNA samples from the Apache people, enlisting a scientist named Dr. Edwin Martynec as their front man. Dr. Martynec told the Apache people he was screening them for cancer. He would then misdiagnose them and tell them they had cancer, and have them return to him for treatment. This treatment was merely a guise to continue his genetic testing.
One of Dr. Martynec’s bamboozled subjects was Maria Proudstar, mother to John and James Proudstar, both of whom would later become X-Men. However, when John Proudstar returned home from service in the U.S. military, he and his friend Michael Whitecloud, a newspaper reporter and a fellow Apache, grew suspicious of Dr. Martynec’s motives. They traveled to the Arroyo Laboratory, Martynec’s offsite lab north of Camp Verde, and broke in to investigate. They didn’t realize the young James Proudstar had tagged along as well. Inside the lab, they uncovered evidence of illegal human experimentation and mutation. Unfortunately, Dr. Martynec caught them in the lab. After revealing that he, too, was a superhuman, he revealed the true nature of his illegal research and detonated the gas tanks inside the lab to conceal the evidence. He then disappeared. [X-Force (1st series) #minus 1, X-Force (1st series) #72-73]
Around that same time, a traveling carnival came to Camp Verde. Both the Proudstar brothers attended the carnival, as did a young Tabitha Smith, who was on a cross-country road-trip with her parents. While at the carnival, James Proudstar had an encounter with the mutant precog Destiny, who was operating a fortune-telling booth with her shape-shifting partner, Mystique. [X-Force (1st series) #minus 1]
Several years later, Professor X approached John Proudstar in the desert outside the reservation and asked him to join the X-Men. Proudstar, frustrated by the slow decline of his once-noble people, accepted the offer in order to bring glory back to the Apache. [Giant-Size X-Men #1]
Proudstar adopted the codename Thunderbird. However, he was killed on one of the team’s first missions. The X-Men transported his body back to Camp Verde to return to his family for burial. However, Thunderbird’s younger brother James retrieved his body from his coffin and took it to a sacred site in Camp Verde. He gave John a hero’s burial by burning him on a pyre, as per Apache tradition. [Classic X-Men # 3]
When James grew up, he discovered he, too, was a mutant like his brother. He enlisted in the Hellions, the young mutant team sponsored by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club, and adopted the codename Thunderbird in honor of John. [New Mutants (1st series) #16-17] Eventually, though, Thunderbird II left the Hellions and returned home to live in Camp Verde. Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club repeatedly asked him to come back to the Hellions, but James refused—even after they resorted to threats. [New Mutants ( 1st series) #99]
Meanwhile, Michael Whitecloud, who was still working on his story about the secretive Project: Stepladder, had a breakthrough in his investigation. He already had firsthand knowledge of the organization’s experiments, and now had two inside sources willing to aid in his investigation. One was a former Stepladder radiologist named Lucas Dewitt, while the other was a mutant named Gordon Thorpe, whose powers resulted from Stepladder’s experiments. Whitecloud harbored them both at his house on “the Rez,” as he called the reservation. He left them at the house one afternoon to make a trip into town to copy the top-secret documents Dewitt had provided him. He would come to owe his life to this well-timed trip. [X-Force (1st series) #73]
That same afternoon, Cable— the time-traveling mutant who assumed leadership of the New Mutants — was meeting with James Proudstar in New York City. He had summoned James to Manhattan to ask him to join the New Mutants. James declined Cable’s offer as easily as he had Emma Frost’s. He then boarded a plane back to Arizona and headed to his home in Camp Verde. [New Mutants (1st series) #99]
While both Whitecloud and Proudstar happened to be away, agents from Project: Stepladder arrived at Camp Verde, murdered Dewitt and Thorpe, and then burned the town to the ground to cover the evidence. They planted a Hellfire Club mask at the scene to deflect the investigations of Cable and Professor X. Their act killed 233 people in total. Whitecloud returned home to see the town still burning and the soldiers still present. He fled into the canyon and hid for several days. James returned several hours later, after the fires had subsided. He found the Hellfire Club mask that was carefully planted at the scene. He believed they were the culprits, their motive being retaliation against him for refusing to return to the Hellions. Enraged, Proudstar accepted Cable’s offer and joined the New Mutants, which became X-Force shortly thereafter. The fire, meanwhile, was officially blamed on a jack-knifed chemical truck outside the reservation. [New Mutants (1st series) #99-100, X-Force (1st series) #72-73]
Sometime later, after X-Force’s hideout in the Adirondack Mountains was destroyed, Warpath suggested they relocate to his now-vacant Apache reservation in Camp Verde. They arrived soon thereafter and set up camp. As there was not much infrastructure left, they lived out of mobile homes and ate their meals around a campfire. [X-Force (1st series) #14-15]
One of the team’s allies, Lila Cheney, soon gifted X-Force an alien communications array. The team incorporated it into their compound, giving them a state of the art communications system. After Cable disappeared and was presumed dead, X-Force successfully salvaged some key portions of his orbital headquarters Graymalkin—namely its weapon depot and cargo bay—and delivered them to their developing Camp Verde bunker. [X-Force (1st series) #20-24]
These new additions were incorporated into the Camp Verde bunker, but they were not the last improvements made to the base. Cannonball sketched out plans to connect all of the compound’s disparate bunkers with a series of interlocking tunnels, a project the team executed gradually. However, Cannonball’s plans were interrupted when Cable—believed to be dead—sneaked into the Camp Verde while the team was gone and made several revisions to Cannonball’s building designs. [Cable (1st series) #4, X-Force (1st series) #25]
Upon returning, Cable also retrieved the sentient artificial intelligence system, known as Professor, from the remnants of his orbiting base Graymalkin. He then installed Professor into the Camp Verde computer mainframe. At the back of his mind, though, Cable decided the team was outgrowing the bunker at Camp Verde and decided it was time to scout for a new location. [Cable (1st series) #5, X-Force (1st series) #37]
Later, while X-Force was away on a mission, a member of the Techno-Organic alien race the Phalanx infiltrated their base. It made the mistake of logging onto Professor’s neural net and was overwhelmed by the volume of information Professor contained. Professor inadvertently absorbed the T/O Virus-based entity, at which point it was able to grow its own external body. Professor was able to live outside the hardware as long as he remained connected to the neural net. Now calling itself Prosh, Professor began to experience life for the first time, making fast friends with X-Force.
Before long, however, Cable’s T-O mesh began growing out of control, and the IPAC (the team’s air transport) began sprouting unusual spikes. Cable and Shatterstar deduced that Prosh was inadvertently broadcasting a strange frequency that was scrambling all their electronics and causing the cancerous mechanical growths. Rather than choose between Cable’s life and Prosh’s, X-Force gave Prosh permission to leave and take the life-sustaining hardware embedded in the bunker with him. Fashioning himself into a spaceship, Prosh said adieu to X-Force and took to the skies, with most of the Camp Verde bunker in tow. X-Force then moved to its next home, leaving Camp Verde behind for good. [X-Force (1st series) #39]
Warpath eventually learned that the Hellfire Club had nothing to do with the Camp Verde massacre, and that the true culprits were actually Stryfe and Project: Stepladder. He moved on with his life. [X-Force (1st series) #42, 72-74]
With his old ghosts finally put to rest, several years would pass before James returned to the Apache reservation. That time finally came after his friend Caliban, a mutant with the psionic ability to track other mutants, was killed in action. Warpath gave him the same hero’s burial at Camp Verde that he had given his brother. [X-Force (3rd series) #1]
Shortly after Warpath this funeral, Eli Bard, the ancient vampire who had razed the Apache people centuries earlier, returned to resurrect the dead Apache tribe using a sample of the T/O Virus he acquired. He was fortunate enough to resurrect Caliban as well, who, like the others, became his obedient T/O slave. However, he was also unfortunate enough to alert the tribe’s protective totems, which attacked him in full force. Luck was on Bard’s side once more, though, as happened to possess a weapon that allowed him to combat them: the spirit blade made from the bones of the sorceress Selene’s mother. He managed to repel the spirits, but one of them ran off with the witch blade still stuck in its neck. Bard escaped with his other spoils—the resurrected Apache people, Thunderbird, and Caliban— but neglected to retrieve the blade. [X-Force (3rd series) #21-23]
The disturbed Apache totems remained at the burial site, now infected by the dark magic of Selene’s witch blade. It was in this state that Warpath encountered them when he returned to Camp Verde to decompress after a stressful mission with Wolverine’s X-Force. As he approached Camp Verde, he was confronted by an angry Demon Bear totem. Warpath battled the angry totem with the help of his ally, Ghost Rider, and found the cause of its anguish: the spirit blade plunged into its neck. After removing the offending blade, he learned from the anguished totems that Eli Bard had disturbed the resting site of the Apache people by resurrecting the dead. With the protective spirits pacified, he vowed vengeance on Bard. [X-Force (3rd series) #7-11]
Warpath got his vengeance on Bard when he and X-Force raided Selene’s kingdom of the undead, Necrosha. Although Bard was ultimately destroyed by Selene, Warpath and X-Force got to take down Selene herself, thus ceasing the influence of her dark magic and the Techno-Organic Virus. With the source of their unholy resurrection destroyed, Thunderbird, Caliban and the Apache people rejoined the ranks of the dead, finally at peace. [X-Necrosha #1, X-Force (3rd series) #21-25]
FEATURES OF THE RESERVATION
While mostly high desert, the landscape of the Camp Verde Apache reservation also contains some shrubs and wooded areas. After all, it is located within the Coconino National Forest, and “verde” is Spanish for “green.” Still, most of the reservation is desert, with some sparse flora dotting the surface, such as cacti and sagebrush. [Cable (1st series) #14, X-Force (1st series) #25]
Adjacent to the reservation itself is a large canyon, through which a shortcut leads to the actual town of Camp Verde. Both the Proudstar family and Michael Whitecloud lived somewhat near an opening in this canyon. James Proudstar often explored the canyon as a young boy, while Whitecloud used it to take shortcuts into town, which was a short trip by car. [X-Force (1st series) #minus 1, X-Force (1st series) #72]
After the fires razed the reservation, all that remained of the homes that once stood there were their foundations and portions of their walls. Stone, concrete and adobe walls dotted the ruined landscape.
The burial site of Warpath’s Apache people is located a mile southeast of the bunker. It is far enough away from the bunker that both it and the bodies of the dead Apache were left untouched when Prosh departed with the base. The burial site is surrounded by dreamcatchers and other protective spiritual objects, some of which hang from the sparsely foliated branches. When Warpath cremated Caliban’s body, he placed the pyre in the center of a large outline made of rocks in the shape of a thunder bird. [X-Force (1st series) #39, Classic X-Men #3, X-Force (3rd series) #1]
After the Apache reservation was burned to the ground, it was understandably in disarray. Nothing but rocks, abandoned vehicles and burned-out buildings adorned the surface. When X-Force arrived to claim it as their home, Shatterstar compared the reservation to his dystopian homeworld of Mojoworld. Siryn said it reminded her of Belfast on a dreary day, while Feral felt that its odor reminded her of South Bronx. [X-Force (1st series) #15]
X-Force worked hard to make their reservation headquarters livable. Instead of residing solely on the surface, they built downward, fashioning a series of interconnected, underground, military-style bunkers. This modest underground complex had several entrances, including access hatches on the surface and doorways in the sides of the canyon. They outfitted this bunker with advance technology co-opted both from the future and from alien races.
Five main bunkers comprised the overall compound: Tara, LYD, the Garage, the Weapon Depot and Fifty-Seven. Tara was the name for the living quarters, where the members of X-Force slept. The words “WELCOME TO TARA” were spray-painted in yellow on its entry corridor. Despite having beds underground, however, the team did most of its actual living on the surface, where the various members flirted, played sports and listened to music in the alluring Arizona sun. [X-Force (1st series) #25]
The Garage housed the cargo bay they retrieved from Graymalkin. Located just over fifty meters away from Tara, the Garage was where they stored their transportation devices, like their IPAC. The Weapon Depot contained same depot the team jettisoned from Graymalkin. As the name implied, they stored their high-tech weaponry—much of it Cable’s—in this bunker. The Weapon Depot was located fifty-five meters southwest of the Garage. [X-Force (1st series) #22]
LYD was located 200 meters northeast of the Garage. LYD served as the bunker’s medical center. Named after the iconic Nuprin commercial, LYD was an acronym for “Little, Yellow, Different.” These words were spray-painted in yellow on the door in the med-lab. It was in this room that the team nursed Cable back to health after Magneto stripped the metal from his body.
Fifty-Seven, the team’s communication bunker, was outfitted with a comm array that Lila Cheney procured from a black-market dealer in Alpha Centauri. Fifty-Seven housed a large screen for transmitting videos that the team used to transmit television channels. In a true slacker fashion, they used this TV not only to catch breaking news stories, but also to kick back and watch their favorite shows. They adorned the room with a large couch in its center, from which the user could watch the screen and change channels with a remote control. [X-Force (1st series) #29]
The entire bunker was powered by a nuclear fusion power core, which included a built-in drainage system for surplus energy. [X-Force (1st series) #39] Cable also connected Camp Verde’s comm-link to the Professor’s database, which Cannonball earlier jettisoned to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. This gave X-Force access to Cable’s entire intelligence database, and installed the sentient Professor in the system. [Cable (1st series) #5]
Unfortunately, all of X-Force’s work in upgrading their headquarters was rendered nearly useless when Prosh had to leave. Because the sentient A.I. was integrated into the bunker’s hardware, it had to take most of it with him when he left Earth. In his wake, he left a large, empty crater where the bunker used to be, providing scant evidence that a high-tech military bunker system once resided there. The Apache reservation in Camp Verde persists in this state to the present. As mentioned, though, the burial ground remained untouched—at least by Prosh. [X-Force (1st series) #39]