One of the most complicated (and underutilized) villains in X-Men history, Stryfe was born in the pages of New Mutants, created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld. Stryfe’s early days were largely a mystery, but it was eventually revealed that he was in fact the clone of Nathan Summers, better known as Cable, the son of Cyclops and Madelyn Pryor. How he came to be was not revealed until years after his creation, but it is shown that when Cable was baby, a woman named Askani came to Cylcops and Jean Grey (Cable’s foster mother, don’t ask, long story), telling them that in the future, Cable is infected with a techno-organic virus by Apocalypse. Offering to help them, she takes Cable into the future, where she clones him in the event that she can’t save Nathan. Though she manages to cure Cable, Apocalypse attacks her base, and steals the infant clone. He raises the child as his own, seeking to use him for a new body since his current one is decaying. He is stopped by Jean, Cyclops, and a teenage Nathan just as the transfer was about to be performed, and Apocalypse (seemingly) dies. His second in command, Ch’vayre, raises Nathan’s clone thereafter.
The clone’s childhood environment not being exactly pleasant, and thus Stryfe becomes a bitter, vengeful lunatic (you know, like most supervillains). Wanting to make everyone that wronged him suffer, he seeks out his biological (technically) parents Cyclops and Jean Grey, as well as his adoptive father Apocalypse, to destroy them and bring everything they love down around them. Once in control of his timeline, he travels back 2000 years and forms a terrorist organization known as the Mutant Liberation Front, and has a number of running battles with the former New Mutants and Cable, now known collectively as X-Force.
This all comes to ahead during the storyline X-Cutioner’s Song, during which he shoots Professor X in the head while posing as Cable, nearly killing his target. This leads to a massive hunt for Cable by the X-Men and X-Factor, leading to several conflicts with X-Force, who only seek to protect their leader. Wolverine and Bishop eventually track Cable down, but once they realize he was being framed, go on the hunt for the real killer. This was all carefully planned by Stryfe, who uses the chaos to capture Jean and Cyclops, intent on destroying them. An all out battle goes down on the Moon with Jean and Scott, the X-Men, and Apocaylpse’s Dark Riders, at the end of which Stryfe is defeated, his body destroyed before the heroes can discover who he really is.
Sometime later, Stryfe would return through unknown means and subjugate Latvaria. Both Cable and his AOA counter-part X-Man try to stop him, but he overwhelms them, even going so far as to siphon off X-Man’s power. Madelyn Pryor arrives, and though she at first appears to be on the side of Stryfe, she turns on him, stealing his psychic energy and giving back to X-Man, allowing the three to defeat Stryfe and send him packing.
Over the following years, Stryfe would again and again attempt to destroy the X-Men, failing every time. He fell into a deep depression, and even with the opportunity to use La Bette Noir (an entity possessing Bishop at the time) to destroy the universe, he regrets his path. Sacrificing himself to free Bishop of the entity, Stryfe dies nobly, though Gambit is suspicious that Cable forced this action to finally be rid of his clone. This seems to a point of contention among readers, as there was never any clear indication as to what really happened, leaving Stryfe`s fate up in the air for years.
Years later, Stryfe would return during the Messiah War storyline, where he would be discovered by X-Force as they chased after Bishop, who had resolved to kill Hope Summers to save his own timeline. Stryfe has no memory of sacrificing himself, and writer Christopher Yost confirmed that this was the same Stryfe X-Man, Cable, and Madelyn Pryor had faced in Latvaria, and that anything that happened after was someone or something else. This Stryfe, needing to destroy Hope’s father Cable, joins forces with Bishop, but they are defeated by X-Force, Deadpool and Apocalypse. Apocalypse afterwards drags Stryfe away, intent on using him as a host like he had originally stolen him for.
Stryfe somehow manages to escape and travels back in time during the Vendetta storylinem, and kidnaps Bishop and Hope (the latter trying to kill the other). Stryfe tries to force Hope to kill Bishop, but X-Force and Cable intervenes and despite having the opportunity, Hope is unable to end Bishop for good. Bishop, now repentant of his past deeds, helps Hope defeat Stryfe, killing both himself and Cable’s clone in a noble sacrifice. Since then, Stryfe has not been seen or heard of, and it seems as if for the moment that he is truly dead.
Stryfe is a villain born of the X-Men and is a dark reflection of one of mutant-kind’s greatest heroes. The differences between Cable and Stryfe are almost a perfect case-study of nature vs nurture, the question of Stryfe’s nature coming to mind in every encounter. Was Stryfe truly evil? Or was he a product of his environment? Either way he has been a dangerous and deadly foe to the X-Teams for a long time, and I doubt anyone has inflicted as much pain on X-Force as he has. Will he return? Maybe. He has beaten death before, but sometimes things are better left to rest, especially a maniac like Stryfe.