Friday, August 22, 2008

Traitor to the Cause (Marvel)
Onslaught: X-Men #1 When: August 1996
Why: Scott Lobdell & Mark Waid
How: Adam Kubert & Dan Green

The Story So Far...
When the Juggernaut falls from the heavens to crash land in Hoboken, it begins the mystery of a new villain who will attack the X-Men at their most personal core. The entity called Onslaught contacts Grey in an effort to recruit her into his mission to destroy the divide between humans and mutants, but before she can submit, the Juggernaut reveals to her the true identity of the armored monster.

Having overcome the mutant forebarer Post; the X-Men find themselves summoned to Charles Xavier's headquarters when the search for an attacking Juggernaut is called off. Little do they realise the Juggernaut is trapped within the crimson gem of Cytorrak sitting on a desk right under their nose, and the true enemy that endangers all of them is right before them -- Professor X!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Adam KubertARTWORK: Frank QuitelyStrength: Onslaught 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dark Beast 6 (Genius)
Speed: Cannonball 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Onslaught 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Ice Man 7 (Malleable)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Onslaught 6 (Mass Destruction)

- When Magneto, inspired by a near death experience, declared war on humanity, it prompted the initiation of the Magneto Protocols. From his orbital station, Avalon, the master of magnetism plunges the Earth into darkness with an EMP that destroys the protocol's electro-magnetic fence around the Earth, along with all electronic technology on the planet. In an effort to prevent further escalation, Professor Charles Xavier leads the X-Men on a suicide mission to Avalon.

In the final confrontation, Magneto mercilessly rips the adamantium from Wolverine's skeleton [X-Men #25] - forcing Professor X to resort to drastic measures. In a spontaneous assault, the Professor uses his telepathic powers to rip the malice and malcontent from Magneto's mind, reducing him to a catatonic state in the process.

Unbenknownst to the Professor, the guilt felt over his attack on his former friend festers in his subconscious, merging with Magneto's ill will to form a gestalt entity borne of his negativity. Onslaught - a creature of mass psionic ability - possesses much of the Professor's telepathic strengths, without any of the inhibition. Clad in powerful psionic armor modelled after Magneto's uniform; Onslaught is also highly resistant to physical attack.

- The X-Men are: Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, Bishop, Wolverine, Gambit, Ice Man, Cannonball, and Dark Beast.

The emergence of the mutant X-gene brings with it mixed blessings as humanity finds itself confronted by the next stage in human evolution. As individuals begin to manifest inherent superhuman abilities, two men; Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; find themselves at a philosophical crossroads where education would be concerned. In contrast to his counterpart, Xavier uses his family fortune to found the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, using his knowledge and powers to train and educate mutant pubescents struggling with their abilities.

Xavier's original class consisted of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake, Hank McCoy, and Warren Worthington III, but would soon expand exponentially proportionate to team's activities as a covert paramilitary force protecting humanity from those who would misuse their power. Among the prominent new recruits; Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Gambit, Emma Frost, and for a short time, even Magneto.

Math: X-Men (Ttl) Onslaught (Avg) Ranking: Wolverine (#6)

What Went Down...
Scouring the grounds of the X-Mansion, the team is gathered to Xavier's study by telepathic call from their mentor. Most of the X-Men are unaware that they are about to walk into a trap that will test everything they believe, but Jean Grey, having encountered a traumatized Juggernaut, knows the horrible truth.

Maintaining a telepathic shield around her mind, Jean Grey probes at the recesses of Professor Charles Xavier's mind, searching desperately for hope, as the jaded mentor delivers his epiphany to the gathered inner circle of X-Men.
While the Professor informs his students that he has lost the faith, Jean Grey notices an artifact easily mistaken for a paperweight on Xavier's desk, but in actual fact, the crimson gem of Cytorrak -- powersource of the Juggernaut!

Before she can even hope to free the trapped soul inside, a psychadelic array of psionic energies fills the space all around a startled Jean Grey. She emplores the Professor to overcome the darkness that has engulfed his heart, but is quickly muzzled by the brute force of Xavier's mental attack.

The X-Men gather to aid their suddenly convulsing teammate, blissfully unaware of the telepathic exchange going on, at least until Cannonball calls their attentions to the chair where the Professor once sat, but now crouches the hulking red and purple mass that is -- Onslaught!

The looming visage of this mighty psionic warrior reveals to the startled X-Men it's origins as a manifestation of Xavier. He compells them to follow him in his unabated march on humanity, to follow as they had once the dream of peaceful coexistence envisioned by the Professor.

When the mutants prove unconvinced by his claims, with the merest of thoughts he attacks their hidden fears, reducing Wolverine to a confused animal, Ice Man to an uncontrollable mass, and Storm a frightened child buried by rubble.

Acting on instinct, Cyclops catches Onslaught offguard with a high powered optic blast! He speaks for the entire team when he warns that Xavier would know all too well that, inspite of their reluctance, they would stand united against him.

Enraged by their opposition, Onslaught unleashes his psionic powers, blasting the gathered X-Men with a wave of raw telekinetic energy, whilst very nearly divulging the hidden portion of his gestalt psyche -- the mind of Magneto!

With the team toppled; Onslaught uses his powers to force the X-Men into a frozen state, while he levitates and phases free of the mansion, intent on recruiting a powerful young mutant to fund his machinations: Franklin Richards!

While Onslaught disappears to Four Freedoms plaza to tempt the son of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman in the guise of a child -- Gambit uses his ability to generate bio-kinetic energy to charge the mansion floor, freeing the team of their mental hold with the resulting explosion! The team regroups to swap notes and prepare to face the biggest challenge in their history...

ARTWORK: Adam KubertThe Hammer...
Awww! Admittedly, in what was probably fodder for a quick fix, I give you your crossover prompting winner, Onslaught! Why stretch it out to a fully fledged entry, you ask? Well, aside from the sheer quantity of information attached to the battle, I suppose after declaring X-Men 2: Clone Wars the greatest comic book game of all time, I just wanted to jump on the X-horse while I was in the mood!

The mood to talk X-Men is a pretty rare occurance around the Infinite Wars, and in an ironic twist, you can probably trace that prejudice back to Onslaught.
In a decade where the crux of the X-Men story was the fortune of their survival - baggage accumulated through annual crossover events culminated with the Onslaught saga. So convoluted was the story that it managed to pressure cook not only the X-books, but also the entire Marvel Universe, giving way to Heroes Reborn, a reboot that segregated the core heroes in a parallel universe that left them under the creative direction of former Image founders; Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.

I have to confess a fondness for some of the early/mid nineties crossovers!
In their unabashed popcorn, stories like; Maximum Carnage, Fatal Attractions, and even Heroes Reborn, fullfil the joyous mixed bag of action introduced by eighties crossover events, with the sense of lasting consequence that has become a stalwart of their modern counterparts (ie; Civil War).

I'm not sure I necessarily regard Onslaught as particularly awful.
It's dominance of the Marvel Universe was certainly frustrating at the time, and it's penchant for taking itself far too seriously retroactively feels sophmoric, given the clunky quality of writing, but -- informed readers will probably have been able to digest portions fitting to their own interests -- a method that makes the story much easier to appreciate for it's positives.

As a historical checkpoint Onslaught deserves credit for it's big crunch solve for a handful of unfortunate lingering plotlines. Teenaged Tony Stark is one of the key errors of judgment that was able to be phased out as a direct result of Onslaught and the subsequent Heroes Reborn reboot. Acting as a soft comparison to DC's linewide Crisis wipe, the aftermath of Onslaught also gave way to a return of traditional design sense that had also been betrayed by the illconceived, gimmick-driven shifts of the nineties.

These Marvel improvements didn't come without a cost, and one might be inclined to say the years of devolution that followed for the X-Universe was probably the price paid for a better Marvel.

Mired in a recurring string of reboots that continues today, the X-Men seem to be unable to escape the albatross of nostalgia beats from periods of previous success. A bright spark of improvement during an experimental post-movie period saw visionary writer, Grant Morrison, lead the reinvention of X-Men for the modern era.

Unfortunately, as with the short sighted design of Onslaught and other nineties X-overs; governing wisdom seems to believe hope for the franchise lies in constant redux and structural shake-ups.

The evolution of mutant society established under Morrison was completely deconstructed with works immediately preceeding, peaking with Decimation, a story which reduced the mutant population to an estimated one hundred and ninety-eight.

Erratic betrayals of consistency like this that have quite probably left the X-Men years away from retribution. No matter how unpopular, I cannot entertain the notion that Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men submitted anything more than repetitive backtracking and excessively familiar cues, (from the seventies, up to the nineties), that have contributed to the stagnancy of the brand.

The Infinite Wars continues to watch on with jaded bemusement as Marvel rolls out a series of silhouetted promotional art for yet another 2009 push for the brand. Cheap tricks and gimmicks feel like another misstep in the opposite direction, but then, on the surface, Morrison and Quitely's leather jacketted trendy X-Men probably appeared the same. We shall see...

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 3.5

Missed out on Onslaught the first time around? Found yourself wondering what the deal with that big guy in Marvel vs Capcom was? You can find the "epic" editions of Onslaught wrapped up in two volumes on Amazon! Better yet, by using online purchase links provided on the site, you not only get the convenience of online shopping, but also help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Looking for more X-Men and other reads? The Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe contains a range of collections containing issues previous reviewed in the Secret Archives, and other recommended reads! Booyah!

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