UXM # 331, 333, XMV2 # 50, Cable # 32 - 33, X-Man # 15 - 17, X-Force # 55
This collection of stories attempts to set up Onslaught, tie up some loose ends before diving into this major event, and in typical Lobdell fashion even sets up the next next event (Operation: Zero Tolerance).
X-Men # 50, UXM # 331, and Cable # 32-33 are all laying the groundwork for a new character named Post, who is the right hand man for Onslaught, who at this time we still don't know much about yet. X-Man # 15 - 17 re-brands Holocaust (from the AoA event) as the next high level henchman for Onslaught (which is a better fit than rando Sebastian Shaw in XF 49-50). This also introduces Onslaught's interest in X-Man, but he better get in line behind Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse. Finally, UXM # 333 & X-Force # 55 give us a mini story setting up the event that will follow Onslaught, Operation: Zero Tolerance.
X-Men # 50 & UXM #331: X-Men vs. Post
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Andy Kubert (XM50), Brian Hitch (UXM 331)
X-Men #50 starts in media res with the team (Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Iceman) in the middle of a deadly battle in strange land.
I actually really like this approach because we see that Iceman's chest is caved and it immediately shows us the stakes. Iceman is freaking out a bit because he's ok while he's in his ice form, but he has no idea what would happen if he reverted back to his human form, and everyone clearly assumes he would die.
They are also in some sort of strange land and none of them have any idea how they got there, except to quickly learn that Post is "testing them." A favorite villain past time and excuse to have some battles without death.
Meanwhile, we see that Gateway has shown up at the Mansion with Professor Xavier, Bishop, and Jean. It's suggested that Gateway has taken the team to this land, but we're not sure why (and I don't think that's every directly answered).
The team is able to escape, but not without cost as Iceman is still injured and Post gets away, proving to the team that he is very powerful and providing Scott the opportunity to make a quote, getting us further invested in the menace of Onslaught:
"I honestly can’t help thinking that in Onslaught, we may have met the one threat we can’t possibly hope to stop.”
UXM #331 is a character driven issue (which Lobdell does so well), focusing on the aftermath of this battle. The main story takes place with Iceman, who once again goes to Emma for help since he believes that she alone can teach him how to control his powers. I'll pull on this thread a bit more in the character section below, but Emma does end up helping to push him to control his powers better and fix the caved in chest.
The other main storyline here follows Professor Xavier acting a bit unlike himself. First, he makes some backhanded comments about how he can't trust Bishop or Gambit. I actually like that there is this subtle inclination that he feels he can only trust the original 5 team members (Cyclops, Jean, Beast, Iceman, Warren/AA), but unfortunately this particular plot point doesn't get much attention past this. However, Lobdell further takes us down memory lane by having Archangel call out Professor X for all of the times he used his powers in a shady way during the Silver Age (all of the issues prior to Claremont taking over).
Cable # 32 - 33: Cable vs. Post
Writer - Jeph Loeb
Pencils - Ian Churchill
Cable and Domino are investigating as someone either kills or attacks Blaquesmith. Well, we're led to believe he was killed, but I'm sure he's not dead. While this is happening, someone nefarious is watching Cable, and it ends up being none other than Post. We find that Post and Cable actually have a backstory.
Post (Kevin Tremain) was a mutant captured by the Mandarin and was found dying by Cable and the Six Pack (Cable, Domino, Grizzly, GW Bridge, Kane, Hammer). Cable used his TK to hold him together, but eventually assumed he had died. Even though Cable saved his life, Post blames Cable because he wanted to die (or something) and now they have a rivalry. They fight, Post wins (Cable is holding back), and Post leaves Cable to be finished off by the Hulk (continued in the next blog). This experience leads Cable to figure something important out about Onslaught, but it is not yet shared with us.
While it's admirable that Loeb is working to make this new random villain more interesting, it seems a bit too straightforward, contrived, and shoe-horned in. The most interesting parts of this issue actually come with some character conversations between Domino and Cable, which I'll get into below in the character section.
X-Man # 15 - 17: X-Man & Holocaust
Writer - John Onstrander/ Terry Kavanugh
Pencils - Steve Skroce (15, 17), Val Semeiks (16)
To be clear, I'm still not officially reading X-Man, but I am reading recaps and popping in on these stories when the comic ties directly to larger stories.
Nate and Threnody are still recovering from their previous battle with Exodus. We see that Onslaught asks Holocaust (the most convenient X-Man villain with nothing else to do) to capture Nate. Nate gets into a battle with Holocaust that is pretty unexciting compared to their battle at the end of Age of Apocalypse. It's pretty much a tie until Nate learns that Holocaust captured Threnody and agrees to go with him. They fight again later and Nate is saved by X-Force, who he'll be hanging out with as the Onslaught event kicks off officially.
There's also some weird stuff going on with Madelyn Pryor. She's a character in this series with a lot of mystery. She's still healing miraculously fast, hinting at some sort of weird state she's in. She's hanging out with Selene, who is even more powerful after absorbing the powers of the Externals. And there is there really random scene where Trevor Fitzroy shows up and they kiss. Not much to see here, move on!
UXM # 333, XF # 55: Zero Tolerance Preview
Writer - Scott Lobdell (UXM 333), Jeph Loeb (XF 55)
Pencils - Pascual Ferry (UXM 333), Adam Pollina (XF55)
UXM # 333 opens with Roberty Kelly asking Cyclops for help as there is an explosion and both Cyclops and Robert Kelly are taken by Gradyon Creed.
This leads to a raid on the Pentagon where Storm, Bishop, Iceman, Beast, Wolverine, and Professor X are in a jet while Jean and Gambit are on the ground. The ground team runs into new mysterious character Bastion rallying American military leaders about something called Operation: Zero Tolerance, which is clearly some sort of plan to kill all the mutants. Jean tries to mindscan Bastion and is unable, proving that he's a completely blank slate.
I have a theory here that he might secretly be Nimrod because his outfit changed in this issue and he has purple diamond like Nimrod did (and that would explain why he can't be mind scanned), but we'll just need to see if that's accurate or not. There is also a special point here about how Gambit doesn't understand how Xavier didn't know about all this. Bastion ends up attacking Jean and Gambit and is helped by Onslaught, setting up a more direct connection between Jean and Onsalught while I'll explore in my next blog.
Iceman (Is he gay?)
Iceman actually gets a lot of character development here. We see him get severely injured (ice chest caved in) and he's freaking out about whether he'll live or die. He goes to Emma for help, in a very vulnerable state and she once again talks to him very directly (Harkening back all the way to UXM # 314 when she took over his body).
Emma and Bobby's conversation is ripe for the Iceman Gay watch. Emma is once again pushing the notion that he won't ever be able to control his powers until he accepts who he truly is. It's clear that she knows something important and he knows that she knows. Similar to how he made a comment to Jean recently (while they were shopping) about assuming "she knows" his secret since she's telepath, but she claims not to know what he's talking about since she doesn't read the thoughts of her teammates (lies!)
Anyway, Emma doesn't come right out and say that he's gay, but she does remark about him loving Interior decorating. Further, she gets Iceman to admit that he never really loved Opal and that's why things kept falling apart between them.
There is a lot of debate about whether there is any canon behind Iceman coming out in 2015. Many people think they made this up out of the blue, but these exchanges I keep tracking really seem to make it clear that Lobdell had this in mind. Now, I really don't think Stan Lee, Claremont (Iceman barely in his run), or Simonson (the scribe on X-Factor) had this mind mind, but it's pretty interesting to me that the seeds were planted in the 90's.
Cable and Domino
Cable is another character who gets some great characterization. I mentioned in my Wolverine coverage how random it was for Cable's son (Tyler/Tolliver/Genesis) to die in an issue of Wolverine without his father around. Well that was somewhat remedied here by Loeb. I get the feeling that Loeb was passive aggressive about this not happening under his pen.
While Domino and Cable are fighting, Dom is pushing him to talk about his feelings. He is trying to be stoic and pretend like he's fine, but she knows that he's not. Dom mentions that there was a funeral and that he hasn't stopped to think about it. I even like how Domino says that he must be feeling something because even she is feeling something about how Tyler forced her to kill her friend, Grizzly. (Once again, this makes me happy because I didn't like how unceremoniously Grizzly was killed, but it keeps being brought up a lot which is tempting me to go back in time and edit my old post where I complained about this...but I won't).
Cable's powers are also acting up after his battle with X-Man and we'll see this turn into a major plot point once Onslaught revs up in earnest.
Also, Storm seems to be spending a lot of time with Cable. We see her comforting him and she is about to become a guest star for a bit during Onslaught. Should we be watching for a CableStorm ship!? That sounds fun, but I also love Domino so nahhhhhh.