UXM # 334, X-Men V2 # 53 - 54, Onslaught: X-Men
X-Men V2 # 53: Onslaught of Christmas Past
Writer - Mark Waid
Pencils - Andy Kubert
I jokingly called this issue "Onslaught of Christmas Past" because Onslaught shows up, pretty much for the first time in full view, and shows Jean her past. He tries to lure her to her side by reminding her of how she lusted for power with the Phoenix Force, but that doesn't work. Then he gets very interested in revisiting her path from the perspective of Charles Xavier, and this happens...
Damn, I almost forgot that Stan Lee had one issue where Professor Xavier unveiled that he secretly loves Jean. I'm going to talk about this more in the "My Connections" section, but holy shit I can't believe they went here. It's pretty nuts to bring this up, but it's highly effective for Onslaught to instantly make Jean think that she doesn't really know who he is.
UXM# 334: Professor X is a Jerk!
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Joe Madureira
This is a very tense issue immediately following Jean's experience with Onslaught. First, she comes home and immediately talks to Scott about what happened with Onslaught. It is pretty clear that she is making a conscious choice not to talk to Professor Xavier about it.
We also have a moment with Bishop where he comments about realizing that his Age of Apocalypse memories were real. While it's unfortunate that something that terrible really happened, he's relieved and happy that he's not going crazy.
This is a pretty chilling scene. Cannonball apologizes to Xavier about failing in Wolverine # 100 (when Cable's son, Tyler dies). He's probably expecting Xavier to give him a rousing speech, but instead he tells him to leave, rips a new one, and essentially calls him a whiny bitch.
There's a really cool scene here were Juggernaut is walking at the bottom of the lake outside of the X Mansion. He's invulnerable, so I guess that means he doesn't need to breath either. There is actually a pretty big plot point of him playing cat and mouse with Bishop and Gambit, but eventually he emerges from beneath them in a boat and quickly disposes of them (only knocking them out, of course).
There's another cool moment where Dark Beast is being asked all sorts of random questions and he's basically thinking "Damn, how smart was the real Beast!?"
Professor Xavier continues being a gigantic douche, this time making Cyclops feel small. Oh, and this was actually just a hologram so he tricked him as well.
X-Men V2 # 54: Traitor Revealed!
Writer - Mark Waid
Pencils - Andy Kubert
We learn that Juggernaut's true intention was to find Jean and use her telepathic skills to help him remember the truth about Onslaught. Jean is also very suspicious about this, and brings him down to a Psy shielded room below the mansion where she can go deep into his head.
While Jean is running around with Juggernaut, the rest of the team is coming together and commiserating over how weird Professor X has been.
Meanwhile, the real Beast escapes!
Jean discovers that Onslaught is really Professor X! Charles/Onslaught rips the Cyttorak Gem from Juggernaut and we enter the era of Onslaught.
Writer - Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid
Pencils - Adam Kubert and Dan Green
Onslaught: X-Men, much like X-Men Alpha is an issue that officially kicks off the Onslaught event.
We being with Onslaught/Xavier (who I will just call Onslaught from now on) talking to the X-Men about all of their favors. It appears as though Xavier had been slipping back and forth between his typical and repressed self (Onslaught), but from this point forward he's almost exclusively in the Onslaugh persona. He begins telling the X-Men about all of their failures.
Jean had an inkling this was going on and Juggernaut's mind confirmed it, but she wasn't able to warn the rest of the team in time. Prior to leaving the psy shielded room, she left a recording for the other X Teams (X-Force, X-Factor, Excalibur, Generation X).
Mind blown! This was actually the same recording that Bishop had seen in his timeline, and now we have a conclusion to the ongoing "Bishop traitor" storyline with it being officially revealed as Professor X himself. I'm going to talk much more about this in the My Connections section.
Now that the gig is up, we see what else Onslaught has been up to. Apparently he's been paying Franklin Richards visits as an imaginary friend named Charlie, trying to slowly influence him.
We also see that Nate Grey (X-Man) has made his way to the Avengers since he consider them "real heroes not under the influence of Xavier."
Onslaught reveals that his become aware of the Age of Apocalypse timeline and plans to implement the same plan here.
The Dark Beast is outed and he pledges himself to Onslught, joining Post and Holocaust as his loyal minions.
Bishop puts the whole traitor thing together and ends up sacrificing himself for the X-Men, however we'll soon learn that he's fine.
The Traitor Storyline
First, I was actually blown away by this because I thought I had accidentally spoiled the traitor storyline for myself a few months ago. I accidentally read about Gambit being involved with the Mauraders during the Mutant Massacre. Which has somehow still not come out yet. For months (which is like 50 issues of reading) I thought I knew where that storyline was going. So when this happened and it turned out that that this Onsalught reveal is actually the ending to the traitor storyline, I felt very confused, but also happy that I was surprised (because I was bummed that I thought I spoiled it for myself).
Also, as much as I had a big emotional reaction here, I also feel a bit numb by it because I KNOW Lobdell didn't plan this from the beginning. It seems like it all comes together here, but we know Lobdell didn't plan things out in advance, so it's hard for me to truly love this when I know that it's not really storytelling genius, but more like a lucky result.
Also, there was a point during this arc where Bishop sacrificed himself for the rest of the team, but then he ended up being ok. You know what, I kind of wish he would have died here. It would have been a nice beginning and end point for this characters. I've also heard that he pretty much faded to irrelevance after the early 90's, so this could have been a way for him to go out with a boom.
How was Onslaught made?
While I was reading, I was taking notes on how Onslaught was created. While we'll get even more info later on, at this point we learned two huge points. First, some of Magneto's essence was absorbed into Xavier when he shut down Magneto's mind during Fatal Attractions.
The second thing I learned was that Nate Grey taught Xavier how to rip things from the Astral Plane into the core reality.
So from what I understand, Onslaught is Magneto's tortured soul combined with Xavier's repressed emotions and pulled into the real world from the Astral Plane using the method learned by Nate Grey.
Apocalypse and Uatu
There are some pretty cool scenes between Apocalypse and Uatu, the Watcher. The Watcher showing up is a pretty effective gimmick to raise the stakes of any story. I also think it's a pretty smart move to make so many connections between the last big event (AoA) and this one. I perk up whenever Apocalypse shows up (thank you, animated series) so I'm just totally down with this.
Lobdell on Onslaught from Comic Creators on X-Men:
“It was not the most well received storyline in the world and there are a lot of reasons for that. I can blame myself in that I was at odds with another writer over some of Xavier’s buried thoughts that became the basis for Onslaught.”
As I've mentioned before, I like to do some internet sleuthing after I finish comics and see what other popular X-Men bloggers and podcasters have to say. It seems like this event gets a pretty bad wrap, so I give Lobdell credit for coming right out and owning it. Lobdell went on to say...
“The crossover that eventually saw print seemed more like a work in progress than a finished story and that’s not what you want to give your audience.”
I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself because I did actually finish the event last night...but I get this. He's totally right. It seemed like it was serving too many masters and just trying to be big and eventful without actually being big or eventful.
Mark Waid and his Deep Cuts
I need to give new X-Men scribe Mark Waid credit for his deep cuts. One semi deep cut was his dabbling with the voice recording from Jean about the traitor, which was set up by Whilce Portacio in the early 90's.
He has Jean go (with Juggs) down into the psy-shielded room that Xavier using during the Thomas/Adams era when he faked his own death. As if that was far enough back, he went all the way back to the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby era to pull out the most disturbing example of Professor Xavier's repressed feelings.
Scott Lobdell had the following to say about Charles Xavier pining for Jean in Comics Creators on X-Men:
“Maybe I was being overprotective at the time, but the idea that Xavier would bury his yearning for a young Jean Grey? Way too creepy for me! I think it was an idea that Stan tossed into the earliest pages of X-Men and quickly realized the student/teacher mutant love was a bad idea. I agreed and thought it should never again be revisited.”
So, this was gross. I was shocked the first time I read it, but I pretty much forgot it ever happened until it was brought up again here. Like Xavier, I probably bottled it up in my memories trying to pretend it never happened. Hopefully I don't turn into Onslaught. But back to the point, Mark Waid uses this deep cut to truly shock Jean and prove that she doesn't know him as well as she thinks she does. It's effective from that perspective, but I literally gasped when I read it as part of this arc. I just couldn't believe they went there.
Pretty interesting that Lobdell seems to agree based on his quote above. If you put the two quotes together with Lobdell saying Onslaught suffered because he "disagreed with another writer," this quote showing his disagreement over bringing this up, and the fact that this went down in Waid's X-Men title...you can see pretty clearly what's going on here. Lobdell and Waid clearly didn't see eye to eye. I wonder if this ends up leaving to an imploding similar to Jim Lee and Chris Claremont.
I'm going to do some quick bullet points on the full team members:
Xavier becomes a full bad guy. As someone who has been tracking that Xavier hasn't had a lot of redeeming qualities from the beginning, this almost seemed inevitable. This will be the 3rd time Xavier starts an extended absence from the comic (Faking his own death in the silver age, Claremont sending him into outer space with Lilandra so Magneto could become headmaster, and now this).
Cyclops is barely a whimper lately. Like Xavier, I've been waiting since 1963 to start liking Cyclops and it hasn't happened yet. I think Lobdell actually forgets he's on the team sometimes.
Speaking of people Lobdell forgets is on his team, Storm is in some of the pictures...Not sure if she has any dialogue. Claremont must be rolling in his...mansion that be bought using X-Men # 1 money.
Jean! I refuse to call her Phoenix outside of my graphics. Jean is another Claremont fave who has been boring for 5 years. At this pace, she should have just stayed dead. But she she pops, there's fireworks. Remember when she bitch slapped Sabretooth, that was awesome. Remember when Wolverine caught her in the plane after Fatal Attractions, that was awesome. And seeing her take center stage and be the first one to figure out the truth is awesome.
Beast is finally escaping, so that's cool.
I think Iceman showed up in some pictures.
Gambit and Bishop are besties now and their "fight" with Juggernaut was kind of cool and suspenseful.
Wolverine looks so dumb but it's cute how damn loyal he is to Xavier. He also makes a pretty funny crack about how Onslaught looks like Magneto, which I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking that.
Is Cannonball still on the team? Wait, who is even being featured these days?
Rogue, Archangel, and Psylocke are all off the roster for now.