Avengers # 400 - 401, UXM # 335, X-Man # 18, X-Force # 57, Cable # 34, Incredible Hulk # 444, Fantastic Four # 415, X-Factor # 125, Wolverine # 104, Excalibur # 100, X-Men V2 # 55.
Avengers # 400 & UXM # 335: Table Setting
Writer - Scott Lobdell (UXM 335)
Pencils - Joe Madureira (UXM 335)
To be honest, I don't think I was supposed to read Avengers # 400 since it barely ties in, but I don't regret it. It's been a long time since I was forced to read Avengers comics so I welcome seeing what their team looks like these days. Shirtless Thor seems a little unnecessary, but it's all good. This whole issue is basically a story with Loki tricking the team into fighting all of their old villains. At the end though, Nate Grey (X-Man) shows up and serves to connect this team to the world of X.
X-Men #335 is the real table setting. It kind of reminded me how X-Men Alpha put all of the pieces on in place for A of A, there were separate stories being told, then it all came back together at the end. In A of A Magneto was like Gambit go into space to get a MacGuffin, NIghtcrawler you go find Destiny, Wolverine go help the humans, yadda, yadda.
In this issue, Ozymandias (who they are trying to make a thing but I wish he would just go away) wakes up Apocalypse, who starts blabbing away with Uatu, the watcher.
The Avengers show up at the mansion with Nate. X-Force finally comes home. Excalibur teases the Xavier protocol. They find out Cable is a target, so Storm fly's off to join him. Wolverine goes off on his own to learn more about how Onslaught was created. Even Archangel and Psylocke are told to meet Scott and Jean at Muir Island. With the pieces in place, we can now begin.
X-Man # 18, X-Force # 57: X-Force + Nate vs. Sinister
Writer - Terry Kavanaugh (XM 18), Jeph Loeb (XF 57)
Pencils - Steve Skroce (XM 18), Anthony Castrillo (XF 57)
This is a fun little two issue Sinister story. Nate is now hanging out with X-Force. Nate makes reference to the evil domino from his AoA timeline, which I thought was pretty fun. To be honest, I kind of forgot about that character so it's interesting that she is now leading this iteration of X-Force (because Cable is always off in his own series) and now he needs to find it within himself to trust her.
Mr. Sinister and the original Marauders (the evil clones from the Mutant Massacre) are coming after Nate's recent sidekick, Threnody, trying to bring her back into the fold. X-Force show up to protect Threnody and a battle rages. Caliban is taken out by Sinister and it's clear that Sinister wants Nate. Which...of course he does since Nate is the trueborn son of the real Jean and Scott without the TO virus.
As we switch to the X-Force issue, Caliban is now mindlessly attacking Sinister and we learn that Apocalypse put a failsafe in Caliban when he transformed him to always attack Sinister. Seems like that could have been a bad idea if they ever allied again, but let's go on.
In a very interesting bit of exposition, Sinister says that Cable was created by him as a failsafe against Apocalypse, and that A knew that and gave him the TO virus on purpose to make sure his powers couldn't fully develop.
a few quick character things happen. Tabby gives Caliban a much needed hug and Nate takes out the Askani memories from Sunspot so he can get his powers back. That's the end of that weird and completely unnecessary plot point with Sunspot being able to speak Askani. That went no where.
Ultimately, Sinister does end up capturing Nate by knocking out the entire team.
Cable # 34 & Incredible Hulk # 444: Cable vs. Hulk
Writer - Jeph Loeb (C 34)
Pencils - Ian Churchill (C34)
For some unnecessary reason, Ozymandias (new Apocalypse ally) is narrating a story, telling us that Onslaught has taken over the Hulk and forcing him to kill Cable. Cable strikes out with psychic powers and Hulk turns grey! Right as all seems lost, Storm shows up (remember she left the X-Men in UXM # 335) to save the day! This tees up Storm and Cable vs. Hulk. Ultimately, Cable invades his mind and is able to stop the fight.
Avengers # 400, Fantastic Four # 415: Franklin Richards
Gambit goes with the Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, Vision). Let's stop for a second and talk about this Avengers team. I have the following random comments:
Cool, this lineup is very familiar to the movie version of the Avengers
Awww, Quicksilver found a new home after he was kicked out of X-Factor
Wanda and Vision together, that's fun!
Thor, put your shirt on.
Bishop and Iceman go with...the other Avengers (Pym/Giant Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Crystal, Wasp) to check on Franklin Richards. My notes originally called Wasp "some weird bug lady" but then I later figured out it was the actual wasp...transformed into an actual wasp.
Scarlet Witch spends some time talking about her time in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before she realized Magneto was her father. She makes it sound like she was a captive and how terrible it was.
Meanwhile, Rogue is walking around with Joseph thinking to herself that she needs to stop Joseph from finding out about his true identity (Which I could've swore he knew already.) So, of course, this whole idea of him not finding out is immediately put in jeopardy when the Avengers show up and do what heroes do best...attack right away without asking questions.
After a little bit of fighting, it's the Scarlet Witch who puts an end to the conflict after both getting sick of her brother and realizing Joseph isn't Magneto:
“ For once and for all, Peter, I am no longer the frightened girl who needs her impetuous brother to rescue her…nor is he the tyrant under whom we both have suffered…perhaps today we can both put the past behind us.”
I didn't put it above, but this is Mark Waid writing this. If you recall, in my last blog, I was praising Waid for his "deep cuts." This is another great use of really old school X-Men text. Utilizing not only the twins being in the Brotherhood, but bringing back that QS has always been too protective of her, and them being the ones to de-escalate the situation with Joseph...very clever.
The other issue in this category is FF #415 where "Charlie," the psychic imaginary friend of Franklin Richards (really Xavier/Onslaught) is trying to push Franklin's powers. Onslaught shows up as Professor Xavier and tries to convince the Fantastic Four to release Franklin into his custody (since he's a mutant), but they figure it out, which triggers an Onslaught/F4 battle. Xavier actually tricks Bishop at one point by pretending to be the real Xavier looking for help (which is believeable because that happens all the time in comics), but it was a trick. Onslaught gets away with Franklin in the end.
X-Factor # 125, Wolverine# 104, Excalibur # 100, X-Men V2 # 55: Endgame
Writer - Howard Mackie (XF 125), Larry Hama (W 104), Warren Ellis (Exc 100), Mark Waid (XM 55)
Pencils - Jeff Matsuda (XF125), Val Semeika & Chad Hunt (W104), Casey Jones (Exc 100), Andy Kubert (XM55)
X-Factor # 125 was actually a pretty good issue. Ugh, am I about to be pulled back into covering that comic? I knew this would happen. The team is currently made up of Polaris, Forge, Mystique, Shard, Wildchild, Random, and now Sabretooth.
Right off the bat, Fatale kidnaps Mystique and Sabretooth and brings them to Dark Beast. With both of them being former villains, DB tries to recruit them to Onslaught's cause. They refuse and there is a little Sabretooth vs. Dark Beast battle. Meanwhile, Mystique has an opportunity to kill Forge and decides not to, showing us that she cares for him.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is attacked by Havok. Still trying to capitalize on AoA sales, he has been brainwashed into Onslaught's new prelate. We also learn that Random was kind of a traitor. This was one of those "Random's been working for Dark Beast from the very beginning things." This is growing quite tired how they keep trying to pretend like these AoA characters have been around for longer than they have. I said that Random is only kind of a traitor because he genuinely cares for Polaris and saves her from Havok. This opens up a really gut wrenching sequence where Polaris is trying to reach him, but she's unsuccessful and he almost kills her. By the end, Havok kind of snaps out of it, but I get the impression he will mostly be staying "evil."
You might be wondering, what does this have to do with Onslaught? Well, good question. At the very end we see that Sentinels are being aimed at humans (specifically New York City) and are about to be let loose by Post.
(the following image is from X-Men # 55, but it lines up well with the topic of Sentinels)
Wolverine # 104 takes Wolverine and Elektra on a mission to learn about the true origin of Onslaught. Wolverine tests his theory, which proves to be correct, that Gateway can answer their questions. Gateway sends them through all sorts of painful memories such as Magneto watching Mariko die and Elektra's journey to hell.
Eventually, they go to Fatal Attractions and see that when Xavier shut down Magneto's mind, a part of Magneto traveled into Xavier. This part has been combining with Xavier's repressed feelings to create Onslaught.
Most of Excalibur # 100 was covered in a separate Excalibur post, but I saved the Onslaught goodies for this one. Dude...Xavier created something called "The Xavier Protocols," which were stored at Muir Island in the case that any of the X-Men ever went rogue and needed to be stopped. There's crazy things in there like how to accelerate the TO virus to defeat Cable and cutting off Wolverine's head and keeping it away from the rest of his body. But most importantly, there are instructions on how to create a special suit that protects you from psy shielding to beat Xavier.
But the fight really begins in X-Men # 55 when the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four gather to fight the Sentinels.
There's a bunch of real cool fight sequences like this one of Cap fighting a Sentinel:
Jean, Scott, and Cannonball are picked up by Archangel and Psylocke as they head to Muir Island to see the Xavier Protocols.
Onslaught uses Franklin to distort reality and create a fortress in the middle of Central Park, which is purposely similar to Apocalypse's fortress in AoA.
Just as things are looking up, Onslaught unleashes an EMP blast in the middle of New York, leveling part of the city.
There was some pretty big Marvel drama going on around this time. The top brass at Marvel decided to hand over the Avengers & Fantastic Four (plus related solo series like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor) to Jim Lee and Rob Leifeld over at Image. Onslaught was chosen to be the event where these characters would die (or disappear) and then be reborn, hence the title "Heroes Reborn." In Comic Creators on X-Men, Editor Bob Harras had the following to say:
"I thought the decision was naive. I think there was this sense that the company had kind of lost faith in the creators we were using, and that this maneuver would get us back to the million copy sales mark again, which I knew wasn’t going to happen."
This is pretty interesting. History tells us that Harras was right, the bubble had permanently popped and comics would never go back to the million copy sales mark, regardless of the gimmick or creative team. I personally wasn't reading comics at this time (I was 13 and too cool for comics) but I can totally understand how this move would signal that Marvel lost faith in their own writers.
It's also hard not to see this as an official winning point for the Image defectors. They left Marvel because they weren't being treated right and were able to create a separate label so popular that Marvel brought those same names back to save them. Lobdell had the following to say about this in Comic Creators on X-Men:
“I was one of only a handful of people at Marvel that didn’t resent ‘Heroes Reborn.’ I thought the books seriously needed shaking up at that point! It’s my personal opinion that no comic book series ever benefited from having the same creative team on it for so long that the creators become more important than the characters. ”
So this was the event that brought X-Men together with the larger Marvel universe and was created to set up the exit point for the non X-Men books. It seems kind of odd that they would use an X-Men villain to dispose of the Fantastic Four and Avengers, but hey what do I know.
Sinister, Apocalypse and Cable
The relationship between three becomes even more complicated, and much more interesting. Sometimes new backstory can make you roll your eyes since you know it probably wasn't always meant to be this way. But these new developments really have me wondering if it was all planned.
We've learned that Sinister was obsessed with Scott and Jean ever since meeting them in the past (Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix). Sinister was given his immortality and powers by Apocalypse, but Sinister has always been looking for a way to free himself from him. We've learned that Sinister created Maddie so that Cable could be born as a failsafe against Apocalypse. Now we learn that Apocalypse knew about that and purposely gave him the TO virus as a baby to stop him from ever growing strong enough to oppose him. I'm just super fascinated by this!
Storm and Cable
I've been tracking that Storm and Cable have seemed chummy. Now she officially leaves the X-Men to go help them and my Ship watch is on high alert. From now on, they will be known as Stable.
Joseph, Rogue, and Gambit
There's some awkwardness going on with the Rogue, Joseph, Gambit love triangle. This has always been a possibility, but Joseph gives this dynamic a more direct route to mirroring AoA. It's pretty interesting though as Gambit surprises everyone (readers, Rogue) and opens up to Joseph and keeps his jealousy under wrap.
Polaris and Havok
These two fuckers have to be the most star crossed lovers in the history of comics.
Random and Polaris
I'm sorry, but I love how much Random is in love with Polaris and she isn't in to him but can't help but be kind to him. It's pretty sweet.