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This week in geekdom…
My comic pulls this week are Cable #2, Jean Grey #3, Secret Empire #5, X-Men Blue #6, and Totally Awesome Hulk #20.

Not much else this week.  I actually haven’t had a lot of time to geek out as normal.  Sad me.

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 Onslaught:  X-Men (August 1996)

“Traitor to the Cause”

cover

Writers:  Scott Lobdell & Mark Waid
Pencilers:  Adam Kubert & Pascual Ferry
Inkers:  Dan Green & Art Thibert

We open to a familiar scene…and I want you to remember it because we’ll come back to it later.  We see Jean talking from monitor.  Her words are familiar.  We’ve seen them before.  Back in Uncanny X-Men #287 Bishop saw the same thing in his future.  A recording that was the last transmission from the X-Men.  This one is more complete, since it’s brand new, but it’s still Jean, calling for help from anybody who would listen, explaining that Juggernaut has fallen and Xavier has gone insane.  The transmission ends with a flash of light.

Jean

Head back just by a 45 minutes, the X-Men are still combing the grounds for Juggernaut when a telepathic message from Xavier tells them to call return to the mansion and gather.  They all burst into the room (amazingly, at the same time, even Jean who was down in a separate area from all the rest and has now managed to instantaneously change into her uniform which makes this 3 outfits in fewer than a couple hours).  Jean, of course, is freaking out because she knows the truth about Onslaught.  Cyclops, on the other hand, is just worried about his wife who went completely dark a few minutes ago.

Xavier starts going on a little rant, about how his dream has been a mistake, blah blah blah.  Really, it’s not important, and Jean realizes this.  Because she is ignoring his monologue and attempting to probe his mind, to see if Onslaught is in “there”.  She starts thinking that maybe it was just Onslaught messing with her, as he’s done before.  But suddenly, she notices the Gem of Cytorrak as a paper weight!  She attempts to warn the X-Men, but Onslaught easily silences her with his mental powers.  Then, Cannonball is the first to notice the change.  Xavier is no longer a crippled bald guy in a wheelchair, but he is now a giant red/purple guy with serious fashion faux pas.

Onslaught 2.jpg
am I the only one bugged by the constant changing of his size?

Now it’s Onslaught’s turn to monologue, asking the X-Men to join him in forcing the humans to accept mutants as their rulers.  Cyclops (rightly so) points out that this sounds more like Magneto than Xavier.  Onslaught is furious at this comparison and responds by reducing Wolverine’s mentality to that of a cub, sending Iceman’s body out of control, and making Storm think she’s buried alive.  Cyclops responds by blasting Onslaught.  However, Onslaught freezes the heroes in their tracks and vanishes into the ceiling (huh?).  They are freed by Gambit managing to charge the floor with energy which disrupts Onslaught’s hold…right before it explodes.

Cyclops then splits them into two teams.  Half head to the Professor’s ready room to destroy the data stores.  The other half head to Cerebro, to ensure Onslaught cannot use it to recruit more mutants.  In the ready room, they find evidence that the Professor showed interest in both Franklin Richards and the mysterious X-Man (Nate Grey).  Sam starts to panic, suddenly, and in his panic, he attacks Wolverine.  Turns out, Cannonball is under the influence of Onslaught who then shows himself.  And once again, Wolverine starts to compare Onslaught to Magneto and Onslaught just loses his shit.  With the X-Men scattered, Onslaught picks up an unconscious Bishop and taunts him until he gets bored and knocks Bishop to the ground.

Onslaught

At the Cerebro unit, Iceman spots Onslaught first, and attacks.  But Onslaught takes control of Cyclops and causes him to first blast Jean and then Iceman.  Then he causes the optic blasts to feed back on themselves (what does that even mean), knocking out Cyke, leaving only Beast awake…or rather Dark Beast.  He then takes Jean away, with DB following him like a lost puppy.  Onslaught seems to want to know about the Phoenix and is willing to forcibly strip the knowledge from Jean’s head.  Onslaught takes a break to order DB to dispose of the X-Men’s bodies…but this little debate about dispose or research gives Jean the time she needs to escape to the Z’Nox chamber (from the last two parts of the story).  There, she quickly sends a message to anyone who will listen…remember the first paragraph above?  Right there.  This is what she sends.

Turns out the blast of light was not her dying.  It was Onslaught catching up to her and blasting the console.  Before he can kill her, a red blast shoots from above, knocking Onslaught down.  Now, the X-Men attack in unison and they actually drop Onslaught!  Except…it was just Onslaught using his telepathy to make them think that.  He prepares to kill them but Bishop jumps in the way, absorbing most of the blast.  The remaining is still enough to incapacitate the rest.  But the big thing here, is that Bishop has now changed the future.  The X-Men live.  Mostly because Onslaught makes the mistake all villains make and…leaves?

Elsewhere, a fleet of Sentinels activate.

Sentinels

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Warning:  This may be an unpopular opinion…and others may cheer it.

If I were to pick a specific issue that would mark the decline of the X-Men comics for years to come…an issue that started us down that path to “the dark ages”…an issue that encapsulated everything that was wrong with the 90’s…an issue that looking back took the trend of too many crossovers one step too far…this would be that issue.

If you’ve been reading my posts leading up to onslaught, you’d know that the Road to Onslaught was much more enjoyable than the actual crossover.  In part, that may be due to the writers not knowing who Onslaught was going to be at first (it’s true!  check out this article over at CBR).  The individual stories were much more enjoyable than the crossover as a whole.  And it really fizzles out at the end (but I’ll save that for my review of Onslaught:  Marvel later).

For now, let’s take a look at this particular issue.  Now, when I first read this, I loved it.  I’ll admit it.  But I rarely read comics with an analytical mind, even at the age of 18.  I do moreso, but mostly only because of these reviews as well as the current reviews I’m doing over at Shoot the Breeze Comics.  So back in 1996, I loved this issue.  Now?  Well, let’s just say it hasn’t aged well.

I’ve never been a big fan of Adam Kubert.  And having Pascual Ferry do some of the internal pages just made it worse.  Plus, Jean changed outfits AGAIN!  You’d think the artists would ensure consistency.

But I have other issues than just the art.  First of all, this issue is tarnished by knowing how everything will end.  Onslaught repeatedly just takes off when he has the X-Men in his grasp…and then he’s surprised when they finally defeat him?  Maybe this is part of his master plan, but it seems like he takes the trope of the “villain assuming he’s already won” a bit too far.  There are 4 separate times when he’s beat the X-Men and then he just takes off…  I mean seriously…  Has Xavier never watched a single James Bond movie?

Then there’s the traitor storyline.  Sure, this has been dangling around for almost as long as Bishop has been here, but for the traitor to end up being Xavier?  On top of that, Onslaught would have killed all of the X-Men if Bishop hadn’t been there.  All of them.  Including Gambit.  Who was supposed to have survived until Bishop’s time.  See the issue?  This felt like a cop out (I thought that even at the time of reading this) and I get the suspicion that someone at Marvel said “hey, we’ve got this dangling storyline, let’s just wrap it up here” and someone said “sure!  that’s a great idea!” (one or both may have been high).

And finally…and this is something I only just realized re-reading this issue for this review…why does Onslaught need to tear out Jean’s memories of the Phoenix?  I guarantee that she and Xavier have already been over this.  Xavier would know as much as she would.  Plus, she was never bonded to the Phoenix, it replaced her, so her knowledge wouldn’t do much good.

This issue wasn’t all bad, though.  The pacing was excellent.  action, dialogue, action, dialogue, etc.  It was definitely thrilling to read…if you don’t think about it.  On top of that, some of the close ups by Kubert are really nice to look at.

Jean tortured

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To Be Continued in:  Uncanny X-Men #335

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