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This was a week of getting a new shipment of comics in the mail.  Finally picked up Uncanny X-Men #120 (first appearance of Alpha Flight – at least as a cameo) and managed to snag a couple of old Amazing Spider-Man issues guest starring Nightcrawler which officially make those the first comics I’ve ever owned that are older than I am (released in 1976).

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 Uncanny X-Men #336 (September 1996)

cover

“A Voice as Deep as Thunder”
[Onslaught, Phase 2]

Writer:  Scott Lobdell
Penciler:  Joe Madureira
Inks:  Tim Townsend, Al Milgrom

Franklin Richards, inside a dark, shadowy realm, kneels above a comatose Professor Xavier.  He’s trying to wake Professor X up but there’s no luck.  He knows Onslaught may return sometime soon and is worried, but he’s trying to be strong.  Onslaught appears, towering over the child, declaring that he needs Franklin to help him conquer worlds.

In the city, all hell is breaking loose.  Sure, the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four are doing what they can, but against the chaos unleashed by Onslaught, there’s not much they can do.  Even as Iceman, Torch, and Hawkeye take shelter, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, and Cyclops show up, hoping to get some information about Onslaught.

iceman and torch

Elsewhere, Joseph finds trapped people in a subway and uses his powers to raise the subway car to the surface and force open the doors.  But the people all recognize him as Mangneto and despite their salvation at his hands, they attack him.  Only Gambit saves Joseph from being injured.  Joseph can’t understand the sort of hatred that he inspired, but Gambit talks him down, reminding him that you can’t dwell on the past.  Joseph decides to end this threat and only by doing so can he redeem himself.  As he heads off on his own, Rogue drops down to Gambit, having overheard everything.  The two embrace, finally reconciling.

On the front line, Cyclops and Sue Storm bear witness to Onslaught changing forms.  Cyclops wants to alert the others, but Sue is determined to save her son.  Cyclops tries to comfort her, but she is furious at being unable to do so.  Just then, Storm arrives with Cable (did you forget about them?  I sure didn’t).

Onslaught

Back in the mysterious realm that holds Xavier and Franklin, Charles finally wakes up and begins discovering what has happened under Onslaught’s rule.  Xavier tries to instill courage in the frightened child, telling him that Onslaught is bad but he just has to stay strong.  Unfortunately, Onslaught chooses that moment to appear and cause Franklin to disappear from Xavier’s grasp.

In the real world, Joseph drops in front of Onslaught and uses his magnetism against the monster.  Onslaught, however, seems unfazed.  Other X-Men (and Thor and Sue) notice what’s going on and line up against Onslaught.  Suddenly, Onslaught reveals…Xavier?  Hell, I’m not even sure what this is supposed to be…the center of his chest seems to open up like Optimus Prime’s did in the animated Transformer movie.  That’s right…Xavier is the Matrix here.  Only Onslaught is torturing him.  Cyclops, though?  He’s had enough.

Cyclops vs Onslaught

Cable and Joseph both stand against Onslaught and Cyclops takes off his visor and opens his eyes, sending a massive bolt of energy into Onslaught’s chest.  Invisible Woman uses her own powers (in a way similar to just plain ol’ telekinesis) to pry open the crak in Onslaught’s chest.  And finally, Thor steps in, driving his hammer and himself through Onslaught’s chest, grabbing Xavier on the way through.

This results in something…unexpected.  Onslaught screams “Freedom!” (I imagine him shouting like William Wallace at the end of Braveheart) and unleashes another blast (again?! didn’t he do this at the end of X-Men #55???), devastating the X-Men, Avengers, FF, and the city…again.  As the energies ravage the city, the few who challenged Onslaught are protected by Sue’s force field.  Xavier reveals that he cannot scan Onslaught because his powers are gone.  Elsewhere in the city, Apocalypse is talking to Uatu, the Watcher.  He has decided that Onslaught will leave the world in ruins which is not what Apocalypse wants.  And so Apocalypse must stop Onslaught.

Thor frees Xavier

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 Story-wise?  This is probably one of the worst “Phase” issues of the Onslaught saga (probably eclipsed only by the first “X-Men” and last “Marvel” issues).  Art-wise?  Joe Madureira NAILS this issue.

Apocalypse looks fantastic (I’m really ticked that Joe never did Apocalypse again after this issue).  The Watcher is great, towering over.  Even Franklin is drawn well.  Iceman, Torch, and Hawkeye all look great.  Just…everything about this issue looks great.

Apocalypse

But that’s where the enjoyment ends.  Overall, this issue just makes no sense.  Yes, some of it may be me nitpicky, but this to me is one of the major failings of the 90’s:  none of it holds up to scrutiny.  First of all, at the end of the issue prior to this (X-Men #55), Cyclops and crew were spiraling towards the ground in freefall, but that’s never addressed here.  Cyclops is just alive and well (so is Jean and Psylocke).  I mean…if something ends in a cliffhanger, shouldn’t you find out how our heroes get themselves out of that predicament?  This was during a time of Marvel when at least the editors were all on the same page so we generally don’t get continuity problems, but this was a major one.

Second, Xavier and Franklin are in some weird pocket dimension?  How is this even possible?  Onslaught was literally Xavier corrupted by Magneto’s evil.  Where the %$^& did this power come from?  I mean sure, you could argue that he’s got Franklin’s powers (and that’s normally a valid argument) but then why does Onslaught make Franklin disappear from this dimension?  I mean either he already has Franklin’s powers or he doesn’t.  If he does, he doesn’t need to take Franklin away.  If he doesn’t, then how did he create this pocket dimension?  Onslaught really made no sense.

And then…after Xavier is freed, Onslaught releases a monstrous blast of energy, destroying a chunk of the city?  Didn’t he already do this last %$&@ing issue???  I mean come on!  If you ignore the impact issues and just read the phase issues, this is literally the next issue to read.  Seriously!

The issue isn’t all bad.  The aforementioned art is great, but I also love Sue’s characterization (one thing Lobdell has always excelled at is making characters feel real).  The dialogue between Torch and Iceman is fun.  And even though I’m all grown up and am no longer a fan of Gambit, the reunion scene between Gambit and Rogue is touching and wonderfully scripted.

gambit rogue

But that was it…and the good parts weren’t enough to make me love this issue…

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