Heavy spoilers for comics from 1996 from here on out!
The build up to this event starts when Magneto, disenfranchised with “the dream” forms his own little colony of Avalon. This space station became his base of operations for him and his acolytes. The legacy virus, a fatal virus which targets only mutants, is raging, anti-mutant sentiment is high thanks to the Friends of Humanity, and Magneto is just tired of it and is like let’s get rid of humanity! Of course the X-Men fight him and he is defeated but not before he rips Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton from his body. This causes Professor to snap and mind-wipe Magneto.
Messing with people’s minds is something that Xavier has vowed to never do and this breach of his own internal moral code causes him to doubt himself. Through this doubt, and I’m a little unclear here, but he is “infected” with Magneto’s negative qualities via the astral plane. He suppresses them until they coalesce into a malevolent psychic entity known as Onslaught.
Unlike Age of Apocalypse this is not a Universal threat but an Earthly one. Onslaught’s initial goal is to carry out Magneto’s will by unleashing the sentinels on the human population. He wants to snuff out humans and allow mutants to live in peace. For some reason, he needs Franklin Richards, son of Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm and Reed Richards. He grabs Nate Summers, aka X-Man.
In order to understand why he wants Nathan it’s important to give him a little more context. Nathan was created during the age of apocalypse event as the son of Scott and Jean from that timeline. At the conclusion of the event (which I’ll probably review after this), he timeline hops into the main Marvel timeline and gets his own series. He’s kind of boring and his main claim to fame is that he’s basically a younger, stronger but stupider, Cable.
Onslaught is interested in Nathan for his knowledge of how Apocalypse came to rule. Through interrogation of Nathan Onslaught comes to realize that even though in that timeline Apocalypse won, mutants still fought against mutants, so he determines to just end all mutant and human life on the planet since there’s no other peaceful scenario.
Hulk at one point is possessed by Onslaught and attacks Cable. Cable and Storm are able to defeat him. Later, Hulk and his teammates make an attack on Onslaught’s base and Onslaught creates a shared delusion where Hulk gives up the lives of his teammates to beat Onslaught. This creates distrust for him among the team.
Captain America does his Captain America thing. Black Panther and Tony Stark provide tech support to create some maguffin that allows people to not get mind controlled by Onslaught. Hawkeye shoots a few arrows. The team mostly helps on the street level for most of the event until the end, helping people get off train cars and fighting sentinels. Pietro and Wanda finally call off their marriage.
A big one since Franklin Richards is kidnapped. I’m honestly not 100% sure why? He has an ability to remake matter so maybe Onslaught was planning to remake the entire planet? Who knows. He was important for some reason. I kind of think Onslaught said he was “draining” him. Also at one point he does use Franklin’s ability to create a bunch of classic villains in the FF clubhouse. Classic villains like Devos!
You know....Devos. But the Fantastic Four have some real character moments and development which in the end mean essentially nothing since everyone gets wiped out at the end.
Spider man gets kind of the short end of the stick here. He doesn’t have much to do. Apparently at this point, Peter Parker realized he was a clone of Ben Reilly but has also made peace with it. There’s an issue or two of both the Ben Reilly Spiderman and the Peter Parker Spiderman fighting sentinels. Also.....
This was a weird one as I think it was the penultimate issue of this comic. Apparently some rando who worked at the daily Bugle found Green Goblin’s stuff accidentally and was using it to fight crime? Then he overcomes his fear in this issue and blows up the glider to kill a sentinel and also irreparably damages his mask which was giving him super powers? I dunno, this was....something.
So this has a pretty big impact on the Marvel continuity at large. Surprisingly so, honestly. Age of Apocalypse had an additive impact where it generated many new characters and storylines, but Onslaught effectively ends many mainline comics, rebooting them entirely. And this isn’t just like Green Goblin, we’re talking:
The why of this is that at one point there’s a full on brawl with Onslaught where the majority of the heroes from all the crossovers take the fight to him. They manage to defeat his armored form but in the terms of every jRPG ever...
Onslaught becomes a glowing glorb of psionic energy. Realizing there’s no way to effectively fight it, each hero allows themselves to be absorbed by Onslaught and their “goodness” of spirit effectively neutralizes a little bit of him until enough heroes have neutralized him that the X-Men are able to now destroy the corporeal form of Onslaught (aka 30 odd heroes). So by slaughtering the Avengers, Final Four, Hulk, and many more, the X-Men save the day! Nathan and Franklin are somehow able to escape through comic magic. It’s worth noting that for whatever reason, when Onslaught absorbed mutants he became stronger so it was only non-mutants that were allowed to be absorbed in the end. Of course Wanda and Namor were among the ...nvm. Don’t think too hard or none of it makes sense.
In terms of the X-Men themselves there’s actually NOT a huge shakeup:
- Charles Xavier loses his powers and is taken into custody
- The Friends of Humanity are already capitalizing on the deaths caused at Onslaught’s hand to further the anti-mutant agenda
- Magneto has, for some reason, been de-aged and has amnesia and goes by Joseph. I really hope this is explained why at some point.
- Havok has gone rogue having been hijacked by Onslaught at some point. He attacked Lorna and now he’s missing. Whether that is due to embarrassment of not living up to Scott, yet again, or because he’s just gone dark side I don’t know nor do I really care. Alex Summers is almost as intolerable as early 70s Cyclops. I didn’t get to see much of x-factor’s impact since marvel unlimited was missing about 50 comics worth of X-factor.
- Psylocke went into the Crimson Gem of Cytorrak and is now an amped up version of Psylocke, after she was nearly killed by Sabretooth earlier. Warren and her were not a huge part of this event, although they had a frame here and there. Warren is also apparently growing feathers?
- Xavier, as part of the epilogue, helps a lab-grown mutant named Nina and her bunny Harry, escape imprisonment by Bastion. It kind of reminds me a little too much of Elsie Dee and Albert to really land yet, so hopefully they develop that story more.
- Bastion, head of the Friends of Humanity, has recovered many of the sentinel parts that were destroyed in the Onslaught event and I think we’re headed towards the Days of Future Past part II. Also he’s severely anti mutant but obviously has some sort of powers.
- Marvel unliminted also is missing about 15 issues of Generation Next including any that intertwined with this event so I have no idea what they’re up to. Honestly they’re not very interesting to me either. I like Paige and Jubilee but the rest are non-entities to me.
I was actually poised to give this a higher rating before I started writing this. The event as a whole is fairly successful. It feels well paced, and resolves well enough. The stakes are high but not universal, which I like since it’s nice when “THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WILL END” is not your endgame. Based on what Onslaught is, the motivations he has make sense.
My main gripe is that most of the crossovers just feel like the characters are spinning wheels. The sentinels are never shown actually DOING anything until they’re provoked by the heroes and then the heroes are attacked by the sentinels. Collateral damage from fights that never occur “onscreen” are shown but it’s not very clear when or why there’s a burning building. Also if this is a worldwide threat why are the Sentinels only ever shown in New York. It’s possible I skipped an issue that explained what was going on and if you can clue me in feel free.
My second biggest gripe is that Onslaught doesn’t really DO anything. They kind of painted themselves into a corner on this one. Since he’s the most powerful PSI on the planet and he has near limitless power, he can basically just turn off everyone’s brain. Good game, no re. So they kind of need him doing silly things like making DEVOS fight the Fantastic Four while he “charges up”. Or using Post, a sort of one off never explained villain, a “herald” of Onslaught. He spends issues “testing” the X-Men but then there’s no real reason why other than to tease the coming of Onslaught. Apocalypse is shown here and there but he doesn’t DO anything other than spread doom and gloom. Doom shows up but doesn’t really DO anything. Like it’s a neat idea, but it wasn’t planned NEARLY as well as it should have been. When taken as a whole really none of it makes a lot of sense. This is pretty unfortunate because this is a great idea - Here’s what Professor X is capable of and just why he’s considered the most powerful psi on the planet!! It’s just implemented kind of poorly. Why not have the maguffin headpiece to prevent brain zaps from onslaught be one of the crossovers in the beginning instead of at the end. Why take time to have Domino and Boom Boom and Theresa break into a building to find “onslaught” written on the wall. It’s all theatrical nonsense that could have been cut.
It’s neat that they took this opportunity to reboot a lot of the comics. I was wondering actually while scrolling through 400 issues of Hulk, when they were going to finally do that. Too bad they don’t reboot spiderman here too, from the sound of things, that comic has just gone absolutely off the rails.
Overall Rating: 6 out of 10, would probably read again though.
I think I actually showed the original image of this in one of my very first Comics of Future Past posts. Funny that they decided to make it canon instead of sweeping it under the rug. Prof X supressed his creepy creepo days of creeping on teens as part of the creation of Onslaught. Ha.
- I’m extremely over Feral Wolverine. Like...extremely. Can he just go back to having adamantium now?
-Kind of interesting that Joseph and Rogue are an item since Magneto and Rogue were an item at one point. There’s history there and then the love triangle with Gambit well, it’s all pretty in character so it feels good vs. OMG I JUST REALIZED IN THIS JAIL CELL ON GENOSHA THAT I LOVE YOU TOO LOGAN.
Aikage is TAY’s resident X-Men fan. He’s no expert as he forgets about half of what he reads, so writing these reviews is a way for him to cement his knowledge of the events that lead to modern day Krakoa. Got an event you want him to cover from the past? Did you think he was unfair in his grading of the Onslaught event? Sound off below!