Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

347 – Onslaught Begins

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which we stop procrastinating and dive headfirst into Onslaught; Professor Xavier is a jerk; Dark Beast wasn’t even supposed to be here today; Onslaught declaims like it’s the Silver Age; Bishop gets some long-awaited closure; and we pitch alternate candidates for the X-traitor.

X-PLAINED:

  • Hyperstorm
  • Onslaught (entity)
  • Onslaught (event)
  • Uncanny X-Men #334
  • X-Men #54
  • Onslaught: X-Men #1
  • How to pronounce “Buccellato”
  • The opposite of a pep talk
  • Nate Grey vs. Professor X
  • The Z’noxx (again)
  • One of several times Charles Xavier has faked his own death
  • Muscle March
  • Franklin Richards
  • The Gem of Cyttorak
  • A villain speech
  • That one recording Bishop found in the future
  • The X-traitor
  • Li’l Charlie
  • Magneto’s hood ornament
  • Alternate takes on the X-traitor

NEXT EPISODE: Onslaught continues.


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14 comments

  1. This starts so promising, and just about the time of that WOLVERINE issue, you can see the wheels coming off the wagon in real time.

  2. I’ll comment properly later, but the fact thiis episode mentions Sentinels gives me an excuse to post this by TikTok-er ThePandaRedd, whose superlative geeky performance skills are usually targetting the Batfamily (and are hilarious, seriously his one about Tim coming out as bi to the family is painfully spot-on!) but this one seems relevant, and entirely plausible!

    https://href.li/?https://www.tiktok.com/@thepandaredd/video/7009775043899182341?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1

  3. Pretty excited that Onslaught has started. I decided to do a read along with the show from Mutant Genesis up to now and I managed to get caught up in time on all the series for Onslaught starting – this is a period of x history I’ve never read (I ducked out just after AoA finished and didn’t come back in again until not long before the Morrison reboot). It’s started so good… I’m prepared for the drop in quality haha

  4. Miles: The term you’re looking for is Tsundere (examples include Rin Tohsaka from Fate/Stay Night, Taiga Aisaka from Toradora, Kyo Sohma from Fruits Basket, and Ramna Saotome from Ranma 1/2 – that anime and manga being an example of what happens when two Tsundere’s end up in a relationship with each other)

    Also, Muscle March was a Wii Ware game, so since the Wii store has been shut down, it’s sadly currently no longer available for purchase.

  5. With the broader Onslaught has a real “darkest before the dawn” feeling in hindsight for me. Like Miles says, this ends with rebooting the FF & Avengers titles, which um… well, I actually kinda like the goofy way Onslaught ends with the FF/Av at the end, and the reboots had some interesting ideas, but on the whole the reboot wasn’t great.

    And then they rebooted them back into the integrated 616, and suddenly all those titles were so much better for a good long run.

  6. It’s kind of funny timing that you arrived at this episode just a few days after the release of the Onslaught Revelation one-shot. Like the Universe has lined up for this…

    I have never liked the full reveal of Jean’s message. I know that there wasn’t a solid plan for the X-Traitor and it was never going to sound right, but you can really sense the writing gymnastics to make that work. Particularly the “We never should have trusted” line.

    I think it’s also funny that at this point we already had a definite traitor in Collossus but that didn’t raise Bishop’s suspicion. Nor did he seem to think it possible that Psylocke was the traitor when Revanche showed up.

    But I complain too much. The start of Onslaught actually is pretty solid and does a great job of building the tension. It’s too bad that we only get about a quarter of the way in before it starts collapsing under its own weight.

  7. Hoping for David Wynne art of Onslaught wearing a “Magneto Made Some Valid Points” t-shirt sometime in the next few (weeks? months?)

    On Jean’s transmission: Had Bishop ever shown the X-Men his garbled copy of the traitor warning video? If so, seems odd that she’d STILL bury the lede — Professor X is bad — when it came her time to actually record it. (Also, Jay’s idea of Bishop as a “traitor” to Mountjoy-possessed X-men is far better than this.)

    I agree the Onslaught story is better at its start, but you can see it going awry even here. Why does Xavier + Magneto = Giant Robot? Why does a telepath have any power over the Gem of Cyttorak, or Sentinels? People could No-Prize this stuff, but we shouldn’t have to.

    I’ve never liked the art from this period of X-Men, and I especially don’t think it does any favors for this story. Though I like Xavier’s expressions, the “murderous psychic” trope is more horror than superheroic and I would’ve liked to see something with a more atmospheric style. Onslaught should be scary; he looks like a toy. I’m not asking for the Demon Bear, but even the Shadow King was scarier than this.

    (Also, Franklin looks way more evil than Charley in those panels, especially considering he keeps offering not-milk like he KNOWS it’s not-milk.)

    One thing I do like is the Juggernaut’s inclusion in the story; it does make sense that Onslaught would target him first. But even that seems to tease how much better the whole storyline would have been if Marvel had kept it smaller. Same bones, but make it an X-Men story about Onslaught/Xavier taking out his frustrations at his failed or dysfunctional relationships: Cain, the Moira, Amelia Voight, Gabrielle and Legion, Magneto and the X-Men themselves. Big final act is Onslaught vs. Legion vs. Joseph, with the X-Men trying to save everybody. Throw in X-Man for extra sales.

    Doesn’t have any of the Heroes Reborn reset Marvel wanted, of course. I’m still not clear on what Marvel was thinking launching that venture out of Onslaught. Was it just that the X-titles were so popular at the time, or did they actually think this story was good?

    1. (Also, Franklin looks way more evil than Charley in those panels, especially considering he keeps offering not-milk like he KNOWS it’s not-milk.)

      I can see Franklin doing a Jim Jaspers with the red/white wine and MAKING the orange juice milk because that’s what he wanted to drink and what a reality warping moppet wants, a reality warping moppet gets.

      Or maybe it’s Franklin checking to see if this is really an imaginary friend or an evil psionic construct with an ulterior motive (He’s part of the FF, so I doubt this would be his first such situation).

      If they call him on the error, they are someone paying attention to him, so “imaginary friend”. If they don’t, they’re not paying attention to him and must want something else, so “evil psionic construct with an ulterior motive”

  8. I think I’d have liked the Onslaught reveal a bit more if we’d seen a more gradual accretion of power and definition. So a wispy psionic form became stronger and more defined over time, and finally get’s totally monstrously large and ripped when the Ruby of Cyttorak is added to the mix. That of course would have required pre-planning and co-ordination, but what the heck, let’s shoot for the moon.

    I agree with Jay that the Magneto design influence works better as it being Xavier associating his darker thoughts with the person he’s spent so long opposing/obsessing over. I’ve also heard the story about Magneto being inside Xavier’s mind since Charles shut his brain down, as being an “out” for Onslaught’s more dangerous actions too, but agree that it works a lot bettter if it’s ALL Chuck.

    I think the Crimson Gem works a bit like Moonstone’s moonstone, it’s a physical object that triggers a transformation, and the user can then carry it, or phase into their body, and can make it reappear when required.

    Cain threw the Crimson Gem into space one time, and stayed transformed because he hadn’t ceded the power back to the Gem first. I think he then started leaving it phased into himself, which Onslaught managed to reverse.

    Or maybe they just forgot… 🙂

  9. Not that comic book plots have to “make sense”, but is the fact that Juggernaut showed up at the exact same time that Xavier freaked out just a coincidence? It might make sense if either A) Juggernaut was subtly mind-controlled to come donate his gem, or B) Onslaught detected that a super-powerful artifact gem happened to be nearby to collect, so chose the moment to drive Xavier crazy. But… for A, it sounds like Juggernaut has the helmet on before arriving at the X-Mansion, and for B, it doesn’t sound all that planned, that Onslaught simply didn’t exist until Xavier went crazy and thus couldn’t have arranged anything.

    I guess if you’re really into capital-D Destiny, then Juggernaut came because fate is a troll and told him enough to know he needed help from Jean Grey to survive some coming threat, but not that he needed to come a few days earlier. But, well, you can make anything work with fate.

  10. Hmm. I have a definite feeling that when the podcast gets to New X-Men, I will be writing passionate defenses of the Xorn twist against Miles Stokes’s savage attacks on it. I mean, of *course* Xorn was ruthlessly written to be a character to whom the reader would become attached. That’s why the twist works.

    This is also why the subsequent retcon was a bad idea, as seen in how uninteresting everything done with Xorn since then has been. He’s a character whose main value was to make the reader feel the pain of being betrayed, and once he’s served that purpose, it’s painfully obvious that he’s otherwise just a set of striking but (deliberately) superficial trappings.

    And I’d also stick up for Onslaught’s conceit of the X-traitor being an actual traitor, but the one person who in a sense “can’t” betray the X-Men, because in the Harras/Lobdell era he’s more-or-less *been* the X-Men, treated as the defining essential figure without whom you can’t have the X-Men. Some of this is probably because I’ve found the Xavier-as-Christ-allegory so over-the-top in these ‘90s comics and, yes, if you’re going to go there, why not go the whole way and have him be Judas, too? And indeed the Antichrist. (I am genuinely curious to see if we get any explicit Revelations echoes.)

    Can’t say that I disagree with our hosts about the inadvisability of the Magneto retcon-or-is-it. Although I should obviously wait and see how that reads to me when I get to it.

    But having Onslaught be Xavier’s completely natural and understandable frustrations with everything, all bursting out at once, and especially his difficulties with having to be, 24/7, this perfect visionary that he’s been made out to be in the last few X-years, even as he feels that he is a failure? That seems clearly better, because it’s a superhero-story version of a real experience that people have — I was struck, listening to our host’s performance of Onslaught’s “villain” speech, how much it didn’t sound to me like a villain speech at all.

    (And not only better. It’s also just simply more elegant as a premise than mucking this up with “But he’s also part of *Magneto’s* mind.”)

    Which is why I am so dismayed at hearing from our hosts that the reason for injecting Magneto into this was a worry that this would somehow ruin Xavier as a character. Apart from anything else, it suggests that Harras and Lobdell had really not grasped how the superhero comics market was changing, that the X-books were going to be primarily for adults going forward. Because who other than a child, and a comparatively young child at that, would be invested in making sure that Xavier remained a “good guy”?

  11. Regarding the Bishop as X-traitor plot, it makes a lot of sense. It could even be related to his unhinged state after Age of Apocalypse if you want.

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