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mygif

Oh, man, Onslaught. As you note, right after the Age of Apocalypse–those were pretty much the only major storylines I ever read as a teenager. I missed X-Cutioner et al. I didn’t pay much attention to the Legacy virus. But between Lobdell and Nicieza . . .

I loved Onslaught as the climax of the X-Traitor storyline–and how nicely that had tied to the Age of Apocalypse and its never-displaced Bishop. The moment Xavier realized the truth . . . just terrific.

What I never liked was the origin. You mention it as convoluted but I don’t remember it that way. What I remember is that Xavier was pissed at Magneto for tearing out Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, and so Xavier ‘mind-wiped’ Magneto. Put him in a coma, blank-slated him, etc. IIRC, the origin was played such that, when Xavier mind-wiped Magneto, some tiny bit of Magneto “broke off” and became part of Charles Xavier, and that was the kernel of Onslaught.

Thing was: totally unnecessary. The origin of Onslaught could have so simply been “Xavier used his power to cause damage to another man, a man he’d once trusted and called his friend, because that trusted man did something heinous to one of Xavier’s students–and Charles snapped.”

I remember that scene in Xavier’s study when he was reflecting on the situation and thinking about his dream of mutants and human beings coexisting, and I remember very vividly wanting that to be it for Charles. Wanting him to finally say, “You know what, fuck you. You and your hatred and bigotry. We have sacrificed ourselves and fought for you over and over again, and this is how you regard us? You viewed me only as a monster; hear me roar.”

And with that Xavier becomes the most powerful villain in the Marvel Universe.

I actually thought it had been sort of prepped for that, given how Age of Apocalypse was all about the world without Charles Xavier. They could have totally gone for “World where Charles Xavier turned bad.”

I don’t know how that fits or conflicts with your Image hypothesis. I never read Image, or, I think, Liefeld. The best thing about Liefeld is the website with the top 20 worst Liefeld drawings (I may be misremembering).

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Michael P said on August 19th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

The problem with this thesis is that plenty of the crappy stuff continued after Onslaught. We even got new crappy stuff in the form of Heroes Reborn. It may have been the point where we got fed up with ’90s Marvel, but it wasn’t the end by a long shot.

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@Michael P: I’m including ‘Heroes Reborn’ as a positive consequence, though, because it was the first time the crappy stuff was universally recognized as crappy. The big reaction to the announcement of ‘Heroes Reborn’ was, “Unbelievable! Marvel is finally giving in and admitting that the Image guys know more about comics than they do!” The big reaction to the actual books was, “Wow. These are lousy.” It was the first time everyone admitted that the emperor had no clothes, and it ended the Image style’s dominance over comics. That was worth a year of crappy out-of-continuity Captain America and Avengers to me.

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kingderella said on August 19th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

while this piece is a pretty good explanation for onslaught, im not sure it works as a defense. maybe as an excuse.

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I sort of drifted out of comics around 1990/1 and didn’t get dragged back in until a friend introduced me to The Ultimates, so I missed out on that decade of ‘Kewl’ excess and out of all proportion shittiness masquerading as superhero stories. And it was a good few years after that that yet another friend picked up an issue of Heroes Reborn Avengers from a bargain bin and forced it upon me. It contained some drivel about Kang going after the Avengers to impress Mantis, but what I really remember was thinking “Wow, this is what The Ultimates would have been like if Marvel had done it back in the 90′s.”

Galactus couldn’t have eaten – that – quickly enough for my sanity.

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Age of Apocalypse was legitimately awesome in its own right, though.

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The one-shot that serves as the climax of the event and bridge to Heroes Reborn honestly works well enough. It’s kind of emotional, even as it suffers from the solution being “All the characters run into a big yellow light”.

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…and Malice Invisible Woman…

I actually liked Malice Invisible Woman. I think it’s common fan knowledge nowadays that the Invisible Woman is the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, and I think that stems (at least partially) from just how thoroughly she beat the rest of them during her stint as Malice.

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Personally, I always figured that the X-Tratior Bishop was so afraid of finding was going to be, in fact, Bishop himself.

If you count his betrayal of the team during the Messiah Complex stuff, then it still kinda works.

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First, I’d like to say that I really enjoy your view on this time and character. It’s the most positive description of the thing that is no longer named that I have ever seen.
Second, could you give your view on Marvel as it is today? I recall that you mentioned that you would no longer read marvel comics, wither for the reboot or how they flip off creators, I cannot recall. However, Marvel nowadays (to me) has sunk back down to nineties levels of pain and misery. This is just my opinion, of course, but having a villain take over spider man and spend quite a bit of time showing us how much better this evil version is (saying that peter would let a little girl die and having Ock lay a smackdown on the ghost screams of character one upmanship), as well as seeing their responce to Avengers Academy and Runnaways (Wow, these characters have a decent fanbase. Kill them all! And that Sentinel kid too!) leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Make mine independent.
Third, did Onslaught ever make a comeback? Can’t keep a bad trend down, after all.

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I rarely buy these wide-ranging, cross-company stories. I did see one part of the Onslaught story I liked, though. It was the endgame battle between the Hulk and Onslaught.

“Hulk. Is. ANGRY!”

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Wolfthomas said on August 20th, 2013 at 12:57 am

I was child in the 90s. As a result Cable is STILL my favourite comic character EVER. The 90s did a lot of damage, that’s what I’m saying.

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I actually liked Malice Invisible Woman. I think it’s common fan knowledge nowadays that the Invisible Woman is the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, and I think that stems (at least partially) from just how thoroughly she beat the rest of them during her stint as Malice.

Yes, but they are generally thinking about the original Malice storyline from back when John Byrne was good, not the crappy ’90s sequel that largely involved Sue cutting holes in her costume and getting pissy at everyone.

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Pennyforth said on August 20th, 2013 at 10:09 am

I still groan at the concept of Onslaught….but without him, we might not have Thunderbolts, that excellent Heroes for Hire run, or the Busiek/Perez era of Avengers.

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I’ll admit it, I liked Onslaught and think it would still hold up relatively well on a reread, not just as a metatextual rebuttal to the Image founders but as an actual story of its own.

The build-up might not have been planned, but makes as much sense as if it had been. As crossover-worthy villains go, “Xavier and Magneto amalgamated” is firing on all cylinders, both a credible threat and a personalized trauma. It pulls together lots of aspects of the Marvel Universe naturally. It was used as a way for characters to take on their own personal demons, like Sue Storm actually fighting Malice, or have some long-overdue cooperation between them. The sacrifice in the end was really meaningful, at least by comic book standards. A few scenes in the miniseries genuinely gave me chills.

Second, could you give your view on Marvel as it is today? … This is just my opinion, of course, but having a villain take over spider man and spend quite a bit of time showing us how much better this evil version is (saying that peter would let a little girl die and having Ock lay a smackdown on the ghost screams of character one upmanship)

Yes, because this went so well last time.

Third, did Onslaught ever make a comeback? Can’t keep a bad trend down, after all.

Yeah, after House of M I think. Don’t know how long it lasted, or if he’s still technically around or not, but there was a rehash of some kind.

(Sorry if this posts multiple times, but I’ve waited more than 10 minutes and still don’t see it, so I’ll try again…)

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Jesse Baker said on August 20th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Deltarno, Onslaught’s getting ready to make a comeback. It’s been established in Uncanny Avengers and Future Foundation that Scott Summers killing Xavier has triggered a nightmare dystopian future where Red Skull, Doom, Anhillius, Kang, and three other unnamed yet villains will combine to recreate Onslaught and bring about the Days of Future Past timeline

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Jesse Baker said on August 20th, 2013 at 1:06 pm

So many details wrong here that it’s sad.

Onslaught was created by Bob Harras to serve as a new “cosmic” threat to the X-men. The crossover stuff did not factor into it until the decision was made to co-opt the entire storyline to set up the Heroes Reborn stuff, which was LITERALLY eleventh hour stuff.

Mark Waid pitched Xavier as Onslaught and wanted him to be Xavier gone Dark Phoenix. Lobdell didn’t like that, forcing the attachment of the lame plot point of Magneto’s “darkness” infecting Xavier and causing Onslaught to be some sort of Xavier/Magneto hybrid. Harras tossed in the X-Traitor junk to wrap up that plotline, as Harras refused to do what was planned with Gambit being the traitor.

It was one of the main reasons why Waid quit the book, the editorial inteference, which basically got worse after Onslaught. Indeed Onslaught is widely seen as the last gasp of the X-Books after the early 90s resurgence of the title to popularity as far as being a jumping off point for most fans

Also, the whole Malice/Invisible Woman thing had LONG LONG LONG been resolved. It was a short term storyline and lasted about eight months.

And furthermore, Bob Harras flat out forbid the Spider-Man writers from switching Ben with Peter in terms of ending the Clone Saga right before the crossover (as was plan), because he didn’t want the resolution and restoration of the one true Spider-Man upstaging the X-Over and Heroes Reborn, causing Dan Jurgans to quit the book in disgust.

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@Jesse Baker: Yes, Onslaught was created by Bob Harras as the next “cosmic” threat to the X-Men, but crucially, the character was already being worked into the books before they finalized who he/she/it would actually be. This resulted in a number of inconsistencies in his origin and abilities that were papered over later. (The famous scene of the Juggernaut, semi-conscious, muttering about Onslaught, was written when nobody knew who the character actually was or what they could do.)

And yes, I’m aware that the “Malice/Invisible Woman” thing had been resolved. It was there as an example of the kind of pointless transformations of existing characters into “dark” antiheroes that was going on during the era, not a specific plot problem that needed to be resolved by ‘Heroes Reborn’. That was Ben Grimm’s bucket head. :)

The decision to delay the return of Peter as Spider-Man wasn’t the only reason Jurgens quit ‘Sensational’–he was also very unhappy with editor Bob Budiansky, and the decision to delay Peter’s return was more the final straw than anything else–but my point was never about the timing of the decision, only the in-universe explanation. They never had a back-up plan to bring back Peter, because the change was intended at the time to be permanent. Throwing them both into the ‘Heroes Reborn’ universe for a year, and bringing them out as one person, would probably have worked better than, “Ben melts.” The timeframe is not really relevant to that rampant “wouldacouldashoulda”. :)

And yes, I did mention that the X-Books continued to stagger a long time after ‘Onslaught’. But it, and ‘Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return’, was a turning point for a lot of series, like ‘Avengers’, that were floundering. It still feels to me like most of the Marvel Universe turned the corner there, even if the X-titles were still struggling for a few years longer.

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William Kendall said on August 20th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I’m with Pennyforth on this one. Onslaught did lead to Thunderbolts, Heroes For Hire (before that idiot Jessica Jones turned Luke Cage into an annoying dolt), and Busiek’s Avengers run with Perez.

It’ll take Busiek doing a second Avengers Forever to correct the damage Bendis has done to the Marvel universe.

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“…tying off the bloody stump of all the attempts to rewrite Xavier as a manipulative bastard”
Didn’t they keep those sorts of plotlines going afterwards? I seem to recall Vulcan only came into existence years later, and he’s pretty heavily bound up in that sort of “PROFESSOR X SENDS TEENS TO DIE FOR HIM” thing.

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NewtypeS3 said on August 20th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I’d argue that it’s no longer re-writing Xavier as one, but adding depth to Xavier via retcon to show he was more desperate than he let on.

Admittedly, same idea, but it’s one that’s more in line with him being the odd dick he was in the 1960s than the master manipulator some writers wanted him to be.

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SIlverHammerMan said on August 20th, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Pennyforth makes what followed sound kind of like DC’s 52. Which is a very good thing.

And on the subject of Vulcan and characters who throw Professor X under the bus, might I suggest Danger? Her origin entails Xavier knowingly enslaving a sentient computer so that he could upgrade his gym. Basically she’s terrible.

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Beware Of Geek said on August 21st, 2013 at 3:53 pm

So, Onslaught was good, because it was REALLY bad? As opposed to giving credit to folks like Kurt Busiek, who took the dregs of the story (plus Heroes Return) and made something good?

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So, Onslaught was good, because it was REALLY bad? As opposed to giving credit to folks like Kurt Busiek, who took the dregs of the story (plus Heroes Return) and made something good?

No. I’d say Onslaught was good, which is all the more notable due to its weak foundation. Alternately, you could say that Onslaught is much better than one would have expected it to be, regardless of whether that rises to the level of “good” or not.

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The main problem with Onslaught (and the Entity and earlier Xavier goes bad thingy which killed MILLIONS of people in the Microverse) is that in a shared universe you can’t follow it to its conclusion.

No matter how many times he goes bad and how many people he mind-wipes, manipulates or kills Xavier will always end up back in the school heading the Xmen with his crimes hand-waved away.

Which is why I almost wish DC and Marvel would adopt a 10 year reboot plan, let the universe go to its natural conclusions and then restart.

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SIlverHammerMan- What really sucks about Danger is that her origin was impossible. The story made out that the Danger Room had been like that for years, that this was some long term crime of Xavier’s. But post Operation Zero Tolerance the X-mansion had been completely stripped of all tech. There was no Sh’iar Danger Room anymore.

In fact Joss’ initial run with a fake Hellfire Club, X-men tech turning on them and needing to track down Xavier is very similar to a run that started with X-men 360 featuring fake X-men, X-men tech turning on them(Cerebro) and needing to track down Xavier

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[…] even wait seven months. This reminds me more of early Image Comics, and those were just as terrible as […]

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