X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught is a compilation of X-Men and Avengers stories in 1996 featuring one mystery villain: Onslaught.
Re-reading this arc as an adult was a very disjointed experience. In order to follow the events of Onslaught, the reader would have needed to purchase different issues from different titles, which was a standard in the industry for crossover events in 1996. It’s a long haul to read it all in one sitting under one compilation because the reader is whipped from one character and story to the next, but it does all connect!
I was surprised with how many major plot points in the Marvel universe took place during the Onslaught era. The enigmatic Joseph is running around with no memory of who he is or why people want him dead. For new readers to the X-Men, Joseph is a clone of Magneto who appeared in the mid-’90s after Magneto’s alleged death in the series. Joseph teams up with an unlikely ally, Rogue, who had left the X-Men to attempt to live a normal life. This was also during an era where Rogue was off being a southern belle and serving as a waitress.
Another major villain was introduced during this timeline: Bastion. While Onslaught is the focal enemy in this, the writers over at Marvel during this time period were slipping Bastion into the background. At this point Bastion was still a mystery, even to the reader. If you want to learn more about Bastion and his villainous relation to the X-Men, you can read my previous article covering that arc.
This was also during the time in which Nate Grey, aka X-Man, had been running around in his own solo comic book series. I’ve always had trouble understanding the appeal of Nate Grey as a character, or how he got his own solo series when Cable had already been introduced and had his own title. While these two characters have a relationship to each other, I would much rather read about gruff Cable blowing holes in walls and thinking melodramatic statements in thought bubbles.
In X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught, Nate Grey is mostly in a panic about warning both the X-Men and the Avengers regarding Onslaught’s true identity. A good chunk of the first half of this graphic novel is focused on X-Man, and for me that was a tough read. It’s okay, though! Cable gets some one-shot stories as well. It’s interesting to see both Cable and Nate Grey suffer the same problems separately from each other while never actually running into each other during this story arc.
I was also surprised to see how many famous X-Men scenes from the ’90s happened in the Onslaught arc. Some examples include: Bishop returning from the future after seeing a video from Jean Grey saying there was a traitor among the X-Men, Jean Grey discovering that Professor Xavier had been in love with her since she was one of his students, Dark Beast kidnapping regular Beast and replacing him within the X-Men, Psylocke recovering from Sabretooth nearly killing her, Logan having gone feral, and the X-Men meeting Joseph.
And then of course the big glaring plot point: The revelation of Franklin Richards, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman’s son, being a mutant – who Onslaught is wasting no time to manipulate as he poses as another boy wanting to play with Franklin.
The second half of this compilation is much stronger than the first. As the reader gets closer to discovering who Onslaught is, they are taken on a whirlwind of emotion and events. While this title is 25 years old, I am not going to spoil the revelation of Onslaught if you don’t already know who he is – but it is some pretty dark stuff for the X-Men.
This is also a great story where Jean Grey is a focal point again since her moments as the Dark Phoenix. Still going by the “Phoenix” title, Jean is feisty and confident. There is a moment where Juggernaut screams in her face and she only seems mildly annoyed by it. Often times writers don’t know what to do with Jean when she is not in her Phoenix frenzy, but that is not in the case in this book. She is strong and smart, planning every move with thought and strategy. It’s a really good story for her, especially in her relationship to Onslaught.
For what it’s worth, it’s a great story for Rogue, too. Rarely do we get to see what the X-Men do when they choose to depart with the team. Not only do we get to see Rogue’s attempt at living a normal life, but we see the prejudice she faces from someone who she loves and trusts – And even in that betrayal, Rogue finds forgiveness in her heart.
Yes, there are some politics sewn into this story like all X-Men stories, but they aren’t heavy. Instead the writers choose to spend time building on characters like Jean, Rogue, Joseph, Xavier, Cable and X-Man.
X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught is quite the good read. It seems little disjointed and slow at first, but the build up is worth it for the revelation of Onslaught.