For a brand new community, Krakoa sure is filled with ghosts, figurative and literal. Over in New Mutants, the kids are dealing with Shadow King, there are spooky magicks happening over in Excalibur and, throughout all of Way of X, there’s been a looming terror haunting the edges of Nightcrawler’s thoughts.
Now, in The Onslaught Revelation, Kurt and Co. finally have the titular revelation — that the terror is ’90s baddie (and OG Heroes Reborn inciting incident) Onslaught, a hybrid of Xavier and Magneto’s minds that has plagued the Marvel Universe a handful of times (twice?) before, to the thunderous ‘meh’ of fans.
It’s a real testament to the Krakoan Age’s insistence of inviting everyone to the party that Onslaught get’s an in so early in the island’s history. This era of X-Men is looking to celebrate the decades of mutant weirdness that preceded it with cameos and roles for mutants oft-neglected after their initial creation.
That Si Spurrier thought to include Onslaught isn’t exactly surprising, given the MO of the books; that he decided to contain the conflict to six neat issues is. And make no mistake, The Onslaught Revelation isn’t a neat, standalone issue, kicking off a big Onslaught storyline. Rather, this could just as easily been the sixth issue of the Way of X miniseries.
Indeed, this issue begins in media res, with all the players from that mini caught up in some fairly bombastic nonsense that an uninformed reader would have some issue trying to figure out; the island is infected with little Onslaught brain parasites, but our main players (Kurt, Legion, Fabien Cortez, and newcomer Lost) are having a psychedelic therapy session in Legion’s very strange brainscape.
Confusing as all this might be to that uninitiated reader, the issue doesn’t skimp on high drama and action. While Legion’s brain trust is doing their business — talking vague sense to Fabien Cortez, who is being characteristically a pain in the ass — a crew outside is trying to contain the actual conflict on Krakoa itself: all those infected mutants are throwing a sort of suicide rave under Onslaught’s direction.
On your average Krakoan Tuesday, this wouldn’t mean much (mutants are now effectively immortal, what with backup rebirths), but the book manages to give the reader a full gut-dropping sense of worry early on: Xavier, also infected, is deleting those backups.
What Way of X/Onslaught Revelation manages to do — without the clutter of explaining Onslaught’s convoluted origins or recreating major events — is provide a mini-tragedy in waiting. Krakoa has no shortage of conflicts brewing (Hickman’s X-Men was essentially a conflict creation engine), but so many of those problems come from outside Krakoa proper. Spurrier and Quinn — along with Vita Ayala and Rod Reis over on New Mutants — want to instill an interior sense of danger: not all is right on the island, and all those old hatchets have not been buried.
Onslaught is, after all, born from two of the three most important characters of the House of X/Powers of X storyline that launched this ship (sorry, Moira). If something so horrible can loom from such an important source, it’s assured that nothing is truly safe.
The Onslaught Revelation does two final important things. First, it hammers home Kurt’s mission of establishing a singular mutant culture. If something like Onslaught can come from within then the mutants need to be unified against that potential infection. Two, it provides a short, sweet Onslaught story that encapsulates the villain and concludes with none of the messy Big Event sloppiness with which it is usually accompanied by.
Using Onslaught not as a giant end boss but, instead, as a transitionary conflict means that we’ve addressed the Big Red Elephant in the room and come out the other side all the better for it.
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