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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #335

  

- untitled - 
August 1996

In a Nutshell
The X-Men & Avengers come together in the face of Onslaught's attack to plan their next moves. 

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inker: Tim Townsend
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
Ozymandias watches as his master, Apocalypse, awakens from his restorative slumber. Catching up on recent events by reading Ozymandias' mind, Apocalypse declares the Age of Wonders is coming to an end, as he finds Uatu the Watcher waiting outside Apocalypse's temple. Meanwhile, the Avengers & Nate Grey arrive at the damaged X-Mansion. After a brief scuffle, the X-Men inform the Avengers that Onslaught is Charles Xavier, and the two teams plot their next moves. On Muir Island, Excalibur digests the news about Onslaught, with Moira declaring that it is time to unseal the Xavier Protocols. Back at the mansion, Bishop apologizes to Gambit for believing him to be the one who betrayed the X-Men. Meanwhile, at a strategy session in the Danger Room, the Avengers decide to find Magneto and warn the Fantastic Four, given Xavier's apparent interest in their son, Franklin. Cyclops, fearing Nate Grey may also be a target, tasks X-Force with guarding him, while Storm decides to set off in search of Cable, who could also be a target. Wolverine, acting on a hunch, sets out on his own, while the incoming Psylocke & Archangel are directed to meet the departing Cyclops & Phoenix on Muir Island. In Manhattan, Dark Beast presents Onslaught his lair in the Morlock Tunnels, and promises to find Onslaught additional allies, with Onslaught declaring that soon, the planet will be his. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the beginning of "Phase 1" of "Onslaught"; within the larger crossover, Marvel denotes certain issues as belonging to different "phases" of the story, or being "impact" titles, issues which don't connect to the crossover's main narrative but have an impact (theoretically) on it. For the most part, the "Phase" and "Impact" denotations are largely useless, especially given that they don't really suggest any kind of reading order beyond "these half dozen 'Phase 1' issues probably take place before those half-dozen 'Phase 2' issues". 

Apocalypse returns in this issue - the "main" Apocalypse, not a past, future, or alternate reality version - following his "death" at the end of "X-Cutioner's Song" (which, of course, wasn't actually his death but just another weakened condition that required a period of hibernation to restore him). He will appear throughout the crossover, functioning in a sort of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" kind of role. 


He proceeds to declare an end to the Age of Wonders, making thinly-veiled references to the Avengers and Fantastic Four. This is one of those things this story will do at various times in light of Heroes Reborn, suggesting some kind of seismic shift in the Marvel Universe. Which, of course, at the time, is what the looming reboot felt like but which ultimately didn’t happen, making this all read a little overstated in hindsight.


To underscore this point, Uatu the Watcher shows up, the universal signal for "the ensuing story is a Big Deal" (a group of Watchers served the same function in "Legion Quest", and the notion can really be traced all the way back to the Silver Age "Galactus Trilogy" in Fantastic Four).  

The rest of the issue is, functionally, a bunch of setup for the other crossover tie-ins. 

Captain America stresses the importance of finding Magneto and warning the Fantastic Four, which will unfold in the pages of Avengers and Fantastic Four


Moira references the Xavier Protocols, which will serve as Excalibur's contribution to the crossover. 


Cyclops assigns Domino & X-Force to protect Nate Grey (whom the X-Men know Xavier was monitoring), which will lead to a little sub-crossover between X-Force and X-Man


The concern over Nate leads Storm to wonder after Cable, and she sets out to find him and make sure he's not captures by Onslaught; she will next turn up in Cable


Wolverine (acting far more put together than in the last issue of his solo series) sets off on his own, acting on a (unstated) hunch; this will lead to an exploration of Onslaught's origins in Wolverine


Psylocke and Archangel, last seen heading towards the X-Mansion following their encounter with Juggernaut last issue, are redirected to Muir Island. 


And finally, Onslaught asks Dark Beast to locate "dark attendants" to him, which will unfold in X-Factor


The Chronology Corner
It's not entirely clear where Domino & X-Force are coming from when they enter in this issue (and/or where they were during Onslaught's attack); Domino last appeared in Cable #33 (when she was at the mansion), whereas Siryn & Shatterstar last appeared in X-Force #56, while the rest of the team previously appeared in the forthcoming X-Force/Youngblood crossover. 

The various Excalibur members appearing here do so between Excalibur #99 and #100, which is a little awkward given the way the former leads fairly directly into the latter, but it's really the only way that makes sense. 

A Work in Progress
Apocalypse says that where there were two — Xavier and Magneto — now there is one — Onslaught.


An aerial shot of the mansion gives a sense of the damage wrought by the X-Men’s battle with Onslaught.


There is something funny about the fact that Nate specifically went to the Avengers for help because he didn't trust the X-Men, and the Avengers proceeded to bring him directly to...the X-Men (also, it's not clear where Threnody is in all this). 

Nate also reacts to Jean's appearance (since she would look exactly like Madelyne Pryor). 


Upon learning about Onslaught, Nate smugly insists that he was right all along to not trust Xavier, though his role in creating Onslaught (by showing him how to cross from the astral to the physical plane) is mentioned. 


Whereas in Onslaught: X-Men, Cyclops insisted the X-Men needed to be prepared to kill Xavier to stop Onslaught, here, Jean insists they need to stop Onslaught without hurting Xavier.


Gambit & Bishop share a nice moment together where Bishop apologizes to Gambit for accusing him of being the X-traitor while grappling with what this all means for him, with Gambit telling Bishop it's all good since Gambit seems like the type of guy who would betray his friends anyway (essentially). 


Cyclops refer to Nate as "X-Man", the first time, I think, that the title of his series is applied to the character. 

Dark Beast clarifies here that he didn't create the Morlocks, merely experimented on them. 


Human/Mutant Relations
Vision notes the irony of human/mutant tensions, given that the two are fundamentally the same species. 


For Sale
There's ads in this issue for both Independence Day...


...and The Frighteners, a movie I've never seen but I always remember as pretty much the last big Michael J. Fox-starring film. 


The "Marvel Mania" ad in this issue features a listing for the Photo Journal Guide to Marvel Comics, a big two volume book which reprinted the cover of nearly every Marvel comic; back in the days when you couldn't just look up every cover online (let alone read the actual issue for minimal cost/relative ease), I would check that set out from the library CONSTANTLY and page through it, looking up the covers to famous issues cited on the backs of trading cards and whatnot. 


Bullpen Bulletins
Most Marvel issues this month feature a "Onslaught and Beyond!" update, which comes in the form of a two page "Onslaught is Here" text piece, featuring more of that shoddy 90s digital printing that makes the text hard to read...


...as well as a pair of two-page "behind the scenes" looks at Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld's upcoming "Heroes Reborn" series(which represent the "and beyond" portion).
 

Austin's Analysis
While it's easy to get caught up in the energy of the crossover, especially in this, its second chapter (and the first from a regular series), if you take a step back, it quickly becomes apparent that this issue is almost entirely devoted to setting up the plot threads that will unwind in other series' tie-in issues. There's Apocalypse's return at the very beginning and the appearance of Uatu to help set the stakes (though even there, Apocalypse's return will be followed up on in later chapters as well, of course), but after that, nearly every other scene is devoted to setting up a plotline for a tie-in series: searching for Magneto in Avengers, warning the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four, obtaining the Xavier Protocols from Muir Island, Wolverine's...hunch, helping Cable, protecting X-Man, assembling a team of minions for Onslaught. As such, there's really not much else to this issue (though the one page Gambit/Bishop scene is quite lovely and a fun continuation of that pairing that's been highlighted of late over in Adjectiveless), but we do get to see Joe Madureira draw a bunch of different characters, including the Avengers (and it's not his fault he's stuck with some of their lesser looks, like shirtless Thor). He doesn't get to draw them doing much, of course, in scene after scene of characters talking to each other about their plans, but if there has to be a a talky, exposition-heavy setup issue, there's nothing wrong with having it look good, I suppose. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the Avengers hunt for Magneto in Avengers #401. Friday, Onslaught targets Franklin Richards in Fantastic Four #415. Next week, Cable fights Hulk in Cable #34!

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15 comments:

  1. The Frighteners is actually a pretty fun mocmo directed by a pre "Lord of the Rings" Peter Jackson that still mostly holds up.

    The "Phase" and "Impact" labels that Marvel has always had with their line wide crossovers: chronology. If I recall, the official chronology of this event has some "Impact 2" titles occurring before some of the "Phase 1" titles. I'm sure Marvel marketing didn't want people feeling like it was essential to buy every title but that fails when almost all of them have mini-crossovers within each title. I think one or two of them also crossover from a "Phase" title to an "Impact" title.

    As for this issue, it feels like the event busy work that should have been in the Onslaught: X-Men special. Certainly it's indicative of the nature of this event. A lot of busy work to justify the ridiculous size for a story that could have been done in 12 issues or less.

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    1. I figured out what you meant but for half a second I thought maybe "mocmo" was a film abbreviation like "rom-com" or "biopic" I just didn't know. :)

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    2. I suppose it could be a new label for parody movies. Though, mocmo seems a little nonsensical compared to mocumentary.

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    3. I have The Frighteners on my (lengthy) rewatch list — recall it being a pleasant surprise when I saw it in the theaters with no idea at the time who Peter Jackson was, since I didn’t check out Heavenly Creatures until after LOTR.

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  2. I know that nothing actually happens in this issue, but damn does that Joe Mad art look great. This was the crossover that got me mowing neighbors' lawns so that I could check out the tertiary X books I wasn't keeping up with after the run-up had me switch from buying X-Men comics at bookstores and the pharmacy to getting it at a LCS.

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  3. This is a pretty good set-up for the remainder of the series. Even though I think the crossover is ultimately unsuccessful, it's cool to see all the X-teams come together PLUS Avengers and FF coming in. I was definitely hyped to see how this was all going to play out.

    Because of AoA, I completely forgot Apocalypse was supposed to be dead/resting, and hadn't been seen in this timeline since X-Cutioner's Song. It's good to see him back - him and Sinister are great foils for the X-men (even if Apocalypse doesn't really do much, or anything antagonistic, in this crossover).

    The feral Wolverine + blue bandana mask is just a terrible look in my opinion. It doesn't work for me at all. Since I'm reading this for the first time, I don't know when he gets his adamantium back and returns to his Clint Eastwood-ish manner, but count me as someone who cannot wait for him to revert back to his old self (if he ever does....).

    Lastly, weird art note I just noticed based on your screencaps Austin - Cyclops loses the yellow shoulder strap in screencap 15 when he's talking to Quicksilver and Cap. The pouch outfit without the strap just seems off.

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    1. "it's cool to see all the X-teams come together PLUS Avengers and FF coming in. I was definitely hyped to see how this was all going to play out."

      I was just getting online for the first time when this was published, and I remember that, much as the older fans weren't into it on the AOL boards, there were a number who at least gave it credit for showing the X-Men interacting with the wider Marvel Universe for the first time in years. And there is something cool about it; seeing Cap call Wolverine "Logan" as a reminder of their past encounters, and seeing the Avengers talk about how they've known Professor X for years. It's sort of... heartwarming?

      You make a good point about Apocalypse. He had been off the board in the main continuity for years at this point, but Marvel kept him in circulation via AoA, random flashbacks, mini-series like THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX, and so forth.

      Also, you beat me to complaining about Wolverine's "costume" in this event!

      "The pouch outfit without the strap just seems off."

      Personally, I think it's because Madureira eliminated the "X" logo from his belt buckle some time back. Everyone else still draws it, but as with the thigh straps, Joe Mad dumped it. Take away the shoulder straps, and Cyclops has no "X" on his costume, which just looks weird. If he had the "X" (and its accompanying red background), I think it would look fine. It would basically be the Cockrum/Byrne costume without the head cover.

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    2. Ahhh, good call re the "X" logo being dropped. Never picked up on that!

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  4. rendition. Toy Biz must have liked it too, because they put a Madureira-inspired Apocalypse in their "Onslaught" line, with the red bandages and everything.

    There's a weird glitch with Cyclops in this issue. When he first shows up, he's battle damaged with ripped costume and missing his shoulder harness. Later, during the Danger Room briefing, his costume is still torn, but he has the harness back.


    "This is one of those things this story will do at various times in light of Heroes Reborn, suggesting some kind of seismic shift in the Marvel Universe. Which, of course, at the time, is what the looming reboot felt like but which ultimately didn’t happen, making this all read a little overstated in hindsight."

    I've often wished that "Heroes Reborn" had been extended for a second year. I really liked all the stories about the various heroes trying to move on with the Avenegrs and FF gone. But at the same time, if that had happened, the stars might not have aligned correctly for the "Heroes Return" titles, so I guess I should be happy with what we got, because I love the Busiek/Perez AVENGERS an awful lot.

    "Wolverine (acting far more put together than in the last issue of his solo series) sets off on his own, acting on a (unstated) hunch; this will lead to an exploration of Onslaught's origins in Wolverine."

    To this day, it annoys me to no end that Wolverine spends this mega-crossover in the stupid feral bandana look which lasted less than a year. It's so unfortunate that year happened to overlap with "Onslaught".

    "Gambit & Bishop share a nice moment together where Bishop apologizes to Gambit for accusing him of being the X-traitor while grappling with what this all means for him, with Gambit telling Bishop it's all good since Gambit seems like the type of guy who would betray his friends anyway (essentially)."

    I liked this scene. It's the sort of moment that could've been overlooked and lost to the crossover chaos, but since Lobdell uses this as, sort of, a "quiet issue" within the event, there's time for the apology.

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    1. There's something I like about this issue, with all the various threads being set up, and the constant footnotes telling you pick up the next issue of Fill-in-the-Blank to see what will happen. Mind you, I didn't actually read all those issues so I have no idea how they went, but the illusion of an organized crossover as presented here is fun to see.

      Joe Mad draws such a fantastic Apocalypse. Any time I've try to doodle the character, it's been based on his
      "For the most part, the "Phase" and "Impact" denotations are largely useless, especially given that they don't really suggest any kind of reading order beyond "these half dozen 'Phase 1' issues probably take place before those half-dozen 'Phase 2' issues"."

      For what it's worth, while Marvel has collected the entire "Onslaught" event in several formats -- the COMPLETE ONSLAUGHT EPIC trades years ago, the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS which followed those, and the more recent X-MEN/AVENGERS: ONSLAUGHT trades which are currently being released -- when they published the "core" event in the X-MEN MILESTONES: ONSLAUGHT trade last year, they whittled it down to these issues in this order:

      - UNCANNY X-MEN #333
      - X-MEN #53
      - UNCANNY X-MEN #334
      - X-MEN #55
      - ONSLAUGHT: X-MEN
      - UNCANNY X-MEN #335
      - AVENGERS #401
      - FANTASTIC FOUR #415
      - Excerpt from EXCALIBUR #100
      - WOLVERINE #104
      - X-MEN #56
      - UNCANNY X-MEN #336
      - CABLE #35
      - X-MEN #57
      - ONSLAUGHT: MARVEL UNIVERSE
      - UNCANNY X-MEN #337
      - X-MEN #58
      - ONSLAUGHT EPILOGUE

      I'm not sure if there are any major plot points omitted by doing it this way. I do remember reading the event as a teen and skipping most of the non-X-MEN issues and wondering things like how Onslaught captured Franklin and Nate, but otherwise it went smoothly enough.

      Though I own the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS, I'm primarily reading along via this trade digitally, so I guess I'll find out soon enough how well it flows. Though off the top of my head right now, I can say that it probably should've included X-FORCE 55, since that followed directly from UNCANNY 333 and showed Cyclops' rescue from SHIELD.

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    3. Yeesh. The first paragraph and a half of my second comment (everything up to "It's been based on his..." should be read before reading the first comment, which begins en media res. No idea how that happened.

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  5. Apocalypse referring to the Watcher who pops him a visit as an "old friend" is almost fourth wall breaking funny, because the Watcher indeed was there at Apocalypse's apparent death in X-FACTOR #68 and again for the launch of the Age of Apocalypse, but I'm not sure if in-universe Apocalypse should know of these instances.

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  6. Madureira’s art is not without appeal but in that panel of Cap talking to Domino he’s perilously close to Super-Hero Squad territory.

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