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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

X-amining Onslaught Epilogue #1

"Prisoner M-13"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
A captive Professor X helps a fellow prisoner escape from Bastion!

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Randy Green
Inkers: John Holdredge with Hilary Barta
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Dan Moreshead
Editor: Mark Powers
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Separations: Digital Chameleon

Charles Xavier is being held by Bastion at an Operation: Zero Tolerance facility. Bastion is eager to learn more about why Onslaught happened, though Henry Peter Gyrich is confused as to why Bastion treats the seemingly-helpless Xavier so poorly. When psychologist Ingrid Thysson, accompanied by government agent Daryll Smith, arrives to conduct a full psych evaluation of Xavier, the prisoner in the cell next to his "slides" through their shared wall. She is Nina, a young girl with massive powers she is able to use to at least partially keep Bastion at bay. When Thysson arrives to evaluate Xavier, Nina returns to her cell. As Xavier sows doubt in Thysson about the validity of her job, Gyrich and Bastion discuss Nina, and decide to have Smith execute her. Later, Nina enters Xavier's cell, and offers to restore his telepathy; he turns her down, so instead she creates a phone, which Xavier uses to contact Renee Majcomb. With Thysson's help, he orchestrates an escape for Nina. Though Xavier provides a distraction, Smith captures both Thysson and Nina; when Xavier sees the unconscious Thysson, he believes his attempt failed. However, when Thysson visits him again in a few days, he receives a call from Majcomb, who puts the freed Nina on the phone, who reveals that Smith in fact helped her escape. Xavier tells Nina to try and find, and help, others like her, and she promises to one day restore his telepathy. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue catches up with the captive Professor X, following his willing surrender to the government in X-Men (vol. 2) #57. His role in the creation of Onslaught, however, doesn't appear to be public knowledge even within the government and it's anti-mutant factions, as Henry Peter Gyrich is unsure why Bastion is holding Xavier under such intense guard when he's just a noted pro-mutant activist (which is also a reminder that Xavier's being a mutant is still a secret). 

Xavier is being held at the old Hulkbuster base aka Gamma Base (formerly used by a contingent of military forces dedicated to eliminating the Hulk). I asked writer Larry Hama if the idea to use it here was something he came up with, and he said that he had never heard of it before, so it likely came from someone in editorial. It will make a few more appearances as a base for Operation: Zero Tolerance during the crossover of the same name. 

This issue also introduces Nina, a young mutant girl who will later be classified a "Mannite", a special group of artificial lifeforms with significant powers and abilities which feature in Alan Davis' run on Uncanny X-Men and Adjectiveless circa "The Twelve". When asked about any plans he had for the character, all Hama said was that he'd always wanted to go back and use the character again, but never got the chance. 

Nina will not appear again until X-Men (vol. 2) #82, during the "Hunt for Xavier" storyline, but she will restore Xavier's telepathic abilities in X-Men (vol. 2) #84 (she mentions here that his telepathy still exists and that she can turn it on, but he refuses her offer). 

Genoshan expat Renee Majcomb pops up in this issue, taking custody of Nina; the Marvel Chronology Project slots her appearance in Cable #40 after this, even though Nina isn't in that issue, and when Renee next appears, publication-wise, it will be at Nina's side in the "Hunt for Xavier" storyline. 

Daryll Smith, an agent of the NSA's Mutant Task Force, makes his first appearance here helping Nina escape from Bastion, but a footnote here retroactively places him in Wolverine #95, as a victim of Dirt Nap absorbed before Dirt Nap absorbed the young boy in that story. Smith will appear in the Venom: Tooth and Claw miniseries (also written by Hama), where he is "released" from Dirt Nap, setting that story before this one. Hama, who mentioned that Smith was based on a real person (but didn't say who) will use him again in a handful of Venom limited series he'll write down the road as well. 

Creator Central
This issue is penciled by Randy Green, who will shortly takeover as the new artist on Cable for a time. 

When I asked Larry Hama if this story was something he specifically wanted to write or if it was assigned to him by editorial, he said he didn't remember how it all came about, adding, "we had to churn out a lot of stories back then."

A Work in Progress
Nina is designated as prisoner M-9 (Xavier is M-13); Nina is also said to be an alpha-level mutant. 

Nina notes that she can't read Bastion's mind. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
For some reason, the psychologist Doctor Thysson dresses like Meltdown

Austin's Analysis
This is a strange one. Ostensibly, as the name suggests, it is an epilogue to the "Onslaught" crossover, though it comes several months after the storyline concluded (a storyline which certainly had its fair share of epilogue-ish issues already). And while it does feature a check-in with a post-arrest Professor X, it seems far more interested in dealing with Bastion and his Operation: Zero Tolerance, making it read more like a prologue to the forthcoming crossover than an epilogue to the previous one. Yet even then, it is chiefly concerned with introducing a new character, Nina, and setting up a plotline for her, which won't even come up during "Operation: Zero Tolerance". 

Despite this sort of muddied purpose, it's not a poorly created comic: Hama can knock this kind of stuff out in his sleep, and the art is perhaps unnecessarily stylized but hardly excessive for art of this vintage. There isn't anything to really recommend here, but nothing to really damn it with, either. Yet that unclear vision, the way it seems to slot in and around a few different stories without ever really committing to one specific connection, makes its lasting impression one that is far too common amongt issues from this time period: what is event the point of this?  With the answer seemingly being, as it all too sadly often is, "to make a quick buck". 

Next Issue
Larry Hama branches out to another hot 90s character in Venom: Tooth and Claw!

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  1. Hey, Austin! Thanks for all the hard work, I've been reading all the way from X-Men #1 (1963), about a year ago, waiting to catch up to finally come out of the shadows. It might seem 'crazy' (or not so much if you're into synchronicity) but you're almost at the point where I dropped my reading (I know how often you read this too; I devour posts AND comments, almost feeling as if I've met Matt, Blam, Teemu and so many others, among your international followers)

    On that note, I'd like to bring ny two mexican (devalued!) cents, as I share so many publishing traits with readers from other countries, except maybe on the issue of proximity, as Superman #75 busted the floodgates of comic fandom down here in my local Guadalajra, and paired with NAFTA, it allowed for the very first comicbook stores for us to hang out and meet other denizens of such an underworld! On that note, I started collecting in late '93, thus being some sort of intermediate to your and Matt's X-perience, in terms of the X-Universe (even the 'trading cards as source of general knowledge preceding actual comic books; I first got the gist on X-Cutioner's Song from a cardback, for instance!) and whilr I'd rarher not overstay/state wy 'wel-commenting', I do want to thank you again, and my being on-board for the long-run!

    Before signing out, I'd also send a shout-out to Matt, as I ended up here by frantically checking his notahoax blog in search of omnibus currently (circa 2020) published issues (I'm finally close to completing all of Claremont's run, just waiting for the Uncanny Vol. 5 annoncement, next year? The Masterworks already reprinted them! In 13 and 14, I think) so well, that's it for now! Ok, a final recommendation: check out the Uncanny Omar from Near Mint Condition, on Yt!

    Take care nOw I'll be back, already tempted to become a Patron by your covering Deadpool by Kelly/EMC! KEEP ON ROCKING THAT X-BADGE!

    1. I'm glad my blog led you here, Ben! Appreciate the shout-out. And yes, I'm hopeful UNCANNY OMNIBUS vol. 5 will be solicited in the next year or two to finish the Claremont run in oversized format.

  2. It kind of sounds like Hama wrote this one in his sleep. That's not a dig, just noting that while this issue is technically sound, it doesn't feel like it's much more than the bridge between crossovers. Not unlike something like Secret Invasion: War of Kings that would come later. I think Marvel has done a few of those by now, though it was relatively novel here.

    It's really interesting that no one, except for Bastion, knows why Xavier is there. If I recall, his arrest was rather vague and I begin to wonder why he would have gone is his mutant status is still a secret, even from those high on the command chain like Gyrich?

    It was also cool that you got to talk to Hama about this particular issue. Although, it is slightly disappointing that he didn't appear to have much to say about it. Ah well.

  3. This was… kinda surprisingly good. I have little emotional connection to the material — being almost entirely ignorant of the X-books from this period (and not really having a handle on where Bastion came from despite reading along to the extent possible) — yet it’s a fine little story on its own terms with Hama really nailing Xavier’s speech and character traits. Checking in on him during his detention isn’t the worst idea, although it might’ve seemed less of a money grab as one of the interlude issues we occasionally get on the main titles.

  4. I've always figured ONSLAUGHT EPILOGUE was the best they could come up with. As you note, it's not really that, nor is it truly an O:ZT prologue. They just had this Professor X one-shot that needed a title, so they tied it in with his most recent high profile storyline.

    I don't think I've ever read this since it was first released. Unlike a lot of the X-material from the 90s, which I've re-read occasionally over the years, I always skipped this one. It's not bad, though.

    I'm not sure what to make of Gyrich here. He's initially ignorant of Xavier's mutant abilities, but at one point later in the issue, he questions whether he overrode the psi-inhibitors somehow. He also goes right along with Bastion's order to have Nina killed, which seems a little extreme for him. He's a jerk and a bigot, but I've never known him to be a murderer (or the sort who might order a murder). Plus, even though Nina isn't actually killed, it makes any future "good Gyrich" stories (of which there are an occasional handful) ring a little hollow, given he followed an order to have a little girl executed.

    Also, way back in "Bloodties" (which I re-read recently as I finally sat down to go through the full Bob Harras/Steve Epting AVENGERS run), Gyrich is right there, front and center, when Professor X very blatantly uses his powers to stop a bunch of Genoshan magistrates. So either Xavier wiped Gyrich's memory after that incident (which he had mostly stopped doing by that point), or Gyrich actually does secretly know what Xavier is, and is playing ignorant with Bastion.

    (Honestly, if Gyrich doesn't know -- or at the very least, strongly suspect -- that Xavier is a mutant, then he's really not too bright. He's a had a few experiences with the professor at this point, and some of the things he's seen should at least trigger some speculation on the subject!)


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