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X-Men Milestones: Onslaught TPB review: A great introduction that falls apart

It serves a purpose while revealing one of the coolest villain designs of the ’90s.

Dawn of X has spawned an all-new level of interest in the X-Men for new and old fans alike. Marvel has smartly anticipated the increased interest by releasing X-Men Milestones trade paperback collections to put key X-Men stories and events back into print. We’ve reviewed a lot of them here at AIPT, from Fatal Attractions, to X-Cutioners Song, to X-Tinction Agenda, to Phalanx Covenant, to Inferno, to Mutant Massacre, and finally Fall of the MutantsX-Men Milestones: Onslaught is the latest to be released featuring mostly X-Men titles in the Marvel Comics publisher wide event.

This book is a hefty 488 pages long and contains Uncanny X-Men (1981) #333-337; X-Men (1991) #53-57; Onslaught (1996): X-Men, Marvel Universe, Epilogue; Avengers (1963) #401; Fantastic Four (1961) #415; Wolverine (1988) #104; Cable (1993) #35. As I pointed out above, not the entire event is collected here, though most of the X-Men title content is here for your mutant entertainment. As far as events go, Onslaught was impressive in how it reset so many characters, many of which weren’t mutants at all. At the end of this event, most of the Avengers ended up blipped out of existence as Franklin Richards saved them all in a pocket dimension in their final battle defeating Onslaught. Xavier was forever changed as it was now a reality where he could turn evil at any moment, plus we learn in this event he had feelings for Jean Grey when she joined the school. The once perfect visionary was rendered more human than ever thanks to the evil of Magneto seeping into him after erasing Magneto’s mind in a previous event. Aside from being a vehicle to massively turn the entire Marvel universe of characters in a new direction, it also served as a fantastic mystery story. In fact, that might be this book’s only saving grace.

This was an entire wine line event.
Credit: Marvel Comics

This first quarter of this book is intense, filled with surprises and exceptional art from Andy Kubert and Joe Madureira, among a few others. It opens with the threat of Onslaught looming via a transmission Bishop picks up as Jean Grey calls for help. There is distrust in the Xavier mansion thanks to Dark Beast impersonating this reality’s Beast, as well as the looming threat of Onslaught. Key scenes with Cyclops and Xavier, and Jean and Juggernaut, reveal there is something terribly wrong with the status quo. Even Xavier is unaware of what is fully going on while he tries to keep it together. This all pays off at the end of this book where Xavier turns himself in for fear that something like this could happen again. It’s an edge-of-your-seat build-up to the actual event that actually ends up being far more entertaining than what is reprinted here.

The main event has Onslaught attempting to kidnap Franklin Richards, attack New York with Sentinels, and basically go full evil villain who wants nothing but total control over everything. Sadly, a lot of the battle in New York was seen in tie-in issues which I remember fondly (Amazing Spider-Man had some great bits). Onslaught is unfortunately not very interesting, with little humanity to care about nor goals that are interesting. Once you take in how this book ends, you begin to realize it was all a means to an end to get Heroes Reborn kickstarted and to thoroughly mix up the characters so new stories can be told. The actual story itself meanders, is filled with pointless shouting and conflicts that don’t matter and is somehow boring even though the lives of every hero is on the line. There are also odd plot holes — take for instance how the heroes defeat Onslaught. They realize they must dive into his energy to increase his mass, but only non-mutants can do so without powering him back up. And yet, Scarlet Witch and Namor dive in no problem (likely because Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld wanted to use them in their stories). It’s explained that only non-mutants can dive into Onslaught to defeat him.

Look how dope he looks and he’s just crouching all menacingly.
Credit: Marvel Comics

Make no mistake, the design of Onslaught was inspired and likely a huge driving force for why folks bought into this story and bought the books themselves when it appeared in 1996. He’s got a lot of sharp edges, a cool color design, and a wicked mask. Andy Kubert draws some of the coolest shots of the character early on and his power seems limitless. Marvel had the smart idea to increase the scary nature of the character as the event went on too, with the character looking like some kind of demon threat by the end.

Overall, this is a massive event that more or less did its job but feels overly bloated and unnecessary for large chunks of it. The basic idea that Xavier could be evil (and why that would be) is a cool concept that mostly gets its point across a third of the way through. From then on it all reads like an attention-grabbing action event with very little point. More than once you may be itching to get to the end, but there’s no mistaking the nostalgic enjoyment you’ll get when rereading this story.

X-Men Milestones: Onslaught
Is it good?
Overall, this is a massive event that more or less did its job but feels overly bloated and unnecessary for large chunks of it. The basic idea that Xavier could be evil (and why that would be) is a cool concept that mostly gets its point across a third of the way through. From then on it all reads like an attention-grabbing action event with very little point. More than once you may be itching to get to the end, but there's no mistaking the nostalgic enjoyment you'll get when rereading this story.
The first third builds nicely to the big reveal
Andy Kubert does some of his best work
This collection leaves out a lot of the battle of New York and other important non-X-Men related chunks of story
Onslaught is ultimately a boring "pure evil" villain
By the end it feels like this entire event was meant to achieve a few things rather than be enjoyable in itself
5
Average
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