Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Joe Rosas & Electric Crayon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, and Wolverine wake up in a desolate landscape. Cyclops’ ruby quartz visor is gone, and Iceman has a hole inside his chest. Meanwhile, Gateway appears in front of Professor Xavier’s bed, apparently attempting to teleport him away. Bishop and Phoenix enter and easily knock him unconscious. The X-Men try to deduce where their kidnapped teammates have gone, as a being of psionic energy suddenly appears. Inside the mystery location, Wolverine’s senses are able to locate their opponent, Post. He claims to be a “faithful extension” of Onslaught, who is transmitting the results of the test to him. The four X-Men try a variety of different techniques against Post, who’s already familiar with the team. During their fight, Storm senses that the environment is disrupted. The ground begins to shake, leading Storm to develop a plan to destroy the environment, thinking that Post reacts to it as it reacts to Post. Iceman freezes the ground beneath Post, as Wolverine rips open a part of Post’s protective covering. Cyclops blasts the exposed area, and soon the four X-Men are returned home. The psionic entity leaves, telling the X-Men that the Onslaught is coming.
This issue has a foil wraparound cover. I have the newsstand copy, which doesn’t have a gimmick cover and costs $2.95.
This is the first appearance of Post, who is described as “the lowest of Onslaught’s emissaries”. For some reason he has blue skin, and is covered in a series of “computerized plates” which can transfer data and shoot off energy blasts. He’s shown up a few times over the years, usually as a generic goon used to fill up the ranks of some villain group.
Banshee, via video screen, tells the X-Men that Gateway teleported Chamber away, but he dumped him back in their front yard as quickly as he left. The previous issue seemed to imply that Gateway had no control over what was going on, either. Later, Beast theorizes that Onslaught sent Chamber back because he didn’t want any telepaths learning his secrets. This doesn’t explain why Gateway is trying to abduct Xavier at the start of the issue.
Beast wonders why Onslaught is teleporting X-Men away, since he’s allegedly powerful enough to storm the mansion and physically take them. Bishop theorizes that Onslaught “took them to a place that has something to do with the source of his power”, and Beast agrees. I’m pretty sure that when Onslaught is revealed, most of this will make no sense.
Bishop speculates that Gateway wanted to be stopped, explaining how easily he was knocked out. Later, Onslaught (who’s supposed to be the psionic being that appeared at the mansion...maybe?) chastises Gateway, saying, “You assured me these creatures were ready. That they could hold the last line of defense against the coming”. Again, pretty sure most of this is nonsense.
One of the sound effects used when the environment around Post freaks out is “SPROUTS”. What?
I can remember liking this issue when it was released, even though reading it today is more frustrating than anything. When the Onslaught storyline was still just a series of vague hints, I was able to read this issue and simply enjoy it as an action-heavy story that was planting seeds for the next crossover. I had been burned by enough crossovers to be skeptical about the upcoming event, but the foundation at this point seemed to have promise, and introducing new villains as heralds of larger, more dangerous foes is an old comic tradition. Reading this today, all you really see is a collection of nonsensical clues scattered around a lengthy fight scene. The action is competently handled by Kubert, who fills the comic with large, dynamic figures and a lot of energy. Some of the poses and anatomy don’t exactly work, but for the most part the visuals in this issue are great. The opening page, which has a battered Cyclops covered in shadow as his body is hung up in twisted tree branches, is a strong way to start the issue. It’s one of the few times Lobdell started a story in the middle of the action, which is one reason why this comic stuck out to me at fifteen. The drawn out fight scene starts to get a little old after a while, but Post still comes across as a capable opponent for most of the battle.
Everything past the fight scene is total mess, though. Aside from the clues that weren’t satisfactorily resolved after the Onslaught reveal, there are elements within the issue itself that don’t make sense. If Onslaught were afraid of telepathic powers, why would Gateway send back Chamber, and then go after the more powerful Xavier? If Onslaught can manifest himself as “pure psionic energy”, why would he even be worried about a novice telepathic like Chamber learning his secrets? How exactly is Onslaught drawing power from the mysterious landscape? What exactly is going on between Post and the environment? Why is the landscape drawn differently in different parts of the comic? In the first few pages, the ground is hilly and rocky and the trees look like something out of a Tim Burton cartoon. A few pages later, the trees are lush and green, and the ground is covered with grass and plant life. The sky also goes from gloomy and dark to blue and pretty. What happened?
The future revelation that Onslaught was actually Xavier (spoiler alert!) just makes the entire issue even more nonsensical. Why would Onslaught send Gateway to kidnap himself? I guess you could argue that he was trying to throw the X-Men off, but it’s not as if they were suspecting him in the first place. And if Onslaught has Xavier’s memories and intellect, he wouldn’t have to “test” any of the X-Men of course. He already knows more about them than anyone else. Why is he relying on Gateway for information? There’s also an implication that Onslaught is testing the team to ensure that they can defend against “the coming”. What was that supposed to mean? Or is the psionic entity not supposed to be Onslaught? If not, who was he supposed to be? I don’t seem to recall Onslaught needing to be powered by a special environment either, so all of the mystery surrounding the landscape in this issue probably amounts to nothing, too. Judged as a mindless fight issue, this isn’t so bad, but as a chapter in an extended storyline, it’s dreadful.