Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Scott Hanna & Art Thibert (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Cable and the Invisible Woman combine their powers to protect the heroes from Onslaught’s psionic assault. Apocalypse suddenly appears, telling Cable that he can separate Franklin Richards from Onslaught if Cable grants him access to the Astral Plane. The Invisible Woman convinces Cable to go along with the plan. Cable and Apocalypse soon travel though the Astral Plane and arrive inside Onslaught’s citadel. Onslaught attacks them with psionic projections of Magneto, Hulk, and Post. While Cable fights them off, Apocalypse approaches Franklin Richards. He reveals that his plan to separate Franklin from Onslaught is to simply kill him. The Invisible Woman, who has been telepathically shielded by Cable, emerges and fights Apocalypse. Onslaught uses his powers to send the trio back to the streets, leaving Franklin in his custody. Apocalypse teleports away, as Cable comforts the Invisible Woman. Inside Onslaught, Franklin is inspired by the heroes’ actions and has his hope renewed.
Creative Differences: Some of Cable’s word balloons on page four have been poorly re-lettered. I don’t know if this was an actual dialogue change or some last minute typo correction, since his dialogue (about being the son of a hero like Franklin) fits in with the conversation he’s having on the rest of the page.
Review: It’s another issue of large panels and big action scenes that don’t really accomplish anything. I like Churchill’s interpretation of Apocalypse, and it seems like his art is improving overall during this run of issues, so at least it’s not bad to look at. The story doesn’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny, as it’s unclear which scenes are supposed to be in the Astral Plane, and which are supposed to be in reality. It’s possible that the entire fight with Onslaught takes place on the Astral Plane, but that seems unlikely as a transition caption clearly states that Onslaught is in the real world, one page before Cable and Apocalypse arrive. Plus, the word balloons drop the special effect used for telepathic communication once they enter Onslaught’s citadel. It’s possible that Loeb intended that Cable and Apocalypse used the Astral Plane to teleport from the streets to the inside of the citadel, but that would contradict every other appearance of the Astral Plane that I’m aware of. (When X-Man pulled Xavier’s physical body out of the Astral Plane, it was stated that only X-Man was powerful enough to do this. It was also treated as a huge deal, while this issue doesn’t portray their journey as anything special.) I finally realized what Loeb was probably trying to convey – that Onslaught sensed their mental presence and pulled them out of the Astral Plane into reality. If Onslaught is supposed to be as powerful as X-Man, that would at least work with past continuity, and it’s preferable to making the Astral Plane a quick teleportation gimmick for telepaths. Whichever is the case, the ambiguity is annoying.
Overlooking the shaky plot, Loeb does create a few decent character moments. Forcing Cable to team up with Apocalypse, his most hated enemy (now that Marvel’s forgotten about Stryfe) is an obvious way to go, but the interaction between the characters is fun. In one surprising scene, Apocalypse even offers to rid Cable of the techno-organic virus after Cable brags that it’s making him stronger. We also see Apocalypse’s reaction to Franklin Richards, which is something that would’ve happened years earlier, if the X-franchise hadn’t been so segregated from the rest of the Marvel Universe for so long. Apocalypse wants to kill him not only to depower Onslaught, but also to prevent him from disrupting his own plans. If Apocalypse was willing to infect Cable with a deadly virus as an infant, it makes sense that he would also view Franklin as a threat. I barely remember anything from most of the Onslaught crossover issues, but I do remember enjoying the reconnection of the Marvel Universe, even if it didn’t last.