Tuesday, March 3, 2009

ONSLAUGHT: EPILOGUE #1 – February 1997

Prisoner M-13
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Randy Green (penciler), Jon Holdredge w/Hilary Barta (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Dana Moreshead & Digital Chameleon (colors)

Summary: Inside a secret military installation in Nevada, Henry Gyrich looks on as Bastion interrogates Professor Xavier. A psychiatrist named Dr. Ingrid Thysson arrives to evaluate Xavier. She’s accompanied by special operative Darryl Smith, who objects to Bastion’s treatment of Xavier. Bastion places Smith in custody for questioning him. Another prisoner inside the facility, Nina, uses her psychic powers to escape her cell and comfort Xavier. Nina has a child’s mind and is empathetic towards Xavier’s suffering. Xavier convinces her to use her strange powers and generate a phone. Soon, Bastion declares that Nina is too dangerous to live. When Bastion learns that Smith has a natural psi-shield, he decides that Smith should be freed and ordered to exterminate Nina. After Dr. Thysson meets Nina, she agrees to help Xavier free her. During their escape attempt, Darryl Smith knocks Thysson unconscious and brings the body of Nina to Bastion. The operatives who dispose of the body soon learn that her body bag is empty, but refuse to tell Bastion because they’ve been ordered to never ask questions. Hours later, the psychic telephone Nina created appears in front of Xavier. Renee Majcomb speaks to him, telling him that she’s followed his instructions and found Nina in the desert. Nina tells him that Darryl Smith taught her how to fake her death and escape. Xavier tells Nina that there may be others like her, and they need her help.

Production Note: This is a thirty-two page one shot with no ads. The cover price is $2.99.

Continuity Notes: The cover story for Xavier turning himself in to the government is that he’s volunteered to help the government research Onslaught. The story goes out of its way to reinforce the idea that the government doesn’t know Xavier is a mutant. Bastion clearly knows, but refuses to tell anyone. Valerie Cooper knows because of her relationship with the X-teams, but she hasn’t told anyone else that Xavier is a mutant and had a role in Onslaught’s creation. Xavier claims that Cooper doesn’t know that he’s been taken into Bastion’s custody and is being treated like a prisoner.

Darryl Smith is the government agent who was referenced in Wolverine #108 but not seen. An editorial footnote says that he first appeared in the Wolverine ’96 annual (which I’ve never read). It’s established that he has a natural psi-shield, but Bastion is adamant that he’s not a mutant (presumably because Bastion can detect mutants). It seems like Hama had plans for this character, but I don’t think anything came of them.

Nina appears for the first time. It’s established that she’s some sort of government experiment called a “Manite”. Xavier describes her as a “little person abrim with compassion, totally devoid of prevarication.” According to Nina, another prisoner named Tuesday was recently killed by Bastion. She also tells Xavier that his powers aren’t gone, they’ve just been “turned off”, and she could restore them if he wishes.

Review: This is one of those one-shots that would randomly appear with no discernable purpose. This could’ve easily been published in X-Men Unlimited, but Marvel apparently wanted to pump out even more X-product than normal during this era. Labeling this an epilogue to the Onslaught storyline is a bit of a stretch, especially since UXM and X-Men already dedicated a few issues to dealing with the aftermath of the crossover. Instead, the story mainly serves to continue Bastion’s buildup, and apparently to introduce Nina. Nina didn’t seem like the type of character that would’ve received a lot of attention, but she ended up playing a large role in several stories around 1999 or so. I don’t know if she was created by Hama just to give Xavier someone to interact with, or if editorial had a hand in her creation and always had plans for her. I don’t have a problem with her in the context of this story, but I’m not sure why she was featured so heavily in the late ‘90s.

The story is enjoyable enough, and Randy Green’s art has an attractive, cartoony style. Hama’s able to give Xavier an erudite speech pattern without making him seem too uptight, which is a problem you’d probably have to address when doing an Xavier solo story. Adorable little Nina could easily become insufferable, but she’s at least tolerable throughout this issue. The only real issue I have with the storytelling is the non-introduction of Renee Majcomb, who’s dropped into the story with the assumption that we should automatically know who she is. For the record, she’s an associate of Xavier’s from Genosha who had made a couple of appearances by this point. I’m pretty sure I owned all of her appearances at the time, and even then I had only the vaguest idea of who she’s supposed to be. Her only role in the story is to escort Nina away, so perhaps you could argue she gets all the introduction she needs, but it feels distracting to me. It also raises the question of why Xavier is calling this obscure character, and not any of his X-Men to tell them that he’s being held in a secret prison. Despite its flaws, it’s still a decent enough comic, even if you have to wonder why exactly it exists as a one-shot in the first place.

2 comments:

Teebore said...

I remember missing this issue when it first came out, and having to wait for years (until I finally found it cheap at a con) to read it...and then said "that's not an Onslaught epilogue, that's a prelude to all that stuff with Nina and the Manites." :)

ray swift said...

This story was very sympathetic and a joy to read, but also has too many holes in it that it's confusing.

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