Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fit to Be Tied In: A History of Marvel Crossovers and Events- Part 5: Onslaught to Second Coming: Even More X-overs

So you guys remember when Charles Xavier turned Magneto into a vegetable in X-Men #25 during “Fatal Attractions?” Well, apparently a small part of Magneto had burrowed into Xavier’s head as a result and was corrupting him from the inside, causing him to do things like rocket-punch the Juggernaut into Hoboken and create Post. These events led to the big companywide crossover of summer 1996, Onslaught, named for the hot mess that was supposed to be the combined personalities of Xavier and Magneto. Onslaught encompassed all the X-books, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, and featured cameos by Dr. Doom, Apocalypse and the Watcher. In defeating Onslaught, the Avengers, FF and Doom end up getting sucked into a pocket dimension created by Franklin Richards that led to a yearlong series of books under the banner Heroes Reborn, featuring the return to Marvel of Image ex-pats Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. In their absence, Xavier was arrested for being Onslaught, a new character named Bastion fed the flames of anti-mutant hysteria, fellow mutant-hater (and mutant supervillain progeny) Graydon Creed ran for president and a new team of superheroes showed up called the Thunderbolts. The events of Onslaught would later inspire Rick Remender’s work on Uncanny Avengers and a recent, equally messy crossover called Axis.

Bastion is the focus of the next year’s crossover, Operation: Zero Tolerance. The Master Mold-Nimrod hybrid uses an army of human-sentinel hybrids called Prime Sentinels to capture key members of the X-Men under the aegis of the U.S. government. He is apprehended by SHIELD in a scene in which he gets a stern talking-to by, of all people, Iceman, who is in revenge mode after his father was beaten to death by Graydon Creed’s lackeys before Creed was assassinated. OZT marks the addition of two new X-Men: the Morlock-Gene Nation member Marrow, whose body produces weapons made of bone, and Dr. Cecilia Reyes, a reluctant member who has force-field powers.

Next came the “Hunt for Xavier,” a tight crossover of the two main X-books in which the X-Men fight a Cerebro that has gained sentience – apparently all the X-Men’s tech has to Pinocchio at some point (see also the Danger Room) – and the professor is found to be working with the Brotherhood of (Evil?) Mutants.

The next two X-overs center on heavy-hitter villains. “Magneto War” restores the master of magnetism from bearded vegetable to top-dog baddie and gets rid of Joseph, the young Magneto clone who had ingratiated himself among the X-Men for the past few years. The story ends with the United Nations ceding to Magneto the island of Genosha, which hadn't been messed with in a while, so it was ripe for the picking.

The dawn of the new millennium brought the long-promised reveal of “The Twelve,” a group of mutants who were predicted to … do something. It turns out that something is power a machine that would help Apocalypse take over the body of Nate Grey, the refugee from the Age of Apocalypse. Sadly, nearly 15 years of build-up (The Twelve were first mentioned in an early issue of X-Factor) didn’t quite deliver the story some were hoping for. Nevertheless, the Twelve were revealed to be Magneto, Polaris, Storm, Sunfire, Iceman, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Professor X, Mikhail Rasputin (?) and the Living Monolith (???). Apocalypse fails to possess Nate Grey but ends up possessing Cyclops instead. After a series of reality-warping stories called Ages of Apocalypse, Chris Claremont returns to the X-books and jumps them forward six months for some ill-explained power swaps, couple swaps and guys-named-Thunderbird swaps.

Then for a while, nothing happened … well, not really, but the early 00s saw a series of writers rotate through the X-books. Chris Claremont came and went, followed by Scott Lobdell, then Grant Morrison and Joe Casey, then Chuck Austen, then Joss Whedon and Claremont yet again, et al. Brian Michael Bendis wrote an X-Men/Avengers crossover called House of M, which we’ll touch on in the next post.

At this point, all but 198 of Earth’s mutants have been depowered, and the X-Men are super bummed about it. Then, for the first time in a long time, Cerebra (the sequel to Cerebro, which met its demise in the “Hunt for Xavier”), picks up a blip in Alaska, a state crawling with Summers family blood.

Which brings us to 2007-08’s “Messiah Complex,” the first of three crossovers that will center on Hope, the first baby born after M-Day. Complex finds the X-Men in a race against Mr. Sinister’s Marauders and the Rev. William Stryker’s Purifiers to find Hope. Among its significant events, Xavier is rendered comatose, Mystique kills Sinister, Cyclops sanctions Wolverine to form a new X-Force that will serve as the X-Men’s secret kill squad, Bishop loses his crap and suddenly remembers Hope is the Antichrist of his timeline, and Cable takes Hope into the future to raise her, because if the future was good enough for Cable, then goshdarnit, it’s good enough for his adopted daughter.

Cable and Hope return from the future in 2010’s “Second Coming,” which is largely a battle of military wits between Cyclops – who by now has turned the remaining mutants into a paramilitary strike team all living on the same island off San Francisco – and Bastion – who has resurrected all your favorite mutant-haters, from Cameron Hodge to Graydon Creed. The good guys win, but at a pretty hefty price: Both Cable and Nightcrawler are killed (obviously they've both since gotten better). The story ends with Cerebra registering five new blips, launching a series called Generation Hope that would last 17 issues.

Internecine strife (lowercase, with an i) among the X-Men reaches a boiling point in 2011’s Schism miniseries by Jason Aaron, which saw Cyclops and Wolverine break the X-Men into two different camps, one of which stayed on the island off San Fran and the other of which rebuilt the Xavier Institute and renamed it the Jean Grey School, in a split that remains to this day.

For more good guys fighting good guys, stop by later this week for a look at the Bendis age of Avengers crossovers, from Disassembled to A vs. X.

Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.

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