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Sep 24

X-Men: The Onslaught Revelation #1 annotations

Posted on Friday, September 24, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Altar/Piece Alter/Peace”
by Si Spurrier, Bob Quinn & Java Tartaglia

Despite the title, this is effectively Way of X #6.

COVER / PAGE 1. Nightcrawler and Legion face an Onslaught-possessed Professor X.

PAGE 2. The mutants gather for the Cruciball.

“There was once a sacred land where death had been dethroned…” Obviously, the narration is partly a plot recap for anyone gamely taking that #1 on the cover at face value. But it raises directly the question of whether the resurrected mutants are actually the same people as the original, or just copies who believe themselves to be the same person because they share memories. This is a very awkward question which the X-books have genuinely tiptoed around.

That said… it’s clear enough at this stage in the Krakoa-era X-books that we are indeed meant to take the resurrections at face value, since too many characters have gone through the process by this point. Way of X more or less confirms that indirectly with the whole idea that Onslaught is empowered by the slivers of life and experience that are lost on being restored from back-up. That concept only makes sense if resurrection involves the original person – if the resurrectee was merely a copy, nothing would be lost. As for how resurrection restores the soul to the body… well, presumably that’s what the reality-warping Proteus is contributing to the exercise.

A little odder is the direct statement that Xavier and Magneto themselves haven’t really thought to hard about the philosophical implications about resurrection. You’d have thought that they’d be a bit more troubled about it than that, when they were inviting people to go on suicide missions on the faith of resurrection. But maybe not. They can be manipulative types sometimes – just ask Mystique.

The “wonderful idea” that all the mutants are having is the notion of the “Cruciball”, which we saw some of the resurrected kids discussing last issue. It seems to be a notion that Onslaught implanted into the mutants when they were resurrected.

The unnamed characters behind Magneto in panel 3 are the Five; most of the mutants in panel 5 are generics, but we can see Pixie in the foreground, and behind them Dazzler and Dr Nemesis, who seem to have started dating in the course of this series.

PAGES 3-5. Nightcrawler brings Pixie to the Altar.

This is the Altar, the temple-space on Mars/Arakko that Legion was creating in Way of X #5 as a refuge from Onslaught’s influence. I don’t believe it was actually named last issue.

“You exorcised me from the priest’s mind, half brother.” Presumably referring to the scene in Way of X #2 when Legion removes some sort of psychic weapon from Nightcrawler’s subconscious. Onslaught refers to Legion as his “half brother”, presumably on the view that Professor X should be viewed as their common father.

The swashbuckling pirate ship is Nightcrawler’s subconscious as seen in Way of X #2.

PAGES 6-7. Onslaught’s plan is explained.

Basically, Onslaught’s plan is to wipe out the mutants by getting them to embark on a hedonistic mass suicide while deleting the backups so that they can’t be resurrected. It’s not clear how far Onslaught actually gets in deleting the backups this issue. If he does erase them all then that wouldn’t stop new backups being made in future. But it would presumably prevent any further resurrections of characters who died before the Krakoan era. (Of course, some of them could have been resurrected already, and just not have appeared on panel yet.)

“Safe in its No-Place…” The term “No-Place” has generally been used to refer to the hidden location beneath Krakoa where Moira X is kept hidden from the rest of the Krakoans. This could be suggesting that Onslaught has been down there, or it might just be using No-Place as a generic term for a Krakoan bolthole. Either way, if Onslaught has been in Xavier’s mind, presumably he knows about Moira.

Orchis were basically established as having been involved in weaponising Legion (before his resurrection) and Onslaught in Way of X #2.

“A carnage on Mars averted.” Way of X #5.

“A movement among the hoi polloi, inching toward relevance.” Well… ish? Nightcrawler’s spent most of Way of X trying to work out what his movement should be, rather than really making much progress in it.

The two women in the bottom panel are Loa and Mercury, both in rather distorted forms that reflect Onslaught’s innocence.

PAGE 8. Recap and credits.

PAGE 9. Data page on the Altar.

“David Haller’s mind has organised itself on more than one occasion into a functioning pocket universe, often absorbing elements (and individuals) from baseline reality.” This was Legion’s status quo in his earliest appearances in New Mutants vol 1 #26-28. The other occasion is presumably the Age of X storyline from X-Men: Legacy vol 1 #245-249 (2011).

PAGE 10-13. Fabian Cortez demands answers.

“I told you what happened before you died.” In Way of X #5, Nightcrawler sacrificed his life to save Mars, and told Cortez to remind him about “the spark” when he was resurrected – a revelation he had only just had, and thus would lose on resurrection. Way of X #5 ended with Cortez comatose and unable to deliver the message. Apparently Nightcrawler rescued him, though it’s not entirely clear why he did so if he didn’t remember. Maybe he just twigged that Cortez was being kept from him for some reason.

“The freak who’s tried to kill me three times!” In Way of X #3 and #5, but that’s only two times. Maybe there was another incident before Krakoa, or another one we haven’t seen.

Lost‘s back story seems to involve her parents being killed by Cortez’s Acolytes on a terrorist attack. This doesn’t appear to refer to any specific story, but the Acolytes certainly did go in for that sort of thing from time to time, sometimes while trying to recover new mutants. Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #298 is an example.

Legion‘s Altar design has a helmet that echoes his familiar hair design, but also Professor X’s Cerebro helmet.

The mutants who help confront Cortez have all appeared in previous issues of Way of X: Lost throughout the series, Stacy X in issue #3, Sooraya in issue #4, the Xorns throughout the series, and Gorgon in issue #4. Quite what they’re trying to achieve here is… oblique, shall we say. They terrify Cortez and then tell him that he should be grateful that Lost is giving him support. It… feels more manipulative than epiphanic. I don’t think the scene works.

PAGES 14-16. Pixie uses her Soul Dagger to free more of the regular cast from Onslaught.

“I just wanted to ask Mercury to start over…” Mercury and Loa’s budding relationship was broken up by Legion’s clumsy psychic interference in Way of X #3.

During all this, we get a parable from Nightcrawler. The thrust is that the risk to mutants doesn’t come from attacks to any one of them – they can always be resurrected – but rather from attacks to mutantdom as a whole. Therefore, best to diversify, do the unexpected, and not simply all act in a group.

PAGES 17-18. Fabian Cortez’s origin flashback.

The other Acolytes in page 17 panel 2 appear to be Javitz, Spoor, one of the Kleinstock brothers and Senyaka (with the whip).

Cortez basically tells us that he was a rich kid who felt he had never earned anything and embraced the discovery that he was part of an oppressed minority. He’s being slightly hard on himself in claiming to be a persecution tourist – after all, he really is a mutant and therefore he really was a target for a lot of genocidal lunatics out there – but certainly it makes sense that he sees this as something that he seized on to give his life much-needed direction. Of course, once in that struggle, he brings to it a sense of entitlement and a belief that he’s a born leader of men.

The basic irony of Cortez, as spelled out here, is that his desire to be a major player is wholly inconsistent with his actual mutant powers, which by definition are those of a supporting character.

“People ask why I stuck with my human name…” Referring to a scene in S.W.O.R.D. #5.

PAGES 19-20. Pixie frees Magneto. 

Timeline note: We’re after “Hellfire Gala” and so we must also be after Trial of Magneto, or at least the issues published to date.

“This entity – it is of me.” Onslaught was a psychic entity created from parts of Professor X and Magneto.

PAGE 21. Cortez concludes his speech.

If we’re to take this speech at face value, there’s some serious retconning going on. When Cortez was first introduced, he was certainly not a sincere follower of Magneto – they were only together for a few issues – but rather someone who tried to manipulate Magneto, and then to trade off his name to build a cult when the real Magneto was not around. At the same time, Cortez was a member of the Upstarts, who hunted other mutants for sport. Any idea that he was sincere in building the Acolytes as a pro-mutant cult, or even saw himself as sincere at the time, comes later. In contrast, Way of X presents him as a champagne revolutionary who honestly thought he was a rebel leader. It’s fair enough that in his own mind, Cortez saw himself as having a place as a mutant leader even if he never really believed in any of it – it’s just a bit odd to suggest that he’s only realising this now.

PAGES 22-23. Dr Nemesis gives out drugs, and the partygoers are led to the Altar.

Nemesis is giving out the psychedelic mushrooms that he grows on his head, in order to help get the Onslaught-affected mutants to do as they’re told.

For anyone new, DJ is the name of the character, not just the role he’s performing here.

PAGES 24-26. Onslaught’s infiltration is explained.

The basic claim here is that Orchis were experimenting on Lost for ages, and finally figured out that her hatred for Cortez could be used as the hook with which to smuggle their version of Onslaught onto Krakoa. Cortez has apparently cured this hatred by acknowledging his failings, removing the hook and forcing Onslaught to manifest more conventionally so that he can be battled.

The timeline implied by this would have Orchis active much, much, much earlier than any other story has previously shown, going back to somewhere in the early 90s. Perhaps it simply isn’t Orchis, but rather one of the various groups that fed into Orchis.

PAGES 27-29. The battle with Onslaught.

Legion suggests that Dust’s power isn’t so much to control sand, as to marshal billions of particles under her control. This power can apparently be used to coordinate the mutants in the Altar and use them against Onslaught. Legion suggests the codename “Congregation” for her, but she doesn’t explicitly take it on here. Through this, Nightcrawler shares his revelation about creativity and innovation as the soul of mutantdom.

The various panels at the bottom of page 29 are assorted highlights from Way of X.

PAGE 30. Data page. Another excerpt from what we now know to be called The Book of the Spark, carefully presented as a philosophy rather than a religion.

PAGES 31-32. Onslaught is defeated.

In the context of the astral plane, the mutants can apparently defeat this version of Onslaught (which was, after all, only a sliver of the original powered up by stolen energies) by acknowledging him as the dark side of humanity.

Nightcrawler’s “We rule us” motto is a callback to Legion’s “I rule me” from Spurrier’s X-Men: Legacy run.

PAGE 33. Two months later…

Note that Lost and Cortez are apparently working together as cultural leaders in the Altar.

Nightcrawler’s big plan now is to create a vaguely police-like group – he rejects the term “police” but doesn’t exactly specify what they are instead – to be called the Legionaries. That’s a play on “Legion”, of course, but I hope someone’s checked if DC still has a trademark on Legionnaires.

PAGE 34. Trailers. Unusually, this isn’t the normal release schedule, but what seems to be a trailer for a Legionaries book. The team shown is very curious – Dr Nemesis, Pixie, Nightcrawler, Juggernaut (who isn’t a mutant and was refused access to Krakoa in his last miniseries), ForgetMeNot (originally a high-concept joke character – his power is that nobody remembers him, and the joke is that he’s been in the X-Men for years and you just don’t remember it) and apparently Blindfold (Legion’s sometime love interest and, significantly, a precog – something that’s not supposed to be allowed on Krakoa).







Bring on the comments

  1. Mathias X says:

    I don’t think Xavier’s deleting spree here is gonna affecting future legacy resurrections.

    Among other reasons, there’s still the other Cerebro backups, presumably so that this exact type of instance can’t cripple the system.

    That said, one of those was destroyed in X-Force 1 and is now with the Russians, and one was stolen by Magneto/Mystique in Trial of Magneto. So if we expect this backup is now damaged, there’s still at least two left. Who has those?

    My expectation is at the end of Inferno, we’ll be down to one Cerebro, probably controlled by Emma, and control of resurrection will be wrested from Xavier entirely.

  2. Jon R says:

    On first read I really liked this, but then afterwards it felt like it had many problems. Paul hit most, but I’ll add how Lost was a secondary character to Cortez even if her situation was the driving plight that pushed Onslaught onward and needed to be worked out first.

    But still, things happened and the status quo got expanded with the Altar, and I’d like to see more of it. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the thought of following up on this space in a new book makes me happy.

  3. Jon R says:

    Oh, also. I understand why this isn’t true for story purposes and to make deaths have some consequence, but those real-world issues aside, a rhetorical question to get off my chest.

    Why the heck don’t X-Force and the X-Men and any other Important People who are possibly on the front lines fighting for Krakoa have more frequent backups? If it’s backing up millions of people a week, having a whitelist of 10-100 special cases to do hourly backup on shouldn’t be a big deal. X-Force in specific needs a little button to press whenever a member is in a fight that signals to Cerebro to please do streaming replication for the next hour or three. Is it just that Xavier won’t let someone like Doug or Kitty or Trinary or anyone with actual CS experience at the machine? Patronizing them every time they try to convince him that his backup strategies suck?

    …okay, I can see that.

  4. Chris V says:

    I assume Juggernaut is joining because it was Onslaught’s influence making Xavier act that way towards Cain.

    I also assume that Blindfold getting resurrected is a hint to how “Inferno” is going to change the status quo.
    Either Destiny gets resurrected and Moira reveals the truth, that she never cared about precogs, but was solely afraid of Destiny, and didn’t want to share her past with Destiny to Xavier, so she made a broad rule.
    Or, Moira is going to be eliminated with “Inferno”.

    As far as Xavier and Magneto thinking through resurrection, I’d be surprised if they had given it much thought.
    Moira was pulling the strings with Krakoa. She supposedly broke Xavier and had been manipulating Magneto. I think they were going along with whatever Moira told them, at least at first.
    We know they betrayed Moira at least once with Sinister.
    I expect it will be revealed that they betrayed Moira in other ways after Krakoa was founded.

  5. Evilgus says:

    It’s a shame, as I think there’s some very good ideas happening here – Onslaught feeding off the lost slivers of soul, plan for a mass suicide only for mutants not to be resurrected – but like a few recent x-issues, it’s all felt too compressed and rushed to breath. Cortez’s redemption felt like he was being talked at rather than any internal decision. Overall *very* heavy on the narration… I don’t feel the art quite kept up.

    Is calling Dust ‘Congregation’ suitable – overly lampshading the religious overtones of the character? I get the intention though.

    Also it’s interesting that in a lot of commentaries, people haven’t picked on ‘no place’ being the translation of Utopia. For what it’s worth, in Hickman’s Krakoan mythos.

  6. Si says:

    This has certainly added depth and poignancy to Cortez. Just don’t think about the dozens of other 1%er mutants and mansion-dwellers who are apparently less self-aware persecution tourists.

    A question though, how many themes does the Onslaught story share with the Amahl Farouk story in New Mutants? I’m reading it in Unlimited so I’m not sure.

  7. Joe Iglesias says:

    “Also it’s interesting that in a lot of commentaries, people haven’t picked on ‘no place’ being the translation of Utopia. For what it’s worth, in Hickman’s Krakoan mythos.”

    Hmm. I’d assumed it was just a reference/homage to an identical concept from Dune:

    But there’s no reason it couldn’t be a double reference.

  8. ASV says:

    Curious the business decision behind not making this Way of X #6. It’s not in any sense a standalone special, or even really intelligible to anyone who hasn’t read the rest of the series.

  9. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I liked Way of X a lot, but this didn’t really work for me

    Onslaught never actually did anything. Like legitimately not a thing.

    Then we got a vague Care Bear Stare ending.

    Nothing that happened feels connected to the rest of the line, or like it will have any actual repercussions.

    And it all felt rushed and expository.

    Some nice character moments though, and I’ll be checking out the new book.

  10. CitizenBane says:

    I look forward to Spurrier’s next, but this was certainly very rushed. I will blame the X-Office for that, though.

    >This was Legion’s status quo in his earliest appearances in New Mutants vol 1 #26-28. The other occasion is presumably the Age of X storyline from X-Men: Legacy vol 1 #245-249 (2011)

    He also did this in Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men run a few years ago, by creating a pocket Age of Apocalypse in his mind and trapping Nate Grey inside there.

  11. Paul says:

    “Utopia” is indeed normally translated as “no-place”, and Hickman’s use of that word is unlikely to be coincidence. “Non-place” or “not a place” would arguably do just as well.

    The ironic undertone of “impossible dream” only developed later. “Utopia” isn’t actual Greek, but a coinage by Thomas More. Originally it just meant a society that didn’t exist in the world, as opposed to one that was outright impossible. But the play on “eutopia” (“good place”) was always intentional.

  12. Luis Dantas says:

    @Mathias X: I may be mistaken, but I think that the backups proper are stored (mainly?) in Shiar crystals such as those that were received during Hellfire Gala. Cerebro collects the data, but main storage is outside the devices.

  13. Mathias X says:

    >>I may be mistaken, but I think that the backups proper are stored (mainly?) in Shiar crystals such as those that were received during Hellfire Gala. Cerebro collects the data, but main storage is outside the devices.

    If their backups were just five loose helpmets and they did not back up the data, I’d be shocked.

    Also, they did say in X-Force they had encrypted data in the Cerebro Sword that Mikhail is trying to recover.

  14. neutrino says:

    The Acolytes assault on the hospital occurred in X-Factor vol. 1 #92.

    The backup units for Cerebro are called Cradles and are secretly located in the house of X, Island M, The Summer House, the Pointe, and Moira’s No-Place.

  15. neutrino says:

    A review on ComicsXF pointed out that Cortez didn’t even ask for forgiveness; Lost was expected to give it to him when he admitted how screwed up he was. Lost appears more as a plot device than a character. Kurt says they would never know what she had gone through instead of asking her when she’s standing by him.

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Yeah it was a very poorly executed idea.

    See also the current run of Daredevil for some very ham fisted attempts at modern ideas of social justice.

    And I like both books.

  17. Josie says:

    @Uncanny X-Ben, I don’t get the current volume of Daredevil at all.

    Like . . . I understand the story. I just don’t know why it’s being told, and why critics apparently love it.

  18. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    In general I like it.

    It’s a bit too repetitive of the last twenty years of DD comics.

    I’m just not sold on some of the critiques on social issues, though to be fair at least parts of it are intentionally about Matt being a self centered child.

    I’m not sure superhero books (which are fundamentally about punching criminals) are really the place for it.

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