Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Road to Onslaught: Avengers First Sign Part 1

Last year featured one of the most fun series of articles I've ever written. Not the most popular one mind you but highly enjoyable form my point of view. I'm talking about the multi-part review of The Crossing, one of the worst major comic book events of all time. One so bad in fact that only a few years later it inspired a whole mini-series designed to practically wipe it from existence. Little did readers know at the time though that The Crossing was essentially a pit-stop along the way to an even larger serialized cash-grab known as the Onslaught Saga. What of the few months between these two behemoths? Well that's what we're here to talk about today in the first installment of our road to Onslaught.

In case no one remembers the developments of The Crossing, very possible given those articles low rankings, here's what went down. Tony Stark turned out to be a toady for time-traveling villains. He killed a few people and eventually sacrificed himself in a last ditch effort at redemption, leaving his time-displaced teenage self to pick up the pieces. Another villain, Madam Masque seemed to turn over a new lief and joined the Avengers while Wasp was actually transformed into a bug-person because we all remember how big kids were into the works of Cronenberg in the 90's, right? In other books at the time Captain America returned from some situation that caused people to think he was dead, Thor lost all his godly powers, and west coast team, Force Works disbanded. Now we should all be ready to dive in.

Thing's kick off in rather fittingly with Sharon Carter dangling a SHEILD bureaucrat out of a hellicarrier window. Girl's pissed about being left high and dry while on some mission. Not to mention somebody had the stones to lie about her being dead. Cap pulls the poor office jockey back inside and the couple is soon interrupted by Contessa.....who I guess was in charge of SHEILD at the time. Really don't know who this lady is. When asked about speaking to Nick Fury she reports that he's dead, for real this time, and nobody comes back from the dead. This leads to one of my favorite comic panels where Cap makes an expression that essentially says “can you believe this bitch?” Classic.

The confrontation is soon ended and with the couple back on the ground Cap tries his best to convince Sharon to come over to his place (smart man) before he's cock blocked by a force field surrounding all of Manhattan. If that weren't bad enough everything electrical goes dead, prompting the star spangled hero to start rescuing folks from crashing helicopters and such. He eventually learns the city is overrun by a group called Zodiac who have created a device which takes the energy from everything but their own tech and crates the giant barrier. There's too many for the old boy to take on by himself so he goes in search of Thor who he finds shirtless, powerless, and living with a supervillainess,. Terrific.

THOR #496

The Zodiac members who followed Cap into this building last issue are soon part of one of the quickest stand-offs I've ever witnessed as Enchantress, Thor's girl Friday at the time lays them out with her automated rubber bullet machinegun. She has her own generator in case you're fretting about how that worked but it too is soon drained of energy. She coerces some info from the thugs while the boys chat with Phillip...the landlord.

The boys know their target. They must reach an abandoned subway stations ten blocks away where the Zodiac are pouring into town through an inter-dimensional portal. Cue another citywide tour of villains, daring fire rescues, stampeding crowds, looters, you name it. Only a portion of the journey leaves are heroes drained. Luckily they come across a group of militant blind students who sneak them into the subway. I don't want to turn this into a political blog but the Marvel universe could certainly stand some tighter gun restrictions if people who lack sight are wielding assault riffles in the streets of Manhattan. The issue ends with our boys having no clue what to do about this dimensional portal which is still sending horrible shit our way.


Teenage Tony Stark is attempting to get his life started with classes at Columbia. Within a few minutes he's got a potential supporting cast with love a interest named Kris, irritating jocks, and even a nerdy chap named...oh god, his name is actually Chap. The cherry on this social sundae is the teacher of his new science class, the girl he was dating when the Avengers pulled him into the future. Ya think he'll get fair grades with an instructor like that? T0ny tries to doge this lovely reunion and a citywide power outage provides the perfect opportunity to avoid emotional responsibility.

One major issue with the power drain is Tony himself practically runs on batteries since his heart had to be modified with Iron Man technology after his older self went all Mortal Kombat on his vital organs. He goes in search of anything to improve his situation when he comes across an odd pulse which leads him through the basement of Columbia University strait into the subway station where Captain American & Thor are battling countless Zodiac soldiers. Speaking of Thor. At some point in the battle he found the time to change from a shirtless beach bum to full scale bondage queen.

Our boys escape with a Zodiac teleportor and head to the Brooklyn Bridge to meet with teammates on the other side when wouldn't ya know it, a morale dilemma pops up. Tony can force the teleportor to open a hole in the force field for thirty seconds. In that time they can either let other heroes in to help battle the enemy or let civilians escape the carnage and quickly dropping temperatures. Guess the field drags down the temp too. Oh and did I mention this little strategy is going to be powered by Stark's chestplate leaving him on the edge of death? Must be time for another issue.


Given the nature of this story you'd be right in thinking the cliffhanger wasn't really an issue. The team succeeds in both saving civilians and letting a few extra Avengers in to lend a hand. Giant-Man even returns a little energy to Tony ensuring his heart doesn't cave in like an overripe melon.

Meanwhile in the Grand Canyon. No I'm not drunk, the story's really making a brief jump across the country, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye are trying to figure out what to do with their Force Works careers officially over. They encounter their own batch of homicidal madmen who shoot them out of the sky. If you're looking for a resolution to this subplot you'll have to come back for another entry cause these two are M.I.A. For the rest of this issue.

Back in New York the Avengers locate Zodiac's hideout on an antiquated battleship of all things. Punching naturally ensues as they're also introduced to the evil commander, Libra who has control over his own molecular structure, allowing him to make delicious puns about being “a master of destiny and density.” Cute. While he works on his comedy routine and smacks alien cat girls around, Giant-Man finds the force field device deep within the ship and celebrates in the only acceptable fashion, by sinking a national treasure. The bad guys turn tail. That's it. That's what four issues of comics added up to in the mid-90's.

In all fairness this tale is actually better written than just about anything found within The Crossing. Even the Iron Man portions which are from the same writer benefit greatly from the focus on the new Tony kickstarting his life rather than old Tony bemoaning his very existence. It's kinda cynical to make this heroes first adventure another crossover story instead of letting him do his own thing. I get that it makes business sense to try and get readers from other books to notice him but when it's just a thinly veiled attempt at showing he can hang with the big boys, dignity sorta gets tossed out the window.

That's all for today folks. I gotta go pretend to be responsible now, or go downtown to play board games. Eh, screw responsibility. See ya.

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