Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. With much hype, the Onslaught crossover took over a bunch of Marvel comics in 1997, and it was used to conclude the original run of Fantastic Four, starting with issue #415.
I’m going to try to keep this short. Over in X-Men comics, Professor X decided he’d had enough of Magneto, and tried psychically removing all the evil from Magneto’s mind. This had unfortunate consequences, as the evil parts of both Magneto’s and Xavier’s minds combined and took on a life of their own, a being called Onslaught. That brings us to Fantastic Four #415, which is still in “phase one” of the Onslaught crossover, where the villain is still running around in secret before putting his plan into motion.
We begin with Franklin — now a child again, having returned from being lost in time — and his new friend Charles at an old-timey circus. Charles says Franklin generated the circus with his mind. A woman named Magda (who is from Magneto’s past) warns Charles to stay away from Franklin. Charles and Franklin return to Four Freedoms Plaza just in time for the FF to arrive in space from the previous issue. Charles asks Franklin to keep him a secret, and then Charles mysteriously vanishes.
It’s a mostly happy reunion as the FF return home, except that Johnny and Lyja agree they have to talk. Ben is still angry at Nathaniel Richards for waiting so long to inform the team about Onslaught. Then the team gets a priority call from the Avengers and an in-person visit from Professor X. Ant-Man takes the call from the Avengers, only for Onslaught to appear and knock him unconscious.
The rest of the FF don their brand-new uniforms to meet with Professor X. He says he wants legal custody of Franklin (!) and for Franklin to live at the X-Men’s school. Sue and Reed won’t budge on this, saying their headquarters has security second to none (this will come into play later during the crossover). Johnny, meanwhile, tells Lyja he wants to talk to her about his new girlfriend Laura Green. He almost reveals that he knows Lyja and Laura are the same person, when the Inhumans’ teleporting dog Lockjaw appears with two X-Men, Iceman and Bishop, and two Avengers, Hawkeye and Crystal. They have a dire warning for the FF.
Xavier then cuts the meeting short, by revealing he’s really Onslaught in disguise, and that he’s taking Franklin no matter what. He disappears, and the FF, X-Men, and Avengers split into teams to search the building. Johnny and Crystal (together again!) find Onslaught first and attack him. Onslaught defeats Johnny with brute force, and then knocks out Crystal with telepathy. Nathaniel Richards fights Onslaught next, only for Onslaught to telekinetically destroy Nathaniel’s armor.
Onslaught finds Franklin in his room, except that “Franklin” is Lyja in disguise. She, Ben and Hawkeye attack. Onslaught mentally tricks Ben into punching the wall instead of him, and he makes Hawkeye’s arrows fly back at Hawkeye. Sue and Bishop are the next to fight Onslaught. Bishop has Sue strike him with her most powerful force fields, in the hopes that he will absorb their energy and use them to strike Onslaught. It appears to work at first, as Onslaught transforms back into Professor X. But it’s a trick, and Sue and Bishop are knocked back with a wave of powerful energy.
Elsewhere in New York, we find the Watcher and X-Men villain apocalypse watching this from a distance. They do this throughout the entire crossover, acting as a Greek chorus of sorts. Apocalypse says Franklin’s reality-bending powers could eventually make him one of the most powerful mutants, and he accuses the Watcher of being impartial. Apocalypse believes the Watcher genuinely cares about the Fantastic Four.
Onslaught finally finds Franklin who is sitting on a ledge on the outside of the building (!) only for Reed and Iceman to attack. Reed stretches himself into Hulk-like musculature (!!) to land a few blows on Onslaught. Reed swears he will find a way to stop Onslaught. In another part of the building, Johnny catches up with Lyja again, saying that he’s figured out she’s Laura Green. Instead of being mad at her for tricking him, he’s into it this time. He kisses her back, saying they will figure things out later.
All the heroes regroup as Onslaught goads Franklin into joining him. There’s a huge explosion inside the building, knocking the heroes out. Onslaught takes Franklin into his arms, saying, “You will give me a gift. A gift beyond reckoning!”
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: If Reed can stretch his muscles to give him Hulk-like strength, why has he never done this before? Maybe this is another new skill he developed when he was lost in time after being abducted by Hyperstorm.
Fade out: Sue also demonstrates a new use of her power, by gently filling up a room with a thin lightweight force field to show that no one invisible is hiding inside.
Clobberin’ time: I have no idea what’s happening on this cover. It’s Ben’s hand holding a broken Wonder Man action figure (Wonder Man does not appear in the actual comic) while an image of Onslaught with Franklin appears reflected on glass in the background. I just don’t get it.
Flame on: Starting with this issue, Johnny’s speech bubbles when flamed on are colored in a yellow-orange with little fire effects around them. This will be his speech’s look for the next couple of years.
Fantastic fourth wheel: Before being the first to be knocked out, Ant-Man and Ben pal around, revealing they have a favorite type of pizza — extra pepperoni and extra sausage.
Would you believe that Crystal is still an Avenger after more than 100 issues? She really found her niche. As to why Onslaught chooses a nonviolent and humane way to take her out of the fight, it’s because Onslaught is half Magneto, and Crystal is married to Magneto’s son. Crystal is Onslaught’s daughter-in-law!
Four and a half: Young Franklin seems unfazed by all the reality-bending happening around him, due to Onslaught’s psychic influence. In Franklin’s rooms, we can see a Power Rangers video, Calvin and Hobbes stuffed dolls (bootleg, I’m assuming), and (gasp!) a Batman: The Animated Series poster.
The Alicia problem: A lot of the Johnny/Lyja drama goes back to him rejecting her, hurt that she spent all that time impersonating Alicia. It feels really out of character for him to come back around to having romantic feelings for her again, especially after she’s revealed tricking him a second time.
Commercial break: I actually feel bad for this dog:
Trivia time: Who is Magda? She was Magneto’s first love, who might be one of the most tragic characters in Marvel history. She and young Magneto fled from the Nazis and lived in hiding for a while, only for her to reject him when his mutant powers first manifested. She later died on Mount Wundagore after giving birth to mutant twins. Except it was much, much later revealed Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are not really Magneto’s kids. So we don’t know what really happened on Mount Wundagore.
The other two Avengers seen in the background in one panel are Giant-Man and the Wasp. You can be forgiven for not recognizing them in their edgy ‘90s outfits.
Fantastic or frightful? This issue actually does a good job of bringing an X-Men story into FF, by keeping the focus on Franklin the whole time. Onslaught wants the kid and everyone else is protecting him. This gives the issue focus, despite a ton of characters in it. Chris Pacheo’s artwork is also great, bringing some of that ‘90s extremism, but in a good way this time.
Next: It all ends, except it doesn’t.
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