Issue #25 is a corker. It's dark, bloody, and the morals at play here are… well, muddy. It largely works (outside one or two sticking points I'll get to), both as a chapter in the saga of Uncanny Avengers, and as the last prelude to
SIXIS er, AXIS. [Spoilers follow.]
So, fascinating things have been happening with Uncanny Avengers, since the very beginning some two years ago. That's how long ago Rick Remender planted the seeds that bad things were coming, bad things like the figure of Onslaught, sporting the death's head visage of the Red Skull, with the dead and mutilated remains of Charles Xavier marching before it. (Jeeze, things were dark.) Don't believe me?
Seeing is believing, folks. Once upon a time, the worst parts of Magneto subconsciously joined with Charles Xavier on a subconscious level. The result was the original Onslaught. After Red got his mitts on Xavier's remains, he began abusing the late professor's powers by "fusing his brain with my own", whatever that means. It's a broad stroke, left deliberately vague. It worked. Point is, one of the worst minds in Marvel history has been walking around with the power of Charles Xavier… or at least most of it.
I choose to believe that this version of events is no longer strictly what happened, as the details don't mesh: elsewhere in the flash forward we see Havok with his face intact, and Sunfire still has a corporeal body. But that's small potatoes.
ANYWAY! In this actual issue, we're in a hellish Genoshan version of Auschwitz. With Xavier's powers, the Red Skull has our Uncanny Avengers at a standstill. He casually mentions his "new hand", which puts the matter of his amputated hand to rest, I guess. (He was still missing it ten minutes ago over in Magneto #10, but that's comic books for you.) He puts Magneto on his knees, using Wanda's intact mind as leverage.
Magneto appears to grovel… until he grabs Ahab's spear and smacks RussSkie across the face with it. (There really is no bad way to hurt Nazis. Just ask Harrison Ford.) Magneto's powers are back to their former strength, courtesy of some MGH he popped at the finale of his own comic #10.
Result: The S-Men are facing a fair fight again, something they're not used to. It goes badly for them.
This issue is narrated from Wanda's POV. She talks about how damaging it is to be around her father, especially when he's angry. As he's facing off against the 21st century version of the Nazi party— given his history— it's an understatement to say that he's pissed.
And with good reason. In one chamber on the compound, Erik and Wanda find this horrific sight. Daniel Acuña's work on UA has been exemplary, but who these figures are supposed to be is unclear to me. They all appear to have the same face, the same build. Are they supposed to be different mutant psychics, or all cloned and harvested versions of Xavier?
Does it matter?
Wanda's narration goes on to express her intent, trying to soothe her father's outrage before he does something drastic: a tactic that, frankly, has never worked.
Magneto has been tortured and beaten by the S-Men, and he's standing in a living reminder of the worst time in his life— the worst time in countless lives. His response is the only one he could realistically make: He smashes the S-Men to a pulp.
It says something that Rogue and Havok are largely inconsequential in this chapter. Rogue barely holds her own one-on-one vs. Ahab, and Havok is swept away by Magneto before he can finish two sentences.
Magneto turns his full attention on the Red Skull, pummeling him with his own two hands, cracking the Red Skull's mask into scraps. (It's a good reminder that yes, this version of the Red Skull is a clone with all of the original's memories— courtesy of Arnim Zola.) The Avengers try to talk Magneto out of his vendetta, but it's in vain. He repays the Red Skull for his malice and kills him outright. The murder is graphic, and final.
Which only serves to make things worse.
With the Red Skull's physical form destroyed, he's finally able to access the full extent of Charles' powers. (I don't understand it fully myself, but cause and effect are pretty self-evident here.) The Red Skull is dead. Long live Onslaught.
This is scarcely the first gambit of its kind ever done in comics, but I confess I don't fully grasp how RussSkie pulled it off.
The flash forward in UA #4 mentions "when the seven became one" as the moment when Onslaught rose to power. Until I see something that replaces this, I presume this refers to the Red Skull's S-Men, of which there are seven. Only, they didn't become one. The seven were smashed to a bloody pulp and RussSkie had his head caved in. Not exactly the arcane rituals of old. If that's what it's referring to, Remender has a dark sense of humor. (Which I am totally behind.)
Regardless, this is how things got worse. This is the road to
SIXIS AXIS, and we've reached the end of that road.
So begins the next 'Event' comic for Marvel, pitting the Avengers and the X-Men against Onslaught: the embodiment of all the Red Skull's hatred, fused with the full extent of Xavier's powers. To wit, the good guys are *%^!ed.
It's a solid issue, and well worth picking up. Go buy it.
Casey Jones is the author of All Fall Down, and a voiceover artist.