There are several types of people reading “Onslaught Unleashed.” The first comprises fans of the Young Allies, looking for further adventures since the cancellation of their ongoing series. The second comprises fans of the Secret Avengers, who may be interested in this guest-appearance. And the last -- the one I’m in -- comprises fans of the titular villain, Onslaught, who just want to see him being used.
Presumably, Marvel’s hope is that the latter two groups will join the former, strengthening the Young Allies brand and their hopes of a return. At this point, however, it’s hard to say how successful that strategy is going to be.
There’s no denying Sean McKeever’s skill, who weaves together a giant cast and makes it look easy. The Young Allies characters are strong, and their personal interest in the story is clear. Beast and Steve Rogers, in particular, get a couple of good scenes, which makes sense given the nature of the villain. Meanwhile, the Black Widow’s ongoing relationship with Nomad is touched upon, too.
Unfortunately, despite the time spent building up his return, Onslaught turns out to be rather bland and uninteresting. Some might argue that he always was, but personally, I enjoyed his previous appearances, however incoherent they were. To see a previously grandiose villain with designs on world-ending reality manipulation reduced to a simple revenge plot is an underwhelming comedown.
The issue’s twist ending does provide a moment of surprise that bids me to read the next issue, but at the same time, it’s a little confusing. It’s hard to see how the revelation can make any sense, particularly if (as it seems) it spins out of “Onslaught Reborn,” the famously incomprehensible Jeph Loeb/Rob Liefeld series of a few years back that deposited Nomad in this world in the first place. I’m hopeful that the development will send the series in an interesting direction but, at the same time, I’m not sure I’m emotionally invested enough in Nomad to care what it means either way.
Filipe Andrade’s art is, as usual, something of a chore to read at times. At his best, he reflects the energy and elastic expressiveness of Humberto Ramos. At his worst, he’s heading for Chris Bachalo circa-2004 levels of incomprehensibility. His style is clearly developed, but his storytelling skills still require work. That said, definite improvements have been made since he arrived on the Marvel scene, and it’s clear that once he’s settled into his craft, he’s going to be a great artist.
All things considered, though, “Onslaught Unleashed” is simply illustrating why it is that Young Allies failed; It’s straightforward superheroics done by two competent professionals, but it lacks whatever spark it needs to make it into something great. Maybe McKeever and Andrade will find it before the series ends. For the sake of Onslaught fans everywhere, I hope so.