This is a storyline that’s been brewing since the beginning of Rick Remender’s epic run on UNCANNY AVENGERS and it’s also, seemingly, another attempt by Marvel to take a shakey concept from the 1990s and reinvent it for the modern world (see also: Carnage). After goading Magneto into killing him, Red Skull’s ultimate plan and ultimate power was unleashed in the form of the Red Onslaught, the unstoppable psychic monstrosity unleashing, and upgrading, Charles Xavier’s psychic power into an unsuspecting world. AND he’s brought two inventions of Tony Stark in the form of sentinels specifically designed to stop superheroes. Not specific ones, superheroes in general. It’s an interesting idea and a great way to non-lethally remove a huge number of heroes from the equation. Most of the issue has narration from Tony Stark and his quiet, desperate shame comes across very well. Red Onslaught, at one point, claims Stark is a sociopath, but Remender reminds us that isn’t true. He might not be the best person in the world, but at the very least he knows that he’s screwed up real, real bad this time.
Adam Kubert’s art is works much better in this issue than the first, and it’s all the more impressive as there is an absolute TON going on. From constantly keeping an eye on Red Onslaught, to managing such an insanely diverse group of heroes with such diverse powers, Kubert keeps things clear from panel-to-panel and the characters look amazing. There’s a savage, breakneck intensity that’s communicated every moment of the issue, and when things momentarily calm down, the reader feels the relief along with the characters. Laura Martin and Matt Milla provide the colors, and they are everything they need to be: bright yet gritty with an palette befitting the action splashing across every page.
This event feels like it would be appropriately titled “The Next Big Marvel Crossover Event.” It feels perfunctory and like Remender is going through the motions. Iron Man’s inner-monologue is great, but nothing else stands out dialog-wise and the cast, while not behaving out of character aren’t behaving particularly like themselves. Apart from Stark, they feel very, very interchangeable, making the squad feel less like a team struggling to stay alive and more a group of strangers who got into a plane crash. The plot also proceeds based more on coincidence and chance than what feels like a proper plan. I get that there’s an element of luck to anything going right in general, but when the Avengers and X-Men ALMOST defeat Red Onslaught and then only don’t because one single person who wasn’t accounted for shows up, it lessens the credibility of both sides. The passage of time is also strangely malleable as we, at one point, jump ahead several hours, but what happens after that makes it feel like a great deal more had gone by.
The final two-page splash of this issue actually makes me think there’s something going on worth looking forward to, and I’d like nothing more than for this series to pick up and become what I think it can be with this incredibly talented team. The art is great and there are some very solid concepts in it along with a grand reveal that actually STILL has my interest, but overall, it feels like it either needed more time to develop or more time to wind up. Perhaps the tie-ins will offer a bit more in the way of stakes or characterization, but after the one-two punch of INFINITY and ORIGINAL SIN, this event leaves a lot to be desired so far.