X-Men (various comic book titles and video games, 1996-now)
Professor Charles Xavier is my favorite comic book character of all time, so why shouldn’t he be my favorite villain? To be honest, Onslaught isn’t actually Charles Xavier but more of a subconscious manifestation of Charles Xavier’s telepathic prowess in psionic form constructed from the darker side of his mind. It sounds hokey and it’s definitely confusing but just imagine being Charles Xavier with all this telepathic power in the scope of his mind… Flip that and view it into a form of physical power in the physical world (beyond the astral plane) and you create something that is not only stronger and more durable than the Hulk and Thor combined but able to combat the entirety of the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four simultaneously. Onslaught is not only a fantastic showcase of how powerful Charles Xavier truly is but in my opinion presents audiences with a much more interesting duality than say Jean Grey becoming the Dark Phoenix. I mean Xavier is a pacifist and father figure to abandoned freaks everywhere, he lives and breathes charity and universal understanding… So when that kind of persona is flipped to the opposite, you’re dealing with a much more spiteful adversary. Plus Onslaught is all Xavier… not some cosmic godlike possession type deal.
So how does something like Onslaught get created from such a good guy? Xavier is often called a dreamer because of his idealism in human and mutant coexistence, but thanks to ignorant and rash actions on both sides of the fence; human/mutant relations were at an all time low in the late 90’s. Magneto had used his powers to manipulate satellites across the globe to kill hundreds of people and when the X-Men confronted him about it he tore the adamantium from Wolverine’s body almost killing him. Ashamed of his friend’s actions over the years and appalled by his cruelty towards Wolverine, Professor X snapped and used the full extent of his psychic powers on Magneto which left him in a catatonic state for several years. This kind of Xavier displaying what he always COULD DO but never did was never seen before. Although it’s the main reason fans of the comics don’t like Onslaught; this moment sparked his birth by the dark aspect of Magneto’s thoughts merging with Xavier’s repressed feelings at that time. Some time after, an anti-mutant hate group had brutally beaten a child mutant to death outside of the X-Mansion while Xavier was accepting that he could not rehabilitate Sabretooth’s bloodlust while under his care. These “failures” in his mind were only the tips of his frustration built icebergs. While pursuing his dream and founding the X-Men, Xavier had sacrificed being invested in several loving relationships including his own son, David Haller (AKA Legion). Eventually he reached his breaking point and subconsciously created Onslaught.
Behind the X-Men’s backs, Onslaught went out to recruit his own minions to finally end mutant oppression by any means necessary (sound like Magneto much?). He recruited the cybernetic one-man/mutant army, Post, the Age of Apocalypse refugee, Holocaust, Blob, Mimic, and the Incredible Hulk as his heralds (Hulk eventually broke free of his psychic manipulation) all while telepathically shielding the Dark Beast who was hiding in plain sight among the X-Men as Beast. Through Dark Beast, Onslaught gained more lackeys in his current incarnation of the Brotherhood of Mutants including Havok, Random, and Fatale. He also secretively altered the latest batch of government Sentinels to hunt down humans instead of mutants.
The earliest time the name “Onslaught” was mentioned was when the X-Men stumbled across the beaten body of the Juggernaut (Professor X’s step brother), who had supposedly been punched by the entity from western Canada to New Jersey… That is mighty impressive. Essentially this is saying the Xavier’s mental strength is far greater than the equivalent of Juggernaut’s physical strength (which magically grants him the right of way when in forward motion… no matter what).
Strangely enough Onslaught wanted to “test” the X-Men to see if they were worthy to be is heralds and pit Post against Storm, Wolverine, Iceman, and Cyclops who barely beat him (even though Onslaught could have totally control them with his mind but… whatever). He then personally visited Jean Grey and attempted to convince her that humans are inherently evil and joining his cause was her best course of action. Jean being faithful to Xavier’s dream refused only for Onslaught to retort by showing her that even Xavier was corrupt. In doing this, Onslaught revealed that Professor X from his earliest years of teaching the X-Men thought of Jean as a love interest (while he was in his 30’s and she was hitting puberty) but knowing it was wrong and that she was a strong motivator for Cyclops as a love interest he telepathically buried his attraction to her in his own mind (like he had done with the rest of his unpleasant emotions). Here we learn that Onslaught was willing to destroy everything good that Charles had worked for his entire life even at the cost of his own reputation. He then burnt his name psionically on Jean’s forehead for her to fear it.
When Xavier finally reveals himself as Onslaught, he depowers the Juggernaut by ripping the Cytorrak gem out of his chest and blasts them all to death with a psionic attack. The end…
At least that’s how it happened in the future timeline where Bishop had come from and thanks to his interference the brunt of Onslaught’s attack was absorbed by Bishop himself. Essentially what I’m saying is; if it hadn’t been for a time travelling anomaly, Onslaught would have wiped out the X-Men and possibly the rest of Marvel’s heroes. But because they survived, the X-Men were able to make use of the knowledge that Onslaught was planning on finding other powerful psychics such as Cable, Nate Grey, and Franklin Richards (the omnipotent omega level mutant child of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman). A combined alliance formed between the X-Men, X-Force, the Avengers, and Excalibur to strategize a way of defeating Onslaught.
Onslaught’s first target was Franklin Richards whom he had been visiting as an imaginary friend, “Charlie,” to gain his trust several months beforehand. After taking on a team of Avengers, Iceman, Bishop, and the Fantastic Four; Onslaught was able to steal the boy but not before revealing that the true Professor X was trapped inside the entity and fighting him. At the same time the X-Men traveled to Muir Island to investigate Xavier’s own “Xavier Protocols,” which were essentially contingency plans against himself and the rest of his X-Men in case they went rogue (Batman, anyone?). Here they found schematics for psionic-proof armor. Meanwhile, Onslaught had similarly trapped Franklin Richards within himself along with Xavier and siphoned off the boy’s reality altering powers which added on to his already seemingly infinite powers. With this he set off a huge EMP/psionic attack in New York City and attacked using his army of human-killing Sentinels.
After fighting off his powerful minions and developing Stark/Wakandan-improved psionic armor, the largest massing of heroes could finally face Onslaught. After Thor tore Xavier from the inside of Onslaught, the creature became more powerful and again unleashed an attack that would have killed all of them if not for Cable and the Invisible Woman’s shields. After the Fantastic Four enlisted more help from allies such as the Inhumans, Namor, and Dr. Doom (?); Onslaught caught up with Nate Grey and absorbed his psychic powers into himself (now 3 times as powerful as he originally was). After viewing Nate’s memories from the Age of Apocalypse, Onslaught was disgusted by a world ruled by mutants as well (viewing it as another failure in the long run) then changed his overall goal to annihilating everything deeming both man and mutant unworthy to inherit the Earth. To do this, Onslaught CREATED A SECOND SUN which began having drastically devastating effects on the planet. In desperation Dr. Doom then devised a plan to weaken Onslaughts barriers while the Hulk allowed Jean Grey to switch off his human consciousness completely in order to go toe-to-toe with Onslaught as an all-out savage rage beast. Hulk eventually grew as big as Onslaught and delivered a punch with the power of a nuclear blast.
Now that Onslaught’s body was completely destroyed, he became a being of pure thought proclaiming that his armor was merely a shell in which he was evolving inside of the entire time. Now the only way to defeat him would be to contain the being within several vessels of equal mass. This led to a majority of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and even Dr. Doom sacrificing themselves by jumping into Onslaught’s scattered energies and disappearing. Reed Richards explained to the X-Men that mutant energies would only strengthen Onslaught which allowed them to survive and watch as the human heroes died (by Reed Richards I mean the Marvel writers explaining that they had to kill the Avengers and keep the X-Men because of sales at the time). This marked the “death” of Onslaught but it was later rewritten that all of the heroes had merely been recreated in an alternate dimension formed by Franklin Richards called Counter-Earth. All of this happened in a 47-issue crossover event composed of every major Marvel comic book title within 2 months.
Recently, Onslaught has resurfaced through the mind/body of the Red Skull when he had surgically grafted part of Professor X’s (now deceased) brain to his own and gained his telepathic powers. Although this appearance has yet to present itself as epic and memorable as his first, “Red Onslaught” is my cheap way of also adding Red Skull into the final spot on the villains list. I think Red Onslaught was the best way of continuing the character because beyond all things Onslaught is the personification of hate. What better “host” for hate towards his fellow man is there than a megalomaniacal Nazi fanatic?