X-Men (2nd series) #53

Issue Date: 
June 1996
Story Title: 
False Fronts

Mark Waid (story), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith & John Dell (inkers), Joe Rosas (colorist), Malibu (separations), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterer), Bob Harras (editor), Gerard Calabrese (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Jean Grey-Summers searches the streets of Salem Center, New York in search of a dress shop to buy a sun dress. Finally finding its location, she goes there to see what they have in stock. Passing by the employees of the store, she hears their thought about their hatred for her, by either being to skinny or because of where she lives. Jean knows of the duplicity of humans and does not care, because she knows that, no matter what they think, most people are still inherently good. Going to a nearby dressing room, she picks up a dress that she likes to try it on. Suddenly, Jean finds herself in the Astral Plane and meets a being that appears to know her and the X-Men far too well. At an abandoned warehouse, the Beast sits in a brick-prison. Trying to get a drink of water, he breaks the apparatus that delivers the nourishment. Luckily, the accident reveals a hidden escape route; finally, he can regain his hope. He begins to show her the hypocrisy of humans, but he is deterred by Jean’s resolve and her compassion, even though she has the ability to see all their lies. Onslaught, who the being is found out later to be called, leads Jean next to the Xavier estate, where she is confronted with the realization that Charles Xavier is not the saint she once believed he was. While they travel through Xavier’s mind, the human Juggernaut meets up with two X-Men in Colorado. He tries to tell Warren and Betsy a secret that only he knows but, thanks to mental blocks, he becomes frustrated when he cannot speak the coming danger’s name. In South Carolina, the mutant knows as Joseph comes upon a tent revival, where the watchful eye of the townsfolk greets him. Jean and Onslaught leave Xavier’s mind. He asks her to become his escort in the new world he will soon create. She denies him. Onslaught, angered, sends Jean back to the physical world with his name written across her brow: Onslaught.

Full Summary: 

In Salem Center, New York, Jean Grey-Summers walks down the sidewalks looking for a dress shop. Thankfully, a nice man offers her directions. Jean hears his thoughts, though; he thinks that he would love to have her walk on his bare chest in stiletto heels. Going inside the store, a heavier set woman greets her at the counter. She tells Jean that they do have sun dresses there and she thinks she would look “lovely” in them. Jean, not filtering her thoughts, hears the woman think that she hates her for being skinny.

Nearing the dresses, a young woman holds a dress up and tells her that it is “Aramandi,” she should look at it in the mirror. Jean, continuing to listen in on other’s thoughts, hears the woman think about how she is one of those Xavier school freaks. Looking in the mirror, she holds the dress up to her chest and she sees the two women looking in the mirror at her as well. Jean thinks that she is trying to have a calming Saturday, so screening other’s thoughts has to be put off for today. Jean walks into the dressing room to try on the dress, glancing back at the two employees in the shop.

The Astral Plane :

Suddenly, the dressing room changes into the Astral Plane, with an ominous presence awaiting her. Her clothes transform into her X-Men combat uniform. The being known as Onslaught stands before her; although he does not reveal his name to her, he tells her that he is there to discuss things with her. When Jean asks Onslaught how she got there, he tells her that she can call him a sympathizer to the mutant race. He goes on to say that he wants to prepare her for the days to come, when the humans will finally get what they deserve, by reaching the flashpoint in their destinies.

Jean tells him that flashpoint is a harsh word! She goes on to say that times are bad for mutants, worse than they have ever been, but she and the X-Men fight for a brighter tomorrow. Onslaught goes on to speak for her, by saying that they fight for a dream, Xavier’s dream. The two beings faintly materialize back in the dressing room at the dress store. Jean asks him if he knows about Xavier and the X-Men. Onslaught tells her that he does know, all too well. He asks her what Xavier would do if he knew what the humans dreamed of.

Back in the physical world :

The two employees of the shop have flagged down a police officer and the three of them peer into the dressing stall that once housed Jean. The officer asks if they are sure, what they had seen was not just a mirage? They tell him that they heard the woman scream and that she seemed like a nice girl. Their thoughts are then heard: the officer thinks that he would rather be on lunch break right now, the young woman thinks that it is good riddance to a “Xavierette,” and the heavier-set woman thinks that Jean must be a shoplifter.

Onslaught and Jean fly from the store. Onslaught asks Jean how she deals with so much duplicity day-in and day-out. She tells him that it is through years of coping and a heart filled with compassion. Jean changes the subject and asks how Onslaught knows so much about the X-Men? Psionic energy glows from Onslaught’s eyes; he tells her that he is frustration. With that said, the mutant hurls a blast of psionic energy at the dress shop below, sending brick at mortar flying hundreds of yards away. Jean screams for the people inside the shop, but her screams stop, as she realizes that the psionic display was just an illusion. Onslaught asks her forgiveness, as it seems he becomes temperamental when presented with the hypocrisy of humans. The two begin to fly off, as he tells her he is taking her to see more of the secrets that humans hide.

In New Jersey, behind a freshly made brick wall in a long abandoned factory, sits Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, the real McCoy. Above him drips liquid refreshment from an overrated piece of laboratory equipment. Hank knows that he has been left there to rot, not to die. Hank has gone without water for quite some time now. He realizes that he must survive, so that he does not let his captor win. Leaning close to the dripping water, he tries to sip from the spout, but the water is not coming out fast enough, or at least not fast enough for his water-deprived body. The machine breaks and Hank is sprayed in the face with what little water was left in the apparatus. Hank curses himself, knowing that the end is near with no water. Suddenly, he sees a glimmer of hope: the water begins to seep from the prison, revealing a trap door nearby.

In Manhattan, Onslaught and Jean have made their way to Graydon Creed’s campaign headquarters. Jean tells Onslaught that she already knows Creed hates mutants; he has even announced his presidency, which will be running on an anti-mutant platform. Onslaught tells her that she may not know everything she claims to know.

Underneath a giant banner that reads CREED ’96, the man named Graydon Creed and his campaign manager (Steven) exchange compliments on how smooth the race is running. Creed thanks Steven for his hard work and tells him that he is the best campaign manager a future-president can ask for. Steven tells Creed, as Creed walks away to greet more of his workers, that he will keep spreading the good news about him. Steven, thinking to himself, knows in his heart that he could care less about mutants. The only thing he cares about is getting Creed to become president so everyone will call him the Kingmaker.

Onslaught says that the dream cannot win over Steven, because there are no feelings to appeal to. Onslaught says that Steven would persecute mutants just because it was in his dayplanner to do so. Jean tells him that this is the reason she shuts out the thoughts of others, so she does not go insane thinking about how others react and think. Jean says that she surrounds herself with friends that shoot straight with her, not hiding their true feelings. Onslaught and Jean begin to fly away once more; he tells her that he might be able to show her a few thoughts that even her closest ally might not want her to see.
In a cabin owned by Warren Worthington III, his girlfriend, Betsy Braddock, screams for the ninth consecutive hour. Warren’s nerves are shaved, thanks not only to Psylocke’s screaming but the shadows that surround the inside of the cabin that seem to rise and fall with her pain. Suddenly, the shadows begin to form with one another into an almost human appearance. Psylocke screams out for Archangel to look out, as she senses a presence nearing their cabin wall. The presence is Juggernaut and he makes himself all to felt, as he crashes through the exterior wall of Betsy’s bedroom.

Cain asks the two X-Men where he is. Though, Archangel questions why he would not know his location, Betsy tells Warren that Cain is telling the truth, that he does not know where he is. She goes on to say that Cain has been in the shadows, but it is not clear where. There is also some kind of connection between the three of them. He tells her that he has something to tell them; he figures that the X-Men may do something about the guy, or it will be to late for them and the world. Cain begins to tell the two X-Men what he has seen, but for some reason the words cannot be uttered. For the first time in Juggernaut’s life he has been stopped, not physically but mentally, from speaking a truth that could save the world.

Surrendering to the mental block that surrounds that one memory, the human Juggernaut hurls his body through another of Warren’s cabin walls, falling to the ground below. Betsy screams for Cain to stop, but he tells her that the ground will break his fall. Walking from the crater, he made in the ground, Cain Marko tells himself that it looks as if he will be taking a trip to Westchester, because there is only one mutant he trusts to mess with his mind.

At the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, the astral forms of Onslaught and Jean Grey float atop the building. Jean thinks to herself how the being known as Onslaught could know where the X-Men live. Jean tells him that, if he is trying to show her something about Scott Summers, he will be barking up the wrong tree. She goes on to say that she and Scott share an intimacy she doubts even he could understand. Onslaught tells Jean that Scott he is the lapdog of their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, so Scott has not had an independent thought since he was fifteen. She tells Onslaught that Charles and her are two of the most powerful telepaths in the world. The two of them have shared secrets that no one else will ever know. She says that he has overplayed his hand this time and she will personally take him on a trip through Xavier’s mind.

Xavier’s mind and his memories:

The face of Charles Xavier unfolds like the pages of a book to allow Onslaught and Jean Grey access to his mind. Jean and Onslaught seem to shrink in size and the two beings fly into the openings of Xavier’s face. Inside his mind, Jean tells Onslaught that she has known Charles since she was a child. She goes on to say that she has trusted him since the first moment the two of them met. Jean and Onslaught approach the image of Charles Xavier leaning down to talk to a pre-teen Jean Grey. Next, the two astral projections float nearer to an image of her and Xavier discussing tactical plans to stop the invasion of the Z’nox. She tells Onslaught that Xavier only trusted her with the knowledge of the Z’nox. She goes on to say that Charles is like a father figure to her.

A gleam of light bounces off Onslaught’s helmet and he questions her comment about him being a father figure to her. Onslaught approaches a door that seems to be chained shut and locked tight. He tells Jean that, in order for her to know what Xavier is truly like, she must look through the doors of his repressed memories. With that said, the being known as Onslaught raises his hand and strikes the door to the repressed memory into shards of broken wood. Jean leans down to look at the memory and she realizes it is an image of her, Scott and Xavier when the X-Men were still newly formed. Xavier is telling Jean to be careful and she replies that he has trained her and the X-Men for just this moment. Xavier lights his pipe and thinks to himself of how he cannot help but worry about the one he loves, but there is no way he could tell her, because he does not have the right.

The one thought of Xavier’s, “the one I love,” keeps flashing before the astral form of Jean and her green eyes enlarge at the knowledge of them. Jean backs away from the memory; she screams out to Onslaught that it was not real, that he must have created that memory to try to fool her. Onslaught reminds Jean that she is in Xavier’s mind; she must know that it is truly his thoughts. Onslaught shows Jean an entire field of doors that have been locked tight by Xavier. He tells her that she need not worry about Xavier’s loving feelings; because they were locked away many years ago, just like all the other bad thoughts and feelings that Charles has ever had.

Suddenly, the ground beneath them begins to crack and Onslaught tells Jean that no man can be the saint that they think Xavier is. He wonders aloud what the consequences of Charles’ keeping his emotions hidden could one day become. The ground beneath them opens up and Jean Grey is swallowed up by the chasm. Onslaught tells Jean that she will taste on all of Xavier’s secrets in that chasm. Green ooze threatens to drown Jean; she screams back towards Onslaught and asks him who he is.

Back in the physical world:

In South Carolina, the man named Eric Magnus Lensherr comes up to a fair, pondering to himself how he got there? Walking into the tent, Joseph is greeted by a heavy-set man, telling him to eat some chicken before the preacher starts his sermon. Joseph tells the man that he is being too kind. The man goes on to say that they do try and he will soon find that the people in the community take a strong interest in outsiders.

The astral plane:

Onslaught stands atop the ring of an unknown planet and tells Jean that he is a being that is loosed of the duplicity that surrounds them. He goes on to say that, he is raw power, as she once was. She can be again by just joining him in his cause. In front of Onslaught is the fiery Phoenix, engulfing a nearby world with it’s brilliant light. Onslaught tells Jean that to repress her desire to become all-powerful again would be a lie and he will be the one truth in a world of lies. Onslaught asks Jean if she would be his consort in his new world?

Jean lashes out with a psi-blast, telling Onslaught that he does not know whom he is dealing with. She hurls herself on Onslaught, asking him who he is and why he would put her through so much pain when he already knows she would not join his cause? A flash of light crosses Jean’s face, as he tells her that she already knows who he is. Onslaught grasps the fiery Phoenix bird in his hand and tells Jean that he is a god, but to those that do not believe in him, he is an angry god. With that said, he sends a blast towards her skull and the mutant woman begins descending through the Astral Plane, until landing back in the dressing room where she had just disappeared.

In the dress shop:

The young woman employee and the heavier-set woman employee rush to the room, as they hear a great crash. The young woman asks if Jean is okay. She did not answer them. The only thing Jena cared about was that she was back in reality and away from him; as for his last words to her, “know my name.” Passing by a nearby mirror, Jean is horrified to see the word ONSLAUGHT, telepathically burned across her forehead.

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Phoenix, Professor X, Psylocke (all X-Men)



Manhattan citizens

Salem Center Residents

South Carolina Fair attendees
Graydon Creed

Steven (Creed’s Campaign Manager)


Xavier’s Mind:
Charles Xavier

Jean Grey, as a child and a first generation X-Man

Cyclops, as a first generation X-Man

Story Notes: 

Throughout the summary, the being known as Onslaught’s name is mentioned, even at the beginning, but Jean did not know his name until the last page, where she saw his name written across her brow.

This issue takes place right after the events in X-Force (1st series) #55.

Hank was kidnapped by the Dark Beast in X-Men (1st series) Unlimited #10.

Betsy has been haunted by these shadows since Uncanny X-Men #333.

Xavier pretended to die so that he could be better prepared for the attack of the Z’nox in X-Men (1st series) #42 - #65.

An art mistake shows Jean talking, but it was really supposed to be Onslaught talking to her about becoming his consort.

The thought from Xavier of being in love with Jean is actually a decades-old plot point first brought up in X-Men (1st series) #3 and never mentioned again.

The story continues in Uncanny X-Men #334.

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