X-Men '97 seems to be setting up the villain that killed the Avengers and Fantastic Four

Onslaught with X-Men '97 screenshot
(Image credit: Marvel Entertainment)

The latest episode of X-Men '97 ended on a brutal cliffhanger that draws on a classic moment from '90s X-Men comics. But there's a lot more to the episode's dire foreshadowing than just its gut-wrenching final scene.

Spoilers ahead for X-Men '97 episode 9

In X-Men '97 episode 9, Wolverine, Cyclops, Xavier, and Nightcrawler confront Magneto on Asteroid M, attempting to convince him to fix Earth's magnetic poles, which he damaged with his powers (it's comic book science, it's fine). 

Wolverine manages to wrench Magneto's psychic-dampening helmet off, allowing Xavier to use his telepathy to take control of Magneto. But before Xavier can finish what he's doing, Cyclops stops him to buy his wife Jean Grey more time back on Earth, where she's fighting Mister Sinister and the Sentinels.

It all ends with Magneto surviving a stab wound from Wolverine's claws, and stealing the moment to rip all the adamantium from Wolverine's skeleton through his skin.

The show ends on this devastating moment, which seems to be setting up a particular character arc for Wolverine, drawn from comics. But it's actually what happens just before Magneto shreds Wolverine that may be the most ominous portent of what a potential second season of X-Men '97 could hold, and with one more episode left in this season, there's still time to put all the pieces in place.

In comics, after Wolverine's adamantium is ripped from his bones in the story 'Fatal Attractions,' Xavier goes on to use his considerable psychic power to fully mindwipe Magneto (a condition he would later overcome). But the joining of Xavier and Magneto's minds would also take a massive toll on Xavier, as it would later lead to the birth of the nigh-omnipotent psychic villain Onslaught.

And if X-Men '97 is about to put Onslaught on the board, it's more than just mutants who may have a problem, because in comics, defeating Onslaught took the apparent sacrifice of the entire Avengers and Fantastic Four, removing them from the Marvel Universe completely for several years.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

First appearing in 1996's X-Men #53, Onslaught was initially thought to be a fully corrupted Professor X, before it was later revealed that Onslaught is actually a psychic entity all its own, created when Xavier mindwiped Magneto in 'Fatal Attractions.' 

When their minds linked in such a profound way, a being who possessed all of Xavier's psychic potential and all of Magneto's rage was created. At first it dwelled inside Xavier's mind, subtly influencing him, but then it broke free, threatening the entire Marvel Universe. 

In the end, it took the combined sacrifices of Doctor Doom, the Hulk, the Avengers (including Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor), and the Fantastic Four to take him down. They fed themselves to Onslaught's psychic aura to weaken it, allowing the X-Men to finish the job and defeat Onslaught.

Though the Avengers, FF, and the rest didn't actually die, but were saved in a pocket universe created by Reed and Sue Richards' son Franklin's reality-warping powers, they did wind up remaining absent from the core Marvel Universe for around two years, with their titles relaunching in the Heroes Reborn alt-reality.

Meanwhile, the core Marvel Universe was left without an FF or an Avengers for that whole time, believing the heroes all to be dead. And the X-Men immediately found themselves embroiled in Bastion's Operation: Zero Tolerance.

The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the rest returned to the core Marvel Universe in 1998, with the Heroes Return initiative, which was the first wave of a series of new Marvel titles that ushered out the excess of the '90s and brought about the character-oriented storytelling renaissance of the early '00s.

If X-Men '97 is indeed going down the Onslaught route, things might be looking pretty dire for their entire reality.

There's one episode left of X-Men '97 season one, premiering on Disney Plus on Wednesday, May 15.

Check out the best X-Men comic stories of all time.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)