Onslaught is one of those characters that readers either love or hate. If you hate him, it’s unlikely you’ll be buying this title anyway. If, however, you love him, then you might have a valid complaint about this first issue, because he’s not in it much.
The plot sees the Secret Avengers investigating visions experienced by Nomad, Rikki Barnes, a/k/a the Bucky from the “Heroes Reborn” Earth. Although forbidden to follow by Steve Rogers, the Young Allies — convinced that their teammate Toro has been kidnapped — head to Colombia, anyway, where they encounter a drug cartel siphoning energy from the Negative Zone, leading to the return of… well, you can probably guess from the title.
Stranded on “our” Earth since the events of the “Onslaught Reborn” miniseries a few years ago, it makes perfect sense to bring Nomad back into conflict with the villain. At the same time, the presence of Rogers and McCoy on the Avengers team makes their appearance entirely valid, where it could have seemed like a blatant marketing push.
In fact, while it’s called “Onslaught Unleashed,” this is really a Young Allies/Secret Avengers crossover, and one can’t help but feel that was destined to be an arc in the now-cancelled “Young Allies” series. Intellectually, the readers know that this series isn’t going to be about the villain, but if you call a series “Onslaught Unleashed” hoping to trade off the character’s residual popularity, it helps if your story doesn’t string out the inevitable for an entire issue.
That said, once you get past the disappointment that Onslaught doesn’t turn up at all until the last page, McKeever’s work is as dependably good as ever. With a firm grasp of team dynamics and teenage characterization, he’s a writer well-suited to the Young Allies. The idea of the team arriving in Colombia in a battered hatchback flown by Gravity is note-perfect: a talisman of teenage freedom, given a superheroic twist.
McKeever capably handles the Secret Avengers too. Captain America, in particular, is a fatherly, though never patronizing presence, while Beast projects the studious dignity of a university professor (something made all the more poignant when it’s shattered later on).
Filipe Andrade’s art is bound to be as polarizing as the foe the series is named after. While his skill can easily be seen in the expressive, graffiti-esque visuals, the loose design of the page and characters makes reading a bit of a chore. Strong, stylized work can often be incredibly enjoyable, but a balance must be found between servicing the story and going wild with the visuals. Andrade has yet to find the sweet spot in this regard.
Even so, the quality of this comic is such that it should easily please both Young Allies and Onslaught fans, far more so than the last appearance of the latter, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see what motivations and plans McKeever applies to Onslaught outside of his initial context, and it’s hard not to hope that he ends up bringing the character back into circulation by the end of it. Either way, it’s a story worth sticking around for.