Credits: Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio (plot), John Byrne (script), Whilce Portacio (pencils), Art Thibert (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)
The X-Men arrive at the Hellfire Club at the White Queen’s request. After several assassination attempts, she feels that the two groups are both at risk and should form an alliance. Suddenly, they are attacked by Trevor Fitzroy. In Australia, a group of Sentinels controlled by Fitzroy attacks the Reavers. Their leader Donald Pierce asks Gateway to teleport him to the location of the person responsible for the attack. Gateway sends him to the Hellfire Club in New York. The Sentinels follow Pierce through the portal and quickly kill him. The White Queen and her Hellions team up with the X-Men against Fitzroy and his Sentinels. During the battle, both the White Queen and Jean Grey are seemingly killed.
Fitzroy has a “well known” hatred of the White Queen. Why exactly is, of course, a mystery. Later on in the story, he tells her “you…can do no more than bluster when your opponent is more than a child.” I have no idea if he’s referring to himself or not.
This issue was released at the same time as the other launches in 1991, but takes place months later in continuity. A scene in X-Men #5 is used as a prologue to this issue. I assume this was done to help readers figure out which order the stories were taking place. It’s hard to imagine Marvel doing something like this today, but the idea of the X-Men appearing in multiple titles simultaneously was still new at this time.
I’ve always thought that this issue’s cover is especially ugly. In fairness, the interior isn’t this bad, and most of the pages look okay. But the cover is just awful, especially Storm’s face. What kind of an expression is that?
More than any other X-comic I’ve reviewed so far, this issue reminds me of the early Image comics. There’s a million characters given little to no introduction, tons of violence, lots of senseless death, and a barely coherent story. The pacing of this issue is insane. There's no dramatic tension at all, it’s just one chaotic event rapidly followed by another. I’m sure the creators viewed this as an important issue, with the introduction of new villains, the deaths of many established characters, and the start of a new storyline. Instead of feeling like you’re reading an important new chapter of the X-Men, you feel like you’ve been thrown into a mess of a story where characters randomly appear, make weird faces, and then get killed.
Not only are the characters poorly introduced, but the stiff dialogue also makes it impossible to care about anything that happens to them. This is the first of the X-titles I’ve reviewed so far that doesn’t even try to give the characters any personality. The only characterization we see is Jean Grey feeling awkward about being in the Hellfire Club mansion, and Iceman flirting with a Hellion. Of course, since the story mainly consists of characters being attacked and watching other characters get killed, there wasn’t an awful lot for Byrne to work with.
The new villain introduced in the issue, Fitzroy, reads like something out of bad fan-fiction. Rather than being an interesting or threatening villain in his own right, he shows up attached to several existing concepts. The Sentinels had been used pretty sparingly during this time, and had been re-established as major threats in the Days of Future Past storyline. Fitzroy shows up already able to control his own Sentinels, which the story tells us are more lethal than any before. They easily kill off most of the Reavers and Hellions, who had already been established as credible villains. And, rather than having any type of interesting origin of his own, Fitzroy’s just given a mysterious connection to the White Queen. The next issue reveals that Fitzroy is from the future, tying him into yet another established X-Men storyline. All of the concepts Fitzroy ties into can stand on their own. Can Fitzroy? If he doesn’t have established villains to kill, control, or have a vague history with, what does he have?
On top of its other flaws, this issue also has a terrible ending. Fitzroy watches two of his Sentinels kill Jean Grey while the other X-Men fight outside. Fitzroy is thrilled that Jean's dead and says that he'd like to kill all of the X-Men. On the very next page, Fitzroy and the Sentinels are gone, and inside the wreckage of the Hellfire Club, we see Colossus cradling Jean’s dead body. Where did Fitzroy go? Why didn’t he just walk outside with his two super-powerful Sentinels and finish the job? He was clearly on a roll. There’s not even a scene of Fitzroy leaving, he just disappears from one page to the next. It’s the type of lazy ending this issue probably deserves.