The Gift Goodbye
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Jason Pearson (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Kevin Tinsley, Ericka Moran (colorists)
Iceman, Bishop, and Jean Grey are trapped in a fantasy world created by Mastermind. While his mysterious illness was being studied at Muir Island, he sent a note to Jean Grey. When the X-Men arrived, he used his illusion powers to place them under his influence. When they begin to question their fantasy worlds, things turn violent. When Jean discovers what’s happening, she saves the other X-Men and decides to comfort Mastermind during his final moments. Meanwhile, the X-Cutioner, a human determined to execute lethal mutants, arrives to assassinate Mastermind. Colossus, Storm, and Archangel try to stop him. Mastermind asks Jean to forgive him for manipulating her years ago, sends her out of his mind, and dies. After facing Storm’s lightning attack, X-Cutioner teleports away, but the X-Men discover that he’s gravely injured Colossus.
This issue comes polybagged with an X-Cutioner trading card.
Early X-Factor villain Tower is killed by X-Cutioner in his introduction scene.
This issue is the first appearance of the X-Cutioner. Bishop’s sister, Shard, also appears for the first time during his fantasy sequence.
Mastermind says that the closest he ever came to a relationship was his time spent manipulating Phoenix. Later stories establish that he has two daughters, but I don’t know anything about their mother(s).
Most likely in an attempt to keep up speculator interest, Marvel’s theme during its 1993 annuals was to introduce a new character with each issue. This is the type of gimmick that you know from the beginning isn’t going to work, but this issue puts out an honest effort. The X-Cutioner, this annual’s new character, isn’t a bad concept. The X-Men really don’t have enough credible villains, and a human who uses stolen technology to execute mutants who have committed murder has potential. Unlike most of the X-Men’s other human antagonists, he’s not blindly opposed to all mutants, so his character has a more reasonable point of view. The X-Men are opposed to the same people he faces, yet wouldn’t approve of his methods. It’s like the Punisher if he focused exclusively on mutants. Unfortunately, he’s only given a few pages to actually confront the X-Men in this issue, and just teleports away at the end. It seems like the creative team already had the Mastermind story planned for this annual, and X-Cutioner had to be tacked on to fit this year’s theme. Years later, Fabian Nicieza and Steve Skroce would do a lot of work with X-Cutioner in the Gambit solo series, which was a nice surprise. The main focus of this issue, the death of Mastermind, is handled very well. Having the villain make amends before dying isn’t something you would expect to see during this grim era in comics.
Unlike most annuals, this isn’t a rushed looking mess. Jason Pearson, who would go on to gain recognition at Image and Dark Horse, does a great job on the artwork. His exaggerated style doesn’t really look anything like anything else going on in the early ‘90s. It reminds me of the type of art that became popular at Marvel and DC around 2002, before ugly “realistic” Photoshop comics became so popular.
Of Kings and Queens and Promises
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist)
Trevor Fitzroy saves Sienna Blaze from a police standoff and offers her a position in the Upstarts.
This is the first appearance of Sienna Blaze, a character that the X-office heavily promoted as a major villain for a few months, and then quickly forgot about.
This is back-up is mainly done to promote X-Men Unlimited #1, where Sienna Blaze will confront the X-Men for the first time. This story was obviously intended to be the introduction of a major character, but the Upstarts and Sienna Blaze will soon fade into obscurity. Tom Grummett, who was mainly doing DC work at this time, does a fine job on the artwork, though.