Going Through the Motions
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Richard Bennett (pencils, inks), Dan Green (inks), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)
While the X-Men are away, Jubilee and Kitty Pryde spend time with Illyana during her final hours. Colossus returns to the Mansion to learn of his sister’s death and has no visible reaction. Later, Jean Grey attempts to comfort Jubilee.
This is the death of Illyana issue, a death that actually stuck until a few months ago (I don’t follow New X-Men, but it’s my understanding that she’s officially returned). If you’re going to kill off a character in order to build up the Legacy Virus storyline, Illyana isn’t a bad choice. Her long-running character arc had already concluded during the Inferno storyline, leaving the character as a small child who was rarely seen. Because she was a prominent character for a few years, the fans still had memories of her, but she was essentially unusable in the context of most superhero stories. If Illyana dies, it still comes across as a big deal without actually upsetting the status quo of the book. Killing her off in the service of a larger storyline makes sense. Unfortunately, this greater storyline became yet another “dangling X-plot” that was only resolved years later during a fill-in issue. As a result, I can understand why some people tend to view her death as rather pointless.
I will say that Illyana’s death is treated respectfully (as opposed to the bloodbaths of earlier issues) and doesn’t come across as cheap shock value. Jean Grey offers Jubilee some cliché advice on how to deal with death, but I still think their scenes together work pretty well. If anything holds this issue back, it’s Bennett’s artwork. Bennett was a well-respected inker during this time that would occasionally show up as a fill-in artist. His ability to draw architecture and machinery is fine, but most of his human compositions don’t work (check out Xavier’s giant head and tiny arm on page 8, and Iceman’s bizarre anatomy on page 28). As a kid, though, I thought this was a great-looking issue and wanted to see more from him.