To the Limits of Infinity
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Salvador Larroca (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Javins/Rosas/Webb/Thomas & Electric Crayon (colors)
The Starjammers take the X-Ternals to the Shi’ar planet where the M’Kraan Crystal is being harvested for power. Deathbird teleports with the X-Ternals to the planet’s surface, where they face an army of Shi’ar soldiers. Gambit, Lila Cheney, and Deathbird race to find the M’Kraan Crystal while the others distract the guards. Gambit is shocked to learn that the Crystal is three stories tall, but Deathbird tells him that he only needs to steal a shard of it for their plan to work. Suddenly, an arm from inside the Crystal grabs Lila and pulls her inside. Gambit and Deathbird follow her inside the Crystal and meet Jahf. Jahf explains that he is the guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal, which is now fracturing and causing reality to blink out of existence. According to Jahf, it was never repaired in this reality because Jean Grey never became Phoenix. He tells Gambit that the collapse of the original reality is causing every reality to be affected, which will soon result in the end of everything. Stealing a shard of the Crystal and stopping the death of Professor Xavier will stop reality from blinking out of existence. However, Gambit must sacrifice a part of himself to gain a shard of the Crystal. Outside, the X-Ternals are confronted by Gladiator and Rictor. In the course of the battle, Sunspot begins to turn white after absorbing the Crystal’s energy. He’s afraid that he won’t be able to absorb more of the Crystal’s energy, so they follow Gambit inside it. Gambit offers the only thing he says he has to offer, and breaks his staff against the neutron sun in the heart of the Crystal. The M’Kraan Cystal explodes, as the neutron sun escapes from the Shi’ar device that was draining its energies. Sunspot begins to burn up after absorbing so much energy, while Lila Cheney vows to return everyone home.
Since Jahf lives inside the M’Kraan Crystal, which is the “nexus point between all matter and all anti-matter”, he remembers the original reality. The M’Kraan Crystal was damaged and causing reality to blink out of existence back in Uncanny X-Men #108, before Jean Grey used the Phoenix Force to fix it. According to Jahf, Bishop is a “chronal anomaly” who was present when the different realities diverged, causing him to remember the way things are supposed to be.
Even though it’s not outright stated, I have to assume that Rictor and Gladiator are the two lifeforms who escaped from the crystallized planet in the last issue.
Several pages in this issue are done in Comicraft’s computer font, even though the rest of the comic is hand lettered by Chris Eliopoulos. The pages that have been re-lettered mostly involve Jahf’s explanation of how reality fractured, and how Gambit can fix it. The climax of the story, when Gambit hits his staff against the neutron heart and the Crystal explodes, is also re-lettered.
I enjoyed this issue more than the previous two, even if the series does still have a slightly chaotic feel to it. Salvador Larroca replaces Tony Daniel with this issue, which I believe makes Gambit and the X-Ternals the only AoA book that didn’t finish with its initial creative team. Larroca’s art looks stiff and awkward in a lot of places, with a lot of stereotypical early ‘90s stylized characters, but he does lay out a more attractive page than Daniel did in the last two issues. Even though there was obviously some last minute tinkering going on, I liked the way Jahf’s explanation of the M’Kraan Crystal’s fracturing and the creation of the AoA is presented in a clear, straightforward manner. Not dropping a thousand vague hints and actually presenting the information in a clear-cut way is a nice change of pace for the titles at this time. Unfortunately, it leads directly into the nonsensical ending that has Gambit hitting his staff against the M’Kraan Crystal as some sort of exchange for a shard. I guess that’s what he’s doing, since the story and art aren’t very clear on this. The way the story presents this as some dramatic sacrifice for Gambit is also odd. Gambit says that he’s doing this Rogue, which doesn’t help to clear things up (Please don’t tell me he’s somehow symbolically sacrificing his love for Rogue to the Crystal in this scene. That would be too trite for words). Since these pages have been re-lettered, it’s likely that Nicieza intended something else that never made it into the final version, but it’s hard to guess what he was going for. What exactly Magneto wants with the M’Kraan crystal in the first place is never revealed either, although I guess this is an intentional mystery that’s supposed to be resolved at the end of the storyline.