Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Hanna/Vey/Moncuse/Wiacek (inkers), Matt Webb & Digital Chameleon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
In response to Magneto’s decision to leave Jean Grey behind on a previous mission, Weapon X announces that he’s leaving the X-Men with Jean. As they walk away, Jean telepathically tells Magneto that she’s leaving because Weapon X needs her more than the team does. She also tells Magneto that she forgives him for his decision, and that he should forgive himself. Meanwhile, Holocaust sends McCoy’s newest creation, Wolverine, to kill the person closest to Magneto. While on a mission to stop a group of human bandits in Denver, Rogue notices that the loss of Weapon X and Jean is weighing on Magneto. Wolverine uses his powers to strengthen the human bandits, enabling one of them to stab Magneto. When he witnesses the team’s reaction to Magneto’s injury, Wolverine determines that Gambit and Rogue are closer to him than even Quicksilver, his own son.
Later, inside the X-Men’s headquarters, Gambit tries to get closer to Rogue, but doesn’t understand why she’s rejecting him. While Magneto recovers, Rogue discusses her new role as second-in-command with Quicksilver. Later, after a training session, Magneto tests using his bio-magnetic shield to touch Rogue. When Gambit watches him touch Rogue’s face, he violently turns against Magneto. Rogue slaps him in response. Meanwhile, Wolverine uses his tracking powers to trail the X-Men to their home in New Mexico. A group of his men attack the team, as Wolverine blindsides Magneto. When Wolverine has both Gambit and Magneto against a brick wall, Rogue chooses to save Magneto and leave Gambit behind. Wolverine knocks the wall on top of Gambit as the team arrives as backup. After Wolverine defeats the rest of the X-Men, Gambit reemerges, charging a giant rock and attaching it to Wolverine’s belt. The explosion sends him flying away. Gambit tells Rogue that he’s not angry with her for loving Magneto, and then walks away from the team.
The character named Wolverine here obviously isn’t supposed to be the X-Man. If he’s intended to be based on an existed character, I can’t make out who it’s supposed to be.
It’s established here that Storm and Quicksilver are in a relationship, which is supposed to tie in with their arc in Amazing X-Men, but doesn’t really fit. Amazing X-Men takes place years after this prequel story, and the second issue of that series only showed the two in the beginning stages of a potential romance.
The first issue of this series wasn’t particularly great, but it had a simple premise that it innocuously pulled off. This issue is much more ambitious, as it tries to work in Weapon X’s departure from the X-Men, the development of Rogue and Magneto’s relationship, Gambit’s feud with Magneto, and his subsequent exit from the team. Most of these developments require scenes with strong characterization in order to work, something Mackie’s generic scripting really can’t pull off. It feels like the characters are just going through the motions, reciting their feelings in stilted, repetitive dialogue that’s never able to draw you into the story. The situations they’re placed in are also too forced and obvious to be taken seriously. Gambit’s reaction to Magneto using his powers to help Rogue is ridiculous, and Rogue’s later decision to save Magneto instead of Gambit evokes the laughable ending of X-Men Unlimited #4. Once again, Rogue seems to have forgotten that she has two arms, so she saves the one character the plot tells her to save. Gambit sudden decision that he can’t be angry at Rogue for loving Magneto, just minutes after he erupted into a jealous rage over her, and after he witnessed her saving Magneto’s life over his, is also ludicrous. He also comes to this life-altering conclusion over the course of three panels on the final page, which makes you wonder why so much of the story was wasted on the X-Men fighting generic goons, training, and then fighting more generic goons. Gambit’s quickie disposal of Wolverine, after it’s already been established that he easily defeated all of the other X-Men, is another rushed, awkward scene that undermines the drama Mackie was trying to build.
After Wolverine showed up as “Weapon X” in the new reality, it’s not surprising that his original name would be given to another character, but it’s such an obvious decision it almost doesn’t seem worth doing. The new Wolverine doesn’t have a personality outside of “generically evil”, and his design looks like a leftover Liefeld sketch for one of the Externals, or some other early X-Force villain. Churchill’s art showcases his typical exaggerated poses and excessive crosshatching, while his storytelling drops the ball on a few important scenes. It’s not Churchill’s fault that Rogue’s decision to save Magneto and leave Gambit behind doesn’t make sense in the first place, but the way he stages the scene doesn’t convey any of the intended drama. Rogue’s supposed to be anguishing over Magneto’s weakened condition, while the art just provides a tiny drawing of him in the distance. Wolverine is supposed to be a terrifying threat to Gambit and Magneto, but he’s drawn in a static pose at an awkward angle, so he looks anything but intimidating. It’s really just a dull looking page that doesn’t come close to selling the (admittedly dumb) scene, which is supposed to be the climax of the entire story. Even if Churchill were able to pull off the script, though, it wouldn’t have been enough to save such a weak story. Mackie probably would’ve been better off telling the “hidden stories” behind Magneto’s decision to leave Jean behind, Sabretooth joining the team, or Nemesis’ transformation into Holocaust. Those stories would at least avoid the soap opera elements this issue can’t deliver.