Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors)
Summary: Cannonball, Gambit, Bishop, Joseph, Rogue, Beast, and Trish Tilby gather in New York on Christmas Eve. Joseph leaves with Rogue and shows her a device he’s constructed from Xavier’s “Z’noxx (sic) Chamber”. The large construct protects him from Rogue’s powers, enabling him to kiss her on the forehead. Meanwhile, Cannonball is suddenly attacked by Gladiator while Christmas shopping. The other X-Men in the city notice the spectacle and arrive, just as Cannonball fights him to a standstill. Gladiator admits that he staged the fight in order to gain the X-Men’s attention. He reveals that the Shi’ar Empire needs help, and he’s been ordered not to interfere. He sends transit spheres to teleport the group away.
Continuity Notes: Cannonball manages to channel the kinetic energy from Gladiator’s punch and direct it towards his forcefield, which is the first time he’s had that level of power. A footnote says that the Imperial Guard miniseries explains why Gladiator isn’t able to help the Shi’ar.
The “Z’nox Chamber” is the psi-shielded chamber Xavier used to prepare for the arrival of the alien Z’nox way back in UXM #65. It also showed up during the buildup to the Onslaught crossover. It’s odd that a long-forgotten area of continuity would show up twice in six months after being forgotten for almost thirty years. The explanation for how it blocks Rogue’s powers is that it can filter powers in either direction (Joseph claims it “clothes” the mind she touches, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me).
I Love the ‘90s: Marvel debuts its second official website, Marvelonline.com (it redirects to Marvel.com today). Also, Joseph and Rogue’s kiss takes place on top of the World Trade Center.
“Huh?” Moment: Gladiator refuses to send Cannonball with the rest of the team, because it would be dishonorable to send a young person “into such danger”. Aside from the fact that Gladiator just spent ten pages fighting him, he also sent non-powered civilian Trish Tilby into the alleged danger.
We Get Letters: A letter writer correctly points out that Colossus and Gambit have never had a scene together, and the editor’s response just acknowledges that it’s true without offering much of a defense. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember a dialogue exchange between the characters at this point.
Review: This is another issue that’s light on plot, but is saved by Madureira’s energetic artwork. The majority of the issue is dedicated to a gratuitous Cannonball/Gladiator fight that ends up having no story significance at all. I guess having Cannonball defeat a Superman analogue was supposed to finish the long-running “Cannonball feels insecure about being an X-Men” subplot, but the idea’s not really emphasized in this issue, and it seems like it had already been dropped by this point anyway. The small character moments, such as Cannonball trying to shop on Christmas Eve, and Joseph and Rogue floating over the city in a horse-drawn carriage, are nice enough, but don’t have a lot of depth. It’s still enjoyable in an almost mindless way, but most of the issue would’ve been pretty dull with another artist.