Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Melvin Rubi (penciler), Joe Weems w/Hanna/Alquiza/Candelario/Townsend (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors)
Summary: The X-Men watch in hiding as Lilandra is tortured by the Phalanx. Deathbird and Bishop are sent to “The Nest”, where the Shi’ar offspring are birthed, to protect the embryos from the Phalanx. Joseph begins to flash back to the Holocaust as he reflects on the carnage the Phalanx have created. His powers begin to flare out of control, blowing the team’s cover. As the rest of the X-Men fight, the Beast finishes building a weapon that separates the organic portions from the Phalanx’s bodies. He unleashes the device, which shreds the Phalanx apart. Trish Tilby is ecstatic that the threat is over, but Gambit isn’t optimistic. Meanwhile, Senator Kelly expresses concerns over Operation: Zero Tolerance to Henry Gyrich.
Continuity Note: According to Gyrich, Congress hasn’t sanctioned Operation: Zero Tolerance, but Bastion “has people sympathetic to him inside the House, the Senate, and every other ruling party in the world”.
Review: The previous chapters of this storyline were able to coast quite a bit on Madureira’s artwork, but now we’re treated to an entire issue of Melvin Rubi’s terrible Jim Lee impression. The early ‘90s look had almost disappeared from the titles by the end of 1995, but many of the fill-in artists were returning to the early Image look by late 1996 (Coincidentally or not, Marvel had turned over four titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld by this time. I think it’s possible that someone at Marvel made a conscious decision that this was the style of art the kids really wanted). I can live with a competent Jim Lee impersonator, but Rubi’s deformed faces and relentless crosshatching are just hard on the eyes. The story doesn’t do a lot to redeem the issue, either. The goals of the issue are apparently to pair Bishop and Deathbird together and to finish off the Phalanx. Both objectives are accomplished with no real excitement, and the Phalanx’s defeat is particularly annoying. After two full issues of fight scenes, the villains are defeated by a macguffin the Beast whips up in a few panels. The Phalanx were the major villains in a multi-part crossover a few years prior, and now they’re taken out with the press of a button. It’s extremely anticlimactic, and it’s one of the reasons why this storyline always felt like a giant waste of time.