Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira w/Humberto Ramos (pencilers), Tim Towsend (inker), Comicraft (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)
Summary: Peter Parker is sent on a mission for the Daily Bugle to photograph Henry Gyrich as a part of its Zero Tolerance investigation. His limo is suddenly attacked by Callisto and Marrow, which forces Parker to intervene as Spider-Man. Marrow is willing to kill Gyrich and his guards, but Spider-Man and Callisto try to talk her out of it. Gyrich’s guards suddenly turn into Sentinels and attack. They wound Callisto, which forces Spider-Man and Marrow to fight together. Gyrich, who didn’t know his guards were Sentinels, returns with reinforcements and shoots them down. Spider-Man talks Gyrich into letting Marrow leave with Callisto, who needs medical attention. Meanwhile, Bastion offers J. Jonah Jameson the information he’s decrypted from the X-Men’s files. He burns the disc, claiming that he won’t work with a murderer. Elsewhere, Gambit wakes up alone in a mysterious location.
Continuity Notes: Notice that Marrow is much more attractive in this appearance. I’m not sure if this is the first time she showed up with better looks (I’ve never read the Cable issue she appeared in a few months before this), but it becomes her standard look. I’m assuming there were already plans to add her to the team, and making her easier on the eyes was the first step.
This issue portrays Gyrich as being conflicted over Operation: Zero Tolerance, which is in sharp contrast to his appearance in the previous issue of X-Men. It’s possible that he was adamantly in favor of OZT in that issue because he was doing a television interview, but it’s still jarring to read the issues within a few days of each other.
According to Gyrich, his bodyguards were the same ones who were protecting Graydon Creed when he was killed. Presumably, this was supposed to finger Bastion in the assassination, but the clue was never paid off.
Production Note: Marvel’s new cover design format debuts this month. Each comic now has a two-page foldout in the front cover, which has profiles of the characters and a recap of the current storyline. It’s a nice idea, but it lasted less than two years due to the added costs. The letters pages have also thankfully dropped the ugly computer-designed graphics in the background for just plain white.
Review: It wouldn’t shock me to learn that this issue was mainly just an excuse to have Joe Madureira draw Spider-Man. It certainly works on that level, since I remember looking over it again and again just for the art, which still looks impressive today. It is a fun action-oriented story that recaps the events of the current crossover while offering strong portrayals of Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. My memory is that the Spider-titles were just overwhelmingly boring during this era, so this issue seemed like a welcome relief from the blandness. In terms of continuing the story from the preceding issues, all we get is one page of Gambit doing absolutely nothing, which doesn’t exactly work. I really have no idea why this storyline was allowed to drag on for so long, especially when the other titles were participating in a crossover. Since this is the first time the resurrected (and prettier) Marrow appears in UXM, the issue does have some added significance. I’ve never understood why exactly she was added to the team, especially if we’re to believe that Bob Harras was never a fan of reforming villains. She was clearly intended to be a bad bad guy (she was outright shown killing someone in cold blood in her first appearance), so giving her a makeover and having her join the X-Men seemed odd. The future writers tried to make this work, but I could never swallow it. Her appearance here is fine, since it’s only raising the idea that she’s capable of changing and there aren’t any X-Men here to question her about her past, but I never felt that her character arc had a meaningful resolution.