In the Shadow of Death!
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Brandon Peterson (breakdowns), Tim Townsend & Dan Panosian (finishes), Liquid! (colors), Jon Babcock (letters)
Summary: Death forces the Blackbird to crash, but Phoenix manages to save the crew. The team regroups to fight Death, who kills Wolverine in the battle. Darco emerges from his cocoon with massive telepathic powers. Death retreats, teleporting away. The Mannites also teleport away to face their upcoming mutations.
Continuity Notes: Death is unable to kill Phoenix, which is a big hint that he’s Wolverine in disguise.
Review: Not surprisingly, Astonishing X-Men’s ending is just as disappointing as its beginning and middle. For the first time in the miniseries, Mackie acknowledges most of the cast’s connection to Apocalypse (Cable raised in a future ruled by him, X-Man raised in an alternate reality ruled by him, Cyclops and Phoenix lost their son to him, Archangel was horribly mutated and tortured by him, and Wolverine…well, there's nothing for Mackie to acknowledge here, but Wolverine did receive his adamantium from Apocalypse, if you believe Barry Windsor-Smith), and then does absolutely nothing with the concept. It’s treated as just more text to fill up a few more pages. With all the goodwill in the world, it’s hard to argue this miniseries ever had a point, but at least the hook of using X-characters with connections to Apocalypse could’ve been exploited. Oh, and maybe the alleged death of Wolverine might have just an ounce of honest emotion in it. Instead, this is just a dumb fight scene, followed by a lazy resolution that centers on the increasingly annoying Mannites as the saviors of the day. It’s not hard to remember why people hated this so much. (Paul O’Brien’s old review of this issue has been mentioned in the comments here in the past. It’s worth reading.)