Written by Ann Nocenti
Summary: Longshot escapes his cell and spies on Mojo. Phoenix telepathically convinces Mojo that he’s having a hallucinatory conversation with Longshot. Mojo declares that he will steal Longshot's martyrdom from him. Later, Phoenix is thrown into a neutralizing cell after she resists Mojo. Ricochet Rita tells Wolverine that Bone’s son was responsible for him going to prison. Rogue meets with Longshot and grants him his request of a last kiss. She absorbs his memories and learns of the planned revolt. Longshot slips Rogue a chip, a universal key for the mutant ward. She meets with Gambit and gives him the information. Spiral later shows Gambit a computer-generated film of Rogue and Longshot's “affair.” Furious, Gambit reveals Longshot’s plan to Spiral. Meanwhile, Storm and Beast realize that Phoenix and Gambit are also inside UltraMax.
Continuity Notes: Beast has borrowed a Quinjet from the Avengers and modified it for space travel. Why the Blackbird couldn’t be modified, as we’ve seen in previous issues of the comics, I don’t know. Beast suggests a bluff to Storm -- their modified Quinjet will knock UltraMax out of orbit unless their friends are released.
Review: Everyone’s still getting into place for the finale, with a few decent twists thrown in. DJ Bone might not have such a pure motive for seeing his son again, as Rita claims he actually wants revenge on Miles for ratting him out for those “funny cigarettes.” Gambit is cast as a potential traitor once again, which uses the past continuity already discussed in the novel very well. Mojo also has an interesting change in motivation, as he now realizes that Longshot is more valuable to him alive than dead, and isn’t about to let him die and spark a true revolution. Mojo is often an insufferable character, but reading Nocenti’s interpretation gives a better idea of what she had in mind for the villain. His exchanges with Phoenix during this section are a lot of fun, as Mojo postulates that they’re both mind manipulators, he’s just working on a larger scale. By controlling the culture, he’ll rewrite history and remake the world in his image. A fairly standard supervillain motivation, but with an insane means of execution.
Nocenti also takes care to give each character his or her own moment. Even if the plot doesn’t leave any obvious part for Storm to play, Nocenti connects Storm’s kinship with nature to Spiral’s aberrant teleportation doorway throughout the novel. Storm can sense that something’s just wrong with the environment, giving Nocenti an excuse to write several lyrical pieces describing how exactly Storm sees the world. She also revives Storm’s claustrophobia in a creative sequence set during her ride to UltraMax with Beast. (Beast, meanwhile, discusses new theories about black holes during the trip.)
Unfortunately, Nocenti isn’t done with the lectures just yet. Now it’s Ricochet Rita’s turn to give a multi-page screed against the American penal system. Nocenti is still rather vague about what exactly should be done to make prison “better,” without fundamentally changing what a prison has to be. According to Rita, it’s inhumane to even ask someone to have a cellmate, as it’s a terrible violation of privacy. Um, sure… Rita is also now an avowed Marxist revolutionary, which elicits the only real counter-argument from Wolverine in the novel, even as Nocenti makes it clear that Rita and Wolverine are innately attracted to one another. All things considered, I would rather not read references to Mumia Abu-Jamal in my X-Men stories, thanks.