Credits: Chris Claremont (co-plot, script), Jim Lee (co-plot, pencils), Scott Williams (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)
Summary: With the aid of the Acolytes, Magneto captures the X-Men in Genosha and takes them to Asteroid M. There, Fabian Cortez reveals to him that a scan of his body revealed genetic manipulation. Inside Xavier’s boathouse, Xavier tries to comfort Moira. Suddenly, Magneto appears and launches the boathouse into orbit. He forces Moira to admit she performed genetic experimentation on him as an infant, which she says was done to remove the mental instability caused by his powers. Magneto threatens to kill her unless she agrees to brainwash the X-Men into joining his cause. On Earth, the remaining X-Men prepare to battle their teammates, the Acolytes, and Magneto. A hologram of Nick Fury appears, warning them that the Soviets have launched an energy cannon that will destroy Asteroid M.
Omega Red makes his first cameo appearance, or at least a coffin carrying him does, during a quick cutaway to the Sakhalin Islands. Following the electromagnetic pulse released over the USSR in the previous issue, General Akhronayev used the confusion to steal Omega Red’s body and sell it to Matsuo. Matsuo then orders his Hand ninjas to kill Akhronayev.
Fabian Cortez uses his powers for the first time on-panel, as he amplifies Psylocke’s psychic power and forces her to hear every thought in Genosha. He also brags that he’s a better martial artist than Psylocke, an aspect of his character that was quickly forgotten.
The flying Acolyte in the previous issue is now named Chrome. There’s also an additional female Acolyte who shows up this issue, sans name or explanation.
Magneto was reduced to infancy in Defenders #16 and then sent to live on Muir Island. Convinced that Magneto’s powers caused an instability within his central nervous system, Moira attempted to “modify the genetic matrix” and spare him future brain damage.
Forge interrupts Jean before she can explain how she knows Cyclops’ team has switched sides. The next issue implies that she learned through the telepathic bond she’s had with Xavier since she was a child. The next issue also establishes, however, that Magneto’s psychic inhibitors are blocking Xavier’s powers.
Storm refers to Cyclops and Jean’s psychic rapport as a thing of the past. I’m not sure if Claremont momentarily forgot that Jean’s telepathic powers were back, or if he was intentionally drawing attention to the fact that her telepathy is back, but she’s yet to rebuild her rapport with Cyclops.
Creative Differences: On page twenty-seven, a caption obviously not lettered by Tom Orzechowski establishes that the scene’s shifted back to Asteroid M. Orzechowski’s wife, Lois Buhalis, also letters two pages during the Genosha fight, although I don’t think any of these pages were rewritten. Most likely, she stepped in to give Orzechowski some deadline relief.
I Love the '90s: Psylocke makes a reference to those “This is your brain on drugs…” television commercials after Cortez fries her brain.
Review: The dichotomy between Magneto’s words and actions persists this issue, as Jim Lee’s art continues to portray Magneto as a fairly generic villain while Claremont’s script is still giving him an air of nobility. He even tells the X-Men to get to work rescuing civilians while he defends himself from the Genoshan army; an edict that’s ignored in the very next panel when Rogue charges towards him to begin the next stage of the fight scene. This could get old fast, but thankfully by the middle of the issue the contrast between good and bad Magneto is now a genuine plot point. Revealing that Magneto’s villainous behavior is the result of mental damage caused by his powers is a legitimate retcon when you think about it. This allows fans of the Silver Age Magneto and fans of the more thoughtful, nuanced character developed under Claremont to both have their way. Magneto could be this truly noble man, but his powers have warped him into someone else entirely. For some reason, this justification was ignored as soon as the issue was published. Magneto will certainly be portrayed as crazy in the coming months, but I don’t recall any characters acknowledging that the instability comes from his powers.
If Magneto’s powers are responsible for altering his personality, this does give Moira a defensible position in the issue. Unfortunately, the revelation of the genetic tinkering is extremely rushed, and Claremont is left to blanket just two pages with word balloons to try to justify the plot point. This should be a major revelation, but the execution is so hurried it comes across as a brief diversion between fight scenes. Even worse, Moira’s genetic experimentation on Magneto is somehow used as a way to justify her suddenly knowing how to brainwash people. Where is that coming from? What a strange direction for the plot to veer off into. Outside of providing the reader with a Jim Lee-penciled X-Men vs. X-Men fight, it’s hard to think of what the point is supposed to be. Ignoring that abrupt turn, the story does have a few great moments. The opening fight scene actually succeeds in selling Fabian Cortez as a villain, the drama between Xavier, Moira, and Magneto feels real (if rushed), the Omega Red subplot is a nice bridge between the title’s first and second arcs, and the political turmoil Magneto creates at the UN is the kind of intellectual touch you expect to find in one of Claremont’s better issues. The art’s also sharper than it was in the previous issue, which apparently suffered from some bad reproduction. It’s not perfect, but I would say it’s a respectable effort.