Credits: Chris Claremont (co-plot, script), Jim Lee (co-plot, pencils), Scott Williams (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)
Summary: The X-Men’s Blue team flies to Asteroid M in a plane invisible to Magneto’s sensors. They’re confronted by the Gold team shortly after they enter, but as the Gold team uses their powers, their true personalities return. During the confusion, Fabian Cortez leaves in an escape pod. He triggers one of the nuclear warheads and the Soviet plasma cannon. Magneto is forced to push his powers to their limits in order to give the X-Men time to escape. Despite Xavier’s pleas, Magneto and his Acolytes stay on Asteroid M as it’s obliterated.
Magneto is near-death before the plasma cannon is even fired, as Fabian Cortez’s “healing” treatments have only enhanced Magneto’s powers and covered up his physical weakness. Moira speculates that his body can no longer contain the power held within him.
Moira exonerates Xavier, who she says knew nothing about her genetic manipulation of Magneto as an infant.
According to Moira (she talks a lot this issue), she failed in altering Magneto’s personality because her process is undermined as soon as someone uses his or her powers.
Creative Differences: An added word balloon on page seventeen reminds us of Delgado’s name. On page twenty-five, Fabian Cortez has an added word balloon that clarifies that he’s responsible for Asteroid M’s destruction, which he thinks will cause mutants to rally to his cause.
Review: Let’s not forget that Marvel’s farewell to Chris Claremont consisted of the words “CSC - 1976-1991 - FIN” on the final page. No letters page tribute, no guest editorial, just a cryptic message that probably left some readers wondering if a fifteen-year-old X-Men fan had died. The “Next: OMEGA RED” blurb is much larger than Claremont’s extremely brief farewell tribute, which might give you an idea of where the priorities at the time lied. In retrospect, the X-office doesn’t usually seem overly sentimental when creators say goodbye, since Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, and Larry Hama also seemed to just disappear in-between issues after long runs with no real acknowledgement from the editors.
None of this has any bearing on the actual quality of this story, which has many of the strengths and flaws of the previous two installments. The issue opens with the X-Men’s Blue team combining their powers in rather clever ways in order to break into Asteroid M, serving as a nice reminder that Claremont’s very good at looking at his cast and giving every character a role to play. After a few pages are spent recapping the story so far, the two X-Men teams have a brief fight, which is certainly not the epic brawl we see on the cover. Finally, Magneto appears in time for the climax. Claremont writes some of his finest Xavier dialogue ever during the Magneto/Xavier scenes, but there’s little room for philosophical debate because the story’s already eaten up around seventeen pages. Moira pops up and delivers a massive info-dump that Tom Orzechowski probably curses to this day, explaining away numerous plot elements before everyone has to go home. Just as soon as Magneto realizes Fabian Cortez is a traitor, he’s already left for Earth and condemned everyone onboard to death. Magneto’s final speech, and the message he telepathically delivers to Xavier as he “dies,” are just as poetic as you would expect Claremont’s words to be, and with that, it’s over.
Like the previous two issues, this is not an airtight plot. How is Fabian Cortez able to activate the Soviet plasma cannon? Where did those nuclear missiles orbiting Asteroid M disappear to? They’re acknowledged in a quick line of dialogue, but they’re not shown in any exterior shots of Asteroid M this issue. And how did Fabian Cortez manage to detonate one of them as well? What happened to those SHIELD agents Magneto brought onboard in the first chapter? How did the X-Men’s Blue team learn anything about what was happening on Asteroid M in the first place? Claremont seems to be working overtime to cover some of the plot holes, but there’s only so much he can do. When he isn’t trying to justify the latest fight scene, Claremont also has to find some way to say goodbye in the issue. There’s no real room, so we end up with both Forge and Xavier acting as proxies at different points in the issue, spelling out how Claremont views the concept and what he thinks an X-Men story should be about. These are well-written speeches, but this is clearly not an issue designed for quiet reflection. In fairness, this arc was never intended to be a goodbye for Chris Claremont; it’s supposed to be a straightforward X-Men vs. Magneto fight that introduces a casual reader to the basic concepts of the franchise. On that level, it’s entertaining enough, so long as you’re not paying too much attention to the details.