The Price of Life -- is Death!
Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Andy Smith (pencils), Cory Hamscher (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
Summary: The X-Men face the Avengers and Perfect Storm in battle while Ghost Panther and ‘Ro secretly meet with Dr. Strange. When Nightcrawler absorbs Thor’s powers, he’s overwhelmed and forced to unleash a massive lightning bolt that causes both sides to pause. Cyclops uses the lull to explain to Captain America that Perfect Storm is working with the Consortium and was Wolverine’s killer. Perfect Storm fires a lightning bolt at Cyclops, but Havok leaps to his brother’s defense. Havok is killed by the blast. Ghost Panther arrives, and with Polaris’ help, defeats Perfect Storm. Ghost Panther unmasks, revealing that Dr. Strange has merged her spirit with ‘Ro, and is now Storm in her true body.
Continuity Notes: Nightcrawler is colored with white temples after he absorbs Thor’s power and collapses. The next issue makes clear that his hair is now supposed to be an inverse of Rogue’s.
Review: With only one issue to go, the lengthy Storm storyline finally reaches a resolution, but not before Claremont makes one more attempt to turn this title into the new millennium’s What If…? If Havok were the only established cast member killed off during the run of this title, I wouldn’t mind so much, but he’s easily the fifth character whose death is just thrown out there as casually as a rape reference in a Garth Ennis comic. There’s no dramatic impact here, just a sense of “This again?” as another character bites the dust in a rushed, inert scene that ultimately adds nothing to the book. Especially in this case; since there’s only one issue left, there’s certainly no chance that Havok’s death is going to be affecting anything in the future of a title that has none.
Ignoring the gratuitous death, this is actually a decent resolution to the Perfect Storm arc. The Avengers are rendered very well by Andy Smith (better than the X-Men, truthfully), and the earlier cameo by Dr. Strange finally makes sense. It’s arguable that using Dr. Strange’s mystic powers to revert Storm to her true body is a copout, but Strange tends to get a pass when it comes to these things since he’s Dr. Strange and is well established in the Marvel Universe as the guy who can pull this kind of stunt off. While it’s debatable if he’s really been as much of a “friend” to the X-Men as Storm claims here, it’s still fun to see Dr. Strange in an issue that also features the Avengers. (The issue reminds me that while Claremont rarely explored the larger Marvel Universe while writing Uncanny, when he did, he made it a worthwhile effort.) Emphasizing that the Avengers are chasing the X-Men not only to avenge Tony Stark, but also Perfect Storm’s husband the Black Panther, is also a nice way to tie together the previous events of the series so far. I’m not naïve enough to believe that every other plotline in this title is going to have a gratifying conclusion, however, and I’m wondering now how exactly Claremont’s going to draw this erratic series to a close in just one issue.