Credits: Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett (writers), Kevin West, John Royle, Randy Green, & Rick Leonardi (pencilers), Tom Wegrzyn, Phillip Moy, Rick Ketcham, & Jeff Whiting (inkers), Vickie Williams & Patrick Owsley (letters), Mike Tuccinard, Rob Alvord, & Malibu (colors)
Summary: Rex Mundi, the “first among Ultras,” summons another team of metahumans to attack the Phoenix-possessed Amber Hunt. The Exiles arrive to defend Amber, leading to a confrontation with Ultraforce and the X-Men. Close by, Rose Autumn and her father watch the fight through their apartment window. A stray blast buries her father under rubble, and Rose uses strength she didn’t know she had to rescue him. She’s also shocked to discover her father has a cybernetic chest. Rose suddenly conjures energy and becomes a virtual duplicate of Amber/Phoenix. Rose’s powers burn out after one blast, but it’s enough to harm Amber. The Phoenix Force leaves Amber and unexpectedly divides itself in two. Amber reveals that the Phoenix split in two in order to find Rex Mundi and his female clone Regina. The mothership requires both to leave Earth, where it will then travel to the sun to be reunited with its missing parts. The heroes travel to the Bermuda Triangle and attack the mothership, freeing Rex and Regina. Amber Hunt and an Ultra named Gate create a portal that sends the Phoenix Force billions of years into the past. In a burst of energy, the Phoenix Force returns to the present day, recreating events that lead to the mothership discovering it. On Earth, the heroes say their goodbyes and Gateway teleports the X-Men back home.
Continuity Notes: A group of unnamed, unidentified characters joins Rose’s cyber-chested dad and teleports her away. Rose becomes a major character in the Ultraverse later on. At least, that was the plan…
I Love the ‘90s: During the wrap-up, Jubilee drops an “As if!” after describing how Rex Mundi disappeared. I’ll wager that the writers don’t understand how that slang is supposed to be used.
“Huh?” Moment: Much of this issue makes little sense. Gateway piloting the hi-tech hovercraft that arrives to take the heroes home at the end is probably my favorite ridiculous moment, though.
Gimmicks: Alright, every issue of this miniseries is a #1! That means they’ll all be worth money one day!
Review: Ah, this is the unreadable train wreck I was expecting last issue. I guess I should start at the beginning. Amber/Phoenix floats in the sky while her “telepresence” travels to the Bermuda Triangle and absorbs the mothership’s insane plan. It involves using the Phoenix Force to “drive the Earth into the sun” in order to reunite the ship with its parts that are somehow still existing within the heart of the sun. The real goal of this gibberish is to up the ante in the fight and do a montage of volcanoes erupting across the globe, because the stakes always have to involve either the entire planet or all existence in these cross-continuity crossovers.
Meanwhile, numerous fight scenes are breaking out. If the goal of this crossover was to introduce Marvel fans to the Ultraverse characters, no one seems to have told the creators this issue, since hero after hero is popping up everywhere, fighting each other for reasons I can’t grasp. For example, the enigmatic Rex Mundi summons a group of heroes to fight the Phoenix, and they’re soon opposed by another group of heroes (or maybe they’re villains) that are given no name or motivation. The two groups fight while the X-Men and Ultraforce look on, and then Juggernaut and the Exiles arrive, along with Night Man, Mantra, and surely some other characters I’ve already forgotten. Clearly, not all of these characters can serve a plot function, but it would seem to be Storytelling 101 to at the very least introduce them and provide some motivation for their actions. Honestly, I thought some of these characters were parodies when they first appeared. One group would seem to be an outright mockery of the Wildstorm designs of the era, while other heroes could easily pass as a caricature of the ‘90s Milestone heroes. Yet, the story plays these fashion disasters straight, so I’m assuming the reader is supposed to as well.
The nonsense continues. Rose Autumn, inexplicably, needs to be introduced again. (Let’s forget that she was supposed to be in the hospital last issue.) She appears just long enough to develop super-strength, discover her father is some manner of cyborg, and then turn into an alternate version of the Phoenix. Sure, why not. Then, after she collapses (the second time she’s done this in her two appearances), yet another group of mysterious strangers in gaudy outfits arrives to take her away. Boy, with an introduction this good, you know Rose is bound to become the hot new Bad Girl of 1996!
The plot then veers into the weeds of Ultraverse continuity, with Rex Mundi and his clone/lover Regina (yup) now playing an integral role. Rex Mundi, based on the exposition shoved into this issue, is the earliest of the Ultras, and he has extra-special Ultra stuff inside him that the mothership needs. Rex has created a female clone of himself as a lover (and named her after a Waffle House waitress, apparently), which the story uses to now justify the existence of two Phoenixes, because heaven knows this issue isn’t impenetrable enough. The heroes enjoy a quickie trip to where the mothership crash-landed millions of years ago, which is naturally the Bermuda Triangle (See? That explains everything!), and more pointless fights happen. The Beast questions if it’s okay to destroy the ship if it means Rex and Regina also die, but everyone tells him to just shut up and go along with the plot. Rex and Regina turn out to be okay, the mothership loses power, and the united heroes are somehow able to physically drive the Phoenix Force into a space portal.
The ending is more gibberish. The Phoenix is sent billions of years into the past, it doesn’t appreciate the trip, so it uses its infinite cosmic powers to return to the present. Powers that couldn’t resist forgotten Malibu characters like Topaz just a few pages earlier, mind you. That leads to a repeat of a scene from the previous issue, the one that had the mothership discovering the Phoenix, which started this entire fiasco in the first place. So, has a time loop been completed, setting everything right in the world…or is the whole point to show that the heroes’ victory has been a hollow one? Since when was this story about time travel, anyway? What’s the point, outside of scaring me with the prospect of a sequel? It’s bad enough to know that this event has one more chapter to go, and a spinoff series after that…