Better to Light a Small Candle…
Credits: Ralph Macchio (writer), Yancey Labat (penciler), Ralph Cabrera (inks), Paul Becton w/World Color (colors), Ul Higgins (letters)
Summary: Lilandra summons the X-Men to her vessel, in the hopes that the Phoenix Force will again possess Jean Grey and protect the M’Kraan Crystal. Phoenix returns, and Gladiator travels with the X-Men to the Crystal’s homeworld. Inside the Crystal, the Dweller in Darkness has placed the N’Garai and a resurrected D’Ken as foils for the X-Men. His plan is to destroy the Crystal and feed on the fear of every living thing as existence perishes. The X-Men defeat his thralls and merge their spirits with the Phoenix. Phoenix sends a message to the universe, uniting all beings in brotherhood and harmony. The M’Kraan Crystal then shatters, destroying existence as we know it. With no fear to feed upon, the Dweller in Darkness is left vulnerable to his former lackey D’Spayre. The Living Tribunal watches as explorer Galen agrees to join with the dying universe to become a new entity. Life begins anew, and billions of years later, the X-Men are formed in Westchester County.
- Every “official” X-Man from the cartoon, i.e. those in the opening credits, is featured this issue.
- The message Man-Thing left to Jean last issue gives her the inspiration to spread hope to the universe, spoiling the Dweller in Darkness’ scheme.
- The explorer Galen later becomes Galactus in the mainstream Marvel Universe. I think Macchio is saying that the Adventures reality doesn’t have a Galactus until it’s destroyed this issue, since the issue opens with Galen exploring the death of the universe.
- The Phoenix reemerges in a red costume, which would seem to be a major coloring mistake.
How Did This Get Published?: “Come heah to mama, fellers. Time fer a little clean-up!” Mercifully, this is one of the few times Macchio’s given Rogue dialogue in this series.
Miscellaneous Note: The full expression that inspired the title of this story is “It's better to light a small candle than curse the darkness.” It appears to be attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Review: Yes, that’s the proper response to your series getting cancelled -- just blow up the entire universe. On some level, it’s hard not to admire what Macchio’s going for this issue, taking advantage of the fact that the series is outside of continuity and, let’s face it, off in a corner that no one is paying attention to. In twenty-two pages, he’s crafted a very literal interpretation of what “the last” X-Men story should be, and it doesn’t involve a flash-forward to the next generation of the team or an epic final battle between the X-Men and Magneto. It’s the death of everything, but that’s okay, because after a few billion years, life begins anew and eventually Charles Xavier is back again with his original team of X-Men, reenacting the opening page of 1963’s X-Men #1. It’s all done by rote with very little sentiment, but there is one moment towards the end that’s honestly touching. As the universe draws to a close, Xavier’s dream of peace and unity is finally achieved when the X-Men reach into the hearts of every sentient being in the universe and impart solidarity in the face of death. The universe dies nobly, rejecting fear and finally united as one. In a strange way, it actually is the ultimate ending of the X-Men’s story. The issue remains a bit of a mess, and surely any kid picking this up to get more of what he loved from the cartoon is going to be either bored or terrified, but there is a germ of a great idea in here.